I approached the Living Arts exhibition with interest as I wanted to see who were the established local photographers, and what type of work they were doing. There is very little art photography being published in online art spaces and there is an absence of an online community, despite the fact that the NBN’s version of broadband in Victor Harbor is fibre to the home. Moreover, I have yet to see any photobooks as art objects being published. Book art, it appears, has no presence here. Nor have I come across any collaborations between photographers and editors and designers and publishers and writers.
Maybe the local Fleurieu photographers do not see the internet eco-system as a publishing medium, or even as a relationship medium that fosters the growth of a regional online photo community? My impression is that it does not seem that photographers–or, more generally, artists in the local arts community–are using the internet to move beyond the geographical boundaries by connecting with each other in blogs and social networks; or seeing that those connections can provide new opportunities for collaboration and discovery. There is no a cross-blog conversation.
I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised to see that in this traditional exhibition form photography was under represented compared to the paintings, sculpture and the cabinets full of jewellery, ceramics and glass work. I was disappointed though. Photography was represented by Ron Langman, who is also a director of The Strand Gallery at Port Elliot. Langman exhibited 2 local coastal Fleurieu seascapes at dawn and dusk that were presented in the popular, over-processed, National Geographic style. These images came close to the conventional tourist gaze of Victor Harbor as a seaside resort; if not an aesthetic favoured by the simplistic, sentimentalized conceptions of landscape that is now a commonplace of the tourist industries.
Does one presume from the minor presence of photography in the Living Arts exhibition that Langman is the only artist photographer in the Fleurieu region?
Two standout works in the exhibition were the eco-fabric ones by Isobel McGarry —a silk kimono and a windsock/Koinobori— that were made with dyes from eucalyptus leaves with an embroidery of tiny stitches. These works embodied cloth as a narrative, a way of telling a story or recording an experience or event. They referenced the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, expressed her concern for mending the tears and breaks in the fabric of our lives, and implied that the running thread was a metaphor for what binds us together.
An eye-catching body of work was that by Phyllis Williams, a Ngarrindjeri artist; especially Nomawi, which was made from sedge grass, threads and beads. James Stewart’s mechanical bird sculpture on a plinth also caught my eyes as it was made of recycled objects and machine parts.
One possibility for why the local artists are not connect digitally is that the promise of the internet to be a paradise of connectivity, “where minds, doors and lives open up”—to make the world a better place through technology to empower the people who use technology to be their best selves has failed to eventuate. The internet has become a twittering machine whose algorithms that operate out of sight on Facebook or Google are designed to snare customers. The machine preys on our weaknesses to monopolise our attention and modify our behaviour. We are left jangled, needy, constantly alert for the chirp that announces some new and unnecessary missive, ever ready to resume our chore of clicking the “like” button, surrendering to the advertisers who gather up the personal data we so guilelessly provide.