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Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  5

Contents

In this issue Museums Australia National Council 2015—2017 President’s Message. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 From the National Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 ‘MA 2015’ National Conference in review: Networks, experiences and ideas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 #MA2015syd: A selection of social media contributions from delegates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

president

Frank Howarth PSM (Former Director, Australian Museum, Sydney) vice-president

Richard Mulvaney (Director, Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, Launceston) treasurer

Margaret Lovell (Company Secretary and HR Director, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra)

Museums Australia National Awards 2015. . . . . . . 11

secretary

Ghost nets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Dr Mat Trinca (Director, National Museum of Australia, Canberra)

Rothko alive, only a projector away. . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Picturing ‘A Living Campus’ (50 Years of Students at Macquarie exhibited). . . 22 They Were What They Wore: Queensland police uniforms enter the Australian Dress Register. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 A remarkable story of survival: Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice shown in Perth. . . 28 Fiona Hall’s marvellous Wunderkammer inhabits the new Australian Pavilion in Venice . 31 Book Review: Things That Liberate — resonant Australian feminist objects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

members

Margaret Anderson (CEO, History SA, Adelaide) Carol Cartwright ((retired) Head, Education & Visitor Services, Australian War Memorial, Canberra)

Suzanne Davies (Director, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne) Timothy Hart (Director, Public Engagement, Museum Victoria, Melbourne) Lynda Kelly (Head of Learning, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney) Suesann Vos (Sponsorship and Marketing Manager, Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, Caboolture) ex officio member

Dr Robin Hirst (Chair, ICOM Australia), Museum Victoria public officer

Louise Douglas, Canberra state/territory branch presidents/ representatives (subject to change throughout year)

COVER IMAGE: Simon Norman’s ghost net sculpture Crocodile Spirit Man. Image: Stuart Humphreys.

Museums Australia Magazine

© Museums Australia and individual authors.

PO Box 266, Civic Square ACT 2608

No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

Editorial: (02) 6230 0346 Advertising: 02) 6230 0346 Subscriptions: (02) 6230 0346 Fax: (02) 6230 0360 editor@museumsaustralia.org.au www.museumsaustralia.org.au Editor: Bernice Murphy Template design: Brendan O’Donnell Cover design: Selena Kearney Content layout: Stephanie Hamilton Printer: Paragon Print, Canberra

Museums Australia Magazine is published quarterly and on-line on the MA Website, and is a major link with members and the museums sector. Museums Australia Magazine is a forum for news, opinion and debate on museum issues. Contributions from those involved or interested in museums and galleries are welcome. Museums Australia Magazine reserves the right to edit, abridge, alter or reject any material. Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher or editor. Publication of an advertisement does not imply endorsement by Museums Australia, its affiliates or employees. Museums Australia is proud to acknowledge the following supporters of the national organisation: Australian Government Ministry for the Arts and Department of the Environment; National Museum of Australia; Museum Victoria (Melbourne Museum); Western Australian Museum; and Link Digital (Canberra). Print Post Publication No: 332582/00001 ISSN 1038-1694

ACT Rebecca Coronel (Manager – Exhibitions and Gallery Development, National Museum of Australia, Canberra) NSW Dr Andrew Simpson (Macquarie University, Sydney) NT Janie Mason (Charles Darwin University Nursing Museum, Darwin) QLD John Waldron (Museum consultant, Sunshine Coast, Queensland) SA Mirna Heruc (Manager, Art & Heritage Collections, University of Adelaide, Adelaide)

TAS Richard Mulvaney (Director, Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, Launceston) VIC Jo-Anne Cooper (Manager, Grainger Museum, Melbourne) WA Soula Veyradier (Manager, Western Australian Museum, Perth)


6  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

President’s Message

I above:

Frank Howarth

n the first week of June, I was sitting in Sydney Town Hall for the second time in a couple of weeks. This time it was for the Remix Summit, which, in the words of the organisers, ‘tackles the big ideas in the arts, the creative economy and creative cities’. Two weeks before that we were in the Town Hall for the 2015 Museums Australia National Conference. Perhaps not surprisingly, there were some key things in common between the two gatherings. All things digital was one; the need for innovation and agility in the arts sector was another; a blurring of the boundaries between forms of art and cultural expression was also evident. Both gatherings confirmed yet again for me that digital will alter our sector more than anything previously. Someone at the Museums Australia conference suggested that what our sector is about is ‘connecting content to audience’. I like that definition as it is very inclusive of the diversity of our sector. To say we are about collections speaks only to what we have, the ‘content’, and not to what we do, which is making the connections with audience. All things digital are fundamentally changing how those connections are made. Continuing for a moment on the digital theme: Museums Australia has been working closely with colleagues towards a summit of peak bodies in the collections sector (galleries, libraries, archives, museums and historical societies), convened by MA in June, in Brisbane. The meeting aimed to identify the barriers to, and opportunities for, better harnessing of the digital in our sector; and particularly from my point of view, that crucially includes the small- to medium-size organisations that make up much of the sector. MA would also like to see some agreed positions to inform government policy at all three levels, and ideally achieve some additional resources to help organisations make informed choices about how best to engage in an increasingly digital world. I’ll report back to you in the next Magazine about the outcomes of the June summit meeting. Let me go back to the Museums Australia Conference. This year we made a very conscious effort to build on the successes of the Launceston and Canberra conferences by increasing the Indigenous content, and art gallery content, so that both better reflected the diversity of Museums Australia. Next year the National Conference heads to Auckland, for a joint gathering with our friends and colleagues

connected by Museums Aotearoa. Dates, including pre- and post-conference evetns, are from 15 to 19 May 2016. So you can put that in the diary now! 2015 is also an election year for the Museums Australia National Council, and the election results were announced at the MA Annual General Meeting adjoining the Conference on 24 May. I’m honoured to have been re-elected for another two years as President. We also have a new National Council, which I’ve already begun working with on your behalf. Full details of the new Council are on the Museums Australia website — and summarised alongside the Contents summary in each Magazine (see previous page, this issue). In conjunction with the Sydney Conference we held a workshop during the meeting of Council that included both outgoing and incoming Councillors, aimed at clarifying Council’s priorities for the next 12 months. As we consolidate the output of that workshop, I’ll report to members via email and social media on those priorities. Some key issues that emerged include the need to really represent the breadth and depth of our sector, all of those who ‘connect content with audience’. We also need to build our credibility and better advocate for the sector with all three levels of government. We must build a greater sense of professional pride in our sector. And finally, we need to have a hard look at Museums Australia’s structure to ensure that we can meet our priorities. From my own point of view, it will be crucial that we get better input from our membership in meeting some of those challenges. One of my aims will be to get around the country to hear your views directly. Keep an eye out for me! [ ] Frank Howarth PSM National President, Museums Australia


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  7

From the National Director

I

’ve now been in the job four months and am absolutely loving it – especially spending time with so many people who have ideas, knowledge and the serious intent to do more. This sector is brimming with achievement and potential. Frank has spoken about much of what has been occupying our time and focus recently. I’d like to tell you briefly about just a couple of further things. MA is, first and foremost, a membership organisation: we rely on our database to know who you are and to contact you; and members often first interact with us through the website. The MA database and website are essential; but in this fast-moving world they are now ageing as critical infrastructure, and certainly not able to support all the things we want to do for and with you as we develop further. So a major task for the rest of this year is to develop and install new membership databases (for both MA and our partner body for international networks, ICOM Australia) and to design a wonderful new Museums Australia website. This will enable MA to develop and provide more information, networking resources and links (be an ‘authoritative sign-poster’ as one museum director recently requested). It will also better enable you to engage with other members of the museum community, and in particular, to register and track your own professional development… among other things. Please let us know what else might be useful features in this redevelopment of a central resource for so many users. Secondly, a part of representing the breadth and depth of our sector is seeking out and listening to constituencies that may feel under-represented in our national, regional or state coverage. Thinking especially of the visual arts and design museums and museum workers, and Indigenous organisations and workers, I am asking for ideas and advice about how to support you all better. Finally, a large part of my work over the next 11 months will be helping to guide the planning of the joint museums conference to be realised with Museums Aotearoa in Auckland in May 2016. I encourage you all to take this opportunity to work with your MA to create an exhilarating trans-Tasman experience in New Zealand next year. Looking forward to the journey. [ ] Alex Marsden National Director, Museums Australia

above:

Alex Marsden


8  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Museums Australia National Conference in Review

‘MA 2015’ National Conference in review: Networks, experiences and ideas Andrew Hiskens (Manager, Learning Services at State Library Victoria and President, Museums Australia Education) The experience of a conference often has a narrative feel to it — there is a beginning, middle and an end. Joseph Campbell memorably formulated the shape of such narratives as ‘the hero’s journey’[1] — a formulation of the ‘quest’ narrative based on traditional stories and mythology but subsequently seen in popular culture in examples as diverse as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and even Fight Club. The key is the experience of the adventure, the way in which it is social (quests are always supported by ‘helpers’), the way in which the experience leaves the ‘hero’ changed, and how he or she brings that change back to the world from which they came. I’m reflecting on this for two reasons. Partially because, unlike previous MA Conferences, I missed the start because of other commitments. So my personal experience was very much a truncated narrative. The story had started, I had missed the first episode – and would forever be missing the subtle clues and plot points because I didn’t quite ‘get’ the references. But the second reason is that, serendipitously, the first session I attended was Xerxes Mazda’s plenary on Exhibitions and the power of narrative. Xerxes spoke of 7 key criteria for narrative in exhibition practice — resonance (which allows for amplification); communication; multi-dimensionality (allowing for multiple perspectives); exhibition-like (encouraging deeper engagement — exhibition-like is long-form, gallery-like is short-form); narrativity (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, dénouement); emotional engagement (compared to rational provision of information); and flow (immersive, developing experience). This plenary was so absorbing that I was brought right into a ‘full conference experience’. I enjoyed the Saturday and Sunday programs, and was even session-hopping by Sunday, once I had developed a sense of the rhythm of the conference. But I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie of the Twitter backstream, which enabled conversations to happen within and across sessions. And, of course, it’s a great way to meet people. Two of the most prolific tweeters were Jim Fishwick (@FimJishwick) and Marine Soichot[2] (@MarineSoichot), who maintained a great running commentary on the sessions they each attended. Jim’s whirlwind presentation, Thank God you’re here: the applicability of improvisation in museums, was a highlight of the Sunday after-lunch session on extroverts v introverts — complete with party poopers. He had a number of messages, the most memorable of which were using ‘yes and’ to extend the relationship with the visitor; and finally, quoting Amy Poehler, ‘be changed: don’t treat your heart like an action figure wrapped in plastic and never used’. Quite. And that brings us full-circle to the ‘hero’s journey’ — post-conference, returning to the world from which we came, but somehow changed by the experience

Penelope Grist (Assistant Curator, National Portrait Gallery) My conference experience began with a shocking head cold. Sluggish and full of cold and flu tablets, rigorously avoiding hand-shaking, I tried valiantly not to infect my colleagues. Always a delight is a paper that you can go back to your desk and directly apply because a general pattern is so clearly distilled. Deputy Director (Engagement), Royal Ontario Museum, Xerxes Mazda’s keynote address on the power of narrative structure in exhibitions was one such. No less intense a joy is the unexpected submersion in innately fascinating projects ­— two vast collections of glass plate negatives had me hooked: ‘Please don’t smash the stars’ by the Preservation Australia and MAAS team saving a 19th century astronomical collection, and Joanne Smedley’s research on the AWM’s Algernon Darge collection. Such stories always make me want to go back to my desk and write an historical novel. The sessions on digital were as always reassuring — we are all struggling with the same questions and the liveliness of the debate is testament to the value of Museums Australia in providing this forum (although thanks to someone in the digital discussion session, now I have stuck in my head that BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Dinosaur!). There were so many colleagues whose enthusiasm warmed my heart, and many more that I would have loved to have caught up with but missed — the morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas were never long enough. I had the enormous pleasure of organising an established- and early-career professional mentoring session one evening – the energy that people of museums and galleries are able to muster at the end of a long day is remarkable. Business leader Kim Williams AM, in his keynote address on the final day of the conference, said that our sector has the capacity to confront the future with ‘imagination and open passion’. I believe we do this. Based on my experience at the conference, it is what we do best.

