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Blog – The Hub of Democracy

Posted on Jan. 17, 2013 in Curatorial. View Comments

The latest C3West project to be unveiled is Lara Thoms’ HUB OF DEMOCRACY, a space for people aged 12-19 located on centre stage of Westfield Hurstville in South West Sydney. Complete with free WiFi, couches and a ping pong table, the HUB OF DEMOCRACY is a space where the target demographic are invited to spend time and vote in a range of categories including best time, smell, person and music genre.

The HUB is operating from 1 pm – 7pm until 26 January and the results of the ballot will be announced at a ceremony at 4 pm on January 27.

Thoms will then use the results to create ULTIMATE VISIONMONUMENTS TO US, a series of site-specific artworks which will be on display in Westfield Hurstville during Youth Week, 5- 14 April 2013.* This project will fill the shopping centre’s spaces, screens and displays to allow teenagers to dominate elements controlled by marketing bodies, whilst highlighting the complexities of representing youth culture.

Here C3West curator Anne Loxley talks with Lara Thoms about the HUB OF DEMOCRACY.

AL The research processes you utilise in the HUB OF DEMOCRACY combine empirical and non-empirical methodologies. You have set up a ballot system, but people can vote repeatedly, and there are only nine nominations in each category.

LT This process facilitated by the HUB is as important to me as making a sculpture or a video. I wanted this artwork to be broad, open young people who may not think of themselves as artistic, and to acknowledge there is no way to capture a realistic idea of a youth trend. The results of the HUB OF DEMOCRACY are specific to this place. You get seven tokens an hour, meaning if you want to manipulate the results you can keep returning and vote to see your preference win. The idea that I can capture the best things in youth culture is quite farcical, as youth tastes are notoriously shifting and diverse. This is way to start a conversation with the young people who use the mall, and to begin to give them influence over elements that are tightly controlled by the retail management.

AL It strikes me that your processes reflect an almost philosophical position about the limits of knowledge.

LT I hope to bring attention to details that are not necessarily in an overall picture. The project is a tongue in cheek look at marketing strategies and thinking about how retail spaces are controlled, for instance, how colour and music are used to attract shoppers. Will playing the winning music genre of dupstep or Jpop change the way people shop in the centre? What if teens control the smell in the mall or the advertising displays? When Ultimate Vision – Monuments to Us is installed the winning ‘person’ will be in the advertising cabinets in Westfield Hurstville, including the food court tables and the lift wells. So far a local 15 year old called Thomas Kim is winning. The winning music and colour will be incorporated into retails displays and we will build a sculpture pumping smells and drinks. We hope to take over the movie theatre. These monuments will be a little chaotic and absurd in a sanctioned environment.

AL How do you feel about being here in Westfield Hurstville?

LT It’s complicated. Its an interesting space – it’s a social space for the public but its not a public space. Westfield have been flexible and generous but it is an interesting dynamic planning an artwork in such a multisensory environment. It makes sense to use the structures that are already here, because there is a lot to compete with. It’s fun meeting the young people and they are really savvy. It’s a nice challenge to be able to be welcomed into their environment.

ULTIMATE VISIONMONUMENTS TO US is produced in collaboration with Hurstville City Council and Westfield Hurstville. This commission is a response to Hurstville City Council’s Community Strategic Plan.

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