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Australian art, culture, etc. Issue 5, 2016

aud $15.00

TOURING NATIONALLY 14 APRIL - 2 MAY Stephen Hough is acclaimed throughout the world as a superb pianist. Lending a particular beauty to his playing is a wide-ranging intellect and thoughtful spirituality. Performing Schubert, Franck, Hough and Liszt.



The Enso String Quartet is known for pursuing unusual corners of the repertoire. For its first Australian season, the programs are tinged with Spanish flavour. Performing Broadstock, Beethoven, Ravel, Turina and Ginastera.

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Sturgeon Issue 5, 2016


Relational Art: Then and Now Anneke Jaspers



Vogue /Bogue Emily Hunt & Raquel Caballero



Australianness and the New International Style Oliver Watts


Editorial Miriam Kelly


The Spaces Between the Letters: Jon Campbell Andrew Frost


Gerwyn Davies: Chux, Glitter and the Occasional Hissy Fit Miriam Kelly



A Pretty Punk Move Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro


Rethinking Wardrobes: The Sharing Economy and the Fashion Imagination Alison Gill


Family Colours Lisa Slade


Deb & Dave’s Architectural Picks of Modernist Canberra Deborah Clark & David Broker


Retro Black: Interpellating History Ann Finegan


The Pool Aileen Sage Architects & Michelle Tabet


Office Works


An Ambivalent Guide to Perth Danni McGrath

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Sturgeon Guest Editor Miriam Kelly Editorial Committee Ben Bertoldi Miriam Kelly Peter Lin Daniel Mudie Cunningham Tony Stephens Design Collider Publisher Artbank Contributing Writers David Broker Deborah Clark Sean Cordeiro Ann Finegan Andrew Frost Alison Gill Amelia Holliday Claire Healy Anneke Jaspers Miriam Kelly Lisa Slade Michelle Tabet Isabelle Toland Oliver Watts Contributing Artists Raquel Caballero Leo Coyte Emily Hunt Danni McGrath Contributing Photographers Reuben Gates Greg Semu

Artbank Artwork Photography Jenni Carter Jeremy Dillon Silversalt Photography Stephen Oxenbury Special thanks All staff at Artbank Gerwyn Davies Jane Hider Fiona Menzies Martin Miles Brett Sheehy AO Nick Tweedie 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 nonIndigenous Australian contemporary art to both the public and private sectors nationally and internationally. Sturgeon Published by Artbank 222 Young Street Waterloo NSW 2017 +61 2 9697 6000 Printing Toppan Pre-Press Splitting Image, Melbourne 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 Leo Coyte Into the Night 2015 Synthetic polymer paint, paper and canvas on paper, 59.5 x 84 cm Artbank collection, commissioned 2015


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. 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.


Contributors DAVID BROKER is the Director of Canberra Contemporary Art Space and was previously Administrator at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide and Deputy Director at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. David is also a widely published arts writer who has curated many exhibitions both nationally and internationally. RAQUEL CABALLERO & EMILY HUNT are Sydney based collaborators. They have worked on numerous projects together including DUKE magazine (2006–09), dance-off competitions and Big Ego Books— an online collection of hard-to-find titles. DUKE employed absurdist visual and written material and abused 1970s and 1980s kitsch sources as a spoof on traditional magazines. It made a significant cultural impact in Sydney during its time. Emily Hunt is represented by The Commercial, Sydney. DEBORAH CLARK is Senior Curator of Visual Arts at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. Previously she lectured in art history, was curator of Australian art at the National Gallery of Australia, and the editor of Art Monthly Australia (2002–07). She has also published widely in journals, books and exhibition catalogues. LEO COYTE is a Sydney based artist whose work merges realistic renderings of semi-figurative objects and bodies with bursts of colour and abstraction. The images that arise out of this push and pull experimentation read as absurd open-ended narratives. Leo Coyte is represented by Galerie Pompom, Sydney.


CLAIRE HEALY & SEAN CORDEIRO are Sydney based artists whose practice brings together ideas of home, movement and destruction. Recent solo exhibitions include surveys at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012) and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC (2011). Their installation Life Span (2009) was part of the Australian representation at the 53rd Venice Biennale. They have exhibited extensively in Australia as well as internationally. They are represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. ANNEKE JASPERS is a Sydney based curator with an interest in situational and performance practices. She is Curator, Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where she has organised exhibitions of Australian art and was assistant curator of ‘Pop to Popism’ (2014–15). Her writing on contemporary art has been published nationally and internationally. ANN FINEGAN is a Sydney based writer and educator. She is a codirector and chief curator of Cementa Contemporary Arts Festival in Kandos, New South Wales. ANDREW FROST is a writer, critic and broadcaster. Frost has published widely and presented programs on contemporary art for ABC1 and is the art critic for Guardian Australia. ALISON GILL is a design educator in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University, Australia. Her research interests in design philosophy, critical theory, material culture and the social life of designed things have been explored in publications about sports product advertising, deconstruction fashion, audiences/ user practices, and sustainable material cultures including clothing.

AMELIA HOLLIDAY and ISABELLE TOLAND are Aileen Sage Architects. They provide architecture, interior design and urban design services, and believe in the transformative potential of good design. They are the co-creative directors of the Australian Exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale with Michelle Tabet. MIRIAM KELLY is Curator & Collection Coordinator at Artbank and Sub-Editor of Sturgeon. From 2008–2013 she was the Assistant Curator of Australian Painting and Sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. DANNI McGRATH is a Perth based artist whose work is concerned with the production and distribution of multiples. Recent projects have included the production of gig posters, zines, books, business cards, toast, t-shirts, and a fledgling internet radio station featuring hyper-local news. LISA SLADE is the Assistant Director, Artistic Programs at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the curator of the ‘2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Magic Object’. MICHELLE TABET is an urbanist and director of her own boutique consultancy in Sydney. With a background in urban planning, Tabet brings a strategic view to architectural debate and has become a specialist in the field of project visioning and briefing for urban projects such as the rebuild of Christchurch, New Zealand. Tabet is co-creative director of the Australian Exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. OLIVER WATTS is an artist and writer. He lectures in critical studies at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. His practice and writing focuses on the image and the way it engenders belief in power. He is co-director of Chalk Horse, Sydney and is represented by This is No Fantasy, Melbourne.

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Editorial: Like Comment Share This morning as I waited in line at the coffee shop, I glimpsed the cover of an ‘esteemed’ print news publication and audibly groaned at the genius front page headline: ‘Night MAirBnB’. This is just another in a veritable tidal wave of populist protest and reportage on the thrills and spills of the ‘share economy’, particularly the multibillion dollar venture capitalists who are now helping to shape the way we define ‘sharing’ in the twenty first century. At the genesis of Sturgeon issue #5 was a desire to explore the mutation in meaning of sharing by looking at how it manifests in a range of contemporary contexts. In part this was prompted by a consideration of the environment within which Artbank now operates; as one among a varied industry based on alternatives to long held beliefs about ownership and the provision of services (from status to necessity). The recent boom in the collaborative consumption sphere, along with the kind of press major players often receive makes me wonder whether we will see the word ‘share’ go the way of ‘eco’ and ‘experience’? That is, what etymological outcome will we see for sharing? Will it survive the gravitational pull and ingrained value structures of late capitalism?


I’m a fan of sharing. Well at least I thought I was. I was terrible at it as a kid—my nearest and dearest would probably testify that I still am—but I like to think I’ve always grasped the general premise: generosity, coownership, give and take, swapping, borrowing and so on. Primary school lunches were a great starting point. I also have a firm memory of my first, and only, visit to a gathering of the community sharing group ‘LETS’ as an eight year old. It was an incredibly positive display of exchange for goods and services in which no money seemed to manifest (a utopia for a scheming kid with no capacity to raise funds, other than the onecent-per-dandelion-weeding-wage). While my family never went back to the meets—we had neither the goods nor services required to enter into an economy fuelled by vegetables, baked goods, handyperson skills and kumbaya—this was an eye opening and considerable influence on my ongoing interest in exchange as alternative to mass consumption. As a disgruntled ex-fashion design student a decade ago, my first ever exhibition included a clothes swap at the opening, inspired by the events run by then Melbourne based group, The Clothing Exchange. I co-opted the founder Kate Luckins into speaking on the local radio with me about the foibles of the garment industry and exchange as a viable alternative. As such, it is a treat to have The Clothing Exchange referenced in this issue, in Alison Gill’s astute reflection on the value systems in place around clothing and the resulting challenges of re-use. Beyond exchange, this issue explores aspects of ‘sharing’ in the form of collaboration, featuring the art and life partners Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, and the stellar work and stories of the Ken family from Amata in the APY Lands. Anneke Jaspers delves into the work of collectives and audience participation, touching on the impact of the move towards an experience economy in art practice and institutions.

With the Internet aiding in providing connectivity (and a false sense of the kind of community that my parents reminisce of times past), it has also become the breeding ground for the mutation of meaning of sharing into the realm of the ‘overshare’. In their infinite brilliance, the ladies of DUKE magazine (2006–09) have joined forces for a mini-reprise of the magazine, condensing the trends, trash and overshares gleaned from life and the web into a glittering summary that begs the question, as posed by the queen of overshare, Lena Dunham in an NPR radio interview: “Too much information has always been my least favourite phrase because what exactly constitutes too much information?”. This issue is to be shared (but please also buy a copy). Miriam Kelly Guest Editor, Sturgeon


The Spaces Between the Letters: Jon Campbell Andrew Frost

I’m willing to give the cab driver the benefit of the doubt because he looks a lot like the American comedian Hannibal Buress, and that makes you feel pretty good, but by the time the cab is deep into the dark heart of Coburg I can’t not say anything; from the back seat it feels as though we’re being buffeted by high winds, and as the cab lurches back and forth— accelerating, breaking, and accelerating—I feel nauseous. Hey, what’s wrong with your cab? “WHAT?” I repeat the question… “It needs a service. Why, are you an expert?” No mate, it just feels like we’re going to fly off the road... This cab is fucked! Offended by the profanity, the driver fixes me with a dirty look via the rear view mirror and then, as the cab veers off the main road into a nest of backstreets, we suddenly come up against a sign: ROAD CLOSED. Ignoring the warning the driver swerves around some orange witches hats and pulls up hard against the gutter. After an ugly dispute over the existence of Motorpass cards—“They had them a long time ago, but no more...”—I am deposited onto a freezing windswept street about a kilometre from Jon Campbell’s house.

Portraits & Styling Reuben Gates




When I arrive it’s what real estate agents might call ‘neat as a pin’: a green and red Federation style bungalow with a blonde brick garden and potted succulents. Campbell opens the door, smiling. The inside of the house is as pristine as the outside: mid-century chairs and credenza, the walls dotted with examples of Campbell’s work and those of friends and others. It seems like the house has the same colour scheme as Campbell’s latest canvases, an impression made even more intense by the apple red splash back in the kitchen and walls painted in rectangles and squares of green, pink, grey and blue. On one wall is a painting of a green apple. Campbell tells me that it’s one of his own, painted for an “apple themed group show”. It sits on the wall, a perfectly balanced addition to the kitchen decor. After coffee and a blueberry muffin made by one of Campbell’s two daughters, we retire to the backyard studio. The fifty four year old artist has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s; his first group show outing when he graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1986, followed by his first solo show in 1989 at Powell Street Gallery in Melbourne. Campbell has become known as a text artist, working in drawing and painting but also in a variety of other media; from flags, banners and neon, to wall works and painted trams. His texts are derived from the idioms of Australian English: phrases like ‘shit yeah’, ‘up shit creek’ and ‘weak as piss’; or mangled pronunciations such as ‘bewdyful’ and ‘ger-die-mite’. Some lines are taken wholesale from suburban signage ‘Food pub grub’, ‘Kebabs’ or ‘Footscray Halal Meats 100%’. Campbell is working on a show for his Sydney gallerist and a group of paintings are set up in the studio. Works that combine sketchy figurative elements and collaged text appear to be a sudden departure from his recent work but in fact turn out to be from 1990, made when Campbell had

a residency at the Australia Council’s Greene Street Studio in New York. By coincidence he has just spent another three month stint there—twenty five years later—and has decided to show these works alongside his recent paintings. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than three months without making work”, says Campbell, remembering his most recent visit. “It’s a great space. It’s hard to go there and not make work.” I’m always curious about what artists do on their holidays. Do ‘text artists’ seek out shows of text work? What did he go and see in New York? “I love going to the Met and looking at the Manet, or going to the Frick. I love all of that”, recalls Campbell enthusiastically. “It was great going to see the Matisse cut out show, which was unbelievable, or seeing the On Kawara show at the Guggenheim. Those big shows are really something. I always think, that’s the moment to see them because you’re not going to see them again. I love historical figurative painting.” The works from 1990 look like transitionary pieces; when did he move out of this style and into text only? “This was the first use of text I made in these works,” he says. “From then on through the 1990s I was thinking of the combination of text and image. But the figuration was becoming simplified. And then the text in the mid to late 1990s really started to take over. It allowed me to talk about a certain subject, and really allowed me to design things and make the paintings in a way that wasn’t quite getting there with figuration.” Were there artists he was looking at who pushed him to think about using text alone? “I was a big fan of Keith Haring. I was trying to follow him a bit, both in terms of subject and also in the way he made it; in that use of an outline. I also liked the fact that he could work outside the gallery. He had the ‘Pop Shop’ and all that. The text: I started to look at Ed Ruscha. I have an interest in American twentieth century painting and so, you know,


you work your way around to Ed Ruscha in terms of that history and the Los Angeles/West Coast vibe. His use of text was kind of a local response... it was very much about where he was from, and where he was located.” Campbell’s exhibiting career in the late 1990s and into the 2000s was a consolidation of experiments with text only works—something of a rarity in Australian art at the time. Were there any Australian artists who inspired him? What about Robert Macpherson? “Yes, and you do find your way into these guys”, says Campbell. “He’s really fantastic. But I haven’t seen that much of his work in Melbourne. It hasn’t had a big presence here. But I have books on him, and he’s a key player. I’d put him with Ruscha and other artists where there’s a very strong sense of place in the work. Maybe there’s a conceptual framework about making things, and how they go out into the world.” Campbell’s recent paintings, particularly those produced over the last five years, have emphasised his focus on the choice and combination of colours while he continues to use text, sometimes distilled down to single words or phrases, such as ‘piss farting around’. How does he see the balance between the declarative conceptual text and its formal treatment? “Both are equally important. I think the text comes first. I search around for words, sayings—text that carries a little something more for me. Then the making is still about what the medium is. Essentially painting is the thing my work comes out of. The nature of text pieces is that they can go into flags, neons, light boxes, wall paintings... I like that as an artist there are opportunities to do that.” Leaning against the wall of Campbell’s studio are two enormous canvases that appear to be completely abstract: hard angles and bright colours. Is there a text in there? “Yeah! It says ‘personality’.” I look closer and of course, there it is: PER. SON. ALITY. “I’m painting in the spaces between the 13

letters, and that has developed over time. I didn’t set out to make work this way. I did some work in the late 1990s where I’ve painted between the letters, then I made one in 2008, so [that approach] has been floating ‘round. In that sense it has become more a formal, hard edge painting.” It looks almost like camouflage. “There’s a visual perceptive process going on with the way we see things, how colours come forward or go back. Or how you read the paintings in terms of colours. That’s interesting. I like the idea that you’ve got to find your way into the text. You have to look a bit more. I’ve never really made an abstract work. This is as close as I’ve got to it in some ways. Showing some of these over the last couple of years, like the one I showed with Darren Knight at the Melbourne Art Fair (2014), people came in and said ‘Geez, you’ve changed now! You’ve gone all abstract!’ People look and can’t really see it. Others see it straight away.” Campbell says that his works aren’t planned out, but one gets the impression that it’s not an intuitive process either... “It’s not planned in the bigger picture [of the ongoing body of work] but it is planned within the work. There’s a certain kind of process. It’s simple in a way. It’s about drawing—drawing ideas out on grid paper, then using an overhead projector to put them up—working through the design, and getting some sense of the colour. The colour is pretty intuitive when it gets to that point.” What sort of words and phrases attract Campbell to use them in a painting? Looking back at his work many of them seem very positive. “Generally, that’s the kind of feel. In recent times I’ve had the ‘fuck’ paintings—fuck this or fuck that—and they can go either way. It depends on how you say it. I like words and phrases that can be either positive or negative.” Fuck yeah seems pretty positive.



