Outside of an Art Bit card

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The Second Art-Bit Installation was a sandbag bunker under the stairs at the Art Gallery of NSW that Grounds installed for the1976 Biennale of Sydney. Half way down the stairs there is a landing that stands off the ground by about 1.5 metres. In the empty space under this landing Grounds built a wall of sandbags around its perimeter. The interior was furnished with sheep skins and an open sandbag, above which hung a small lamp in a tin can. Grounds’ dogs were often in the space with him. He set up an entry passage and invited members of the public to come and sit in the space with him to talk about art and what he was doing with this installation. Entry and conversation also involved a small ritual in which a folded card about twice the size of a business card, which he called an Art Bit, was smeared with glue onto which sand was then shaken leaving a unique shape. Both the artist and the visitor then signed it.

Single channel video work
1976 Biennale of Sydney
Stairwell, Sandbags, Sheepskin, Art Bit Kit: artist/visitor interaction.
Height 275cm x 550cm x 275cm.
Biennale of Sydney, 1976, AGNSW.

Grounds notes that: “The following four films/videos were made with the partial assistance of the Department of Architecture, University of Sydney. They all deal with my Second Art-Bit Installation, which could be considered as an environmental sculpture in the 1976 Sydney Biennale. A copy of each film/video is deposited with the Department of Architecture for possible distribution.”

B for Art 1/4, (1977)

½” video, B & W, sound, 20 mins. produced and directed by Stephen Jones. Completed 1977.

This video was shot in the bunker by Stephen Jones. A second (or shorter?) version exists which was shot in the bunker on an Akai ¼” colour portapak. It runs for about 6 mins and features Thomaso Trini, then editor of Data Arte. It is included in Stephen Jones’ video documentation of the performance work in the 1976 Biennale of Sydney: Performance Work as Social Work, The Biennale of Sydney, 1976.

B for Art 2/4, (1977)

¾” video, B & W, sound, 20 mins, produced and directed by the Film and Television Unit, University of Sydney, Sydney, 1977.

This video was mainly shot in and around the bunker. It begins with a pan across the Domain to the portico of the AGNSW and picks up Grounds walking up the stairs and into the gallery. We zoom up to a camera watching the entry and panning to look at several other works Grounds walks into shot and then descends the stairs to enter his bunker. Inside the bunker Grounds is talking to Daniel Thomas (then senior curator at the AGNSW) and Bernice Murphy (then education officer at the AGNSW). He introduces them to the Art Bit ritual and this brings up some discussion of aspects of the work. Conversations then continue with a knowledgeable (Italian?) art professional and, at a later time, two art students.

B for Art 3/4, super 8mm film, colour, silent, 11 mins, produced by Paul Pholeros and Marr Grounds, 1977.

[There is no presently available copy of this work]

Environment as Art (formerly B for Art 4/4), 16 mm, colour, sound, 18 mins, produced and directed by David Lourie, 1977.

This is a film (transferred to video for exhibition) that looks at the relationship between architecture and art and the lack of social awareness (or inhumanity) of much modernist architecture. Daniel Thomas presents the discussion making a plea for the human element and a socially thoughtful aesthetic in architecture. He speaks about graffiti as a way of humanising the environment and follows its lead into environmental art. We meet Grounds as an architect and artist interested in bringing art to the people. He outlines his position in speaking to the director (Lourie). Thomas introduces Grounds’ Lead Pyramid (in Martin Place) which can be graffitied or otherwise engaged with by casual visitors. The impact of the formal aesthetic view in architecture is that, as Grounds says in a small electronically treated repetition that brings the statement to a kind of poetry: “Strictly visual, art is elitist”. Thomas then goes on to discuss in the Biennale, bringing out the difference between formal works and works that make social comment (referring particularly to Noel Sheridan’s Information for the People, pointing out that Grounds’ work invites participation. We are now introduced to the Second Art Bit installation bunker. Extracts from the video work of B for Art 2/4 are interspersed with colour material shot for this film. We see a detailed execution of the Art Bit ritual with various visitors including children. Grounds encourages interaction and conversation about the work. The film closes with Grounds coming out of the bunker with his dogs and walking away from the Gallery while Thomas concludes the discussion and we return to various shots of Sydney city landscape.