Always a delight is a paper that you can go back to your desk and directly apply

top:

Andrew Hiskins

above:

Penelope Grist

1. Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1973. Print. 2. Here are Marine’s reflections on the conference - http://www. marinesoichot.com/en/conferencemuseums-australia-2015/


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  9

top:

Skye Bennett

above:

Alec Coles

Skye Bennett (Emerging museum professional and volunteer for multiple museums, Adelaide)

Alec Coles (Museum director/CEO – Western Australian Museum)

Inspired by the energy, ideas and opportunities presented at this year’s Museum Australia Conference, I hastily signed up for a University of Leicester Museum Studies MOOC on my return to Adelaide. My first piece of ‘homework’ was to present for discussion three words I associate with the 21st century Museum. If I were to apply the same exercise and outline my post-conference impressions, my three words would be collaboration, challenges and connections. Collaboration — within institutions, across institutions, with audiences and communities — was a recurrent message, particularly during the Regional, Remote and Community Museums Day. The challenges facing museums and cultural institutions, existing within a context described by Kim Williams in his closing plenary as VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) were also predominant. However it was the connections and networks forged which formed the highlight of this year’s conference. The opportunity to meet, learn from, share ideas and perspectives with such a diverse range of practitioners, from industry leaders to fellow colleagues at small volunteer-run museums, all equally passionate about their work, was a privilege. One of the most valuable sessions at MA2015 was a speed networking session, Mapping a Career in Museums and Galleries, organised by Museums Australia (ACT Branch). The session, attended by a number of respected industry leaders, provided opportunity to ask career advice and gain insight into careers in the museum and gallery sector in an informal context. It was illuminating to hear of a range of diverse yet unique career paths developed organically through following one’s passion, seizing opportunities, and embracing challenges. I would love to see this valuable initiative continued in future years. The program’s professional development workshops, insightful sessions, and the wonderful exhibition development master class left me armed with a wealth of new ideas, approaches and opportunities to share with colleagues within the institutions I am currently involved with. I am very much looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues and making new connections at next year’s Museums Australasia conference in Auckland.

In my expectations of the MA 2015 Conference, I had suggested a focus on the value of museums in addressing issues of tolerance and understanding in what appeared to be a very intolerant world. I am not sure how much of that we got, although one of the problems with concurrent sessions is that you cannot be at all of them — and I fear that there were some excellent sessions that I missed! Most of the sessions that I attended included well-prepared, well-delivered and interesting contributions. If I had a criticism, it was that some of the concurrent sessions lacked a coherent theme, throwing together disparate subjects with too much effort required to make the connection! Having said this, I of course, attended a few sessions involving our own staff which included the WA New Museum Project and the very successful National Anzac Centre in Albany. Needless to say, I glowed with pride at their excellent presentations! By selecting these, it determined some of my other sessions: I liked the National Archives’ ‘A ticket to paradise’ although it did suffer from some ‘on-theday’ clunky technology (note to self: never work with children, animals or electronic tablets when presenting – you could add water to that list, but that is another story…). I also found Alison Wishart’s account of the Australian War Memorial’s new policy on collecting and copying photographs interesting and sensible – good to see a major national institution leading the way on the pragmatics of future collecting. The stand-out session for me was Xerxes Mazda’s plenary on ‘Exhibitions and the Power of Narrative’. The research and insight he has gleaned into what works, and what doesn’t, in an exhibition context should be a touchstone for anyone planning new content. I also quite enjoyed Prof John Simons on ‘Museums, Mausoleums and Muniments Rooms’, although the loud muttering around me suggested I might have been in the minority. I found his (only partly) irreverent suggestion that University collections might actually be moved, morphed or disposed of where irrelevant to, or unloved by, their institutions quite compelling — and I speak as someone who has taken on and, dare I say, refreshed a few university collections in my time! It would be narcissistic to say too much about my presentation on ‘Museums and Freedom of Speech’, other than it seemed to create quite a bit of interest, especially in the Twittersphere. In it, I indicated our responsibility, if we were serious about freedom of expression, to give a voice to all sides even if we personally and professionally found some of the views expressed unpalatable. Little did I know that, only weeks later, doing just that would almost destroy the relationship between the Australian Government and our national broadcaster. As I said: be careful what you commit to and understand the possible consequences.

The opportunity to meet, learn from, share ideas and perspectives with such a diverse range of practitioners was a privilege


10  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Museums Australia National Conference in Review

#MA2015syd A selection of social media contributions from delegates


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  11

Celebrating excellence and innovation across the museums and galleries sector

Museums Australia National Awards 2015

MAGNA

top:

Mosman Art Gallery's Bungaree's Farm promotional image.

above:

Mosman Art Gallery director (John Cheeseman (holding certificate)), and project colleagues, receive the 2015 MAGNAs 'National Winner' Award (Exhibition Curator, Djon Mundine, in centre).

Stephanie Hamilton

T

he now well-established MA National Awards in two broad divisions (Museums and Galleries National Awards/MAGNA, and Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards/MAPDA) were announced at a special evening social event at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, on 22 May 2015, during the National Conference.

The 2015 MAGNAs (this year in their 5th edition) were generously sponsored by ArtsReady and the Australian National Maritime Museum; and like the MAPDAs, these national awards for the sector would not be possible without the support of the many institutions and individuals involved in the various divisions of the judging process. The MAGNAs recognise and celebrate outstanding achievement among Museums Australia’s member organisations in the areas of exhibitions, audience and public engagement, innovation, and Indigenous projects. The Awards have grown considerably since their debut in 2011 – not only in relation to the number of entries received, but also in the national recognition of the Awards as a significant and exciting program designed to highlight and communicate innovative programs throughout the museums and galleries sector each year. A full list of all the winning and commended MAGNA entries is available on the Museums Australia website <http://www.museumsaustralia.org.au/site/ magna2015-winners.php>. The overall National Winner – the highest honour – was finally selected from a shortlist of the winning entries from all the categories and levels. The 2015 National Winner joins a prestigious and diverse group of previous overall winners (see the website for past winners).


12  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Celebrating excellence and innovation across the museums and galleries sector

right (clockwise from top): Australian Centre for the Moving Image, China Up Close, (Designer: Field Carr, ACMI) was awarded the Judges' Special Award (Multimedia Level B Winner).

Exhibition Branding Level B Winner: State Library of NSW, Artist Colony: Drawing Sydney’s Nature (Designer: Rosie Handley, SLNSW). Poster Level A Highly Commended: Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in partnership with Western Plains Cultural Centre, Wild Side: the animal in art (Designer: Stephen Goddard, Project Two). Exhibition Catalogue (Small) Level B Winner: National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Arcadia: Sound of the sea (Designer: Brett Wiencke, NPG). Book Level A Winner: Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Out of the past: views of Adelaide Botanic Gardens (Designer: Kate Burns). below:

Our generous sponsors and supporters.

The overall National Winner this year was Mosman Art Gallery for Bungaree’s Farm, an outstanding exhibition within an innovative and hugely popular program of events commissioned to mark the 200th anniversary of Governor Macquarie's allocation of land to Bungaree and his clan in the Georges Heights area around Mosman, an old northern harbour suburb of Sydney. Mosman Art Gallery Director, John Cheeseman, said the exhibition, which involved work from 18 Indigenous artists presented in painting and in largescale projections and via digital, 2D, performance and installation formats, had been a transformative project for the Gallery. John also expressed the great significance of the national MAGNA accolade for his Gallery and the exhibition of Indigenous artists’ works curated by Djon Mundine OAM: ‘This award gives recognition to a powerful and complex series of works which we trust will provide a lasting legacy in influencing and extending contemporary Aboriginal arts practices in Australia.’ The MAGNA judges’ comments on the Mosman/ Bungaree’s Farm entry also expressed the importance of a capital city’s small regional art museum’s readiness to ‘think big and aim high’, enabling an innovative concept and range of artistic responses to an historic personality and context, while still being anchored in the contemporary experience of the transformed locality today. The judges were impressed with how the Mosman Gallery project had created a new physical space and a virtual platform for further collaborations with both the Indigenous and local communities – extending the life and impact of an exhibition long after it has closed.

MAPDA Museums Australia was delighted to announce the winners of the MAPDA awards, originally established at the initiative of Ian Watts, of the Victorian branch of MA, and now in the 16th year of these widely followed Awards celebrating excellence and innovation in design and communication in the collections sector across Australia and New Zealand. A full list and gallery of winning and commended entries for 2015 is available on the MAPDA website <www.mapda.org.au>. This year the number of entries, particularly in the Exhibition Catalogue (Small) and Book categories across both levels, was overwhelming. However the judges were a little disappointed by the small number of poster entries – a contrast we’ll be reviewing before

next year’s MAPDA awards. The overall standard of the design and innovative techniques used in the MAPDA entries was impressive. The Judges’ Special Award (formerly Best in Show) was finally awarded to the multimedia entry from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), for the project China Up Close. The entry was selected from a shortlist made up of the winning entries from across all categories of print and multimedia. China Up Close was viewed by the judging panel as a standout entry for its evocative and sensitive design and exciting use of colour. Judges noted how the film had been shot and presented without utilising stereotypes of Chinese art and culture, and it presented both contemporary China and Australian diversity in sophisticated and sympathetic ways. [ ] Stephanie Hamilton is Assistant Manager, Communications, in the National Office of Museums Australia, and organises and coordinates the MAPDA and MAGNA entries and Awards judging process annually for MA. Citation: Stephanie Hamilton, ‘2015 MA national Awards reviewed (MAPDA & MAGNA)’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol 23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter 2015, pp.11-13.


