I recently received a copy of the catalogue for Home Loan, an exhibition curated by Larissa Hjorth and Kate Shaw (who kindly sent it to me for Placed). Shaw comments that “suburbia has traditionally been considered more a subject for visual art than a site”. In this project, the artists have relocated their practices to the suburb of Caroline Springs at the Delfin Warehouse displays. This project provided a meeting space for art and real estate, development and culture. Presented in 2003, the project emerged during the upward swing of the housing bubble fuelled as it was by easy credit and a booming economy. Suburbia, in all its outstretched recline, calls our attention to our most avaricous appetites for land, housing and consumer goods. Where and how design and planning sits in relation to market movements, monetary policy and the development industry is too nebulous to call.
In inviting the artists to present work in the suburban environment they are challenged to view it as a site of legitimate cultural production. The Delfin Warehouse (pictured below) isn’t just any development: the interiors are a replica of converted warehouse space, designed for those seeking inner urban lifestyles in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. The residences have high ceilings and lofts. Without wanting to advocate for normativity, inner urban lifestyle usually means compactness, proximity to services and facilities and walkability. The photographs below seem to tell a different story of place.
If current cultural planning is any measure, cultural engagement in suburbs warrants little encouragement (at least not in Brisbane). Our suburbs have community festivals and we cling to our much loved libraries, while the ‘creative economy’ pools in inner urban areas with their creative industries hubs, service organisations, incubators and creatives networks. It’s through actions such as the Home Loan exhibition that we might urge cultural planners to reconsider this allocation of resources and cultural space. Art is part of the conversation in renegotiating culture. If the thrust of current policy is to develop more autonomous or self-sufficient localities, then there is some need to address the biases of cultural policy and cultural infrastructure provision, be it multipurpose facilities or other cultural interfaces and facilitations.
Here is an Age article about the exhibition: