SafARI artist profile: ACAB Collective
What do rubbish, video, urban landscapes and performance have in common? The answer is ACAB Collective, an artistic project by Zinzi Kennedy and Ben Johanson who produce large-scale installations in isolated and disused sites. In their work they use locally sourced materials to represent socially formed ideals associated with nature and technology as well as exploring the environmental issues that come with. The collective have toured nationally as well as being awarded the Substation Contemporary Art Prize People's Choice Award.
Their current SafARI exhibition will be publicly accessible at both St James and Museum stations. Look out for lots of colour and something that'll be quite mesmerising within your everyday transitory zone.
When and how did ACAB collective come about?
ACAB met during the Honours program at Monash University, initially a group of 5 artists was formed partially in response to the pressures faced by most arts graduates and as a means to bring together different medium specialisations with unexpected results.
What is ACAB Collective's focus?
We are working on creating a financially sustainable artistic practice that examines ideological perspectives on ecology through the reuse of materials in unexpected ways. The dichotomy of the natural vs. the artificial in an era of unprecedented production and waste is a dialogue central to the work.
Where do you draw inspiration?
The interaction between nature and technology, anthropocentric ideologies, housing developments, bonsai masters, reality TV and popular culture. The collective was initially structurally inspired by the Wu Tang Clan who were able to bring together a range of aesthetic approaches into a cohesive whole whilst maintaining the integrity of each member. Artistically, the zen methodologies imparted by John Cage and Nam June Paik have been crucial to our approach, as have the duo of Swiss installation artists Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger who have been very influential to our practice and we are really excited to see their new work in the Sydney Biennale 2014.
The work mainly revolves around using locally recycled goods. Is it a medium that the collective has always worked with and will continue to work with, or are there are materials that you would one day like to experiment with?
We try to be pretty open to any materials that we come across. We are avid hard garbage collectors and one of our core principles is to treat materials with a certain indifference to allow matter to enunciate itself. That said, we have been using expanding foam as a core construction material over the past few years and plan to experiment further with it. Across all the work there is a commonality of things being overcome by a substance which appears natural but actually is quite synthetic, or sits on the borderline between the two.
Can you share the collaborative process behind this current body of work?
First we sit down and have a chat about what we might be able to do in a given space, do a few sketches after that, and from there we usually make a 1:1 mock up of the exhibition space, Then we usually have a pretty good idea of what we can and cant do and what we might want to experiment with. There is a constant back and forth between collaborators as we each bring different elements to the work. Team work has been a key skill that has allowed us to produced large scale projects in the past.
How was it that the collective got involved with SafARI 2014?
ACAB travels to Sydney regularly to go the Biennale for inspiration and from this we have been familiar with the Safari program. We were very keen to be involved and put through the application as 2014 was set to be an exciting festival.
Lastly, what message do you want the work to communicate to your audience?
Not a unitary statement but a lasting impression, in the end it’s up to the audience isn't it?
Catch the ACAB Collective for SafARI event:
St. James and Museum Stations
By Lauren Hansom.