The Ledger

House Conspiracy's official ideas and developments log.

Gwan Tung Dorothy Lau: a sneak-peak at The Conspirator

While we anticipate the arrival of The Conspirator prints, we thought it would be a great time to throw you guys a preview of the book's layout. What follows is the section of the book dedicated to the incredible Gwan Tung Dorothy Lau and her work.

You can enlarge the images by clicking on them, and you can read the interview transcription below.


HOUSE CONSPIRACY: Now, your idea of domestic objects, that came directly from the fact that you’re working in an actual house, yeah?

GWAN TUNG DOROTHY LAU: I think so. Previously I did a project where I put pink materials and textures onto different vessels like cups and plates with bows, to convey the ideas of home and displacement all at once. So this project here is like an extension of that, but very much exists in response to the House.

HC: You deal with domesticity and identity in a lot of your works. Why do those two things sort of overlap for you?

GTDL: When I was first figuring out my practice I worked on a whole lot of different ideas, and I tried to almost avoid putting too much of my personal experience in, because I felt like being a Hong Kong–Australian was already a very big part of my identity here, and so I didn’t want to connect it to my work as well. 
       But slowly as I’ve been making stuff I’ve worked out I’m drawn to it. And it’s not my only identity or defining identity, but I feel like it’s very intense as a set of emotions and experiences. And stuff happens that reminds me of these sorts of issues on a regular basis. I feel like my daily life is sort of connected to these sort of issues. So it ended up appearing in my art more and more. And it became a big part of my practice.

HC: So what elements of your day-to-day life remind you of the elements of identity you’re dealing with in your work?

GTDL: Even, like, taking an Uber. I guess out of maybe five Uber drivers four of them ask me where I’m from—it’s that sort of question that is meant to be kind and conversational, but ends up a little too personal in a sense. And any conversation with a new friend or a stranger always leads in the direction of my cultural identity. 
       I guess I feel like whenever I’m introducing myself or meeting new people, the first thing they want to know about is my heritage, instead of, like, the other aspects of my life.

HC: So you mention these conversations often contain questions that are maybe too personal. What’s the line there for you? When does something become too personal?

GTDL: I guess it’s when someone asks a question that might be not too personal, but then they connect with a stereotype and it becomes sort of weird—like, no one has asked me this before, but my sister, someone asked her once if she eats dogs—so it’s just like, ‘What do you eat?’ is not one of the most personal things to ask, but then when you ask someone, ‘Oh, do you eat dog?’ because of, like, their race, then it’s personal. It’s the context more than the question.

HC: Right, it becomes personal through the connection to a stereotype.

GTDL: It’s almost like I have to defend myself a little bit. It’s like they’re accusing me of something but they’re not. So it’s a general question but then it becomes personal.

HC: Your work almost battles the sort of displacement you’re talking about. Do you find that’s a battle that you’re winning? How’s the progression been, or are you still in the same sort of place you were when you started?

GTDL: It’s not like a curve where it goes up or down. It’s a constant sort of shift. I was so confused when I first got here. That was the highest point of confusion and displacement. And then it got better. And then it got worse again. Once you know what’s happening in a place and you know how you are different, then you actually feel a stronger sense of displacement. So I sometimes feel more like I belong and sometimes less. A similar thing applies when I am back in Hong Kong as well. I still feel very much like I belong in Hong Kong. But people have changed, things have changed, people think I’ve changed. So this sort of displacement doesn’t just apply to me being in Brisbane, but in a greater sense—like where do I call home, I guess, because anywhere could be home but nowhere is fully. Like, Brisbane could be 70% and Hong Kong could be 80%, but where can I feel 100% home?

HC: When is the time—it’s a big question—when is the time when you’ve felt the strongest sense of belonging?

GTDL: I guess when I first moved to Brisbane—which is weird, because it was a new place. But I think growing up in a bigger city like Hong Kong made me feel more comfortable with noise and with people walking like fast, and moving to Brisbane had this sudden feeling of familiarity even though it wasn’t at all familiar. I feel like Brisbane is sort of in between Hong Kong and Townsville in terms of lifestyle. And I feel like that makes it a good place for me to be. And when I first got here that was the feeling: this is a good place to live. And then when I got into QUT and my mind was taken toward art, and all those things, I had a chance to pour through all these emotions. You know, first year university was the first time I felt belonged. Which is weird, because I feel like that’s a time of confusion for uni students.

HC: Yeah, did you still have that sense of confusion on a student-level, but on a personal-level felt gratified? Was there a multiplicity of reactions there?

GTDL: I guess my mind was more occupied. Everything was happening so fast, and my life was taking the next step, and I didn’t know anyone but I started making friends and I got a weird sense that I’d sort of found my place even though I still felt that Hong Kong was my place and that Townsville was my place—but when I moved to Brisbane, I had a weird sense like I’d found a place that would be home for a while. 

