Venetian Blind

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—— Drainage pipe into a canal photo by Cameron Bishop

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Curated by Cameron Bishop and David Cross

Cassandra Atherton Anindita Banerjee Jane Bartier Rea Dennis Mick Douglas Sandy Gibbs Simon Grennan Tasha Haines Jondi Keane Kari Lyons Lyn McCredden Shaun McLeod

Olivia Millard Misha Myers Sarah Neville Antonia Pont Martin Potter Patrick Pound Lienors Torres Dario Vacirca Paul Venzo Ann Vickery Anne Wilson Rosemary Woodcock

Co-ordinating Curator Deakin University Art Gallery James Lynch Project design Meghan Kelly

Palazzo Bembo European Cultural Centre, Venice 8 May – 24 November 2019 Deakin University Downtown Gallery 24 July - 30 August 2019 Deakin University Art Gallery 10 February – 26 March 2021

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Foreword

The Deakin University Art Gallery is enormously pleased to introduce the project Venetian Blind to you, both an exhibition and an art project featuring twenty-four Australian and New Zealand artists. Curated by Associate Professor Cameron Bishop and Professor David Cross and developed by the Public Art Commission at Deakin University, this hybrid exhibition and public art event initially commissioned six projects to unfold over the duration of six months from 8 May until 24 November 2019 and was part of the larger European Cultural Commission exhibition Personal Structures held at the Palazzo Bembo in conjunction with the 58th Venice Biennale. The project title is a word play on the famous Venetian architectural invention, but in this instance also refers to artists entering into a project with little knowledge of what they’re expected to do. The curators constructed six initial site-specific briefs, in which the artists considered issues of class, sexuality, colonialism, race, globalization and political structures. The curators framed these larger themes through unique events and histories relating to both the people and the city of Venice. Six separate collaborative teams initially encountered a provocation in the form of a previously unseen banner and a box of objects in the gallery space at the Palazzo Bembo. The kit-box was used for site research and the development of a place-responsive artwork and contained materials and directions for the documentation of the artwork in the gallery. Each project became a catalyst for the production of creative research in the forms of philosophy, design, voice, writing, performance,

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movement, sculpture, drawing, video and time-based artworks. A sample of the artist’s responses were first presented at the Deakin University Downtown Gallery in August 2019. Following on from this, at the beginning of 2021, the exhibition was re-imagined for the Deakin University Art Gallery, two years and one major pandemic later. On this occasion, the curators presented each of the groups with a second provocation for consideration, creating the momentum for a new series of artistic investigations that continued to unfold over the duration of the exhibition in 2021. As the Melbourne Burwood campus slowly sprang back to life, so too a quiet chain of artist events, performances and objects slipped out of the gallery unravelling into the University context. Thank you to the curators and artists for the time and energy in developing and realising the project for our audiences. Venetian Blind prefaces the importance of creative research that is responsive and grounded to ‘place’ and is also generous in spirit: creating genuine meaning and connection between colleagues, networks, audiences and new collaborative possibilities. James Lynch Curator, Art Collection and Galleries

—— Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Optical Illusions 2019


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Work for Idle Hands - Making Venetian Blind David Cross

Of all the vaporetto routes in Venice, the comparatively long journey to Torcello stands apart from the crowded passages in and through the Serenissima. Starting at Ospedale in Cannaregio, the smallest water bus in the flotilla tacks across to the cemetery island of San Michele, before disgorging most travellers at the glass shops in Murano. From there, you can spread out and enjoy the journey to the far north east of the lagoon passing by a succession of islands or islets rendered stark by the ruins of old buildings. The handful of resolute tourists left on the boat disembark at the quaint island of fisherman, Murano (famous for its monochrome coloured houses) before the almost empty water bus heads for its final stop. Torcello feels a long way from Venice, even if the journey is just over an hour. This large island with a tragic past is not widely considered a must see in Venice and as such, rewards the intrepid traveller with a stunning quietude and a number of compelling sites that are seen as crucial to the cities foundation some 1500 years ago.i

this structure ensured it got bumped up. We found it on the route from the vaporetto stop, a seemingly plain brick bridge that crossed a small canal. Most people would not give it a second look. Modest by Venetian standards, and in complete contradistinction to the neo-classicism of Rialto Bridge, the structure stands in a formerly residential area that was abandoned in the sixteenth century after malaria, and a succession of Black Plagues killed a large proportion of the population. Yet the rudimentary aesthetic features disguised one unique design aspect as well as a very gothic fable that has long been attached to this canal crossing.

We have come to Torcello on a whim, partly to see the mysterious Devils Bridge, partly to experience an island that Jan Morris described as ‘a ghost with a private income’, but also for some much needed perspective hoping that our instinct to head out of town might be rewarded with an insight or two about the swirling multiplicity that is Venice.ii It is December 2018, the beginning of winter, and we have five days to conceive of an art project for 24 artists that will open at Palazzo Bembo in less than five months-time.

The name of the bridge offers some insight into a tall tale with the structure supposedly built in one night by the Devil himself as a marker for the location of a deal brokered between a witch and a young woman who was to trade the souls of six dead children for the return of her recently murdered Austrian lover.iii The second and far less Gothic feature of the bridge is that it is one of only two in the whole of Venice that does not have side railings to protect people from falling in. Both story and architecture in this instance combine to project something extraordinary on to what for most people is a featureless bridge, and this amalgam of the bizarre and the mundane was something of a lightbulb moment. It set in train an idea for how we might build an exhibition that speaks to hidden or obscured aspects of the city, drawing on stories of varying historical accuracy that might be unfolded or reconfigured in contemporary form.

The Devils Bridge was number 15 or 16 on a hastily researched list of unique architectural structures of Venice, but the promise of a sea voyage and the curious mythology surrounding

After retreating to Torcello’s only restaurant (with just a signed portrait of Elton John for company), the idea of shaping a project around a series of six provocations based on unique

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Venetian stories began to cement. With an especially compressed time frame, and with an interest in commissioning a series of placebased artworks, the idea of creating a curatorial conceit that did not require pre-planning or resourcing by the artists seemed, while slightly provocative, a potentially elegant solution. In forming the artists into six different teams and stipulating that their bespoke brief or provocation would only be revealed on location in Venice, the issue of a lack of preparation time could be mitigated. This only left the challenge of how to resource the artworks, or more specifically, how to give the artists access to materials and technologies that might be required to make new work. Sourcing these materials in Venice is especially tricky due to the cities complex transport logistics, and this could easily diminish or limit what could be produced. In the spirit of a one stop shop, and in keeping the enterprise coherent, the decision was made not simply to offer an artistic constraint, but to extend the idea of constraint to the utilisation of materials. We would provide a kit of materials for each group made up of a spectrum of art materials, research publications, technologies and assorted ephemera. And in a nod to the uniqueness of the six provocations, each kit would have its own individual artefact that might signal a particular approach or unique flavour.iv With these parameters in place, the frame of Venetian Blind was established and in particular the idea that for the artists coming to the project with fresh eyes (blind) and no in-depth pre-planning, allowed for highly responsive and experimental projects geared around spontaneity, improvisation and site investigation. But for the curatorial frame to hold, and for the artists to really open up the range of responses, the provocations had to be compelling and operate in a liminal space between specificity and openness. And in the grand tradition of story-telling, they had to recount a yarn that garnered genuine interest both from the artists and the audience who would read them as banners hung in the Palazzo Bembo gallery space. The criteria for a provocation was thus that it i) pointed to a unique feature, story or

historical context that was not widely known about the city, ii) that they (the story) activated the possibility of an allegorical contemporary response and, (iii) that each one had a specific geographical location that could be physically experienced. In building a provocation consideration was also given to the suite of subject matters and how a range of contexts around art, science, architecture, history, and the unique political structures of this city, might be braided into a discursive mapping of Venice in six incidents. An instinct to begin this process in archival library research was neutered by two important factors. One, we did not read Italian, and two, Venice has had more ink spilled on it than almost any other city. Even at a cursory glance there are thousands of books on everything from the arcane Council of Ten, to the sexual politics of Carnival, to Napoleon’s ending of the Venetian republic. A number of texts were helpful in identifying putatively ‘secret’ Venice but there was no substitute for walking (drifting) through the city and observing streets, palazzo’s, neighbourhood’s, and the myriad traces of bygone eras. We discovered a piece of graffiti from the early sixteen hundreds carved into a step of a church in San Polo that was a secret symbol for a mystical cult. We found small pieces of recently handwritten poetry on the grave of Ezra Pound, and we also came across a face mask for women known as the Moretta where the wearer clasped the mask with her teeth and therefore could not speak. And, of course, there was the macabre Devils Bridge. Each of these stories or objects were remarkable, and to our minds fertile subject matter, and yet none of them were ultimately utilised as the basis of a provocation at Palazzo Bembo . The further we walked, the more we spoke to locals, the deeper we drilled, a dozen or more stories came to be formed touching on all manner of peculiar things. Each shared the same characteristic of being hugely compelling (weird, tragic, occasionally brutal) while at the same time being little known –if not completely obscure in-terms of popular narratives of Venice. In seeking to penetrate the anodyne veneer of Venice, a surface of gondoliers and bespoke medieval architecture that has been shaped in

