I would like to quote from Business Review Weekly:
"Truly great companies understand what should never change and what should be open for change, between what is genuinely sacred and what is not. This rare ability to manage continuity and change requires a consciously practiced discipline and is closely linked to developing a vision. A well conceived vision consists of two major components – core ideology and envisioned future. Core ideology defines an enduring character – a consistent identity that transcends product or market life styles. Core ideology provides the glue that holds an organisation together as it grows, decentralises and diversifies. There are a set of timeless guiding principles. They require no external justification. They have intrinsic value and importance to those inside the organisation."
I propose to identify not only how Sculpture by the Sea advances the development of those core values but also articulate a personal response. For 30 years we have bemoaned a lack of venue for sculpture. Finally somebody has the energy, the vision, the innocence, the audacity to inaugurate a sculpture festival that acknowledges the value of our hard work and we say no, not good enough. Not focused enough, too populist and therefore too compromising, scale too big, too suffused with politics.
To survive as sculptors we have to seize opportunities as they arise. If we seek and find the faults in the opportunities they will inevitably magnify to make us negative, doubtful. Sculpture by The Sea is a commission. While it offers no guaranteed pay, it has the ability to extract from us something that we may not have elicited independently, from our 'sacred' core of practice.
The Australian landscape is littered with dead trees crippled by drought and brave young sculptors who grew old holding up the flags of their values. They had, like the early explorers, failed to find the water holes; they had refused to accept the advice of the natives on bush tucker. It is tough enough to survive without accepting available nutrients.
Sculpture by The Sea is, like Australia, egalitarian. It embraces all philosophies. It allows the lofty to stand alongside the lowly. It allows the amateur to stand alongside the professional. It exposes the private, the idiosyncratic, the sacred, the sincere to the full glare of the sun in its brightest manifestation. The cliffs, the parks, the paths are a level playing field. Like a torture lamp the sun extracts the secrets of the sculptures, exposing cracks, the tiniest flaws; the works that don't stand up to the pressure fall like flies. At Sculpture by The Sea pedigree accounts for nothing. A sculpture survives because it is tough. Over the ten years of Sculpture by The Sea we have seen schools flourish and then wain. The tides of man, the tides, the sculptures are the jetsam. No flotsam now for some time.
Sculpture by The Sea encourages a metaphorical toughness because of the glare of exposure. It also encourages the sculptor to make a work which is literally tough, that can stand up to the physical elements. It is the site that delivers judgement which fails to deliver on that account. Once a work has physically survived Sculpture by The Sea, it will survive anywhere.
The beauty of the site invariably wins in the struggle for the attention of the exhibition's visitor. Beauty cannot normally exist within a beautiful context. Beauty functions in a relative context requiring a neutral forum to expose itself. Sculpture by The Sea is an accidental metaphor for what we are here in Australia. We are here, doomed to fail. We are cast here on the shore of the farthest ocean, we are the soldiers at Gallipoli, our loss in the competition with the site is another sweet reminder of the folly of our presence generally. Sculpture will always serve to be the messenger of that fact. Sculpture by The Sea offers no solace, which is what we have come to need.
Ok. Let's talk about the prize. Personally speaking, the prize is an enticement. The prospect of winning serves to lift my game. I know that I have to put all sentiment aside. I have to be really tough on myself, really honest. I have to not make a big effort, not design. I have to be cool, measured, restrained. I have to make a work that is not immediately swallowed in one gulp by the site. I bank on winning. The money will fudge out another six months. I have to muster all of this to extract the best possible result. Not winning is never a surprise or disappointing. The prize has already surfed its porpoise.
Sculpture by The Sea offers opportunities to young sculptors otherwise excluded from high exposure venues. S x S, through its sponsor programs gives opportunities to those sculptors to deny the idea that the sky is the limit. S x S is perched on a precipice. That precipice is a field of dreams.
S x S presents opportunities to sculptors from overseas and we as sculptors and members of the public are enriched. We get to meet those people, exchange ideas, confirm or have our own ideas challenged.
Those artists are always keen to reciprocate, to offer a little in return, a cultural exchange if you will.
Sculpture by The Sea presents a wonderful outlet for Ron Robertson-Swann to apply his energy, his vision, his influence. As patron of S x S, he is a benevolent and benign dictator. His natural inclination for making mischief is outweighed by what he has brought to S x S. We can be sure, although he is bound to be quite modest about this, that the success of S x S is partly due to him.
The ways in which we define the core values of sculpture are equally mischievous. Just as our material tends to be intractable and argumentative, so too are the values we seek to uphold in our work. Having landed the big slippery fish, we have to somehow extract the hook from the bloodied mouth before we can claim conquest. This happens big time at S x S.