HC: And so tell me about the sort of ‘home’ you’re constructing through your work in Studio 01 right now.

GTDL: I want to arrange things like you would in your own house. I want the whole room to resemble a living space. Plates on the table, photos on the wall—but do that while also making clear it’s not an actual living space; it’s a paradox. I’ve photoshopped myself into my parents’ old photos. And I want to throw my identity into every element of the work so the room will sort of respond to how I think. 
       You know, sometimes I regret my life decisions. Like, moving here has been hard—but then I think about how it’s going well, and I’m doing okay. But that’s the whole battle in my head, is that I’m constantly thinking about life decisions and displacement and my life in Brisbane, and this room is going to connect all that using this notion of paradox. On my studio door I’ve written the key ideas I’m thinking about. They are: ‘Identities’, ‘Paradoxes’, ‘Regrets’, and ‘Time Travel’. They sound like they could be from a sci-fi, so I hope it doesn’t sound too weird. I hope it all makes sense. 


The Conspirator: Pre-Order Now

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The Conspirator is House Conspiracy's end-of-year publication. It celebrates and documents the work of the 91 emerging artists we supported in our first year.

Quick facts:

  • 500 limited-edition copies, individually-numbered 
  • 272 full-colour pages (210 x 260mm)
  • Two sides (The Artists; The House)
  • Featuring more than 90 Brisbane-based emerging artists
  • Detailing the behind-the-scenes of a non-profit arts organisation
  • Professional, lasting artefact for House Conspiracy and its artists

The Conspirator will be an important marker of the meaningful change House Conspiracy has created for Brisbane’s arts community in our first year of operation.

In addition to showcasing our artist alumni, The Conspirator also dedicates an entire side to the documentation of House Conspiracy's organisational processes, a resource for artists and organisations to reference in undertaking future projects.

The Conspirator will serve as a reference for what it is possible to do for emerging artists of all ages, backgrounds, and practices.

2017 AGM Outcomes

Last night, on October 16 2018, House Conspiracy Inc. met to undertake the organisations second ever AGM. We went through the usual business an AGM is expected to undertake, and also presented on both where we've been and where we're going as an organisation.

You can cycle through the slides from the AGM above, which have been annotated post-election. You can also download a copy of the slides and the minutes below:

Introducing, then, our new board:

President: Elizabeth Cowie.
Treasurer: Jean Claire Martin.
Secretary: Kayla Robinson.
Committee Members: Caitlin Armstrong, Joseph Burgess, Craig Garrett, Ellie-Lea Jansson, Cinnamon Smith, Sarah Winter.

And confirming our ongoing staff:

Founding Creative Director: Jonathan O'Brien
Marketing Manager: Cinnamon Smith
Creative Production Assistant: Aron Oroszvari


These are the last minutes I will submit as Secretary of House Conspiracy Inc. It is my job now as Creative Director to support the board in this transitional phase and to then dedicate my time to ensuring that the initial 2017–18 vision developed for House Conspiracy comes to its ultimate fruition.

I'm proud of what we've done so far, and am excited by what this board will achieve in the future. These fresh sets of eyes and hands will bring a lot to the organisation and the form it takes in the future. 2018 is uncharted territory. It's been an honour to play my part in the charting thus far.

All the best,


Jonathan O'Brien
Former Secretary
Founding Creative Director
House Conspiracy

Tell your friends about it.

 
 

Friends! They say if you can't describe something in simple terms then you don't understand it well enough.

 
 

This week we finally got our act together and figured out what this whole 'House Conspiracy' thing is, in simple terms. This is thanks, in no small part, to Cinnamon Smith, House Conspiracy's new Marketing Manager. This week she's had us drilling down to the core of this thing, grinding all the gears together, and churning out ideas and feelings and simple communication.

We hope it's all starting to make sense now.


In other news, there's only a week till our first round of Emerging Artist Residency applications close on December 5th. You can still check it out and download an application form. Send in your completed form to residencies@houseconspiracy.org before 11:59pm next Monday for your chance to take part in the program.

Also, in the spirit of giving season, why not check out how to become a Patron of House Conspiracy? It's a big part of making this whole thing possible.

You can download all the information by hitting the button below:

For now, that's all we've got. We'll have some more news for you in the next couple weeks, and we promise it'll be good.

Until then—all the best,

Jonathan O'Brien
Creative Director
on behalf of House Conspiracy

 

A brief understanding of how all this came to be.

 

This whole thing started in March, when Roving Conspiracy needed a venue on short notice. Ideally, we needed somewhere good and central in South Brisbane—though anywhere would have done okay. We were just in need of a space.