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the last century or more by the nascent tourist market there was an expectation that the ‘real’ Venice would somehow exist far off the welltrodden tourist paths in places such as Torcello or Giudecca. Yet such a binary opposition of tourist trail as vacuous faux-ancient Disneyland versus authentic vernacular Venice supposedly located in the myriad passageways where Venetians actually live, did not prove to hold water (sic). It was actually in the Doges Palace, one of the primo tourist attractions continually overrun by day visitors, that a provocation began to form. There on the first floor internal balcony of the palace pressed into the wall is a very curious looking plaque with what at first appears to be the head of an old woman with a physical opening or slot in the mouth. A text below it in Latin reads Secret denunciations against anyone who will conceal favours and services or will collude to hide the true revenue from them. The strangeness of the figure and text together with the curious slot like letterbox located in the royal palace elicited a profound sense of curiosity. What was this macabre relief sculpture and why was it here? In a building where each artefact seemed to be marked by contextual wall panels explaining the history of every single feature, this plaque had no description to locate its meaning or purpose. The only clue to its status resided in the gift shop where a postcard of this object could be purchased with the title of Bocca di Leone. Translated into English on my rudimentary Italian phone app, the title came out as ‘Lions Mouth Post-box’, a curious (weird) description which simply added an additional layer of mystery and interest to this charismatic form. After googling this term, it became clear that this object was not a sculpture per se, but a functioning letterbox with a distinctly Venetian purpose of reporting criminal behaviour to the authorities. Operating as a Renaissance version of Crime Stoppers, these boxes played a vital role in civic control vastly expanding the criminal intelligence network of the feared Council of Ten. In Australian vernacular, these letterboxes were where you could anonymously ‘dob’ in your neighbour, whose activities were perceived to be a threat to the republic. What

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was especially compelling about this remarkable structure with its abstracted Lions head and fearful declaration, was that it was not simply a discrete object in the palace but one of more than a hundred Bocca di Lione scattered across the six districts of Venice. Built into a range of civic structures, but perhaps most chillingly into the facades of churches, these letterboxes served a highly functional inquisitorial purpose until the invading Napoleon had most of them removed due to their disturbingly gothic associations. The combination of politics, surveillance, architectural embellishment, letter writing and the macabre, offered a suite of strangely braided issues that collectively operated at the outer reaches of the plausible. Such a combinationteetering on the absurd-seemed like an ideal platform on which to base a provocation and ‘The Letterbox’ became something of an armature around which this curators parcel of provocations (3 of 6) were constructed. While the multiple layers of this particular story were acute and rhizomatic, it was the architectural feature, the curious letterbox itself, that stood out as a marker of Venice. Working from a flimsy premise that for more than a millennium this city may in fact have developed a unique approach of building modest functional and symbolic interventions directly into the walls and pavements, an idea began to concretise around researching the breadth or otherwise of this practice. When you really start to forensically look at Venice, it is striking how many constituent parts are camouflaged by the grandiosity of the whole. Bizarre timber beams jutting out on strange and not entirely elegant angles are common, as are sculptural busts for shops such as the apothecary’s that served as markers for the mostly illiterate population. Some of these interventions, including the two pink columns on the Doge’s palace that marked civic declaration and capital punishment, are well known, but most are obscured by the visual cacophony. Perhaps this optical excess in tandem with uneven paving stones conspire to shape and limit one’s visual field, but the act of looking up


in Venice provides particular reward. In a small Calle (street) in San Polo not far from the Rialto Bridge, is one such vertically placed structure that serves as a marker of medieval building practices. Known as a spacer or distansiador, a piece of Istrian stone is suspended between the first and second floors of the two buildings that face one another. Carved into the stone is the coat of arms of the Gradenigo family who owned a series of buildings in the street and historians suggest that the stone was placed there as a physical measure to stop the guild of Goldsmiths opposite from building further out into the street and blocking out the already limited amount of light. This curious structure, while both a branding mechanism and sculpture, is a device to ensure planning codes in this heavily built up part of Venice were adhered to. Considering one street in nearby Cannaregio is less than seventy centimetres wide, it is understandable that building owners, if the not the cities planners, sought to maintain some semblance of spatial order. Where once there may have been many spacers in Venice to keep architectural entropy at bay, today only the spacer in Calle Toscana is still there in the sky above the street, with most pedestrians unaware of its presence one and a half stories up. The spacer became the basis of the second Venetian Blind provocationvii for its unique combination of architecture, planning, Renaissance-era public relations, and the curious dialogue between form and function. And importantly, and perhaps sadly, it is the last of its species to exist, an important reminder as to how in the years between 900 and 1600, Venice was a boom town always on the very threshold of civic control and chaos. Like the Lions Head Letterbox, The Spacer was invented as a very Venetian solution to specific Venetian problems. Of the seemingly endless series of challenges the Venetian republic was forced to negotiate, the balance of power between the church and state was seemingly in constant flux and negotiation. The role and status of the cities two leaders, the Venetian Patriarch (the Pope’s representative) and the Doge, while clearly defined, were still a source of friction, especially when Venice was both a maritime and financial powerhouse in the first

half of the last millennium. A measure of the degree to which power had to be negotiated to the finest detail is a white paving stone positioned some thirty meters from the entrance to the church of San Pietro in Castello. This stone is a curiosity in that it stands out from all the other grey or slate coloured stones that make up this passageway. Yet at the same time this section of Venice is largely free of tourists and a white stone in the pavement could mean any number of things, if indeed it even elicited a modicum of curiosity. The relative modesty of this paver belies its significance as a marker of Renaissance-era church/state power, for this ‘coloured stone’ locates the exact spot where the Venetian Patriarch would meet the Doge before they both entered Venice’s Cathedral togetherviii. The stone is like ‘The Spacer’ a measurement device, a point at which the power of both figures of authority is carefully calibrated to ensure the dignity of both offices is maintained. It is remarkable to look at this stone now in an isolated part of Venice in front of what is no longer the cities’ main church but a local basilica, and consider how this spot held such great significance in the performance of Venetian power. The idea of using a coloured (monochromatic) stone to mark a site of significance has another corollary in the Sotoportego De La Corte Nova, a ten minute walk from San Pietro. Here a red stone has been placed to mark the location of a supposed miracle which took place during the plague of 1630. With the virus spreading through Venice at an alarming pace, a young girl drew portraits of the Virgin Mary and three patron saints and placed them in the shared courtyard in the hope of warding off the disease through divine intervention. The severity of the plague continued throughout Venice, but fortuitously (and conveniently for the story), it did not extend beyond the painting.ix The red stone and an engraving recounting the story are now placed in the De La Corte Nova entranceway. While marking different events and subjects, both these stones capture the unique Venetian trait of using the pavement to inscribe key historical meaning. The stones function as

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liminal spaces where a transition is activated from one state to another. Whether power relations (white stone) or religious belief in miracles (red stone), the coloured stone is employed as a physical representation or symbol of a barrier that does not physically exist. Instead, its meaning operates as a social or political delineation that has currency through a shared belief in mythology, tradition, or the rituals of political power. In seeking to layer both of these stones into one provocation for Venetian Blind, the artists were encouraged to consider the coloured stone as a symbol, as a monochromatic object, a marker of power, and as measurements that speak to the unique ways in which Venetian history has been inscribed directly into the surface of the city. In making Venetian Blind with Cameron Bishop and 24 artists, this project highlighted the importance not simply of walking or traversing waterways but of drilling down into the cities remarkable, if partially camouflaged, superstructure. The resultant work produced by the artists peeled back many more layers than we had found or conceived of and nudged the six provocations in often unexpected ways. As one work or curatorial project amid hundreds at the European Cultural Centre under the exhibition banner of Personal Structures, VB stood out perhaps for its determination to profoundly engage with a city unlike any other, but one partially buried beneath thickened layers of tourist veneer. Where most artists use Venice as a backdrop to display objects rather than a research laboratory in its own right, VB was a project that sought to utilise six stories, contexts, or architectural features that might operate as portals to new investigations, artistic forms and historical/ contemporary connections. It was a project that helped everyone, artists and curators alike, to puncture Venice’s function as a backdrop, a sumptuous setting for art, and to see it as a unique ecology that has been truly distinct and beautifully peculiar since Etruscan time. German writer Alexander Kluge in his essay ‘Greenness and the Lagoons: Smell in the Essence of Venice’, describes present day Venice perhaps fairly as a faceless luxury hotel. ‘Venice’, he suggests ‘lacks pathbreaking power and

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has over time been reduced to a stimulating image for perplexed writers. It is, he claims, ‘loot of the tourist industry. Past, but nothing that has been’.x Such a critical frame is entirely understandable considering the ways in which the city has had its rich lexicon of vernacular culture usurped by a monolithic tourist economy. Yet, it is at the same time ultimately a superficial reading of a city and people that has not been entirely bent to a cruise ship economy. The richness, uniqueness and absurdity of Venice still reverberates in the labyrinthine streets and waterways with markers, signs and symbols evident at every turn. These markers are evidence of the absolute specificity of an island state removed from mainland culture, where even if the meaning or stories that underpin such features are elusive and mysterious, they still evoke an affective and lingering charisma. After so much ink has been spilled on this city, there is more, much more, to say about a culture forged on thousands of years of having to navigate changing weather patterns, living in a swamp, and defending the barricades from invading armies of soldiers, and more recently, tourists. It is a city and culture that not only survived but flourished for more than a thousand years, always finding a channel of passage through silted waters. Venice is ultimately a multifarious site for creative misadventure, a place that rewards slowing down, observing, and allowing, as Jan Morris has suggested, the smell of mud, incense, fish, age, filth and velvet to hang around your nostrils.xv David Cross


i Torcello was the largest settlement on the Venetian lagoon in the earliest years of the cities existence. First populated in 482AD it became a significant township for nearly a thousand years before the black death of 1382 and successive waves of malaria substantially reduced the population. In addition, changing water levels in the lagoon made it more difficult for traders to access the island leading to significant de-population. After reaching a peak of some 35,000 people today Torcello has a resident population of 10. ii

