The Liquid Architecture Board is inviting a new Chair: to listen forward, sound out, and evolve our organisation together to meet the future needs of artists, stakeholders, and communities. At the beginning of a new cycle, the upcoming period involves the search for a new Artistic Director, and the development of a refreshed Strategic Plan, including greater responsiveness to First Peoples sovereignty in its governance structure.
Active since 2000, Liquid Architecture is a leading Australian organisation for artists working with sound and listening. Liquid Architecture is based on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country, at the Collingwood Yards contemporary art precinct. Our program sits at the intersection of contemporary art and experimental music, expressed through a range of presentation, publishing, research and commissioning activities.
Our commitment is to experimentation, not as a genre, but as an ethic shared across cultures, artforms, and contexts; a modality that reflects the intersectionality of our community (artists, audiences, stakeholders) and their experiences, needs, and desires.
We are looking for an experienced and dynamic cultural leader with a commitment to experimental practice, who can drive our enthusiastic board in taking Liquid Architecture into its next phase. Please note that all Liquid Architecture Board roles are voluntary, in keeping with industry practice and our community values.
For more information about the opportunity, head to the Candidates’ Pack. Expressions of Interest are due 12pm on Monday 2 May 2022.
Exit Music: Liquid Architecture farewells Artistic Director Joel Stern
Joel Stern, Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture, will depart the organisation after nine years, to take up the position of Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow at RMIT University School of Media and Communication. Stern’s last day with the organisation will be Friday 25 March 2022. Statements by the Board and Stern follow.
The Board will announce a recruitment campaign for new Artistic Leadership in the near future.
STATEMENT FROM THE BOARD
Over the past decade, as a result of the work of numerous Board and staff members past and present, LA has radically transformed from an organisation that presented an annual experimental music festival, to a national and international leader in sonic arts practice, research, presenting and publishing. Now, upon the occasion of Joel Stern’s departure, it is with a deep sense of gratitude and respect that the Board acknowledges Joel’s pivotal contribution to this evolution.
Arts organisations are animated and shaped by the spirit, curiosity and imagination of their Artistic Directors, and if LA can lay claim to a culture of experimentation, collaboration and innovation, it does so in large part due to Joel’s work.
For the past nine years, LA has benefited from Joel’s expertise in, and passion for, sonic culture; first as Curator of the LA Festival, then as Artistic Co-Director (with Danni Zuvela), then as Artistic Director. Joel’s vision for LA has always been ambitious and, during his tenure, he broadened, deepened, and redefined LA’s program; building a sophisticated and multi-dimensional year-round arts program that has taken the company from Melbourne to the far reaches of the world and back.
Joel’s capacity to imagine, develop, and then deliver unique artistic experiences, his passion for nurturing vibrant artistic collaborations based on mutual respect and wonder, his finely-tuned critical ear, and his seemingly indefatigable excitement for what might be possible if we bravely leap into new realms of artistic research and practice, are the hallmarks of his (artistic) raison d’etre and modus operandi. LA has been nourished by these traits and will continue to be enriched by Joel’s legacy.
While we are sad to see Joel (and his daggy sense of humour) go, we are thrilled he has secured such a great opportunity with RMIT. We also know that, in ways both literal and metaphoric, Joel will never leave LA and that our special relationship will continue. And for that, we are indeed grateful.
STATEMENT FROM JOEL STERN
At the end of March I’ll be stepping down as Artistic Director at Liquid Architecture.
I joined LA in 2013, initially as Curator, then as Co-Director with Danni Zuvela, having been an artistic associate for some years previously. Moving from Brisbane back home to Melbourne to take on the role, I have lived and breathed it every day for nine years.
Saying goodbye is complicated. LA is deeply entangled with my life and self-identity. It has meant many things to me: extended family, artistic community, employer in precarious times, alibi for reaching out to people I admire, social ritual, medium through which to be mentored and to mentor. In short, this role has been a profound personal education—socially, politically and culturally.
