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critical writing, exhibitions, photography

The National: New Australian Art 2017

May 23, 2017

The National: New Australian Art  exhibition is impressive. It is spread across three of Sydney’s major art institutions (the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) and Carriageworks), and it  claims to provide a  major focus on Australian art of our time. ‘Our time’, presumably, is  the contemporary postindustrial era of digital media, global capitalism,  mass entertainment,  constant flux, culture of excess,  and the proliferation of screens. This is  a time  of a  profound shift in orientation and sensibility as 21st-century Australia seeks to reimagine itself and to secure its identity within an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.

This inter-institutional project of contemporary art continues Sydney’s claim to be the country’s leading centre of contemporary art. This  claim  had been  previously based on the Sydney Biennale, and then  the Australian Perspecta series  from  1981 to  1999  at the AGNSW.  The National in  Sydney–Australia’s global city–is a six year initiative, with  three editions  in 2017, 2019 and 2021,  and it  will profile a mix of emerging, mid-career and established artists from around the country and practising overseas.The websites of the above  three institutions say that the new and recently commissioned works encompasses a diverse range of mediums, including painting, video, sculpture, installation, drawing and performance.

There is no photography was  my immediate reaction. This is confirmed by going though all the artists exhibiting in 2017.  No  photographers or photo artists. The closest is video art.   Photography, one can infer,  is not a part of contemporary art in post colonial Australia.   Neither are artists working in South Australia. Or Tasmania for that matter. So why these exclusion? Do  photographers and  the contemporary artists in the two excluded states  lack intellectual sophistication, critical nous  and the requisite  knowledge of art history?

Mt Lyell open mine, Queenstown

The exclusion  of photography from this exhibition of contemporary art  suggests the obsolescence of photography. It is outmoded, like the juke box.

My understanding of contemporary  art—the works exhibited at international Biennali  or Documenta — is that it refers to that  period frequently characterised by an inherently decentred, cosmopolitan, digitalised and globalised world order. In Australia it would be the post conceptual art after the Australian  Bicentennial in 1988,  and in situating  itself reflexively within the  contemporary,  it  is  art  in which formerly peripheral Indigenous and Australian art now has a key role to play. There are  different forms of artistic agency – aesthetic, poetic, social, political—  in the present,  multiple perspectives on contemporary life in Australia as a country, nation and state, the emergence of repressed histories,  an archival impulse, and the turn away from medium specificities.

The   question is, given the importance of digital images  on the internet,  why are art photographers not seen as a part of the networking of mainstream contemporary art?  This is  one  that explores the fault lines in  any fixed notion of Australian national identity,   the  different issues of contemporary life,  and  the ruins of modernity?  It’s a puzzle, especially when you see this kind of Photography Festival; a puzzle that suggests the obsolescence of photography.  Continue Reading…

colour, exhibitions, film, history, Indigenous, landscape

The Lumen Seed: Questions for a Conversation

March 20, 2017

The  questions below were written by myself  in order to facilitate  a  conversation at the launch of Judith Crispin’s The Lumen Seed  book at the Atkins Photo Lab  gallery in Adelaide  on  Friday,  17th March  2017. The questions  were  structured around  The Lumen Seed book,   and they were designed to give some background to the construction of the text for the audience.   They place the emphasis  on Judith’s  photography rather than her poetry,  given that the space for the launch  at the Atkins Photo Lab  is a photography gallery. The audience pretty much took over once we got the conversation rolling.

The images in the post are mine and they were made whilst I was at  Lajamanu.  There  has been one review  of the book so far: –namely, this  review of  The Lumen Seed at the F-Stop photography magazine.  

Lajamanu 

1. Since few people in the audience would have been to either the Tanami Desert or Lajamanu we will start the conversation  here. Lajamanu is 4000 kilometres from Sydney and around 800 kilometres north west of Alice Springs. It’s remote and difficult to get to. So the first question is  why Lajamanu Judith?

2. Remote indigenous communities have a negative  profile in the mainstream media,  and those on the conservative side of politics want to close them down and shift people to the bigger towns. This is  currently happening in Western Australia with support from the Federal Government which has withdrawn funds for essential services including the supply of power, water and management of infrastructure.

When I was at Lajamanu I was surprised at how well the Warlpiri community was functioning. This indicated that  more is going on here  than Tony Abbott’s lifestyle choice. From my brief stay I gained the impression that the life of the community was premised on a synthesis of tradition and modernity.

Is that impression right? If so,  can you tell us how the Warlpiri are succeeding and what they are trying to do? Can you answer in terms of the Warlpiri’s conception of their relationship to Australian modernity.