Morris, Jan, Venice, Faber and Faber, London, 1960, p261

iii Legend has it that during the Austrian domination over Venice, a young lady fell in love with an Austrian soldier, who was subsequently killed by her family as they opposed their unpatriotic relationship. The grief stricken girl sought the aid of a witch who agreed to meet her on the island of Torcello – an isolated place and ideal for magic rituals. The witch called upon the devil who brought the young Austrian back to life and so the two lovers were united again. But it is well known that the devil doesn’t do anything for nothing so he made the witch promise that for the next seven years she would bring him on Christmas Eve the soul of a dead child who had recently died. The witch died soon after in a fire and was not able to keep to her pact with the devil… So to this day on the eve of 24 December the devil comes to the Devil’s Bridge in Torcello in the guise of a black cat and claims in vain the souls he was promised. See https://www.venetoinside.com/hidden-treasures/ post/the-devils-bridge-on-the-island-of-torcello/ iv In the spirit of rubbing against the grain or simply being able to source appropriate materials, many of the artists across the six commissions sought to introduce their own unique objects in addition to what was in each ‘kit’. v Three of these provocations (Moretta, Devils Bridge and Ezra Pound) were subsequently used for the set of six new provocations developed specifically for the second Deakin Art Gallery showing. vi See, Jonglez, T, Zoffoli, P and Galiffi, I (eds), Secret Venice, Jonglez, 2018, pp146-7 vii While The Spacer’ was the second provocation to be developed, it was the first one in the sequence of six Venetian Blind commissions. German writer Alexander Kluge has pointed to the unique role of the Doge and how the thousand year Republic is a polity completely unique in Europe. ‘The Doge is not a monarch; he suggests but rather the chairman of a citizens aristocracy’. See Kluge, Alexander, ‘The Fruits of his Reading outside Toulon’, in Lerner, B and Kluge,A (eds) The Snows of Venice, Spector Books, Leipzig, 2018, p160 ix Jonglez, T, Zoffoli,P and Galiffi, I (eds), op cit, p307 x Kluge, A, Greenness and the Lagoons Smell in the Essence of Venice in, Lerner, B and Kluge, A, (eds) The Snows of Venice, op cit, p247 xi Morris, J, op cit, p304

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—— Lyn McCredden and Ann Vickery unfurling the banner 2019 photo by Cameron Bishop

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Stumbling Towards the Event Cameron Bishop

This is a short essay that attempts to relate the evolution of the Venetian Blind project by recalling particular incidents, observations and confluences that led to my writing of three distinct but interrelated provocations. It brings together the exigencies of a compacted site-based research trip with all-too brief commentary on the subsequent collaborative and site-based artworks created by the artists. For the experience of being an artist in the project this can only be a shallow attempt at excavating their dedication to the cause and the chaos of making art in a collapsed time frame and in collaboration with people they may not have met before. Of course, the works have been reduced to outcomes and in some cases TROs (Traditional Research Outputs) and that is laudable, for whatever our next Enterprise Bargaining Agreement brings. But the labour, quantifiable for the university, we hope, does not outstrip the love we shared for the disruption this project brought to our research lives. If there were shifts in practice for the way we make, not to mention for the way we relate to others in making work, then they are the measures that truly matter.

art nirvana. As the island took shape though, a familiar scent took hold, overwhelming the visual feast. The smell of effluent. I might have perceived this as a warning, but for me, it was fulsome invitation.

Arrival

It’s a smell I know well from our many forays into making public art at Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant, and it brought me comfort as we docked in the city. Poo is the ultimate egalitarian refrain, and in Venice, one that constantly reminded me that, amidst the preening, the posing, the heavy histories and literary musings the city is a city immersed in its own effluent. It is sinking in it, which leads to a wider refrain, about wildlife, sustainability and the unintended consequences of our waste treatment. The upper Adriatic, specifically, the lagoons surrounding Venice, make-up the largest wetlands in the Mediterranean basin, supporting diverse bird, fish and wildlife populations. The lagoons at Werribee, rich in nutrients from human waste, are home to a bird population that rivals Kakadu for diversity. This speaks to the affective qualities of the Anthropocene, and how sometimes, as culture swells to overtake nature, our by-products can benefit our companion species.

Venice is a city of refrains. In the architecture, the selfies, the self-love, the tides, the walking, the art grift and the objects. It was in the smell though that I got my first whiff of one. Catching the Vaporetto from the airport to Venice was strange. As the boat made its way to the island city a peculiar dissonance, between what the eyes were seeing and the olfactory sense, took hold. I was a fish out of water, a curatorial fowl most foul parachuting in to make work about a place I’d only known as a tourist; an antipodean, an imposter on a boat bound for contemporary

We (David Cross and I) were in Venice to do research. To attempt to frame up a project for 24 researchers; a crew of artists, film makers, writers, animators, performers and dancers. We had five days, which in the passage of time is a blip, but in the context of our researching lives, more than a minor opportunity. To call on Proust is pretentious (and the original draft quoted directly), but potent, for what we were doing. He helps us make sense of senses displaced in In Search of Lost Time. To conjure a feeling, a sense from elsewhere, where place,

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prompted by sensation, is transposed, hence I relate Werribee to Venice. At a party in a Guermantes mansion, France, Marcel, the author, trips on a paving stone. For Proust, it fires up the synapses to recall a specific moment (a stumble on uneven stones inside San Marco cathedral) in time, and all the pleasant sensations that went with it.i In embodied experience the past and the present are merged, but there are deeper stories to tell. Proust translated John Ruskin’s, The Stones of Venice, a three-volume treatise on Venetian architecture. Without Ruskin, we don’t get to Proust’s moment of recall. What refrains might be activated by us, the curators, for the artists who would be parachuting into this extraordinary city? They lay in their practice, in embodied and shared experience, already had, and in tension with what’s to come. A Ghostly Decline Airbnb has heralded a new feudalist in Venice – the property owner who rents out their apartment to tourists. On any given night less than 33 percent of people are actual residents. Winding our way through the ancient city, in search of our Airbnb apartment, I became acutely aware of my own place as a tourist, without language, custom or history. In the layered architectural styles, looming over the narrow streets, and in the echoes of people walking and talking I first interpreted this as a novel, sophisticated and chic atmosphere – a coded and echoing milieu to which I was foreign. This was made more apparent in the whining of my suitcase’s wheel, a clarion call for mood wrecking repetition, breaking the Venetian spell in the cold half-light of sunset. I realised after a few nights that these conversations are trapped in a groove, destined to repeat themselves in the myriad languages, and small-scale concerns of the traveller. We are, mostly, all tourists here, apparitions in the spectacle. Ours was an accelerated genealogy of the city; it is all we could do on a five-day research trip in late 2018. Gleaned from anecdote, film, song, reflection, literature, poetry, architecture, walking, objects and abject conversation we definitively sought to allude to events with art, not in a search for origins, but in an effort

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to tap into the sensual affects of the place. In this city of ossified history, where we, as tourists, inhabit the spaces indemnified by blood, power and progress, we can tell stories with linear trajectories. They are there in Gallileo showing off his telescope to the Doge in 1609, in Napolean’s invading army, and in the Executioner’s walk from his abode in Calle della Testa to the Doge’s palace. We can inhabit the spaces that witnessed these actions, but we cannot inhabit the subjectivities that were conditioned by this place, only mix the idea of them with our own cultural and biological trajectories, so that as their stories emerge in the work of art, our bodies become a fulcrum for feelings as well as facts. Michel Foucault suggests that we operate under the false belief that what we ‘tend to feel is without history’.ii Abstract things like love, desire and conscience are tendencies tied to time and circumstance as much as they are biological givens. Art, a ‘process of producing refrains’, Franco Berardi by way of Felix Guattari tells us, is a ‘temporary organiser of chaos’, a frame through which the collapse of the sensible into the real becomes manifest.iii An accelerated entropy, like Venice’s slippage into the sea, art can harmonise but can also be dissonant in moulding a temporary ‘field of desire’.iv And in the streets and canals of Venice the field is at once rich with history and tourists’ conversation, and at the same time redolent of our present decline. The tourist is the cypher, a stand-in for the citizen and the collapse of close living where what we ate we caught and picked, rather than Instagrammed. It might be said that the tourist exists without history, interchangeable as a subject disconnected from place, but connected to the glowing object in their palms (the flaneur morphed into world tourist and digital ghost). Increasingly in the digital age, as it paradoxically becomes more ubiquitous and invisible, what we feel has overtaken our critical perspective, to push us into voting, buying, moving and generally behaving at the behest of a slew of algorithms. But I got lost many times in Venice, finding myself as a blue dot apparition on my phone in a thoroughfare that did not translate to the real spaces I was lost in, often dead ends. Google maps, more often than not, didn’t work


