16 Sep 2019 — 8 Mar 2020

Monday – Friday 10am – 7pm

Weekends: 11am – 4pm

VENUE: Customs House Library, Level 1 and Level 2

An exhibition that considers life in Sydney through artist-led projects that have sought to care about and for its people and places.


Does the city care?

It would be easy to answer this question in the negative. Life in a large city like Sydney is so often measured through values like wealth and growth. From the perspective of our footpaths and windows, urban development seems to be extending rapidly and unstoppably, outwards and upwards. People are counted not as individual citizens, rather by the million.

But How the City Cares, considers life in Sydney through artist-led projects that have sought to care about and for its people and places. These projects take a variety of forms, including the documentation of protest and of long-term community resistance; creative support for community-run activities and spaces; portable contexts for teaching and learning; design approaches that re-think our relationship to land and water (and who owns it); innovations for reversing environmental and cultural damage, and artist-led encounters that ask questions to communities and listen to the answers they offer.

How the City Cares attends to the idea that a city can care for its citizens and vice versa. The exhibition presents artists’ projects from the 1970s to today in which themes of social inclusion, support for young people, rights to land and shelter and concern for urban environment, flow through and towards future possibilities and potentials.

Artists: Rebecca Conroy, Brenda L Croft, Keg de Souza, Bonita Ely, Future Method (Genevieve Murray and Joel Sherwood-Spring), Sarah Goffman, , SquatSpace (Diego Bonetto, Keg de Souza, Lucas Ihlein and Mickie Quick) posters from the Tin Sheds Poster Collection, The University of Sydney by Jean Clarkson, Jan Fieldsend, Marie McMahon, Therese Kenyon and Toni Robertson. Curated by Bec Dean.

This exhibition was commissioned and produced by the City of Sydney.

Image credit: Brenda L Croft, ‘Our Land, Our Life!’, Eddy Avenue, Sydney, Long March of Freedom, Justice and Hope, Invasion Day, 26 January 1988. Digital image scanned from negative. Courtesy the artist.

Artist Biography

Brenda L Croft

Brenda L Croft is from the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra peoples of the Victoria River region of the Northern Territory of Australia, and Anglo-Australian/German/Irish/Chinese heritage. Brenda is based in Canberra where she is Associate Professor, Indigenous Art History and Curatorship at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, School of Art and Design, ANU. Brenda’s artistic practice encompasses critical performative First Nations auto-ethnography, First Nations Storying, representation and identity, creative narratives, installation, multi-media and multi-platform work. Drawing extensively on personal and public archives, her creative practice engages with re/memory and memorialisation.

Keg de Souza

Keg de Souza is a highly acclaimed Australian interdisciplinary artist. Informed by her training in architecture and her experience of radical spaces through squatting and organising, her practice explores spatial politics and the built environment. She works across mediums including temporary architecture, video, drawing, mapping, performance and artists-books, to develop experiences that explore the politics of space. De Souza creates site and situation-specific projects, emphasising reciprocity and knowledge exchange. Her work has been included in the Sydney Biennale (2016), Setouchi Triennale (2016), Auckland Triennial (2013) and Jakarta Biennale (2013).

Bonita Ely

Bonita Ely, a pioneer of cross disciplinary, environmental and socio-political art, imaginatively deploys mixed mediums, actions and processes to represent her ideas. For example, in the 1970s, after witnessing severe air pollution in London and New York, she created her first installation, At Home with the Locust People. Her 1980 performance, Murray River Punch responded to official reports of the river’s pollution. The 1990s introduced us to rapacious, genetically engineered half rabbit/half snail Snabbits. At Documenta 14 in Athens, Plastikus Progressus addressed the plastics pollution of water’s ecology. Bonita is an Honorary Associate Professor, UNSW, and represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

Sarah Goffman

Sarah Goffman has exhibited in hundreds of shows in Australia and overseas, most notably Unfinished Business at ACCA (2017), Plastici at Penrith Regional Gallery (2012), Trashcan Dreams at Performance Space (2010), Paradise Found at Tin Sheds Gallery (2008), and Situation at Museum of Contemporary Art (2005).  Most recently, her large-scale work at Murray Art Museum, Albury called Bridge to Asia, presented hundreds of small sculptures installed under a bamboo, unscaleable bridge. Sarah’s work is concerned with consumerism, she uses rubbish and plastic consumer items, transforming them into decorative, desirable and sometimes uncanny objects.

Future Method

Future Method, founded in 2013, is a collaborative and interdisciplinary practice that works across architecture, art, installation and speculative research projects. The focus of the studio is on material culture and creative methodologies that are impact and process driven. Future Method is a partnership between Genevieve Murray & Joel Sherwood-Spring. They seek to extend and enrich established notions of contemporary art and architecture, using methods that intersect with these disciplines in the public domain.

Rebecca Conroy

Rebecca Conroy is an artist working across site, community engagement, and performative interventions. Her work is bound up in the playful occupation of non-art fields such as urban planning, economics, and housing, in particular cities and the rise of the creative entrepreneur in capitalism. In 2015 she spent 3 months going on a series of dates with economists in Europe and USA, for an audio piece called Dating an Economist commissioned by Radio National (2016). In 2017 she premiered her work Iron Lady, a performance intervention set in the finance district of Adelaide, SA.


SquatSpace is a collective of artist/activists that focuses on creative responses to the politics of space and gentrification. SquatSpace (Diego Bonetto, Lucas Ihlein, Mickie Quick and Keg de Souza) evolved as a side project of the Broadway Squats, opening a shopfront artist/activist-run-gallery from 2000-2001. The gallery provided a cost-free space for political and experimental projects, and acted as a critique of the cripplingly expensive inner-Sydney gallery rental system. Since losing its original venue, SquatSpace has continued to produce site-specific art events, like Squatfest 2001-8 and the ongoing Redfern-Waterloo Tour of Beauty.

The Tin Sheds Poster Collection

The Tin Sheds Poster Collection was started in the 1970s by artists working at the University Art Workshop, known as the Tin Sheds on City Road, Darlington. Lucifoil and EarthWorks were two of the poster groups associated with the University Art Workshop from 1976-1988. The Collection is now held by The University of Sydney. Artists represented in this exhibition include Jean Clarkson, Jan Fieldsend, Marie McMahon, Therese Kenyon and Toni Robertson.