Question the Space: a playful invitation to look, think and connect with art

A colourful exhibition of works by 11 Australian and international artists invites audiences to look beyond the white cube and the plinth.
Kenny Pittock, Neapolitan Scoop, Synthetic Polymer Paint on kiln Fired ceramic, 2023. Image supplied.

When curator Esther Gyorki first started thinking about an exhibition for the Walker Street Gallery in the City of Greater Dandenong, she considered both the physical and cultural spaces she was working within and drew inspiration from the questions:

Where can a gallery exist? And, what can be a work of art?

‘I was questioning the space, both from an artist’s perspective and from an audience perspective,’ says Gyorki. ‘I really wanted to challenge that idea of a gallery as uncomfortable, inaccessible and not very welcoming. I wanted this to be an exhibition where everyone – artists and audiences – could feel that there was something there for them.’

The result is Question the Space, an exhibition of commissioned and existing works by 11 living artists. They are mostly Australian – Rachel Burke, Ross Coulter, Jordan Fleming, Kent Morris, Dean Norton, Tina Patlas, Kenny Pittock, Nick Selenitsch and TextaQueen – but also international activist artists Guerrilla Girls.

Visitors can expect to find artworks both inside the actual Gallery and around central Dandenong, on walls, fences and in unexpected places, inviting them to look, participate and connect.

Playing with the space

When Gyorki was planning the exhibition, she considered the physical nature of Walker Street Gallery, which was originally built as a fire station with a staircase up the middle, thus posing some accessibility challenges. This required opening up the “back door area” and expanding the exhibition into surrounding streets and spaces.

Tina Patlas, ‘Jilamara’, Natural ochre on canvas, 2021. Image supplied.

So now, for instance, you’ll find large Guerrilla Girls posters on the outside walls of the Gallery, questioning the nature of wealth, power and artistic ethics. And Kent Morris’ four works adorn temporary fencing in front of the construction site of the unfinished new gallery on Mason Street. Over on the side of the Dandenong Library, you may stumble across Jordan Fleming and Dean Norton’s striking mirrored artworks displayed in boxes in a way that Gyorki says is both fun and thought-provoking: ‘The audience becomes part of the art when they see themselves inside it.’

The curator also had to consider the location in the City of Dandenong (about 35 minutes’ drive south-east of Melbourne). One of Australia’s most culturally diverse places, it demanded an exhibition that engaged on many different levels, including with children, those with English as a second language and the local artistic community.

‘I wanted it to connect with Dandenong residents, as well as being something art lovers from outside the area would make a special trip to visit,’ says Gyorki.

Tactile, sensual and cerebral

Inside the Gallery, Gyorki says she is looking forward to seeing exuberantly coloured garments suspended from the ceiling, made by Brisbane artist Rachel Burke – best known for upcycling tinsel for Harry Styles’ birthday suit

There will be joyful canvases by First Nations artist Tina Patlas, inspired by the circles that her relatives painted on their bodies with ochre, connecting her artistic practice back to her family and Country. There will also be Ross Coulter photographs from his series Audience, interrogating the relationship between viewer and art galleries.

Also inside the Gallery, is a ‘really sweet’ sculpture of a Neapolitan ice-cream and scoop by ceramicist Kenny Pittock, which Gyorki says will prompt visitors to ask about their favourite flavour.

‘I’m so excited to see all these pieces coming together, along with the events, artist talks and the Melbourne Art Library pop-up, which will be bringing books into the space,’ says Gyorki. ‘I love the idea of all these serious conversations happening alongside lots of light and fun connections between the art, audience members and the artists.’

Question the Space can be visited at Walker Street Gallery and surrounds in the City of Greater Dandenong, Victoria, from 21 November 2023 – 1 March 2024. The opening event is Saturday 25 November, 2pm – 4pm.

Explore the program

Visit Greater Dandenong – Question the Space for more exhibition information and program bookings.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She was previously a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk