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Australian art, culture, etc. Issue 1, 2013

aud $12.00


CONTENTS

Sturgeon Issue 1, 2013 7

Contributors

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Interiors: Bellevue Hill House

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Five Hours, Ten Works Kenny Pittock

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30 Years Ago Today: 1980–2013 Djon Mundine

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Editorial Daniel Mudie Cunningham

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Mr Sturgeon: Tributes to Graeme Peter Timms Lou Klepac

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Earth Born Caroline Rothwell & Tim Flannery

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Photo Essay: Garry Trinh

In a Land Far, Fardoulys Away Daniel Mudie Cunningham

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Field Kate Bernauer

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Interiors: NeuRA

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What’s in a Name? Emma A Jane

Another Future: Hayden Fowler’s Alternative Nature Andrew Frost

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Photo Essay: Bo Wong

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Photo Essay: John Tsiavis

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The 1980s Artworld: My Generation is History Catharine Lumby

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Motion Blur Patricia Piccinini & Jacqueline Millner

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I like dachshunds, you like chickens. George Egerton-Warburton & David Capra

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The Best & Wurst Grids: Visual Identity in Cultural Organisations Brad Haylock


MASTHEAD

Sturgeon Editor Daniel Mudie Cunningham Sub-Editor Miriam Kelly Editorial Committee Peter Lin Daniel Mudie Cunningham Tony Stephens Art Direction Collider Publisher Artbank Contributing Writers David Capra George Egerton-Warburton Tim Flannery Andrew Frost Brad Haylock Emma A Jane Lou Klepac Catharine Lumby Jacqueline Millner Daniel Mudie Cunningham Djon Mundine Patricia Piccinini Kenny Pittock Caroline Rothwell Peter Timms Contributing Photographers Kate Bernauer Garry Trinh John Tsiavis Bo Wong Interiors Photography Tom Ferguson Artwork Photography Jenni Carter Jeremy Dillon Stephen Oxenbury

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Special Thanks All staff at Artbank Arent & Pyke Artists featured in Five Hours, Ten Works Clemens Habicht James Kenney Lou Klepac Steven Miller, Art Gallery of NSW Neuroscience Research Australia Queensland Performing Arts Centre Sturgeon is a conceptually driven publication which commissions original content addressing issues relevant to Australian cultural life. Sturgeon is an initiative of Artbank and seeks to further promote the value of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian contemporary art to both the public and private sectors nationally and internationally. sturgeonmagazine.com Sturgeon Published by Artbank 50c Rosebery Ave Rosebery NSW 2018 +61 2 9662 8011 editorial@sturgeonmagazine.com subscription@sturgeonmagazine.com advertising@sturgeonmagazine.com Printing Spitting Image All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form without permission from the publisher. Artworks from the Artbank collection have been reproduced under the Statutory Government License outlined in section 183 of the Copyright Act, 1968. All other images are reproduced with permission of the copyright holders. ISSN 2202-5294 Typefaces Lyon Text, designed by Kai Bernau Founders Grotesk, designed by Kris Sowersby Cover Clemens Habicht Graeme Sturgeon 2013 Disclaimer The opinions expressed in Sturgeon are those of the respective authors and are not necessarily those of the editors, publisher or the Australian Government. Sturgeon may contain material which offends some readers.

Interiors Artwork Credits Bellevue Hill House (pp 40–43) Simryn Gill A Small Town at the Turn of the Century 9, 12 and 22 1999–2000 Type C photographs, 112 x 111 cm (each) Artbank collection, purchased 2012 Julie Harris Marie Therese 2005 Synthetic polymer paint on polyester, 173 x 155 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2012 Michelle Hanlin Cup and Betty 2007 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 54 x 44 cm (each) Artbank collection, purchased 2007 Gemma Smith Crossposting 2011 Synthetic polymer paint on board, 143 x 123 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2012 Tracy Luff Rising R1 2010 Cardboard, wood, steel Artbank collection, purchased 2010 NeuRA (pp 90–93) James and Eleanor Avery Fontana Amstrada 2009 Plywood, timber and laminate, 275 x 176 x 176 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2009 William F Breen Otway Ranges 5, 6, 8 and 10 2002 Oil on canvas, 42 x 62 cm (each) Artbank collection, purchased 2002 Shaun Gladwell Colour Test: Mundi Mundi Plains (Blue) 2009 Digital print, 166.5 x 214 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2011 Michael Kutschbach go you little dynamo, go! 2008 Fibreglass, flocking, chrome, steel, 180 x 175 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2008 Frank Hodgkinson Sun 1967 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 210 x 191 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1980 Roy Ananda Untitled 2008 Painted wood, 195 x 100 x 90 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2008 Artbank is a Commonwealth Government program mandated with a support (through collecting and commissioning) and promotion role for Australian contemporary visual art and artists. Artbank is one of the largest institutional collectors of Australian art in the world — making its collection available to the broader public through a leasing program operating nationally.


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CONTRIBUTORS

Contributors David Capra

is a Sydney based artist whose work has appeared at Performance Space and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

George Egerton-Warburton is a Western Australian born artist, currently based in Melbourne as an artist in residence at Gertrude Contemporary.

Catharine Lumby

is Professor of Media at Macquarie University. The author and co-author of six books and numerous journal articles and book chapters, she is currently writing a literary biography of the author Frank Moorhouse.

Tim Flannery

Lou Klepac OAM

is an art historian and founder of The Beagle Press. Former Curator at the Art Gallery of South Australia, and later Senior Curator/Deputy Director at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Klepac has authored a number of major publications on Australian art and artists.

Jacqueline Millner

is Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) and lectures in critical studies at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Her books include Conceptual Beauty (2010) and Australian Artists in the Museum (2013), co-authored with Jennifer Barrett.

Daniel Mudie Cunningham

is Senior Curator at Artbank and Editor of Sturgeon.

is a leading author on climate change and an internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist. Australian of the Year in 2007, Flannery has held various academic positions and authored numerous publications.

Djon Mundine OAM

Andrew Frost

Patricia Piccinini

is a writer, art critic and broadcaster. Frost has written and presented a number of TV programs including The A-Z of Contemporary Art on ABC1 (2013). He has contributed to numerous publications and is the art critic for The Guardian Australia.

Brad Haylock

is a senior lecturer in art, design and architecture at Monash University.

Emma A Jane

(previously Emma Tom) is a senior lecturer in media at the University of New South Wales. An award-winning Sydney writer and broadcaster, Emma is the author of six books.

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is an independent curator, writer and critic of contemporary Aboriginal art. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

is a Melbourne based artist of national and international acclaim. She is represented in all major collections in Australia and numerous internationally.

Kenny Pittock

is a Melbourne based artist who uses humour and sentimentality to respond to contemporary Australian culture. He says: “I’ve been lucky enough to win some pretty amazing art awards, but nothing compares to the time I used my left foot to kick an apple through a basketball ring from half court.”

Caroline Rothwell

is a Sydney based artist with work in public and private collections across Australia, New Zealand and internationally.

Peter Timms

is a freelance writer and the author of nine books, including Private Lives: Australians at Home Since Federation (2008) and In Search of Hobart (2009).

Garry Trinh

is a Sydney based artist working with photography. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and in Visual Communications, Photography and Digital Imaging from the University of Western Sydney. He is never bored.

John Tsiavis

is an award-winning commercial portrait photographer. His work has been widely reproduced and recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Bo Wong

is a photographer and artist based in Western Australia. She has had numerous solo exhibitions and commissions in Perth, Melbourne and Norway and has released two self-published books.


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Artspace is supported by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments. Artspace is assisted by the New South Wales Government through Arts NSW and by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Artspace is a member of CAOs (Contemporary Art Organisations Australia).


EDITORIAL

Editorial: Looking to the future through the past What a big year 1980 was in Australia. It commenced as a leap year on a Tuesday. Not sure why, but that has a nice ring to it. Stuff that happened that year included the birth of the first test tube baby; the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain; the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria; SBS commenced national transmission; Queensland defeated New South Wales in the inaugural State of Origin; John McEwen, the eighteenth Prime Minister of Australia died a month or so before the re-election of Malcolm Fraser as Australia’s twenty second Prime Minister for a third consecutive term. Aside from Fraser’s significance in Australian political history, our art history was augmented by his formation of Artbank. Three decades in operation and going strong, Artbank is an important snapshot of our recent art past. Artbank’s collection of some ten thousand works represents as much the successes as it does the failures of Australian contemporary art during this period of time. And surely that will be the case for the next thirty years to come. Sturgeon by name, sturgeon by nature. As much as we think of Sturgeon as a conceptual statement — it’s one thing being a big fish, it’s another if you produce caviar — the name given to our magazine bears the imprimatur of founding Artbank Director Graeme Sturgeon, whose legacy is remembered in Peter Timms and Lou Klepac’s poignant tributes to the man.

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In honouring Mr Sturgeon’s important contribution thirty something years after Artbank’s formation, we felt compelled to look back at this period of time as a way of looking to the future through the past. A thirty year period represents a generation. As such, Djon Mundine and Catharine Lumby’s contributions present varying narratives of how contemporary art in Australia — in Indigenous and non-Indigenous contexts respectively — has been shaped during this time. Most established contemporary artists making their mark today would have been born in the decade or so preceding 1980. Andrew Frost in his profile on one such artist, Hayden Fowler, writes: “Kids born in the 1960s and 1970s always knew the end was nigh. We were the bomb generation.” This paranoia may not be explicit in the work of Patricia Piccinini and Caroline Rothwell, yet in their respective conversations with Jacqueline Millner and Tim Flannery we see how the artists’ concerns with either genetics or geoengineering are very much a byproduct of an age where the end indeed could be considered nigh. Echoes of this anxiety could be read into Kate Bernauer’s digital photograph Field (2013), where various people are placed within a dystopian landscape, seemingly oblivious to its ominous implications. In contrast, the work of younger artists profiled in Sturgeon takes a turn towards absurdist humour with Kenny Pittock, George Egerton-Warburton and David Capra. No less serious in the rigour brought to their work, these artists are indicative of art practices today that merge the performative with play. While a quotidian focus is evident in Pittock’s whimsical project Five Hours, Ten Works, photo essays by Bo Wong (WA), Garry Trinh (NSW) and John Tsiavis (VIC) find magic in the otherwise potentially mundane streetscapes through which their cameras travel.

Sturgeon arrives at a time when Artbank has reconceptualised its visual identity with a new brand, thanks to Collider. With that in mind, Brad Haylock examines the role of branding in cultural organisations, especially those whose business is in the visual. There is no point in a brand if you don’t first stand by your name. Naming our magazine after a name was an impetus for thinking about how important a name is to the identity of an artist. Emma A Jane’s witty article names and shames some such artists. Establishing a new print magazine seems like a tiny anachronism in our current digital age. Sturgeon in part comes out of nostalgia for the materiality of the printed word. Yet in commissioning for these pages, it became apparent that much of the content looks to the future through the past, without becoming shipwrecked by sentimentality. In Sturgeon the journey is just as important as the destination. Just ask James Fardoulys, twentieth century taxi driver turned self-taught painter par excellence. Daniel Mudie Cunningham Editor, Sturgeon


STURGEON

Mr Sturgeon: Tributes to Graeme

Graeme Sturgeon at Artbank, 1980 Courtesy of James Kenney


MR STURGEON: TRIBUTES TO GRAEME

When I think of Graeme Sturgeon, I think of felt. Blue felt. Acres and acres of it. It was early 1971 and I had been Assistant Exhibitions Officer at the National Gallery of Victoria for just a few months: naive, inexperienced and somewhat in awe of my brusque, droll, demanding boss. Graeme had turned the exhibitions gallery into his personal fiefdom, jealously guarding it against the incursions of curators. This barn-like space, as big as an aircraft hangar (or so it seemed), managed to overwhelm all but the most assertive works of art. Furthermore, after three years of wear and tear, the silver foil that had been applied to the walls for ‘The Field’ exhibition in 1968 was in a ruinous state. With a major Bonnard show about to open, drastic action was called for. So for weeks we laboured until midnight, levering the heavy wooden panels off the walls to cover them with blue felt, armed only with scissors and staple guns. At the time, I thought it was sheer madness, and the effort nearly killed us, but the texture and colour of the felt set the Bonnards off beautifully, and guests arriving for the opening gasped in admiration. The story is unexceptional, of course, yet it reveals something of the force of Graeme’s personality. While he was always receptive to others’ opinions, once his mind 11

was made up there could be no changing it, whatever obstacles presented themselves. He had big ideas, he was strong-willed and a perfectionist. Things had to be done properly: no compromises, no shortcuts. And he applied the same standards to himself as he did to others. Graeme’s uncompromising frankness, his impatience with humbug and pretension, and his riotous sense of humour could be confronting to those who didn’t know him. Yet, once he had accepted you, he gave his loyalty totally. He and I remained firm friends until his death in 1990. I was going to say ‘close friends’, but I always felt a certain emotional reserve on his part. Other people’s experience might have been different, but to me he remained someone to be admired and respected rather than confided in. He used humour to deflect intimacy. The last time I saw him, at an opening at Macquarie Galleries, I was shocked at how thin and drawn he had suddenly become. Hating sentimentality, he had never mentioned his illness and I knew better than to ask. His laughter and bonhomie that night struck me as infinitely sad, for I had never felt the distance between us so acutely. Wangaratta, the cattle town in Northern Victoria where he was born in 1936, was hardly the ideal starting place for an intellectually curious child: the ABC’s


