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Why work with Museums?

Andy Butler and guests

Podcast & Audio Interview
Presented by Arts House as part of Makeshift Publics Critical Response Series

Available online from 2 June, 2022 including a transcript of the recording

A podcast that asks: are art museums themselves just relics, or should we attempt to blow the dust off in search of something more?

Art museums are challenging and often exclusionary institutions for artists – in this podcast artist Andy Butler and invited guests tackle the thorny question of whether to engage with them at all, while wondering if there might still be unexplored potential within their walls.

In 2021, Arts House’s Makeshift Artists have turned their attention to the ways in which art institutions play an active role in shaping our understanding of the works they present. Andy Butler has trained a keen eye on art museums and collecting institutions, which have historically had an active hand in the writing of art history. Against the seismic changes witnessed in recent years – from Black Lives Matter to COVID-19 to labour and union movements – these public spaces face existential crises. Their weak spots and failures have been all too public, and their oversized impact has been called into question.

Knowing their faults and contradictions and how difficult these spaces are to navigate for artists – especially artists of colour – Butler has some questions: what can we achieve working within them? Should we just walk away, or is there some point to staying?

Why Work With Museums? is an audio work in which Butler unpicks these issues with curators and arts-workers who possess particular knowledge and experience in these spaces. The podcast is an astute and careful exploration of where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we could go next.

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About the Artist

Andy Butler is a writer, curator and artist. His multidisciplinary practice investigates the structures of power that shape cultural and artistic production. For Makeshift Publics, he is researching how current discourses of social justice reflect the ideals of white saviourism used to justify the American colonisation of the Philippines.

Andy’s writing on art and politics has been published widely, including by The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, Art + Australia, Runway, Overland and more. Recent curatorial projects include Always there and all a part (2017) through BLINDSIDE’s Emerging Curatorial Mentorship and Those Monuments Don’t Know Us (2019) at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre. He is the exhibitions curator at West Space. As an artist, he has exhibited at Bus Projects, Firstdraft, The SUBSTATION and Footscray Community Arts Centre. In 2019 he undertook an Asialink Residency to Manila, and in 2017 he participated in FCAC’s Emerging Cultural Leaders program.

Image description: A woman stands in a warehouse space, facing a blank white canvas that stretches from floor to ceiling. The space is brightly lit by large windows behind the canvas and the floor is a slate grey colour. She has long brown hair over one shoulder and is wearing a long white cardigan, light blue-grey jeans, and dark sneakers.

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