“Fuck yeah is up there! It’s got that. ‘Yeah’ has a declaration, but ‘fuck yeah has got an added extra kick... ‘Fuck that’ is more ambiguous.” As figures of speech or phrases they are interesting because they are not so idiosyncratic as to be totally original, but they have a very specific identification for the viewer. “Some people are offended by the word ‘fuck’. But it’s a very expressive word, and I like that all kinds of people can say it. And it’s great when they say it! It has presence. I have enjoyed those works.” What about context? “I’ve had work go out in different ways, say as public art, and depending on who you’re working with they’re not going to let me put ‘fuck that!’ on a light box at a train station... There’s a different conversation around that kind of context, but it’s fine in a gallery. It could find a home! I know someone who has a little ‘shit yeah’ neon that I made, and he has young kids. It sits at the end of their hallway, and when they race in at the end of the day they’re all going shit yeah!” For Artbank’s thirty-fifth birthday, Campbell has been commissioned to make a text painting that will be reproduced in a variety of contexts. It reads ‘TIME & PLACE’. “I was commissioned to make a painting that could work on cards and tote bags, and in all sorts of contexts. I was thinking about what those words mean—time and place—and [those concepts] have always been important in my work. How things line up, being in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the right time, all of that... Some idea of time and place has been important in all kinds of ways. Maybe that had a relationship to getting the commission! Things line up when someone wants to do it.” Campbell’s studio is carefully ordered and arranged. At one end of the room there’s a collection of vinyl albums and CDs. When I ask what he listens to in the studio he gives me musicological explanation of various lineages, clusters of artists who influenced others: Dylan, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, The Saints and Radio Birdman. “I like guitar music!” he says. It’s no coincidence then that Campbell is also a musician and is working on an album that he’s going to release on vinyl, although he claims not to be a purist. Somehow those guitar bands seem to say something about the spirit of Campbell’s art, and maybe something about Campbell himself. When I listen to the albums of Melbourne artist Darren Sylvester, I think, that’s him. Is there a link between Campbell’s music and who he is? “I think so, for sure. I feel that way about Darren as well. My songs are storytelling songs and sometimes they have a close relationship to the text that is in the paintings. I think it was when I was using the word ‘yeah’ in my work that I had a song called ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’.” That’d be an awesome name for an album. “Yeah! But I don’t like to think of myself as mid-career... I feel like I’m at the top of my game now. I’ve been making work for more than twenty years, and then you work out what you want to do.” 15




opposite Jon Campbell Self Portrait with legs 1992 Synthetic polymer paint and enamel on plywood, 146 x 45.5 cm (overall) Artbank collection, purchased 1993


above Jon Campbell Time & Place 2015 Enamel on canvas, 142.5 x 108 cm Artbank collection, commissioned 2015


A Pretty Punk Move Claire Healy Sean Cordeiro in conversation

Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro The Drag 2015 (still) Rover P6; two channel digital video, 28:00 mins Image courtesy of the artists


claire healy: Our first collaborative project took place in 2001 with ‘Location to Die For’. We actually had no intention of collaborating at the time. We were both Masters students at what was then the University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts (CoFA), and had put our names down for the student gallery Kudos. When we went to check out the space, we began thinking about using it in its entirety. As the exterior of the building was ‘to die for’, in real estate speak—and the interior was spacious with polished floorboards—the space was begging to be converted from a gallery into New York style loft apartments. At the time, Sean was living at the Imperial Slacks warehouse in Surry Hills and I was living up the road in a three storey terrace. Both of us were being driven mad by the perpetual state of renovation that both spaces were undergoing. The whole pre and post-Olympic period had turned Sydney into a frenzy of makeovers. The noise of this ongoing state of flux was like living in a warzone. Thus came about our idea for Kudos. We placed a real estate placard out the front of the gallery, which featured the usual wide angled interior shots of the space with real estate jargon describing it, as well as a contact number to arrange a viewing and even an open day (the actual exhibition opening). The installation consisted of a floor plan of a house made from sandbags that resembled bunker walls, and a gas lamp in the centre of each room. The space was bombarded with smoke machines and every sound bite of war-like noise we could find. sean cordeiro: Yeah, it was a pretty punk move. We changed the answering machine in the gallery, asking people to leave a message while sounds in the background made out that a military apocalypse was in action. People actually left messages of interest in the property on the answering machine and someone stole the real estate sign we put out the front; I like to think that it was a competing real estate agency. In the end, I believe we were able to double our audience numbers thanks to the real estate investors visiting our show.



‘Location to Die For’ 2001 Exhibition invitation Image courtesy of the artists


Not Under My Roof 2008 Found flooring from farm house (wood, linoleum), site specific installation Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane Photography Natasha Harth Image courtesy of the artists



ch: Our earlier work like this was more locally political, as we were reflecting on our situation as poor artists living in a city that was ‘on itself ’ and way too expensive. After this our practice went beyond Sydney and we became art nomads living on every bit of grant money we could get our hands on by way of residency, scholarship, stipend, etc. We quickly realised a focus on our own identity in Sydney didn’t make sense abroad. Our first works overseas dealt with shared global experiences like consumption and ownership. Deceased Estate (2004) saw the contents of an artist run studio space in southern Germany bound into an enormous ball held together by orange rope. This was the discarded stuff of disgruntled Swiss artists who had been kicked out of their space to make way for New York style loft apartments—the usual gentrification story. Their anger was marked by their refusal to remove their belongings out of the space, so we came along and neatly tied it all up, which in fact would have made it far more difficult to remove. Upon finishing our huge dung beetle ball of detritus, we threw a great old school rollschuh party, where punters skated around this strange monument to their past. Such fun! sc: We were lucky enough to reside at the Australia Council Studio in Tokyo the year after that. Unfortunately, we got a huge tax bill after not doing our tax and not collecting receipts for the previous five years so we were each living on about ¥1,500 yen ($15–20) a day during our time in Takadanobaba. I was living on butter, instant ramen, fake beer and other carbohydrates I bought at the ¥100 store. I got fat. The feeling of rabid consumerism that still exists in post-bubble Tokyo was made more acute by our relative poverty. Fortunately, an old university friend of mine got me some work building the interior design for a pachinko

parlour in Yokohama. With the money I earned, I joined in the consumerist throng and purchased a second hand medium format Mamiya RB67 camera. We decided to use it to document all the crap that was left inside the studio residence. All that stuff stayed in position for a week while we waited for the film to process. How I prayed for an earthquake not to come while all that stuff was stacked above my head in the bedroom... ch: It was an exciting work, our first medium format image that we shot ourselves. Our latest work also relies upon documentation to exist beyond the original object. The Drag (2015) is a two screen video work that documents the disassembly and reassembly of an old Rover P6. It’s our first collaborative video work. As each piece of car is removed, it is carried from one screen and taken to the other screen, where it is slowly put back together. It is an imagined post-fossil fuel car race. sc: We’ve been asked if we fight, working so closely together and living together. We don’t fight as such, although we are not often fond of each other’s initial concepts for works. ch: But we write it all down and with a bit of time and perhaps the right space to come along, the idea will re-surface. Being parents in a nuclear family obviously impacts on how we live and work together but that’s OK. We’re too old now for Berlin-sized hangovers anyway.

opposite Takadanobaba 2005 Digital Type C photograph, 150 x 123 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2007




Rethinking Wardrobes: The Sharing Economy and the Fashion Imagination Alison Gill

When unleashed in Hollywood cinematic narrative, the fashion imagination frequently envisages an unending wardrobe of updating looks, where personal decisions about combination, fit, fabric, and style, have been outserviced to an expert selection of custom made ensembles according to the latest fashions. Not even a second to think, ‘a wardrobe full of clothes, but nothing to wear!’ Isn’t this Daisy Buchanan’s delight when a life of privilege is revealed as immaculately folded shirts in every colour, fabric and weight possible, not in her own wardrobe but in Gatsby’s, her rediscovered lover? For the majority, the reality of this rose-tinted vision is the deficit of a first world fantasy; an extension of a capitalist logic and profligate industrial-scale imagination, where a man’s self-made ‘greatness’, like Gatsby, is measured in quantities of fresh shirts. Jump to The Devil Wears Prada (2006) where the intern at ‘Runway’ magazine is set free in the wardrobe of designer heaven...

Pete Volich Untitled 2006 Colour photograph on metallic paper, 103 x 77.5 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2007



The Clothing Exchange at the ‘All About Women Festival’, Sydney Opera House, 2014 Photography Emma Leslie


Let’s start again. Imagine a giant shop of clothes where everything in it is free. In this vision realised many times over by The Clothing Exchange in Australia, the ‘shop’ might be a refurbished industrial scale warehouse and its minimal styling is a vast stockpile of clothes, loosely sorted after being screened for damage into piles of skirts, dresses, pants and accessories. As an example of the creation of a clothing commons, The Clothing Exchange— started in Melbourne by Kate Luckins in 2004— organises small to large swap or ‘swishing’ events with friends and/ or strangers, and hosts a virtual platform to exchange clothing. The stockpile accrued from individual wardrobes is now a collectively owned resource for sharing. At the swaps, items are ‘free’ to those participants who, by giving to the commons, can take using the currency of buttons. The fantasy of a limitless wardrobe is at the centre of both these scenarios. Growing the clothes swapping model from sisters and friends, loungerooms and neighbourhoods to a massive, malleable, virtual wardrobe is an evolution of the fashion imagination’s vision of the unending availability of clothing to refresh one’s looks and wardrobe. The generation of a clothing commons encourages a new way of using clothes through exchanges, and this participation in a free and shared resources based economy that is outside of retail supply chains continues to service the individual’s fashion impulse to regularly update. The starting point to participation is to offer items that you no longer wear and from which you can detach, but that are of value and not damaged. This quality control provides incentives to look after clothing items for their subsequent lives, as one could potentially wear something for a few months and then exchange it at another clothes swap event. That is, it encourages the acquisition of quality items and their care to ensure an extended, social, use life—say, ‘caring for better quality sharing’. Investing in ‘commons’ is on the rise as social groups explore economic and legal models to facilitate collaborative consumption, underpinned by concerns for ethical production, social justice, over-consumption and a sustainable material culture.(Gibson-Graham; Botsman) The urgency to reinvent clothing consumption is an attempt to slow down the coercive pace of the economic model of fast fashion which refers to the combination of high speed production and high speed, volume consumption which has normalised the roll-out of ‘value’ clothing that is astonishingly cheap, poorly constructed and replaceable, with new supplies delivered in two-weekly cycles.(Fletcher; Wanders) The idea of making a clothing commons, in the image of a socially generated and governed communal wardrobe, arises as an attempt to think through what sharing clothes would be like. A commons is understood as property, practices or knowledge that is shared by a community, and also reproduced through everyday practices of ‘commoning’ such as making, sharing and reclaiming of community resources.(Gibson-Graham) 29

The most immediate obstacle to sharing clothes is the protected notion of individually owned clothes that are not only personally selected to form a collection, but also perceived as the fabrication of self and identity, as things which intimately embody us and to which we can become attached. Exceeding the sum of these wardrobe collections, a clothing commons could encompass the collectively owned clothing (property), practices of use (dressing, sorting expertise), and communal knowledge (maintenance skills, laundering and styling know how) associated with the billions of tonnes of clothing material that already exists. The 2012 report by an English environmental advocacy group, Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP), for example, estimated a population of over fifty million own six billion items of clothing equivalent to nearly one hundred items per person.(Gracey & Moon, 2) The commons could also include fifty million kilos of worn and unwanted clothes that due to misspending, misfit, or otherwise simply deemed ‘throw away’ are discarded and sent to landfill, or donated— around ten thousand tonnes alone go to a single Smith Family centre in a year, and donations are on the rise. It is expensive and challenging commoning work undertaken by charitable recyclers in revalourising unwanted clothing to be a community resource for distribution and circulation through charity shops, or export due to volume, and for waste managers to separate any reusable textile from the clothing that is increasingly treated as disposable rubbish for domestic waste collection. In order to reclaim and share what already exists will involve overcoming the idea that the clothing commons is comprised of used and unchanged by new clothes; the perception of it as a resource that is disconnected from updatability, unresponsive to fashion’s currency of shifting image, look and style will require reinventing. In sustainable design, the creative strategy of ‘product lifetime extension’ is well established in many product fields to technically strengthen a product’s durability and stimulate enduring use lives and relationships through emotional affordances and symbolic resilience.(Chapman; Cooper) A collective investment in the idea of weightless fashion de-tethered from the purchase of new clothing, even a disposition for improvisation and a creative styling practice, would mean that fashionable looks could be refashioned endlessly and ‘re-cut’ from this extensive, communal cloth. WRAP estimates that “[i]f clothes stayed in active use for nine months longer (extending the average garment life to around three years), this could save £5 billion a year from the costs of resources used in clothing supply, laundry and disposal”; a 5–10% reduction in resource and waste footprints.(WRAP, 3) The premise behind extending active use is that it disrupts the production and demand for new products, with the requirement that clothes need to be built to last longer and that the energy and resource implications of maintaining clothes for longer does not cancel out the benefits of off-setting new production.

above, following Lee Mingwei The Mending Project 2009 Installation view, ‘18 th Biennale of Sydney: All our Relations’, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2012 Collection of Rudy Tseng, Taipei Photography Lauren Parker Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Copyright the artist



