Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

The Museum of Natural Mystery

by Christina Chau

16 Feb 2012

Perth tends to breed/cultivate two kinds of people; those who choose to stay, and those who leave forever. This lifestyle choice is largely influenced by the isolation felt by the city’s inhabitants, especially those within the local arts communities. This isolation erupts habits that give in to boredom, there are often comments that the town is monopolised by few, the arts are under-funded, under-resourced, and stagnant of opportunities and initiatives, thanks to some conservative local councils. There is however another kind of people in this terrain; the kind who celebrate the specific conditions of Perth’s isolation, tightly woven communities and sense of independence.

The Museum of Natural Mystery is one such endeavour that is testimony to that latter perspective. The Museum is an artist run initiative co-founded by Patrick Miller and David Egan, and has been set up in their private residence in North Perth since 2012. Its primary aim is to provide a space for showing and discussing the work of local artists in a way that is responsive and open to what artists are engaging with, working on and creating right now. As Patrick Miller has explained, ‘it’s important to point out that the Museum isn’t an attack on, or negative reaction to larger institutions in Perth or beyond’. Rather, it works in addition to these institutions and contributing support for all emerging artists. For instance, the Museum is holding a residency at the Fremantle Arts Centre later this year and hosting a series of talks, seminars and exhibitions that concentrate on Perth’s emerging art scene.

As Miller continues, ‘it’s about showing the promoting work and ideas that aren’t as suited to the more established spaces and the way that they run’. For instance, the Museum has facilitated monthly exhibitions, site-specific installations and performances, each focusing on the new work of each artist. Each opening stands as an event for discussing and connecting.

Perth has recently seen a cluster of art galleries and artist run initiatives that support emerging and mid career artists, all of which have opened in the past couple of years. Amongst these include Venn Gallery, Oktachoron Gallery, Galleria, and Anthony Riding Gallery. Each of these spaces have arisen through a variety of public and private funding and have their own focus on the contemporary arts scene in Perth. Of these, The Museum stands as the most informal and open space for discussing the new work and the artists’ relationship to each another, and to local institutions and organizations. What seems most important is that the Museum operates with encouraging a flow of discussion and work within the artistic community, rather than standing as a representative body for emerging artists.

Considering the space is held in a residential abode, Egan and Miller have the luxury of being able to curve ball around licensing, occupational health and safety requirements and council permits. This is as the cost of having an impermanent location. In the case of Egan and Miller moving house, the museum will too move and continue in another form.