In Conversation

ADC and 4A Directors

Australian Design Centre is collaborating with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art to present the first Sydney exhibition of Melbourne and Jakarta-based jeweller Annie Gobel. The exhibition Annie Gobel: Edge In opens 2 February.

Read below as ADC Director Lisa Cahill and 4A Centre of Contemporary Asian Art Director Mikala Tai discuss collaboration and linking Australian makers and audiences with the wider Asian region.

Lisa: Mikala you have been director of 4A since June 2015. In the arts, many of us have backgrounds that look more like a series of bush walks through mountainous terrain than a career path. What's been your most challenging project?

Mikala: Every project has its quirks. I have always tended to work with ideas and projects that are left of centre so they all have their own challenges. I guess the biggest challenge I have overall is working with artists and communities to make their ideas more visible within mainstream Australian culture. We have a diverse and dynamic society but there is lots of work to be done before this is reflected in our cultural institutions.

Lisa: Culture is a continually evolving thing and the arts in particular is undergoing transformation in many challenging and exciting respects. What is your vision for 4A in this context?

Mikala
: 4A enters its 21st year in 2017 and continues to work locally, nationally and internationally to showcase and nurture connects between Australia and the wider Asian region. We are also a determined, small organisation that is a bit scrappy and this ensures we are nimble and strategic enough to respond to changes in our wider context. Our role remains a critical one within Australia as we continue to facilitate links, networks and understandings between Australia and the wider Asian region.


Lisa: ADC has been at the forefront of contemporary craft and design for over 50 years. 4A has a long and respected history of exhibiting Asian contemporary Art. Exciting times for collaboration to spark new ideas for projects and present artists work in new contexts. What are your thoughts on our collaboration?


Mikala
: I couldn't be more excited. I come from a background of contemporary art but also of fashion and design and this is really a fantastic opportunity to work in all of my favourite areas. With the ADC and 4A becoming close collaborators I believe we have the ability to create many opportunities for artists and to reflect on the depth of talent we have here in Australia. We are also able to create more links between our design scene and that of our northern neighbours. With many of our artists training and working with Asian traditions it is great for our organisations to be able to celebrate and showcase these connections.

Mikala: Lisa, the idea of collaborating is becoming an intrinsic part of the Australian art and design worlds, what kind of opportunities do you think collaborations give ADC?

Lisa
: Collaboration has been at the heart of what we do for a long time but is now being recognised for its value and enrichment potential. We’ve had many collaborations over the years that have seeded some of our best exhibition outcomes – Menagerie with the Australian Museum, Freestyle with the Melbourne Museum and Woven Forms are just a few that come to mind. Every exhibition project is a collaboration with the artists and designers who work with us to create a showcase for their work and with the touring venues who each contribute to creating the best audience experiences. I’m very excited about ADC and 4A’s collaboration in this exhibition of work by Annie Gobel and the other ideas we are co-creating. Our collaborations with UNSW have also seeded some fantastic projects including the inaugural Designing Bright Futures exhibition of graduate work. I think economic realities have also made collaborating more essential to be able to continue to deliver the best creative outcomes.


Mikala: I know you have recently been in Japan, are there any extraordinary artists you would like to work with from there?


Lisa:
Japan for me is a magical country on so many levels. We had a family holiday in October to visit the places that my partner’s parents worked, met and married post- Second World War and I also visited some fantastic museums. Top of the list was the art island Naoshima, the Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) for the robotic antics of Asimo, the Mori Gallery, 2121 Design Sightand Spiral Gallery. At Mori Gallery’s The Universe and Art exhibition, I absolutely loved the immersive, interactive experience created byteamlab. Some of their smaller works are currently on show at the Art Gallery of NSW. We also stayed in the hills with a family of Bizen potters which was a very special experience.

Mikala: The new ADC home has fantastic windows, interesting spaces to work with and a very tempting shop. Can you let us know what other plans you have for this new venue?

Lisa:
William Street is fast becoming a destination for art and design. Last year we experimented with an outdoor market in Palmer Street that was a big success with our next one coming up on 25 February. We love our space in this wonderful City of Sydney building that has so many creative people working in it and the artist live/work spaces above our gallery. Object Shop is going great guns with lots of amazing local makers joining us in this new venture. Early in the year we plan to overhaul our office windows to speak more about what we do and create a new window gallery called Object Space. Watch this space!

Read more about 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Explore the exhibition and events for Annie Gobel: Edge In here

Image: ADC External (2015) Photo by Brett Boardman. Exterior view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Leonardiansyah Allenda, Private Numbers (2016), Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist. Image: Document Photography.