In terms of generating a shared resource with many lives, this strategy indicates that as active citizens we will learn to recognise clothing that is designed for durability and be rewarded for resourcefulness and acquiring clothes that can sustain many wears, as ongoing creative contributors to the ‘communal wardrobe’, or commons. Activists, designers and artists like England based Kate Fletcher or New York based Otto von Busch and Lee Mingwei have repeatedly celebrated the extended use of clothing in their independent, yet similarly participatory projects that seek to amplify user-end crafts of resourceful creative wearing, repair, maintenance and modification. Fletcher’s ‘Local Wisdom’ project (2009–) gathers personal stories from around the world, ‘wisdoms’, that document deep and long connections between wearer and garment, as well as stories that disrupt the notion of an individual wardrobe by foregrounding social exchange. Stories that represent the desirable transition from ownership to ‘usership’ include, for example, Dress from Antibes— which documents a dress shared by six women from three generations of the same family—and The Three Stage Jacket— about a forty year old jacket that has been transformed over the years to meet the wearer’s changing needs. Fletcher frames the value of these stories in terms of their creative ‘wealth’, and their expression of the material and symbolic resilience of the worn, experienced object, in the hands of a competent clothing practitioner.(165) These stories help to displace the perception of an undiscerning, de-skilled and creatively bereft fashion consumer. In 2011, von Busch developed Community Repair, a collaborative project with Masters students from the London College of Fashion, aimed at activating the craft skills of members of local communities. The project was designed to mobilise the ‘common-wealth’ of knowledge and craft assets as a restoration of community, as well as learning about aspects of the fundamentally social life of clothing that just gets started after the designer finishes making. Similarly, Lee’s participatory and conceptual art installation The Mending Project (2012) explores the possibilities of the social interaction between two strangers that can occur when people and their things are connected via the simple elements of thread, conversation, colour and hand-sewing. Presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the ‘18 th Biennale of Sydney: All Our Relations’, visitors were invited to bring various items for repair to Lee, or a volunteer, who was seated at a long table in the gallery, in front of colourful spools of thread mounted on two walls. After visitors selected a colour, the item was repaired while they waited, chatting until the mended item was placed on the long table. Still attached to the threads, and as a result to the gallery environment, the garment remained on the table until the close of the exhibition, when the visitor could collect and detach it from the ‘social fabric’ Lee had established. This offered them the chance to reflect on the value added not only to the object modified for a longer life

and as an artwork, but also in terms of its role in forming a relationship and reciprocity through the gift of repair. While the coloured threads from the wall to the table were cut, hopefully the sentiment persists in the celebratory bright hand-stitching and the idea of a revalorised social tissue and garment, strengthened through gentle conversation. Commons-oriented peer production to share the resources of the social fabric are being explored through collaborative consumption online marketplaces for big ticket items such as houses, holiday houses, cars, art and finance, to support a more ‘open’ economy that benefits more people than ‘for-profit’ businesses. Peer-to-peer fashion is a new peer production experiment along the lines of Airbnb that differs from existing rental services like Rent My Rack, Something Borrowed and Glam Corner. Hosted by Style Lend (San Francisco) and Rentez Vous (Paris and London) and HiringWardrobe (Australia), individual women can list items from their own wardrobes for lease and potentially rent from others; it is premised upon generating revenue on individual investments made in wardrobes, and for the renter, access to a wider collection of clothing, including higher end fashion, than any one person can afford. As Fiona Disegni explains of Rentez Vous, lease rates are approximately 10–15% of original retail price for a week’s rent. It enables the imagining of a cooperative network of inter-connecting wardrobes and relationships, and like The Clothing Exchange, it invites a revaluing of clothes that may otherwise be worn less frequently, shelved or discarded. It involves a different way of using clothing through trial, single ‘one-hit’ refreshes or repeated loans, and access to an expandable resource with which to participate and self-fashion at a self-determined pace. Unlike The Clothing Exchange, it is a leasing arrangement rather than swapping, so not only is there a cost to use the commons but the clothes are returned after a week, can be insured for damage, and one doesn’t have to let items go for good, while they are ‘earning their keep’. All of these examples move beyond the perceived fragility and intimacy of clothing, and the volatility of fashion, to discover material and social resilience. Together they represent promising aspects of an economy of endurance for clothing and maintenance where the by-products of transformative sharing, collaboration, and cooperation become a way to explore the collective imagination about what and how to wear.


references Botsman, Rachel and Rogers, Roo. What’s Mine is Yours; The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. Chapman, Jonathan. Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy. London: Earthscan, 2005. Cooper, Tim. Ed. Longer Lasting Products; Alternatives to the Throwaway Society. Farnham. London: Gower, 2010. Fletcher, Kate. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys. London: Earthscan, 2008. Fletcher, Kate. “Post-Growth Fashion and the Craft of Users.” Eds. Alison Gwilt & Timo Rissanen. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the way we make and use clothes. London: Earthscan, 2011. 165–75. Fletcher, Kate. (2009–ongoing) “Local Wisdom” [Accessed 2 November 2015]. Fletcher, Kate. and Grose, Lynda. Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change. London: Laurence King, 2012. Gibson-Graham, JK, Cameron, Jenny & Healy, Stephen. “Take back property: Commoning”. Take back the economy: An ethical guide for transforming our communities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 125–58. Gracey, Faye. and Moon, David. “Valuing our clothes; the evidence base” [Accessed 2 November 2015]. von Busch, Otto. “Community Repair” (2011). [Accessed 2 November 2015]. WRAP. “Valuing our clothes; the true cost of how we design, use and dispose of clothing in the UK” [Accessed 2 November 2015].



Family Colours Lisa Slade

Pyrotechnics in paint could be one way of describing the Ken sisters’ commission for Artbank. Catherine wheels of colour spin across the surface of the diptych, uniting the two halves of the painting and sending forth filaments of pigment. With a vibrancy that heralds the best Anangu art, this astral spectacle thrusts the viewer across the picture plane, from one part of the painting to another just as one’s eye is drawn across the night sky, from sister to sister, star to star; from the loose mark of one sister’s brush to the methodical dotting of another.

All images courtesy of Tjala Arts, Amata, APY Lands, South Australia Photography Rhonda Dick & Brenda Douglas




The five sisters—Tingila Yaritji Young, Maringka Tunkin, Sandra Ken, Freda Brady and Tjungkara Ken—have returned to familiar and familial subjects for this collaboration: to the Honey Ant (Tjala) dreaming and the Seven Sisters stories, two stories that are their birth right and their bond. The Ken sisters paint the country where these two stories converge, where Alkanyunta, the place of the Seven Sisters comes close to the sites of Tjala Tjukurpa, to Altanitja, Kungka-Yuu, Tupuul and to Amata Rockhole. Hence this painting, titled Tjala Tjukurpa (Honey Ant Story) (2015), connects earth and sky and is both terrestrial and celestial. The painting’s constellation of forms, in brilliant and radiating colour, are at once the rockholes, caves and creek beds of Tjala country and the fleeing sisters escaping Wati Nyiru in the night sky. The Ken dynasty are a desert guild who continue to yield generations of artists and an aesthetic kinship; one where each artist’s voice is amplified and yet nuanced by the next. Their father, Mick Wikilyiri, is the custodian and traditional owner of this country Tjala, in Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, around one hundred kilometres south of Uluru. For eldest Ken sister Yaritji Young, this artistic lineage began with her kami, or grandmother, a celebrated worker in punu (wood carving).(Tjala Arts, 56) While painting is the focus for this collaboration, the Ken women including their mother Paniny Mick, have worked in punu, batik and weaving. While Amata has a strong punu tradition (one revived in the recent Kulata Project led by senior men including their father), Tjala Arts has become increasingly identified with projects across a diversity of media; projects initiated and curated by the artists themselves. This project is no exception. The photographs that document the commission have been taken not by a visiting photographer, but by rising local stars: young Anangu 37

artists Rhonda Dick and Brenda Douglas. Dick and Douglas were awarded the Desart Art Worker Photography Prize in 2012 and 2014 respectively. More than a community art prize, the award is underpinned by a commitment to Anangu involvement in all aspects of the art industry—from mixing paint and making stretchers, to documenting the artists and their work, supporting the rise of photography as an end in itself. Although in most of the photographs the large twopanel painting dominates the composition, the photographs reveal glimpses of the lilting camber of the Musgrave Ranges, home to the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa that rests behind the community of Amata. In one of the photographs Paniny Mick stands within the ambit of the painting, raising her hand as she performs inma (ceremonial singing and dancing). In another photograph taken in the art centre, Young sits within the work, painting, as two attentive grandchildren look on from within the perimeter. Young calls the subject of this collaborative painting, the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa “a big Australian story, a really strong story.”(Tjala Arts, 56) In this statement she hints at the ubiquity of this constellation, one that has meaning for many Aboriginal cultures across the continent (and an uncanny equivalent in Greek antiquity with the story of the Pleiades, Atlas’s daughters who flee to the heavens to escape Orion). This “really strong story” also signals its importance for her family. In the words of middle sister Sandra Ken, “we’ve known that Seven Sisters Dreaming for a long time. When we’re painting, it’s easy because we know that story so well because Tjukurpa lives in our minds.” (Tjala Arts, 261) This Tjukurpa also lives in the landscape. This Tjukurpa is the landscape, with the appearance of the Seven Sisters just before the morning sun signifying the start of winter and the related cycles of life for Pitjantjatjara people.



This collective Tjukurpa presents one explanation for the cohesion found in the Ken sisters’ collaborations— a chromatic and compositional cohesion rare in collaborative desert paintings that are more often than not a meeting place for a patchwork of styles. Tjungkara Ken—youngest sister and one of Tjala Arts’ first art world successes—suggests another possibility for the visual unity found in their work when she describes the art and act of knowing what colour to put next to each other, a process of using “family colours”. (Tjala Arts, 65) Her family of colours can be seen clearly in the top right quadrant of the second painting—varying shades of harmonious warm reds and oranges sound an astral depth and pronounce her undeniable contribution. Elsewhere, Tingila Yaritji Young’s exuberant loose and sinuous forms painted in dizzying colour bounce across the surface of the canvas. Sandra Ken’s concentric circles turn like spinning tops, with some tethered beyond the canvas as though to infinite time and space. Maringka Tunkin’s lineal dotting tracks across country highlight the intersecting pathways of the complex stories depicted. The feathers or nyalpi painted in the centre of the painting by Freda Brady are a nod and a wink to their mother, who often includes them in her own paintings as a tribute to her grandmother’s country where the feather is an important emblem. By working together—sometimes simultaneously painting together on a lateral and grounded canvas, and sometimes consecutively, where one sister’s mark calls for another’s reply (resembling an ancestral call and response)— the painting is brought to life. This one painting, Tjala Tjukurpa (Honey Ant Story) like all good paintings compresses years of family demonstrations and family learning whereby older artists make their work while younger artists-to-be observe and learn. These collective canvasses are described by Freda Brady as Walytjaku way, a method of working that Tjungkara Ken elaborates upon when she claims “that’s the way I came up painting, kids sitting down with grandmas, and grandma telling the story and putting dots down.” (Tjala Arts, 254) Tingila Yaritji Young affirms that this family way is one that is tied not only to the past but to the future: “the one thing about our family is that we hold each other close, and do everything together, we grew up that way, and now we are raising the next generation this way. We are holding on to them tight like a strong hug.” (Rothwell) Hence through collaboration, the mnemonic or memory function of painting is performed. By collaboratively calling up country and culture through the act of painting together and alone, generations of artists proclaim: We are Tjala Dreaming.

references Rothwell, Nicholas. “Ken Family Work on Show at Outstation Gallery”. The Australian. 22 May 2015. Tjala Arts (ed). Nganampa Kampatjanka Unngutja (Beneath the Canvas). South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2015.




Relational Art: Then and Now Anneke Jaspers

Several months ago I wandered down the hill from where I work to have lunch at Artspace, one of Sydney’s key venues for progressive contemporary art. Unusually, this was not to mark an occasion in the program or even for a collegial catchup, but an unconventional exercise in art making. I took my seat at a small table in the middle of the gallery—a space in which eating is typically circumscribed—and enjoyed a meal from the local Thai takeout among the jostling objects and videos, in the company of a complete stranger. This action, repeated by other visitors over the course of the exhibition ‘Art as a Verb’ (2014–15), contributed to the collective realisation of Untitled (lunch box) (1998) by the Argentinean born, New York based artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, who is widely known for staging convivial gatherings based around food preparation and consumption as works of art. Tiravanija’s works in this vein are closely aligned with ‘relational aesthetics’, a phrase coined by the French curator Nicholas Bourriaud in his 1998 book of the same name, which marked an early and influential attempt to conceptualise the type of art that emerged with force during the nineties: participatory, socially engaged and open ended.

Rirkrit Tiravanija Untitled (lunch box) 1998 Installation for ‘Art as a Verb’, Artspace, Sydney, 2015 Photography Christo Crocker Image courtesy of Artspace




Bourriaud’s argument framed “the realm of human interactions and its social context” as the new horizon for art, extending the function of the artwork beyond representation to the modelling of new forms of action and exchange in the world at large.(14) The generation of artists he looked to—from Tiravanija to Liam Gillick and Vanessa Beecroft—produced situations first and foremost, rather than objects, although material often remained an important element in their work. In his observations, he acknowledged the influence of earlier movements like Fluxus, which prioritised dynamic encounters, chance and the imbrication of art and life. But ultimately Bourriaud diagnosed a seismic shift in practice— away from the affected picture making of the 1980s—as one aspect of the “broader cultural ascension of ‘interactivity’” encouraged by the emergence of a globalised service economy and new technologies, including the Internet. (25–26) It’s no coincidence that this shift in art practice corresponded with fresh institutional approaches to programming, reoriented around the audience. Progressive galleries repositioned themselves as active and democratic spaces, fully realised only through engagement and participation. As with relational aesthetics, this ‘new

institutionalism’ privileged intimate, communal encounters, that were seen as a strategy of resistance to the rampant privatisation of the public sphere and the alienating spectacle of consumer culture. These participatory models provoked a wave of critiques. Most significantly, in her pivotal 2004 essay “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”, theorist Claire Bishop challenged the assumption that relational artworks are automatically ‘political’ or ‘emancipatory’ by virtue of the viewer’s activation.(62) Bishop argued instead that the packaging of artistic process for public consumption and emphasis on producing harmonious relations could be seen to dovetail with the market demand for memorable leisure experiences—the so called ‘experience economy’— a charge since validated by the far reaching embrace of participatory programming by museums the world over.(52) Indeed, in the decade since this debate erupted, Bourriaud’s concept of relational aesthetics has been subsumed by discussions of a broader ‘experiential turn’ in art, which are less naïvely utopian in aspiration. In a recent essay titled “The Experiential Turn”, art historian Dorothea von Hantelmann traces a lineage from the mid-


twentieth century onwards in which the “creation and shaping of experiences” has proven integral to an artwork’s form and meaning.(2015) Her argument tacitly recognises participation as one among many facets of contemporary art that draw on the social and situational logic of the 1960s interdisciplinary avant garde—from performance to collective authorship and site-responsive production. The exhibition ‘Art as a Verb’, organised by Monash University Museum of Art—in which I lunched on and ‘as’ Tiravanija’s work—covered similar territory. It placed relational and ‘action’ oriented works produced in Australia and abroad since the 1990s within a historical trajectory inaugurated by happenings, Fluxus and the performance experiments of early conceptual art. Almost ten years since the first and only other major institutional survey in Australia to focus on these directions in contemporary practice— ‘Situation’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005— it pointed to their ongoing relevance and evolution. One of the most disarming works in the exhibition, photo-documentation of a performance by Melbourne artist Anastasia Klose, has a companion piece in the Artbank collection. The Kiss Part 1 (2011) shows Klose in a flowing

red dress readying to embrace a man at a romantic seaside location. A makeshift cardboard sign beside her announces ‘free kisses’ to be photographed by ‘mum’ and mailed to the daring passer-by as their ‘own personalised artwork’. The resulting images play on any number of clichés—from tourist snapshots to hackneyed stereotypes of single, desperate women—but ultimately Klose’s intention to fabricate a moment of intimacy comes across as both funny and earnest. At another level, Klose’s performance stages the collision between the representational space of art and the immediacy of lived experience that underscores all work in a participatory register. Stuart Ringholt’s naturist tours of art exhibitions work to some extent along similar lines and, as with The Kiss, reference (and undoubtedly produce) a gamut of emotions, some of which are routinely internalised in daily life: awkwardness, embarrassment, vulnerability, but also exhilaration, curiosity and possibly attraction. Since 2011, Ringholt has staged these tours in galleries and museums around the country—from the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney— realising his own work in dialogue with that of others.







