My energies in the last month or so of 2016 have been directed in starting to put material –images and text—together for the photo-book that I have started working on. It is a form of memory work as it is an active seeking out and an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the past. The book is situated in the nexus of photography, archive and memory and it is a working through of personal and collective memory based on my photographic archive.
The first stage is going through the 1980s photography archive, selecting negatives from the contact sheets, scanning the selected images, and then digging around the internet for text to act as a commentary on this decade in Adelaide. The assembled material goes into a post on an old wordpress blog, which acts as a repository of selected material that I can then rework into an initial digital draft using InDesign. Or probably Scrivener, before I turn to InDesign, as I do need a word processor and project management tool that would allow me to compose and structure a difficult document.
newspaper boy, Adelaide
The book’s current working title is The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia and, at this stage, it is composed of three main sections: Adelaide street images, the Bowden archival project, and pictures made away from the city–at the beach or on the road. I have primarily been working on the first two sections and these are looking okay. Continue Reading…
2016 has ended with me in debt from 1 solo exhibition, three group exhibitions and publishing the Abstract Photography book during the year. So 2017 will necessarily be low key, as it is primarily a year of paying off the debts incurred. I have decided to use the period of consolidation to work through my 1980s and 1990 photographic archives to get material for a book tentatively entitled The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia.
Citi-Centre, Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Any photography that I do in 2017 will be primarily concentrated on the collaborative Mallee Routes project in order to build up the images in my digital and film galleries so that there is material for a second exhibition. One is tentatively being planned for in late 2017.
The 1980s in Adelaide witnessed a building boom of office development that was fueled by the deregulation of the exchange rate and the financial system. By 1985 Australia had become more integrated into a global market, partly because the internationalisation of the world’s capital and financial markets had already proceeded so far that it was more or less impossible for a small country like Australia to resist moving in the same direction. Deregulation in Australia by the Hawke-Keating Labor Government created culture of unrestrained growth a boom in property and tourist developments, and speculative investment by managers unprepared and untrained for the consequences.
Whilst working through my archives of the photography that I did in the 1980s when I lived in Bowden, Adelaide I came across this outtake from the Mallee Routes exhibition that Eric, Gilbert and I had at Atkins Photo Lab in October/November 2016. It was an outtake since I eventually decided that I didn’t want to exhibit any large format black and white photos in this particular exhibition.
ruins, Mantung, SA
In looking back to this period I relaxed that I came to Adelaide in the 1970s in an attempt to escape from the influence of the high seriousness of American modernism that was then sweeping through the newly established photographic galleries. The modernist aesthetic in the US and Australia was established as the “institutional art” supported by the political establishment and championed by cultural conservatives, and thus the antithesis to the avantgardism that closely accompanied modernism’s diffusion in Europe. The post-modern movement in the US can be interpreted as the American version of the avantgarde when it began to take shape in the 1970s and it suggested “new directions and new vistas” for artists in cultural politics.
This period was the tail end of formalist modernism and industrial capitalism. If it was prior to the emergence of postmodernism
in Australia it was the beginning of the new era of postmodernity, then marked by the Reagan/Thatcher era, the process of de-industrialization, the advent of economic deregulation, the new salience of globalisation, the emergence of finance capitalism and a neo-liberal mode of governance.
I am creatively flat after returning from my trip to Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert, curating and showing in three exhibitions (Weltraum, Abstractions x 5 and Mallee Routes), which are now coming to a close, and publishing the Abstraction Photography book with Moon Arrow Press. I’m exhausted, in debt, with limited stocks of film in the fridge and limited money to buy more film.
What happens now? Apart from having a rest, going to the gym, and paying off my debts? Where to now with my photography?I do have the 15 Silos on the Mallee Highway project to complete, work to do on the Mallee Routes project for some exhibitions over the next couple of years, and return to the Fleurieuscapes project.
However, I am also thinking along the lines of producing more books of photographs. But which body of work to create photo-books with? One possibility is going through my archives of photos that I did in the 1980s and 1990s; not to mine them for material, but to see if the material that emerges from exploring the archives that has the possibility of constituting a body of work that could fit into a book on Adelaide photography during that period.
This kind of project would be a filling in the gaps and recovering a lost history in the regional photographic culture in Adelaide during the photography boom. Currently, we only have a very fragmentary sense of the photography that happened in the last quarter of the twentieth century in this city. This was the period of the emergence of postmodernism and its constructed imagery (eg., Anne Zahalka, Fiona Hall and Bill Henson in Australia) and its play with, and appropriations of, already existing images; a theoretical engagement with the nature of photography’s visual language’; a more scholarly approach undertaken by masters and doctoral candidates at Australian universities; and the invention of an Australian photographic avant-garde. Continue Reading…
One of the interesting movements is the emerging connections between the contemporary arts and sciences around climate change driven by human activity. These emerging connections stand in opposition to “denialism,” a highly ideological formation dedicated to defending deregulated economic growth and the protection of the entrenched power of the fossil fuel corporations that made Australia into a modern industrial capitalist society in the second part of the 20th century. This is the assertion of naked political power for short-term self-interest.
A local example of the emerging connections is the upcoming Dire exhibition at the South Coast Regional Art Centre (Old Goolwa Police Station), which is part of the Alexandrina Council’s Just Add Water 2016 festival. It is entitled Dire because our western civilisation during the Anthropocene is still unable to live within its ecological limits; in spite of the new climate reality and Australia being identified as one of the developed countries most at risk from the adverse impacts of climate change.
This is an out take from an eco-photoshoot in the Coorong, in South Australia, for the Dire exhibition:
In southern Australia the reduced rainfall scenario isn’t good news for the ecological health of the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin, whilst the coastal cities and towns on both the eastern and southern seaboard face threats from the rising sea levels. What is happening to the ecological health of the Coorong from the reduced environmental flows gives rise to feeling blue—- depression, sadness, melancholy–associated with a sense of deep time and climate crisis.
Climate change is deeply disturbing and very hard to live with. We know and understand the implications of the science but we continue living–habitus— as we have been—an emotional denialism with its resistance to change. So we continue to live in parallel worlds. We think in one way and live in another. Continue Reading…