A Night At The ‘I’m Not An Artist’ Art Show

Words: Faith Thurnwald
Photography: Robbie Hammer
I start my night poorly. I purchase a bottle of alcohol free wine, tasting it I immediately realise my mistake… something wasn’t quite right. Crisis averted; I pop open a bottle of champagne in the name of tradition – I don’t keep up with the Kardashians but I do with tradition.

After a little bit of bubbly, we arrive at the INAA (I’m not an artist) event. It is held at Lantana Space, an art hub for creatives on the Sunny Coast, curated by local photographer, Warwick Gow.


There’s cheese and booze, which I abuse. I peruse the room taking in the art, or is it art? If the ‘artist’ isn’t an artist, can we still call it art? A Cartesian nightmare, or a philosophy major’s wet dream? You decide.


The INAA exhibition calls us to question labels. Labels are what define us and help us to interact and make sense of the world, however they can be awfully limiting. What is it that makes someone an artist? Everyone’s definitions and expectations will vary. Is a writer an artist, an architect, what about our actions; are they art? Can sport be art, can sex? The INAA exhibition forces us to examine the way in which we apply labels, and the exclusivity of the art world – do we gate keep what it means to be an ‘artist’?


Walking around the exhibition feels like any other; these ‘not’ artists did a pretty good job; could have fooled me! Immediately Phoebe Stewart’s (Mymundi) Octopuses jump, swim, slither and slide out at you. Their tentacles draw you in, and hold you there, providing you with an opportunity to appreciate their fine form. Phoebe has been drawing for years, she draws deep satisfaction from the process, and for her; art is about escapism.


Her deep-sea creatures are not only aesthetically pleasing; they carry a deeper (excuse the pun) meaning. As monsters of the sea they’re globally feared and have even been used as symbols in political art for anti-communist propaganda. The Octopus was a metaphor for the spread of communism all over Europe, with a wide and ferocious reach; much like their tentacles. Phoebe applied the negative history of the Octopus to popular culture today: we judge appearance and we judge harshly. Phoebe not only hones a technique akin to experts, she also delivers commentary on the toll of our excessive shallowness. Now tell me she’s not an artist, I dare you.


I come across a piece by Rhiannon Cox, a self-portrait. This isn’t no Frida Kahlo kind of selfie. Rhiannon’s portrait sits across five abandoned skateboards; her figure appears in flames stretching across the decks. Think Basquiat meets Tony Hawk, it’s DIY skateboard culture, complete with a heart on fire and a bold statement screaming: ‘I’M NOT AN ARTIST’. This piece – true to form – is an act of rebellion. It rejects traditional notions of technique, takes a skateboard off the street, and says ‘hey, look at my selfie’. Art.

In the wise and eloquent words of another INAA artist, Viola Pink ‘What is art? Is it the creative application of brushstroke on a canvas, or graphite on paper? As I observe, the world around me, I find such a rationale diminishes the grandiose of creation’. Perhaps it’s another question for the philosophers, perhaps everything is art, and… perhaps not.


However if we were to argue that our actions are art, then I sure as hell am an artist. I leave the exhibition and hit the bars. Flash forward a few drinks and an hour or two and I’m on the dance floor. I display my ‘art’ as I do a carefully curated slut drop, however I’m faced with my second dilemma of the night – my pants rip wide open, right up the butt crack. Call it a miscalculation, call it performance art or call me THIC, art is in actions and it’s everywhere – and it’s sure as hell in my ass.