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  13


14  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

A threat to Australian marine life highlighted through Indigenous art

Ghost nets

Scott Mitchell

I top:

Sid Bruce Short Joe weaving abandoned net at an early stage of his sculpture Mundha (shovel nosed ray). Photo: Scott Mitchell.

above:

Scott Mitchell

magine a mindless, indestructible killing machine half the size of Botany Bay. It’s not science fiction but reality for many Indigenous communities in northern Australia. Lost or abandoned nets from fishing vessels, or ‘ghost nets’, can be up to 6 kilometres long and are known to kill more than 200 species of marine animals and birds. The waste nets also damage culturally and biologically significant reefs, and can be hazardous to the small boats typically used by Aboriginal people. Pormpuraaw artist and community elder, Sid Bruce Short Joe, lives in one of the worst-affected places in Australia, the western tip of Cape York Peninsula. According to Sid: Nowadays we get net everywhere for Cape York. Not good. They damaging everything.

1. http://www.ghostnets. com.au/ghostnet-art/

Fortunately, Aboriginal communities in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait are taking the lead in dealing with ghost nets, removing them from beaches through their Caring for Country and Ranger programs. Pormpuraaw’s local Indigenous rangers regularly patrol about 70 kilometres of local beaches, removing nets that are sometimes so large they need heavy earth-moving machinery to haul them out of the ocean. Instead of being burnt or dumped, the waste net is increasingly being recycled and used for sculptural works by the community’s artists. According to Ghost Nets Australia, a community organisation established to research and raise awareness about ghost nets, Indigenous artists like those at Pormpuraaw have adopted a dual strategy. The first is to increase the economic incentive to remove ghost nets from the water by making them into a saleable commodity; and the second is to raise public awareness, through the vehicle of art, of ghost nets as an environmental issue. [1]


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  15

above:

Pormpuraaw artists Sid Bruce Short Joe and Christine Holroyd collect net from their local beach. Photo: Scott Mitchell.

2. http://pormpuraawartculture. com/ghostnet.html

Intrigued by the new creative avenues being explored by Indigenous ghost net artists, the Australian Museum started acquiring ghost net sculptures from the Torres Strait and Cape York in 2012. Given the Australian Museum’s dual interests in nature and culture, ‘ghost net art’ offers museum audiences a highly relevant and accessible way to explore Indigenous responses to a significant conservation issue. As discussed below, it may even provide an opportunity for the Museum to play a role in the ultimate solution to the problem. The contents and connections of Pormpuraaw’s ghost net art form almost an encyclopedia of the local marine life. Crocodiles figure prominently, as do fish, turtles, jellyfish and sea birds. There is also a playful, almost whimsical quality to the artists’ work: amongst their recent creations are a ghost net mermaid, an aeroplane, and a smiling green frog with a long red tongue. According to the art centre’s website: ‘We like making large works because children laugh and dogs bark when they see them.’[2]

However this resilient humour does not belie the deadly problem faced by the community and its artists: namely, the declining abundance of marine animals that form the bulk of the community’s traditional food. According to Sid: Before when there were no fishing nets we were plentiful of everything; today, not so much. In the last few years, Sid has noticed the nets killing marine animals: Like turtle…other big fishes that get caught in nets. Last time I seen a dead porpoise wrapped up in fishing net, which was a shame for us. Sid is particularly concerned about the local decline of a culturally significant species, the sawfish, which is traditionally eaten by people when in mourning for deceased close relatives. While the fish was plentiful when Sid was a boy, he now reflects:


16  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

A threat to Australian marine life highlighted through Indigenous art

right:

Simon Norman’s ghost net sculpture Crocodile Spirit Man. Image: Stuart Humphreys.

far right: Joel Ngallametta carries Elliot Koonutta’s ghost net sculpture Crocodile Sorcerer, while re-enacting the story for an Australian Museum film. Photo: Scott Mitchell.

Today we are missing the sawfish. You can’t see much of that. The problem, according to Sid, is that the animal’s large serrated beak or rostrum makes it vulnerable to being tangled up in nets. As he explains: Once you get caught in the net, every time you wiggle, try to break through, all the net will be notched up on the cone.[3]

3. Sid’s concern is echoed by the IUCN Red Lst of Threatened Species, which singles out entanglement of sawfish in derelict nets and other marine debris as a particular risk for the animal, due to their toothed rostrum – http://www.iucnredlist. org/details/1858488/0 4. Scott Mitchell and Erik Van Sebille, 2014. 5. http://theconversation.com/ ghostly-art-made-from-debristhat-menaces-marine-life-23992 6. Butler, J.R.A., R. Gunn, H.L. Berry, G.A. Wagey, B.D. Hardesty, and C. Wilcox, ‘A Value Chain Analysis of ghost nets in the Arafura Sea: Identifying trans-boundary stakeholders, intervention points and livelihood trade-offs’, Journal of Environmental Management, Issue 123, 2013, pp.14-25.

The decline of this species is a challenge for a community keen to maintain its traditional cultural practices. Making the problematic ghost net into art is in fact not easy. Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre Co-ordinator, Paul Jacubowski, describes the net the rangers find as ‘a real mess; a big ball; it’s got coral and fishing lures wrapped in it; it can take days to pull apart with an angle grinder’. Pormpuraaw’s artists nevertheless have a commitment to environmental activism that goes far beyond ghost net removal and re-use. One of the striking things about their practice is the consistent use of waste and recycled materials such as copper wire, aluminium offcuts, steel bars, old rope, flotation devices, and worn-out drag nets and cast nets. Paul laughingly describes the Centre’s materials procurement strategy as ‘hunting and gathering at the tip’ and ‘recycling right off the beach’. As part of an acquisition program funded through the Australian Museum Foundation, the Australian Museum has acquired four pieces of Pormpuraaw ghost net sculpture for its new Garrigarang: Sea Country exhibition. Together, these artworks illustrate the versatility and story-telling potential of ghost net as a raw material. Elliot Koonutta’s Crocodile Sorcerer depicts a man riding on a crocodile’s back, a reference to local stories about sorcerers (including Elliot’s grandfather) who formed a special bond with a saltwater crocodile. They could swim with their animal, make it bring them food, or even make the crocodile attack their enemies. Simon Norman’s Crocodile Spirit Man is a two-metre-high human figure with a crocodile’s skull for a face. The spirit man is the vengeful ghost of someone killed by a crocodile who returns to torment the living. The Museum also collected Simon’s ghost

net Barramundi – a reference to one of Simon’s family totems and an important local food species. The fourth piece acquired is the Mundha, or shovel-nosed ray, made by Sid Bruce Short Joe. As Sid explains, this fish – which can also be eaten by people in mourning – has become increasingly important to the community in recent years following the decline of the sawfish. The four Pormpuraaw sculptures are now part of the permanent Garrigarang: Sea Country exhibition at the Australian Museum, where they are displayed with ghost net works from the Torres Strait, and presented alongside several short films discussing Indigenous responses to ghost net. Because only a small fraction of the net dumped in our oceans can be retrieved from our beaches,[4] any effective solution to the ghost net problem must go beyond the work of Indigenous rangers and involve stopping the net from being dumped or lost in the ocean in the first instance. The solution is complex, because less than 10% of ghost net found in Australian waters derives from the domestic fishing industry. The bulk of the dilemma relates to unregulated


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  17

top: middle: bottom: left: right:

international trawler fishing in the Arafura Sea, where problem behaviours include the use of illegal fishing equipment and techniques, and deliberate acts of net sabotage by rival fishing vessels.[5] As the plastic net can be carried huge distances by ocean currents, and is effectively indestructible in the marine environment, tackling the source of the problem at places like Pormpuraaw requires locals to combat activities that occur thousands of kilometres away. For this reason, Ghost Nets Australia argues that influencing change in government and fishing industry policy is just as important as cleaning up the rubbish on Australia’s beaches. From this organisation’s viewpoint, continuing efforts to raise public awareness of ghost net in national and international arenas will be critical for both the general health of our marine environment and the survival of many individual species. [6] The stories told through Garrigarang: Sea Country at the Australian Museum represent one method of spreading this message, and the Museum is currently experimenting with further public awareness programs. For example, it has hosted ghost net craft workshops for children; and collaborated with the


18  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

A threat to Australian marine life highlighted through Indigenous art

Centre for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales to produce a short film on plastic in the marine environment. In another recent collaboration between the Australian Museum, Erub Art Centre (Darnley Island) and Torres Strait Regional Authority, students from Erub Primary School produced a short stop-motion animated film using ghost net puppets.[7] Dauma and Garom has been screened on regional television and is being included in Queensland Department of Education curriculum materials for distribution to all state and non-state schools in Queensland. The department plans eventually to include the ghostnet film in curriculum material to be distributed to schools and students nationally, in both the public and independent school sectors, and to schools implementing or utilising the Australian curriculum internationally. Finally, a ghost net artwork from the Australian Museum collections was reproduced in an Australia Post stamp series in May 2015. Ella Savage’s Ghost Net Turtle joins three other significant objects (the Endeavour’s anchor from National Museum of Australia, the Welcome Stranger nugget from Sovereign Hill Gold Museum, and an automatic totaliser model from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) in a series titled ‘Collections Australia’.

The Ghost Net Turtle stamp and accompanying philatelic materials provides a potent way of raising awareness of ghost nets at a national level, amongst people who may not necessarily be our regular museum audiences. For his part, Sid Bruce Short Joe hopes that the Australian Museum’s visitors will walk away with a better understanding of the impact of ghost net. As he states it: For me, my opinion: they gotta think real hard!

above left:

Collections Australia stamp series from Australia Post, May 2015.

above right:

Pormpuraaw artist Sid Bruce Short Joe. Photo: Scott Mitchell.

[]

Scott Mitchell is Head of the cultural collections, materials conservation unit and the commercial consulting arm of the Australian Museum, Sydney. Citation: Scott Mitchell, ‘Ghost nets: A threat to Australian marine life highlighted through Indigenous art’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, pp.14-18.

7. http://www.ghostnets.com. au/influencing-change/ 8. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=V8lriZ_PTu4 . The film won both the Best Collaborative Video and People’s Choice awards at the 16th National Remote Indigenous Media Festival 2014.


