A Proposal by Paula Silva
The CWA of Australia is the largest women’s organization in Australia with a membership of approx. 25,500 (…). We aim to improve the conditions for women and children and make life better for families, especially those living in rural and remote Australia. We maintain a strong working relationship with governments in all States and the Territory [Australia] which shows a healthy respect for the “human face and grass roots perspective” which the C.W.A. of Australia has projected for over 70 years.
The 26th Tasmanian Country Woman Association (CWA) branch will be launched in Tasmania in 2011. The curator (Tasmania based) and five commissioned artists (Tasmania based and international) will appropriate the existing CWA organizational structure as a site for a series of art interventions.
Tasmania is an island south of ‘mainland’ Australia, somewhere on the way to Antarctica. The island’s geographical isolation and inhospitable land kept colonizing countries away until the eighteenth century, when England made Tasmania a penal colony. British prisoners, men and women, were deported to Tasmania where they lived outside of prison walls but imprisoned by an incomprehensible nature, the Tasmanian Wilderness. Staying together, working together, negotiating a common ground despite their differences, was the only way to stay alive.
Through the appropriation of an organization’s structure, the exhibition project Country Woman Association–Tasmanian Branch no 26, aims to articulate the idea of ‘community’ as a heterogeneous group of people formed around common self-interests and working in real cooperative relationships.
The exchange of information within groups who share same interests is easily available in the media and the Internet, through channels that promote virtual social interactions. The question is not who accesses this pervading information, but how and why it is shared. In appropriating specifically the structure of CWA, an organization that exists since 70 years, the exhibition project considers and particularly reviews an already existent platform for the self-interests of women, specifically those living in regional and peripheral contexts, who work in real, slow building relationships, through negotiation of common ground, promoting change and the reshaping of established cultural values.
Bik Van der Pol, the Dutch collective, Narelle Jubelin, Australian artist based in Madrid and Elizabeth Woods, Justy Phillips and Rebecca Stevens, three artists based in Tasmania were invited to be a part of the CWA Tasmania Branch no 26. They have been commissioned to design and deliver the branch’s activities, bringing to the project their interests and long term researches on the public realm, community, colonialism, identity, place and the role of the women.
The commissioned artists will participate in the development of the new branch, engaging at different levels: Bik Van der Pol and Narelle Jubelin were invited to activate the organization’s cultural narrative by employing and expanding on their tested ‘narrative reformulation strategies’; the artists based in Tasmania, who are more knowledgeable of the specificities of the Tasmanian context were invited to engage directly with its complexities, throughout projects that articulate issues particular to the community, sometimes healing, sometimes opening fissures as it happens with Woods’ events, Stevens’ garden installations and Philip’s modern day novellas.
The 26th Tasmanian CWA branch was instigated by the curator and is being developed in collaboration with the commissioned artists. The branch’s activities will be informed by the artists’ research, which may include community consultation and educational programs and will emerge from the collaboration between curator, artists and audiences.
ICI website will host the branch’s webpage with periodical updates of the branches’ development and following full operation, expected to take place in Tasmania in November 2011.
Paula Silva is an independent curator based in Tasmania, Australia, where she curated a number of projects including Made Public (2007); Commonplace (2009), in collaboration with Dr. Rowland Atkinson from the House and Community Research Unit, University of Tasmania; Clarendon House (2009), a site-specific exhibition presented in a historical house museum part of the Trust series, produced by the University of Tasmania in collaboration with National Trust Tasmania and the festival Ten Days on The Island; and Expand/Contract (2009), an event and exhibition produced for the off-site program of Contemporary Art Spaces Tasmania. She was Associate Curator in the public art series Iteration Again – commission to Spanish artist Ruben Santiago (2011), working with Head Curator David Cross from Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.
Current curatorial work includes CBD Branch of the Country Women’s Association (2011- ), an ongoing public art project that investigates modes of participation and audience constituency. Her interest in alternative exhibition development methodologies and art practice outside traditional gallery contexts led her to commence doctoral research at the University of Tasmania in 2008. She was the Deputy Director of the Tasmanian Artists Run Initiative INFLIGHT (2009-2011) and coordinated the International Exhibition Exchange Program (2008-2011). The program presented international emerging contemporary art to Tasmanian audiences and expanded emerging Tasmanian artists’ professional networks. Paula is an alumni of ICI Curatorial Intensive (Fall 2010).