Containerval is over, finishing 2 weeks ago and escaping the surrounding November storms. Over 3 weekends in November, it was deemed a success by the popular press,the punters, the site operators and the organisers [Economic Development Queensland – EDQ]. A borrowed idea – it has been done in Christchurch, Melbourne and elsewhere – it was developed by the marketing team at EDQ to activate the hard stand at Hamilton North Shore as a temporary solution for their concrete desert and decaying wharves along the Brisbane River as their 20 year strategic development plan takes shape.
The Containerval idea was to provide some kind of exposure for Brisbane based artists and cultural developers within a retail festival “pop-up” space. It provided a unique opportunity for food retailers, Jugglers Art Space, Nomads, ceramicist Erin Lightfoot and Brisbane International Film Festival to have ” a conversation” together and with the consuming public. This kind of conversation is not uncommon in the pubs and cafes and new design architecture and reworked lane-ways in Brisbane and Melbourne or at Woodford Folk Festival – but would it work in containers in this temporary market style retail setting? In this sense it was a big risk, given the predicable heat in November in Brisbane – and in containers on concrete – and the unpredictability of average festival punters. No amount was spared on marketing, however, so the event was a success purely from a response to advertising saturation. By Festival end it had been a success commercially and in Jugglers’ case it had given a range of artists, musicians and performers new audiences.
In my experience where I live here in Brisbane there is an insatiable hunger for yet another consumer feel good experience. Containerval looked like fitting the bill and in so doing, give Jugglers a unique opportunity to expose the general public to our passion for “art with heart”, and a less consumer driven experience. There was some risk here. We wanted to experiment and see if the consuming public could find a way in to contemporary experimental art and music. This is an interface that we are passionate about that has led Jugglers to initiate a range of ventures such as the bi-annual Brisbane Artist Run Initiatives Festival [BARI]. BARI fosters that interface across Brisbane during the festival, giving the public the opportunity to see, meet and spend time with real artists in real studio spaces with felt engagement rather than a commercial one.
The QUT design school students and builder Randal Breen secured the contracts to design and fit out the retailers’ containers and Jugglers – as the “arts and cultural hub” – used its innovative gene pool and network of contacts and supporters to design and fit out their 4 allocated containers on a limited budget. We created a magical and utilitarian space with an organic sense about it, including a grassed gathering space in front of the performance container under the orange onion bag canopy. The grass continues to thrive despite the heat and foot traffic. Two borrowed water tanks, a pump, misting system and hardy grass has amazed Stuart Bull, the project landscape architect who, like the whole team*, donated his time.
Container set up at Hamilton North Shore
Jugglers’ Containerval space with gathering lawn, onion bag canopy and retrieved NBN bobbins.
Luke Carbon & Lisa Dere performing “Paint it Red” in the gathering space at the performance container.
Graffiti by Gus Eagleton, David Don, Charmaine Malpago and Greta Waring.
The workshop container [Artist: Wade Schaare – “Lucks”]
Opening night – Jugglers core team reps and artists.
Opening night – more Jugglers design and construction team Emily Fong, Stuart Bull, Jake Wood, Lisa Dere.
Gallery container – glass work by Joanna Debone and Aaron Micallef
For us at Jugglers, the opportunity came out of our lease with EDQ to develop an arts and cultural hub at The Shed, situated about one kilometre east from the Containerval site. This shed houses a group of practising artists and glass blowers. Punters at the Festival made their way to the shed during the festival and so more links and networks were created.
Parallel with Containerval was the kick off of Eat Street Markets, right next door to the Containerval site. Eat Street is the brain child of Brisbane market entrepreneur Peter Hackworth and managed by John Stanton of Australia Zoo fame. The Containerval retailers and arts/charity organisations [Erin Lightfoot, Nomads and Jugglers] were given the option to continue on with Eat Street Markets under a new business arrangement once Containerval ended. Jugglers initial response was to continue to offer the interface option to the market punters just as we had done with the Festival. It soon became clear, however that there were a number of dynamics at work : There were different values driving Eat Street Markets than had informed Containerval and Jugglers had a resource problem – both human and financial. It was going to be impossible to attract the eating consuming public into our space and for a slower paced conversation about art and meaning. It was also going to be a challenge to meet rental costs and to fund an event coordinator, artists and musicians for a market that we were not prepared for.
We have seen that the Jugglers Containerval design/art project has been just that, a large and amazing installation that was the conduit for artistic ideas and flow that drew people into itself and made some kind of impact on their sensibilities. It certainly impacted all of the design team , construction team, event coordinator, volunteers, artists,musicians and performers.
This experience has been a good one for Brisbane and for Jugglers. Brisbane is still finding its head and heart in respect of new,contemporary and innovative artistic expressions. There are wonderful ARI’s [Artist Run Initiatives] and galleries now, with people putting up art in “non-art places” [not just graffiti] and so providing Brisbane with the educational interface we are so passionate about. But I am quite sure that the Eat Street Market model is not the place for this kind of artistic expression.
A poignant piece in the September 2013 issue of Art Forum under the review of Jonathan Crary’s book “24/7 Late Capitalism and the End of Sleep” is relevant here: “Karl Marx along with many nineteenth-century reformers, lamented that the lifelong vocation of the artisan was destroyed by the factory, wherein the worker, rather than employ his tools, himself became an instrument wielded by the industrial apparatus.” [Michael Hardt]
*Design and construction Team: Lisa Dere, Marissa Lindquist, Emily Fong, Stuart Bull, Jake Wood, Peter Breen, Aaron Micalleff, Wade Schaare [Lucks] Randal Breen, Jessica Row, Zoe Trevethan.
Graffiti artists/artists: Renae Awen, Peter Breen [Sculptural installation], David Don, Gus Eagleton, Charmaine Malpago, Greta Waring, Lucks, Travis Vinson, Brett James, John Ryder.