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  19

A radical leap in conservation science applied to modernist painting

Rothko alive, only a projector away

Anabelle Lacroix

T

o catch a head casting a shadow on a painting may be part of your experience at the newly reopened Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge. The Mark Rothko’s Harvard Mural exhibition also offers unusual selfie opportunities. However the five monumental paintings by Mark Rothko presented in this exhibition raise questions about the practice and impact of non-invasive conservation science on our experience of art, and provide an unusual stimulus to revisiting ideas about modern art’s material qualities. The suite of five paintings on canvas of the original Rothko 'mural' was a site-specific commission completed in 1964 for a light-filled penthouse dining room in Harvard’s Holyoke Center (now the Smith Campus Center). However direct sunlight exposure inevitably damaged the paintings, and they were later summarily moved to storage. Today, data projectors perform a most unusual kind of ‘conservation’ work: through the provision of light compensation in the exhibition space, without altering the material condition of the works themselves, in order to recreate for the viewer an experience of the paintings' original colours. Is it a strange coincidence for Mark Rothko ­— a

father figure of painting’s immateriality — to have his work ‘restored’ by digital projection technology? How might we conceptualise a reverse-engineered process that recreates the luminescence of his paintings by projecting light back onto them? And does this affect our experience and appreciation of the work? For American writer Louis Menand, the new Rothkos are ‘a work of conceptual art’. [T]o look at them is to have thoughts about the nature of art. It’s as though Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes turned into the ordinary Brillo cartons of which they were designed to be simulacra.[1] The exhibition’s curator, Mary Schneider Enriquez, embraces the debate brought about by this technology, raising the question, ‘[W]hat is the original work of art when you project light on it?’[2] With the use of this technology on canvas for the first time, the University stirs a discourse and aims at strengthening its educational role in the matters it raises. Materials’ unreliability is a constant problem for museums. This truism is especially apt in the case of Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals. To convey what he hoped would be a raw and transcendental experience of colour, Rothko created his own unique painting mixture, incorporating not just pigment but also egg

above:

Anabelle Lacroix

top:

Restored murals (1-3) installed in the Harvard Art Museums. Note the projectors hanging from the ceiling. Photo: Peter Vanderwarker © Harvard College.

1. Louis Menand, ‘Watching Them Turn Off the Rothkos’, The New Yorker, 1 April 2015. http://www.newyorker. com/culture/cultural-comment/ watching-them-turn-off-therothkos. Retrieved 14/04/15. 2. Hilarie M. Sheets, ‘A return for Rothko’s Harvard Murals’, The New York Times, 23 October 2014. http:// www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/ arts/artsspecial/a-returnfor-rothkos-harvard-murals-. html?_r=0. Retrieved 10/03/15.


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A radical leap in conservation science applied to modernist painting

3. Narayan Khandekar, ‘How we restored Harvard’s Rothko murals – without touching them’, The Conversation, 16 December 2014. http://theconversation.com/ how-we-restored-harvardsrothko-murals-without-touchingthem-35245. Retrieved 15/03/15. 4. Raymond H. Lafontaine, ‘Seeing Through a Yellow Varnish: A Compensating Illumination System’, Studies in Conservation, Vol. 31, No.3 (Aug., 1986), pp.97-102. 5. Narayan Khandekar, ‘How we restored Harvard’s Rothko murals – without touching them’, op.cit 6. Narayan Khandekar (dir.), ‘Non-invasive color restoration of faded paintings using light from a digital projector’, conference paper, International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) – Modern Materials and Contemporary Art Conference, Lisbon, 2011, p.2. http://www. icom-cc.org/. Retrieved 10/03/15.

and animal glue. It was these unstable materials that caused the unvarnished paintings to fade and change under natural light, as in the large areas of the original crimson that turned first blue, and then black. The porosity of the painting's surface — an effect of age, materials and sun damage — means that traditional interventionist conservation methods would override the artist’s brushstrokes, and introduce the effects of conservation work irreversibly to the conditions of the canvas: two outcomes that are against conservation principles. And so an alternative solution to traditional conservation methods such as in-painting was an absolute necessity. The non-invasive turn taken by conservation science since the 1990s is pushed to a new frontier at Harvard, with the Rothko paintings now ‘restored’ — but without being touched.[3] The restoration was revealed to be a necessarily multi-stage process. It started with a Kodak Ektachrome photograph taken of the paintings in-situ from 1964 — itself faded from the notoriously unstable cyan of the Ektachrome dye. This analogue

photo helped to generate a ‘target image’ to calculate, pixel by pixel, a ‘compensation image’ with which to calibrate the projectors via Matlab, a software program not usually applied to conservation science. As paintings appear differently in various light conditions, a vital co-ordinate was located in a sixth painting, not included in the final display of the room in 1964 and still owned by the Rothko family, which was used as a critical chromatic reference point. Tests were done for the two million projected pixels per painting to ensure their luminance would provide a safe, non-damaging situation for the works. An analogue precedent for this technique is found in Raymond Lafontaine’s mid-1990s ‘illumination system’. It used blue and yellow ratios projected from slide projectors to ‘see through’ a painting’s yellow varnish’.[4] Digital projection has already been used on sculpture and architectural elements to enhance their experiential qualities for spectators, but not previously applied to paintings on canvas. For Narayan Khandekar, Senior Conservation Scientist at Harvard University, ‘its effectiveness isn’t restricted to color


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  21

far left:

Narayan Khandekar, senior conservation scientist, Harvard Art Museums, holding up a white card showing the digital projection on Rothko’s Panel Four. © 2014 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Peter Vanderwarker, © President and Fellows of Harvard College. far right:

Unfinished Study for Harvard Murals.

top:

Mark Rothko, 1963. Photo: Elizabeth H. Jones, courtesy Harvard College.

above:

Conservators installing Panel One of the Harvard Murals, Holyoke Center, 1963. Photo: Elizabeth H. Jones, courtesy Harvard College.

7. Author interview with Claire Grech, 30 March 2015.

field paintings; it could be used on any painting that has faded, whose original colors can be determined’.[5] For Khandekar, the example of Fontaine’s work was a starting point in the new conservation process. It is known that the Rothko paintings' lack of adequate care partly resulted from a ‘complicated stewardship and ownership situation’[6] between the Fogg Museum and the Harvard Corporation. However that such a remedial breakthrough could eventually be devised years later was made possible through outstanding cooperation and interdisciplinary work between several departments and labs, including Harvard’s Strauss Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, The Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard Museums, the MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture research group, and the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Such an interdisciplinary approach is absolutely central to conservation science, affirms Claire Grech, a Melbourne University Cultural Materials Conservation graduate who is about to start a ninemonth fellowship at Harvard’s Strauss Center with Dr. Khandekar. However there is a real challenge to fund such detailed conservation work that requires extensive research, exploratory application time and scientific resources. Grech reflects on the longstanding under-resourcing of the conservation sector in Australia, noting the difficulty of conducting such work in-house and relying mainly on external relationships for access to expertise and equipment.[7] Today, art conservation is a practice that extends well beyond the physical. Keeping a painting ‘alive’ involves also maintaining its significance and providing public access to the work. The return of the almost-forgotten Rothko Harvard Murals to public view and their re-connection with scholarship is undoubtedly cause for celebration — for the rarity of the occasion alone. The mural work is the only one of three site-specific commissions ever completed by the renowned abstract expressionist. However while an augmented reality system now provides us with an experience of the original colour, it nevertheless still fails to recreate the work’s unique spatial experience.

Yet this exhibition’s remarkable achievement is that it leads us to speculate further: imagining how one day, a virtual reality system could provide us with not just a ‘true’ chromatic indication of a painting in the condition of its creation, but also a physical experience of many significant works in art history, reconnected to their original exhibition context. And perhaps in doing so, the next development intimated by the achievement of this exhibition is to recapture other as-yet-untold stories of many other artworks’ diverse character in the conditions of their first creation, and in so doing to shine new light also on the history of exhibitions. Mark Rothko's Harvard Murals are on view at The Harvard Art Museums until 26 July 2015. The Harvard Art Museums reopened in November 2014, in a newly renovated and expanded facility designed by Renzo Piano, housing the celebrated Fogg, Sackler and Busch-Reisinger museums under one roof. [] Anabelle Lacroix is an independent curator and program manager at Liquid Architecture, a sound art organisation based in Melbourne. Lacroix graduated from the international program in curating art from Stockholm University, undertook research in contemporary art history at University College London, and holds a BA in art history from University Paris 10. Citation: Annabelle Lacroix, ‘Rothko alive, only a projector away’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, pp.19-21.


22  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

An exhibition reviewing a university’s informal life and campus history

Picturing ‘A Living Campus’ (50 Years of Students at Macquarie exhibited)

Stephanie Chinneck, Chantelle Dollimore & Andrew Simpson

M

top:

Social activism is a large part of the university student's life. Some objects are displayed here that relate to many campaigns at Macquarie. Photo: Stagelight Studios.

above (top to bottom):

Stephanie Chinneck, Chantelle Dollimore, Andrew Simpson.

acquarie University was established in 1964 by a New South Wales Act of Parliament. The university takes its name from the state’s early colonial governor, MajorGeneral Lachlan Macquarie, noted for the high degree of individualism and ambition in his re-shaping of the founding settlement at Sydney Cove. Not surprisingly, the university that bears Macquarie’s name promotes itself as a leading higher education institution with a rich history — and with a reputation for doing things a little differently. 2014 was therefore a year for students, staff and community to celebrate at Macquarie, employing the phrase and motif for this jubilee: ‘50 years and still different’. A 2014 student-curated exhibition was one of a number of events marking the university’s halfcentury commemoration. Historic milestones in an institution’s life can be a trigger for the development and articulation of rich organisational narratives. Meanwhile the fundamentally representational impact of exhibitions as a cultural form can provide a strong vehicle for arousing wider awareness of an institution’s informal and extra-academic activities — alongside its production of knowledge and as a durable strand in its total public achievements. As part of the Jubilee celebrations at Macquarie, a group of students within an impromptu self-named Macquarie Exhibition Society embarked on a project

to explore the importance of student groups in building a sense of campus community over a halfcentury. Student curators took the lead in exploring records of informal campus life, and an exhibition was the outcome. This proved to be the only studentinitiated activity designed to capture and interpret organisational history and identity during the jubilee year. The exhibition A Living Campus: 50 Years of Students at Macquarie University drew together objects from many groups that demonstrated the huge diversity of the student cohort. For many university students these often-informal groups are of great significance to their university life. The student curators worked with a number of different student group-representatives to develop an exhibition that presented many activities of diverse student groups and reflected how they form communities, support networks and collectively shape integral components of an institutional identity. Organisational anniversaries inevitably provide opportunities for both celebration and reflection. In the competitive world of higher education, they are also occasions for the marketers to develop what is increasingly badged as an institution’s ‘brand narrative’. This can be done through a range of events that overview the history of academic achievements, and celebrate aspirations or otherwise focus on positive institutional qualities seen as building an image of strong public value. In higher education this usually means a series of functions, gatherings of donors and alumni, art exhibitions, meetings, tours, reunions, dinners, and a fierce blitz of publicity ventures. Marketing people are understandably very busy and proactive during institutional anniversaries. The intention of the project described here, however, was to design and achieve a venture that was put together by students, about students and for students. Good student experiences nevertheless make the job of the marketing people so much easier. The idea to produce an exhibition like this — using objects and archives held by the different student clubs and societies to tell the story of a vibrant campus over a half-century — was in fact the initiative of one of those same clubs and societies: the Museum Appreciation Society. This group is a higher-education campus success story that is possibly unique to Macquarie University. The Museum Appreciation Society, initiated some years ago by Museum Studies students at


