Insight into the work of Scot Cotterell Scot Cotterell’s work is situated within the context of current media arts practice. His work often takes the form of installation involving sound, video, made and found objects to create environments that reflect upon cultural phenomena. Cotterell graduated from the Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with First Class Honours and completed his MFA (Research) in early 2011. Cotterell has a recent performance history where he has produced works for Salon Bruit, Berlin, Overtoom 301, Amsterdam, ElectroFringe new media Arts Festival, Newcastle and Liquid Architecture 6, National festival of sound arts, Melbourne. He has also had a number of recent solo shows including Medium Frequency (DF Arte Contemporaneo, Galicia, Spain 2009), The Fall (MONA FOMA Festival, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart 2008) and FLEETING (Platform 2, Melbourne 2006), and has been the recipient of several awards and grants including a Sound Travellers Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts in 2009 and the Jim Bacon Foundation Scholarship in 2008. He is currently the Chair of the artist run initiative, Inflight in Hobart and is represented by Bett Gallery, Hobart.
What brought you to art initially? Really a lifelong interest, for as long as I can remember that was my chosen ‘career’ the turning point I guess was being amazed as a 7 year old at the detail of a prayer card found in my parents’ house, a tiny reproduction of Dali’s St. John on the Cross. The dusty cupboard full of 50’s popular mechanics magazines in my neighbours shed was also a massive influence visually. An appreciation of the design of objects and technology from the past and how these changes reflect back to us and our aspirations has been there as long as I can remember. How and where do you draw inspiration for your art practice? I usually work alot, on alot of projects at once, which means they can all bleed together sometimes. I am happy for this to occur, and through working as an art
installer for a long time, quite often even the conditions or location of a particular gallery will inform a work ( as is the case with the gallery store-room works). I draw inspiration from a mix of everyday, found and encountered objects, signs and symbols and media phenomena like trends, memes, fashions and fads. Inspiring things this week A pile of discarded design magazines and more specifically the design and layout of advertisements in them for exhibitions 15 years ago. Bargain counterfeit clothing stores in Footscray with slightly altered brands such as ‘Everfast’ (Everlast) and ‘Tagout’ (Tapout). The shattered base of a garden fountain. A rusty key and broken medicine bottle found in an old shed. And the burnt out shell of the scuba shop in North Hobart. What is your art doing now? During my MFA Degree, I made lots of work in lots of mediums, from gallery, to touring sound-art, on-line works, painting, sculpture and installation. I’ve always enjoyed mixing these things up and will continue to but am thinking more about ‘slow-art’ the kind that takes a long time. In exploring this I have been doing lots of small-scale drawings that are heavily layered and processed with various inks and water. They arise out of wanting to do some opposites to my previous work; small as opposed to big, made slowly as opposed to quickly.
Image-making, be it still, drawn, painted or electronic has pushed to the fore of my practice in a lot of ways, as I had pursued and pushed installation, video and sound quite a lot recently. While my work has always been based around, and draws inspiration from mass media, I’m exploring much more obscure elements of popular culture in new work. Getting closer to a micro-study of a particular event or phenomena. What is the pinnacle for you/ is there one? I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to do so much already, I’ve exhibited nationally and internationally, attended amazing events and workshops with too many talented people to mention, been able to teach art and work in galleries and present the work of my peers and colleagues. The ‘pinnacle’ for me is more of a ‘plateau’ and it’s a space where you are able to work constantly on new ideas, be surrounded by amazing talented people, and be supported by the public and society in order to do so while contributing meaningfully to the cultural make-up of a place and community. I’d of course love to see my work travel further and more into the significant collection, museums and commercial realms of contemporary art, and this ball is indeed already rolling. The hardest part really is finding time to explore all the ideas I have! What’s in store for the next 12 months? The works I am making right now are drawings and sculptural works for the upcoming Pirate Radio show, a series of signage paintings and sculptures which will be the next solo show and continuing to develop the hand-made instruments into another larger series. Things in the pipeline for the next 12 months are - a potential live-audio tour of china, a collaborative release on new U.S/Aus Label Sonoptik, a new solo show of drawings, sculpture and video work, a touring solo exhibition of regional galleries. During this time I’ll be based in beautiful Hobart lecturing sessionally at UTAS and hanging in gallery store-rooms elsewhere.. Tell me about your upcoming exhibition. I’m working toward a large exhibition for late June at Launceston’s Poimena Gallery with Matt Warren, titled ‘Pirate Radio (and other hauntologies)’ the exhibition will take over the entire gallery space and the basement cellar of Poimena. Matt and I will present a new solo work in each space, that are linked via a new collaborative work that takes audio feeds from each work, mixes them together and transmits them throughout the grounds of the gallery via short-scale fm broadcast. Viewers will be able to navigate around the exhibition using portable fm radios to provide the accompanying soundtrack. My work for this exhibition will feature a new body of handmade electronic instruments and a suite of accompanying drawings that portray a disintegration of signals and symbols. Pirate Radio (and other hauntologies) opens 5.30pm with a performance at 6pm on the June 24 and runs until July 15. At Poimena Gallery, Launceston Church Grammar School, Button Street, Mowbray Heights, Tasmania. More info about Scot’s work can be found at www.scotcotterell.com
The Ballad of Maurice Huish, 2011
Image: scot cotterell
Brianism Cuts in Arts Funding Are Like...
