Paved with Gold by Occupation: Artist
Kelly McDonald, Sarah Read, Becky Bliss, Vivien Atkinson, & Caroline Thomas
Interviewed by Sophia Cai
As the art collective Occupation: Artist this is your second time working with Radiant Pavilion. Your first project in 2015 saw you occupy Crossley Street in Melbourne’s CBD through a ‘gentle invasion’. In 2017 you returned with the project Paved with Gold but decided to focus on the laneway. What is the significance of the location?
In 2015 it was the gravitational pull of Gallery Funaki that first lured us to Crossley Street; in 2017 it was much more about the relationships we’d developed. As a classic Melbourne laneway, it’s home to numerous iconic and artisanal businesses – making it a good fit for contemporary jewellery and allowing each of us to respond to the venue we occupied; visually (using the spatial dimensions to frame our work), thematically (linking with the wares or the artisan nature of a shop) or relationally (taking the opportunity to work in partnership with a long-loved industry or establishment and its customers). From a practical side, it has few vehicles and lots of foot traffic, giving more scope for safe working and audience engagement.
Paved with Gold saw you work with gold leaf as an artistic and conceptual motif. What is the significance of gold as a theme and how did your works interrogate its aspirations of value or worth?
There were varying approaches between the artists. Sarah Read was interested in looking at value and also the worth of participation as an end in itself – changing the feel of someone’s work day, their experience of the art event or their visit to the city, are all golden in themselves. For Becky Bliss, the use of gold leaf on rubbish bins was an ironic way to play with value and worth. Kelly McDonald grew up in country Victoria so her work based around the Eureka Stockade and gold-mining, felt like the most honest and important connection to the theme.
Gold mining has a rich history within colonial Australia, particularly in regions of Victoria. Was your work informed by this context and history?
Paved With Gold was developed and influenced by a successful Wellington project, Golden Section, installed for Park(ing) Day in 2016. We gold leafed a parking space, commenting on the price of land in the CBD and the difficulty of affording land/housing in NZ. Added to being a group of jewellers and Kelly and Vivien’s Victorian heritage, basing the work on aspects of the Gold Rush was a natural extension of the original context.
Can you tell me more about Vivien Atkinson’s walking performance work? What was the motivation for this project?
‘Walking to Ballarat' was based on family history – Vivien’s great, great grandparents had been part of the mass migration to Victoria for the Gold Rush. Vivien became interested in what the experience of walking from Melbourne to the gold fields in the 1850’s would have been like. Research suggested it would take 24 hours to walk 116 km, so Vivien walked this distance perching regularly on the gutter to gold leaf the soles of her shoes. The gold flecks settling on the road for the length of the street, reflected how the vast wealth of gold taken from the ground, passed through Melbourne.
Radiant Pavilion is a jewellery and object-based festival, yet your project was quite performative and transient. How do you think our understanding of jewellery is enriched or challenged through this project?
The ‘expanded field’ of contemporary jewellery is a recently acknowledged phenomenon corresponding to similarly non-conformist developments within other fields like ceramics and textiles. In fact the joy of Making Out (the 2017 JMGA conference programme) was that it embraced and showcased work by many other practitioners working in similarly performative and transient ways. It seems that this broader approach is in tune with the general movement of fine art/craft to lose some of the constraints previously limiting the reach of work to the gallery-going/medium-specific art crowd and bringing it out onto the street and on a collision course with people as they go about their usual day.
What’s next for Occupation: Artist?
So many things! – for more information and images go to our website at https://occupationartist.com. Projects include performances at The Dowse Museum, participation in the 2018 Park(ing) Day in Wellington, as well as organizing the No Filter jewellery event in April.
Becky Bliss, Binit (left) and work by Sarah Read (right) installed in Crossley Street, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Occupation Artist
Becky Bliss, Binit, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Occupation Artist
Becky Bliss, Binit brooches, 2017.
Kelly McDonald installing Eureka, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Occupation Artist
Vivien Atkinson, Paved with Gold, 2017, gold leaf, work boots. 270mm x 110mm each.
Photo by Sarah Read