for me so I had to go by feel, but for real. The algorithm lost sight of me in the rhizomatic street and canal system of Venice. And it was the opportunity to explore without prior knowledge that gave me a sense of abandon. I was enmeshed in the materiality of the city, between the spectacle of it, and the abjection. Following a feeling I conjured all kinds of scenarios, mainly filmic. I was Gustav von Aschenbach from Death in Venice, John Baxter from Don’t Look Now, hapless, melancholic, trapped by desire, time and embodied memory. It was not so much a case of giving up my critical cartesian faculties (fuck off GPS), but relenting to the milieu. On reflection, I felt like a projection. A flickering figure in a virtual, collapsing world. In Nicholas Roeg’s film Don’t Look Now, Laura Baxter, played by Julie Christie, is spotted by her husband, John (Donald Sutherland), from the Vaporetto. She floats by on a funeral cortege oblivious to his appeals from the passing boat. The cortege turns into a canal, and she, an apparition from the future, is lost to him. John plays witness to his own abjection in this moment, his own pending death. We’re all ghosts in Venice. This is a city sinking in its own excrement, a harbinger for global warming, a metaphor for the failing anthropos. We watch as the aqua alta events get higher and higher, and at the same time revel in the pomp and parade of the Biennale, literally, as the shit pours in. I feel for the facts of the future, and if what the artists do in these flooding canals and narrow streets don’t touch on that lament, then the present is all there is, which is where you’ll find most of the work plonked in the Biennale; in an eternal contemporary. Hito Steyerl reckons we are trapped in stasis, what she describes as a ‘stagnant crisis’, where events like the biennale, and the accelerated development of digital technologies and attendant convenience, allude to progress, but are smokescreens for the transferral of wealth and everyday practices from the public, to the private spheres.v In this project, the participants’ private practices were made public, to become shared gestures, dissonant and disruptive to conventional ways of being in the city, and by extension, in the world.

Responses to Provocations The OPTICAL ALLUSIONS (Provocation 4) group was charged with addressing the legacy of some of Venice’s power relations down the ages. In the provocation there were references to administration, architecture, infrastructure and two particular events. The first was the execution of the 52nd Doge, Marino Faliero in 1355, after a failed coup attempt which was subsequently lionised by Byron and Delacroix, among others. The second related event occurred in the Bell Tower, which used to ring on the occasion of an execution. My attention was drawn to it because of its proximity to the Doge’s palace and its role in heralding the city’s collective blood lust, but also because of another event, the Copernican revolution. In 1609, the Doge of the time, the civic leader of the senate and the city, was introduced to the telescope by Galileo from the top of the tower. Galileo would later be accused of heresy because his technology would go on to change the way we saw the world, as an object in orbit with other planets (a heliocentric mode), as opposed to the centre of the Universe. Galileo’s ruse at the time was to develop his technology in order to bolster the scopic power of the state, so he set his tech up for the Doge and the dignitaries at the top of the bell tower and pointed out how any approaching ships in the Adriatic could be magnified and identified as potential invaders. So the provocation group, Lienors Torre, Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville and Annie Wilson, with a prompt from Mirjana Lozanovska’s suburban windows, went on to make a series of films and animations which are featured in the exhibition at Burwood, and in the Venetian Blind process documentary. They were playful and explorative, and as a group obviously developed a strong rapport in the way they indulged each others’ skill sets, sharing deep insights into how they think and make through their ingrained techniques. There are sketch and animation videos, and sculptural and spatial interventions in the reconstitution of the kit box as a viewing device, as well as performance works in public spaces, which, while no doubt fun to make, critically engaged with the provocation as they played up to ideas around spectacle and power, the antipodean out of water, erasure and subterfuge.

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Scene: Simon Grennan in a box with a slot at the Doge’s palace, surveilling the tourists with a camera. Curious passers-by stare at it in bemusement and come to suspect that they are a part of the spectacle, a surveillance machine enhanced by a technological advance made in 1609, only 100 metres from where they are standing. The apparatus of the lens universalises scopic anxiety and fetish, depending on which side of it you find yourself. In the collaborative animation they made each artist contributed drawings, magnified by a lens ball (a device that precedes the 360-degree camera and google). The 5th Provocation, FUNEREEL SCENES, prompted the group to explore the city’s filmic histories. Death in Venice, The Executioner of Venice and Don’t Look Now were the major references here, in turn, melancholic, camp, and eerie, while together they present Venice as a stage space, an artifice in which all kinds of refrains might be found. The actor, an apparition animated by the desires of an other, shares some attributes with the tourist as a subject displaced. After watching Don’t Look Now on late night TV, illicitly, as a young boy in the 1980s, while the parents regaled each other with risqué stories of the middle class around the cooling fondue set, red coats and spilt red ink became triggers for me, causing me to stumble into the sensations of that night. I found the idea of the dead white father animate in a future without him in it, terrifyingly compelling when I first saw it - and it stayed with me, obviously. So as Sutherland’s character, Jon Baxter’s seemingly arbitrary trajectory through the alleys and canals of the city appear in the snaking line of a snail/ tattoo playing out on Dario Vacirca’s back, in Rose Woodcock’s incredibly deft, intuitive and situated animations, and in the site-responsive, embodied dance of Olivia Millard and Shaun McCleod, I recall my own disorientation in the city, a flicker of subjectivity, lost in a crumbling artifice. In a working pattern that only saw them ever overlap for short periods of time in Venice the group were able to resolve some complex problems, as in: how to make and document work in public spaces in one of the most cramped cities in the world; how to bring participation into the gallery space

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for a durational and live event; and in postproduction, how to bring it all together in a resolved work that genuinely involved each of their skills and idiosyncratic modes of practice: variously embodied, improvisational, scored, participatory, contemplative, studied and polemical. Their resolved film is an extraordinary homage to their shared skills and their time in Venice. Scene: Rose Woodcock animating the iconic red coat (found in Don’t Look Now) at the canal entrance to Palazzo Bembo - Gondoliers and tourists are captured in a situated animation, inside the glass panes of the doors, interchangeable, and cutting through time. This stands in contrast to Millard’s and McLeod’s improvised and durational dance works in the city, legato and staccato, overlayed with Vacirca’s rambling and affective polemic. DEPTH IN VENICE (AND WERRIBEE), Provocation 6, was complex for many reasons, not least for its attempt to conceptually bridge two vastly different places at opposite ends of the planet. Bringing together the people, a filmmaker, Martin Potter, and two writers, Antonia Pont from Melbourne, and Tasha Haines from Wellington, Aeotearoa, to make works about waste and water in Venice was the conceit. They were able to coordinate their trip so that their time in Venice overlapped for a decent period, ultimately, to make a series of films and write poems responding to, firstly, the wetlands and sewage systems of the Veneto region, and secondly, to a slightly more vexing, surprise element, a rogue artist flown in from Melbourne. Mick Douglas, the artist and the key provocation, stepped out of the shadows at a pre-ordained time and place to prompt, coax, explain, confuse, crimp, settle, deal, philosophise, negotiate and provoke Antonia, Martin and Tasha. They were now a group of four. Douglas is a curator, performance artist and socially engaged practitioner who works across a variety of media, and a diplomat. His ability to bring people together around complex ideas has worked in numerous projects and so it proved here. The added factor was that he had done some research for us on Treatment III at


Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant so the extra complication for this team was to think about how their work in Venice resonated with water treatment back in the antipodes, in Werribee, on the outskirts of Melbourne. How does Venice, a city of great romance and spectacle get away with the fact of its olfactics, its smell, while Werribee, still suffers great stigma, the butt of many jokes for its association to sewage? At some point though, the aqua altas will bring it home for Venice, as the sediment at the bottom of the canals, 12% of which is from sewage, is a key factor in the decay of buildings and Venice’s slippage into the sea. But we asked that they poetically and performatively engage with the place and its people so a series of beautifully produced films, some of which are performative, others more participatory, reflect on the solidity of things, the slippery nature of time, tidal flows, migration, and the depths to which we plumb for metrics, perception and knowledge. Scene: Blindfolded, Mick Douglas dips a canvas bag into the Grand Canal. There’s a voiceover talking about metrics of various kinds. He hands the bag now full of water to Antonia; she gives the bag to a tourist, who looks perplexed, but willingly holds the weight of the water (the world), to pass it to Tasha, to pass it on, to Martin (who is filming?), and on to another passer-by, who eventually pours the water back into the canal - an eternal refrain that signifies transferal, from one body to an other, one volume to another. The Opening The Venice Biennale, as an event, signifies both status and stasis, belying the reality that the city is sinking. The people who temporarily migrate here for the art? In the main: a class half-full with their own self-importance, washing in with the tide each year to preen, ponce and pontificate. This is my jaded antipodean view, a defensive reaction, even as I mimicked the art-looking stance of people from the artworld much more important than myself. In the pre-COVID 19 world of kisses, man-hugs and close talking at the opening of Venetian Blind I find myself, like many artists, wanting out. I’m drowning the pretence with pretence and

another Aperol Spritz; I reflect on what’s been, and what David Cross and I have just done. Having established the ground rules for the project – 24 artists/researchers over six months, making work in response to historical events and sites around Venice – we sought to give scope to work that would induce collaboration, creativity and critical action. Against the need to fill a white cube, we invented three provocations each, using text and objects as prompts for artists to respond to. At the opening event the exhibition was austere, nothing but concept – apart from the people, there was nothing to look at except six rolled up scrolls and boxes, and an explanatory text hinting at events to come. The provocations held both the past and future in them, and yet the events were unknown to all but the curators, the designer, the translator and the printer. We were in the boxes, like Schroedinger’s cat, there but not there, extra-temporal beings, ghosts, framing and constraining events to come with events lost to time, and other issues and objects, at the front of body and mind. Cameron Bishop

i Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Volume 6, Finding Time Again, Penguin, London, 2003. ii Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 1977, Random House, New York, p.139 iii Ibid iv Berardi, F. B. The Soul at Work: From alienation to autonomy, Semiotext(e)/MIT, Los Angeles and Cambridge, 2009, p. 135 v Steyerl, Hito, Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, 2017, Verso, United Kingdom, p. 3

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List of images All images are copyright and reproduced courtesy of the artists and the Public Art Commission.