The title of the work says it all: Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only). Ringholt’s tours thematise group dynamics as well as the behavioural codes that inform how we inhabit public and specifically institutional space. Therapeutic in spirit, they invite participants to revel in the strange subversiveness of the act and in the possibility of using the controlled environment of art to overcome a very real sense of fear. Not surprisingly, given the entanglement of participatory art and cultural institutions with the experience economy, numerous artists working in this mode engage critically with institutional economies of knowledge and labour. The service-oriented aspect of Ringholt’s tours finds an interesting counterpoint in a work like Canon (2012), by Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with The Parachutes for Ladies, which aimed to “make visible the human architecture of the institution” by drawing attention not to the audience, but to the staff of Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art. Through the simple gesture of asking the Gallery’s invigilators to wear tap shoes for the duration of the exhibition, the artists gave new prominence to the staff ’s presence, function and aspects of their employment conditions. Olivieri and Forward have worked beyond the institution too, responding to sites inflected by other kinds of social dynamics. Their performance for video Harlequins vs Visitors (2012) for instance, took place at the Campbelltown Show Grounds, home to the Harlequins rugby team and— briefly for this work—an unlikely ‘high culture’ production. The artists invited the Sydney Chamber Choir to perform a sequence of vocal warm ups to the empty field, acting out the perceived antagonism between art and sport that is so ingrained in the Australian psyche and by extension, between the culture of the inner city and outer west. The nuances of how culture is produced in relation to context remains a key point of departure for much relational and socially engaged work. Keg de Souza’s ongoing series of participatory picnics Temporary Spaces: Edible Places (2014–ongoing) also reflects this approach, drawing on the food traditions of different cities to start a conversation about other aspects of urban life, from architecture to migration and displacement, labour, class and value. To date Sydney based de Souza has staged the work in London, Vancouver and on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. At each location, she erects an inflatable dome hand-sewn from fabrics with a local symbolism, creating an intimate space for hosting and storytelling. Closer to home, in 2011 the Green Bans Art Walks— a collaborative project by Big Fag Press and The Cross Art Projects—engaged hundreds of people in walking tours of Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst and Kings Cross that remembered the ‘green bans’ enacted by the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) in the early 1970s. By voting to block controversial developments in the interest of protecting heritage, the environment and low-


cost housing, the BLF inaugurated a radical planning revolution founded on civic participation. Borrowing from the established format of architectural sightseeing excursions, the Green Bans Art Walks revived this narrative through on-the-ground engagement with key sites, some of which illustrate campaign ‘losses’, while others stand as monuments to the green bans’ substantial legacy. These tours reflect two larger tendencies in recent art. One is the mining of past events for information, parables and political strategies that might reshape our experience of the present, and the other is the modelling of pedagogic spaces. A final example similarly demonstrates the mingling of these approaches in recent relational work, to different ends. For The History of Performance (2015), Sydney collective Brown Council invites audience members to join the artists in authoring an account of art history based on recollections. The work unfolds as an intimate, organic exchange over several hours, in which participants share brief descriptions of performances with the group. The resulting narrative—filtered through the idiosyncratic lens of personal experience, further moderated by memory and innately tied to a specific local context—highlights the complexity of writing ephemeral forms of art into history. Of course, such considerations play out differently now than when Tiravanija and his peers first landed on the scene, particularly given the parallel resurgence of performance to which Brown Council’s work ultimately refers. While not evident in a brief overview such as this, at the level of both practice and discourse the focus has shifted away from the form of relational works, to deeper considerations of content and effect. Questions about the relationship of live action to documentation and how to locate the ‘authentic’ limits of work grounded in experience have given way to discussions about the cultural value of knowledge that lives ‘in the body’ on the one hand, and the pragmatics of how to collect, preserve and effectively exhibit participatory and performance based art on the other. In the meantime, a relational approach has become orthodox, one among many ways in which artists confront and connect with the conditions of contemporary life.

references Bourriaud, Nicholas. Relational Aesthetics (English edition, trans. Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods). France: Les presses du réel, c.2002. Bishop, Claire. “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics.” October. 110, 2004. 51–79. Day, Charlotte and Leonard, Robert, et al. Stuart Ringholt: Kraft. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art, 2014. Day, Charlotte and Parker, Frances, et al. Art as a Verb. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art, 2014. Forward, Hayley and Olivieri, Jess. “Canon: artist statement”. von Hantelmann, Dorothea. “The Experiential Turn”.

1 Stuart Ringholt Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only.) 2011–ongoing Tour in James Turrell, Virtuality squared 2014, Ganzfeld (collection of the artist) at the National Gallery of Australia, 2015 Photography Daegan Wells Image courtesy of Stuart Ringholt, James Turrell and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2 Anastasia Klose The Kiss Part 1 2011 Digital print, 103.5 x 144 x 4 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2012 3 Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with The Sydney Chamber Choir Harlequins vs Visitors 2012 High definition digital video, 7:10 mins Artbank collection, purchased 2013 4 Keg de Souza Temporary Spaces, Edible Places: London 2014 Inflatable architecture, fan, picnic tablecloths, food, flags, conversation, live-mapping performance at the Delfina Foundation, London Photography Zan Wimberley Image courtesy of the artist 5 Brown Council The History of Performance 2015 Participatory performance at The Physics Room, Christchurch Photography Zan Wimberley Image courtesy of Brown Council and The Physics Room






Gerwyn Davies: Chux, Glitter and the Occasional Hissy Fit Miriam Kelly

Gerwyn Davies Milk 2013 Digital print, 103 x 103 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2013


“Sometimes I win, sometimes the material does.” Photo media artist Gerwyn Davies seeks to “construct a moment that is less formal more fantasy”. Each ‘moment’ of each image begins with a new fantastical costume, often the outcome of hours of wrangling unorthordox materials ranging from paint rollers and Chux to laminate and Astro-Turf. “The malleability of the material”, Davies explains, “will ultimately decide the final outcome... It makes it so satisfying to watch this costume then reveal itself as something I want to work with, or something that I have lost control of and requires a hissy fit.” Davies lives and works between Brisbane and Berlin, also straddling the creative industries of art, advertising and commercial photography. The influence of these contexts on his art is apparent, with series titles like ‘Paradise’, ‘a million bucks’ and ‘Beast’ suggesting a wry nod to the seduction, escape and desire of contemporary advertising. Similarly, a work like Milk (2013) has the appearance of an advert without a tagline in its presentation of Davies’s characteristic playfulness, underpinned by a darker, edgier kind of absurdity. It is always Davies portrayed in these images, albeit at times completely concealed. Disguising nearly all of his most recognisable features—“my beard, my bald head, and tattoos”—he feels is essential. It allows him the freedom from their “attached meaning” so as to be more expressive (and mischievous) in interpreting the alter egos that emerge with each new costume. While Davies may start out with an idea of the “palette or texture and broader form” of an image, his characters take shape as he finds the groove of a new material, and then come alive once he begins to wear it; “it really is purely a matter of inhabiting this new form, and being conscious of your body and its new extensions.” Davies does not involve others in the documentation process, they are essentially self portraits. As such, he often has to wear each costume for a sustained period with a “methodical shuffling to and from the camera”. While his intention is not performative at this point, it can occur incidentally throughout the day as Davies ends up undertaking 53


activities such as “eating lunch, talking on the phone, playing with the dog”. In an emailed update on the progress of Artbank’s commissioned work, Davies sent through a shot of himself in a spiky blue glitter ball, casually watering the front garden. This particular shimmering form came to be the centre piece of the large scale work Roland (2015). Davies here is a typically otherworldly character, yet also appears grounded in a kind of mundane reality, evidenced by the contrast of the artist’s legs in his distinctive rugged Doc Martens. The location of the shoot is an overgrown tennis court in Brisbane and a site of family significance. While distinctly anonymous, it also feels eerily familiar. Adding to this slightly unnerving air, Davies’s glittering form is captured here searching into the space just above

that occupied by us as the viewer; looking for or perhaps at something that will always remain unseen. Davies noted that the production of Roland offered him a peculiarly objective insight into his understanding of his own process and work, particularly the intensity of the connection he develops with his costumes/alter egos. As part of his process of sharing these images with the world, Davies will never again wear that costume as it is depicted. With each new work, Davies is thus simultaneously preserving and releasing this part of himself. Davies began working on Roland the day after the funeral of his brother as a means by which to simultaneously escape from and deal with this loss. While this highly personal motivation is intentionally not articulated in this image, Davies hints


at a narrative in his titling and distinctly darker aesthetic. Davies’s intention with this work was however to offer the viewer not his own story, but rather the same opportunity that the production of the work offered him: a moment, an opportunity to reimagine or provide a reprieve from reality. This work is the outcome of by Artbank’s partnership with the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane; designed to support and promote the work of contemporary Queensland artists with new work on display in the Russell Street Wine Bar. Fittingly then, for a time, Davies’s Roland will hang QPAC at home within a space dedicated to entertainment that offers the potential for a moment of fantasy and escape.


Gerwyn Davies Roland 2015 Digital Type C print, 100 x 265 cm Artbank collection, commissioned 2015


Retro Black: Interpellating History Ann Finegan

Karla Dickens is an Aboriginal artist who has a way with history. Though there might be no easy lessons and her themes of race and justice in lesser hands might be a series of bitter pills, she has a way of charming you through a common appeal to nostalgia and the affectionate patina of age-worn things and artefacts rich with stories. Frequently there are cross-cultural overlaps, shared values and a duty of care. If there’s a sense of mourning, it’s of all of us mourning together. Recently at ‘Cementa15’ in the New South Wales town of Kandos, Dickens installed a poker machine and ropes of coloured lights at the Kandos Museum as a shrine to the loss of country through the damages of big mining. Framed by the museum’s exhibit of the machines of extraction, you didn’t need to be Aboriginal to get the point of mining as a gamble of riches against the ruination of country. No one culture or race owns the pokies: it’s one of those universal signifiers, a frequent metaphor for bad bets and ill-judged decisions. Dickens is a Wirajuri woman and Kandos is Wirajuri country, but she makes her point through the lingua franca of common objects and good sense.

Karla Dickens The Whole Black Hole 2015 Site-specific installation for ‘Cementa 15’, Kandos Museum, New South Wales, 2015 Photography Ian Hobbs Image courtesy of the artist



January 26, Day of Mourning 2013 Found flag, shell, cotton, 280 x 124 cm Image courtesy of the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane


Well known for her love of twentieth century remainders—fabric scraps, old books, op-shop finds and items rummaged at the local tip—her assemblages renegotiate history, refreshingly, from a black perspective. Through judicious recreation of context, and some artistic nudging (tweaking, embroidering) her work is staged such that the material signifiers say it all: the artefacts compellingly become their own evidence. Politically and ontologically she has a way with the stuff of matter, such that the truth of things can’t be denied. In her various assemblages, collages and installations, historical objects speak their case. Take for example the Australian flag, an object of incontestable material reality; its fabric base the ground holding together its various symbolic components. In 2013 Dickens won the Parliament of New South Wales Aboriginal Art Prize with her controversial reworking: 26 January Day of Mourning (2013). The flag was found at her local tip, a discard like the outdated politics it represents. Dickens over-coded the Union Jack with traditional shell beading, and embroidered a constellation of dark crosses into the sky of the Southern Cross. There was no destruction or burning—the usual symbolic acts of protest—no cutting of the body, no abjection (1960 to 1970 art history royalty now includes many of ‘DIA’ – Destruction in Art – fame). Instead Dickens embraced, restored, embellished and added. The crosses symbolised black deaths. Stitching into the flag’s very fabric was a way of materialising that history’s truth, very quietly, even stoically, as a mark of mourning. Without anger and with respect, she found a way of saying black lives matter; that black history is formative of the ‘post-invasion’ Australian story. This ground of mourning lies at the core of the modern Australian nation state, and in 2015 could not be more relevant to the current debates on constitutional recognition of the First Australians or their original custodianship of the land. 59

Even so, Dickens is well aware there is no going back to some pristine pre-invasion date, and that the way forward is through an intermeshed and hybrid blackfella culture. Whiteness can’t be extracted and co-existence is the contemporary Aboriginal experience. However, she can put nostalgia to work and interpellate blackfella views into history’s narrative streams, in her collages in particular. In effect, she can go back and correct the omissions of the past. Literally gluing together the detritus of print from children’s literature with fabric swatches cut from opshop finds, the collage work is a way of evidencing shared participation in twentieth century material culture. It is a way of saying to the dominant voices that Aboriginal Australians were there too, occupying the same historical ground, watching Pick a Box (1957–71) on television, playing footy and reading The Sun and Pix magazine. As the twentieth century advanced, the people of a quotidian Australia dressed in the same prints and shopped at Woolies and Coles. Twentieth century blackfellas and whiteys alike inhabited the same world of mass production, albeit with markedly disproportionate shares and perspectives. Dickens’s collages, Howling Comrade (2013), Walking the Dog (2013) and Dancing Hounds (2013), draw on this common material ground, in particular, fabrics and print culture, surprisingly spiced with the twist of a certain nostalgia for the old racist tropes of children’s literature. With the latitude of irony, Dickens appears to be almost fond of the outrageous stereotyping, perhaps out of sheer gratitude that black representation existed at all in times when Aboriginal voices were largely silenced. Take the mock shock with which she collages a ‘little black Sambo’ in European dress (circa 1920 when the Aboriginal Progress Association was beginning to push for civil rights) aghast at the silhouette of a boy with European features walking the dog against the illuminations of electric light.


