If artist Missy Gilbert invites you to a dinner party, say yes. Missy delegates the menu to local food designers while she creates suspended installation works for attendees to roam. “One work took 48 hours to suspend,” she says. “I reckon there was three weeks of pure hanging.”
You won’t find cups, cutlery or dining tables. You will find a choose-your-own adventure of eating, interactivity and spectacle that Missy describes as a “bonkers” immersive dinner party that rolls all of her practices into one.
We’re talking in the upstairs HQ of the vast Alexandria warehouse she runs with her partner in life and music, Daniel Bourne. When I arrive, Missy is sitting on a vintage velvet couch, on the phone. “We squeezed a call in,” Daniel says apologetically, before popping out to get his wife a late lunch.
Missy crams a lot into a day – including laps at Bondi’s Icebergs pool when she can. But when she turns her attention to me it is undivided and warm. She has down-to-earth expressions and a classic rising inflection – possibly from growing up a “massive bogan” in the outer Sydney suburb of Roselands – that make even her firmest statements sound appealingly open-ended.
The couple runs a bespoke fit out and art installation business called I Made This, which has worked with big-name footwear, fashion and alcohol brands. The money is fed directly back into creative projects including otherworldly video clips for their indie pop duo Ginger And The Ghost. “I self fund everything,” Missy says. “I have never applied for grant, it’s not how I operate.”
Three years ago, the couple added ““mummy and daddy of The Nest” to their portfolio when Missy peered into the warehouse’s windows and decided to rent the space. Fellow Nesters – who sublet studios here – include documentary crew, visual artists, sign writers, weavers, ceramicists, prop makers and fashion designers. “It’s definitely on the bohemian side,” says Missy. “It’s geared to feeling like a home; it is very communal.”
“I’m definitely a bit of a mother hen. We have picnics and drinks and if someone is leaving it’s a big thing. I’d say it’s a lot more family-oriented than other places – but I’ve never worked in another studio!
“This place has a crazy amount of trust within it. It somehow radiates this beautiful, non-spoken respect. Even if it’s a party with lots of music, or whatever, everyone knows how far they can push it.”
The Nest is half a block from Green Square train station, placing it in one of Sydney’s biggest development zones. The warehouse itself is on a demolition lease which means the lease could be terminated at any time.
If The Nest does survive a few years yet, Missy hopes her dream project will bloom: an immersive touring show based on Ginger And The Ghost’s songs. If it does, expect something raw yet refined; sharp “but a bit f__ked up”, she says.
“Everything I do has a playfulness attached to it,” Missy says. “I think we lack connection and being playful. Pushing through boundaries and letting [people] relax means they move differently than in another environment.”