Cover: Cameron Bishop The Devils Bridge 2021 inkjet print, ink and acrylic Inner front: Drainage pipe into a canal photo by Cameron Bishop p. 3 Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienor Torres and Anne Wilson Optical Illusions 2019 digital photograph p. 10 Lyn McCredden and Ann Vickery unfurling the banner 2019 photo by Cameron Bishop p. 17 The Spacer above Calle Toscana photo by David Cross pp. 18–21 Installation views of the exhibition at Palazzo Bembo photos by David Cross pp. 22–23 Installation views of the exhibition at the Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p. 25 Bocca di Lione, Doges Palace photo by Cameron Bisho pp. 28–29 Sandy Gibbs, Jondi Keane and Patrick Pound The Spacer 2019 digital video of public actions in Venice p. 30 Sandy Gibbs, Jondi Keane and Patrick Pound The Spacer 2019 charcoal wall drawing and table tennis ephemera installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p.31 Sandy Gibbs, Jondi Keane and Patrick Pound Palimpsest 2021 digital video consisting of ink on paper and found imagery p. 34 Paul Venzo in Kari Lyons’ opera dress, linked to Vespers for Kari Lyons performed and recorded in 2019 photography by Kari Lyons

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p.35 Cassandra Atherton, Kari Lyons, Lyn McCredden, Paul Venzo and Anne Vickery Vespers for Kari Lyons 2019 Poem by Paul Venzo and music by Heide Joosten pp. 36–37 Cassandra Atherton, Kari Lyons, Lyn McCredden, Paul Venzo and Ann Vickery Letters 2019 inkjet prints (various sizes), envelopes, ink and pen installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p. 40 Anindita Banerjee, Jane Bartier, Rea Dennis and Misha Myers Coloured Stone 2019–21 installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p. 41 Misha Meyers Tilting horizons, rising tidelines and landings of the plague 2019 digital video pp. 42–43 Rea Dennis Body as Stone 2019 digital video of performance involving natural pigments and clay videography by Magda Miranda pp. 46–47 Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Optical Illusions 2019 digital video, MDF and acrylic paint installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p. 48 Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Optical Illusions 2019 digital video still p. 49 Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Slip Drawings 2019 digital video comprising of pencil and ink drawings on paper and glass magnifying lens p.52 Olivia Millard Don’t Look Look Now 2019 photograph of performance for video

p.53 Shaun McLeod Don’t Look Look Now 2019 photograph of performance for video p. 54 Dario Vacirca Arbitrary Distinction (Don’t Look Look Now) 2019 performance involving reading, drawing and live tattoo event p. 55 Rosemary Woodcock Don’t Look Look Now 2019 digital photograph for animation p. 58 Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Porter Salt Traces 2019 photograph of public action and performance p. 59 Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Porter Writing on Water 2019–21 digital video with sound, plastic container and water from the Werribee River installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p. 60 Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Porter Writing on Water 2019 plastic container and water from the Venetian Lagoon installation view, Palazzo Bembo photo by David Cross p. 61 Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Porter Writing on Water 2021 salt crystals, cuts to printed banner and ink on paper installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery photo by Polo Jimenez p. 63 Cameron Bishop Untitled/Don’t Look Now 2021 detail from digital video still (black and white) Inner back: White paving stone near the church of San Pietro in the Castello digital photograph photo by David Cross


—— The Spacer above Calle Toscana photo by David Cross

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—— Installation views, Palazzo Bembo

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—— Installation view, Deakin University Art Gallery

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Communication Design In Venice

1. J enson. Adobe Jenson Pro was designed by Venetian Blind pays homage to the history of Robert Slimbach in 1995 and was deemed the communication design to emerge from Venice, best modern interpretation of Nicolas Jenson’s the central location for world trade from 1465original design. 1500.i Venice was also known to lead Italian typographic book design. Having been granted 2. G aramond. Claude Garamond (1510-1561) a five-year monopoly on printing in Venice, was strongly influence by the work of Grio goldsmith Johannes de Spira (d. 1470) published and the development of Bembo. Garamond’s his first book in 1469 using Roman typography influence extended throughout Europe during and page numbering. De Spira created a the 16th and 17th centuries. Roman type that moved away from Gothic 3. C aslon. William Caslon (1692-1766) created qualities and was deemed a bold invention. ii Caslon Old Style, with italic. Working in The cutting of fonts during this time is now the traditions of Venetian Old Style roman referred to as Venetian Old Style, identified by typographic design, the font was created for its minimal contrast between the thick and legibility and texture that was comfortable thin strokes of the characters, and a slanted and friendly to the reader. iii cross bar on the lowercase ‘e’. 4. B askerville. John Baskerville (1706-1775)

Following de Spira’s untimely death, Nicolas considered the possibilities and constraints of the whole printing process as he created his Jenson (1420-1480), a skilled cutter of dies – fonts. The font Baskerville was created to achieve having worked with the French Royal Mint of graphic perfection and was designed with major Tours – established the second press in Venice. strokes and refined points. Jenson has been noted as one of history’s greatest typeface designers due to his ability to design 5. G oudy. Designed by Fredrick W. Goudy with legibility in mind; he was the first to design (1865-1947) Goudy based many of his 122 the spaces between the characters and within typefaces on Venetian type design. Digital each letter, to create an even tone across the page. versions of the typefaces have been released He created a round, open character that many by most major publishers. including J.R. Biggs consider stately and formal. enton. Morris F. Benton (1872-1948) ‘Many derivatives of his Roman types have been 6. B iv designed revivals of Bodoni and Garamond made, but none are better than the original.’ Publisher, printer and editorial authority Aldus Manutius (1450-1515) established the Aldine Press in 1494 in Venice. Francesco da Bologna, surnamed Grio (1450-1518), was an important member of the Press, creating type for the publisher and a font for use in a publication by Pietro Bembo in 1495. His font was created using mathematical laws of proportion and was based on the research and study of Roman inscription and font. It is commonly known today as Bembo. Modern versions of Venetian Old Style have led to the development of many fonts including, but not limited to Jenson, Goudy, Benton, Caslon, Baskerville and Garamond. To acknowledge the influence of Venetian Old Style on modern typography, each of the fonts listed were used for the descriptor and proposition panels in this exhibition.

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studying, re-cutting and reconstructing the typefaces for hand and computer applications. Benton designed over 225 typefaces adding additional members to the Goudy family and reviving Jenson’s type under the name of Cloister Family.

Meghan Kelly

i Clair, K., & Busic-Snyder, C. A typographic workbook, New York, Chichester, Wiley, 2005, p. 169 ii Meggs, P. B., & Purvis, A. W. Meggs’ history of graphic design, Hoboken: Wiley, 2006, p. 94 iii

Clair & Busic-Snyder, ibid, p. 169

iv Biggs, J.R., An approach to type, London, Blanford Press, 1961, p.42 v Seddon, T. Type Team: Perfect Typeface Combinations, London, Thames & Hudson, 2015, p. 25


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Provocation: Interrogate ‘The Spacer’ as an object / symbol / architectural device / or folly. Develop a project that considers labyrinthine systems and the ways in which Venetian planning and engineering have waged a continual battle with unfettered development and entropy throughout its history. Contributing Artists: Jondi Keane, Australia; Patrick Pound, Australia; Sandy Gibbs, New Zealand. The Spacer (debaser … debaser … debaser) Calle Toscana in San Polo is a very narrow street on one of the main passageways linking Rialto Bridge with the station. Named for the community of Tuscan emigres who lived in the immediate area, the street is remarkable for an architectural feature that is perched curiously and perhaps precariously one and a half floors above street level. A small piece of Istrian stone, almost rectangular in shape, is wedged between the two buildings. While difficult to read from below, the stone has an inscription together with the coat of arms of the Gradenigo’s, a hugely inuential family of the Venetian patriarchate since the 9th century. This insertion is peculiar for a number of reasons. It has no obvious architectural purpose, nor is it inherently decorative, and it is located well above eye level making it difficult to read. This elusive object that floats unconvincingly in space is neither sculpture nor building but a distanciador (or in English a ‘spacer’). It is effectively an instrument of planning that enforced (literally) a sanctioned distance between buildings. Located in the Rialto district which a thousand years ago was a veritable hotspot of development in Venice, the spacer operated as a counter-point to medieval systems, policing a building code that sought to push back against unfettered development. Somehow, both classical and modern in look and purpose, the spacer highlighted a simple if effective means by which Venetian planners could exercise control and ensure reasonable levels of natural light and ease of passage for residents and merchants alike. What is delightful about this early weapon of organised planning (a shot across the byzantine bow) is that it is still there, floating dangerously above you as you pass under it mostly unawares. It profoundly - if elliptically - speaks to Venetian values, specifically how commerce and a holistic civic ethos were carefully, if forcefully, calibrated. And yet, like modernist sculpture it seems elegant, reductive, and manages to deny its weight and float in space, half a millennium or more before Tatlin’s Corner Counter-Relief. For whatever reason - chance, the laziness of builders, or the power of the Gradenigo family, it is still asserting an arcane separation that cannot be infringed upon by the vagaries of climate, shifting sands or unscrupulous developers. Font: Adobe Garamond Pro

