If you’ve made art (loosely defined) on main campus, there’s a good chance it was in a windowless room. This is because the majority1 of creative spaces on campus are at least six feet under, literally and also w/r/t job prospects.2 Today, we ask why.
The key to answering this question lies in conspiracy theories, and the key to conspiracy theories is basic proficiency in connecting a bunch of utterly meaningless dots3; a willingness to boldly draw trend lines where no trend line has ventured before. Below are four trend lines taking a deep dive, in an attempt to explain why student creatives seem drawn to the bowels of the earth.
1. Mushroom theory
“Mushroom theory”, as it’s been dubbed in recent years, is rumoured to have been inspired by a different kind of mushroom. Unlike plants, mushrooms do not require sunlight to grow, instead drawing energy from the decomposition of their growth environment.
Your average “creative” possesses many of the same characteristics. They too are often warm, moist and pungent, sometimes toxic, and provisioned with weird and insulting nicknames by passing jocks and scientists (such as classic epithets “puffball” and “stinkhorn”).
We could therefore posit that the creative kids of this campus are actually just a rare kind of mushroom, prone to occasionally psychedelic output. It naturally follows that they gravitate to underground spaces – the ideal growing environment, where they may one day reproduce by putting out spores.
2. Nuclear bunker theory
If nuclear war or a similarly apocalyptic event broke out, experts agree that an underground, concrete-reinforced bunker would provide the best shelter and most likely chances of survival. The SRC offices (where Honi is housed) fit this theory particularly well, as they’re inexplicably equipped with other necessary survival resources, such as a zip tap (to provide boiling water during the apocalypse), a fridge, and an autonomous wom*n’s space.
Where this theory falls apart is on how these prime apocalypse-survival spaces came to be allotted to artists, activists and, more broadly, students. Given the University’s historical disdain for the aforementioned groups, it seems unlikely that the administration would cede the best apocalypse-survival spaces to them.4 Then again, there are rumblings about SUDS’ lease of the Cellar Theatre ending soon. This may be an indicator of imminent nuclear war.
3. Some pretentious bullshit
Or maybe it’s about stepping outside of time. Pure artificial light stretches time forever; there are no elongating shadows, no sunrises. 2am is psychosomatically levelled with 2pm. Fluorescent-lit bunkers are a temporal blank canvas, untouched by the flicker and progression of the actual world. You can get lost down here, submerged in a kind of uniform light or dark over which you have complete control, emerge when you’re done.
This is important, because time5 is the amniotic fluid of creative development; protective and encouraging of growth. We need the illusion that it goes on forever; we need foetal weightlessness to shield us from deadlines and endings. And then we need to be able to leave, when we’re done. Emerge into the light, mess and all, and see what we’ve made.
This illusion of a surplus of time is perhaps the only way student creative spaces are well-resourced.
4. Funding crisis theory
There is, of course, another theory, but this one is widely disdained, and has been convincingly debunked several times. It holds that the University is either (a) in funding crisis, and/or (b) would prefer to spend its hard-earned dollars on the construction of vacuous, unnecessary spaces like a new Business School and Chancellery, rather than prioritising any kind of actual space or resources for student creatives.
I’ll leave it to you to decide.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014); “Language that feels hurtful is intended to exploit all the ways that you are present.” 134
- Read: several
- Here’s the data: the Honi office, the Cellar Theatre, parts of the Seymour Centre, the SURG broadcast studios, Incubate, the Postgraduate Arts Research Centre in Fisher Library, and a number of activist/collective spaces are all underground. This list is probably not exhaustive. There are also outliers, e.g. the dance studio, which is several floors above ground. These require further research, though in the case of the dance studio I hypothesise that either the intersection of dance and sport drives dancers above ground, or all the spinning and twirling involved has just caused them to be disoriented.
- You probably developed this skill in kindy. Kindergarten teachers learn in the third year of their degrees to watch students closely as they complete these tasks, covertly timing progress, and analysing texta choice and deftness after the fact. The most promising candidates have a special-issue post-it note (virtual since the advent of computers, but still special-issue) appended to their enrolment information and are monitored by subsequent teachers for signs of Conspiracy Recognition Aptitude or Proclivity. ASIO quietly inducts the very best once they reach adulthood, reportedly extending covert employment offers in encrypted electronic back-alleys in the early hours of the morning.
- Leaving the repopulation of the earth to SUDS leaves a lot to be desired re: actual practical skills. Picture a massive orgy conducted amidst makeshift dwellings constructed from stage flats, with trick doors and revolving parts. Mere simulacrums of shelter, painted in neon.
- This is not an endorsement of a certain Honi ticket, fuck off.