Dancing Hounds 2013 Found fabric, pencil, synthetic polymer paint and adhesive on board 67 x 49 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2015


Walking the Dog 2013 Found fabric, pencil, synthetic polymer paint and adhesive on board 67 x 49 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2015



The illustrations, which seem to come from Boys Own annuals and even earlier Victorian children’s books, are recast as a series of parodies. The little black boy could be an Aboriginal leader, a young Bennelong on a visit to England, taken aback by the strangeness of the local ‘native’ culture. Coming from a land where dingoes run free, he gapes in astonishment at the weirdness of Europe and dogs on leashes. In this work of cultural reversal it’s the blackfella’s turn to gawk at the whitefella’s ways, and the Victorian exhibition culture of ‘peoples of the world’ is itself on exhibit. There’s thus more than nostalgia in Dickens’s recuperations. She isn’t going to stir up bad feeling, but she isn’t going to let the old racist stereotypes fade away quietly in political banishment, bad deeds forgotten. Instead, in situationist style she repurposes, she detournes the bad old messages, switching the roles and inscribing black perspectives. Her work is proof the task of interpellating history can be an entertaining business. Across the series of collages the history of race relations becomes a game of dingoes and dogs. Take a closer look at Howling Comrade, Walking the Dog and Dancing Hounds. With more than a nostalgic nod to silhouette portraiture, shadows of dogs and dingoes emerge from the highly patterned ground. Dickens has reworked an old brainteaser from children’s annuals. Look at this picture and what do you see? Can you find the hidden animals? How many dingoes? How many dogs? The switcheroo, for Dickens, is to engage the viewer such that the trick of perception becomes a history lesson. Two kinds of animals, representative of two kinds of culture, firm up from the shadows and occupy the same ground. The message of dual occupation is clear, a way of saying whitefella dogs and blackfella dingoes are in it together, but the marks of cultural difference are clear. Topographically, a distinctly Aboriginal aesthetic holds sway. The any which way up of the various cut out shapes and patterns of Howling Comrade assures that no matter which side is at the top, some shapes will

still be upside down. Only an Aboriginal perspective of viewing from above, the way the sand paintings of ceremony were maps of county, will resolve the design. However, an unmistakable sadness prevails once this topographical penny drops. The floral fabric patches replace the topoi of native flora. With her remarkable facility for visual shorthand, Dickens condenses commentary on loss of country, culture and colonialisation into a sartorial metaphor. Black women’s bodies clothed in the florals of the Commonwealth signify two centuries of dispossession. A final overlay of black spotted nylon voile becomes a veil of mourning and completes the commentary on displacement: with machinic indifference the nylon spots replace Aboriginal dots and their relationship to country. Lastly, the details of Howling Comrade merit closer scrutiny, interpellating a black identity into a comfortably colonialist representation of Australia. A Blinky Bill era mumma koala with her shoulders in a 1950s sun frock, head on hand, looks lazily or wearily out of the frame, while above her a pack of black dingo silhouettes howl at the cosmos enfolding through various globes in an Escheresque perspective. At the top of the frame, upside down, at the very least symbolically off-kilter, the silhouette of a 1940s style whitey hunter and his dog stalks after his prey. In this topsy-turvey world, the dingoes dominate and seemingly break through, as if from the repression of a buried understory. They burst out of the floral patterns, which are also simultaneously overcoming the whitey hunter as if he is a relic soon to be overtaken. In the centre, amid competing florals, a bloom of Sturt Desert Pea holds its ground. It becomes glaringly obvious that this famous flower, widely known by the name of the colonial explorer, has lost its Aboriginal name. Like Mrs Koala stamped with the imprint of Blinky Bill, it has become an emblem of whitey culture, a pillar of 1940s colonialist Australia. Only the dingo remains unincorporated, a ‘howling comrade’, inconsolable and uncolonisable, a comrade-in-arms in Aboriginal solidarity.


Howling Comrade 2013 Found fabric, pencil, synthetic polymer paint and adhesive on board 67 x 49 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2015



The Pool Aileen Sage Architects Michelle Tabet in conversation

Bondi Icebergs Photography Jenna Rowe


isabelle toland (aileen sage architects): We are particularly lucky to be the first Architecture exhibition in the new Australian pavilion. The Denton Corker Marshall designed building is our site and we want to place ‘The Pool’ in dialogue with their design. michelle tabet: As the creative directors of the Australian exhibition we are proposing to step outside of the architect-to-architect discourse to show how a familiar, common object—the pool—is in fact pregnant with cultural significance. It is both an artifact and catalyst for change. amelia holliday (aileen sage architects): ‘The Pool’ for us is not just an exhibition, it’s an architectural project and that’s how we have thought about it in our everyday practice. For us, the challenge of any architectural or urban project is to create a space where people are able to make an emotional connection, where they are able to connect across both the personal and the collective, beyond the visual and the built. We also feel that any piece of architecture we create should resonate both in situ and beyond. it: For this project we wanted to create an immersive experience, with the pool itself central to the design. For us, ‘The Pool’ is a means to amplify and enhance the experience of this new building: a simple black box that sits cantilevered over the edge of the canal at the edge of the trees in the Giardini with Venice, the city of water, as its backdrop. The pool is the focal point of the space, juxtaposed with the window that looks over the canal. When you enter the space you will be enveloped by a scent, a powerful trigger of memories. It will be a particularly Australian smell, created by parfumier Elise Pioch in collaboration with designers Lyn&Tony. It is the smell of fire and water, the bush and the city, as well as of petrichor, the scent of wet ground after rain. For many Australians this may be a familiar scent of home, while for others it may be strange and foreign, a scent of danger and oddity. 65


Another intangible element of the design is sound. A soundscape by accomplished composer and sound artist Bree van Reyk will surround you as you enter the space. This explores the varied and particular acoustic qualities of pool environments, from cathedral-like indoor public pools to a tranquil waterhole in the middle of the Australian bush or desert, or the muted sounds of an underwater sequence. Reflections in the space will be created from both mirror and water surfaces and will expand the space from a room to a landscape. The setting of the pool is ambiguous, referencing both the natural and the constructed. Light will shimmer off the surface of the water as people touch and move it, throwing languid caustic light patterns onto the walls and ceiling that will shift throughout the course of the day. ah: As a team, we wanted this exhibition to be engaging and accessible for architects, but also those not trained in the dark arts—for those who are perhaps less aware of the language, mechanisms and theory of contemporary architectural practice, but who are no less engaged in the biennale experience and inspired to learn more about the current Australian architectural landscape. mt: Our vision portrays the architect as a synthesiser of different voices and perspectives, a facilitator and leveler who creates a platform for conversation between leaders and civil society. it: A strong focus of our practice at Aileen Sage Architects is to use narrative as a driver for design. Rather than form or fashion, we are more specifically interested in creating experiences and settings that consider what people bring to a place; their stories and

previous experiences, how they will enrich the space and connect with architecture, and with each other in a meaningful way. ah: At the beginning of this process we began a discussion around what we wanted to say about Australian architecture in Venice. We wanted to bring a fresh perspective, a new voice but we also wanted to create a seductive and accessible spatial experience. We wanted the exhibition to be something very real that our audience could interact with beyond a single piece of content or a particular project reference. We knew that we wanted to tell a particularly Australian story, and the pool spoke to us immediately as a vessel for this endeavour. Through a number of conversations the pool emerged as this incredibly seductive and rich platform, and one that touches on many of the different scales, themes and concerns that architecture deals with. it: For us, this is a project of both private reflection and public engagement, providing at once a solitary and communal experience. The Biennale, especially during Vernissage, can be hectic and overwhelming. ‘The Pool’ is intended to be a place where people will meet, where they can chose to tune in or tune out, relax or purposefully engage. Our aim is to create a space beyond just architecture, where the universal appeal of water in all of its forms and its unique place in our Australian culture and community will be told.

Aileen Sage Architects Model Studies 2015



ah: We knew intuitively that this was something uniquely Australian. It resonated with us and others, and naturally inspired those we spoke with to share their stories, their associations and their memories. The pool is an artefact of cultural change over time, but it also acts as a catalyst for social transformation, challenging perceptions of the self, of community and of the nation. We also love that the pool is joyful. That is, it has an implicit tone that isn’t too serious. It’s celebratory and accessible, a leveler of age, background, education and commitment. For the exhibition experience we have embraced the pool as an immutable object within the space. Drawing on the references of many, ‘The Pool’ embodies the at times contradictory language of Australian pools; from vast to tiny, salt water, chlorinated and fresh, natural and man made. The pools of necessity and the pools of excess. it: The constructed elements in the space will reference specific pool conditions: the spectator bleacher seats, the poolside bench and diving blocks. The water’s edge will be a painted datum, or tidal marks, and throughout the space, will be the inescapable relationship between the pool and the ceiling, the water and the sky. ah: As we dived deeper into this project, we uncovered a rich body of research into the pool as a setting for cultural exchange, including stories of segregation, competition, sustainability and survival, and each of these has their own architectural legacy or reference.

mt: Through the device of the pool we uncovered so many stories, and from these curated eight narratives about aspects of Australian cultural identity that shed light on the sustainability of our social infrastructures. To tell these stories we have selected eight prominent cultural leaders from a variety of fields including literature, science, the arts, sport and music: Tim Flannery, Ian Thorpe, Romance Was Born, Christos Tsiolkas, Anna Funder, Hetti Perkins, Shane Gould and Paul Kelly. ah: We have overlaid this series of stories onto this singular object, allowing for both a communal and individual experience of the exhibition and message about Australian architecture that is narrative based rather than project or practice driven. it: Within this broader communal poolscape experience there will be opportunities to engage more deeply with this ‘pool’ of personal stories. Playfully interpreted as diving blocks, and referencing the graphics of a competition pool, visitors to the pavilion will be invited to sit and listen to each story within each lane—telling of culture, identity, history, competition, fear and anxiety or simple recollections of celebration and joy. mt: The narratives move from the scale of the body to the scale of the continent and together they reveal the many powers of the pool: a means to enable survival in an unforgiving landscape, to tame our environment, to provide spaces that facilitate a direct contact with nature, to create democratic social spaces, but also spaces for healing racial and cultural division. All are examples of the myriad meanings and impacts of the pool on Australian society.


Ian W Abdulla Way to go! 1997 Screenprint on paper, 40 x 37 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1998



VOGUE / BOGUE Emily Hunt & Raquel Caballero


VOGUE QUITTING JOBS YOU HATE Quitting a job you hate is by far the MOST SATISFYING THING YOU CAN DO, EVER. Yes, even more satisfying than throwing out old pens! A friend of ours quit a pretty fancy, high flying job recently cause she hated it to so much and we were so happy for her we almost started crying!



Riddle me this... was Minesweeper an attempt to actually sweep your mind of any thought? We never once understood this game. We would look over the shoulder of others who played the giant games that filled the whole screen and wonder “What are the actual rules?” We think we want to play this game again.

Check this one out. We want to make one for our 50 inch flat screen TV so bad, but our housemate said we’ve gone too far. WHAAAAT! You can never go too far when it comes to hideous homewares!

SPENDING ALL YOUR MONEY ON BOOKS What else is going to cheer you up? Buying expensive but cheap-looking shoes and handbags? We don’t think so! The best feeling in the world (YES! Even better than throwing out old pens) is finding a weird art book you never knew existed. Really, how is it possible you’d never even heard of it even though you’ve worked in bookshops your whole adult life? The best feeling part is that you managed to discover something new and wonderful which means the future isn’t as bad as you think it’s gonna be! The moral of this story is that buying a book is the most life-affirming thing you can do.

RATS-TAILS ON LITTLE KIDS We don’t understand. Did their parents force them to grow it? I mean, what kind of little kid has such an intense commitment to a hair style? Either way, little kids with rats-tails are awesome and scary. We’re scared to even look at them cause they might bash us up! But that’s cool, we don’t need to look at them IRL, we can just google them!

EROTIC ACCESSORIES Our main man, the super glamorous Grayson Perry knows what’s up in his bedazzled penis ejaculating cape! All he needs now is this scrotum purse and a pair of these dick shoes that were for sure designed for kicking date rapists in the balls!



DAVID BOWIE’S CROTCH IN LABYRINTH Many a drunken conversation question between kids born in the 1980s: “What was up with David Bowie’s giant package in Labyrinth?” Why did Jim Henson put him in tights like that? It made us all feel. We felt good, but others not so good. We wish someone, someday would ask David how he feels about his considerable penis package having such a sexual effect on an entire generation. Unfortunately our question will go unanswered. Oh, the Bowie Grief... MINIATURE ANYTHING There have been a few key life experiences that have shaped me. One was getting a doll house at seven years old and another better one from my boyfriend when I turned twenty seven years old. My obsession with perfect miniatures is entrenched in me, however I go through stages of being more or less obsessed. A couple of perfect examples of perfect miniaturisation include: • The Nutshell Murders • The Arikalex Museum that is beneath a Christian hotel in Berlin. • The Queen’s doll house.


DECORATING YOUR WORK LOCKER SO YOU’RE NOT SO DEPRESSED ABOUT WORKING IN A PLACE WITH A WINDOWLESS LUNCH ROOM Raquel is in the middle of redecorating ‘cause at the moment hers is looking like the inside of a prison cell filled with stashed contraband (Special K anyone?). But she’s actually looking into buying a mini chandelier to hang up in there and cheer the place up a little.

We don’t know why people want to do karaoke with huge groups of people. You have to sit through all their crappy song selections till you get your ONE good song in and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll get to sing it cause some dickhead might skip the track! Ugh! What’s the point? Doing karaoke with only one or two other people means you can hog the mic and you have total control of the songs, so you know it’s going to be solid gold hits all night long.

LENNY KRAVITZ’S PENISGATE This is seriously the funniest ‘gate’ related celebrity controversy ever. We know he probably planned it. Really, the split of the crotch was too clean not to have been loosened up slightly with some unpicking, but still! We never thought we’d ever have to use the words ‘genius’ and ‘Lenny Kravitz’ in the same sentence, but we just have to cause that was a GENIUS publicity stunt that led nowhere. See you in obscurity again soon, Lenny!



MONO-BROWS ON WOMEN: This is the classic look. Strong, bold and hairy. Fight the stereotype because a mono-brow makes you look far more intelligent and with a don’t-dare-mess-with-me attitude.

CROAKY, HUSKY VOICES: Women with a deep voice get want they want! No more infantile baby-talk please, train your voice to go deeper. Get heard when somebody steps in the line in front of you. Get heard when making a phone complaint. Sexy croaky voice can be achieved from either smoking way too much or genetics. (Sorry about that.) WOMEN WHO DATE MEN MUCH YOUNGER THAN THEMSELVES: YES! Everyone deserves one hot lover in their lifetime and if it turns out you get yours at seventy five, why not enjoy it and rub it into everyone’s faces? We aspire to be like the Duchess of Alba. She was quite unusual looking, but she really knew how to let her hair down with her younger, bronzed lover.