Nine years is a lot in a small arts organisation (though it’s worth noting that founding Director, Nat Bates, did thirteen). I want to say that Liquid Architecture was not a stepping stone for me to another job in the arts. For someone obsessed with experimental music and sonic art, it already was my dream job, the only context where I could imagine myself.
I will remain a supporter and a contributor, in an associate capacity, to the program and journal, and look forward to welcoming new artistic director(s) later in the year. I wish them all the freedom, agency and support I have enjoyed since 2013.
My next move is to RMIT University to take up a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, as a research curator in the School of Media and Communication. This is the department where I completed my undergraduate degree twenty two years ago, and of course the University where Liquid Architecture was founded. To return as a research fellow means a lot. At RMIT, I’ll be focussing on the ‘Machine Listening’ project, in collaboration with James Parker, Sean Dockray and a growing community of contributors.
There are many people to thank and acknowledge—foremostly, the Liquid Architecture team and board, past and present, and all the artists, audiences, partners and supporters who collectively constitute LA. In lieu of naming everyone, you know who you are. Thank you. Thank you.
Liquid Architecture, West Space and Bus Projects are disorganising.
Earlier this year, in the context of numerous challenges to our organisations and communities, Liquid Architecture, West Space and Bus Projects came together to discuss a collective response.
We tabled many possibilities including, rather speculatively, the idea of forming a quasi-institution, comprising our three organisations. What would it mean, at a moment of precarity, to become institutionally inseparable? What conventions, protocols, legacies and habits separate one organisation from another, and to what end? How, as independent organisations, might we refuse to compete with each other for resources, and the attention of audiences, artists, stakeholders?
Liquid Architecture, West Space and Bus Projects are disorganising. This methodology is not a pathway to merger, but an experimental exercise in cooperative practice beyond previous models of partnership, grounded in principles of solidarity and interdependence. We are informed, here, by our shared context and ambitions as neighbours at Collingwood Yards, on unceded Aboriginal land. Disorganising means, wherever possible, shifting knowledge, resources and opportunities from existing organisational silos into the common spaces that present conditions demand.
Disorganising is underwritten by stimulus funding from the Victorian government, designed to aid in the economic recovery of the sector. For us this means redistributing funds to artists, curators, writers and members of our communities, sustaining our staff, as well as recruiting new people to join our teams. It also means understanding ‘economic recovery’ in political and cultural terms, as a fundamental questioning of the nature and value of our work.
So we end this announcement with opportunities, and more to follow. Liquid Architecture, West Space and Bus Projects are seeking to appoint two new positions, an Associate Producer and Associate Editor, in support of disorganising.
This, being the first time we have ever recruited collectively, is an experimental proposition to work between our organisations, and help imagine possibilities to come. We welcome, with excitement, applications, queries and feedback.
EOFY-EOI Blueprints for Temporal Investment 2021–2021
To celebrate the end of the financial year, and 20 years of Liquid Architecture, Debris Facility is offering a project which takes the format of calendar, blueprint, syllabus and alarm tones to critically inhabit logistics as it cuts through the personal and professional. The A1 poster calendar is accompanied by monthly emails with accompanying texts expanding on that month’s graphics alongside custom phone alarm tones to those who submit an Expression of Investment (EOI). Edition of 220 available, “first come first served”.
Blueprints for Temporal Investment 2020–2021 is a propositional expansion to the body corporate of Debris Facility pty ltd which morphs propositional architecture with the speculative practices of temporal organisation, at this highlighted moment of collapse of the labour/leisure divide. The multiplicity of this Facility project incorporates works from The Chernobyl Gallery, Aodhan Madden, Spiros Panigirakis, Alexander Chizevksky, Nicholas Mangan, Beatriz Colomina, The Core Agency, The Numismatic Association of Victoria, ChemSpider, Paul Virilio, Off White, Bayer Corporation, Melbourne Radiology Clinic, Angel Investment, George Raymond Johnson and others.
