Off Topic: Greg Clarke

Adelaide Fringe Director Greg Clarke will actually participate in this year’s Fringe as an artist, as part of an exhibition called Alter / Flock.

Off Topic and on the record as South Australian identities talk about whatever they want… except their day job. Adelaide Fringe Director Greg Clarke will actually participate in this year’s Fringe as an artist, as part of an exhibition called Alter / Flock. “A friend of mine, Louise Vadasz, who is a painter having an exhibition, asked me to be in it with her because we went to art school together here in Adelaide,” Clarke begins. “I said, ‘Oh, why not?’ It’s cool because the Fringe is this open access thing where anyone can be in it and I thought, ‘Well even I can be in it!’ Because we’re friends, and she does really large scale paintings, really colourful as well, and my photos are quite large, they work quite nicely together.” Clarke’s exhibition photographs were all taken during a trip he made to Taipei, Hong  Kong and Seoul last year. “It’s kind of like street photography in that I just go for walks and come across things. To me, the photos look like sets out of films and plays because that’s my background, I’ve always done theatre. I like capturing that moment where you don’t know what’s happened before and what is going to happen afterwards.” Clarke then manipulates the photos on his computer to saturate them with colour, blur& them and delete a lot of the detail. “I’m not into capturing real life and it’s kind of a weird thing because a lot of street photographers are out there capturing real life, that’s what they want to capture, whereas I’m interested in the real life aspect but then I like to turn it into something a bit more theatrical.” Clarke studied photography under Fiona Hall in Adelaide before moving to Sydney. He held a few exhibitions in Sydney, as well as Canberra and Adelaide. When he hit 30, Clarke decided to study arts administration, which led to work for theatres and festivals but not in visual arts even though the whole of his training was for that medium. “Everything I do is very visual and I come up with ideas like an artist would, I guess. I’ve always painted and I’ve always taken photographs, so I’ve never stopped making art, I just haven’t been doing it professionally. I guess this is an opportunity to try and start again. That’s the beauty of the Fringe, because the Fringe is often where an artist starts, isn’t it? It’s often where you have your first exhibition, so it’s kind of appropriate really. I’m starting again as a mid-life artist.” While in Sydney, Clarke was able to use his photography creatively through a cult act he and drag performer Vanessa Wagner had in the 90s. “I was Jamie James and we were this sort of husband and wife team. We put on dance parties and we brought together the gay scene, the theatre scene and the arts scene. We brought them all together and we did that through photographs. We would photograph ourselves in costumes, very much like Cindy Sherman, who dresses up as these different characters and photographs herself – we did the same thing. I would set up the photos and we’d be dressed for all of these different situations. They were printed off at a photo lab, where they’d do hundreds of just the one image, and then we’d painstakingly stick those photos onto invites by hand and post them out to people. It was before the internet, so they were personalised invites that were these photographs and they became collector’s items – people would collect these photos.” Clarke’s photos were also projected at the parties, which ran from 1994 to 98. “I think the reason we were so popular is because we were live – we sung live. At that point Sydney was full of drag queens lip-synching and that was very much the gay scene and we were kind of at that whole turning point in Sydney culture where it became about queer culture. We kind of rode that wave and brought everyone together because it wasn’t specifically a gay thing that we were doing.” Will Clarke continue to exhibit after the Fringe? “We’ll see how it goes. It might be a new ;career for me – you’re never too late but it’s very hard to make a living being an artist. I’d love to take them to some of those places I’ve been; exhibit them back in Seoul – I would love that.”

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