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The Spacer Sitting in the (Venetian) blind The hunting blind affords having sight unseen, however for Sandy, Patrick and Jondi, sitting in the Venetian Blind meant being seen by the curators yet unable to see the panorama from which our prompt was being concocted. All we could do was make a sporting attempt at preparing strategies for engagement in a hunt for clarity and connections, setting constraints via our research into contexts, histories and practices. Ping-pong came to mind. The reveal Jondi arrived first, read the brief and hunted down a good coffee as well as the research prompt (a marble ‘spacer’ set between buildings of Calle Toscana by the Gradenigo family to dictate a minimum width of the street for commerce). Our response was twofold: first, to use the dimension of the space to engage with the city, resulting in a compendium of the ‘species of spacers’ found in Venice (and by extension to be distributed judiciously, beyond Venice), and second to bring the spacer, its image and dimensions, into the gallery space through drawing, books and video of our embodied relation to the spacer enacted in Calle Toscano and across the city.

The ongoing process We annotated the city, each producing a book of images, quotes and texts and collectively producing videos that performed our modes of engagement by folding the ‘species of spacers’ into the gallery and unfolding them back onto the city. In response to the second provocation (one of Ezra Pound’s cantos) this spacer became a measure of time, of fading and lingering, longing and the possibility of what happens next. Our second response was to offer a video of annotations in real time that fade before our eyes and only take hold as a function of interest, concern, and ongoing care. The spacer remains like a suspended memorial to the world of transient hyphens. Jondi Keane, Patrick Pound, Sandy Gibbs

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—— Sandy Gibbs, Jondi Keane and Patrick Pound The Spacer 2019

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29


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—— left: Sandy Gibbs, Jondi Keane and Patrick Pound The Spacer 2019

—— above: Sandy Gibbs, Jondi Keane and Patrick Pound Palimpsest 2021

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Provocation: Utilising the Venetian letterbox as a subject of investigation, explore how the letter might function or dys-function as a mechanism of historical and contemporary power relations. Specifically, what is the relationship between politics and poetry that underpins these curious systems? Contributing Artists: Cassandra Atherton, Australia; Kari Lyons, Australia; Lyn McCredden, Australia; Paul Venzo, Australia; Ann Vickery, Australia.

Letterbox On the first-floor balcony of the Ducal Palace just before the entrance to the assorted civic chambers and courts of law, a relief sculpture is cast into the wall. The figure of what appears to be a strangely androgynous human head scowls at us, eyes ablaze, evoking a peculiarly macabre context for such a regal setting. Underneath this horrible head, is an inscription that speaks to the evil practice of hiding, or colluding to conceal, one’s true income from the Venetian tax authority. Today, this sculpture appears to serve as a cipher for the Venetian predilection for employing fear as a means of keeping citizens on the straight and narrow. Yet while clearly sculptural in form, this aesthetic dimension is a secondary consequence to a greater functional purpose. This relief object is in fact a letterbox. Known as bocche dei leoni, or ‘lions’ mouths’, this relief sculpture is one of many stone letterboxes located throughout Venice. Carved into the shape of grotesque part human/part lion heads, these hundreds-of-yearsold boxes contained slots in the figure’s mouth where informers were once able to post accusations against their fellow citizens. Crimes could be from the minor to the mutinous, ranging from adultery to financial malfeasance and beyond. Knowing the lure of financial reward as an enticement, the informer (dobber in Australian parlance), would be fiscally rewarded if the supposed culprit was found guilty of the alleged crime in the criminal justice system. In his Innocents Abroad (1869), Mark Twain wrote “These were the terrible Lions’ Mouths. … these were the throats down which went the anonymous accusation thrust in secretly in the dead of night by an enemy, that doomed many an innocent man to walk the Bridge of Sighs and descend into the dungeon which none entered and hoped to see the sun again.” Font: Adobe LTC Caslon

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The Letterbox In early modern Venice, citizens were able to voice complaints anonymously through lion-shaped letterboxes known as the ‘mouths of truth.’ While this secret economy of denunciation infamously strengthened the Doge’s control, street testimony was another matter. Women found ways to speak up, in a society that typically dismissed them as gossips rather than good witnesses. This installation investigates the double-edged nature of words, how they have provided a powerful tool not only to reinforce dominant power dynamics, but also to contest overly restrictive gender roles in the past and today. Although women were expected to be weak and silent creatures, those who picked up the pen in the self-styled Most Serene Republic responded to problems of violence and governmental containment with wit, skill, and agility. Opera emerged during the seventeenth century as a further means to explore complex subjectivity, with performances able to slide from the self-effacing to seductive, articulate

sexual ambivalence, and conjoin music to lyric affect. Both poetry and opera aesthetically test the dynamics between compliance and complaint, functioning as both address and redress. This installation demands attention with words that move between centuries; it gestures to truths that must be spoken and heard. Connecting the #metoo movement and gender diversity of the twenty-first century with the nascent feminism of early modern Venice, the installation demonstrates how the word holds the possibility of freedom and agency as much as it instates the letter of the law. Cassandra Atherton, Kari Lyons, Lyn McCredden, Paul Venzo and Ann Vickery

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—— Paul Venzo in Kari Lyons’ opera dress, linked to Vespers for Kari Lyons performed and recorded in 2019

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—— Cassandra Atherton, Kari Lyons, Lyn McCredden, Paul Venzo and Ann Vickery Letters 2019 photo by Polo Jimenez

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Provocation: Consider two coloured stones and their unique sets of meanings as small physical interventions into the Venetian built environment. Develop an artistic project that investigates the interplay between the modest and largely overlooked nature of these insertions and their assorted historical, political and mythical connotations. Contributing Artists: Anindita Banerjee, Australia; Jane Bartier, Australia; Rea Dennis, Australia; Misha Myers, Australia.

Coloured Stone The uniformity of Venetian paving stone is almost, but not completely, ubiquitous. Since 1676, Masegni stones have been used to pave Venice's streets. Made from Masegni, Salizzone, and occasionally Istrian Stone, the limited range of material ensures a remarkable visual consistency, with a chromatic scheme best described as overcast grey. No matter which district you are in, the surface is remarkably similar; a highly functional stone matrix smoothed over time by water, foot traffic and more recently, the scratching of suitcase wheels. That Venice’s calli are not as challenging on the ankles as many other European cobblestoned cities, highlights that the city is as much a walking city as it is a water-based one and, after a while, we learn to trust the surface to the point where the material we traverse is a given. While the surface is largely seamless (if rendered uneven by centuries of wear), two paving stones in dierent parts of Castello stand in contrast to the uniformity. These stones, one on the road to the San Pietro di Castello and the other inside a covered walkway on the Sotoportego de la Corte Nova, are not overcast grey, but white and red respectively. The question of why there are two rogue stones roughly 40 millimetres by 20 millimetres in a city of perhaps millions of grey stones, is indeed a curious one. What might have created the preconditions for these monochromatic visual interventions, why do they reside where they do and, perhaps most obviously, what do they mean? The modesty of these interventions into the built environment, and their location on well-troddentourist trails is such that most people fail to notice the variation, and for those that do, they are little more than a curious glitch in the system. Yet both stones are extraordinary in differing ways for the manner in which they highlight the unique history of religion and politics in Venice since the 15th century. Their modesty belies a complex signication that speaks to miracles, the black plague, and the struggle for power between church and state. Font: Adobe Jenson Pro

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Coloured Stones Coloured Stones provocation investigated two stones synonymous with two sites of significance in Venice’s unique history and folklore. One of those stones is the red stone situated in a sotoportego (enclosed alley) leading to the Corte Nova, an area of Venice where inhabitants were miraculously protected from death during the plague of 1630. The red stone marked the threshold where the plague had been defeated and no traveller could pass. During our Venetian Blind residency, we touched ancient stone, immersed in the waters and crossed the invisible thresholds that kept Venetians safe. At that time in mid-2019, Jane developed a work entitled I am the living plague and around six months later, a virus once again uncontained, led to border closures, widespread death and disease, and the localising of our geographical lives.

layers of images, screens and stones dissolving into one another, performances of the body as stone, and delicate mark making with water and feet. Emerging from these explorations of ‘coloured stones’ is what we have come to refer to as ‘stone time’.i A deep time that ‘ropes and loops’, that is never straight, and that propels us forward and back in time and space.ii Rea Dennis i. Myers, Misha., Dennis, Rea., Bartier, Jane. and Banerjee, Anindita. A collaboration in stone time, Joint Issue of Global Performance Studies and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (forthcoming). See also https:// padlet.com/mishamyers/y7lsskopvldswt6x ii.