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Argonauts program was his only lifeline. Nevertheless, he often spoke of his childhood and his parents with fondness. At eighteen he enrolled in printmaking under Kenneth Jack at Caulfield Technical College, then went to RMIT University and Melbourne Teachers College before making the almost obligatory pilgrimage to London, along with so many of his contemporaries in the sixties, where he attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts and Goldsmiths College. Graeme succeeded John Stringer as Exhibitions Officer at the NGV in 1970, after some six years as a secondary school art teacher (he always struck me as a born teacher). There he would remain for a decade, putting his personal stamp not only on the installation of temporary exhibitions but on the entire building. At a time when the display of the permanent collections tended towards the encyclopaedic and scholarly, he introduced a fresh visual flair which transformed the public’s experience of the gallery. At the same time, he was involved in a range of extramural projects: lecturing, curating, advising the Visual Arts Board on its acquisitions program and serving on a number of boards and committees. He also exhibited his own paintings and prints and, while he was never going to become a professional artist, he very much enjoyed making them and the results were characteristically bold, colourful and arresting. But the most fruitful and public of his activities was his critical writing, which included three books and a four-year stint as art critic for The Australian. When he wrote, it was almost as if he adopted a different personality: a more subdued, respectful and dispassionate one. While not shy

of voicing strong opinions, he was never bitchy or destructive; never scoring points at an artist’s expense. It was a sign of his deep respect for artists of all stripes, even those whose work he did not fully understand or warm to. The regret is that he didn’t write more. There were of course, numerous catalogue introductions, art magazine essays and other occasional pieces of high quality, but that sort of writing quickly fades from view. His best-known work of scholarship, The Development of Australian Sculpture 1788–1975 (1978) remains the standard history of the subject some thirty five years after its first appearance. Although covering a lot of territory in less than two hundred and fifty pages, it is informative, even-handed and eminently readable. Graeme’s experience as a writer, curator, administrator and teacher, his extensive network of friends in the Australian art world and his proven record of support for contemporary artists, made him the ideal choice as inaugural Director of Artbank in 1980. He immediately grasped the organisation’s important role in fostering artists by purchasing their work and renting it out to public and private sector clients. His admirably eclectic purchasing policies, and his strong personal presence (it seemed he was at every exhibition opening: he was hard to miss) quickly overcame the inevitable suspicions of many in the art world. That Artbank has such an important role today is largely thanks to his dedication and enthusiasm during the early years of its existence — what his partner and co-worker James Kenney refers to as the pioneering, ‘log cabin’ period. So many of us owe him a great debt.

Peter Timms

author’s note My thanks to James Kenney for providing important factual information. Graeme Sturgeon with his Basenji, Anu, c.1978 Courtesy of James Kenney


MR STURGEON: TRIBUTES TO GRAEME

To those who knew him personally, the name Graeme Sturgeon means that tall, upright, tidy, witty, somewhat reserved, warm and caring friend. He enjoyed the occasional irreverent bit of humour when it was warranted, but this emphasised the seriousness of his passion and devotion to art. He was one of the friends one was always most pleased to see. It is tragic that his voice has been silenced at a comparatively early age. It is sad to think that one will never again run into him on a Saturday morning doing his shopping and talk, not of art, but how to cook some fish he was buying — never again to repeat those mundane but precious moments of friendship. Something tightens inside. How easily life can extinguish a fine and generous spirit. A friend has left without us. reprinted from Klepac, Lou. “Tributes”. Sturgeon, Graeme. Contemporary Australian Sculpture. Sydney: Craftsman House, 1991.

The tribute I wrote for Graeme’s book of Australian sculpture, published after his death, has reminded me of our friendship. We had many friends in common, such as Michael Shannon, on whom Graeme published a book. Graeme was also interested in James Gleeson and acquired a large painting, the stunning Black Truce (1986), which his partner Jim Kenny has since donated to Heide Museum of Modern Art. I recall that when the painting first arrived at their home and went up on the wall, the canvas was floppy because they had a problem with rising damp. We had a great dinner to celebrate the occasion and we drank a toast to the artist. Graeme had included a painting by Nora Heysen in his book The Painter’s Vision (1987). Nora was then still neglected and lived in ‘comfortable obscurity’ (her words) in Hunters Hill. I was busy arranging a retrospective and a book on her work, but it was Graeme who had the idea that she might be proposed for the Australia Council’s distinguished artist award. Graeme wrote the proposal and sent it in. When this was successful, Nora went to Canberra to receive the award and the cheque. It gave an enormous boost to her confidence as well as to her finances. I shall never forget Graeme’s last act of friendship. When he went to Europe for the last time and came across a large Morandi retrospective, he bought the massive catalogue and posted it to me with a note. He knew of my long standing interest in this painter. It was so long ago!

Lou Klepac

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STURGEON

Another Future: Hayden Fowler’s Alternative Nature Andrew Frost

Kids born in the 1960s and 1970s always knew the end was nigh. We were the bomb generation. Mushroom clouds hung over the cities of our nightmares. Buttons were pressed, missiles flew. We imagined the aftermath. Ruined cities, the Statue of Liberty rising from the glassy sand, a few lucky survivors living inside domed cities while outside, in the sun-blasted wastelands, gangs of marauders drove around on motorbikes looking for fuel. When the Cold War ended all those anxiety dreams evaporated and resonant Hollywood fantasies of post-apocalyptic survival were suddenly nostalgic period pieces.

Portraits by John Tsiavis Stylist Lauren Dietze Clothing Jack London


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The artist Hayden Fowler, forty years old, who was born in New Zealand and now lives in Sydney, recently made a revealing comment on a Facebook thread. I was looking for recommendations for science fiction books for children and Fowler suggested Robert C O’Brien’s novel Z for Zacharia. Posthumously published in 1974 a year after O’Brien’s death, the novel tells the story of Anne Burden who has somehow managed to survive nuclear and chemical war by living in a remote valley. Due to the valley’s almost hermetic microclimate it’s perhaps the last green place on Earth. The story itself is all about trust and betrayal and, typical for the dystopic vibe of the early 1970s, the novel ends in an uncertain escape for Anne into an irradiated wilderness that might also spell her doom. The recommendation seemed apt for Fowler. Z for Zacharia in many ways encapsulates his interests and fascinations; the sci-fi inflected narratives of his videos and performances, the pathos of the animals he uses as actors, and the studied classicism of his photographic prints. Nature is in peril. But there is hope. Maybe. When I go to visit him at his home/studio the book comes up in conversation. “It was interesting you asked about sci-fi books the other day because Z for Zachariah was quite an influential book that I read as a child and that really relates to my work quite strongly,” he says. Fowler’s apartment sits atop some shops in Sydney’s inner west in a space that had once been a sweatshop, but is now artfully converted into a three-bedroom apartment, its kitchen decorated with op-shop prints of Vladimir Tretchikoff ’s The Chinese Girl aka The Green Lady (1950) and an array of framed, generic still lives, seascapes and mountain scenes. Fowler shows me around his studio space and I recognise props and pieces of sets from old works — separating his bedroom from the studio are walls used in Second Nature (2008) but which are now serving as doors. They give the room the feel of a spaceship, albeit one that has been overrun with plants. Dominating the room, however, is the still-standing set for his most recent video New World Order (2013), a V-shaped slice of fake nature that looks like a zoo exhibit or a natural history museum display. As we regard its formidable presence, I ask Fowler if he works alone. “I got a scenic painter in for a few days and he did some finishing touches for me,” he says. “But usually I do it all myself.” The video is fifteen minutes long and shows a group of forlorn looking chickens that walk about the twisted roots of the jungle trees. When they open their beaks to squawk electronic noises come out. The video image wipes and pans over the set revealing new angles and details, suggesting the video is a remote observation. But who is watching? New World Order is a major work in a career marked by projects that are both ambitious and meticulously realised. “That work was six months from the start of building the set to the finish of filming,” says Fowler. “This is the first time I’ve had a studio at home where I could work on a piece for that period of time. It’s really great. The last couple of video works I’ve had to do a lot of postproduction fixing things — this time

I had the chance to take my time and get everything right in set rather than during editing and post-production.” Although Fowler had been making videos, installations and doing performances for a number of years, it was videos such as White Cock and White Australia (both 2005) that really caught people’s attention. The works were based around the use of animals and small-scale sets. In the first piece, a white rooster stands atop a perch against a cushioned background, the image wiping up and down, the rooster emitting what sounds like Morse code. In White Australia, white mice dart in and out of tubes in a green-tiled space, their movements seeming to alter a sine wave on the soundtrack. I wonder if the relationship between man and nature had always been an interest to Fowler. “Yes, definitely,” he says. “Probably from second year of undergraduate study I’ve been working on the idea of nature and culture. I think the specific ideas and themes jump around between works but there there’s the same discourse. For the latest work, New World Order, it was a futuristic landscape. I was thinking of the landscape as post-apocalyptic, a post-human forest, where a whole new nature was evolving. A lot of the reason for exploring that is being really interested in the idea of an autonomous nature and a nature without human influence; an idea of discovery that doesn’t really exist anymore, the idea of being able to go somewhere and discover a new nature, to find things that hadn’t been seen before.” So what is the attraction? What draws him to the theme? “Throughout my life this has been my experience — dislocation and discontent with the lack of possibilities that we’re born into,” Fowler says after a moment of thought. “We’re born into a domesticated and civilised stricture and there are so few options to get out of that, or to be autonomous within the world. A lot of my work is based around this idea of our relationship with the natural world and the desire to be able to experience it in a free way. But it’s equally about acting metaphorically and questioning our freedom.” Fowler’s video Goat Odyssey (2006) was a project on a much bigger scale. The video is a series of connected vignettes: goats move around inside a set with neoclassical features, their bodies adorned with gold ropes and tassels. The animals interact as an exhaust fan rotates in the background. The effect is mesmerising. “In Goat Odyssey there are these white goats seen in a vacuum-sealed environment,” he says. “The camera just goes endlessly around and the goats are clean and elaborately dressed, but they’re just walking in circles. There is a sense of repetition and boredom and a lack of opportunity for anything else. I was using the goats as metaphors for us.” In Goat Odyssey, the action of the animals has an acutely emotional resonance for the viewer. And it is something that Fowler has experimented with in many of his works. While some of the videos have the feel of science fiction, and are curious for that reason, there’s an emotional punch that is both fascinating but disturbing. For this viewer at least, Fowler’s two-screen video Hunger (2007) is an emotionally


ANOTHER FUTURE: HAYDEN FOWLER’S ALTERNATIVE NATURE

gut-wrenching experience. White lambs jostle and fight to get to milk dripping teats mounted in a black faux marble wall. The right hand screen depicts milk dripping on to the floor. The world conjured by the video is unrelentingly harsh and makes the viewer feel helpless watching it. “I guess it was pretty bleak in that way,” says Fowler. “I’m always interested in people’s reaction to it and so it’s interesting you say that. It was about the idea of the machine and living off of a machine. I am pushing it to extremes but it’s a metaphor for how we live as well.” Although Fowler and I were born ten years apart, we share the bomb generation’s cultural memory of an alwaysimmanent apocalypse. For a brief ten-year period from the end of the Cold War in 1989, the world was free to imagine a different kind of future. In many ways the popular imagination of that decade returned to a set of ideas and concepts that weren’t just pre-Cold War, they were pre twentieth century as well, but dressed up in the latest technological finery. Since the mid-1700s, Western culture had attempted to reconcile perception and reason and in the visual arts the concept of the sublime arose as a somewhat confusing idea about man’s relationship to nature, but which essentially recognised that there were forces bigger than us which in turn reminded us of our own mortality. In the 1990s the virtual world now stood in for nature and the technological sublime became an idea about technologies

