2017 | Talking to the Tax Man About Poetry l Data Art Portraits

‘Talking to the Tax Man About Poetry- Data Portraits’ is a body of abstract portraits of 8 Canberra artists that visualizes the realities of being a practicing artist and arts educator in the current global economy, using contrasting materials and forms to visualise financial and personal data.

These works were made for the group exhibition ‘ Talking to the Tax Man About Poetry - Canberra Institute of Technology Visual Arts Staff Exhibition’ (from Sept 29 - 8 Oct 2017, Foyer Gallery, ANU) ;  which was inspired by Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky’s poem- ‘Talking with the Taxman about Poetry’, written in 1926, which was a critique of the Soviet ‘New Economic Policy’. The works responded to the sensibility stated by the poem through the use of a range in materials, styles, subject matter, and techniques.

This exhibition highlighted the necessities of living and dealing with bureaucracy and artistic compromise in the current economic and cultural climate;  and our desire as artists to make works with meaningful relationships to the world around us- as artists we balance the desire to make relevant objects with just trying to make a living. We’re in debt, we’re  balancing creative lives as artists with financial and work pressures. We balance mortgages, meetings, micromanagement, parenting and domesticity with colour, ideas, discourse and intuition.  

This  body of work -‘Talking to the Tax Man About Poetry- Data Portraits’ comprises of  sculptures and  digital images that are abstract portraits of  8 canberra artists based on data collected via a survey that was broken into two distinct sets of data. Firstly demographic data related to their to their income, family statistics etc was collected, with some questions sourced from the 2010 Australia Council Report  ‘Do you really expect to get paid? An economic study of professional artists in Australia’; and secondly a  personality data was collected using a humorous and quirky survey with some  questions sourced from ‘how to get to know people’ and dating websites.     

The sculptural works contrast material and form to highlight the financial realities of being an artist- what interests the ‘The Tax Man’  (bureaucracy etc.)  is  represented with concrete blocks; while the uniqueness and quirkiness of each participant artist ‘The Poetry’ (creativity etc)  is represented with coloured perspex and discs.

The dimensions of each  concrete block represents the artists’ total yearly income from all sources - art and other jobs (L),  the  cost of living (W),  and total hours spent working (H). Each block has a recess which represents  these variables for their art practice only.  The ‘poetry’ component of each artist is represented by the towers of perspex discs emerging from the concrete blocks. There are 3 towers on each block, 2 represents the artist personality and one represents their family and pets. In the two personality towers the size and colour of each disc  corresponded to the answers the artist gave in the personality survey.

The  digital images are two dimensional  representations  of the sculptures - 'data portrait maps’, personality ‘spots’, and meetings of the artists.