Obtaining a calendar is as simple as providing an EOI: Expression of Investment, which is a tax deductible donation to Liquid Architecture, and/or a short written response to the question: Where does time accumulate in the body? emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your postal address.
2020 has defied all expectations here at Liquid Architecture. In March, due to the pandemic, our public program was postponed, with immediate effect, and indefinitely. In April, our ongoing funding from Australia Council - the majority of our income and operational budget - was discontinued. A number of other organisations, including some of our closest peers and collaborators, find themselves in similar predicaments, without programs or financial security. Galleries and venues are empty for the foreseeable future, and as we wait for them to reopen, our resources deplete and our context is destabilised.
It feels vital, then, to think at the intersection of these two critical events: the pandemic and the unfunding. Various questions arise: What does it mean for the art economy to collapse in the midst of a global lockdown? What creative and critical possibilities arise in the apparent suspension of normality? What should be done with what remains of our resources, given the extraordinary circumstances? How might experimental practices be mobilised under such conditions? In formulating these questions, we want to frame the pandemic, and our defunding, not simply as events to which we respond, but rather as political lessons in and of themselves - forms of pedagogy. What we learn from them must help us confront the present, and plan a liveable future.
Liquid Architecture’s methodology and compass remains, as ever, our artistic program. What shape this program will take is uncertain, although we are beginning to formulate some possibilities, as you’ll read below. Whatever we do, however, will be grounded both in the urgencies of this moment, and, equally, in the auditory imaginaries of possible futures; what curator Sofia Lemos has called the “multidirectional form of social experience against the law-like authority of clock-time” offered by the sonic. We must listen together in and out of this time. Doing so will demand, paradigmatically, listening differently – listening openly, embracing complexity, and extending beyond conceptual comfort zones. Learning how to hold multiple truths at once, producing collaborative sound and listening, applying these to thinking about how to move forward, together.
Unearthing or -un-ear-thing- is a new initiative extending Liquid Architecture’s work with experimental education and pedagogy. Led by Debris Facility Pty Ltd, the program takes the metaphor of the ‘ear to the ground’ as a departure point for exploring how collaborative, experimental listening might excavate buried knowledge and help navigate the hazardous conceptual terrain of the present. In deploying the metaphor, we keep in mind that placing one ear to the ground means opening the other to the world above. Thus, -un-ear-thing-, for us, is about listening simultaneously above, below, and across thresholds, disciplines, temporalities. We know that the ear today is an often technologised organ. So, along with the ear to the ground, we hold in mind another image, that of the stethoscope pressed against the body; the human body, yes, and all its attendant biopolitics of listening, but also the corpus, or body of knowledge, with its social, political and artistic resonances.
Each -un-ear-thing- iteration will take the form of an education intensive, on-and/or-offline as conditions permit. Under lockdown, as we are currently, these programs will function as experiments in listening and speaking together while physically apart. We can announce that the first four -un-ear-thing-s will be facilitated by Snack Syndicate, Anja Kanngieser, Sean Dockray & James Parker, Ceri Hann & Roseanne Bartley, with more to follow.
We invited Snack Syndicate (Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange) to lead us into this series, as we could imagine no better comrades with whom to share our ears and bodies, and start to sound a collective future’s infrastructure. Details of their program, and its points of participation, here.
Liquid Architecture learned last week that we lost our annual operational funding from the Australia Council for the Arts, along with 48 other arts organisations, including a number of our closest peers and collaborators. We congratulate the excellent organisations supported, and stand with the equally excellent organisations that weren’t.
We rely on this core funding for our team, program, and myriad activities. Since first receiving it in 2016, this money enabled us to grow from an annual festival of experimental music run by volunteer enthusiasts into an organisation with staff, board members, and a broad cohort of associates (designers, technicians, producers, curators) delivering a year-round program of sonic art, performance, music, discourse, research, and pedagogy in Australia and around the world.