Tara June Winch, Yield (Hamish Hamilson, 2020) 2.

This uncanny convergence with the 2020 global pandemic, is perhaps what has emerged as most compelling from our process. The outcome of our collaboration is a beautiful fragile palimpsest that evidences the traces of a range of ephemeral practices, and solo, duet and chorus efforts, of material and digital knowing. It echoes the form of our collaboration with group members on the ground in Venice at different times across the residency. The temporally and spatially dispersed process is composed of layers and a collision of fragments: a series of paper works that began by tracing the stones on paper, a video edited with

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—— Anindita Banerjee, Jane Bartier, Rea Dennis and Misha Myers Coloured Stone 2019–21 photo by Polo Jimenez

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—— Misha Meyers Tilting horizons, rising tidelines and landings of the plague 2019

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—— Rea Dennis Body as Stone 2019

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Provocation: In modern Venice, we might think of power as ossified in monument and museum. We ask that you draw it out: through social gesture, in public spaces and events, in erasure and allusion. Contributing Artists: Simon Grennan, Australia; Sarah Neville, Australia; Lienors Torres, Australia; Anne Wilson; Australia; and curatorial consultant Mirjana Lozanovska, Australia.

Optical Allusions Venice is an imagined city marked by its iconic events and its explicit and spectacular histories. The anxiety about its precarious place, literally as a sinking city, and as a locus for wealth and political influence, has perhaps been most readily expressed in its public demonstrations of power. The effects of power – its administration, and more broadly the paranoid state that disseminates it – are identified in the grandeur of the republic’s architecture and in the infrastructures of the city’s buildings and public spaces. These dictate not only what is seen and unseen by the public, but also how they move and remember. From the Bridge of Sighs to the pink columns of the Doge’s Palace, the power of the state is evident in these spaces in the way they demonstrate control over the deviant body. Wherever absolute power resides, so does the flickering light of dissent. In the Hall of the Great Council, Tintoretto painted 76 portraits of the Doges in a frieze that runs underneath the ceiling, along three walls of the immense room. One of the portraits is curious for its black, veiled space, broken only by the Latin inscription: “Hic est locus Marini Faletro decapitati pro criminibus”. On April 17, 1355, the 55th Doge of Venice, Marino Faliero, was executed for a failed coup d’etat that sought to greatly diminish the power of the oligarchy in the republic. Faliero was condemned to damnatio memoriae, the eradication of any trace of his existence. Ironically, the story of his failed coup and execution, and his diminution to a black veil has made him the most talked about Doge and the subject of great literature and art in works by Byron, Delacroix and others. In Byron’s play, Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, An Historical Tragedy (1821), the tolling of the bells in the Campanile di San Marco was the signal for the uprising, and in the cessation of the bells, the end of the revolution. While using the sounds of San Marco’s bell tower to delineate between order and chaos, Byron, elsewhere remarked on its vista, taking in the ‘glory of the Italian sky’. On August 25, 1609, Galileo famously demonstrated his telescope to the Doge and members of the Venetian aristocracy, proving its worth when he showed how approaching ships – potentially invading armada – in the Adriatic Sea could be magnified by up to eight times. His allusion was that this technology, billed as a tool for the maintenance and expansion of the military-industrial complex, also allowed him to observe the movement of the stars, which he did from the San Marco bell tower. Of course Galileo would evolve the technology to magnify objects by up to 20 times, and it was in his telescope, a non-human apparatus, that afforded a view of ourselves as decentred, in orbit around the sun, captured inextricably in the Copernican revolution. Font: Adobe Baskerville PT

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Optical Allusions Together we are a motley crew. Divided in form we weirdly came together in the end. At first, we wandered, ate, drank, wondered and felt the crowds and the heat while settling into a two-bedroom apartment with 3 of us. (Sarah in a separate apartment with family). Meeting with Sarah we discussed the provocation, a historical musing giving us copious possibilities and reasons to investigate the place. The box unloaded, became an extra source of provocation. This method of curation is seriously fun and generous because if these objects and stories were not a starting point to a collaborative effort, then the differences in our practices, reasons for making and cultural influences regarding age, gender and family, could very easily have become unwieldy and unworkable during a two-week period. Although our differences in practice are pronounced, we started responding to everything (over a few glasses of Campari in the afternoon, as the locals do) in the box, in the words and within the location. Food and making meals also became a time of reflection. We made a website documenting our trials and errors. Ultimately, there are about seven bodies of works in our archive, finally distilled to two pieces in the gallery brought to life by observation of how the place itself generates ‘looking’. But our piece asks, ‘what are we

looking at, what for and why?’ Serendipitously Lienors, Simon and Sarah wandering through the Doge’s palace, looking for the shamed Doge’s hidden portrait, came upon a hole in the wall of the palace. A void that peered into an adjacent room. Video recording into the hole, triggered visitors in the other room to peer back. Like sheep, one person after another peered into the wall unwittingly being recorded by our group, looking back. Hence the act of looking, an overused bodily practice emerged as foundational for work number one. Time, animation, and the act of drawing combined with the illusion of the old tablecloth ripped off in a way that leaves the crockery in place was the genesis of the second work. Slowness of drawing, juxtaposed with the speed of the iPhone click, the trick of sleight of hand in pulling one drawing away from a pile creates a kind of animation that asks the viewer to consider place, memory, and time. Installed with the help of the gallery staff, into a small plinth, the viewer looks down rather than in front (as practiced by thousands of visitors). Our collaborative research and practice continues beyond Venice, as our strange but genuine connection has been forged by the curatorial premise and lived experience. optical-allusions.online Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville Thomas, Lienors Torre and Anne Wilson

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—— Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Optical Illusions 2019

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—— Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Optical Illusions 2019

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—— Simon Grennan, Sarah Neville, Lienors Torres and Anne Wilson Slip Drawings 2019

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Provocation: Prompted by three different scenes: the church San Nicolo dei Mendicoli in Dorsoduro, the house of the executioner on Calle de la Testa in Cannareio, and Palazzo Bembo itself, consider movement and form through new and old media mechanisms in live, documented and post-produced events. Contributing Artists: Shaun McLeod, Australia; Olivia Millard, Australia; Dario Vacirca, Australia; Rosemary Woodcock, Australia.

FuneREEL Scenes Venice is a stage space. It is self-replicating and self-defeating. A melancholy resides in its reel spaces, its filmic histories. Death in Venice (1971) is an ode to artful decline, the ideal and decay, desire and restraint. The city itself acts as a metaphor for civilisation’s slippage; as Venice slides into the sea, the material effects of global warming shape the city’s mood. As filmed form, we can see Venice’s light effects captured in sequential frames that conjure a variety of narratives in film stock (and now in pixels) that prompt and elicit specific emotions from the audience. The transition from analogue to digital in the moving image perhaps points to a wider malaise in which humanity sinks from the indexical form into Baudrillard’s soup of pure simulation. As well as being one of the most filmed cities, in which the subject of the city subsumes the characters of the stories, it is surely one of the most symbolically over-determined cities in the world. For all its intersecting histories and claims to real and imagined power, the church, state and merchant wealth allowed for the proliferation of coded spaces, practices, and objects - many of which remain arcane to the everday observer. Film can reveal our hidden sign systems in exposition, narrative and in our want to identify with character, while mimicking our understanding of time. It can also distort and loop time to expose repressed fears, desires and emotions. The film Don’t Look Now (1974), picks up on these effects and uses the ephemerality and techniques of film to conjure not just the human form as host, but the city itself as apparition, a fleeting form in time. Font: Adobe LTC Goudy

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FuneREEL Scenes ‘Heads will roll’ is the executioner’s grisly promise. The executioner’s house in Venice portrays a disembodied head – a catalyst for an image of a head rolling across the ground. But a rolling head still has some momentum. And a body with a head can also roll. Rolling is a form of travel that confuses bipedal authority. Bipedalism is led by the eyes and anyone who has been to Venice knows how tricky it is to find the gap in the crowd - keep your eyes peeled and gaps in the crowd reveal themselves vertically not horizontally. To roll across ground is to move without the certainty of vision and relies instead on the sensory announcements of the skin. The activity is mollusc-like in its pace, sensitivity and vulnerability – a snail trail of human proportions. Traversing stone paths and steps while horizontal is an intricate negotiation, with each measure of the roll alive with sensory information. Rolling is a surprisingly satisfying means of movement: not efficient, but physically gratifying because of the call to fully attend to something embodied, each

new moment as considered as the last. It is the opposite of the changeable, scattered movement impulses forced on you by the tyranny of the crowd in Venice. To see someone rolling across this contested ground is either an irritation or a comedy. How could someone be so ridiculously, yet privately, attuned, so carefully attentive to the environmental changes yet prone amongst the tourist traffic? In rolling, embodiment is given primacy, but its quietness screams at you. Tourists stare, locals look away with a weary sufferance or smile with mild amusement (selfie culture gone mad?). As an activity or as a form of movement, rolling is at odds with the dynamics of congestion. Shaun McLeod

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—— left: Olivia Millard Don’t Look Look Now 2019

—— above: Shaun McLeod Don’t Look Look Now 2019

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—— Dario Vacirca Arbitrary Distinction (Don’t Look Look Now) 2019

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—— Rosemary Woodcock Don’t Look Look Now 2021

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Provocation: We introduce an element into this sixth project that apes humanity’s intervention into the natural world. You will collaborate with an artist who has been researching at the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee, together responding to the objects and texts in the box, and as an overarching theme to the statement: waste provides an opportunity for life to thrive. Contributing Artists: Mick Douglas, Australia; Tasha Haines, New Zealand; Antonia Pont, Australia; Martin Potter, Australia.

