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.  

The 2016 Shimmer Photographic Biennale opened on Friday night. It is a small Biennale, with 14  core venues and no Fringe events; the result of the Onkaparinga Council cutting  its funding of the Biennale. It is better to be small and surviving  through a DIY effort by local photographers,  rather than  closing down from lack of public funding, which is what happened  to  Photo Freo in Perth. The Shimmer Biennale offers  us an insight into the South Australian photographic culture, and what it shows  from the work on display is that  this culture is largely one of commercial photographers doing personal work and ex-art school photographic artists.

One insight can be seen in the judging of the AIPP’s   national Contemporary Photographic  Art Prize, where the focus shifts from the single print to an exhibition series of images coupled to an artist statement. The AIPP’s traditional stance is the  old modernist one of the image/print  standing  on its own and so there is no need  for text and the judges still have to defend the importance of the text as a clarification of the artist’s intent.  The work exhibited was worth engaging with–in terms of quality and intellectual content,   and what surprised me was the judges’s disconnect to an academic culture.  Going from the judging that I saw  the judges  discussed the work without   making connections  between the exhibited work  and  the humanities, art history or aesthetics, or to the  wider Australian culture. Though the inclusion of contemporary and art aligns or situates this type of photography within contemporary art,  the inference  from the judging is that in this culture  photographs exist in a vacuum,   and that judgements about the work are made  solely in terms of  the subjective  responses to the images.

In his  opening speech Mark Kimber   stepped outside this culture  by  highlighting  the importance of photographic festivals though  linking photography to our personal (and cultural) memories (i.e.,the particular recollection of something in the past) and history.  Without photographic prints, he argued, our memories would be very impoverished in that  without  the photos  in the shoebox under the bed we wouldn’t remember that much of our   past. Photographs, when used as memories, give us something  in the past to hold on to.

The Biennale’s central rhizome  is the Arts Centre in Port Noarlunga. There is  the body painting work of Emma Hack in Chinoiserie and   light painting work in Luminous Flux by  Sam Oster and Sara Huffen  that compliments the work of  Peter Solness,  who is the artist in residence during the Biennale. The phrase luminous flux refers to  the quantity of the energy of the light emitted per second in all directions and the photographs in the exhibition  are premised on the technique  of painting various objects in the dark, or placing different types of lighting in the landscape.

If light is next in importance to content and composition in a photograph, then  the key becomes what are the photographers saying about the landscape in Australia using the  technique of light painting.   The immediate response is that this kind of sculpting with light using digital technology is  a way to enhance, reveal and celebrate certain aspects of subjects that weren’t visible  under normal lighting conditions. It can be used to enhance  shape, dimension or texture so that  the landscape takes on a surreal quality. At least that is what I interpreted the use of light painting in the Luminous Flux  exhibition to be trying to create.

Another rhizome of the  Shimmer Biennale is  the Alchemical Traces: Contemporary South Australian Handcraft Photographers exhibition showing at The Red Poles Gallery. This is based around the ex-Art School  photographers who have turned to alternative processing—-Tintypes, Ambrotypes, Daguerreotypes, Cyanotypes, Salt Prints and other hand-made photographs– in reaction to a  hegemonic digital  photographic culture.  Alternative processing, such as   wet plate,  is a technique and, like light painting,   it’s significance depends on what the photographers say using this  particular technique. Many of the exhibitors  appeared as if they were   experimenting  or playing around with these techniques,  rather than creating a body of work in a project.

The exceptions were James Tylor, Andrew Deadman,  Aurelia Carbone  Alex Thorpe-Bishop because they have been using   the alternative processing to create projects  for some time.



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1 Comment

  • Reply stu September 9, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for the run down, looking forward to catching a few shows when we get back later this month.

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