February 2024

International Relations

Bababa InternationalBababa InternationalBababa InternationalBababa InternationalBababa InternationalBababa InternationalBababa InternationalText & Images: Bababa International

To call Bababa International a tight-knit operation would be both an exaggeration and an understatement. Perhaps the easiest way of explaining the group (I don’t want to call them an ‘art collective’) is to say that they embrace contradiction, often to the point of contrariness, sometimes with the best intentions and other times with the… not-best. And even then, despite the ever-present ambiguity, their output is still very real.

Last year, Locksmith Projects held a Bababa Office. Erskinville held a Bababa Park. A rooftop in Melbourne held a Bababa Mudbath. The year before that, Firstdraft held a Bababa Soap-making Machine to complement the nearby Bababa Shower. Last August, fourteen participants in the ‘Friends’ group show at Melbourne’s TBC Art Inc received Bababa Cheques for $1000 each. The space and a corresponding publication were funded with a further $1000, bringing the total to a neat $15,000.

This is too much to be explained by one person, so we enlisted four. Below are the results, in what can only be termed a Bababa Interview.

After a string of failures and bungled opportunities, Bababa International take a moment to stop, draw focus, and look into the mirror. In this Blackmail exclusive, Bababa International visit the contemplative Bababa International at their physical home, the Bababa International Airport, in order to ask: what comes next?

Bababa International: The readers of the Blackmail want to know, can you describe something?

Bababa International: I can describe my current location. Shop 1/101 Young Street, Redfern, 2016, Planet Earth.

BI: The readers of the Blackmail would like you to continue.

BI: Grey couch, two fridges, many tables (some usable, others not), a confusing bookshelf, tamale steaming pot, a bottle of wood glue, white beans – we’ve mentioned the tables haven’t we? – a soda dispenser, a Koji Ryuii artwork, a stack of plastic plates from Mexico.

BI: Thank you. So you’ve just been describing some of the items in your studio, can you detail the studio’s history for the readers of the Blackmail?

BI: Sure.

BI: Go on.

BI: Hang on. I think we need a description of the space itself. The studio is one decent sized room with an adjoining corridor bathroom. The floor space is somewhere between 22 and 25 metres square (Hey Chief: could you please take the phrase “metres square” and substitute for the glyph representing a square metre?). There are two windows, each with distinctly different curtains, and two panes of glass apiece. One pane is attached to a metal track and slides horizontally in order to open up the space the outside. The ceiling is high, an eyeball guess puts it at three metres. We have installed our own chandeliers. There is a sign above the front door. If you are ever looking for the studio, you will be able to identify the space using this image.

Before we moved in, the space was occupied by a wholesale sex-shop. This information comes from our real-estate agent, who also alleged that the man who operated the store was living inside his business. When we moved in, we found some evidence of his occupation. These fingerprints included a pile of dirty towels, a toothbrush and a whole range of eccentric modifications to the electrical wiring. We’ve kept one remnant of this mysterious retailer’s former life: a thick collection of discretely sized black plastic bags that hang in the corner. They’re perfect for the leery shopper.

BI: You have all this history, but the readers of the Blackmail are future-orientated. What can you tell us that would satisfy their appetite for the new and yet-to-occur?

BI: Well, we want to install a kitchen and initiate a breakfast workshop titled ‘The New Breakfast’.

BI: What the hell is that?

BI: It’ll be a chance for people to come in to the airport and engage in the task of developing a new breakfast.

BI: Wait, I’m still confused. What, if anything, will actually occur?

BI: Cool your horses and let me explain. The program will combine a teaching syllabus designed by Aleksander Rodchenko, the Russian Contructivist, and Rice Bubbles. If you come along you’ll be able to re-think the Rice Bubble through a series of creative, yet practical, activities. Set down within the guidelines of a weekly task, participants will be asked to deploy their critical-thinking skills, and hands and mouths, in order to transform Rice Bubbles into something different and, hopefully, something better. The workshop will run for seven weeks and at the end of each day’s activity, we will open up the automatic doors of the Airport for a free breakfast that everyone is welcome to attend.

BI: What if the readers of the Blackmail would like to join this breakfast quest?

BI: They should send an email to [email protected] with the subject: I want to participate!

BI: I was checking the bank account the other day and noticed that you/we had taken out a $15,000 loan. Can you explain what you/we were thinking?

BI: As you know, the loan was taken out in order to finance the activity of some friends of ours.

BI: I don’t understand. Why would you give away so much money?

BI: We wanted to see what it felt like to be a venture capitalist. Except we’re too poor and too inept to obtain our own capital, so we borrowed some and played ‘pretend’. Now, where a venture capitalist would expect to see a financial return on their investment, we won’t see a cent. In fact, we’ll be losing money trying to pay the loan back. We regret nothing, not even interest.

BI: So what have your friends done with all that money?

BI: The rumour is that Dan Bell is using his money to travel to our neighbour, Indonesia, and make something. Another squeeze of juice comes from Matthew Hopkins, who is going to pay us back with some drawings of money that are of no monetary value but are still worth something. We also hear that Bianca Hester is going to build a bike, which she will use to chart the Solar System. One guy went to New Zealand and spent it on tubs of soy yoghurt and a hand-full of pineapple lumps.

BI: So how are you going to pay the money back?

BI: I/we have no idea.

BI: Why don’t you do web-design? I hear you can make good coin on the Internet.

BI: Can you?

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