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of perception in movies, games and the web, new modes of seeing that were harbingers of a radical new future. There are dozens of examples of that trend, but the sci-fi move The Matrix (1999) was probably the most conspicuous. Of course, that period was short lived because — post 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’ — we suddenly realised there would be no virtual world if the real world ceased to exist. Instead of the drama of a Hollywood movie like The Day After Tomorrow (2004) in which the world is destroyed in a rapid succession of special effects, the world is slowly being boiled by climate change. The spectre of apocalypse has returned to haunt us and the question of the relationship between culture and nature has only become more acute. “From when I was young to now, so many things are different,” says Fowler. “I guess that’s because the idea of climate change plays a part in my work as another sense of apocalypse, and change, and the drying up of future possibilities where everything is becoming less rich and more the same.” This sense of crisis in conceptions of nature has changed the understanding of the relationship between humans and animals, but at the same time, Fowler is working at a metaphorical level, so how does he conceive of a narrative within his work? When terms like ‘post-apocalyptic’ are used it evokes a cultural understanding of a potential future place and time where these things are happening. “I think the way each project approaches the ideas is done from a new and different angle,” he says. “I imagine my work


ANOTHER FUTURE: HAYDEN FOWLER’S ALTERNATIVE NATURE

as jumping around so that each work becomes a study of one possibility, so there’s always a frustration and sense of doom. For me there’s a lot of hope and excitement in that, although not necessarily for humanity, but for the world in general, in time and history and what will come next. In terms of narrative, each new work is an insight into a new possibility.” The science fictional trope of post-apocalyptic survival that runs through Fowler’s videos, from White Australia and Goat Odyssey to New World Order, is an idea he has experimented with in performance installation pieces. The 2011 exhibition ‘Awfully Wonderful’ brought together a number of Australian artists who engage with a variety of sci-fi ideas and themes, and Fowler’s Anthropocene (2011) saw the artist inhabit a stage-like set that again suggested a zoo enclosure or museum display. This time however, Fowler lived in a spherical cave on an island of green grass that was marooned in the centre of Performance Space’s huge atrium. Living off canned foods and wearing a fur, and accompanied by a family of white rats, Fowler was a survivor of our uncertain future. The work was deliberately evocative of the post apocalyptic trope of survival, it was at once futuristic but it also had a deep-grained connection in the trope of apocalypse in Western culture. It seemed that he had set out to create an environment to evoke these ideas. “All my works are a fragment of some kind of bigger narrative. Part of the way I do that is to condense all these histories together. There are elements in there of the Palaeolithic and elements of the post apocalyptic, futuristic, and everything in between and seeing human history as one, mashing it up and seeing it as one thing. Building the sets comes first and is the most important element in the work. I do it a little bit subconsciously — that particular set was highly planned and built based on circles and spheres. It had an organic finish to it because it was hand built. Something happens when you put that level of geometry with some kind of natural, organic finish. It’s a little bit sci-fi — and a little bit kitsch sci-fi too — I’m not exactly sure what happens — it’s unsettling.” The other big element of that work was that Fowler was being watched. School groups came to the show and clustered around the set. “My sets have an element of zoo exhibit in them and it really felt like it when I was in there. There were a lot of school groups, so there would be forty school kids clamouring around the edge and they would throw things at me to try to get me to react — and it was quite intense and you became this object.” Does Fowler think there’s a same kind of relationship between audience and the work in other pieces that he’s made? “I think the videos work quite differently than the performance installation,” he says. “I think it’s quite confronting for people to stare at another person. There are a few works where I’ve worked with people and that’s why I find it so interesting working with animals because with animals you can create a totally different engagement with the audience. With all the video works that are using animals I’ve found that people will sit and watch a twenty minute 21

video all the way through and maybe watch it again. In New World Order the sense of the freedom of nature, a novelty of seeing something you’ve never seen before, a sense of boundlessness maybe, was what I was trying to engage with and to encourage the audience to focus on the work and be there, when they’re ‘in’ the work, so other things start to happen, a questioning of whether it’s real or not real. What are these animals? Why are they in this situation? It draws the audience in and asked questions. It unsettles them.” In Fowler’s videos the animals are the subjects of the work. What are the ethical considerations when working with animals? “That’s a tough one,” he says. “I feel a responsibility for them. It is quite problematic. On a personal, emotional level I don’t like having domestic animals around. I don’t like feeling as though I am their ‘keeper’ and everything in their life depends on me. I don’t like that level of responsibility. There have been different ways of working with animals. I’ve worked with animal trainers for a day but I find that doesn’t work very well. I need to get to know the animal and have them on the set. Sometimes I borrow the animals for a few weeks and then return them. Often, as in the last work, I was buying the chickens at auction and then reselling them or giving them away. It’s a funny one, buying chickens at auction. It’s like a slave trade; their lives are totally up in the air. I take them back to the auction, and then they go back out into the world. I don’t know how I feel about that.” There might also be a question in people’s minds about the agency of the animals within the work. “It’s interesting that people don’t raise that question very often. I think the reason they don’t is based on purely aesthetic reasons. The animals look healthy and clean and the sets are smooth — and the way they move around the sets gives them the appearance of autonomy. I don’t get them to do anything they wouldn’t normally do. But at the same time I’m totally in control of them and in control of their destiny.” Ultimately it seems to me that Fowler’s work is optimistic. Is it? After a long pause Fowler answers: “I think some of my works are optimistic. I think they are. Mostly. I think my works are mostly positive about the natural world and nature. But nature to me is energy and a process — it’s not a thing. To me it doesn’t matter if just about everything becomes extinct in the next several hundred years, which is quite possible, but there is going to be something left that will create a whole new world. I see humanity as a natural process anyway. I guess I’m looking at that optimistically and think that nature will continue and flourish, but I’m pessimistic about humanity in that we’ve enjoyed everything we have as if it were our birth right. Nature just happens. If everything becomes extinct, we have wild and feral cats and rats and some algae and insects and bacteria — all that will continue. Nature is still evolving. Unless we wipe out every last bacteria, life will continue, and it has a natural tendency to fill every niche and ecosystem. It’ll happen again.”


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Hayden Fowler New World Order 2013 (still) High definition video, 15:17 min Artbank collection, purchased 2013


ANOTHER FUTURE: HAYDEN FOWLER’S ALTERNATIVE NATURE

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Photography and walking go hand in... foot. Armed with a camera, a keen eye and two legs, photographers are the pictorial flânuers of our time reflecting back to society their unique take on the life of a city. Sturgeon commissioned three photographers to document their walking trips to Artbank in either Perth, Sydney or Melbourne respectively.

Bo Wong

In the first of three specially commissioned photo essays, Bo Wong charts her journey from Fremantle through the suburbs to East Perth. Known for her interest in memory and marking time, Wong captures a range of idiosyncratic retro interiors and artefacts as she makes her way to Artbank’s collection store, housed in Perth’s Hyatt Regency.


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BO WONG

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BO WONG

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BO WONG

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BO WONG

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I like dachshunds, you like chickens. George Egerton-Warburton David Capra in conversation

David Capra Throne Room (Wizard of Oz Intercession) 2013 Performance still Photography Alex Davies Courtesy of the artist


I LIKE DACHSHUNDS, YOU LIKE CHICKENS.

DAVID CAPRA: George, we both seem to be

I caught a whiff of trash wafting from a interested in working with animals. I like garbage truck across the street. A sense of dachshunds, you like chickens. Why? nostalgia and warmth came over me, as the smell took me back. I marveled at how such GEORGE EGERTON-WARBURTON: I’ve always a disgusting smell could make me feel so thought about the transactional relationship good. With the benefit of hindsight, I now between humans and animals, first in look at how this smell takes me to a time that agriculture, extensively and in an intensive, my education had groomed me for — my first domestic context. Lately it hasn’t been so position in the cogs of society. I had been much of an intention for animals to feature inadvertently tricked by capitalism in my work but they have emerged as role into enjoying the putrid smell of trash, models for a way of unmediated thinking. and I had lost control of my senses. Specifically, I made a video of a chicken I think of your work as being fairly observing a series of sculptures I made for it unmediated by any external influences. to interact with. The audio consisted of me Do you have any guidelines that determine imitating a burglar being attacked by a police aspects of your practice? What about the dog, as heard from a CB radio in my kitchen. animals? What are you making right now? After shaking hands with the burglar, it DC: What have I been doing? A few weeks was troubling to hear him run down by the ago I danced on polished concrete at dog, however I was also happy for the dog Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art being able to fulfill his instincts, and felt it for an entire day. Teena, my dachshund, necessary to empathise with both of them. joined me every hour for ten-minute In the video, the chicken was disinterested intervals to poke her head behind a green with both the sounds and the sculptures. curtain. I was extra careful with her. This drew on the limiting potential of It almost looked like a Sunday education and the way we are groomed into afternoon dog show. Usually Teena likes certain roles without our knowledge of it a bit of roughing up, rolling around with even happening. me, nipping at my ears. But we were in My first job after school was as a an institution and I knew it would take garbage man. Working in the heat all day just one phone call from a member of the and partying at night with my saved money public to alert the RSPCA. Teena, as the was the happiest time of my life. Years later, 35


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wall text said, was “a symbol of answered prayer”. I was given Teena when she was aged eight weeks old after making works called Prayers for a Sausage Dog (2011) — do you remember it? Teena and I performed a song and dance routine based on the throne room in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Oz is becoming more and more important to me of late. I have been a member of the ‘International Wizard of Oz Club’ since the age of seven, but lately I’m seeing its full potential. I’ve been working on some Oz ceramics. I remember you making ceramics about an imagined place? Or was it real? ge-w: I’ve never met Teena, but I would very much like to! The ceramics were for a micro-nation near the town of Kojonup that took its cue from the Principality of Hutt River. Someone described this new nation as a ‘pre-ruined utopia’. They were exhibited in the context of the nation’s piazza, with paintings hung on scaffold standing in for frescoed walls, and a fountain whose centrepiece was a wooden beam taken from the driveway of the Principality. When thinking back on that work which was in 2010, I am reminded of how important it was to travel to the Principality and the new nation. These are really places for thinking. This also reminds me of your experience with the church and their dialogue surrounding The Wizard of Oz. I’d like to hear that story again! dc: It’s nice to hear you talk about nations. I am in the middle of making a design for a carpet with imagery from Oz accompanied with the words ‘the nations’. It’s like a prayer carpet that will be used to come to alliance and agreeance with kingdoms unseen.

The church you are talking about is Jubilee International Church in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I developed a work called Year of Jubilee (2011) for the curatorial project ‘High and Lofty: The Ecclesiastical Banner Project’ (2011) where you developed a silk banner made from a photograph taken on your family farm of a sheep wearing a sheep skin (now hanging above my bed). I worked alongside church members to develop content for banners that I made. I eventually filmed the church using them in a Sunday morning worship service. To my surprise, they identified The Wizard of Oz as having huge prophetic significance for the year. This included making connections between the Cowardly Lion and the Lion of Judea — King David’s tribe in the Old Testament, and the film’s relationship with the number seventy. (It was the film’s seventieth anniversary at the time and promotional displays where everywhere). The number seven is the most significant biblical number, signifying seven-fold blessings. I even watched the film being screened in the church in front of the congregation on screens usually set aside for lyrics to sing-a-long songs. It was amazing to watch the film unfold, like watching it for the first time; the cyclone became the glory of God whisking Dorothy to the ‘Third Heaven’, the melting of the witch was good triumphing over evil on an all together whole new level, with the Lion’s roar making the congregation quiver. It was riveting.

left David Capra Prayers for a Sausage Dog II 2011 Plasticine, clay, cardboard, 53 x 61 cm Courtesy of the artist opposite George Egerton-Warburton Steaming ties 2013 (detail) Stainless steel, HD video, mixed media, dimensions variable Photography Nick Roux Courtesy of the artist following George Egerton-Warburton ALIVE DEAD ALIVE 2011 Digital print on satin, 50 x 80 cm Courtesy of the artist


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Bellevue Hill House

Interior designers Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke from Arent & Pyke selected some of the best furniture and contemporary art for this architecturally considered residence in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill.


BELLEVUE HILL HOUSE

Photography Tom Ferguson Architect Tzannes Associates Interiors Arent & Pyke Featuring works from the Artbank collection by Simryn Gill, Julie Harris, Michelle Hanlin, Gemma Smith and Tracy Luff. (Artwork credits p 5)

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30 Years Ago Today: 1980–2013 Djon Mundine

In 1980, the judges of the Archibald Prize decided that the standard was so low that they couldn’t pick a winner — Australia would have no image of itself that year. Times have changed. Although a cathartic age grading ritual most often takes place around puberty (eleven or twelve years of age) in Aboriginal society, my experience is that males do not ‘grow up’ and become real adults, until they are around thirty years old. Certainly that’s when they come of age as artists across all the various forms.

