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Project 28: Roman Ondák- Behind The Scenes

Jan 22, 2014

Kaldor Public Art Projects (KPAP) is currently presenting the work of the acclaimed Slovakian artist Roman Ondák at Parramatta Town Hall in association with Sydney Festival. This marks project number 28 for the organisation and has already gained much interest from media and attendees alike.  But what goes on behind the scenes of a Kaldor Public Art Project? We asked Emma Pike, Curatorial and Communications Coordinator for KPAP to shed some more light on the logistical side of presenting a project on this scale.

What is your role at KPAP?

I am the Curatorial and Communications Coordinator at Kaldor Public Art Projects, which means I wear two hats. In the long lead to a project, I work on the curatorial research, artist’s site visits, exhibition development and liaise with the artist – providing research material and discussing various concepts for the way their project will play out. As time progresses closer to the launch date I work on the communications side of things as well, looking at marketing, social media, and developing print materials.

Can you walk us through a typical day for you whilst Project 28 is underway?

Once the project launches, my curatorial side is already working towards our upcoming projects, while my communications side is in full force for the current project. I do all I can to get audience numbers in the door. This ranges from liaising with our PR person, managing our communications intern who looks after the social media side of things, developing e-newsletters and e-flyers and making sure we have enough print material to see us through the project.

We are also a tiny team at KPAP, so it’s all hands on deck once a project is up and running, and I end up performing many roles to help everything run smoothly. Today I’ve jumped from workshop assistant, to photographer, to covering lunch breaks as a gallery attendant on top of my usual tasks.

KPAP generally works with well established, international artists. What are the primary challenges of working with these artists?

I think the main challenge is that they are incredibly busy. Our small team generally presents two projects a year, and so while we need to get various aspects of the project underway early on, the artists may not necessarily be prepared to commence work on the nitty gritty as early as we would like. In their eyes they have a huge number of other exhibitions to complete long before we launch. In our eyes we are trying to prepare as much as we can, as early on as we can, in order to develop a seamless project.

Sometimes we have to be patient and wait until the artists have time to schedule a visit to Australia, and then develop their ideas especially for our project. This can take years. We’re more than happy to wait though, preferring to deliver a project of high quality rather than rushing them into something they can’t dedicate adequate time to.

How does KPAP find its venues for presentation and how challenging is this process?

Finding new spaces is my favorite part of our project development process. We have a large database of interesting spaces that we’ve seen and are waiting quietly for the right project to come along. Early on in the development process we bring each artist out to Australia for a site visit, show them a range of spaces that we think would work for them, and hope that one clicks. Sometimes, the artist finds a space all on their own, which is what happened when Thomas Demand was walking the Sydney streets one night and stumbled across the Commercial Travellers’ Association at Martin Place.

The most challenging part about using a new space for each project, is if the space hasn’t been used for exhibitions or events ever before. When we presented Urs Fischer on Cockatoo Island, we were the first arts organisation to use the site and there wasn’t even regular ferries stopping at the island. Encouraging audience members to come along to locations which they weren’t previously aware of is always a challenge, but one we’re happy to take on if it means providing an extra element for the artist to work with.

What are you looking forward to most during Project 28?

I can’t wait to see the thick black inky line develop around the walls in ‘Measuring the Universe’. It will be very exciting to compare our Parramatta universe to those created at MoMA, New York and Tate, St Ives in the UK. I can already see a lot more names written on our walls in languages other than English – the Chinese characters in particular look fantastic added to the mix.

I’m also enjoying seeing such a vast array of demographics visiting the show. I love covering the gallery attendants shift’s over lunchtime in ‘Measuring the Universe’ and meeting everyone from 10 year old kids translating for their Punjabi speaking parents, to the 85 year old Spanish ladies who came through with their social club on Monday morning.

For more information on Project 28: Roman Ondák
Project 28: Roman Ondák, was supported by the Visual Arts panel of the Australia Council through its Presentation and Promotion grant.