Not to my surprise, the train was a little late that day. The myki machine didn’t exactly work either, or the reader that you touch on at to get through the gates at Flinders Street. Then after that, my phone didn’t load so I couldn’t find out where I was meant to be going. It didn’t bother me all that much, but it occurred to me – as it’s occurred to others probably quite a bit – that sometimes technology just doesn’t work the way you want it to. My thoughts, though, were quickly diverted when I took the elevator up, which was a little slow and jammed, to the opening of Indoor Laneway.
A true testament to using technology and media in a creative way, it’s been going for four years now, as a part of the Art Centre’s Youth Program. Over 80 students were involved, from Mooroopna Secondary College, Nossal High School, Berwick Secondary College and the Lakes South Morang P-9. Together, they collaborated to create unique and varied digital art. Combined with this, throughout the year they have shared ideas with their online site as well.
The key idea behind the exhibition is to provide a space for young people to share and publish their artistic endeavours, despite the fact that they live far apart. Also, as project curator Eugenia Lim, puts it “developing agency and self-confidence in themselves and their future”. The exhibition has three key sites: Firstly, the Know Your Neighbour project; secondly, a projection site named Human Geometry; and thirdly and most impressively a Time Capsule project, where viewers sit in a contained photo booth and view various media that have been made by the artists to look back on in ten years time.
While at the formal opening I had a chance to catch up with curator Eugenia Lim, who is also the editor behind Assemble Papers, and Dan West who is the Art Centre Melbourne’s Youth Programmer.
How much reign do you give the students creatively?
DW: We kind of set different tasks and challenges. Or Eugenia sets different tasks and challenges. And lots of the time, they have complete freedom in how they respond to it, lots of the time there will be a format specified, and that’s the kinda help we’d exchange. So if it’s an audio, video or still image kind of response. Quite often, the kids will take it and they might not put it in the format that was requested, and that’s okay too, because it shows initiative.
Do you think this form of art is yet to be fully embraced? Has it reached its full potential?
EL: I think it’s always going to be developing. It’s never going to sort of stop. I don’t think it will ever reach saturation point. We’re using media everyday, so it’s definitely not going to die out any time soon. I think we can always continue to push the boundaries and explore further, and look at the links between all mediums. I think we’re at a point now where some of those barriers are breaking down. There a lot of young people working with traditional formats, but they’re also using digital because I guess in their daily lives they’re using social media and using the internet and a lot of digital mediums anyway. The project’s interesting because it bridges that gap. And I guess, this year too we really explored print and online relationships. So one thing that was originally quite digital ended up being a poster for instance.
DW: I think just because technologies are ubiquitous these days, you still need to have a good framework for expressing ideas. Just being able to get around a computer doesn’t mean you can necessarily express an idea through it in every day life; it doesn’t mean you want to. You might not use it for that. I think a project like this makes young people really explore that position of developing an idea using those terms. And that’s what’s really exciting to me about being involved in a project like this.
So you feel youth can bring something to this project that adults can’t maybe?
DW: Not necessarily. I think it’s just about valuing all people’s creative ideas and ability to make work equally. So just because people are younger doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. Or just because they’re older, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. And that’s kind of central to this project, and all my work.
Do you feel youth are the most impacted by the media now days?
DW: I think it’s really pervasive to all of us, whether we realise it or not. I think media has developed very clever ways of getting its message across, to all cross sections of the community. Whether they’re digital natives or not.
What ways can we get media artwork across?
EL: I think Tumbler, and people keeping blogs is a huge thing already. I guess young people are pretty used to uploading images, maybe not art as such. But proliferation of art.
DW: They’re used to studying opinion in that environment. I reckon one of the challenges of this project, and one of the cool things about this project, is moving it from just being about stating your own opinion, as it relates to yourself, to developing a creative empathy with others. So that’s kind of the ultimate aim of the project.
The Indoor Laneway exhibition runs from Monday 17 September until Sunday 14 October. For more information visit artscentremelbourne.com.au.