Richard Bell Always Right 2003 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 136 x 103 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2005


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Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula Untitled (Tingari Ceremony) 1982 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 123 x 78 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1983


30 YEARS AGO TODAY: 1980–2013

Historically, Aboriginal art was made of temporary materials and existed experientially — it was made for a shared experience and collaborative effort. It was not for solitary contemplation but sharing in a number of social settings and readings. A lending bank of art rather than a cathedral or crypt for dead things would to some degree be in keeping with this approach. In 1980 I had just started working on Milingimbi Island (Yurrwi) in central Arnhem Land. At that stage, although it beggars belief, you almost couldn’t give Aboriginal art away except as curious gifts to foreign dignitaries and visiting trade delegations. At the end of the 1970s an Aboriginal art company I worked for tried to break the resistance — we orchestrated an exhibition of Tiwi ironwood sculptures (marketed as a type of cubism) and small, geometric composition, Pintubi art board paintings (sold as a form of pointillist abstraction) in a contemporary commercial art gallery. It was a success, but this wasn’t the norm. For Aboriginal people there was never an explicit word for art. Art is a cultural expression; a history of a people; a statement through a series of life experiences of selfdefinition; a recounting of an untold story; the bringing to light a truth of history — a statement possibly unable to be made in any other way. Aboriginal art (paintings at least) is seen as part of Australian art even if somewhat incongruously in an art historical and intellectual sense. As with nearly all Aboriginal art, paintings are usually personal and event-oriented. A painter traditionally works in subject matter specifically related to his or her own history, spiritual connection or for particular rituals. The paintings, whether on bark, earth, rock or canvas, or their own bodies, are a form of canta storia — a singer in this society almost lives his or her whole life going from one ritual to another across the land. In Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel The Martian Chronicles (1950), after a period of colonisation and the death of the original Martians, the occupying colonial population encounters its own plague in the form of a nuclear war back on Earth. When the population on Mars is evacuated to Earth, the few people who remained wander along the ‘canals of Mars’. The adult male among them gestures to their reflection in the water and says: “Look there are the martians.” The term ‘liminal’ means a threshold, belonging to the point of conscious awareness below which something cannot be experienced or felt. Non-Aboriginal Australians periodically approach the awareness that they are not living in Europe, that they are not even living in a colony of Europe anymore, but are now living in their own homeland. As each particular generation draws within reach of this point they suddenly, inexplicably, fall back, almost recoiling in terror that they could become so independently human. We cannot blame the English anymore. I think the history of Aboriginal art has a number of overlapping, blurred edge phases; it is market driven and of European historical conceit on one side, and the offering up of icons, ideas, and possibly a moral-memory insistence on 47

the (Aboriginal) other. It is a discovery of the many Aboriginal societies, one by one, by the European colonisers. Many if not most public collections mirror this awakening movement to varying degrees. Firstly, there was the period from the beginning of time — (49,999 year BPI) about the time of the first people. The period is from when creative spirits began the world through to the arrival of the English in Australia and on to the end of the Second World War. The second phase was the ‘discovery’ of bark paintings from what is now known as Arnhem Land in the north of Australia, with the proposition that Aboriginal art is art with a capital ‘A’, and possibly that it is contemporary art. It is the time when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones came to Australia. It is the time that Aboriginal people were recognised as human beings in the Australian population census and received the right to vote as citizens of the nation following the 1967 referendum. In 1957 Aboriginal artists were named in exhibitions for the first time. Until that time, Aboriginal artists were un-named in art exhibitions (with a few exceptions such as watercolourist Albert Namatjira). In 1958 the Art Gallery of New South Wales started to collect bark paintings and Aboriginal art left ethnographic museums and became a form of fine art. The fact that these artworks are similar in form to Western art (portable paintings on a flat surface) assists this recognition. A discussion took place, trying to fit Aboriginal art into the system and history of Western art. Ensuing questions included: is it ‘Surrealist’; is it ‘Cubist’; is it ‘Minimalist’? Nothing definitive was arrived at and today the art still remains in the art gallery, if a little uncomfortably. One of course should realise that when we talk of art, when we learn about art, when we see art, it is ‘White Western’ art history framed by ‘White Western’ art institutions. A non-Aboriginal, non-Australian curator once privately raised a number of issues with me. Firstly, that Aboriginal art isn’t developmental; secondly, Aboriginal art is too selfreferential; thirdly, Aboriginal art references aren’t current; and fourthly, Aboriginal art is not influential to other art. All of these comments are debatable and refutable if one sees art as something also practiced outside of the Western art world and market. Aboriginal artists in Arnhem Land were incorporating and absorbing influences from Macassan visitors in their language, music, songs and visual art for over one hundred years by the time Captain Cook arrived in this part of the world in 1770. Our Aboriginal art didn’t need to go through the ‘camera’ representational shock that beset Europe in the late 1800s. In Australia, our reading and meaning of our compositions were certainly current as evidence in land claims and native title cases. The legal repercussions from these cases eventually influenced international law. Save your pity for those who have no dreaming (morality-sense of spirituality). Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, The Australian, 1997


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The third phase was the beginning of the western desert ‘dot and circle’ painting on canvas movement at Papunya, northwest of Alice Springs, from the early 1970s onwards. It is the time of the Whitlam government, the time of a type of jingoism, nationalism, and liberalism in the arts and broader society. It was also the time of Australian comic figure Bazza McKenzie, and still essentially assimilationist in attitude. The rhetorical question was asked: ‘Why wouldn’t Aborigines want to become part of Australian society; God’s own country?’ Although anthropologists and others had collected drawings on paper, cardboard and other flat surfaces for some time, these were seen as curiosities and not art. In the early 1970s, the artists of Papunya moved from ochre paints and discarded carpenter’s off-cuts to acrylic commercial paints, art board and fine canvases — they were sold as ‘art’, if somewhat unsuccessfully at the time. By the end of the 1970s the artists were working on fine large-scale canvas compositions. Discussions arose around the question of what to ‘name’ this art movement. Attempts were made to define the movement as pointillist, religious, spiritual, narrative, abstract and have now fallen back to ‘modernist’, but without really fitting the description suitably. Nothing is ever concluded — it just is art! As such, it is included in various major exhibitions. The form of acrylic paint on canvas and apparent similarities to popular ‘pointillism’ makes the art a very marketable product in a commercial sense. Its development is still unfolding and being played out. The ‘dot and circle’ painting movement became more widespread, exciting and popular in the market. More significantly, it was the most important Australian art movement of the twentieth century. All other movements have come to Australia from elsewhere. The fourth phase comes in the early 1980s, the time of the birth of Artbank. This was a time of the re-emergence of art from the southeast of Australia and the beginning of what is now called ‘urban Aboriginal art’ (a description hotly disputed by the artists themselves). Around this time two Australian films, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978) and My Brilliant Career (1979), pointed to where Aboriginal art would move from here: to an art practice of increasing numbers of women and people of the south east and south west. Although Aboriginal people in the south east have expressed themselves in a number of practices, their work was never seen widely as ‘art’ but as a kind of craft practice or folk art. Under the influence of postcolonial writing, artists of the 1980s who attended Western art schools now use Western materials, concepts and references to some extent to tell their Aboriginal story. The arrival in Australia of postcolonial writings helped position the art produced during this phase. During this time the first Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award began in 1984. Jody Broun was the first ‘southern’ artist to win first prize ten years later in 1998. Southern artists would win again with Richard Bell in 2003 and Danie Mellor in 2009.

Shunned by commercial galleries and art institutions, a group of artists formed the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in 1987 (Bronwyn Bancroft, Euphemia Bostock, Brenda L Croft, Fiona Foley, Fernanda Martins, Arone Raymond Meeks, Tracey Moffatt, Avril Quaill, Michael Riley and Jeffery Samuels). Following his Telstra award, Richard Bell formed the artist collective proppaNOW with a number of other Brisbane based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The fifth phase, from the 1990s, is where Aboriginal people began to curate, write about and gain a small amount of control over the marketing and ‘reading’ of our own culture. This has had mixed results. This phase really had begun in the late 1980s with the previously aforementioned Boomalli group who curated their own exhibitions. Later in 1994 I collaborated with Fiona Foley (Boomalli co-founding member) at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art to curate ‘Tyerabarbowarryaou II: I Shall Never Become a Whiteman II’ for the fifth Havana Biennial, installed at the International Press Centre in Havana, Cuba, and later at the MCA, Sydney on its return. In this same period, from 1994 to 1995, activists Gary Foley and Chicka Dixon collaborated with Swiss born artist Bernhardt Lutthi at The Power Institute (University of Sydney) and Boomalli members, to curate the survey exhibition, ‘Aratjara: the Art of the First Australians’. Funded almost entirely from overseas money and with little Australian government involvement, it avoided ethnographic institutions and toured to contemporary art museums in Germany, England and Denmark to wide acclaim. Throughout the twentieth century and into the twentyfirst, Aboriginal art has been, whether intentionally or not, whether overtly or implicitly, a decisive political tool. Possibly all art is a dead thing — not the real thing but a dead representation of it. By the 1990s some saw a field of power and authority in academic circles relating to the study of Aboriginal art. I felt a form of new colonialism developed over the Aboriginal ‘corpse’. Three academic houses are involved in this struggle: the ‘House of Anthropology’ (bark paintings and traditional art forms); the ‘House of Western Art History’ (central Australian ‘dot and circle’ paintings); and the ‘House of Gender Studies’ (moving image and digital media). A sixth phase of Aboriginal art is currently taking place in which ‘the Empire strikes back’, as conservative vested interest groups in the art market and white Australian society see Aboriginal social and political gains as a threat. There is a wish to retain control of the discussion and definition of Aboriginal art. Although we are visible through our art what is the place we have come to? The debate continues.

references Interview with Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula in “Master painter will settle for a Toyota”. The Weekend Australian, 5-6 July 1997: 5.


30 YEARS AGO TODAY: 1980–2013

following Gadalminy Untitled (The Tree Log) before 1980 Ochres on bark, 135 x 55 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1981 Robert Campbell Jnr. Roped-Off at the Pictures II 1986 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 93.5 x 122.5 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1987

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Tony Albert Optimism 3, 5 and 6 2008 Type C photographs, 105 x 105 cm (each) Artbank collection, purchased 2009


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30 YEARS AGO TODAY: 1980–2013

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Earth Born Caroline Rothwell Tim Flannery in conversation

Caroline Rothwell Attendants (after Schongauer) 2012 Britannia metal, hardware and plywood, 200 x 182 x 192 cm Installation view, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne Courtesy of the artist


EARTH BORN

CAROLINE ROTHWELL:

TIM FLANNERY:

As an artist, I feel like I’m witnessing the most extraordinary time.

I feel like I’m seeing a new Earth born. One with a brain and conscious control over its various systems.

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cr: Our innate traits are laid bare for scrutiny in some speeded-up timeframe.

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tf: In the past ice ages, asteroids and greenhouse gases have altered Earth. Now, for the first time ever, a common consciousness may be brought into play to regulate Earth’s metabolism.


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cr: The consequences of the battle between our self-centred versus communal psychology will be witnessed within our own lifetimes.

tf: Earth reminds me of a newborn baby. It has a brain and a body but they’re not coordinated. That takes lots of learning.

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cr: At the moment I’m fascinated by the geoengineering devices being developed in relation to climate change. The way that some of the technology is being presented is kind of magical and a bit Baron Munchausen-esque.

tf: The history of geoengineering is even more Munchausenesque than its current manifestation. In the 1960s Soviet and American scientists considered how they might warm the north by using hydrogen bombs to destroy the Arctic ice cap.

cr: The romance of cloud imagery, vast oceans, gently falling rain can lull us (and I imagine potential investors) into thinking that these technologies can be our saviour.

tf: Today geoengineering is at least focused on undoing the harm unconsciously done through burning fossil fuels.


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cr: Maybe too big a question but this technological ‘planetary war’ (as James Hansen calls it) on nature seems counter-intuitive.

tf: The truth is we’ve been geoengineering for decades but have not owned up to it. Our burning of so much fossil fuel has been a vast, uncontrolled experiment with Earth’s atmosphere, and it is now having consequences.

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cr: Is some radical re-manifestation of the natural world on the cards or in the end is it really down to the mind-blowingly complex idea of humanity adjusting its behaviour through global legislation?

1 Caroline Rothwell Murray Darling Vista 2012 Digital print of car exhaust emission drawings on PVC canvas, 25.5 x 36 cm Courtesy of the artist

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tf: So what should we do? Say that geoengineering to date should be allowed to play out, or do something to avert it?

2 Caroline Rothwell Tasmanian Torrent Midge (Edwardsina tasmaniensis) 2013 Car exhaust emission, synthetic polymer binder and 23 carat gold on canvas, 25.5 x 36 cm Courtesy of the artist

3 Caroline Rothwell Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza Phrygia) 2013 Car exhaust emission, synthetic polymer binder and 23 carat gold on canvas, 25.5 x 36 cm Courtesy of the artist


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Photography and walking go hand in... foot. Armed with a camera, a keen eye and two legs, photographers are the pictorial flânuers of our time reflecting back to society their unique take on the life of a city. Sturgeon commissioned three photographers to document their walking trips to Artbank in either Perth, Sydney or Melbourne respectively.

