You Are Here is an artist collective from Sydney, established in 2006 by artists Zanny Begg and Keg de Souza – their work Emeraldtown: Gary, Indiana 2010 has been an audience favourite in the current GOMA exhibition ‘Social Networking’.
Shortly after ‘Social Networking’ opened in March I recorded this interview with Zanny Begg detailing You Are Here’s interest in the current social, political and economic challenges found in Gary, Indiana in the United States.
Gary is a town with an incredible history. It’s famous for being the birthplace of singer Michael Jackson, and for electing the first black mayor in a major American city, in 1967. Founded by the U.S. Steel Corporation around one of the world’s largest steel mills, the city’s fortunes grew, and have today declined, in sync with the industry. Gary has more recently experienced what is known as the ‘white-flight’ common to the American Mid-West, leading its having much higher than average percentage of African-Americans citizens.
The Wizard of Oz, or more accurately ‘The Wiz’ made in 1978 — the updated movie version of the famous children’s story starring Michael Jackson — became a key source of inspiration for You Are Here, because of its metaphoric potential for retelling the experiences of laid-off steel workers in Gary since the 1970s. Similarly, the glittering Emerald City could be a metaphor for the much discussed $300 million Michael Jackson Performing Arts Centre, being proposed by Rudy Clay, Mayor of Gary, Indiana.
Emeraldtown: Gary, Indiana was a perfect work to feature in ‘Social Networking’ — I wanted to show how much of our behaviour, belief and emotion is determined by our social context. The heart that the town’s people show in the face of very trying conditions makes for a powerful story and an intimate portrait of the contemporary United States. I am pleased to say that the video has recently been acquired by the Gallery.
You can view ‘Social Networking’ at GOMA until 1 July 2012 and admission is free.