Art Unit was an extraordinary experimental art space and artist facility that emerged in Sydney in the early eighties. It was a site for collision and collusion of artistic practice and incorporated several exhibition venues, a performance venue, a darkroom, silkscreen printing studio and a sound studio.

The origins of Art Unit began in 1978-79 in both Sydney and Adelaide. The Experimental Art Foundation (EFA) in Adelaide was the site of extended performance prograqmmes by a hard-core group of artists and students. In Sydney, Side Fx in Darlinghurst was operating intermittently as live in studios, caberat venues and was presenting shows by a large loose collective of artists. Here existed two examples of operative artistic management with the EAF approaching institutionalisation and Side Fx approaching dissolution.

IN 1980 as a final year thesis at the South Australian School of Art a model was hypothesized by Robert McDonald that would locate itself between both operative artists projects – anonymously to be called ‘Art Unit’. The model was determined for operations in Sydney in the early 1980’s. Most of 1981 was spent working in factories to raise a working capital and the research locations of Art Unit.

By 1982 two adjoining derelict factories were found in Alexandria and Robert McDonald, Juilee Pryor and friends commenced initial renovations. Art Unit opened it’s doors on Good Friday 9th April 1982. It closed it’s doors finally on the 3rd of February 1985. And in-between it raised the roof on a regular basis. The artistic/political practice of Art Unit coupled with it’s extreme street appeal and popularity with artists, performers and musicians and the ease with which it produced it’s own propaganda immediately brought it into confrontation with the funding bodies who controlled the cultural industry of the times.

The energy of Art Unit was exceptional and to this day it remains an unrepeatable acheivement. It could be said that music was it’s heartbeat and more that 60 bands played at the venue during the three years of it’s existance. Encapsulating experimental music, punk, music/performance, rock and roll, jazz, orchestral and ethnic song and dance.
Along with the music came the art with more than 870 artists exhibiting their work during this same period and there were several large scale theatre productions as well.

Art Unit’s printing facilities were well used during this time with some 55 original posters being designed by the best and most original artists of the time being produced. More than 10,000 hand pulled posters and tee shirts were printed for our own events including the distinctive triad poster tand the skull tee shirt that both became synonomous with Art Unit.

This account has been set up to bring before the public the images that remain from this time. Along with the still images is a DVD showreel of images with an original score by Tom Ellard of Severed Heads. This very limited edition DVD is available by bmailing this account directly.

  • Age: 35
  • Joined: June 2010
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