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  23

the university to support on-campus museums, has grown to be one of the largest and most active student groups on the Macquarie campus. This selforganising and self-resourcing group runs a program of events including bus-trip outings to review intraor occasionally interstate museums and exhibitions; it conducts fundraising for museum-related causes, organises career development seminars, contributes papers to national and international conferences, and acts as a mentoring and support group for new students. With the ‘Living Campus’ 2014 exhibition project achieved, members can now add exhibition curation and development to an already-impressive list of achievements. Student initiatives such as this exhibition are also a powerful indication of the strong motivation and close institutional alignment possible in a flourishing campus life. The task of gathering materials for the 2014 exhibition project for Macquarie was a significant challenge. Student clubs and societies are ephemeral organisations, many of them proving to be shortterm propositions. They often lack well-documented archives, and many of their associated objects may be consigned to private collections of memorabilia, if not discarded altogether. However while student collections are often overlooked as evidence of rich campus life, and even associated academic histories, they can nevertheless harbour objects of resonant historical value. The student curators initially found the going tough when chasing contacts and leads through clubs and societies over many months of research. Records of former student groups were hard to find, and sourcing

exhibit-worthy objects can prove difficult. The oldest objects finally displayed were in fact loaned from the oldest groups still in existence. Meanwhile there comes a point in the development of such an exhibition when enthusiasm builds, the tide turns, and people start chasing the curators themselves with offers of potentially useful objects. Exactly how many Macquarie University clubs there are today, and have been in the institution’s short history, is hard to determine. Even updated lists from university sources were found to contain many groups no longer active. Some student groups flourish for decades whilst others may subside after one semester. Ultimately, after chasing leads for 120 different student groups, about twenty proved fruitful and yielded interesting objects made available for the exhibition project. How individual groups viewed any collection of objects associated with their activities varied strongly. We discovered two groups that had archivists on their executive committee, while others had privately retained objects rescued from group clean-outs. The largest contribution of objects finally came from a single individual who had collected documents of the university’s student political activities. This collection spanned eight cabinets in total. The student curators ultimately utilised only a small fraction of this collection, but it elicited some rich stories about student activism in the 1970s. In fact there was enough material to create an entire exhibition from this collection alone. Meanwhile many groups that had not retained any objects were nevertheless able to provide photographs for the curatorial team. The contents of the Macquarie exhibition inevitably included sporting trophies and numerous student publications. There was also a diverse array of other unusual objects such as light sabres, a dinosaur,[1] posters from theatrical and film clubs, and a vast array of political ephemera that illustrated a previous era of much more vigorous and engaged student activism. Without doubt, the most entertaining story arose from a protest in the 1970s in which a group of students had crawled through an air-conditioning system and occupied the Vice-Chancellor’s office. This protest was carefully documented through a student publication that we were privileged to display. It represented the most memorable student insurrection in the university’s brief history.[2] As would be expected, there were also some quirky contents finally on show – including a ‘sign-on’ sheet for the former ‘Nudists Society’. In a private viewing

left: Students at the opening of the exhibition A Living Campus: 50 Years of Students at Macquarie University. Photo: Stagelight Studios.

1. Minmi Paravertebra is a small Cretaceous ankylosaur created for the exhibition Palaeographia (Simpson et al, 2003), co-curated by Museum Studies staff. After the closure of the Museum Studies program at Macquarie University in 2012, the dinosaur was adopted by the student club, the Museum Appreciation Society. The dinosaur’s permanent home is in the Biological Sciences Museum at Macquarie University. 2. Documented by Mansfield & Hutchinson (1992) p.226-9. 3. The rationale for this exhibition was outlined in 2014 by Simpson (2014a). 4. Early development of the university’s cultural landscape was outlined in 2014 by Simpson (2014b). 5. Simpson has argued (2014c) that the increasingly competitive operating environment in higher education is resulting in some more creative uses of material collections.


24  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

An exhibition reviewing a university’s informal life and campus history

right: Visitors viewing the exhibition A Living Campus: 50 Years of Students at Macquarie University. Photo: Stagelight Studios.

References Mansfield, B. & Hutchinson, M. 1992. Liberality of Opportunity: A history of Macquarie University 1964-1989. Macquarie University in association with Hale & Iremonger, Sydney. Simpson, A. 2014a. 'Why Universities Collect'. In Macquarie University Museums and Collections curatorial team (Editors). Affinities: 7 Museums, 50 Objects (Exhibition Catalogue). Macquarie University Art Gallery: 6-9. Simpson, A. 2014b. 'Something new and fresh: shaping the cultural landscapes of Sydney’s third university'. In Davis, R., Hargraves, K., Janiszewski, L. & Simpson, A., Creative Revisions: Retracing 50 years of Artistic Responses to the University Campus (Exhibition Catalogue). Macquarie University Art Gallery: 6-15. Simpson, A. 2014. 'Rethinking university museums: Material collections and the changing world of higher education'. Museums Australia Magazine, 22(3): 18-22. Simpson, A., Davis, R. & Hill, K. 2003. 'Palaeographia: an exhibition blending science and art'. Museologia, Lisbon, 3(1-2): 111-116.

of the exhibition before its opening, the University’s current Chancellor noted that the activities of some very prominent Australians were captured in the contents. There were also some mysterious images on display that emanated from random collections of ephemera: a panda sits drinking at the university bar in one photograph, while a policeman confiscates a bizarre range of food items at a student protest in another. While some images remained mystifying, their inclusion by the curators was to stimulate audience responses, and possibly further historical information and feedback — in digital forms and ongoing record. Macquarie’s Chancellor, Michael Egan, launched the exhibition at its opening, reminding the audience of the importance of engagement in a rich and varied life as a student. Since university life represents a microcosm of the outside world, student activities usually mark a transformative time of experimentation and discovery, as well as the formation of mature beliefs. Universities can really change people’s lives, and the Macquarie exhibition proved important in testifying to the diversity and intensity of student experiences in a more recently founded university that have helped to shape its cultural identity into a rich maturity. With the exhibition fully achieved by the Museum Appreciation Society, and objects and images on display, its student curators hoped that visitors would discover something new about the diversity of student experience and its rich history at Macquarie. A further exhibition aim was to draw the audience into becoming a more active part of campus cultural life and themselves shapers of its ongoing history.

A Living Campus was the third and final exhibition presented during Macquarie’s Jubilee year — and the only one originated by students. The two earlier exhibitions were both shown at the Macquarie University Art Gallery. These were the Museums Australia MAGNA award-winning exhibition, Affinities: 7 Museums, 50 Objects, which explored the role of material collections in the life of the university;[3] and the exhibition Creative Revisions: Retracing 50 Years of Artistic Responses to the University Campus, which documented the institution’s rich cultural heritage.[4] Australia has a relatively young higher education sector modelled on European traditions. Nonetheless rapidly increasing competition within the sector provides an impetus for constructing distinctive organisational identities.[5] This exhibition, as a student-initiated enterprise, was something rare in self-reflection within the higher-education sector. Yet it amply demonstrated that academic heritage can be an inclusive, evolving process nourished as much by its student participants as by any singular, institutionally directed narrative formed in today’s competitive striving for distinction. []

Graduates in Museum Studies and members of Macquarie’s Museum Appreciation Society, Stephanie Chinneck and Chantelle Dollimore were both involved in the Living Campus commemorative exhibition project realised at Macquarie University in 2014. Dr Andrew Simpson, former head of Museum Studies at Macquarie and now continuing an honorary attachment through the Department of Ancient History, was an active champion in its realisation. Citation: Stephanie Chinneck, Chantelle Dollimore & Andrew Simpson, 'Picturing ‘A Living Campus’ (50 Years of Students at Macquarie exhibited)', Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, pp.22-24.


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  25

Significance assessment captures Queensland Police Museum uniforms

They Were What They Wore: Queensland police uniforms enter the Australian Dress Register

Rebecca Lush

I above:

Rebecca Lush

1. See earlier article on the Australian Dress Register: Powerhouse Museum, ‘The Australian Dress Register: Garments and costume animating social history’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol. 21(3), Museums Australia, Canberra, Autumn 2013, p.23–26. 2. Mission statement found under ‘About’ on the Australian Dress Register’s website: http:// australiandressregister.org/about/

f garments could speak, what stories would they tell? The Queensland Police Museum in Brisbane has been working with its uniform collection for more than a year to try to tease out the associated stories woven into each piece. The Australian Dress Register has not only provided a platform to publicise these stories; it has also encouraged a closer look at the uniforms collected. By adding to this history network online, the Police Museum is revisiting its history and illuminating the history of the state. The Australian Dress Register, an initiative launched by Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum,[1] has shone new light on textiles and garments in museum collections, and pointed to their associated stories often waiting to be revealed. There are currently 176 published pieces of clothing incorporated in the Register, drawn from a range of time periods and available for viewing online. From Captain James Cook’s waistcoat through to the Gillett Sisters' Charleston dress, this website has a rich representation of Australia’s past, now accessible for public use, whether for browsing, studying changing fashions, or ongoing research into historical costume and dress. The primary objective of the Australian Dress Register is stated on the site as being to achieve ‘a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance pre-1975’.[2] The Dress Register is a resource not only for museums and institutions but also for local history enthusiasts, social history researchers, private collectors, and a range of other potential users including school teachers and their students. By sharing information and stories about unique garments in Australian social life, the website has created an online history network: one that is centred on material culture and its significance. For example one of the oldest items that appears on the site is the waistcoat of Captain James Cook. This beautifully embellished eighteenth-century waistcoat bears not only vital signs of its use and place in the story of one man’s life, but also of its emblematic role in maritime affairs and the life of an entire social community. Through direct encounter with its manufacturing information and evidence of repair, the waistcoat can transport you from the eighteenth into the nineteenth century: stories of suffragettes, of Jewish community history, and of the life of Captain Cook himself can be unraveled through exploring the significance of this single item of male dress.