Only three organisations in the “experimental and emerging” category were funded across the entire country. There wasn’t enough money to go around. But, as Ben Eltham summed up in The Guardian on Monday, of course “There is enough money to fund Australian culture properly … It’s simply a matter of political will.” At a time when Australia’s economy-at-large, including major commercial sectors, is being bailed out, cuts to experimental and speculative organisations like Liquid Architecture must be understood as ideological—symptomatic of the cultural attitude of a conservative, narrow-minded government.
In Australia, critically engaged artists and organisations are seen by the federal government as, at best, a harmless indulgence, and, at worst, a threat. The latter became obvious in 2014 when Malcolm Turnbull described artists protesting the Biennale of Sydney’s association with offshore detention profiteers Transfield Holdings as ‘“viciously ungrateful”. It was obvious in 2015 when George Brandis ripped $105 million from the Australia Council’s budget as punishment for resisting his meddling in their peer-review process. That money was never properly returned. And it’s obvious now, when the Morrison government rolled federal arts into a portfolio that also oversees roads and rail. To say they are ambivalent would be generous; they are invested in starving progressive culture in this country.
Within this antagonistic context, a panel of assessors made a decision as best they could with limited funds at hand. Liquid Architecture lacked an advocate in that room at the crucial moment, and those fine margins now have massive implications for us and the many hundreds of artists and arts workers we regularly engage.
In statements like these, it is standard for defunded organisations to list their achievements: as a declaration of self-worth, a form of resilience, and an appeal to the injustice of the decision. Indeed, in recent years, Liquid Architecture has cultivated a hyper-active program of activities mostly unprecedented in our history. This has been accompanied by widespread national and international recognition and acclaim. Browse the programs and investigations on our website for evidence. Look at the list of artists: it has 685 names.
Over two decades, Liquid Architecture has created a context in Australia for experimental sonic art as contemporary art, rather than as modernist hang-up or conservatorium fetish. We’re proud of the labour, imagination, and desire that has fuelled our program and, as people frequently remind us, we are unique in Australia, and indeed, in many places around the world.
Because we are dependent on it, the team at Liquid Architecture spent more than a year working on this application to the Australia Council, in its various phases, and years before that building an organisational infrastructure that is now irrevocably compromised. This was time, labour, and energy that could otherwise have been spent making performances, exhibitions, concerts, talks, essays. So, this funding decision hurts. Not only for us, but for the community of artists, associates, peers, and friends we support, and who support us.
Therefore, without shame, this statement is written in a spirit of melancholy and vulnerability, rather than resilience. As the theorist and cultural critic, Robin James, reminds us, the discourse of resilience—like the atomising neoliberal project more broadly—often serves to make individuals feel responsible for overcoming systemic and structural problems, as if it were simply a matter of choice combined with willpower.
And it is not a coincidence that the Australia Council has just announced a new ‘Resilience Fund’ to support artists and arts workers affected by covid-19. Indicatively, with no bail-out from the federal government forthcoming, this fund has been cannibalised from other grant rounds that the Australia Council scrapped.
The defunding news comes only weeks after our 2020 program was cancelled by the virus and subsequent lockdown. Liquid Architecture turns twenty this year. 2020(20) was to be defined by celebration. Instead, this year will be defined by many other things: lockdown, financial hardship, operational hurdles, distancing and sociality, isolation and solidarity. If nothing else, this weird, limbo year affords us an opportunity to re-examine the pre-pandemic world, and—together—sound out a new one.
To our friends and community close to home and around the world; solidarity and love. In the interests of public health and wellbeing, we’ve cancelled or postponed all upcoming Liquid Architecture public programming. We’d list the events, but it’s literally everything. Reach out to us if you’re unsure.
The LA team are shifting our attention now to how we can support artists and audiences, collaborators and comrades, ideas and work, through other platforms, including our online journal Disclaimer, archives and podcasts.
The distance between us forms a space for new and care-full forms of listening.