The Institution is now tangibly present in all parts of our lives: IT’S IN US. The Institution frames negotiations with public and private spaces; it controls how we interact with our community; it makes decisions about our bodies; and now it’s even in our inbox. Connie Anthes and Julia Bavyka have been trying to actively dismantle or ‘think away’ from The Institution as we know it for some time now, via their association at Frontyard. As we think away from The Institution, what are we moving towards? What will replace it? A few warm hugs, chai tents and groupthink? Not bloody likely.
Soft Infrastructure* offers a series of speculative prototypes for instituting ‘softness’, developed through a series of conversations that imagine the kinds of mis-processes, ‘leaky’ spaces and shared tools that might be needed in The New Institution, if institutions themselves are needed at all. In these spaces, the artists hope to mis-communicate more deeply, encourage retreat and refusal, collectively generate excuses for not-doing, enact radical trust experiments or disappear into the wall.
* Soft infrastructure, as defined by groupthink, is ‘all the services which are required to maintain the economic, health, and cultural and social standards of a population. It includes both physical assets such as highly specialised buildings and equipment, as well as non-physical assets, such as communication, the body of rules and regulations governing the various systems, the financing of these systems, the systems and organisations by which professionals are trained, advance in their careers by acquiring experience, and are disciplined if required by professional associations’. Anthes and Bavyka would add to this definition: ‘the dreamy and ridiculous stuff that occupies and feeds us when it all gets too hard’.
About the Artists: Anthes and Bavyka have been misinterpreting each other among the weeds for 2 years at Frontyard, a not-just-artist-run space for critical research and conversation. They have collaborated on 2 books and have been participants in each other’s work during this time. Both artist’s practices are process-driven and remain engaged in a ritualistic composting of ideas and a hope to one day rid each other’s studios of the random materials they have accumulated over the years. Soft Infrastructure is the first exhibition they have made together.
Acknowledgement: Much of the conceptual work for ‘Soft Infrastructure’ has been developed on Cadigal Wangal land in collaboration and conversation with people and spaces at Frontyard [www.frontyardprojects.org], which is supported by Inner West Council in Sydney and the community who donate time, money and other stuff.