The Imperial Slacks warehouse building in Surry Hills

The Slackers reunite for Cosmic Love Wonder Lust

17 August 2015

Leading contemporary artists from the radical Imperial Slacks artist collective of the late 1990s have reunited in a new exhibition jointly presented by Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) and Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Cosmic Love Wonder Lust: The Imperial Slacks Project, co-curated by Nicholas Tsoutas, Zelda Stedman Lecturer at the University of Sydney’s SCA and Campbelltown Arts Centre Director Michael Dagostino, reconnects 15 artists known as ‘The Slackers’ who formed the Imperial Slacks Project between 1999 and 2002.

Imperial Slacks formed as a social and cultural experiment that functioned as the home, studio and gallery in the Imperial Slacks warehouse in Surry Hills, Sydney, at the turn of the new millennium.

At the time, several artists exhibited their work at Imperial Slacks with many going on to lead successful and significant careers, including the core group that will feature in Cosmic Love Wonder Lust. Those exhibiting artists are: SCA alumnus Shaun Gladwell, Angelica Mesiti, Emma Price, Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy, Wade Marynowsky, Alex Davies, Techa Noble, Michael Schiavello, Chris Fox, Melody Willis, Lea Donnan, Simon Cooper, Laura Jordan and Monika Tichacek.

“We suffer amnesia when it comes to pinnacle moments in Australian culture. Imperial Slacks galvanized the energy of a group of emerging artists that challenged the moral values and boundaries of Australian culture in the late 1990s.  These experimental artists produced exciting, seductive and socially-relevant art that gave a new impetus to the role of artists in society.

The artists’ collective success has rewritten the rules of contemporary art. The influence that the Slackers had in redefining contemporary art should not be forgotten.
Nicholas Tsoutas

“Imperial Slacks was a new and challenging model of artist run space that generated a new form of cultural production, a model that was refreshing and inspired a new set of possibilities for contemporary art in Australia. They knew no boundaries and they set their independent agenda’s while claiming a special place in Australia Contemporary Art,” said Michael Dagostino, Director, Campbelltown Arts Centre.

The artists are presenting artworks previously exhibited during the Imperial Slacks Project alongside new works responding to their practice at that time at both SCA Galleries and Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Newly-commissioned works include a new installation by Sean Corderio and Claire Healey consisting of the fuselage of an aeroplane, enclosed within the gallery and attached with crochet made by the artists with community support.  Simon Cooper takes a piece of clothing from each of the Slackers, and using embroidery techniques, creates a tactile sculpture installation. Laura Jordon creates an installation of robotic bats that communicate by mobile phone. 

The Slackers – an ironic term given they were extraordinarily active and generative – used Imperial Slacks as a critical space to test alternate attitudes towards curating. Their collective incandescent energy and alternate way of thinking created a pulse beyond the gallery, bringing an intensity and sense of chaos to life beyond the space.

Cosmic Love Wonder Lust is also an archive project representing several videos from the personal collections of all the artists. The project will provide an important resource that will allow audiences, many for the first time, access to the history of Imperial Slacks. 

Cosmic Love Wonder Lust: The Imperial Slacks Project is presented at Sydney College of the Arts until 12 September and at Campbelltown Arts Centre until 18 October.


In the news

Presenter James Valentine joins Imperial Slacks artists Chris Fox and Lea Donnan for a trip down memory lane, as they return to the Surry Hills warehouse where the artist collective first started.

Mandy Campbell

Media and PR Adviser