Defining Moments: Recession art and other strategies, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 1985

Continuing the 2019/2020 lecture series for ‘Defining Moments: Australian Exhibition Histories 1968-1999’, at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), artist and former Director of the Institute of Modern Art (1984-86), Peter Cripps, joins respondent Channon Goodwin, Director of Bus Projects, Composite: Moving Image Agency, Melbourne and founding Co-Convener of All Conference, to present ‘Recession art and other strategies’, the second lecture in ACCA’s 2020 program of podcast and video talks, which reflect on a range of the key events that revolutionised art in Australia over the last three decades of the 20th century.

Peter Cripps, Construction, cardboard tube and disc, glass mirrors, 1978 copy. Courtesy the artist and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Cripps is an artist who has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally since the 1970s. Between 1973 and 1988, he worked as a curator and in other roles across several of Australia’s major museums, galleries and alternative art spaces, and as a freelancer. In 1987, Cripps curated the exhibition ‘Recession Art’ at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Brisbane, in response to the social, political and cultural landscape of the 1970s and 80s. It was an exhibition of art made within the limitations of a lean purse, and which drew on the artists own strategies to produce conceptually-based art, rather than art concerned with the aesthetics and traditions of the commercial art world.

Cripps notes “Recession art refers to art which is made under the pressure of little money and an insignificant market. It tends to be small, easy to produce, store and dispose of. It included the development of new strategies for the sale of works; the possibility of replacing parts as they sell with replicas. It is an art based on the limited means of production, speed of production and small size of constituent units, which, since they can form larger works, do not restrict the artist in the scale of his work. It is an art based on intellect rather than on formal qualities.”

In his ‘Defining Moments’ lecture, Cripps reviews ‘Recession Art’ the exhibition, which featured his work alongside his artist peers Gunter Christmann, Robert MacPherson and John Nixon. Cripps explores the legacies of the exhibition, gives explanation of the works, and shares insight about the artists practices and experimentations, as well as looking at the correlations that exist between “historical and contemporary independent art practice”, and “the role and impact of this type of artist thinking and practice on the contemporary context.”

“The backbone of recession art was not a tight knit group of artists working in a house style, rather the artists in this exhibition shared leanings towards minimal processes and conceptual art. These styles contributed to their future development in different ways,” reflects Cripps.

To catch the full ‘Recession art and other strategies: Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 1985’ transcript with Cripps and Goodwin, go to ACCA’s video page or YouTube channel, or tune in via ACCA’s podcast, SoundCloud or Apple. Explore the entire 2019 lecture series here.