Depth in Venice (and Werribee) The Australian poet Philip Martin wrote that the people who would come to be known as Venetians are “like waterfowl”, who “have fixed their nests on the bosom of the waves” (1980). No need for simile, at the southern end of Melbourne’s largest and oldest waste-water treatment facility (Western Treatment Plant, Werribee), waterfowl have prospered for over 130 years to create an internationally renowned Ramsar-listed bird habitat, known for its abundance and diversity. This landscape is a constructed one, its building prompted by the urgent need for Melbourne in the 1890s to control disease, particularly cholera, carried by raw sewage in open water ways, streets and laneways. In Venice, the tidal flow, that the city relies upon to literally flush sewage from its canals twice a day, can only carry so much. The build-up of sediment at the bottom of the canals - 12% from sewage discharge - is a major contributor to the decay of buildings and other infrastructure. Without exaggeration, one could say this is a city sinking in its own shit. Humanity’s effect on the natural world haunts us in the 21st century. We have named it the Anthropocene; it helps to call attention to the climate catastrophe beginning to unfold in our lifetimes. So it is that on two sides of the planet, in Venice and Werribee, we face the same issues of rising tides and threatened cities. Melbourne, adapting sewage technologies developed elsewhere to gravity and the landscape, has grown to become one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. Venice cannot grow anymore, as the city fills up with tourists and sinks into the sea. Venice is a bellwether city for climate change, but we ride the same wave, even on the other side of the world. Both Venice and Werribee carry a stigma for their association to sewage. The decaying system of gátoli (sloping tunnels) beneath the streets and buildings of Venice, and the state-of-the-art filtration and treatment technologies in Werribee cannot conceal the sometimes imagined, but often apparent, smell of effluent. Culture, however, is redolent in both places; for the Wathaurong people of the Kulin Nation (inhabitants of the region for over 40,000 years), as well as for descendants of the Lombards, Huns and Visigoths in Venice. The low lying landscapes of mud flats and salt marsh supporting fisheries and bird habitat have been enhanced to varying degrees, by the nutrient-rich water that comes from human waste. It is here, in these augmented landscapes, that in the Venice Lagoon we find the largest wetland in the Mediterranean Basin; and at the Western Treatment Plant, a diversity of birdlife to rival Kakadu National Park. Nature and culture have always been interdependent, and at these two sites, we celebrate that fact. Font: Adobe Benton Modern

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Depth in Venice (and Werribee) ‘Depth in Venice’ as a provocation brought our minds immediately to the counter-intuitive, that is: the parallel between the notorious and lauded city of Venice, Italy, and the satellite town in Victoria, Australia, known as Werribee and its oft-maligned sewerage plant. The curators reminded us that both sites — the Werribee wetland and treatment plant of Port Phillip Bay, and the Venice lagoon — are in fact habitats to teeming bird life, who find conditions there for thriving. Our practice began with three collaborators, ostensibly, but this initial group ‘discovered’ a fourth collaborator, who appeared one afternoon, silently — flown into the lagoon from Australia — offering audio instructions to follow their body through the narrow Venice calli and who brought further provocations in relation to salt, to water, to sea levels, to questions of collection, responsibility, point of view and voice. In the galleries, we found gods, birds, stories of creation and destruction. In and along the canals, we saw the impact of human obsession with Venice, and we set about responding to a net of complexities pertaining to weight, sky, human desire, methods of preservation, flight, downfall and engineering genius. We rode bikes into the Laguna Venezia’s

northern islands encountering flamingos, fishing practices, devotional practices, ways of eating, spending time, living and waiting. Depth in Venice preceded what would arrive as the 2020 pandemic, and fresh legends. Of dolphins returning to the laguna. Of swans on the canals. Of water you could see through again. Venice secretly metabolises desire and its fallout — whether these arrive on Cruise ships, or wander with credit cards and day-passes within one of the few places on the planet where maps cannot track you. Werribee, on the other hand, wears its work up front, processing the waste of an entire antipodean city, or several. The birds come to both Venice and Werribee for the nutrient life of the shallow waters, amplified by human effluent, that which humans can’t help but leave in their wake. We perform a collection of gestures, actions and writings, often with the waters of these places, whose residues are offered in video. And an emergent moment awaits ahead for the high tide of this work, during this exhibition’s last Port-side destination of Geelong. Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Potter

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—— Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Porter Salt Traces 2019

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—— pages 59–61 Mick Douglas, Tasha Haines, Antonia Pont and Martin Porter Writing on Water 2019–21

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Acknowledgements

The making of Venetian Blind has involved a veritable cast of thousands and there are many people that contributed to its resolution particularly in Venice and Melbourne. Public Art Commission Research Fellow Ilana Russell had the unenviable task of keeping all the parts of this enterprise moving and her wrangling skills were hugely important to making it come together.So much of the look and feel of both the exhibition and print collateral was the result of Meghan Kelly’s wonderful design work and we are hugely indebted to her generosity, the richness of the imagery and her research on Venetian design. Jane den Hollander, Matthew Allen, Matthew Delbridge, Jack Reynolds, Emily Potter, and David Gall were central to helping us find the necessary research support and we are similarly indebted to Hwee-Ting Lee and the School of Communication and Creative Arts admin team for helping us find a way through the administrative complexities. Thanks to Ellie Boekman who designed and made the provocation banner clasps, Dr. Mirjana Lozanovska who served as a research adviser to Provocation 4, our Italian translator Isabella Dinale and to fellow PAC members Professors Katya Johanson and Hilary Glow. Dr Rosemary Forde undertook an advisory role in the early stages and her expertise in the field of temporary public art and exhibition making was especially valuable.

In Venice the team at European Cultural Centre were a delight to work with and we are especially grateful to Lucia Pedrana for the invitation and to Giovanna d’Albertis and Lorenzo Basadonna Scarpa who as technical co-ordinators helped both curators and artists navigate the Venetian labyrinth. Thank you to the team at Deakin Art Gallery especially curator James Lynch whose monumental efforts ensured the second showing was a success and to Senior Manager Leanne Willis, Collection Officer Claire Muir and Administration Officer Julie Nolan. Much of the success of Venetian Blind can be attributed to the multifarious ways in which the artists responded to the assorted provocations and we are hugely grateful to Cassandra Atherton, Anindita Banerjee, Jane Bartier, Rea Dennis, Mick Douglas, Sandy Gibbs, Simon Grennan, Tasha Haines, Jondi Keane, Kari Lyons, Lyn McCredden, Shaun McLeod, Olivia Millard, Misha Myers, Sarah Neville, Antonia Pont, Martin Potter, Patrick Pound, Lienors Torres, Dario Vacirca, Paul Venzo, Ann Vickery, Anne Wilson and Rosemary Woodcock for their spirit, collaborative engagement and remarkable final outcomes. Cameron Bishop, David Cross and James Lynch

—— Cameron Bishop Untitled/Don’t Look Now 2021

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Venetian Blind Exhibition dates Palazzo Bembo 8 May to 24 November 2019 Deakin University Downtown Gallery 24 July to 30 August 2019 Deakin University Art Gallery 10 February to 26 March 2021 Exhibition Curators: Cameron Bishop and David Cross Co-ordinating Curator: James Lynch Exhibition Designer: Meghan Kelly Research Fellow: Ilana Russell All works are © copyright and courtesy of the artists and the Public Art Commission. Photography by Cameron Bishop, David Cross and Polo Jimenez unless otherwise stated. Image measurements are height x width x depth. Published by Deakin University Art Gallery 978-0-6486747-2-6 500 copies Catalogue design: Jasmin Tulk Deakin University Art Gallery Deakin University Melbourne Campus at Burwood 221 Burwood Highway Burwood 3125 T +61 3 9244 5344 E artgallery@deakin.edu.au www.deakin.edu.au/art-collection Gallery hours Tuesday - Friday 10 am - 4 pm Free Entry We acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands upon which the Deakin University campuses are located, we pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

© 2021 the artists, the authors and publisher. Copyright to the works is retained by the artists and his/her descendants. No part of this publication may be copied, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher and the individual copyright holder(s). The views expressed within are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views held by Deakin University. Unless otherwise indicated all images are reproduced courtesy the artists. Deakin University CRICOS Provider Code: 00113B

Facebook.com/ArtDeakin Twitter.com/ArtDeakin Instagram.com/deakinartgallery izi.travel - Deakin Art Collection and sculpture walk guides Venetian Blind was supported by the School of Communication and Creative Arts and the funding partners:

Cover: Cameron Bishop The Devils Bridge 2021 Inner front: Drainage pipe into canal photo by Cameron Bishop Inner back: White paving stone near the church of San Pietro in the Castello photo by David Cross


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