WEARING RINGS ON EVERY SINGLE FINGER: Hardcore glam and hardcore self-defence! Go hard or go home. WHITE HAIR ANYTIME: Young, middle aged, older women, it’s always a refined look. Andy Warhol knew it was best to appear old before you actually were, because when you actually did get old no one expected it.

ALIENS – DAVID ICKE & DR STEVEN GREER We want to believe! But any man who decides to champion the idea of aliens turns out to be a raging egomaniac. It’s not hard to believe that the British Royal Family is in fact lizards from a far off galaxy. Or that alien technology has been incorporated into human technology for the last one hundred years, as Dr Greer expounds. But we dunno, it still seems farfetched. To see actual proof would be like seeing the dead come back to life.

DIRTY LOOKS! Yes, to perfect the dirty look is an artform and one to be admired.Women can be masters of this. It relieves your tension to give an idiot who has crossed the social rules a serious filthy look. Oh, such a good feeling!


ONE STAR AMAZON REVIEWS Ever since we found ‘Mrs Willis’ and her never ending stream of Amazon reviews for everything from plastic storage containers to his ‘n’ hers wedding bands (seriously, did this woman buy her entire life on Amazon?), we’ve become addicted to trawling Amazon for one star reviews. Though none have come as close to entertaining as what we’re about to reveal to you now. The intrigue! The drama! We know it’s annoying having to manually type a link into the search field, but the title for her review is ‘DEADLY CONSEQUENCES’. Is that enough to convince you to do it? Do yourself a favour and type this in asap: R34DM5X8ND4VIE/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm










ADULT COLOURING-IN BOOKS This is THE lamest fad since yarn bombing, but this is way worse because it’s a lot more pervasive. Ok so there are two things we truly hate about it, other than the fact that it’s a total waste of time. 1: The childhood regression factor. Have you seen some of these socalled ‘adult’ colouring-in books? Apart from the complicated mandala pattern ones—which, I mean, they’re so intricate how is it even possible to colour them in without a magnifying glass?—most of them are so basic they look like regular colouring-in books FOR CHILDREN. Oh you can get hardcover ones with fancy pencils? What’s that? There are purse-sized ones for people who just need to have a quick colour-in sesh to take the edge off their boring dead end jobs? We see... that doesn’t sound juvenile at all! 2: That people are buying into it under the misguided understanding that it’s a form of ‘art therapy’. I mean seriously, it’s about as therapeutic as lying on the couch, eating a frozen lasagne dinner and zoning out watching The X-Factor or some other bullshit ‘talent’ search TV show. Just because it’s mind numbing doesn’t mean it’s actually relaxing you! Get some electro-shock therapy instead why don’t you and snap out of this ridiculous phase of your life.

The Fragile Hippie is usually an older woman, a bag lady type— but not homeless—who is VERY EMOTIONAL and reads awful spiritual books like The Celestine Prophecy or The Power of Now. The fragile hippie is very difficult to deal with. She’s often very softly spoken to the point where you think she’s about to burst into tears. She’s also super VAGUE and will look for any sign of warmth from you (a “Hello, how are you?” is enough for these needy bastards) and then they latch on and never let go! We have a lot of fragile hippies who come into the bookshop where we work, and they’re a real drag. One time Emily had to secretly call the shop phone from her mobile and then pretended she had to take an important phone call so she could get away!

YUMMY MUMMIES This is a pretty obvious one but it still makes me SO MAD: ‘Yummy mummies’. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing ‘yummy’ about being a mummy. It’s not sexy or cute or fun— it’s weird and alien and SCARY! The last thing you want during this horrific ordeal is for some gross man to be salivating over you like you’re a piece of meat.

PEOPLE WHO WALK AROUND WITH A SLIGHT SMILE ON THEIR MOUTH, LIKE LIFE IS AMUSING Well, life isn’t amusing. It is brutal. At any given moment at least 40% of the population is tired and thinking about sleep. The ‘slight smile’ resting face makes the onlooker feel like they have missed out on a private joke. However, in reality these slight-smilers are borderline insane, read way too many self-help books and cannot be counted on in an emergency. Resting bitch face is at least honest!



DATE NIGHT Look, there’s nothing wrong with going out and having a nice time with your partner, I mean, by all means you should be living it up! Just PLEASE don’t call it a ‘date night’ because it instantly makes me think of sad, needy couples who’ve lived together for way too long and who desperately need to ‘keep the flame alive’ by designating a single night of the week to ‘getting out of the house’ so they can go out for ‘a nice meal’ and pretend that they’re still going through ‘the honeymoon period’. Puhlease!

RECONNECTING WITH YOUR ESTRANGED FATHER Sometimes it’s better not to have a dad if all he does is wake you up every morning at 7.30am by sending you text messages that consists of weird life-affirming poems. Seriously Dad, this is NOT what I signed up for!

AKA the fear of being assaulted. We think about this constantly, especially when I’m in the shower and I’m naked and wet and feeling especially vulnerable. Can you imagine? But seriously, being a woman walking home alone at night and having to look over your shoulder—terrified that some beast is going to assault you—is not a pleasant experience. We’re not being paranoid! We’re sure we can safely say that all women know this fucked-up feeling very well.

BEING ADDICTED TO EYE DROPS We can’t get enough! We have to have them in the morning and then again later in the day (if we didn’t get enough in the morning) and then of course, at night after a long internet sesh. Why can’t my eyes just be naturally dewy? Why are we forced to spend $8 for a tiny 15ml bottle? We know it’s bad for you but we can’t stop! Will we go blind from all this abuse? Will somebody pleeeeease help?


THE CREEPY SERIAL STYLE DÉCOR OF MODERN INTERIORS We’re talking leather couches, floor-toceiling mirrored built-in robes AND tiled floors throughout the entire house – including the living room! Can you imagine the possibilities for your neighbourhood serial killer with all that tile in the house? You do the math on how many litres of blood a regular bucket can hold.


How many of these weak, limp, lacking any personality ceramic sculptures were made? These are by far my most hated recurring object at auction houses and people still go mad for them. We wish they would all just break!


PUBLISHERS WHO ARE CONSTANTLY PUTTING OUT NEW BOOKS ABOUT THE SAME TIRED OLD ARTISTS Do we really need another coffee table book about Basquiat or Banksy or Frida Kahlo even? I mean seriously! Sure, these publishers need to make a quick buck (who doesn’t?) but enough is enough. Can we get some new material already?

SCHLEPPING SHIT AROUND OUR WHOLE LIVES Packing up, unloading, packing up. Installing, de-installing. Carrying heavy bags full of books. Packing ceramics. Unpacking broken ceramics. Throwing stuff out. ALL THE TIME. POSTAGE SCAMMERS We got ripped off recently by an egomaniacal comic book artist on postage rates for a tiny postcard-sized zine that was sent from Melbourne to Sydney. We’re not going to go into the math, suffice to say we were grossly over-charged and then refused a refund on the grounds of ‘labour costs’.

This is the art of the schlep. When will it not be part of our lives? We have run three small business (not yet tycoons) and dealt with an incredible amount of crap. When will it end?

Ironically we’re about to pay double what we paid, to send him a turd in the mail. The moral of the story here is: don’t include a return address if you’re planning on ripping people off!

APPLYING FOR NEW JOBS Just as quitting jobs you hate is totally VOGUE, applying for new jobs is of course, totally BOGUE! Applying for jobs and having to ‘sell yourself’ AKA being a raging egomaniac in order to convince employers that you’re ‘the one’ is the most soul-destroying thing you can ever be forced to do! Quick, you better run out and spend whatever money you’ve got left after you quit your job to buy a new book!


HAVING TO GIVE A ‘CUSTOMER’ SERVICE OH MY FUCKING GOD! If anyone ever asked us “What is the biggest BOGUE of all?”, it would have to be working in retail and having to suffer fools gladly (‘cause you’re getting minimum wage, why else?). Here are the things that customers do that makes us hate them (and by extension—people). One for every letter of the alphabet. ... A. Asking a question, like “Where can I find self-help books?” and then as soon as you start explaining it to them, they turn and walk off. And you’re left standing there like an idiot. B. When you’ve JUST finished tidying a book display and you come back to put some more books away to find a GIANT FUCKING MESS! And there’s nothing you can do because customers are babies and babies can’t help what they do.

C. When they stand there silently waiting for you to acknowledge them but your head is down, typing on the computer or whatever so they stand there like that for AGES. Like, why didn’t they cough and say “Excuse me?” What the hell is wrong with them? D. When they’re talking on their mobile phones and they stop suddenly to ask you a question and then while you’re trying to answer it, they’re acting all rushed like they have to get back to their phone call so you feel like you have to rush to help them, like you’re their servant or something. E. Customers (this mainly happens with MEN) who ask you if you have a book in stock, but they don’t actually want the book. In fact, sometimes they’ll tell you that they already own the book. They just want to know “if you’ve heard of it”. Those condescending bastards! How dare they try and test US! If anyone is going to be passing any judgments here, it’s us on them, and their time wasting behaviour.


F. Following on from the last point, we also hate when people ask you for a book but really they don’t want the book, they just want to make conversation. As if! Just like in a reality TV show, we’re not here to make friends! Don’t they know we’re only doing this for the money? We’re literally being PAID minimum wage to be nice to them. Ugh! G. Vague Dummies. People! When you make a phone call or walk into a shop, do you have any idea what you are actually looking for? Be direct, straight forward, polite and lets get this job done! H. Oversharers. Don’t tell me about your private life, pleeeeease?

I. Lingerers. The conversation is over, thankyou. J. Indecisive. Do you want a bag, yes or no? K. No manners. L. Customers with B.O. M. When they leave their garbage around, like coffee cups on top of books.

P. When they want to touch everything.

Q. Asking about books on display behind the desk, even though they have no interest whatsoever. R. When they insist on looking at books, even though we have told them we are closing in two minutes. S. Young ‘cool’ dudes who only buy four authors. These are: Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson, Hesse & Burroughs. Yeah good luck finding those second hand. T. Quiet speakers. Speak up, we can’t hear you!

U. Loud talkers. Shoossssh! V. When customers are walking past and you are eating your lunch and they just have to stop and say, “Ooooooooh, that looks delicious doesn’t it?!” W. When they come into to the bookshop and ask, “Is this a bookshop?” X. When they bring a book up to the counter and ask, “Can I buy this?”

N. When they stand close to you when you are putting books away.

Y. When they get upset when we offer them fifteen books for $15.

O. When they laugh too loud.

Z. The fact that they are in the shop.


Australianness and the New International Style. Oliver Watts

art and justin bieber’s monkey

What does a global citizen look like? Perhaps the picture of Justin Bieber sitting on a private jet the second after his pet monkey Mally is confiscated, sums it up. Bemused Bieber’s defence was that for most of the time he did not know what country he was in let alone when he crossed a border. For this citizen, the globe is what Michel Foucault called heterotopic, it is a placeless place where Jack Sparrowlike celebrities move from port to port without a care. The global artworld represents this hyper-community quite neatly: travelling from art fair to art fair; from Biennale to Biennale; from hotspot to hotspot. Larry Gagosian took this to its natural conclusion when he opened a gallery, designed by starchitect Jean Nouvel, located near Paris Le Bourget Business International Landing Strip. Against this background it is hard to think that nations, let alone a national art, exist at all. But it does persist, at least in the rhetoric of politicians and institutions, but in a way that seems like ‘the lady doth protest too much’.

Gordon Bennett Explorer II 1991 (detail) Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas 164.5 x 132.5 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1992 following Vincent Namatjira Cook’s Dinner Party 2015 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 94 x 126 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2015



For institutions like the National Gallery of Australia (whose 2015–16 Tom Roberts exhibition claimed to be “for all Australians”) and indeed Artbank (a collecting program for exclusively Australian produced art) the issue is a pressing one. In the global economy any nod to an ‘Australian art’ seems about as stale as a lamington stuck between a strudel and a tiramisu on the cake counter at Starbucks. While recently researching a piece on Gordon Bennett, I came across a provocative throwaway line from Rex Butler. In a review of Gordon Bennett’s retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria he wrote: In fact, we might say that with the current passing away of the historical moment of reconciliation the very idea of Australia disappears as well. The problem of national identity seems less and less to interest a younger generation of Australian artists, who are more concerned with global issues... Bennett in this light can strike us as the last “Australian” artist. And this exhibition would be a retrospective not only of Bennett but of a whole tradition of art in this country. (2007) Of course it is arguable whether we have worked through these issues of reconciliation. The republic seems back on the table and the constitutional recognition is still in the offing. There is a lot of good work still going on in this area of national fantasy from Vincent Namatjira to Megan Cope, from Tim Gregory to Richard Bell. No doubt though, the difficulty maintaining the politicisation of these issues— if you believe the indifference to these issues suggested by polls—is attributable to globalisation and the general lack of interest in national identity. Indeed, I am sure Prince Harry is better equipped for global celebrity culture than republican democracy. But if you are looking at connectivity and sharing, Australian artists must respond to the challenges of the matrix of neoliberalism and the powerful infrastructure of the global art world. It is worth broadly sketching the possibilities in play from the kowtowing to the radical. Australian art has been, for the last century, very aware of what it is to make art away from the centre. Frieze and e-flux magazines have recently used Terry Smith’s 1974 Artforum article “The Provincialism Problem” as the seminal work of discussing art in the modern era. The split personality of what we now call the ‘glocal’ is at the centre of this article: the necessity to attend to the local while at the same time aspiring to be part of the centre of international taste making. It is interesting to see the 1974 Australian classic returning to the centre of contemporary art forty years after it was written. It shows that Australians have been dealing with these questions for a long time. But the article does need to be slightly adjusted for the complexity of globalism and its lack of centre. Terry Smith updated his own approach in 1988 when he wrote: “The ‘centre’ is no longer one place, it is a network of nodal points, dispersing inequalities of power at many levels”.(6) But this updating does still insist that somewhere out there is a hierarchy of collecting and taste making.

