The act of coming together has become loaded. We have shifted our focus from connection to protection. We took for granted the ease with which we came together before; packed in at exhibition openings, greeting with a hug, standing side-by-side, arms touching, leaning in to whisper to a friend in a room bustling with conversation. The simple pleasure of sharing space.
This issue comes out as the nation emerges from a long period of lockdowns—some of the longest in the world. As we move beyond an atomised social (and art) world, towards a new paradigm that sees us living with Covid-19, what can we do to make public spaces hospitable? What processes have artists considered to maintain and cultivate care amid extreme change, caution and distance? The contributors to fine print’s twenty-seventh issue grapple with these questions to consider the vital action of hospitality in a variety of ways.
The broader conversation around hospitality is defined by the relationship between between guest and host, and usually a scenario where the host receives the guest in goodwill which—in Derridian terms—reinforces of the authority of the host. In response to increasing interrogations into uneven power dynamics, exclusion and privilege, we are seeing a push within visual arts culture and practice away from conditional hospitality in social spaces towards an embrace of the unconditional. A radical openness.
Can the institution be radically hospitable? As restrictions ease and they re-open, museums and galleries carry a great deal of responsibility as some of the very few public sites where people can meet at no cost. Given artists often play host—welcoming in curators, the public—it comes as no surprise that we are seeing artist-run initiatives leading the charge in this space, inviting audiences to exhibitions and events with a sense of leisure and cultural enjoyment and an intentional breaking down of the hierarchy between presenter and presented to. (Artists, we see you, we recognise the work you put in and the energy it requires.) Relational practices, offerings of food, use of diverse and local languages help break down institutional barriers. How can these practices be integrated in a holistic way? In a way that is generous, communal? Invitations of togetherness are more urgent than ever and this work positions care and hospitality as driving forces for collective solidarity, generosity and hope.
HOSPITALITY comes to you in three parts. Two online editions—featuring voices from across the nation—will be published this side of the new year, followed by a reading group led by fine print and Kuala Lumpur based art critic Lee Weng Choy in 2022.
So settle in, make yourself at home.
We begin with contributions by Eunice Andrada (Vic), Jacqueline Chlanda (Qld), Suzanne Close (SA), Paul Gazzola (SA), Rosie Isaac (Vic), Emma O’Neill (NSW), Nikos Papastergiadis (Vic), and Celestine Rowe (NT).
Out now, Part 2 features Ender Başkan (Vic) & Gabriel Curtin (NT), Tamzin Buchan (SA), Daniel Connell (SA) & Aakshat Sinha (Ind), Haneen Mahmood Martin (NT) & Isobel Marmion (SA), and Tess Maunder (Vic).
— Joanna Kitto for fine print