Garry Trinh

The second in Sturgeon’s commissioned photo essays sees Garry Trinh looking for magic in the mundane. On a journey from his home in the western suburbs to Artbank’s collection store in Rosebery, Trinh delights in the quirks of suburban life, from driveways to dead plants.


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GARRY TRINH

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The 1980s Art World: My Generation is History Catharine Lumby

When French philosopher Jean Baudrillard arrived in Sydney to present a keynote at the Futur*Fall conference in 1984 he must have thought he had stepped into a parallel universe. A short, middle-aged and unassuming man, he was received like a pop star. After delivering a lecture to a standing room only crowd, he was whisked off to the Berlin Club, a hypertrendy club in the city, where he stood, looking bewildered, as his fans hit the dance floor to Madonna. Baudrillard was then little known outside of France. His complex and frequently obscure prose had however, gone viral among a group of Australian intellectuals and artists, with translations circulating in small independently published magazines such as Art & Text, On the Beach, Tension and Frogger. It was a time when art catalogues and undergraduate humanities essays brimmed with references to poststructuralist philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida. References to French feminist theory, heavily laced with psychoanalysis, were also de rigeur. The art world acted as a filter and a fulcrum for complex debates about post-Marxism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism.

Catharine Lumby, 1981 Photography John Ferris


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To delve back into the small magazines of the time, as I did while writing this essay, is to be plunged back into an era when contemporary art was central to philosophical and political debate in the humanities. The quality of analysis was highly variable, with emerging writers (this one included) prone to intellectual posturing and pretentious prose. The plethora of small magazines gave writers and critics still on their training wheels a platform to conduct their education in public. I once interviewed the artist John Nixon and asked him the following: “I would like you to comment more specifically on the idea that the advent of non-objective art was ultimately a kind of interiorised imitation.” Say what? I wish I could blame the poor quality of drugs in the 1980s but unfortunately I was too busy studying for my law exams to take any. Critical juvenilia to one side, the 1980s was a decade which saw important writers and thinkers publishing, translating and critiquing key twentieth century philosophers and bringing them to a small but significant audience, among them Edward Colless, Paul Foss, Elizabeth Grosz, Alan Cholodenko and Paul Patton. In relation to the art and film world, two were critical: Meaghan Morris and Paul Taylor. Morris, who remains one of Australia’s most influential humanities thinkers, stands out for her ability to combine passionate and erudite engagement in critical debates with a reflective eye for the politics and ethics of that engagement. Her book The Pirate’s Fiancée: Feminism, Reading, Postmodernism (1989) is a key intellectual guide to the cultural, political and philosophical debates of the time. Morris studied in Paris at the

University of Paris VIII in the mid-1970s and returned to Australia with fluent French and a deep understanding of continental philosophy. She carved out a public intellectual presence reviewing films in the Sydney Morning Herald (1979–81) and the Australian Financial Review (1981–85). Her interventions into debates about poststructuralist philosophy, politics, art and film studies, were also highly influential for emerging writers and critics, including McKenzie Wark, Ross Gibson, Rex Butler, Ross Harley, Adrian Martin, Helen Grace, Colin Hood, and Kathy Bail. In his book The Virtual Republic (1997), Wark assesses the legacy of Morris’s contribution to debates of the time in this way: What determined the fate of 1980s postmodernism and consigned its chalky remains to dusty milk crates was something that Meaghan Morris saw coming, if nobody else did — that the temporary culture of little magazines, artspaces and quasi-left wing movements that were its habitat would give way to a more rationally ordered and ‘disciplined’ cultural life. The institutions of the media, the subsidised art world and the academy absorbed postmodernism into its feature pages, catalogue essays and course lists. (110) It’s an observation we will return to. Before we do, though it’s worth taking a detour to Melbourne and to the critical role that art critic and cultural entrepreneur Paul Taylor played in theoretical debates about visual culture in the 1980s. Taylor was a charismatic and prescient figure who curated an exhibition titled ‘Popism’ at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1982. As art historian Mick Carter observed, Taylor’s curatorial essay was a prelude to a “sustained meditation upon the rise of mechanical reproduction and its implications for high art, specifically for high art in Australia.” (70) Carter’s analysis points to something very specific that was happening alongside the art scene: the merging of art culture and pop culture in both theory and practice. If 1970s artists were emerging from, or still entrenched in debates about how best to dematerialise the ‘bourgeois’ art object, a new generation of writers and artists was toying with the legacy of Duchamp and Warhol. Taylor, Adrian Martin and Philip Brophy were among the writers and artists who, as Carter observes, were “the first to attempt to theorise and practice within the configuration of popular film, science fiction, mass graphics and pop music.” (72) It was precisely this promiscuous intermingling of pop culture, art and theory that in retrospect, distinguished and energised humanities intellectual and political culture in the 1980s. Wark again: If the coming of the Olympics to Australia [in 1956] was meant to signal our ‘modernity’, the fact that it was at least experimentally televised was for Taylor a mark of a ‘postmodernity’ to come. He speaks to and from a generation that grew up in television’s pixilated light, dwelling in the shadows of its silent majorities, aggregated as consumers of spectacle but otherwise devoid of consensus. (95) On one hand of course, there was nothing new about a promiscuous mingling of art and pop. The use of quotidian


THE 1980S ART WORLD: MY GENERATION IS HISTORY

above On the Beach (cover) Eds. Catharine Lumby and David Messer Issue 12, 1987 opposite Art & Text (cover) Ed. Paul Taylor Issue 7, Spring 1982

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following Jenny Watson Evening in Europe c.1989 Oil on linen, 124 x 175 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1992


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and popular elements dates back at least to Duchamp but it was not until mass media reached saturation point that we saw the rise of Pop artists such as Richard Hamilton, Robert Rauschenberg and the master himself, Andy Warhol. Robert Rauschenberg put it plainly when he said in 1962: I was bombarded with TV sets and magazines, by the refuse, by the excess of the world... I thought that if I could paint or make an honest work, it should incorporate all of these elements, which were and are a reality. (Hughes 345) The inflection that Paul Taylor and the artists he championed brought to this history was a recognition that for many Australian artists and critics art was almost entirely learned from reproductions on slides, and in books and magazines. In the first edition of Art & Text, Taylor wrote: The Australian study of art-history is based on the premise that the specific individual will transcend his or her socially assigned and geographically localized situation by ignoring the ersatz nature of the actual, not idealized, subject (for instance, that reproductions and not originals are being studied). (53) Taylor’s interest was not so much in the way art incorporated popular culture but in the way popular culture had so thoroughly embraced and mediated art and, in the process, transformed the aesthetic experience. Taylor’s key achievement was to see Australia not as a cultural periphery in relation to the rise of postmodern art, with its self-conscious pastiche and appropriation, but as a country positioned at the vanguard of this artistic vision. It was a flipping of the cultural cringe and a not too subtle flip of the finger at the pleasure-denying fashion-policing elements of the post-Marxist perspective on art which dominated the 1970s. The superficial, the temporary, the popular and the inauthentic were positive elements of Australian art in Taylor’s frame of reference. Like many writers and critics of my generation, born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, this valorisation of the pleasurable and the popular was intensely liberating after a humanities education that emphasised the political at the expense of the aesthetic. It was a license as a young feminist to wear red lipstick with my Doc Martens — a confirmation that appearances did matter and that lots of fun could be had with them. In Melbourne, there were plenty of young guns taking up Taylor’s challenge: key among them was Ashley Crawford who worked with Ray Edgar producing Tension, an accessible yet intelligent magazine that blended high theory, contemporary art and pop culture. The art world of the 1980s was not however, always a playful place. As the decade wore on, writing art criticism came to seem at least to me, a somewhat oppressive exercise in ‘applying’ theory to art. There were, of course, always critics and artists who stood to one side of the contemporary art world, in some cases sneering. John McDonald carried on a long-running feud in the late 1980s and early nineties with key contemporary artists and critics, often in his Sydney Morning Herald column. It’s worth disclosing that McDonald

has always been explicit in his contempt for my writing and criticism but I don’t return the disdain. Personally, I view McDonald as a reminder that there has always been a conservative streak in Australian art criticism which is sometimes a necessary corrective to the excessive claims which can accompany new modes of making art and writing about it. The legacy of the turn to the popular that was embedded in the 1980s resulted in a noticeable broadening in the writing styles and focus of many critics and public intellectuals of my generation, drawing us away from an avant-gardist focus and into an engagement with popular culture and popular politics. Kathy Bail began editing Rolling Stone and published a seminal collection of essays on feminism, DIY Feminism (1996). McKenzie Wark wrote The Virtual Republic, which contains the singular best account of intellectual culture and cults in the 1980s and early nineties. In 1997, I published Bad Girls, an account of feminist debates about the representation of women in popular media. That same year Melbournebased cultural critic Mark Davis published Gangland. Sophie Cunningham, who was then a publisher at Allen and Unwin, shaped many of the key books in this period. High theory writing was transplanted, or perhaps more accurately merged, with a more anecdotal and accessible style. As so often happens, the niched zones of contemporary art and arty literature unquestionably spawned a new generation of public intellectuals and writers. In the academy, Cultural Studies was on the rise — the legacy of Stuart Hall and the Birmingham school. It was a shift in theoretical emphasis that saw many academics, intellectuals and writers focusing more on the culture of everyday life in an engaged and situated way. As McKenzie Wark argues, cultural studies at its best was not a simplistic celebration of the popular, rather it was about paying attention to the way different communities receive culture and how they make meaning of it. He writes: “I don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of useful work in getting feminism and cultural studies beyond the fantasy stage happened through studying the media, which is where the people who are the public meet the thing that are public concerns”. (172) The turn to cultural studies marked a turn not only to the popular and everyday as objects of study but equally a turn away from a self-referential, ahistorical approach to theorising. Reading into cultural studies gave me a new way of thinking about the application of theoretical concepts: it gave me a desire to put wheels on ideas, rather than simply shining them and leaving them on a catalogued shelf. My reflections on the 1980s art world, art criticism and intellectual debate are necessarily partial. Or to put it more bluntly: what do I know about the 1980s? My hair was too big, my skirts were too short, my shirts were too loud and what was with the black lipstick? We all rewrite history and no doubt I’ve left some key critics and thinkers out of this essay. But I also think it’s time that people of my generation start to write the first draft of our own history.


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references Carter, Mick. “From Red Centre To Black Hole”. Ed. Andrew Frankovits. Seduced and Abandoned: The Baudrillard Scene. Sydney and New York: Stonemoss and Semiotext(e), 1984: 63–81. Hughes, Robert. The Shock of the New. London: Thames and Hudson, 1991. Taylor, Paul. “Special Section: Introduction”. Art & Text. 1.1. 1981: 51–56. Wark, McKenzie. The Virtual Republic: Australia’s Culture Wars of the 1990s. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1997.

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Howard Arkley Printout 1981 Acrylic on canvas, 164 x 164 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1981


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Motion Blur Patricia Piccinini Jacqueline Millner in conversation

Patricia Piccinini Sacrifice 1996 Digital Type C photograph, 130 x 130 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1997


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JACQUELINE MILLNER: Cast your mind

back seventeen years ago to when you made Sacrifice from the 1996 series ‘Your Time Starts Now’. What were you thinking about? PATRICIA PICCININI: Well, around 1996 was

when scientists working on DNA research announced that they were embarking on the full mapping of the human genome. I’ve always been really interested in the body and how technology interacts with it. I still am. I was interested in how this research would change how we perceive the body, and what control it might grant us over the body, especially in terms of progeny. That whole project (‘The Mutant Genome Project’, of which Sacrifice was a part) was about the idea that you could design your own progeny. What would they be like, how would it work, and to what extents would you go? Could it become a kind of consumer medicine? The project was also about mimicry, that is to say mimicking the aesthetics and approach of the commercial world. It was about imagining how that technology might operate in the real world. I was working with this narrative, whereby I created a company that was selling babies. And I was pushing this idea out to its logical extremes, exploring what would a made-to-order baby look like, and how would you market it. However, 75

I was also twisting it by thinking about the design in terms of ‘engineering’ rather than traditional aesthetics. Using that sort of narrative or aesthetic is not the way that I work now: but I’m interested in the same issues. JM: So how did you decide what the

perfect designer baby would look like?

PP: I knew that it would have to have lots of

eyes, as humans are visual beings! And it would have to be ‘cute’, all head basically, to invite nurture and care. I thought about what would make it most adaptive and long living. At the time I was making this work, my mother had just passed away from stomach cancer, so I designed the genetically engineered baby or LUMP (Lifeform with Unevolved Mutant Properties) to have no stomach. So you can see that even though the work had something humorous and ironic about it, it was also pretty sincere. JM: And how did you decide to market

this ‘new product’?

