Independents in Australia

Written by Susan Gibb on September, 2012.

Society is an independent curatorial project of Susan Gibb in Sydney, Australia.


Independents in Australia

For the past 18 months I have been living and working from a shop-front residence located on the border of three Sydney suburbs: Redfern, Waterloo and Alexandria. I moved here early last year to run a twelve-month curatorial project called Society. I had been working in various institutions in a curatorial capacity however I had ideas that seemed to fall outside of these roles. Starting my own independent project and space became the logical conclusion.

Mitch Cairns, Blue Period (w/ Matthew Tumbers). Curated by Susan Gibb.

Importantly, the space also came with a history. I inherited it from Kenzee Patterson and Yasmin Smith - two local artists who were previously directors of the artist run initiative Locksmith Project Space. Locksmith Project Space had run for three years and provided an important platform for emerging Sydney artists to have their first solo exhibitions – notably it did this without charging them for the use of the space. It also provided an alternative venue for the local independent music scene.

Mitch Cairns, Blue Period (w/ Matthew Tumbers). Curated by Susan Gibb.

While Society saw changes - it was curator driven and intergenerational in scope - it was stead fast in maintaining the ethos of Locksmith as a free space. It also continued its intermittent use as a studio and music venue between exhibitions. While the directors of Locksmith had kindly passed the space on to me in order to attend to the growing needs of their own artistic practices, the twelve-month program of Society will unfortunately be the spaces last. Much has been written about the links between art communities and gentrification of suburbs. Currently the space stands with a development application approved for it to be demolished and turned into high-rise apartments in the coming months. The surrounding suburbs are rapidly changing.

Work by Agatha Gothe-Snape for Society Sydney in Kunstvlaai, Amsterdam. Photo credit: Cassander Eeeftinck Schattenberg.

The independent arts scene, in any city, is an important network of connections and platforms for artists to develop and present work in alternative and supportive contexts. They arise for various reasons, take various forms and funding models, and often have limited time spans. When I was in The Philippines earlier this year I complied the following list of independent initiatives from around Australia that I often look to in my own curatorial research, for It is by no means complete or comprehensive, indeed many of the initiatives listed may or may not still be running at the time of publication.


Downloadable PDF of art spaces is at the end of this page.


About the author

Susan Gibb is a curator based in Sydney, Australia. She recently ran the independent curatorial project, Society (2011-2012), from her home in Redfern, and presented a project with Agatha Gothe-Snape as part of INexactly THIS, Kunstvlaai: Festival of Independents, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2012) and Workout: 7 Days of Experimental Performance, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (2013). Previously Susan worked as the Visual Arts Curator at Carriageworks, an Associate Curator and Project Manager at Campbelltown Arts Centre, and as a Curatorial Assistant at Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest. A recipient of an Asialink Arts Management Residency, Susan has also worked as a Curator-in-Residence at Green Papaya Art Projects and curated an exhibition of Australian and New Zealand video art at the Ishmael Bernal Gallery, University of the Philippines Film Institute, in Manila, The Philippines. She writes regularly for national and international art publications including ArtAsiaPacific and Art & Australia.


Susan Gibb