3. What  do you think is the biggest threat to the Warlpiri’s future at Lajamanu?  Is it  the impact of climate change on the Tanami in the form of more droughts and floods? Or would it be the failure of the younger generation to continue to walk the difficult line  between tradition and modernity?

Trunk + bone

 

Photography book

My experience when I was at  Lajamanu in 2016 was one of being a cultural tourist. I was very uncomfortable in that role, and I wasn’t sure how to step beyond being a cultural tourist to photograph what I was seeing.

4. So Judith, was that your initial experience as a photographer at Lajamanu?  When did you start moving away from  being a cultural tourist to begin to  formulate the ideas behind the Lumen Seed project?

5. Why did you decide to incorporate the broader historical context around the Warlpiri and Central Australia into your photographic project?

Most photography books adopt a similar format: a series of photos in the form of a visual narrative with a brief, written introduction, usually written by someone other than the photographer. The emphasis is on the images. The Lumen Seed, in contrast, is much more multilayered and intertextual.

6. Can you tell us why you took this approach to a photography book?  Continue Reading…

architecture, exhibitions, film, Mallee

2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale

September 3, 2016

The Weltraum exhibition at Magpie Springs  for the 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale was finally hung this morning.   All those who are participating int he exhibition  chipped in.  A big thanks to Jeff Moorfoot,  whose expertise gained from   running the Ballarat International Foto Biennale  as  creative director (he’s now the editor of Beta Developments in Photography), helped  me put the finishing touches to the exhibition.

Seeing some of the silo images  hung at Weltraum  allowed to me to assess whether to continue to photograph the silos in black and white or colour in the future. This is an early colour  image of  a silo at Linga that I  made with the 5×7 Cambo monorail.

silo, Linga

silo, Linga

I’ve decided to go with black and white with  the colour as a supplement since the colour  doesn’t add that much to the project.   Continue Reading…

abstraction, critical writing, exhibitions

Abstraction x 5 book launch

August 16, 2016

Abstraction  x 5 is a forthcoming  group exhibition that opens at the Light Gallery in Adelaide, Sunday 2nd October. The exhibition  builds on my 2015 Australian Abstraction exhibition  at the Light Gallery in Adelaide.   Abstraction  x 5 features work by Adam Dutkiewicz, Beverley Southcott, Graeme Hastwell, Stuart Murdoch and myself.

Adam Dutkiewicz and myself will be launching our book on abstract photography, which is published by Moon Arrow Press,  at the opening of   Abstraction  x 5. The book recovers the abstractions produced by Adelaide based photographers in the 1950s -1970s and it establishes  a tradition by linking this to some of the work in  my Australian Abstractions exhibition in 2015.

Abstract Photography

Abstract Photography

Adam and myself plan to make this the first in a series of  photography books. The next book planned features some of the underground photographers in Adelaide from the 1970s to 2000.  Underground in the sense that the photographers produced a body of work that was largely ignored by the established galleries. Continue Reading…

architecture, exhibitions, topographics

Weltraum

July 22, 2016

The 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale will take place in the City of Onkaparinga in Adelaide, South Australia between 2 September and 2 October. Shimmer at the Magpie Springs  gallery is Weltraum.

Weltraum itself refers to world (Welt) and space (Raum). Literally translated it means ‘world room’. As an photo-based exhibition Weltraum refers to worlds or spaces waiting to be explored and opened up by Australian photo artists. The exhibiting  photo-artists  in Weltraum are Judith Crispin, Jeff Moorfoot, Stuart Murdoch, Gilbert Roe, Gary Sauer-Thompson and  Beverley Southcott.

The curatorial idea behind Weltraum is based around photo-media artists working on long term projects over a couple of years. This slow photography develops critical and poetic insights. The exhibition presents some work in progress from 6 projects,  some of which includes lens-based film based photography.

The image below is a behind the camera  shoot of Gary Sauer-Thompson photoshoot along the  Mallee Highway  for his silo project. Several images from this project —in black and white and colour— will  be featured in Weltraum:

silo, Galah, Mallee, Victoria

silo, Galah, Mallee, Victoria

Philosophically speaking the curatorial idea underpinning the work in progress  of long term projects   is that of a qualitative multiplicity. Multiplicity originates from a folding or twisting of simple elements. Like a sand dune, a multiplicity is in constant flux, though it attains some consistency for a short or long duration. Qualitative  multiplicities  differ in kind from one another, and their   porous boundaries suggests  ways in which things creatively evolve to form new and surprising assemblages. Qualitative multiplicities are associated with poetics, painting,  writing etc.  Continue Reading…