Australian artist Mick Douglas is interviewed by Mathilde Polmard (from MOM the group working on Matter Matters in this year’s Arcade) about his new work for The Performance Arcade 2014.

MP: So, I remember your work last year was Container Walk, and I know this year that you are packing and unpacking boxes in the container. Can you tell me more about what you’re doing and whether people are involved like they were last year.

MD: Last year’s Container Walk was a durational work. I simply set up some conditions with which I then entered the container and then stayed for the hours of the Arcade, undertaking the simple task of walking on a bed of salt. Passers by, the public, responded in different ways as I to began to respond to the experience of enduring walking 80 kilometres over four days. So this work for this year, called Carriage, is similarly setting up a durational circumstance where there’s a set of conditions which I enter into. It is a slightly more ‘contained’ container than the one last year, which was open along its long sides. This one will have an adjustable opening and closing door along its north facing side. I was keen to face the northern weather, the harbor side, and the elements. There will be a vista there, Also I’ll be able to track the sun, on the northern side from East to West. Yeah so I’m playing with this tension between containment and release, that containers themselves somewhat perform. And I’m working with a whole lot of other smaller sizes of containers, mostly in cardboard, boxes of different sorts, that I’ll be packing and unpacking, opening and closing, exploring…

MP: Packing with tape?

MD: I’ll have to explore, I’ll have to see. There’ll be bits of tape involved, bits of cardboard involved…

MP: Anything in them?

MD: I’m not sure if there’ll be anything in them. I’ll have to see what unfolds.

MP: Different sizes?

MD: I suspect that if there’s nothing in them, there will be ‘something’ in them. And I’ll explore with people who visit over the time, kind of cycles of packing and unpacking, containing and revealing, suprising and despairing. It’ll keep moving, that will be the aspect that I will be most focusing on.

MP: Seems like quite a natural cycle to me, the repetition, the ongoing, the never stopping. Everything’s always changing. Its like the law of nature really, and its like quite a natural thing but done with an industrial raw material.

MD: I’m interested in the language of global trade, of consumer society, of the international distribution of goods and services and people; and issues of migration and border control, and category problems of thinking. So for me it will be a kind of language which I’ll explore to see what can be made from it, as an experience that builds up its own cycles each day, and then over the five days builds up a larger cycle until it is over.

MP: So you want the audience to be interacting with you, and helping you and exploring with you. As well as letting the work unravel itself you also want the audience to unravel it with you.

MD: I’m coming from an interest in socially engaged art, so I’ll be very much alive to the interaction with audience, participants, viewers, and that will probably change at different times. But I prefer not to situate every audience member in the same location so to speak, with the same sorts of expectations. I prefer to be alive to responding to particular audiences and what they bring to the work. So this work will bring me more intimate opportunities for interaction than the more open and possibly spectacular Container Walk, which could be viewed from afar.

MP: That was more daunting I suppose…

MD: So this work will be much more contained, and therefore more intimate with many more one-on-one, or one-to-two audiences, and I think that will then begin to tease out its own trajectories or ‘carriages’ that people will make for themselves and with me. So I’m looking for variety.

MP: One more question – why the elevated container?

MD: I’m interested in being in the elements.

MP: Exposed?

MD: Really exposed to elements, up in the air. And also to be, somewhat interestingly (in relationship to matter and matters) somewhat off the ground. Hopefully where there can be a greater suspension of disbelief in people who visit, and myself. There’s potential for more illusory connections to be made, and an airiness, and potentially, the insecurity that may come that.

MP: From being up high?

MD: Yeah.

MP: I like that you’re stacking on top of containers, which is what you are doing with boxes as well.

MD: Yeah, and in that sense the container that will be up off the ground will be more legible as the geometric metal box that all containers are. We sometimes forget when they’re on the ground. It’s also interesting that people will be walking underneath the container, so I will also be playing with the sonic dimensions of the container.

MP: Sounds great! Thank you very much!

MD: I’d better run…

Mick was in a hurry to catch a train to start his residency at New Pacific Studio this week, an artist space and residency run in the Wairarapa, fostering links within New Zealand and international creative communities.

Mick contributes to The Performance Arcade 2014 courtesy of International Programme Sponsors Bolton Hotel. Find out more about his work here –



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