In a recent article in e-flux, David Hodge and Hamed Yousefi describe what they see as the neoliberalisation of the provincialism problem and look at some of the conclusion of the new hierarchies. (2015) The global systems that now bar entry to the ‘super community’ of the art world are more invisible and undefined. Indeed, in a challenging comment they suggest that the new system of global postmodernism, which promises diversity, but delivers little, is even more disheartening than centre/ periphery debates of the 1970s. In other words, truly different voices are as peripheral as they always have been. Although there may not be ‘centres’ of the art world—like New York and Paris were in the twentieth century—we now have the unity of the art world ‘super community’, which is equally difficult to enter. Hodge and Yousefi outline how western late modernism defines the look of much contemporary art. The entry into this world is granted to those with a Masters or equivalent, and by certain powerful curatorial and institutional interests. Whether you are in Sydney, New York, Sao Paulo or Singapore you are taught this style of contemporary art, from Beuys to Baldessari, from Abramović to Bourgeois. The artist must become global and increasingly interested in international shows and residencies. But it is Hodge and Yousefi’s conclusion that is most pressing, suggesting that the homogenising effect of this global world never allows for “the formation of regional or transnational solidarities that might provide the basis for infrastructural change.”(2015) It is this sentiment that I think a lot of Australian writers have been trying to put a name to, but before I move to that maybe we should first look at less radical problems.

neo-liberalism and fomo The classic hysterical response to the problem of our global invisibility is to call out to the masters to recognise us. This I think infantilises the Australian position but I can see why certain institutions, like the Australia Council or Screen Australia, have a thing called ‘Australian’ art and film—a cultural product that needs to be sold like any other item on the global market to the critically important ‘centres’. The power of the art world’s economic and institutional infrastructure is centred on a Euro-American axis that is hard to crack. Australia is in a particularly difficult position. Through colonial tradition and language we are considered Euro-American, but that in no way helps our entry into the art world infrastructures. Alex Gawronski, in a perverse article expands on this suggesting that our cultural similarity actually hinders our acceptance as the exoticised other.(138–50) On the other hand this means also that we perhaps do not pursue radical difference and alternative communities of the south or communities of Asia, in a way that could legitimately challenge the EuroAmerican privilege.


In a 2015 Art Month event, a number of dealers, curators and collectors discussed the issue of our place in the global curatorial and commercial art world. Nina Miall, for example has noted: I want to go back to the question why Australian art hasn’t travelled more widely. As someone who spent most of my professional life in a big gallery overseas where, for the majority of our artists, had 2–3–4 galleries globally and we were obligated to work very collaboratively with those galleries for the benefit of the artist and their career...One of the things that has astonished me returning to Australia is the defensive and territorial attitude of Australian galleries... I think the attitude of Australian galleries has to change and build more strategic relationships. (Fairley, 2015) One could surely say the same for our museums, institutions and universities, who could do more to exhibit and publish Australian art in a more global context. Another point raised by this discussion, which is now becoming increasingly obvious, is the pressure the Australian art market is receiving from neighbouring global players such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Australian collectors need only fly nine hours, without jet-lag, to Hong Kong to be at a White Cube or Gagosian Gallery. As the market is directly affected by the super community for perhaps the first time, Australian art will begin to feel increasingly peripheral and fragile. 83

#australianart On the other hand perhaps the relationship of Australia to the global art world is not so rigid and hierarchical anyway. There has always been a reciprocal flow of influence that counters this more cynical and totalising view. Contemporary art especially is characterised by its equivalencies across space and time, its altermoderns and multiplicity of voices (often though, as I have said through the look of the centre). Rex Butler and ADS Donsaldson have undertaken work on the connections between Australia and international modernism in a manner that can show us a way forward in terms of the super community of global art. Butler, for the 2015 Sir William Dobell Annual Lecture, expressed the thesis of his much awaited book co-authored by Donaldson, UnAustralian. In a nutshell, he re-evaluated Australian art as always embedded within international modernism to an extent that Australian art history has never fully acknowledged. Tristan Zara sang Arrernte song cycles in the Cabaret Voltaire; André Breton published an essay in Art in Australia in 1941; and Roy de Maistre taught a young Francis Bacon everything he knew throughout the 1930s. Butler and Donaldson write: “We suggest that from a ‘contemporary’ perspective not only does a whole new history of Australian art come into view but we can see that the ‘provincialism problem’ never existed.” (291) The primary


Christian Thompson Hunting Ground 2007 Type C photographs, 105 x 105 cm (each) Artbank collection, purchased 2008




Shaun Gladwell Colour Test: Mundi Mundi Plains (Blue) 2009 Pigment print, 166.5 x 214 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2011


import of this scholarship will be a shift in the way the Australian art scene has traditionally conceptualised their position as always on the periphery outside of the dialogue. For example, part of the criticism of the work shown in London in the Royal Academy’s show ‘Australia’ (2013) was that it was derivative and poor. The argument should have been put stronger curatorially and through other framing. That is, questioning what this reciprocal hybridity was, and how the peculiarities of such work can be viewed. In other words, what was the import of Australian modernism as an altermodern? This approach maintains the narrative that we are part of the international flows of art, and that our singularity is meaningful.

the radicality of disavowal But the major voice coming out of Australian criticism is to look at new solidarities and communities outside the EuroAmerican hegemony. Even here though most of the radical ideas suggest transnational and regional communities rather than merely the parochialism of the nation state. Ian McLean is magnificently hopeful. His response to provincialism, in an essay called “Provincialism Upturned”, concludes: “The negations and negotiations of globalisation are still in play and anything is possible. This is not the time for disenchantment or the return of the ‘provincialist bind’. Instead, we should extend a certain faith to the artists and empathy for their situation.” (632) This idea has a few names and approaches, but entails a configuration of the ‘Third World’, with Asia and the South—seen here as the negation of the ‘Good North’, think ‘Going South’ or the ‘Wicked Witch of South,’ or East. It is an attempt to redraw or redefine art world axes. As Nikos Papastergiadis put it bluntly: “survival requires a coordinated transnational response.” (32) Although, as Ian McLean suggests, the Third World avant garde of Rasheed Araeen’s writing in Third Text, may not be fully realisable in late capitalism, there are other radical possibilities. Anthony Gardner and Charles Green asked about the possibility of a “Global South”, a new voice or grouping that was based on alternative relationships not based solely in the Euro-American context. (422–45) For Gardner and Green the acceptance of the ‘Other’ in the mega exhibitions of Okwui Enwezor—they reference ‘Documenta 11’ (2001)— still maintain the internationalist style and are not a radical decentring. Australian art here becomes an exotic brand only, co-opted by global capital. This is the ‘local’ as global brand; it is the ‘glocal’ as pioneered by Starbucks. It has always surprised me that the all-singing and all-dancing Hugh Jackman so easily co-opted a bit of Crocodile Dundee to reframe his private school chorister as Wolverine. Although Gardner and Green warn against seeing the idea of the south as a deus ex machina against global capital and its art world infrastructure, they are hopeful that you 87


can at least see the idea of the South as a mode that can work against the hegemony of the new art world homogeny; they borrow this idea from Kuan-Hsing Chen and his 2010 consideration of ‘Asia as method’. That is, do they actually give a method by which to think differently and to make art differently? The idea of various relationships and ‘solidarities’ is a nice one, it is a new matrix of art based on new friendships and synergies. The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Asia Pacific Triennial’ in a sense pioneered this approach in 1993, and other exhibitions around the country have variously attempt to draw new partnership with Asia and the South in meaningful ways. Indeed the work might threateningly not look like ‘art’ from the centre at all, as seen recently in Grayson Perry’s comment that Aboriginal art should not be seen as contemporary art.(Totaro, 2015) Perry’s statement is correct in as much that Aboriginal art cannot be seen merely in a Kantian or even Duchampian way, it also does not have the look of late modernity; the centre does not really see it as art at all. But this only highlights the radicality of the common and important curating of Aboriginal art in Australian and other exhibitions, and that we have been doing this in Australia for decades. We should not forget how pioneering and theoretically difficult this is; and no doubt why the English critics again found this aspect of the exhibition difficult. Arguing more positively of course, and with the viewpoint of the longue durée, Aboriginal art can show that it predates western practice, predates its co-option by modernism as a primitive otherness and will undoubtedly outlast modernism on the other side. I see this issue in the global indigeneity of Christian Thompson’s work for example, and his approach to the archive where he reclaims artefacts in English posession. Or the work might come from other different traditions and forms not even available to western aesthetics (or anti-aesthetics for that matter), like calligraphy, mandals, Pacific mapping, or unexpected religious iconography and wonderful sculptural icon forms. By attending to these new voices in a way that is really open to their singularity, perhaps the art world will be awash with outré and strange objects (when seen from the global art world perspective). It always interested me for example that Japanese curators really brought out the hermetic quality in Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s work, and brought her into a dialogue with calligraphic scholar traditions (as an aside, a similar thing occurred with Jackson Pollock, highlighting the very late figurative black and white work that looks for all the world like Japanese ink work). What other new synergies and connections might we find if we actually look for them? By being wedded to the provincialism problem, we have perhaps not seen opportunities beyond the super community of ‘global art.’

references Butler, Rex and Donaldson, ADS (lecture presented by Butler). “Un-Australian Painting in 1970”. William Dobell Annual Lecture. Australian National University School of Art, Canberra. 30 September 2015. Butler, Rex. ”The Revolutionary Colouring History”. Edited version of review for The Australian. 31 August 2014 Butler, Rex and Donaldson, A D S. “Against Provincialism: AustralianAmerican Connections 1900–2000”. Journal of Australian Studies. 36.3, 2012. 291–307. Chen, Kuan-Hsing. Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. Gawronski, Alex. “No future? Considering the future of Australian art” French, Blair (ed). words and pictures. Sydney: Artspace Visual Arts Centre, 2014. 138–50. Fairley, Gina. “Is my art leaving on a jet plane?”. 27 March 2015. Gardner, Anthony and Green, Charles. “Biennials of the South on the Edges of the Global”. Global Occupations of Art. 27.4, 2013. 422–45. Hodge, David and Yousefi, Hamed. “Provincialism Perfected: Global Contemporary Art and Uneven Development”. E-flux.(online) 56, 2015. McLean, Ian. “Provincialism Upturned”. Third Text. 23.5, 2009. 625–32. Papastergiadis, Nikos. “What is the South?”. Ed. Anthony Gardner. Mapping South: Journeys in South-South Cultural Relations. Melbourne: The South Project, 2013. 32. Smith, Terry. “Provincialism Refigured,” Art Monthly Australia. 13, 1988. 6. Totaro, Paola. “British Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry questions Australian Aboriginal Painting”. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 2 October 2015.


Emily Kame Kngwarreye Anooralya – My Story 1990 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 125.5 x 95 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1991



Deb & Dave’s Architectural Picks of Modernist Canberra Deborah Clark & David Broker

Canberra is home to some of the finest modernist buildings in the country, both public and private and in scale both modest and grand. Over a glass of wine some years ago we discovered a shared enthusiasm for Canberra modernist architecture, the outcome of which is shared here in a tasty sampler of the rich feast of Canberra mid-century modern.

Scrivener Dam Architect unknown Postcards courtesy of Martin Miles, Canberra




National Carrillon Architects Cameron, Chisholm, Nicol


The cream of 1950s, 1960s and 1970s Canberra architecture was designed by significant interstate and migrant practitioners, as well as some home-grown talent, and included Roy Grounds, Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd, Harry Seidler, Sydney Ancher, Ken Woolley, John Andrews, Michael Dysart, Colin Madigan, Alex Jelinek, Enrico Taglietti and Theo Bischoff. The mid-century modernist architecture of Canberra is not unique, but what has been preserved is highly visible, perhaps because the city itself is a unique case in architectural terms: a planned city of symbolic importance, whose genesis has a degree of utopianism in the impetus of its public and residential architecture. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s the population of the city virtually trebled—from thirty two throusand to ninety two thousand—and in the early 1960s a major phase of the city’s development began with the design of principal national buildings, extensive suburban growth and the construction of vast office complexes to house the bureaucracy. The National Carillon (1970) stands erect on Aspen Island on Lake Burley Griffin, a gift from the United Kingdom government to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Australia’s capital. Consisting of three triangular columns, the Carillon is a symphony of triangles in striking quartz and opal chip. By world standards it is also an impressive instrument and its spooky chimes can be heard every fifteen minutes, with a tune on the hour. Queen Elizabeth II, who received the Carillon on behalf of the people of Australia in 1970, also opened the Australian American War Memorial in 1954. So grateful were the people of Australia for the United States of America’s assistance in the Second World War that £100,000 pounds was raised to build a hollow octagonal column of sand blasted aluminum panels giving the appearance of stone. A shipping problem required that the eagle perched on a sphere had its wings raised in contrast to the neo-classical span of Nazi or American monumental raptors. This unfortunate deportment gives the appearance of a rabbit, and has awarded it the nickname ‘Bugs Bunny’. Richard M Ure who designed the seventy three metre column was also responsible for Canberra’s first high rise, medium density public housing, the Allawah and Bega Courts, and Currong Apartments (collectively referred to as the ABC flats) built between 1956 and 1958. Influenced by the dubious ‘English new towns’ the soon to be demolished ABC flats introduced a touch of Liverpool, although they were originally no slum. On the contrary, these flats were the epitome of self-contained luxury, liberating many government workers from the oppressive hostels of the 1920s to 1940s. The Northbourne Housing Precinct (1962) similarly evidenced a strong European influence, reflecting the distinguished lineage of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Bauhaus. These compact white residential boxes resemble ‘Siedlung’—the progressive German workers’ housing of the 1920s—and, located at the entrance to Canberra when travelling from Sydney, provided a gateway to Canberra designed to establish the capital as a ‘city of the people’. The journey from Northbourne Avenue along Ginninderra Drive to the ‘satellite’ centre of Belconnen is rewarded with a veritable bonanza of quality 93


brutalism in the form of the University of Canberra student residences (1973–75), constructed in off-form reinforced concrete with bull-nosed corrugated roof. A rare residential example of the controversial brutalist style, it has been said that these extraordinary buildings, designed by John Andrews, make home look like an industrial pig farm. Also controversial but described in the oxymoronic terms of a study in brutalist beauty are the Andrew Cameron Offices (1970–76) in the Belconnen City Centre. With a life span of only a little more than forty years, less than half of these iconic office buildings remain. Gallows style beams once spanned over six courtyards representing the Australian landscape from the Monaro plains to the Snowy Mountains; today all are but an abandoned wasteland. Only slightly more iconic and still intact, is the Shine Dome (1956–58). Reflecting the cold war 1950s cultures of schlock sci-fi and flying saucers, it became known as the Martian Embassy. Designed by Roy Grounds for the Australian Academy of Science, at the time it was unknown if seven hundred and ten tonnes of concrete could be supported by sixteen slender supports. Legend has it that the ‘strong willed’ Grounds commissioned a fibreglass model and sat on it—the bum test—to assure the building’s viability. Opened in 1959, the dome fascinated the public to such an extent that visitors disrupted its operations and concocted stories of Professor Oliphant, nuclear physicist and president of the academy, hiding nuclear weapons in the basement. A beacon of stripped classicism, the National Library of Australia (1961–68) is a reinterpretation of the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. In many respects it is a building with delusions of grandeur, but while it may be one bay short of a Parthenon it remains one of Canberra’s most popular public buildings. Lombardy poplars in the forecourt attempt to heighten classical style, and the controversial Henry Moore sculpture destined for the front was eventually relegated to the northeast corner—too modern for a modernist city in the 1960s. Also in the parliamentary triangle, Col Madigan’s High Court of Australia and National Gallery of Australia (1968–82) come as a matching set. A refined blend of symbolism and function, these buildings are also spectacular examples of Canberra’s ‘brutal’ heritage. Eight thousand and four hundred metres of bush hammered concrete, the High Court consists of light-filled geometric shapes with huge areas of glass that open onto the surrounds of Lake Burley Griffin. Linked by a pedestrian bridge, the National Gallery also descends onto Australian native landscaping. With elements of a medieval castle, the gallery is functionally compromised, yet aesthetically it is a masterpiece of modern architecture. Canberra’s mid-century residential architecture includes a number of iconic houses and flats whose cultural significance is inextricably bound up with their place in the broader modern movement in Australian culture. The modest, liveable Manning Clark House in Forrest (1952) designed by Robin Boyd is where the historian wrote his six-volume History of Australia (1962–58)—in a small study reached by a ladder staircase. It is now used as a non-profit venue supporting creative practice and research into Australian history, literature, visual arts, human rights and Indigenous culture. This is a continuation of a strong local tradition, where the interest in modern architecture reflected a wider interest