I am going to write about the topic of recent cuts and the threat of further reduction in arts funding in Tasmania. It’s a hot topic and people are spinning their wheels proposing “solutions” to the problem. Property developer Robert Rockefeller told me the Tasmanian population is roughly 1/3 civil servants, 1/3 people on public assistance and 1/3 private sector and business. Whether these figures are accurate or not is irrelevant, anyone who lives here can look around and see that there’s at least a grain of truth there. There are too many bureaucrats, too many people with no clue as what to do with their lives and not enough entrepreneurs and leaders. The Arts Sector reflects this imbalance. There are numerous arts administrators, many artists who won’t work unless they get the grants they think they need, and an ever dwindling group of artists creating their own opportunities. I’ll start by talking about music because that’s my field. In the modern world it is extremely easy to get your music out to the public. My son Silas and I recorded songs for an art installation he was doing in Wisconsin. We recorded on a computer with an inexpensive interface and a few cheap microphones and electronics. A few days ago he put it out on www.bandcamp.com and a week later he has sales, fan emails and good reviews under his belt. When I started my musical career this technology did not exist. But I have been contacted by several bands here in Tasmania who expressed interest in having me play on or produce their recordings, but only if they received grants to go forward with the project. If you have something to say there is very little to stop you, grant or no grant. My suspicion is that music that’s
waiting for a grant is probably not worth listening to anyway. Busking is another fantastic form of expression theoretically available to any musician. My old band Violent Femmes became world famous through this activity. When I first came to Hobart in 1992 there was a healthy and fun busking scene here. I placed saxophone quartet 22SQ and bluesman Mangus in MONA FOMA, both of whom I discovered busking on the streets of Hobart. I loved their music and admired their work ethic of getting out on the street and playing. Today in Hobart we’ve got it all wrong. Buskers need permits. Hobart City Council has financed not one, but two studies to develop a comprehensive plan for controlling buskers and the areas they busk in. These plans and processes cost a lot of money and in the end we have a sterile and predictable busking anti-scene. Specified busking areas and state sanctioned street musos defeats the beautiful anarchy of true busking culture. If the Femmes worried about permits or where we played we wouldn’t have been discovered by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. All that money spent studying busking and issuing permits is a good example of waste of public funds related to arts. Just let anybody busk wherever they want! Which brings me to my main point. There are a lot of people walking around bemoaning the arts cuts and talking about dollar figures. There is an erroneous presumption that having money to shuffle around peripherally in the arts sector leads inexorably to a cornucopia of great art in the environment. It takes three things to create great art. 1 ideas, 2 talented people, then (and only sometimes!) 3 money to make it happen. The money is last on this list because it’s the least of the three.
When people put it first on the list they place the cart before the horse. It’s like saying if you have a lot of chess pieces you’ll win the game. Not if you don’t know how to play chess. A Bobby Fischer would beat you with four pieces. Make no mistake! I also engage in the activity of fighting for MOFO arts funding and I admire the tenacity of those who play that game. But there’s a bigger problem not being addressed and it’s endemic. Arts are a creative field yet there is little creativity in arts bureaucracy here. We need an Arts Czar, someone with the ability to pick up this box of toys, shake it and dump it on the ground in an entirely new configuration. Take the grants process -- Face it many or perhaps most of the greatest artistic minds are not inclined to fill out mind-numbing forms. They’re too busy being creative. You end up with an artistic class skilled at pencil pushing. Great!!! Money doesn’t drive art, desire does. People make it because they have no choice. As James Brown said, “I can’t help myself!” Desire drives other things. I moved here because of desire. Desire to live in Tasmania. My presence here has directly and indirectly generated a lot of arts activity. This is the key. Energy breeds energy. Creativity is infinite. In Tasmania we have a finite gene pool of talent gathering around the trough. We don’t need a bigger trough, we need a bigger gene pool. There are ways the State can encourage arts activity with little or no expenditure. Tasmania likes to pat itself on the back for its arts scene, “more artists per capita than any other state” blah, blah, blah. This is cute and collegial but actually there are not enough world-class artists here and Tasmania should be providing incentives to attract them. State Government should take some of the money it puts into the arts and make Tasmania a tax free zone for artists. Because income tax is Federal this would have to take the form of rebates. “Artist” could be defined as “someone who makes the majority of their living from their work as artists”. Because the average income of these people in Australia is about $11,000
this would not end up being a huge cost to the State but it would be likely to encourage people to move here. If perchance someone with a large income moves here, what would be the downside? None. That person is likely to be prominent and productive. A bloke like Richard Flanagan does not need a grant to do his work. He needs pen and paper to write a novel. But having him here gives Tasmania a lot more credibility on the world stage than throwing money at mediocre arts projects. The Flan is someone who was born here, left, and returned. Reversing the brain drain is essential. We lose many of our best. Attracting international and interstate artists is crucial. Tasmanian State government could attract talent at no cost by offering derelict infrastructure to artists and arts organizations with the proviso they renovate them during the course of their free lease. There are such buildings in Hobart and Launceston and entire ghost towns in Western Tassie. This would not only attract artists, in the end the State would end up with better infrastructure. Government doesn’t do everything well. They can’t build a mundane road without causing heartache. But Australia and Tasmania in particular don’t have the market or philanthropy to drive the arts without government assistance. Unfortunately there is a propensity here to shovel money at unsuccessful ideas. State Government should avoid operations that are not self-sustaining. Projects should be expanded with government money, but not initiated. This is the only way to ensure quality. If I were the Arts Minister or a player in any other State arts body these are the kind of ideas I’d be pursuing rather than worrying about a 3% cut in funding. 3% of an inefficient model is inconsequential. 100% improvement in strategy and creativity is significant. If the goal is to keep the arts infrastructure at status quo, so be it. But if the goal is to spur on arts activity we need to upset the proverbial apple cart. BRIAN RITCHIE
Warp is Tasmania's only monthly street press featuring Music and the Arts.