From Then to Now: Artist Run Initiatives in Sydney, New South Wales

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Copyright: Griffiths, Amy
Artist Run Initiatives are a firmly rooted aspect of the Australian and global arts world. Emerging with the counterculture in the 1960s, the alternative spaces movement provided opportunities for artists to explore and engage with new art practices and concepts of community. Historically influential on the development of post-object and conceptual art and the Art Union culture in Australia, ARIs are positioned right at the forefront of radical and innovative developments. Evolving into artist run spaces and coming to be known as ARIs, the evolution of the spaces and organisations has developed in harmony with art practice, praxis and local issues. ARIs are based in ideology or community, or a blending of the two, with the practitioners employing the structure of the ARI to explore praxis with the advantages of resource and facilities sharing and collective support. Space is and has been a major aspect of ARIs - the creation of space imbued with meaning, historically and pragmatically. The negotiation of space from within the context of a constantly changing and evolving city, such as Sydney, is a continual challenge for ARIs. Starting in the “slums” of Woolloomooloo and progressing further and further west with the development and gentrification of the City, ARIs are innovators when it comes to composing and negotiating space. From actively taking a stand and claiming space till forcefully evicted, to being the sole instrument in the creative urban renewal schemes that are sweeping the globe, ARIs actively participate and are also unknowingly employed to regenerate fading urban areas with their “bohemian” flair. In the forty plus years since the emergence of ARIs into the art world ecosystem, they have struggled to stay active and operational. They are constantly in jeopardy, at the mercy of pragmatic issues such as rising living costs, and abstract challenges associated with the “selfperpetuating cycle of invalidation”. At present there is a wide diversity of organisations, spaces, collectives, websites, and projects that fit under the umbrella term of ARI. In the current fourth phase of evolution, ARIs are desiring to combat these challenges by coming together and creating a central site of support, from where knowledge can be distributed and experiences be shared, for ARIs to move forward and focus on what they do best, create culture.
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Griffiths, Amy
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