Shine Dome Architect Sir Roy Grounds



High Court of Australia Architect Col Madigan AO


in contemporary intellectual thought in science and the arts, all having strong connections to the Australian National University and organisations such as Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO ) and the National Library; a thesis nicely examined through the recent case histories of a number of Canberra houses by Milton Cameron in Experiments in Modern Living: Scientists’ Houses in Canberra 1950–70 (2012). In 1953 Boyd formed a partnership with Frederick Romberg and Roy Grounds, and all three went on to design many striking Canberra homes. In 1960 they appointed Theo Bischoff as their Canberra representative, who is less well known outside the capital. He designed many superb modernist houses here and was the project architect for the Grounds, Romberg and Boyd home at 4 Cobby Street, Campbell (1969–71), built for Sir Otto and Lady M argaret Frankel. This house appears a beacon of minimalism, with a simple functional brick exterior, but inside offers warm inviting, timber panelled interiors. Another local architectural modernist hero is Enrico Taglietti, an Italian émigré who combined minimalist Japanese geometry with free-form Italian construction and a sculptural use of concrete. His triumphs include the chancellery of the Italian Embassy (1974) and the Dickson Library (1969), as well as many houses, schools, churches and commercial buildings across Canberra. Other fine modernist residential buildings in our nation’s capital include Alex Jelinek’s unique Benjamin House in Deakin (1956–58), known as the Round House (especially by bewildered Canberra traditionalists); and Harry Seidler’s apartments and townhouses (some now demolished), in particular the major Campbell housing group on Blamey Crescent built in 1968. Campbell is essentially a modernist suburb. Zoned at the end of the 1950s, it was brand new in the 1960s and an exemplar of ‘bush capital’ virtues, located on the edge of the reserve backing on to Mt Ainslie, with views to the lake and towards the city. Many flat-roof modernist houses were built here in the 1960s. Aficionados of Canberra domestic modernism all know and admire the group of three houses—numbers 42 to 46 on Vasey Crescent, Campbell— commissioned by three families from the Melbourne firm of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd and built in 1961. Two of the owners were from Melbourne and aware of the work of Grounds, who had recently completed the Shine Dome, and all were engaged in the academic life of the burgeoning city. The joint commission was explicit in that each house was to be distinct and angled on the block so that all shared the view corridor to the city, thus the house lowest on the street—number 42—is set the furthest back. All are on three levels, although two sit closely in their garden environment, and only number 42 strikes a grand pose on the ridge; all describe an Australian regional variant of the post Second World War international style, with strong rectilinear design, long unbroken rooflines and deep projecting eaves, large areas of glass, flat roofs and, inside, an emphasis on open plan living. These three homes, even though one at least has been compromised by unsympathetic renovator-owners, remain jewels in the crown of Canberra mid-century modern architecture. 97


Office Works

Nick Tweedie • current job: Barrister, Greens List Barristers multiverse job: Rock musician. But I don’t have sufficient talent to achieve this, so maybe working in retail... selling ladies hats. interests: Architecture. My favourite Melbourne building is the Forum Theatre, partly because of its exterior. wanderlust: Perth artist, Jonathan Campbell’s work reminds me of how my head felt after many uni experiences: sort of bright and happy but fuzzy around the edges. I spent many quality hours at the University of Western Australia Tavern and the Curtain University Tavern. the art: A lot of work by Perth artists that I like has a sense of openness. A feeling of the wide open spaces, the vastness of the sky, and the sense of isolation that I think are features of Western Australia more generally. any other business: Bevan Honey studied art at Curtin University with one of my closest friends. I met him through that connection and was fortunate to be allowed to occasionally hang out with the cool art kids of which Bevan was obviously one.

nick pictured with Bevan Honey Illustration 2002 Charcoal and polyurethane on composition board, 122 x 90 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2004


Photography Greg Semu




Jane Hider • current job: Managing Partner Melbourne, DLA Piper multiverse job: A writer. interests: I was a very avid reader when I was young, and read everything I could get my hands on: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books—A Little Princess (1905), The Secret Garden (1911)—everything Enid Blyton, and a wonderful book by Rumer Godden called Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (1961) about two Japanese dolls (who are alive of course). wanderlust: New Zealand’s South Island, which has amazing snow-capped mountains, still clear lakes and beech forests, a magical place and very unspoilt. the art: Any place with great art or books, particularly art which is not located in crowded galleries full of iPhone wielding people. any other business: If Babar came to visit Melbourne, I’d take him on a lovely gentle walk around the laneways, we’d breakfast somewhere quirky, then some coffee, a visit to Federation Square and then a picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens and a climb to the top of Guilfoyle’s volcano. Finishing the day with a cocktail in a tiny bar somewhere. 101

jane pictured with Stephen Bush The Lure of Paris #3 1992 Oil on canvas, 195.5 x 196 cm Artbank collection, purchased 1993


Fiona Menzies • current job: CEO, Creative Partnerships Australia multiverse job: When I was a teenager I wanted to become an architect. I might have been a scientist—I always could have gone either way. interests: I was always more into craft and design than pure art. I did everything from designing, sewing clothes (first for my dolls, then for myself ), pottery, macramé (it was the 1970s!), and so on. I was also always very aware of my limitations, with renowned Australian artist, the late William Delafield Cook, being my uncle. I also knew from my closeness to him how committed an artist needs to be to pursue art as a career. Above all, I have realised that artists have enormous courage. wanderlust: As a child, we always holidayed on the Mornington Peninsula. We had family friends who did the same, so we spent our days at the beach together. We went to three different beaches—one a bayside beach where we all swam and played, one at the yacht club where we sat under a large tree... and when the tide was right we’d go to the surf beach, where we’d all hold hands in a chain with my father as the anchor and we’d delight in the strong pull of the surf ’s currents. the art: We moved to our current office space which is a large open shared space from an office that was like a rabbit’s warren. The move created a great opportunity for us to install some works from Artbank’s collection. I created a long-ish short list, then the staff as a group chose the works that we now have hanging, so that everyone had some say. Interestingly, Anna Carey’s Star Dust is the work that is most popular among our staff... I do love the element of faded glamour and glory—that’s how I feel at the end of every day! any other business: Like all Australians I have holidayed with my family on the Gold Coast. And I’m looking forward to a great cultural program when the Gold Coast hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

fiona pictured with Anna Carey Stardust 2012 Digital print, 78 x 61.5 cm Artbank collection, purchased 2013





Brett Sheehy AO • current job: Artistic Director, Melbourne Theatre Company. multiverse job: Editor of The New Yorker or an architect building the future. interests: Productions that have the ability to change me. So far these include the Wooster Group’s LSD—Just the High Points at the Adelaide Festival in 1986 for awakening in me the visceral energy great art can share with its audience. Sydney Theatre Company’s The Crucible in Sydney in 1991 for impressing on me the importance of courage, the sanctity of ‘my name’, and cementing in me my conviction that cruelty, injustice and hypocrisy are the three great crimes. Schaubuehne Berlin’s Nora in Berlin in 2005 for confirming my faith in contemporary art and theatre, and the capacity for any artform to move forward with time and connect with us, even work from the classic repertoire. wanderlust: The Gold Coast where I spent all the happiest and carefree times of my boyhood; Sydney where my adult identity was honed in every way, as a director, as a gay man, as a partner in a now twenty one year relationship, and especially where I confronted and accepted in spades both grief and love; and Berlin where I most palpably feel every artistic fibre in my body revitalised each time I am there. the art: The skull has a built-in drama about it. It’s what’s hidden beneath – something I love is art’s capacity to explore. And even further than nakedness, the skull is the great democratiser. any other business: I want to live in the future, I can’t wait to get there, and I want to live forever, seriously. No finite number of days can contain what I want to do/ achieve/experience. 105

brett pictured with Samuel Tupou Anniversary Skulls 2006 Screenprint on acrylic, 78 x 61.5 cm (each) Artbank collection, purchased 2007


An Ambivalent Guide to Perth Danni McGrath

wallpaper Danni McGrath Reconstructed Transperth Trains Moquette 2015 Watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm Courtesy of the artist


The Chaser’s War on Everything sent Craig Reucassel to Perth and to blend in he dressed in a blue wife beater, King Gee shorts, work boots, and slung a shovel over his shoulder. As he exited the airport he passed a man dressed in standard issue high vis and I laughed and laughed. Reucassel would never have passed worksite OH&S standards in that get up. When I worked in a nightclub I often caught the train home at five or six in the morning. I’d be greeted on the platform by trains filled with high vis, heading for the city construction sites. I felt like I was taking part of some kind of night and day guardchanging ritual. I didn’t see the exhibition Yellow Vest Syndrome at the Fremantle Arts Centre in 2009. I know it was about much more than this, but I’ve created a memory of it being about all the things you could get away with while wearing a high vis vest. The Hamersley Iron train is a sight to behold. When I was little we were on a trip up near Tom Price and were stopped for about half an hour waiting for it to pass so we could cross the tracks. Actually, Hamersley Iron is called Pilbara Iron and is owned by Rio Tinto now. Rio Tinto’s Perth headquarters are in Central Park, the tallest building in Perth, and was completed the year I was born. I thought that it was going to be overtaken by the Brookfield Place building, which houses BHP Billiton and which was completed twenty years later, in 2012. But I remember hearing something like they ran out of money, so a couple of floors were jettisoned. The Mining Boom, in whatever phase it may be, is everpresent in Perth. Not in your face, but always in the corner of your eye. The Perth Theatre Company had to cancel the second half of its 2015 season because no one expected the value of iron ore to drop so drastically. The cranes dotting the CBD are the same yellow as the train fixtures are the same yellow as dusttempered high vis.




Danni McGrath, Welcome to Perth Airport 2015, watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm All images courtesy of the artist

GEOGRAPHY The Swan River (Derbarl Yerrigan in the local Noongar language) defines Perth’s geography. The suburbs South of the River are generally considered to be rougher than those North of the River; this is a badge of honour for Southerners. I’m a Southerner. The Western Suburbs are more frequently referred to as The Golden Triangle, while The Eastern Suburbs don’t really exist—everything is either north or south until you hit the Swan Valley. Mandurah, the southernmost suburb, used to be considered a separate town until the train was connected ten years ago. I used to go on holidays to Mandurah, now people who live there commute to Perth for work. Proximity-wise, Fremantle is basically a suburb, but the port town is vehemently its own place.

CURRENCY Under ten dollars for a drink is pretty reasonable. Over five dollars for a standard coffee is pushing it.

WEATHER Anglo-Saxons: pack sunscreen. Heed the words of my mother: if you go to Fremantle at night you will need a jumper.


TRANSPORT Transperth is the local public transport service, which operates a network of buses, five train lines and one lonely ferry. The buses are mostly tedious, the trains are fine, the ferry is hilarious.

PUBLIC ART With sponsorship from BHP Billiton and other private companies, FORM, an arts organisation that focuses on community development through the arts, has commissioned over seventy public murals over two years as part of its PUBLIC festival. The project has been met with mixed responses; some praising the project for brightening the cityscape and engaging a wide range of people, others criticising much of the artwork for a lack of sensitivity to site, and the project overall as a band-aid fix for broader problems of city design. In other news, my favourite mural in Perth is this bad boy:

Horrie Long Reserve Dog Mural 2015, watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm



PERTH CULTURAL CENTRE I feel awkward saying “Perth Cultural Centre”. Must all of Perth’s culture be contained within this centre? What if it escapes? Despite its clunky name, the Cultural Centre is actually pretty great, housing two galleries, two theatre spaces, a museum and a library. In addition to these important cultural institutions, the Perth Cultural Centre houses two particularly significant social icons: the best and worst public toilet hand dryers in Perth. With the wooden spoon is the PICA Bar female toilet hand dryer which is great for warming your hands just a little before you wipe them on your jeans. In first place is the State Library foyer female toilet hand dryer which, based on anecdotal evidence, was the first Dyson Air Blade installed in Perth. The original and the best.

Worst/Best 2015, watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm


HYDE PARK So if you’re after a good afternoon in Perth, what you wanna do is take yourself up to Mount Lawley, get yourself some fancy cheese, olives and bread from Fresh Provisions, pick up some nice beverages at Grand Cru, and head back down the hill to enjoy it all in Hyde Park. If, during your afternoon picnic, you feel the need to charge some electronics, set up some mood lighting, or power a PA for a picnic party, you can do just that. Simply locate yourself near one of eighteen orange power boxes spread throughout the park, plug and go. Please invite me.

Hyde Park Orange 2015, watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm

IN JOKES I used to think of Perth as the Channel Seven of Australian capital cities: the hyperactive, try-hard younger brother. But I realise now that it’s more like Channel 31, a local community station wedged between SBS and ABC that I always skipped when channel surfing as a kid. Perth definitely has a collective inferiority complex. Teamed with self awareness, this complex becomes productive. Self deprecation as state sport. Mining Tax are an electro-pop duo that sing about the Budget Emergency and sample Gina Rinehart’s poetry. David Attwood’s minimalist YoGo Caps (2015), adhered to the gallery wall with residual YoGo. Perella and Osborn’s viral video This is Perth (2009).



Various Perth Stickers 2015, watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm

DIASPORA Perth exists in terms of its lack of proximity to other places. At least four hours to get anywhere, four days if you’re an Express Post package. Everyone is leaving, no one is coming. Those who stay or indeed, return, have an ambivalent loyalty in common: frustration at the mining boom’s lack of impact on the wider economy, but unsure of accepting money from mining companies. Disheartened by small audiences but relieved to have space to experiment with few consequences. This tension keeps us on our toes and prevents complacency. And I don’t want to live anywhere without Giant Sandwiches.

opposite. Lucky Country 2015, watercolour on paper, 13 x 19 cm


Sydney Dance Company 2016

CounterMove 19 – 21 May Canberra 25 May – 4 Jun Melbourne

Untamed 18 – 29 Oct Sydney New Breed 29 Nov – 4 Dec Sydney

17 Jun – 27 Aug NSW, QLD, NT, WA Dancer Chloe Leong. Photo by Irenaeus Herok.

Fearless physicality, enchanting beauty and luminosity

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Sturgeon Issue 5  

Australian art, culture, etc.

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