Artist in Residence
October - December 2017
Mark Parfitt's practice draws from everyday desires, problems and daily anomalies with intent to make an ordinary life more interesting, more celebratory, more fun. Coming from the position of art as action, Parfitt produces autobiographical work in the form of journals, performance and sculpture.
Since 2004, he has exhibited in many group and solo exhibitions, featured in several institutional and private collections and has attracted the funding of numerous grants, residencies and prizes.
My time at Heathcote
I was invited to the Heathcote Artist in Residence program as an established artist interested in life-like projects situated in the everyday. It was an opportunity to create a new artwork and extend my practice that draws from suburban desires, problems and daily anomalies. It's intent is to bring the being and doing of ordinary life to a critical concept and understand where it fits between endeavour and futility. The practice is firmly entwined with the collective sense of the suburbs and goes beyond the studio into projects about growing lawn, repurposing bore holes, personal fitness and performing bombies in backyard pools. By recording physical action and relational aesthetics, the work is normally documentary in nature and is communicated by visual journal language of drawing, writing, photography and video.
As the residency is located in the City of Melville I immediately selected the Wave Park issue as a suburban situation that represents a rupture within the community’s sense of the everyday. The planned Wave Park at Tompkins Park is a zone of social and political contact within the community. For, against, indifferent or unsure, it is a change to the suburban situation that rouses enthusiasm, confusion, protest and debate. My residency sought to find out the thoughts and emotions towards the Wave Park on a personal level and on a grander scale, how the citizens of the suburbs deal with things that affirm and disrupt their sense of suburbia. What might this look like?
Using interviews, photography and visual journaling as creative fieldwork, my goal was to provide the community with a social artwork that furthered the ethical dimensions, paradox and complexities of such a sensitive issue. As an outsider my plan was to meet with residents for or against, and even those that don’t care, who were willing to share their thoughts about the Wave Park. As an artist working as an amateur ethnographer using ethical methods, I started to create an affective and aesthetic account of an important time for many in the community.
Amongst a range of creative workshops and video interviews, a photograph was made of a participant with a placard that read ‘Wave Goodbye’. On first impressions it appeared as a humorous pun however it’s simplicity gave way to a more complex and ambiguous meaning. Is it a wry farewell for the status quo of public space or could it be a prophetic taunt at a failed venture of private equity?
The placard’s confused meaning sums up the conflicted nature of the Wave Park issue. Irony, contradiction, absurdity and inequity are everywhere such as; a non-public enterprise leveraging local government land for private capital gain; opposing interest groups using environmental values to assert different agendas; social media used for anti-social and misanthropic purposes, and regardless of being for or against, all sides making claims to the site amidst patchy acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land, the Whadjuk Nyungah people.
While it appears that conventional methods of consultation and communication have broken down, participatory and socially engaged art holds potential to bring people together. This can happen in an expanded studio practice and create community outcomes that are unafraid of political, commercial and self-serving interests. With more time I hope to stay true to this method and eventually provide a resolved artwork that will hopefully bring all opinions side by side to discuss the issue in a thoughtful and constructive way.
During my time I’ve learnt a lot about advocacy groups, the City of Melville and its citizens, and wish them all the best in trying to reach an appropriate community outcome. I would like to thank the Heathcote Cultural Precinct particularly Jana Braddock for inviting me and I hope the residency gives permission to host more artists interested in relational and life-like art practices into the future.
By Mark Parfitt