PP: I didn’t want to make images that looked

like ‘art’: rather I wanted to destabilise the way that viewers normally interpret art, and to make them wonder what they were looking at. So, the work needed a ‘real world’


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person, someone the audience recognised and could relate to. At the time, the actress Sophie Lee was very much in the public eye, and on television in an advert selling cars. It was really appropriate to have her in the work, so people might think: ‘Oh, she’s selling something’. Also, I particularly chose her because she has a lovely demeanour and people really like her; she’s beautiful but not haughty, and in her work she’s always sincere. All this was important to what I was looking for. I went up to her at our local pool one day, and she was immediately interested in the project. She was great to work with, she could portray all that 1950s housewifely pride that I asked of her, but with sincerity and charm. jm: Was this a new way of working for you? pp: Yes, absolutely. For one, pretty much up till then my work had been mainly drawings. But this project was also the first time that I had worked with other people. That was a huge leap. Since then, it’s become my main way of working. jm: Let’s move on to talk about 1.00.613 (from ‘Sheen’) that you made in 1998. What issues informed this series? pp: I’ve always been interested in automotive aesthetics and culture, which often revolves around the depiction of speed. In this work I experimented with recognisable signs of speed, in particular by inserting analogue motion blur into the digital image. I was also working with another long-standing interest of mine, namely the allure of surface and the superficial, and how this intersects with our ideas of the body. I wanted to use a real body but in an idealised form to explore these links, a real body idealised to the point of abstraction. At the time, the Sydney Olympics were three years out, and there was a lot of hype about the preparation of Australian athletes for optimal performance: again, the intersection between the body and technology. I’d heard that Australia was developing a super-bike to boost its chances in the cycling, so as part of my research for ‘Sheen’ I went to talk to an aerodynamics engineer at RMIT University. He was specifically designing a bike for Shane Kelly, Australia’s number one cycling star back then [world champion in the 1000 metre time trial]. Shane was a very interesting character: one of Australia’s big gold medal hopes for the 1996 Olympics, he went into the event as race favourite, but slipped in his pedal at the start and came undone: it was a moment of human error that defined his public image from then on. I got Shane to model for the series and like Sophie, he was wonderful to work with: he had exactly what I was looking for, a technologically enhanced body on the verge of becoming pure form. The title of the work refers to Shane’s real opponent: the time he had to beat.

jm: What links the two works together in your mind? pp: Both Sacrifice and 1.00.613 share conceptual and aesthetic aspects to do with the relationships between surface and form, technology and the body, but they also both use celebrities to explore this — celebrities of course also being a blend of pure representation and real body. And they were iconically Australian too. When I made these, I was probably more interested in popular culture that I am now, but in some ways my work keeps coming back to that, both to iconic people and to pop culture. I’ve just recently worked on an album cover for Gotye, as part of the campaign to save live music in Australia. Interestingly, the song he’s recorded for the benefit album is Quasimodo’s Dream, The Reels’s moving rendition of teenage angst through the metaphor of a ‘monster’. And I was delighted when the public commission I just made for Canberra’s centenary, a hot air balloon called Skywhale (2013), ended up in a political cartoon about paid parental leave. In this way, you could say that my early interest in pop culture has come full circle. jm: In what ways do you think Sheen and Sacrifice are still feeding into your practice? pp: Take Sphinx (2012) and the LUMP from ‘The Mutant Genome Project’ (1996) that Sophie cradles in Sacrifice, for example. In the new work [first exhibited in London at Haunch of Venison in November 2012] the body is represented as protean and mutable, as endlessly generative, and changeable to suit our needs and desires. This idea also underpins LUMP. Both Sphinx and LUMP are ‘monsters’ — logical extensions of this desire to adapt the body. But whereas LUMP is more of an abstraction, Sphinx evokes bodily flesh with much greater realism: a refinement of my approach as an artist. The ‘Sheen’ series directly fed into my sculptural wall works that play on the appeal of surface aesthetics, and even into works like The Stags (2008), with the idea that technology is increasingly natural, that machines have a life cycle that is close to animals. So, you can see there is a real continuity to my ideas, although how I work with them has changed, and been refined, over time.

Patricia Piccinini Skywhale 2013 Hot air balloon, commissioned for The Centenary of Canberra Courtesy of the artist and the Australian Capital Territory Government

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Patricia Piccinini 1.00.613 (4) 1998 Digital Type C photograph, 120 x 240 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1998


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock

Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny Pittock, I’m a 25 year old Melbourne artist. Hi. If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossovers and contradictions between the public and the personal. One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)


So ok, one example of what I mean would be last year when I made a painting and then installed it on the outside wall of my local bank.

Not necessarily for art, just for fun. I also like to try this with other people’s work. For instance last month I installed a painting by my friend and mentor Lisa Radford onto the front of a train seat while I was taking it to a gallery.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock I guess because of photos like these, yesterday I was given the amazing opportunity to have a look through the Melbourne Artbank collection store, and respond to a selection of works. Not only that, but I was also provided with both a photographer and a two person art handling crew. A bit of a change from just doing it all myself.

Choosing the ten works was really hard. The Artbank collection has so great stuff. To help make choosing a bit easier I limited Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny much Pittock, I’m a 25 year my selection to Melbourne artists.

old Melbourne artist. Hi.

The first works I chose were The Kiss Part 1 and 4 by Anastasia Klose. series of photographs depicting the artist kissing a man in If you asked me to describe my art I guessThe I’dKiss sayis athat it plays front of a handwritten sign that reads ‘FREE KISSES. MAN, WOMAN, with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian CHILD, AND DOG. ALL WELCOME’. The sign also explains that the kisses will be photographed iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the cross- by Klose’s mum.

overs and contradictions between the public and the personal. I’m a big fan of Anastasia Klose and when I saw that Artbank had

The Kiss in their collection I joked that I should probably kiss her in front ofand it. Thepaintings next day I had an email from Artbank explaining that One of the main things I do is make sculptures they’d contacted Klose and that she’d agreed to come in on the day at of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice iskiss. opposite 9.30am for the proposed Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with

documenting those works within their typical context.

Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)

Anastasia Klose, The Kiss Part 4 2011, Digital print, 103.5 x 144 x 4 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 2012

My goal was to try and document ten artworks in five hours.


I’d never met Anastasia Klose and I was nervous. Despite my nerves I figured that if I was going to do this then I should do it right, so I arranged for my mum to also come to Artbank at 9.30am. I didn’t explain to mum why I wanted her there until after she’d arrived. But so ok, it happened, here’s a photo of me kissing Anastasia Klose in front of her work, taken by my mum.

It was a weird situation, but it went much more smoothly than my first kisses usually go. I should get Artbank to organise all my future makeout sessions. Having had my kiss, and because the handwritten sign in Klose’s work specifically welcomes dogs, I brought out Perri, my Maltese cross Shih Tzu.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock

Puppy love. Now that Perri and I had had our Klose encounters it was time to sink my teeth into nine other artworks. Having built up a hard earned thirst, the next work I chose was a painting of a can of Victoria Bitter by Adam Pyett.

Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny Pittock, I’m a 25 year old Melbourne artist. Hi. If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossovers and contradictions between the public and the personal. One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)

Adam Pyett, Victoria Bitter, Lerderderg Gorge 2010, Oil on canvas, 137.5 x 98 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 2011

So if you don’t want to see it then Klose your eyes now, but here’s a photo taken by my mum of Anastasia Klose giving my pooch a smooch.


For this photograph I basically just sat on the ground outside a bottle shop as my art handling crew strutted the painting past me. I put on a singlet and beanie, opened a can and lit a cigarette. I don’t usually smoke but I happily did for this photograph. It was pretty early for a beer, but you know, you have to suffer for your art.

The Pyett is such a great painting and, unlike most things associated with VB, it looked even better in natural light. Unfortunately the ratio settings in our camera kept changing dimensions and so some of these photos are square instead of rectangle. I feel like I should point that out, unless of course you think it’s hip that some of the photos look cropped like Instagram, in which case sure, I did it on purpose.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock

There’s something otherworldly about On Holiday. It’s undeniably seductive, but it’s also completely artificial and the more I really think about it the more it just really creeps me out. A bit like porn. love to take On Holiday onto an actual plane, but I figured the next Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny I’d Pittock, I’m a 25 year best thing was to take it into a travel agent. old Melbourne artist. Hi.

If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossovers and contradictions between the public and the personal. One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)

Darren Sylvester, On Holiday 2010, Lightjet print, 120 x 160 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 2012

I think the composition of this next photo however, actually does benefit from being square. The piece I was documenting was On Holiday, a photograph by the haunting visual artist and musician, Darren Sylvester.


So here I am at Flight Centre, discussing the prices of flying to Perth while my art handling crew holds up the very heavy Darren Sylvester photograph behind me. Anyway, after a morning of kissing and drinking and smoking, I felt like I needed some culture and everybody knows that when a person needs culture, they don’t go on holiday, they watch a movie.

With this in mind, the next work I chose is titled Film Noir, a stunning work by Victoria Reichelt, an incredible painter who won the 2013 Sulman Prize. (Now I know I said that I was only documenting Melbourne artists, and Reichelt lives in Queensland, but I think it’s ok because her first name is Victoria).


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock

I was trying my hardest to look tough in front of a kid by pretending to a movie from the horror section, but really it’s just for show, Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny pick Pittock, I’m a 25 year I would never look in the horror section. Scary movies scare me and old Melbourne artist. Hi. I’ll probably have nightmares for weeks just from reading the titles. I might hire though is everyone’s favorite 1995 Pixar If you asked me to describe my art I guessOne I’dmovie say that it plays classic, Toy Story, which amazingly, the Blockbuster near Artbank with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and stillAustralian has on VHS. iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossovers and contradictions between the public and the personal.

One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)

Victoria Reichelt, Film Noir 2006, Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 2007

I took Film Noir into a Blockbuster video shop where I then posed for this cinematic photograph.


Marcel Cousins, Moments in Time #2 2007, Automotive paint on polyester resin, 38 x 57 x 41 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 2008

Mentioning Toy Story is my perfect segue into the next artwork: a killer sculpture of a large melted toy solider by Marcel Cousins.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock I bought a magnifying glass and my plan for the photo was to pretend to melt the sculpture, just like Sid, the baddie next-door neighbor from Toy Story. Because I was gonna be like Sid, I painted the same skull on my t-shirt and brought along my Buzz Lightyear action figure. So here’s me, as Sid, pretending to burn a hole in the forehead of Marcel Cousins’s work Moments in Time #2.

Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny Pittock, I’m a 25 year The day before the shoot I practiced on one of my toys. I’d never had old Melbourne artist. Hi. a magnifying glass before and didn’t realise how easy it is. I thought it only happened in cartoons. I’m gonna melt stuff all the time now.

If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays Before I could do anymore melting though I had to solider on to the with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and nextAustralian work, Pig Study by Greg Creek. iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossPig Study is so good, it’s nearly impossible to look at the painting overs and contradictions between the public and the personal. without smiling. One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)


Here’s a study I made of Pig Study.

Greg Creek, Pig Study 1989, Oil on canvas, 61 x 51 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 1991

And here’s Pig Study at the deli in a supermarket in St. Kilda, where Creek used to live.

All this pig handling made me hungry and so while trotting to the next location I sniffed out a bakery and bought an unusually sloppy steak and bacon pie. After pigging out on the pie I rubbed my saucy hands clean with what I thought was a tissue. It wasn’t until it was much too late that I realised I’d actually used one of my art handling gloves.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks

I guess I’m just not used to carrying art handling gloves. I got really embarrassed and stuffed the evidence into my back pocket before anyone could see. I went back to the car though and got myself a new pair from the glove box as the next work I chose was a painting on paper titled Demo Space by Melbourne art royalty, Howard Arkley.

Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny Pittock, I’m a 25 year old Melbourne artist. Hi. If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossovers and contradictions between the public and the personal. One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)

Howard Arkley, Demo Space 1994, Synthetic polymer paint on paper, 76 x 56 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 1994

Kenny Pittock


Not many Melbourne artists have their work reproduced more than Howard Arkley. Surrounding the Melbourne Artbank office is about ten of those high-end shops that sell frames and reproduction prints. In just about every one of them you can buy a Howard Arkley print. For this photo I picked a print shop that had three Howard Arkley reproductions hung in a row and in front of them I leant the real Howard Arkley painting. A ‘will the real Howard Arkley please stand up’ kind of situation.

It’s a pretty simple idea but I think this might be my favorite photo from yesterday, mainly because I love Howard Arkley and without Artbank I can’t imagine ever having the opportunity to have done this. The next photograph I also would never have been able to take is of this painting by Colin Parker of the Yarra River, taken of course at the Yarra River.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks

It was pretty exciting to compare the painting with the real thing. It was also nice to combine Artbank with the riverbank. My two favorite banks (except for Commonwealth obviously, you know, because they have my money). At this point I only had two photos to go. The day was going swimmingly and so to finish things off I decided to do a little swimming myself. The work I was getting in the water for was a watercolor painting by Ben Taylor. I think it might be my favorite artwork in the Artbank collection.

Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny Pittock, I’m a 25 year old Melbourne artist. Hi. If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossovers and contradictions between the public and the personal. One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings of contemporary objects, but also a big part of my practice is documenting those works within their typical context.

opposite Kenny Pittock at Flight Centre with Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010)

Colin Parker, The Yarra c.1980, Oil on plywood, 30 x 38 cm, Artbank collection, transferred from the National Collection 1982 Ben Taylor, Surf Swimmers 2003, Watercolour on paper, 67 x 98 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 2003

Kenny Pittock


(I’ve since learnt that Ben Taylor isn’t a Melbourne artist. Apparently Taylor is an artist based in some place called Canberra, although if you ask me Canberra sounds made up).

We took the painting to St. Kilda beach and as my art handling crew walked the painting along the pier, I dived into the freezing water and swam along beside it.


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Five Hours Ten Artworks Kenny Pittock After I got out of the water I took advantage of the size of the Ben Taylor painting by getting changed behind it. Once dry, we headed back to the Artbank headquarters and with one work to go we hung Fall of the Good Modernist, a breathtaking painting by the iconic Jon Cattapan. I’d had such a fun morning and the day had really cattapanned out well, but even still the whole time I’d been looking forward to taking this photo more than any other.

Hey, nice to meet you. My name’s Kenny Pittock, I’m a 25 year old Melbourne artist. Hi. If you asked me to describe my art I guess I’d say that it plays with linguistics, humor, sentimentality and Australian iconography, and I think what I’m interested in are the crossAnd so there you go, it turns out putting a cat in a pan isn’t only the overs and contradictions between the public and the personal. purrfect way to prepare delicious gourmet dim sims, but sometimes it can also be the pawfect way to respond to art.

One of the main things I do is make sculptures and paintings No my artworks were harmedis in the making of this project. Kenny Pittock gratefully opposite of contemporary objects, but also a big part of practice acknowledges the assistance of Artbank, Chapman, KennyMark Pittock at FlightCherie CentrePeele, with Mum, Anastasia Klose, Perri the dog and Lola the cat. www.kennypittock.com Darren Sylvester’s On Holiday (2010) documenting those works within their typical context.

Jon Cattapan, Fall of the Good Modernist 1991, Oil on canvas, 198 x 152 cm, Artbank collection, purchased 1992

So ok, as the grand finale, and possibly one of the highlights of my career, here’s me, standing in front of a Cattapan, while holding a cat, in a pan.


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In a Land Far, Fardoulys Away Daniel Mudie Cunningham

A lurid shock of candy-coated colour assaulted my retina the day I unexpectedly encountered Stampede under Aurora Australis (1971) by James Fardoulys. Located deep within the recesses of Artbank’s collection store I was on a quest for another work — one I now don’t recall. A temporary amnesia brought on no doubt by the visceral stage-dive that occurred when this action-packed painting greeted my imagination. Truth be told, it wasn’t the hectic rural stampede fairytail scene — complete with ‘flying saucer sky’ — that initially drew me in. Rudely, the picture had its back to me as I rifled through a group of similar sized paintings from the collection. And yet, the gorgeous cluster of inscriptions and labels denoting its rich provenance piqued my curiosity. The elegant typefaces of the past, the quaint markings of the artist’s hand, the journey from one art prize to another spelt out by various registration markings formed a preconception in my mind.

right James Fardoulys, 1971 Photography Robert Walker Courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW Research Library and Archive following James Fardoulys Stampeded Under Aurora Australis 1971 Oil on board, 76 x 91 cm Artbank collection, transferred from the National Collection 1982


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IN A LAND FAR, FARDOULYS AWAY

I was expecting a quaint still life or genre scene to unfurl as I turned it around. Instead I was confronted with a dazzling picture defying all expectations — one that literally made me laugh out loud — LOL, as it were — when surveying the tiny naïve masterpiece squatting benignly in a parking spot I’m sure it had inhabited, unmoved for years. It was an encounter I can only describe as being introduced to a future ex-boyfriend. I played it cool knowing what was revealed at face value shrouded a delicious mystery that made me want to get on Google and stalk his Facebook page. Recto: he had all the trashy glamor of a Saturday night on the town. Verso: he was a potential puzzle begging to be solved. All of a sudden, it was a he. Using my best curatorial stalking skills, I set to work on decoding this mystery. For starters, stuck verso was a label from the Art Gallery of New South Wales that said: “With the Compliments of the Director.” I chuckled imagining past AGNSW gallery directors deaccessing works by mailing them as ‘with compliments’ slips to acquaintances and friends. Imagined follies aside, the label aroused questions of its history. Initially I wondered if it had come compliments of the AGNSW! Of course it hadn’t — Stampede under Aurora Australis had been a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 1971, but shown off-site at what was then Farmers Blaxland Gallery and what is now Myer (this was the last Wynne exhibition to be staged elsewhere as AGNSW was under construction). Other verso tertiary inscriptions reveal the work had also been entered into the HC Richards Memorial Prize at the Queensland Art Gallery and the Royal National Agricultural & Industrial Association of Queensland. Not evident among these inscriptions was another prize entry — it had also been a finalist in Brisbane’s ‘Warana-Caltex Oil, Watercolour, Sculpture and Pottery Contest’. Fardoulys was a regular entrant after being awarded joint first prize (with Roy Churcher) in 1964. So frequent was Fardoulys an art prize entrant that he once remarked, with a flair for selfaggrandisement: “The only time I have had an open exhibition with open honest judges — I got first prize. Therefore I have been robbed seventeen times by corrupt administrators.” (Cooke 19) I know the feeling. Enriched with the knowledge of its exhibition and prize history, three pressing questions still hammered away in my busy brain. How did Artbank come to own this work? Who the hell is James Fardoulys? And why has this whole encounter cast this spell? In 2010, the Queensland Art Gallery mounted ‘James Fardoulys: A Queensland Naïve Artist’, the only retrospective of the artist’s work to date. Curated by Glenn R Cooke, the show included forty nine works spanning a period of 1961 to 1973. Seems like a short period of time for a major survey of an artist’s work. It is. The reason being James Fardoulys took up painting late in life after retiring from driving cabs around Brisbane for almost three decades. Self-taught aside from compulsory lessons in school, he dabbled in painting prior to 85


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retirement from his day job when he decided to — as quoted in a 1968 Australian Women’s Weekly article — “give the art a go”. (8) During his lifetime Fardoulys achieved a modicum of recognition, as either a ‘primitive’ or ‘naïve’ artist depending on the sophistication of the art writing. Certainly the eccentric approach to perspective, the unmixed colour and the fusion of historic and imagined scenes in his paintings are all the hallmarks of a naïve artist. Artist Roy Churcher was a fan who articulated the style of Fardoulys’s work: “The naïve painter is uninterested in painting, his interest is in pictures, and he uses his paintings solely as a vehicle to carry his memory visions. One never feels the style in which they are painted is consciously arrived at, but instead is again the result of conscious visual impregnation… What a marvelous cultural cross fertilization to see brumby, windmill and parrot take the old Greek gaze.” Reading up on Fardoulys I was presented with a man whose life was just as colourful as the palette he presented to the world. Born in 1900 in Patamos, a village on the island of Kythera in the Aegean, Fardoulys migrated to Australia 1914 and worked in cafes in various locations in New South Wales and Queensland before marrying a ventriloquist and joining her travelling troupe. Fardoulys eventually settled in Brisbane, raised a family and took to driving cabs. Like any reputable cabbie he became a local identity known to brag of famous fares like Prime Minister Robert Menzies. He was often photographed in a white singlet, cigarette in mouth. Women’s Weekly described him best: “Jim Fardoulys is a medium-sized nuggety man with dark hair and very bright dark brown eyes. He believes in comfort and doesn’t like shoes.” (8) In 1966 he staged his first one-man show, ‘Paintings and Drawings by James Fardoulys’ at Johnstone Gallery in Bowen Hills — an almost sell-out show. From then till the end of his life, Fardoulys received some success: he was collected by the National Gallery of Australia; had a small steady following with private collectors in Brisbane which extended to London when ex-pat Barry Humphries chanced upon his work and commissioned a portrait that was reproduced on Humphries’s 1968 book of Australian verse and which was hung in his London home. A painting even made its way to Oklahoma in the USA, returned only recently to the Fardoulys family via eBay. A year after his death, Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art honoured Fardoulys by showing a selection of works alongside the work of Charles Callins with the tagline: “a tribute to two distinguished naïve painters”. Stampede under Aurora Australis was not included in this exhibition because it had already been acquired for what was then referred to as the National Lending Collection, which formed the basis of Artbank when it was established in 1980. When Stampede under Aurora Australis was transferred to Artbank in 1982 it had been displayed at the Australian embassy in Paris and in the offices of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

That Fardoulys’s unique fantasia of Australiana was hung in an official post abroad amuses me no end. Surely imagery of stockmen herding cattle is a visual staple in our national art history. However, it rarely conveyed the camp rodeo spectacle suggested by the numerous cowboys, animals and birds competing with a dramatically gradated skyline bejeweled with rhinestone stars and spaceship sun. All that’s missing is Doula, the artist’s beloved cat and muse who appeared in many other similar fantasy landscapes. Surely if Doula-as-meme was alive today she would be kicking around as an internet sensation with a flying saucer of milk. And Fardoulys would be the one making the GIFs.

references Bruce, Jean. “Giving the Art a Go”. Australian Women’s Weekly. 10 April 1968: 8-9. Churcher, Roy. A Tribute to Two Distinguished Naïve Painters: Charles Callins, James Fardoulys. Brisbane: Institute of Modern Art, 1976. Cooke, Glenn R. James Fardoulys: A Queensland Naïve Artist. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 2010.


IN A LAND FAR, FARDOULYS AWAY

Inscriptions (verso) James Fardoulys Stampeded Under Aurora Australis 1971

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Field Kate Bernauer

Brisbane based photomedia artist Kate Bernauer creates theatrical, hyper-real digital collages in response to what she describes as: “the changing nature of the way we interact with an environment that is becoming increasingly virtual and abstracted.” Bernauer’s Field (2013) is the first in a series of photographic works commissioned by Artbank specifically for the foyer of the Playhouse at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane. This commission marks a new partnership between Artbank and QPAC, developed to promote and support contemporary Queensland artists through commission, acquisition and public display.


KATE BERNAUER

Kate Bernauer Field 2013 Digital print, 97.3 x 256 cm Artbank collection, commissioned 2013

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NeuRA

NeuRA — Neuroscience Research Australia — is one of the largest independent medical research institutes in Australia. Architect Bettina Bartos collaborated with Artbank, selecting pieces that responded to the vision of the institute and the architectural significance of the building.


NEURA

Photography Tom Ferguson Cox Richardson Architects Featuring works from the Artbank collection by James and Eleanor Avery, William F Breen, Shaun Gladwell, Michael Kutschbach, Frank Hodgkinson and Roy Ananda. (Artwork credits p 5)

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What’s in a Name? Emma A Jane

My six year old daughter has hit on a great money making scheme. She’s thinking of changing her name to “fuk”. Alice’s logic is that every time her teacher calls the roll at school, she’ll make $2 (the going penalty for dropping the f-bomb in our household). “Plus,” she says, “it’s not rude when it’s written because it’s missing the other ‘k’.” Alice’s spelling may need work, but her appreciation of the fact that females are now able to mess with their monikers for all sorts of non-marital reasons is developing nicely. Given the power, politics and performance associated with DIY name changing, her blasphemous small business proposal has also got me thinking about the psychology of this phenomenon in the art world.

