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uncertain times – a prologue: there is a canberra scene?

March 21, 2015

Uncertain Times was conceived and curated by Grace Blake with contributions from Kate Murphy, Martyn Jolly, Robert Guth, Louise Curham and Oscar Capezio.


Uncertain Times was conceived as an attempt to facilitate critical discussion around the arts in Canberra. By bringing together local art thinkers and practitioners the project hoped to map the Canberra scene. However, what the project discovered was not a consistent field but a territory that resisted any attempts to contain it.

Tracing out “The Canberra Scene” revealed the nebulousness of its character. Appearing too slippery a ground for any reflexive critique it became something of a misnomer – failing to account for what it purports to describe. So what might this tell us about the situation for art in Canberra? Why don’t we have a scene to discuss, or to move more freely within?

These texts point to a gap in arts infrastructure outside the more rigid institutional frameworks. They describe the situation in which entrenched institutional structures function efficiently to provide security and selective support, doing well to highlight how this rigidity creates a reluctance to seek support between networks and across disciplines, not to mention a striking lack of commercial opportunity. The provocations within Uncertain Times call for an approach that is more capable of responding to a certain instability, flux, and negotiation that is required of any creative city.

Taken together, the authors argue for a need to radically reconceive the ways we engage with the arts in Canberra. By acknowledging the spurious nature of the scene, it is possible that one can become more capable of taking risks, of pushing the boundaries and imagining this territory, and our place within it, as otherwise.