The understanding that the Dress Register garments can lend to their past is what is most successful about the ADR website. All of this stems from the fact that private owners and museums are interacting with their garments in depth – measuring, researching and examining them, and sharing gathered information publicly. By utilising the Dress Register resources, details of a garment can be meticulously examined and the final result considered in its entirety. In April 2014, the Queensland Police Museum (located in the Police Headquarters on Roma Street in Brisbane) decided to delve into their collection for the purpose of adding police uniforms to the Australian Dress Register. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer alongside Curator, Lisa Jones, and Assistant Curator, Virginia Gordon, in working with the Museum’s collection. The Queensland Police Museum owns an extensive number of police uniforms dating back to the beginnings of the state’s police force (in 1864), and leading to the present day. A small selection of these uniforms is on display within the museum. The Dress Register website has stimulated internal work and allowed many of the uniforms in storage to be re-evaluated and further studied – providing information that can now be shared with a broader public. With each new uniform we scrutinised, researched and published came a new story, adding to the larger narrative and social context of the history of the Queensland Police. Currently there are four uniforms published to the Register and two undergoing further editing. The time-frame for these uniforms’ use stretches from approximately 1896 to 1970, representing a broad span of Queensland Police history. Taking into account the types of questions asked by the Dress Register, it became clear during research that each uniform is extremely valuable as an historical record – not only because of the individual who wore it, but as an illustration of the times in which wearer each performed their police duties. These garments were not hidden away; they were ‘walked’ along the streets of Brisbane, and bore witness to the roles and duties of the officers who wore them. There are four police uniforms in the Museum’s collection that stand out for me personally as very interesting pieces. The Dress Register has helped crucially to bring their stories to life, and itself has provided a digital platform for their display. The first two uniforms are the policewomen’s


26  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Significance assessment captures Queensland Police Museum uniforms

top left:

Policewomen in civilian clothing sworn in on 31 March 1965. They were granted uniforms after the ceremony. Front to rear: Elizabeth Boyle; Laura Frisch; Ailsa Warnick; Pat Ryan; Clare Conaty; Yvonne Weier; Judith Barrett; Olwen Doolan. Courtesy and copyright of Queensland Police Museum (PM2055). top right:

Constable Roslyn Kelleher PW11 walking the beat with two Senior Constables at Rockhampton in 1966, wearing the summer uniform. Courtesy and copyright of Queensland Police Museum (PM2739).

bottom left:

Constables Twigg, Harper and Mackie inducted into the Queensland Police at the Petrie Terrace Barracks on 24 April 1969. Courtesy and copyright of Queensland Police Museum (PM2728). bottom right:

Changing uniforms for policewomen dating from 1965 until 1998. Earliest is the olive green dress, dating circa 1965. Courtesy and copyright of the Queensland Police Service.

winter and summer uniforms dating from the period 1965 to 1970. The summer uniform was recently published through the Register, while the winter uniform is still under review. Both uniforms represent a crucial chapter in the progress of women in the Queensland Police. Between 1931 and 1964, females appointed to the police force wore civilian clothing, and had limited powers. However in 1965 this changed when eight women were given equal powers to their male colleagues and provided with a uniform that gave them a new police identity. The summer uniform was a plain, belted olive dress, while the winter uniform was a similarcoloured skirt and jacket set. After the first official swearing-in ceremony on 31 March 1965, police women were granted powers of arrest, the ability to join traditional police training programs, and access to the rank structure. Elizabeth Rose Boyle was the first woman sworn in as a Sergeant 2nd Class, while her remaining seven companions were sworn in at the rank of Constable. On the arm of the winter uniform there are spaces provided for police chevrons, the fabric patches that

indicate rank. From this information we know that the owner of the winter uniform received a high rank, which adds greatly to its historical significance. By the time this rather drab olive uniform was phased out in 1970, there were then twenty-seven policewomen serving in Queensland. Both summer and winter uniforms are material reminders of this important phase in the journey towards equality for women in the history of police in the state. Another uniform we have published that has led us down an interesting trail is an Inspector’s Tunic dated as being in use between 1936 and 1950. Inside this uniform is the manufacturer’s label of ‘Arthur J. Longson’. By utilising Trove, we discovered that Longson ran a successful tailoring business that prospered during the Second World War, and he shared quarters with the Jewish Women's League during this same period. As reiterated in the significance statement for this uniform: ‘[E]xamining this garment has allowed for research to delve beyond the Queensland Police ... into the society of Brisbane in the pre and postWorld War II era.'[3] Even without an identified owner,

3. Link to the tunic: http:// www.australiandressregister. org/garment/554/


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  27

By adding to the Australian Dress Register network online, the Queensland Police Museum is revisiting its own history and illuminating the history of the state

this tunic shows how a much larger history can be indicated in one garment. A manufacturer’s label on the inside of a tunic might well reconstruct and provide a larger social context to an item from the past. A similar uniform in the collection from the same period is the Queensland Police Commissioner’s Dress Tunic. This was the first uniform to be published by the Queensland Police Museum. Unlike the Inspector’s Tunic, in this case we can connect the garment with an owner. Commissioner Cecil James Carroll oversaw the management of the Queensland Police between 1934 and 1949. Carroll was Commissioner during the Second World War, administering and overseeing some significant changes to the Queensland Police at that time. Carroll introduced new educational entry requirements and modernised police practices. As Brisbane provided a gateway to the Pacific War, the Queensland Police were forced to stretch their resources and hire new officers to cope with the newly arriving American servicemen. For new and old recruits there were new qualifying examinations for promotion, an improved training system, and a new Cadet system of admission. Modernising the Force, however, ensured fairly smooth functioning throughout the Second World War. Commissioner Carroll’s control was severely tested during a railway strike on St Patrick’s Day in 1948, which culminated in a tense confrontation between police and civilians. Protesters were up in arms about the Industrial Law Amendment Act, which sought to prevent picketing, marching and demonstrations by unionists. When the protest march began, there

were more than two hundred policemen waiting with batons to quell any violence. Therefore through linking its use to these significant events in the past, the Commissioner’s uniform can be used to provide tangible links to both an individual’s social role and a community’s history. Each of the four service uniforms described is symbolic of an important milestone in the history of the Queensland Police. Whether it bears links to Queensland at war or female progress within the Force, each uniform is unique while offering significant links to an important larger policing story. The Australian Dress Register has been a valuable resource for the Queensland Police Museum. It has allowed the uniforms in the museum’s collection to be documented, interpreted and captured onto a digital platform, where the uniforms are preserved in a new way, their stories told, and their significance broadcast to the wider community. [ ] Special thanks to the Queensland Police Museum for its role in protecting and presenting Police history, and to curator Lisa Jones for her assistance in the preparation of this article. Rebecca Lush is a freelance historian, writer and editor based in Brisbane, Australia. In July 2015, Rebecca will begin her master's program in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of Sydney. Citation: Rebecca Lush, ‘They Were What They Wore: Queensland police uniforms enter the Australian Dress Register’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, pp.25-27.


28  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Exhibition review

A remarkable story of survival: Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice shown in Perth

Jana Vytrhlik

T

he chance discovery of long-lost synagogue relics in Venice in 2009, and their recent meticulous restoration, provided the occasion for a travelling exhibition that had its sole Australian showing recently in Perth: Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice – Restored by Venetian Heritage, which then moved to its next stop in France. Having been at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth until March 2015, the Treasures is now showing at the Jewish Museum in Paris.[1] The exhibition of thirty-five Jewish ceremonial objects is small in object-count, but hugely consequential in its significance. For most of us, Venice signifies the prestigious Venice Biennale or the fame of the city in cultural tourism. It is less known that Venice had long been an important Jewish centre in its earlier history. In 2016, the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, where the term geto was first coined, will celebrate its 500th anniversary. The inauguration of the travelling exhibition Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice has therefore made this the first of many worldwide events that will mark this important anniversary in Venice next year. The Venetian Ghetto’s Treasures exhibits for a world audience many magnificent Italian silver and bronze artefacts dating from the early-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. These are ceremonial objects that were used for religious services and festivals in Venetian synagogues and Jewish homes, where ceremonies centre on the most sacred text, the Torah. The fine relics on display include a group of imposing silver crowns and finials that traditionally adorn the Torah scroll. There are also beautifully

crafted silver ritual dishes, rare bronze candelabra and other treasures from the synagogues of Venice. We learn how in 1943 these precious objects were secretly concealed in an ancient synagogue’s wall to prevent their predictable looting and destruction at the hands of the Nazis. It was a desperate act of preservation by a community whose very existence was under threat. The objects were successfully concealed from enemy forces, however those who hid them perished. Since there was no-one left to recall their secret existence, the treasures became long-forgotten. However almost sixty years later, they were discovered by sheer chance during the synagogue’s building restoration work. Although the precious metal works had suffered considerable damage, they had ultimately survived the Holocaust, unlike so many of the Jewish community themselves in Venice. Toto Bergamo Rossi is a restorer and director of Venetian Heritage, a non-profit organisation that undertook the massive task recently of cleaning and

above:

Jana Vytrhlik

1. Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice – Restored by Venetian Heritage was shown at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, over summer and early autumn (8 December 2014—16 March 2015). It then transferred to Paris, for exhibition at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme (13 May—13 September 2015).


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  29

It was a desperate act of preservation by a community whose very existence was under threat

restoring the unearthed silver and bronze objects representing the ceremonial life of the Jewish community in Venice. Rossi has vividly described the pitiful condition of the pieces when rediscovered, and the painstaking restoration that took place to recuperate them. Many objects were badly deformed and needed meticulous cleaning and careful treatment to restore their former fineness. However the results today are impressive: nothing that has befallen these objects has diminished their history, beauty, style and associative qualities. Throughout history, Jews faced varied levels of persecution including guild restrictions on working in silver and production of specific kinds of objects. Consequently, many of the Jewish liturgical objects made in silver had to be commissioned from Christian craftsmen. While in most of Europe the basic forms of Judaica remained consistent across time, the Jewish silverwork of Venice provides a different picture. The Italian silversmiths worked within the framework of Jewish tradition, but at the same time they challenged many conventions of its prescribed forms. Nowhere can we see this phenomenon more clearly than in the group of magnificent silver Torah crowns [figs 1-2] and rimmonims (or finials) [figs 3-4], that were created in the fashionable styles of the time – the late baroque, rococo or neoclassicism. Beautifully sculpted, the lively ornamentation of the earlier crown [fig.1] forms niches filled with flowers, scrolls and spirals, reminding us of Italian baroque art, architecture, and in particular church sculptural art. Apart from the dedicatory inscription in Hebrew, indicating that ‘60 ounces of silver were donated to the synagogue’ for its creation, there are no other Jewish religious symbols present on this magnificent piece of Italian silverware.

