Seedling Art Space Director Zoe Marr chats to ARIna about what she thinks makes Seedling unique and gives us feel for the exhibitions and events that are held there.
ARIna: How would you describe Seedling Art Space and what you do?
Zoe Marr: Seedling Art Space is a completely unique contemporary art space, the only creative space of its kind in Australia - we have run exhibitions, performances, dance, music and parties without any power or water for almost 5 years. The ethos of Seedling is simple, we run an eco, contemporary arts space in a setting that is local heritage, suburban and also within a national park – these attributes make for a scenic and challenging venue for artists, performers and visitors to the space.
ARIna: What motivated you to establish the gallery?
ZM: The small gallery is a local heritage building located in a national park (Blackwood Forest Recreation Park) in an Adelaide suburb – it was abandoned for years. When my partner, Co-director Kahl Hopper, and myself relocated to Adelaide we walked past the building daily with our dog. As we were both studying in the arts sector at the time, it seemed like a perfect space for a gallery and performance venue.
ARIna: You’ve said that you’ve operated since February 2008 without power and water. Did you always intend for the gallery to be environmentally friendly?
ZM: The space hasn’t had power or water for decades; the building has never been attached to the grid, as we know it. The locale of the space dictated the ethos and made for a different approach to hosting local and international contemporary artists. I can’t say it was an intention to start an eco-driven space, the environmental ethos cannot really be separated from Seedling Art Space and equally “Seedling Art Space” would not run from a different site – the space and the arts collective are now part of each other. (**We found the building first and then decided to start an arts space not the other way around).
ARIna: How has the local community responded to Seedling Art Space?
ZM: We have had a great response from all audiences that have attended our events and exhibitions. The local community is really pleased that the building is being used and restored, many individuals have spoken to us and contacted us to comment on our efforts. Seedling has also added an extra conversation piece to passing dog walkers and young families visiting the land. It is interesting that contemporary art in this context is approachable, warm and openly debated without self-consciousness. Many of the local community partake in planting trees around the space under the supervision of the Friends of Blackwood Forest - and there has been lots of encouragement for us to continue to add to the cultural landscape of the area.
ARIna: What can people expect when they visit Seedling Art Space?
ZM: Tea, wine, homemade sausage rolls and lots of cake; live acoustic music from local musicians or curated sound scapes including music walks; dance performances, or just lots of dancing; interactive artworks; battery powered digital experiments; poetry readings; installations by emerging and established artists from Australia and overseas; a fire in winter; thought-provoking writings; and perhaps some hoola-hooping.
ARIna: What has been the most memorable exhibition/event you’ve held?
ZM: This is a hard question to answer. All the exhibitions have been really memorable, in ways particular to the time of year, the changing weather, and the shifting audiences. Every exhibition and event seems to build on the history of the space - it really is an incredible sense of layered growth and I have personally had multiple special experiences at seedling. It might sound contrived but it is difficult to single any one thing out without disrupting the whole kaleidoscope of artists and their works. For instance there has been, glow-in-the-dark constellations; pianos reverberating inside the pump shed; transparent puddles in trees; blindfolded performances; a large sun-lit whalebone serenaded by electronic loops; eight tons of dirt piled inside with delicate sculpture atop; a cello player in blackberry bushes; glass clouds at the only flooded opening; tribal dancers; a whole lot of live music; projected digital drawing without mains power; artists have made their homes in seedling, and the space has even been transformed into a pin-hole camera. And the list goes on... we do publish annual catalogues of our exhibitions so please check the website for info on the fantastic artists and performers we have hosted and who will be coming up this year.
ARIna: What do you enjoy the most about your involvement in Seedling Art Space?
ZM: Its pretty lovely when an opening event happens, they are always totally different and due to being held outdoors the weather inevitably influences the energy of the event. I personally love when many aspects fall into place, with the weather and the multiple artists and musicians that we showcase every month. The audience is never the same and the feedback certainly does boost us to keep going with Seedling Art Space. As a committee we provide a space for experimentation, play and process-driven projects. This allows freedom for artists - and the results are truly magical, diverse and inspiring.
Image: Seedling Art Space opening June 2010. Photo: Hannah Krijnen