Renny Kogers live at the Red Rattler, 2009 Photography James Brown


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Australia certainly has its fair share of artists with ‘formerly known as’ status: Nell, Julie Rrap, Vexta, eX de Medici, Wart, GW Bot, Elvis Richardson, What, Cash Brown and Stelarc to name just a few. There are also many members of the creative community with ‘slasher’ identities (consider Luke Roberts/Pope Alice; Chris O’Doherty/Reg Mombassa; David Booth/Ghostpatrol; Mark Whalen/Kill Pixie), as well collectives such as Ms&Mr (wife and husband Stephanie and Richard nova Milne) and Soda_Jerk (siblings Dominique and Dan Angeloro). So what is it that drives artists to invent and re-invent themselves via pseudonyms, stage names, mononyms, portmanteaux, sobriquets, alter egos, frankentitles, unchristian names, noms de ‘grrrr’ and the like? Does adopting a new name or persona constitute a performance in and of itself? And how does this fit with the more obvious performativity of those artist personas that — by their very character — are fictionalised? Regardless of the context, the proper noun-ing of people is never a politically neutral act. As children, we have no choice in the capitalised word salad we must answer to at dinner time. This most intimate of word association games is something done to us rather than a process we are invited to explore for ourselves. If we are a female child, this choicelessness is even more insidious. Thanks to the continuing dominance of patrilineal norms, our [sir]names function as symbolic title deeds, suggestive of ownership by fathers, husbands, and the inequitable status quo. Insisting we be called by something — or some things — of our own preference can be a stunning declaration of independence; an exciting act of feminist defiance, infantile mischief, linguistic burlesque, spiritual spectacle, cathartic drag, opt-in schizophrenia, embodied spoonerism, out-andout wankerism, or all and none of the above. It’s true that many jokes are made at the expense of celebrities with a surplus of aliases. Consider rapper-preneur Sean John Combs aka Sean John aka Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs aka King Combs aka Puff aka Puffy aka Puff Daddy aka Diddy aka P Diddy aka Poppadiddypop aka (for one week only in 2011) Swag. But while it’s groovy to mock, there remains something deliciously subversive and fantastically unfixed about our ability to step out in proper — or improper — nouns of our own choosing. The theatrics and impact associated with such acts have particular resonance in the art world.

Nell SUMMER 2012 (still) Digital video, 16:9 min Videography Tina Havelock Stevens Sound Ingrid Rowell Courtesy of the artist & Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Obviously there is no single, one-size-fits-all answer to the ‘why do artists change their names?’ question. Motivations are heterogeneous between and also within individuals, often reflecting a kaleidoscopic of personal, political and artistic preoccupations. Julie Rrap’s decision to change her surname from Parr, for instance, is frequently reported as being an attempt to forge an artistic identity separate to that of her brother Mike Parr. Rrap says however, this “feminist gesture to do with the paternity of naming and a playful reversing of that system” is a far more textured affair, dovetailing with Rrap’s artistic exploration of themes such as tricksterism, doubling, erasure, and inversion. “It acts as a sort of irritation around my work,” she says, “a mask that the work somehow hides behind.” The Buddhist artist Nell legally adopted her first name as a mononym after she married — a move which once resulted in her being detained in a Mumbai airport. While Nell’s decision to go by a single, chiming syllable may seem staunchly individualistic, for her the move is communityorientated because, she says “having no last name is like having everyone’s last name, like being in everyone’s family.” Chrissy Grishin’s decision to adopt the nom de guerre of GW Bot grew from a desire to start her journey as an artist in an unknown place with a blank slate (for want of a more appropriate metaphor for a printmaker). She chose this particular name because wombats have become her totemic animal and “the earliest written reference to a wombat occurs in a French source where it is called ‘le grand Wam Bot’”. “I have been told by my Chinese artist friends that one can change one’s name as many times as one needs to recreate one’s work,” she says. “A pseudonym [also] allows an artist to be as objective about their own work as anybody else — there is no ‘preciousness’... One can discuss and view the work as freely as any other person because in fact you have never actually met the artist!” For street artists, pseudonyms have the added advantage of helping avoid arrest. “I could have left my work unsigned,” says Yvette Bacina aka ‘Vexta’, “but I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition to sign street works.” Ms&Mr — the name used by the nova Milnes (itself an entirely new, post-marriage surname) — is designed to make love as well as war. The couple views their collective cognomen as a kind of love declaration, as well as a challenge to art school orthodoxies around the assessment of authorship, and to dominant gender orders: “people still seem to struggle with an impulse to call us Mr&Mrs,” they say. Mark Shorter meanwhile, performs as Renny Kodgers because he views the namesake of his alter ego (altered ego?) as the ultimate vessel: “a banal shell where I [can] inject my scatology and grotesquery that [reflects] the endless permutations of the American global cultural spread.” Scatology is also present in Luke Roberts’s ongoing materialisations as ‘Pope Alice’, a white-robed, vesica pisciseyed alien who — after spending at least some of the 1990s engaged in performance sex with Mr Gay Queensland —


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has since become a Raëlian messenger in sync with Roberts’s own conversion to the extraterrestrial-oriented faith. Gary Carsley (formerly known as Michael Hohn [it’s a long story]) makes an excellent point about these sorts of stage names and pseudonyms. He sees them as performances within performances, masks which simultaneously say: “LOOK AT ME”, “DON’T LOOK AT ME”. Self-appellating is an acknowledgment of the omnipotence of language not just to represent but to shape reality. Yet while it waves a white flag at the awesome power of nominative determinism, it also turns the force of discourse back against itself — jujutsu-style — in a triumphant performance of nominative plasticity. A name can be chosen, crafted, capsized, heisted, hijacked and put to all manner of pointed, poetic and perverse uses. In short: it is no longer simply a given.

author’s note I changed my name from Emma Jane Tom to Emma Alice Jane in 2010 because I didn’t want the names of any of the men from either side of my family. Actually, I didn’t want the names of any men from anywhere. Changing my name in this way also means I get to move through the world as a living, breathing commutation test. Commutation tests (from semiotics) are thought experiments which involve swapping one part of a text for another to help expose the various social assumptions embedded in language. In my case, it relates to the way that feminine surnames seem strange to many people in a way that masculine options do not. Wart, 2012 Photography Ian Hobbs


WHAT’S IN A NAME?

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Photography and walking go hand in... foot. Armed with a camera, a keen eye and two legs, photographers are the pictorial flânuers of our time reflecting back to society their unique take on the life of a city. Sturgeon commissioned three photographers to document their walking trips to Artbank in either Perth, Sydney or Melbourne respectively.

John Tsiavis constructs a micro flash-mob, making art of his journey to the Artbank Melbourne collection store in Sturgeon’s third peripatetic photo essay. Like an urban interventionist fantasy, the sophisticated compositions of the acclaimed commercial photographer theatrically animate the spare concrete spaces of the city.

Stylist Heather Nette King Dancers Thomas Greenfield, Tim Harvey, Rennie McDougall

John Tsiavis


FROM A TO B: JOHN TSIAVIS

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JOHN TSIAVIS

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JOHN TSIAVIS

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The Best & Wurst Grids: Visual Identity in Cultural Organisations Brad Haylock

Part of the visual language developed for the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, 2007 Designers Laurenz Brunner and Cornel Windlin


THE BEST & WURST GRIDS: VISUAL IDENTITY IN CULTURAL ORGANISATIONS

I’ve been asked to write this essay on the occasion of the launch of Artbank’s new visual identity, a gridded system of points and lines that serves to organise and reorganise the letters of the organisation’s name dynamically across multiple applications. This new identity demonstrates a sobriety that befits a respected cultural organisation, but one might also say that the new identity is more enjoyable than the organisation’s old logotype. This article will take the geometry of the new identity as a starting point for a discussion of identity design in the cultural sector broadly. Specifically, I’d like to focus upon these themes of enjoyment and sobriety, or better, of richness and austerity in relation to design in this sector. Of course, one rarely thinks or speaks today about ‘identity design’ — one speaks instead about ‘branding’. In his book Brand Warfare (2002), David D’Alessandro bluntly posits that “it’s the brand, stupid” — this is an ostensibly concise but essentially imprecise version of his argument that, in an era of apparently limitless choice, strong brands are important because they “are simply more enjoyable to buy.”(14) Underpinning this is the slightly more nuanced claim that it is “simply human nature for people to prefer the richer experience to the more austere.” (14) D’Alessandro’s position is cogent enough if one is speaking about consumer 111

goods, but his conception of human nature stumbles in relation to branding in the cultural sector, since, in the case of galleries, museums and other cultural organisations, the more austere may in fact be the more desirable experience. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Russian mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky upended the system of geometry proposed by Euclid in ancient Greece, circa 300 BC. The fifth postulate of Euclid’s geometry, the so-called ‘parallel postulate’, presumes a perfectly straight line, theoretically infinite in length, and a point that is not on that line. The postulate states that only one line can be drawn that would pass through the point but never meet the first line. This second line would necessarily be perfectly straight, and perfectly parallel to the first. In contrast, Lobachevskian geometry proposes a hyperbolic line, which would pass through the point but curve away from the first line in all directions. Lobachevskian geometry allows an infinite variety of such lines to be drawn, yet, importantly, Euclid’s other postulates still hold. The point of this line of thinking is this: sets of rules may not be so internally correlated as they would first appear. D’Alessandro’s exclamation that “it’s the brand, stupid” is his first rule of branding — the subtitle of Brand Warfare is “10 Rules


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for Building the Killer Brand.” If we contest his first postulate, do the others still hold? Lobachevskian geometry is also known as ‘hyperbolic’ geometry, which is fitting because much writing about branding is characterised by hyperbole, and D’Alessandro does not disappoint. His fifth rule, for example, states that, “when it comes to sponsorships, there’s a sucker born every 30 seconds.” (viii) I am dishonouring Lobachevsky by failing to interrogate all of D’Alessandro’s rules, but, given the scope of the present article, I will focus on just two, namely numbers two and three. D’Alessandro’s second rule maintains that “codependency can be beautiful — consumers need good brands as much as good brands need them.” (viii) Let’s consider the Museum of Modern Art in New York. On the one hand, MoMA would be nothing without its constituency; on the other, the museum is an internationally influential authority on modern art, but this reputation is not due to the avant-gardism of its logotype. The visual identity of the museum is today centred on an eponymous typeface, MoMA Gothic, designed by Matthew Carter in 2003, but Carter’s face is an almost imperceptibly subtle redrawing of its predecessor, Franklin Gothic. Morris Fuller Benton designed Franklin Gothic in 1902, 27 years before the museum opened its doors, and the face was used by the museum from the 1930s onward. (Consuegra, 66) The visual identity of MoMA does not cater to fickle pleasures; the museum’s octogenarian application of a centenarian face is the picture of typographic austerity. Nevertheless, the value of the MoMA brand is indisputable. Incidentally, the Museum of Modern Art is today an authority not only on modern art but on contemporary art also, through its stewardship of PS1, which notably shares its elder sibling’s typography. D’Alessandro’s third rule states: “a great brand message is like a bucking bronco — once you’re on, don’t let go.” (viii) October, the quarterly journal of art theory and criticism, has been published continuously since 1976, making it nearly 50 years younger than MoMA, but the typeface in which its masthead has been set since its inception is a version of Garamond, named after the Parisian punchcutter Claude Garamond, who cut such a type in the sixteenth century. The typeface in which the text of October has been unwaveringly set is a version of Baskerville, based on the mid-eighteenth century types of an Englishman of the same name. The conservatism of this typographic palette is compounded by the austerity of the journal’s layout, but October is seemingly onto a good thing, and it’s riding it. You may be thinking — correctly — that it’s easy to argue that strong brands and austere visual identities are not mutually exclusive if one appeals to titans of the American art world, so let’s look to a younger organisation on the other side of the world for a possible exception. The Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen was founded in 1985 in the Swiss city of St Gallen. The city is best known for its eighth-century Abbey, but the visual identity of its kunsthalle is squarely contemporary: it features

bright but inconsistently coloured titling, usually centred, in a chiselled serif typeface, which is variously interspersed with pop illustrations of a pipe, a magnifying glass, a smiling sausage, and some other things that I don’t recognise. This identity, designed by Laurenz Brunner and Cornel Windlin in 2007, draws upon the visual vernacular of St Gallen: the illustrations are redrawings of signs and symbols found in the city, including the signage of local vendors. I have sought in the previous examples to demonstrate that the polarisation of ‘richness’ and ‘austerity’ in branding is a false and unhelpful distinction, but the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen is clearly unique amongst these illustrations: this visual identity is certainly not austere, yet it is also undoubtedly rich. Despite many well-founded criticisms of its purported neutrality, the white cube remains the dominant paradigm for gallery architecture. The white cube prevails because its apparent neutrality remains an excellent platform for the presentation and reception of works of art: galleries and museums are sites of rich experiences not in spite of but because of this architectural austerity. Austere typography and layouts perhaps prevail amongst visual identities within the cultural sector for the same reason: sober typography does not compete with the images of works that it must invariably accompany. Indeed, this tendency is discernable even in the most radical of identity programs: despite its otherwise unconventional character, the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen identity is underpinned by relatively austere typography with clear modernist roots. A multi-column grid and a sans-serif text face, in black and ranged left, anchor the Kunst Halle’s fluorescent titling and its persistently blissful wurst. That is to say, even in the most contextually responsive, formally mutable visual identities, something like an Euclidean order remains.

references D’Alessandro, David. Brand Warfare: 10 Rules for Building the Killer Brand. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Consuegra, David. American Type Design and Designers. New York: Allworth Press, 2004. opposite “A great brand message is like a bucking bronco — once you’re on, don’t let go” — David D’Alessandro


Sturgeon Issue 1  

Australian art, culture, etc.

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