However new ornamental stylistic elements were introduced with the next crown [fig.2]. Its circular medallions are filled with decorative motifs and iconography of rich symbolism. Rather surprising is the central depiction of the symbolic Temple of Jerusalem, which on this crown strikingly resembles the dome of St Peter’s in Rome. Stylistically more advanced than its companion, the central part of this crown includes a playful rococo decoration, incorporating cornucopia of flowers, bows and ribbons: ornaments popular and widely diffused from Italy throughout Europe. Beautifully embossed in low relief, the Hebrew inscription records the year of donation, 1829. However this may not coincide with the actual making of the piece, which could quite possibly date from a quarter of a century earlier. It is not difficult to imagine the darkened interior of a Venetian synagogue of the time, where these wonderful crowns would have decorated the top of a carved wooden, gold-leaf decorated case housing the Torah scroll. The crowns were also strong signs of a large, vibrant, prosperous and observant community. Traditionally, the silver rimmonim used in the synagogues of Venice, embellished the top of a closed wooden Torah case. The congregation’s attention was drawn by the gentle sound of their bells as the Torah was being ceremonially carried to the lectern for opening and reading. The elongated silhouettes of the rimmonim take on the architectural form of a multi-baluster tower, while their niches are filled with flowers and ornaments. In Figure 3, the rimmonim’s stylised little bells hang on long silver chains. Remarkable silversmithing skills are evident in the mid-nineteenth century piece [fig 4], which is striking for its naturalistic yet imaginatively detailed forms. It was heartening to see many student groups

far left:

Fig 1: Torah crown, Italy, c1700, silver, 26 x27 cm. Photographer Jean-François Jaussaud. Collection of the Jewish Community of Venice (Comun ità Ebraica di Venezia) left:

Fig 2: Torah crown, Italy, 1829, parcel-gilt silver, 27 x 32 cm.Photographer Jean-François Jaussaud. Collection of the Jewish Community of Venice (Comunità Ebraica di Venezia).


30  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Exhibition review

top left:

Fig 3: One of a pair of Rimmonim, Italy, 1747, silver, 48 x 10 cm. Photographer JeanFrançois Jaussaud. Collection of the Jewish Community of Venice (Comunità Ebraica di Venezia).

top right:

Fig 4: One of the a of Rimmonim, Italy, mid-19th century silver, 25 x 10 cm. Photographer Jean-François Jaussaud. Collection of the Jewish Community of Venice (Comunità Ebraica di Venezia). bottom:

Fig 5: Students visiting the Treasures exhibition at AGWA, Perth, February 2015. Image: Jana Vytrhlik.

studying within the exhibition in Perth. The students came well prepared and were highly engaged with the objects and their linking narrative. They not only investigated the historical facts of occupied Venice in 1943; their teachers also led them to an understanding of the meaning of selected ceremonial objects and directed attention to learning the relevant Hebrew words illuminating the objects’ significance. [fig.5] The presentation of the Treasures exhibition in Perth was curated by Melissa Harpley, AGWA Curator of Historical Painting, Sculpture and Design. Harpley displayed the objects with fine understanding of their poignant history, appreciation of their artistic qualities and respect for their ritual importance. She astutely avoided any distracting visual or audio intrusions in the main exhibition area.

Credit for securing this important exhibition for Australia must go to AGWA director, Dr. Stefano Carboni, together with Simon Mordant AM – Sydneybased art philanthropist and 2015 Venice Biennale Commissioner for Australia. The significance of bringing Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice – Restored by Venetian Heritage to Australia is threefold. First, it stimulated an appreciation of Italian silver and other objects used by the flourishing Jewish community in Venice historically, of which little has been known previously in Australia. Second, we learned about the importance of cultural heritage for preserving the values and identity of a particular community. Finally, as background to an inspiring salvage of these Treasures, the exhibition drew attention to the 500th anniversary of the Jewish ghetto in Venice, and highlighted the message of survival and continuity this beautiful constellation of objects transmits to the world. [] Jana Vytrhlik is a Sydney-based independent art historian specialising in silver Judaica. She is also Curator at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Jana also reported on this exhibition for J-Wire online 05/03/15. http://www.jwire.com. au/treasures-of-the-venetian-ghetto-restored-by-venetianheritage/ Citation: Jana Vytrhlik, ‘A remarkable story of survival: Treasures of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice shown in Perth’, Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, pp.28-30.


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  31

Australia gains a successful new Pavilion for art and architecture in Venice — and a fine exhibition for the 2015 Biennale

Fiona Hall’s marvellous Wunderkammer inhabits the new Australian Pavilion in Venice

above:

Bernice Murphy

right:

New Australian Pavilion in the Giardini, Biennale of Venice, 2015; designer John Denton/Denton Corker Marshall. Photo: B Murphy.

Bernice Murphy

A

strong new Australian pavilion was launched in Venice in May 2015, during the ‘Vernissage’ preview days of the world’s oldest biennale for contemporary art: the Biennale of Venice. This success consolidates Australia’s position as one of only 30 countries having its own national pavilion within the main precinct where the Visual Arts Biennale is inaugurated every second summer — in the Public Gardens (or Giardini) in Venice. However since a complementary Architecture Biennale in Venice was created in the 1980s, held in alternating years with the Visual Arts Biennale — and Australia has represented its architects and designers since 1991 — the new Australian pavilion is a double-gain for presenting Australian creativity in a high-profile event launched in Europe every summer that attracts a world audience. Australia has strengthened its place in an international forum with a rich history. A Biennale gathering of the arts of new and old nations was inaugurated in Venice in 1895, when many of Australia’s oldest museums were still under Colonial governments. The Biennale of Venice was founded in a world configured by a changing old order, the emergence of new states and alliances, competitive nationalism, and advancing industrialisation of world markets.

Venice also responded to the tradition of the largescale international exhibitions of the late-nineteenth century, inaugurated with the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. However the model installed in Venice became a recurrent festival celebrating creativity in the visual arts (and originally including crafts) — rather than manufactures, trading goods and technologies, which today survives in the EXPO format. Australia was first included in the Venice Biennale in 1954, with a small representation of paintings by Sidney Nolan, William Dobell and Russell Drysdale. This was followed in 1956 by a representation of Albert Tucker, and in 1958 by Arthur Boyd and Arthur Streeton, after which Australia’s presence lapsed for 20 years. The Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council espoused a renewed commitment to Venice in 1978, itself organising a showing of John Davis, Robert Owen and Ken Unsworth, with Daniel Thomas (then Senior Curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales) engaged to act as Australian Commissioner. Other Australian artists were shown in subsequent Biennales. Australia meanwhile took up the difficult cause of seeking its own national pavilion in the alreadycrowded Public Gardens where the Venice Biennale is realised, in this ancient city of wood, stone, brickwork, bridges and canals — but with very little recreational land for its own citizens. Overcoming many obstacles,


32  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Australia gains a successful new Pavilion for art and architecture in Venice — and a fine exhibition for the 2015 Biennale

top right:

Temporary Australian Pavilion in the Giardini, Biennale of Venice, 1988—2013; designer Philip Cox/Cox Richardson. bottom right:

Main avenue in the Public Gardens (Giardini), with flanking national pavilions, Biennale of Venice 2015, leading to British, French and German pavilions in the distance. Photo: B Murphy.

1. Philip Cox, 2012, in ‘The Venice Biennale, Australian Pavilion, Philip Cox’, Australia’s Pavilion in Venice, Australia Council and Australian Institute of Architects, 2013, pp.11, 13. 2. Philip Cox, 2012, ibid. 3. John Denton/Denton Corker Marshall, in ‘The New Australian Pavilion – Denton Corker Marshall’, Australia’s Pavilion in Venice, op.cit., p.67. 4. Brian Zulaikha, 2011 National President, Australian Institute of Architects, in ‘The New Australian Pavilion’, Australia’s Pavilion in Venice, op.cit., p.65. 5. John Denton/Denton Corker Marshall, op.cit., p.68.

Australia’s goal was achieved in 1988 — with a strong showing of Arthur Boyd paintings — in a ‘temporary pavilion’, designed by Philip Cox of Cox Richardson, installed on a tight site flanking a canal passing through the Giardini. The now-permanent Australian pavilion of 2015, designed by Denton Corker Marshall/DCM, therefore replaces the prefabricated Cox Richardson pavilion that has served Australia’s presence in Venice for almost three decades. Denton Corker Marshall’s main museum design work in Australia has been for the Melbourne Museum, the Museum of Sydney, and most recently the extensions to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. DCM also designed the Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne. The competition-winning DCM design for the new, 50-foot-square, Venice Pavilion, led by principal architect John Denton, emerged through a two-stage process (winnowing 67 EOI bids to 6 finalists) and a thorough consideration of purpose (a pavilion to stage but not compete with the art shown). This was very different from the contingency-driven design process that generated the first pavilion — and the results are handsomely resolved. The very different metaphors favoured by the architect-designers of each pavilion provide a striking contrast in conception of Australia’s regular presence

in a major international event for dialogue with the world. The 1988 Cox pavilion, with corrugated iron roof and pre-fabricated wooden panels for easy assembly, had its entry defined by an emblematic ‘Aussie verandah’.[1] Reviewing his designs before the pavilion’s final removal in 2012, Philip Cox stated that its significant qualities were ‘lyrical, unassuming, human-scaled and friendly’. [2] The earlier masonry-defined features of national pavilions that populate the Giardini were strikingly different — those of Britain, Germany and France fronted by monumentally-scaled columns and porticoes. However governing metaphors of ‘unassuming’ and ‘friendly’ preempted the very diverse temperaments and ambitions of Australian artists — and especially Indigenous artists, when they were twice featured in the Australian pavilion (in 1990: Trevor Nickolls, Rover Thomas; and in 1997: Judy Watson, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Emily Kame Kngwarreye). Decades later, and with years of review calibrating the ambition for a more substantial pavilion to carry Australia’s name and presence at the Venice Biennale, the significant metaphors for John Denton/DCM’s design are strikingly different from those that shaped the Cox pavilion. Conceived essentially as a raised cube of ‘black external volume’ (faced in dark granite slabs) housing a ‘white internal volume’[3] — or ‘a black box encasing a white box artspace’[4] — DCM strongly conceived the new pavilion as framing and serving the primary purpose of presenting Australian art, rather than prefiguring its character or intentions. Our idea is to create a simple yet confident, memorable, powerful pavilion. … timeless but with vitality, tactility and materiality that invite curiosity and engagement.[5] From domestic verandah to neutral cube: most progressive in the new pavilion’s scheme has been the abandonment of any pretension of conveying a national image or rhetoric of Australian identity in the building’s design. The DCM designs meanwhile skillfully reorient the pavilion on a tight footprint, providing an angled wooden ramp and elevated entry platform on the former ‘rear’ side of the Cox building. While still accommodating an external gathering-point for openings, the new design also successfully orients the pavilion in two key directions, incorporating a commanding façade and view of the building from the opposite side of the Canal of S. Elena — where a constellation of older national pavilions is located. Visitors to that area are now signalled to a second view of the Australian pavilion, before returning to its canal-bank in the main precinct and tree-lined