Enter: Elizabeth Cowie, via Facebook messenger. She says she’s knows an empty house, says we ought to fill it for a while. So we do, for a night. A couple musicians and bands shot through: Georgia Rose, Tay Oskee, Flash Delirium, Hunting Jade (now Freddie), alongside a bunch of talented open-mic­ers. It was a good night, and Elizabeth agreed:

 House Conspiracy Blog

So we kept on. We sat down in The Burrow (vale The Burrow) and then we sat down there again to discuss the plans and hopes and dreams for this small thing we called House Conspiracy.

It started off as the idea of a café where the space we call The Galley is now—using profits to subsidise the artists upstairs. Then it became a bar, and after that a hotdesk, then a grungy commercial gallery—it became a lot of things.

Through weeks of conversations with artists, producers, and creatives across Brisbane, House Conspiracy became what it is today: a morphing, fillable space in a city that’s in dire need of it. We began framing House Conspiracy as a space for residencies, events, private meetings, and more. We started looking at ways of funding it that weren’t based solely in transactional commerce (yes, we will have a bar for events—no, we are not a bar) and we went from there. This means that a whole lot of this thing relies on community and philanthropic support. We’re not all the way there yet, but we couldn’t be happier with what we’ve received thus far.

 
 House Conspiracy House Axo
 

House Conspiracy is thrilled by change. The Residencies program, with its one rule, that each artist must leave a physical mark on the space, exemplifies this. The space should be cool. The space should be interesting. The space should keep changing and that alone should be a reason for people to keep coming back to attend events, or to use the Yard and Galley spaces for the creation and presentation of their next project. House Conspiracy is, in its simplest form, a kind and helpful idea for Brisbane’s arts community, but we reckon it should probably be cool, too.


Documentation, and what that means

Ephemeral is great, and ‘here and now’ is a philosophy House Conspiracy largely subscribes to—but it’s not enough in the arts. In ‘art’ certainly it is enough, but when we consider this whole ‘arts’ thing in the context of ‘industry’, whatever that means in 2016, then ‘here and now’ is no longer enough. To have a career—to ‘emerge’—you have to be able to point to something and say: ‘I was here; I did this.’

House Conspiracy wants you to be here; House Conspiracy wants you to do this. And we want to write it down, photograph it, ask you about it. At the end of this first huge year of House Conspiracy (Feb 2017–Feb 2018), every artist who has taken part in our Residency program, as well as a selection of those who have utilised or showcased within the House, will be documented in a huge physical publication tentatively titled The Conspirator. We don’t know exactly what form this thing will take just yet. We can only promise that it will be real, tangible, and engaging—a form of documentation people will want to read, editorialised and golden. A bridge between ‘art’ and ‘arts’.

 

The Logistics Director, Lewis Holmes, weighs in.

 House Conspiracy Lewis Holmes

Brisbane is home to a whole host of immensely talented artists of all mediums and walks of life. Despite consistent cuts in recent years to programs and programming, the Brisbane community is thriving. Although the artistic community of Brisbane is creating amazing work, the people who are truly committed to their art are continually overworked, underpaid, and underprivileged by a hyper competitive market that thrives off toxicity and secrecy.

There has been great art made under the influence of money, the most obvious example being during the church’s peak when amazing music and murals were made at the raw behest of money. But the arts cannot allow itself to become, in itself, a prisoner of privilege. The question should never be, however convenient it may be, what the money behind a piece wanted to convey—House Conspiracy likes to think that art should be between the observer and the work.

Having observed the needs of the Queensland arts scene, House Conspiracy wants to make sure you can make amazing art no matter who you are, and to make sure that the opportunity means something by documenting, exhibiting, and showcasing the works. The burden is immense, but as a collective we can create an environment where anyone can create to their full potential and elevate Brisbane to the artistic hub it has the capacity to become.

Talk is cheap. Let’s try love. 


 

You could look at us, our amazing team, and you could say: ‘Wow, you guys really darn well did this thing, didn’t you? You really did it.’

But we didn’t, really. At least, not on our own. Throughout this whole process there’s been a lot of guidance and support from all corners of this globe we call Brisbane.

Of course there’s the House Conspiracy team: myself, Lewis Holmes, Cinnamon Smith, Elizabeth Cowie, Ellie Roehrs, and Brittany Hill. There are the eighty or so local artists and creatives who showed up to our Artist Meet events and gave us their feedback on the project. There’s those who gave us support and advice on the side: Jonathan Sri, Sarah Winter, Harmonie Downes, Matt Seery, Glyn Roberts, Len Coyte, and so many more. I must also mention the reverent Tony Brumpton, without whom the House’s vision would not be half of what it is today.

And finally, Remi Roehrs, who cofounded this strange kindness with me—a huge thanks for the work you put in and the vision you brought with you during your time on the project. You’re gonna do great things.

And you, dear reader, can do great things too, regardless of House Conspiracy. Live your dreams and, if you like, let us know how we can help make them happen. In the meantime: explore the House, express your interest, and apply for residencies.

With love,

 

Jonathan O’Brien
Creative Director
on behalf of House Conspiracy