Make your mark with Allora & Calzadilla's Chalk

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

What would you do if you came across human-sized pieces of chalk lying on the sidewalk?


If you happen to be passing through the Sydney CBD this Saturday be sure to wander past the forecourt of the Queen Victoria Building as Chalk (2002/-), the ongoing participatory project by internationally renowned artist duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, will be making its mark, literally, on Australia for the first time as part of the annual Art & About program – and you can join in.

Part of the John Kaldor Family Collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Chalk was first installed in the main government square in Lima, Peru, as part of the 2002 Bienal Iberamericana. Since then, it has occurred in various locations around the world and with each iteration, the character of the work has naturally shifted in response to the local political and social factors, to create a kind of social portrait of the city in which it is installed.

If you could mark the QVB forecourt with chalk, what would you write or draw?

Taken out of the classroom, chalk is a tool for writing and represents the potential for communal communication. For Allora and Calzadilla, the giant chalk sculptures act as catalysts for people to engage with their city. The artists have said of the material:

"We were interested in the matter-of-factness of what chalk is - a tool - something you find in the classroom. But it’s also a geological substance, found naturally in the earth. Because of its nature, it is ephemeral and fragile. It’s a beautiful white form, minimal looking and very clean - but paradoxically it’s also something that can have a connotation of something dirty because it is used to mark a surface. This was interesting, how this material could be symbolic, iconic, and also nothing else but itself. It was like trying to think about or reconcile a minimalistic form made of this material and putting it in a public setting to see what might unfold."

Offering passers-by the opportunity to engage with their city in any way they wish, the giant pieces of chalk – nearly human size at over 1.5m long and eight inches thick – will be placed in the forecourt of Sydney’s iconic Queen Victoria Building, near the Town Hall from 9am – 4pm this Saturday.

This one-day only event is presented by Kaldor Public Art Projects and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in conjunction the Gallery’s exhibition Seven artists from the John Kaldor Family Collection. The exhibition runs until 26 April 2016 and includes footage from the first installation of Chalk in Peru and other works by Allora and Calzadilla. You can read more about the free exhibition here:

Since 1995 Allora and Calzadilla have made numerous interactive public artworks that address a range of social and political issues, often involving modes of communication and perception. Based in Puerto Rico, their work combines elements of sculpture, sound art, performance and video. In 2011, they represented the USA in the 54th Venice Biennale and in 2012 they presented the 26th Kaldor Public Art Project Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on ‘Ode to Joy’ for a Prepared Piano at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.


Image: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla Chalk 1998-2015 John Kaldor Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Video still from documentation of Chalk installed for the Bienal Iberoamericana, Lima, Peru, 2002.