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  33

avenues near the principal entry for the Biennale. The Australian pavilion is austere in its cubic form, a strong but enigmatic host to the art displayed inside. However the design skillfully incorporates four large slab-opening hatches: one creating the entrance canopy itself; and three others permitting natural light or outlook when needed. Two of the hatches conceal LED video-screens for internal or external projections. Alternatively the whole structure can be ‘locked down’ in the severe months of winter, when the Giardini are scarcely used, even by Venetians. Steering fund-raising for the new pavilion, a key champion and personal donor for the project was Simon Mordant AM — also Commissioner for Australia’s art appearance in Venice in 2015. The just-under $6-million-cost pavilion, 83% financed by private contributions, will now better serve both the visual arts and the Australian architecture and design community in an alternating rotation, and over a greatly extended summer-to-autumn season, occupying almost six months of each year. But now for the art. Curator-director for the 2015 Venice Biennale is Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor. As the first African-born curator of the world’s oldest biennale, Enwezor also directed a previous Documenta in Kassel (the pivotal survey of contemporary art realised five-yearly in Germany since 1954). Enwezor’s Documenta 11, in 2002, like all major exhibitions he has organised, took a political vantage-point on world history and power-relations shaping the many dispersed settings that make up the scenes of contemporary art, cultural production and creativity today. His ideas continue to be extended in the 2015 Biennale in Venice. In one interview during the Vernissage days preceding the opening of the 56th Venice Biennale, Enwezor explained that he was ‘fundamentally interested in the idea of residue’ in reconsidering the role of objects, images and technologies shaping the ‘writing of history’ in the contemporary world.[6] Against the background of the politically-ambitious theme of the Biennale, All the World’s Futures, Fiona Hall’s work in the Australian pavilion has managed better than in most national presentations to harvest the resources of art rather than the narrower paths of polemic to provide one of the most imaginatively rich and critically penetrating responses to the governing theme in 2015. In Fiona Hall’s absorbing layering of images and ideas, ‘All the World’s Futures’ are shaped by colliding claims on resources and power, while nature’s systems and creatures are everywhere under stress. Hall’s work has for decades explored the interconnection of many strands that make up Okwui Enwezor’s theme. In a presentation finely supported by Curator Linda Michael, Hall’s work in Venice

elaborates her exhaustive engagement with ideas harvested in a huge variety of forms, in intricately conceived and resonant works, including most recently some collaboration with Indigenous women, the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, in the Central Australian deserts (who have created an enthralling fibreconstellation of extinct Australian animals). Hall’s general title for her Biennale presentation, ‘Wrong Way Time’, provides a Creole key-signature for a world of heterodox impulses and often clashing, disordered relations. Her works explore in fecund conception and details the contending histories of peoples, nations, cultures, economies, time-scales

above:

Fiona Hall, Wrong Way Time; installation views of works by Fiona Hall representing Australia in 53rd Biennale of Venice, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

6. Interview with Okwui Enwezor in Deutsche Welt, 10 May 2015: http://www.dw.de/ okwui-enwezor-art-world-shouldshrink-its-footprint/a-18308039


34  Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015

Australia gains a successful new Pavilion for art and architecture in Venice — and a fine exhibition for the 2015 Biennale

were chosen by Okwui Enwezor for the Biennale’s central international exhibition exploring the theme, All the World’s Futures — their works appear in either the Central Pavilion in the Giardini or the Arsenale site. Further Australian artists, including Indigenous artists, are included in sundry smaller or some national projects, curated by different bodies and international agencies in various Palazzi and other sites around Venice.

above:

Fiona Hall, Wrong Way Time; Kuka Irititja (Animals from Another Time), a collective work by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Roma Butler, Stacia Lewis, Rene Nelson, Takiriya Tjawina Roberts, Angkaliya Nelson, Sandra Peterman, Yangi Yangi Fox, Molly Miller, Nyanu Watson, Rene Kulitja, Niningka Lewis and Mary Pan. This was a consultatively negotiated collaborative work included in Fiona Hall's installation, Wrong Way Time, Biennale of Venice, 2015. Photo: B Murphy. right: Fiona Hall, Wrong Way Time; detail of multi-part installation of works by Fiona Hall representing Australia in 53rd Biennale of Venice, 2015. Photo: B Murphy.

and nature ecologies still shaping the world through colonialist legacies — or the abiding ‘residues’ influencing history that so interest Enwezor in his overarching theme for the 56th Biennale. [ ] Some key data: The 56th Biennale of Venice (Visual Arts) is on view in the suite of national pavilions in the Giardini (the city’s Gardens), the neighbouring Arsenale (the 16th-century walled naval ship-building compound), and other venues around Venice and small neighbouring islands, from 9 May to 22 November 2015. Australian artists Daniel Boyd, Emily Floyd, Marco Fusinato, Harry Newell, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, and the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Bernice Murphy has worked in the fields of contemporary art and international exhibitions organisation and curatorship since she was appointed first Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1979. She is General Editor of a forthcoming book of essays on museums and ethics in preparation for ICOM’s 70th Anniversary, to be launched at the ICOM Triennial General Conference in Milan, in July 2016. Citation: Bernice Murphy, ‘Fiona Hall’s marvellous Wunderkammer inhabits the new Australian Pavilion in Venice', Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, pp.31-34.


Museums Australia Magazine – Vol. 23(4) – Winter 2015  35

Book Review

Things That Liberate — resonant Australian feminist objects Petra Mosmann

T

hings That Liberate: An Australian Feminist Wunderkammer seeks new ways of writing the history of feminism. This book, edited by Alison Bartlett and Margaret Henderson, features 24 chapters by Australian feminist activists and scholars. Each chapter begins with an object that shapes the writer’s memory of the women’s liberation movement. Objects featured are often familiar feminist things, items commonly found in both private and public collections such as posters and badges. However the book also features a few surprises such as a pocket mirror, sea sponge, and tofu. Asking activists and scholars to focus their memory on a particular object produces stories and forms of storytelling different from those usually found in feminist auto/biographies and histories. Feminist humour, for example, is rarely captured in texts; but several objects in this volume occasion amusing stories or are punctured by moments of sardonic humour. Often the way an object is used arouses the joke, as in the case of the pocket mirror. Other stories are particularly moving, such as Bronwyn Winter’s account of her sister, which evolves from the memory of a now-lost protest placard. Some objects still manage to shock or jolt — an important aspect of women’s lib — such as Susan Magarey’s inclusion of a tampon and Megan La Masurier’s copy of Suck. This ‘Australian Feminist Wunderkammer’ reveals how feminism transformed women’s lives in the latetwentieth century, and how this political and cultural moment took surprising and unpredictable forms. Why does this book matter to the museums sector? Henderson and Bartlett argue that objects, rather than texts, can preserve the irreverence, variety and affective memory of the Australian women’s movement. They demonstrate that museums and special collections, rather than libraries or archives, have a particular role to play in preserving public memory of what is currently referred to as ‘second wave feminism’. The book expands and redefines what constitutes a ‘feminist object’. Things that Liberate is an excellent starting point for the (re) development of second-wave feminist collections and exhibitions at the local, regional and national level. Women’s Liberation was one of the most important social movements in the twentieth century. However Australian museums and art galleries generally do not prioritise second-wave feminist material. When included at all, such material usually enters collections because it intersects with other institutional priorities, or due to the passions of a particular curator, rather than the result of a longterm collection practice. This material is also difficult to locate in museum databases — as it is rarely tagged as relating to the women’s movement. Libraries often have large feminist collections; but these institutions are still generally not well equipped to work with non-paper-based materials. Objects that should have been collected by museums, therefore,

have often been lost or remain in private hands. However museums and art galleries have the potential to publicly materialise aspects of Australian feminist memory in rich and varied ways. This book has a fascinating and experimental structure, with text arranged to produce a contemporary Wunderkammer. Henderson and Bartlett draw inspiration from both the history of the museum and current trends; they rework the historical Wunderkammer format to evolve its apparent disorder as a particularly feminist methodology; arguing that this can remedy the pessimism and sense of loss that marks many contemporary narratives of second wave. A Wunderkammer is not supposed to be representative; it resists the taxonomic order of the modern museum, and instead is a space filled with things that incite our wonder about the world. To recreate the spatial structure of a Wunderkammer in a written text, Henderson and Bartlett have placed objects accompanying stories in alphabetical order. Strange and often unexpected (dis)connections therefore emerge between narratives. The volume convincingly demonstrates that the methodology of the Wunderkammer resists the contemporary taxonomy of feminisms, enabling articulation of different stories of women’s liberation. As I remarked earlier in a review for an academic journal, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal,[1] this book is primarily for feminists and makes a significant contribution to the current circulation of Australian feminist memory. Beyond appealing to communities explicitly interested in feminism, this edited collection seems important for the museums sector broadly. Unfortunately, all the images of objects are printed in monochrome, which necessitates that readers approach this book with a little imagination. Yet the anthology successfully indicates how museums could better engage in representing the Australian women’s movement, suggesting new collection priorities and associated stories. This collection of intense reflections around objects convincingly demonstrates that museums and art galleries should prioritise the collection of second wave feminist material. The book also prompts us to return to existing collections in storage with an expanded comprehension of what might constitute ‘a feminist object’. In the large storage facilities attached to major institutions, and in the back rooms of smaller organisations, there are many feminist things waiting to be shown and narrated, as part of Australian history and forming a rich legacy to be re-explored today. [ ] Petra Mosmann is a PhD candidate in History and Women's Studies at Flinders University. Her current research considers feminist archival and collection practices. She also has an ongoing interest in Australian textile collections. Citation: Petra Mosmann, ‘Things That Liberate – resonant Australian feminist objects’ (Book Review), Museums Australia Magazine, Vol.23(4), Museums Australia, Canberra, Winter, 2015, p.35

above:

Petra Mosmann

Things That Liberate: An Australian Feminist Wunderkammer, eds. Alison Bartlett and Margaret Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2013, 223pp. $US75.99) ISBN: 781443844130/1443844136

1. Petra Mosmann, ‘New Memories of Women’s Liberation’, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, vol. 20, 2014, pp. 94-96.


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