Even though Grandiflora’s Saskia Havekes is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished artists working in floristry today, the Sydneysider felt deeply honoured to be among the bespoke group of innovators invited by the Kaldor Public Art Project (KPAP) to be part of its 2020 commission.
Havekes is working alongside some of Australia’s most acclaimed creatives in their fields, including Sydney Dance Company artistic director and choreographer Rafael Bonachela; Pritzker Prize-winning architect Glenn Murcutt; Australia’s first Indigenous artist to have a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale, Tracey Moffatt; and Biennale of Sydney performance artist Brian Fuata.
The group of 15 are part of KPAP’s Project 36: do it (australia), a global digital exhibition that will eventually result in 50 new artworks designed to spark creativity during this period of lockdown and isolation.
How it works is over the course of three weeks, every Wednesday beginning May 13, the artists issue instructions via KPAP’s website and Instagram. The public then responds with their interpretation – be it by creating an object, a performance, or something completely different – and posts the results.
Havekes says for her part in the project she will give punters directions that are therapeutic and relate to nature. “[They are] interactive and very simple, requiring very simple materials that can be gathered anywhere ... It’s … inspired by isolation and is an extension of my normal daily work of sending messages and beautiful flowers to people in the world. So seeing that go even further is what I’m really excited about,” says Havekes.”
Bonachela will invite people to “find [themselves] alone in a place” before instructing them to break through “blinding light”; while Sydney artist Janet Laurence also wants people to immerse themselves in nature.
Some instructions will be practical, others more conceptual, but all are designed to be done by anyone, anywhere.
Project 36: do it (australia) is being run in collaboration with London’s Serpentine Galleries and ICI New York (Independent Curators International), and will form part of a global network of pieces under the title do it (around the world). The Google Arts & Culture online hub will then present a selection of the works.
But this is not the project Kaldor intended for this year. Last year KPAP, led by art innovator John Kaldor, celebrated 50 years of bringing the world’s most audacious artworks and their creators to this country and the plan for 2020 was for a piece involving several NSW regional and metropolitan schools and the Department of Education. But that, like so many other plans, was cancelled amid the pandemic. Kaldor was talking with old friend and Serpentine artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist who suggested they collaborate on the do it project he initiated in 1993 with artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier (which has also included collaborators such as Ai Weiwei, Yoko Ono and Tracey Emin).
Although Obrist describes the do it project as the longest-running exhibition in the world, the outcomes have never been documented. So Kaldor plans to catalogue the 50 instructions and their interpretations (35 of them from international artists) and present them on Google Arts & Culture.
“Hans’s brilliant idea was to extend it beyond visual artists to creatives like Glenn Murcutt. It’s … developing into a very important project,” says Kaldor.
Kaldor’s reasons for running this project now are two-fold: it draws people away from their screens to do something creative with a physical outcome; and it gives Australian artists international exposure at a time when overseas travel is banned.
“It’s a great opportunity in these times for them to be exposed,” he says. “I think the role of art is to adapt to crises and changing circumstances. Whether it’s music, art or performance, they use whatever tools are available and then engage the public. While I wish we could have done without this virus, it’s an opportunity to at least counter it by doing something positive,” says Kaldor.
In fact, Project 36: do it (australia) has a neat symmetry with the beginnings of KPAP. For Kaldor’s first project in 1969, which was about introducing Australia to the latest developments in international contemporary art, he commissioned ground-breaking artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose Wrapped Coast saw 2.5 kilometres of Little Bay’s coastline covered in fabric.
As it happens, Havekes knew Christo when she lived in New York and has also known Kaldor for many years. But she says the connection with the Serpentine Gallery and influential curator Obrist “is on a whole new level”.
“I hope the project gives the public a little joy and introspection; time to pause and reflect and interact with nature for a few moments doing something that’s really simple and can be left behind for others to enjoy,” she says. “I hope it goes viral and that people will tell their friends about it so it creates a furore across the world.”