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Alex Gawronski

Author 
Scanlines email interview, 2010

Alex Gawronski is an artist, writer and academic based in Sydney. Gawronski studied at Sydney College of the Arts where he received a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1991. In 1992 he was awarded a Post Graduate Diploma also from Sydney College of the Arts. In 2006 he completed a PhD, ‘No New Utopia? The Crisis of Art as Critique Under Globalisation’, again at Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney.

As an artist and writer Gawronski is especially interested in analysing the effects of economic globalisation on the production and reception of contemporary art. As part of this broader concern, he is especially engaged in considering the degrees of autonomy still afforded by art as a global, potentially resistant, practice. With this in mind, Gawronski has been highly active both in the establishment and running of independent artist spaces including First Draft, Loose Projects, Blaugrau and most recently the Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (ICAN).

An important part of Gawronski’s interest in critical cultures has been his addressing of the impact and possibilities of screen and televisual media, expressly within an art context. Gawronski’s use of video has regularly been within an overtly spatialised installation format that self-consciously reflects the conditions of the work’s own exhibition. Many of these installations - incorporating either prerecorded or live video - investigate the relationship of the spaces of art’s production and reception to wider socio-political phenomena generally considered external to them. Similarly, these works often aim to provoke the viewer to reflect on their inherent complicity with the wider circumstances they indicate while proposing video as a fundamentally material medium. Relevant works of Gawronski’s include ‘The Invisible Man’, Artspace, Sydney (2012); ‘Civilized’, Loose Projects, Sydney (2006); ‘ANTI-Chamber’, (Whose Afraid of the Avant-Garde? # 3), The Performance Space, Sydney (2005); ‘Abstrakt Attack Kabinett’, The Experimental Art Foundation, (EAF) Adelaide (2003); ‘Testing Ground’, Artspace, Sydney, Blockade (2002) and ‘Enactment’, Artspace, Sydney (1999).

Gawronski says about first working with video:

My original interest in video was two-fold and emerged out of seemingly conflicting reflections on cinematic histories and the pervasive visual tropes associated with TV and especially TV news. 

Of his influences he says:

I was initially attracted to cinema and to the work of European directors like Godard, Melville, Tarkovsky, Eisenstein, Pasolini etc.  I was also interested in video-art that specifically engaged the materiality of the video medium by practitioners like Bruce Nauman and Dan Graham. Later, the essay-films of Chris Marker and Guy Debord were a revelation to me especially for their deliberately anti-cinematic use of moving and static images. The latter's film version of 'Society of the Spectacle' (regardless of its shortcomings) was particularly interesting to me as a film composed entirely of existing fragments of miscellaneous material ranging from the heroic narratives propelling Hollywood epics to equally banal TV advertising. Collectively rendered these are turned by Debord into a socio-political text operating self-consciously in the present. In a broadly related, though humorously updated, vein I was also impressed by the VJ efforts of Tom Ellard (ex-Severed Heads). Ellard de-contextualises and mixes multiple fragments of TV ads re-staging television as the psychedelic melting pot of phantasmagoria it essentially is. As far as texts are concerned, I was and am compelled by documents that have become practically ubiquitous with critiques of the televisual age by theorists like Foucault and Deleuze but more specifically by Baudrillard and Virilio.

Of his involvement with organisations or artist-run initiatives that dealt with experimental media he says:

I have been a co-founder and director of numerous artist-run initiatives; Firstdraft, Surry Hills 1992/1994-96, Blaugrau, Chippendale 2000-01, Loose Projects, Sydney 2006-07 and currently The Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N.) - now in Camperdown - 2007 (ongoing) . All these ventures, while not focusing explicitly on experimental media, have focused primarily on temporal, spatial and installation-based practices many of which have incorporated video, sound or other new and/or interactive media.

Of his first and latest shows he says:

My first exhibition was a group exhibition with four colleagues at a long-since demolished underground warehouse gallery in Glebe called Catacombs. These days I exhibit regularly in autonomous artist-run-initiatives and state-funded institutions. Among the former are Death be Kind, East Brunswick, Melbourne; 55 Sydenham Rd Marrickville, Sydney; Peloton, Chippendale, Sydney and the Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (I.C.A.N.). Among the latter have been the British School at Rome (BSR); 200 Gertrude St, Melbourne; The Physics Room, Christchurch, NZ; The Experimental Art Foundation (EAF), Adelaide; the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) Level 2 Projects, Sydney; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney and Artspace, Sydney. 

Date 
b. 1968
Period of activity 
from 1993

Lives and works

Sydney
NSW
Australia
Selected works
Alex Gawronski, The Invisible Man, 2012, installation view, Artspace, Sydney. Photo: silversalt photography.
Alex Gawronski, The Invisible Man, 2012, installation view, Artspace, Sydney. Photo: silversalt photography. – from The Invisible Man 
Alex Gawronski, Civilized (version 2), 2007. Installation view, Fauvette Loureiro Travelling Scholarship Award exhibition, Sydney College of the Arts galleries.
Alex Gawronski, Civilized (version 2), 2007. Installation view, Fauvette Loureiro Travelling Scholarship Award exhibition, Sydney College of the Arts galleries. – from Civilized (version 2) 
Alex Gawronski, Testing Ground, 2012. Artspace, Sydney.
Alex Gawronski, Testing Ground, 2012. Artspace, Sydney. – from Testing Ground 
Alex Gawronski, Untitled (Standard Interval), 2006.
Alex Gawronski, Untitled (Standard Interval), 2006. – from Untitled (Standard Interval) 
Alex Gawronski, ANTI-Chamber, 2005.
Alex Gawronski, ANTI-Chamber, 2005. – from ANTI-Chamber 
Alex Gawronski, Abstrakt Attack Kabinett, 2003.
Alex Gawronski, Abstrakt Attack Kabinett, 2003. – from Abstrakt Attack Kabinett 
Alex Gawronski, Enactment, 1999.
Alex Gawronski, Enactment, 1999. – from Enactment