“IT OPENED MY WHOLE MIND TO ART…THAT IT COULD BE ANYTHING AND ANYWHERE - AND IT GAVE YOU THIS AMAZING SENSE OF EXCITEMENT.” - Neil Balnaves
"It All Started With A Stale Sandwich" explores the private and public stories of the Kaldor Public Art Projects across fifty years and 34 projects of public art in Australia.
Beginning in 1969 with "Wrapped Coast" Hungarian migrant and textile designer, John Kaldor collaborated with European artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to wrap Sydney’s Little Bay coastline - creating the world’s largest land art. One million square feet of fabric connected Australia’s cultural landscape to an international avant-garde.
Nearly a half-century later, Indigenous Australian artist Jonathan Jones created a monumental artwork for Kaldor Public Art Projects, to respond to the lost architecture and culturally significant Aboriginal objects collected in The Garden Palace in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, and in so doing exposed its Aboriginal identity. In between these two stunning cultural bookends - Christo’s wrapping of landscape and Jones’ unearthing of cultural identity - Kaldor brought celebrity artist Marina Abramović to entice audiences towards an artistic sensibility, Gilbert & George to enliven the AGNSW with their "Singing Sculpture" and Jeff Koons to achieve an awesome feat of plant and steel construction with his much-loved "Puppy" at the MCA in Circular Quay.
Weaving together past and present stories of these ephemeral works, the narrative of "It All Started With A Stale Sandwich" unfolds across many of the projects, including the conception of Project #34 with American artist Asad Raza; the planning of Project #35 an upcoming major survey of the 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects, created by British artist Michael Landy; and a new ‘virtual’ work by Australian artists Agatha Gothe-Snape and Tea Uglow.
"It All Started With A Stale Sandwich" revels in the public moments John Kaldor’s art projects created and shares the delights of his private passion for art.
Director’s Statement, Samantha Lang
“ARTISTS ARE FUTURISTS, THEY PICK UP THE STAWS IN THE WIND, THOSE LOW LEVEL WAVE LENGTHS OF WHAT IS HAPPENING, AND WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN, AND IN DOING SO THEY CAN CHANGE WHAT HAPPENS.” - Ian Miliss, Artist
The Kaldor Public Art Projects changed what happened in Sydney’s contemporary art landscape over a period of fifty years. It All Started With A Stale Sandwich acts as a kind of time capsule - documenting the impact on screen in seconds, that John Kaldor’s art philanthropy has had over decades.
It was a rare pleasure to encounter octogenarians, and listen to them speak so coherently about their art practice. Interviewing artists Christo, Gilbert and George, author David Malouf as well as curator Daniel Thomas and art teacher Ellen Waugh, I was gifted with an historical perspective that was surprising, amusing and heartening. Of equal amusement, was the time I spent with younger artists, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Asad Raza and Michael Landy, witnessing at close hand, their working process with John Kaldor.
So as I made my way through archives and interviews, I decided that I wanted this film to be delightful rather than didactic – acting as mirror for John Kaldor’s journey with the 34 artists and their ephemeral artworks – as well as for his current dilemma of how to represent those works in an exhibition.
John Kaldor comes alive when he is in relationship with artists and this is what I sought to capture on screen, as it goes straight to the heart of what has sustained him over half a century: a passion for the creative encounter, and for sharing that with the Australian public.
As with the public art projects that Kaldor himself produces, I wanted the audiences to be able to encounter the film on different levels, whether simply as a great yarn about artists, or as an insight into the artistic process, or as a meditation on how we ‘story’ our places, or as a political comment about how cultural identity is informed by those who get to tell stories. This film has layers and connections that form an intimate stratigraphy of the public art project in Sydney, from 1969 to 2019 and beyond.