Thursday, December 11, 2014
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
Whisper in my mask
TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art
16 August – 16 November 2014
TarraWarra Museum of Art has been mounting biennial’s for eight years. The exhibitions are designed to chart new developments in contemporary art. From the outset the museum has engaged external curators to conceive exhibitions that explore an idea, theme or tendency in contemporary art practice. Whisper in My Mask, the fifth in this line is a collaboration between curators Natalie King and Djon Mundine. King, who amongst other shows, curated Up Close: Carol Jerems with Nan Goldin, Larry Clark and William Yang at Heide in 2010 is interested in edgy subcultures and relationships - between artists, milieus, individuals; Mundine’s writing and curatorial practice has focused on Aboriginal art, including the remarkable Aboriginal Memorial (1987-1988), 200 hollow log coffin poles from Ramingining, a project similarly geared towards the collective.
While King and Mundine have gravitated towards different curatorial subjects, in their joint catalogue essay King and Mundine offer an insight into their shared methodology: “ The relationality of curating individual artists, community, society, inside and outside the gallery, and creating a conversation between objects and community through a number of devices and on a number of levels, is something we unconsciously just thought was our normal practice.” King and Mundine’s practice foregrounds relationships, collaboration and conversation and this is evident in the assembled artists and works. This methodology underpins the biennial in a myriad of ways, and, in fact, forms the most cogent framework for thinking about the exhibition itself.
The exhibition features 16 individuals and groups, including a number of collectives; boat people, a Sydney based collective of 10 who contributed a video-based work, The Tjanpi Desert Weavers, a dynamic social enterprise that were commissioned by the biennial to make sculptures, as well as artistic collaborations: Destiny Deakin and Virginia Fraser, Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples, and Karla Dikens’ who took photographs in partnership with Lismore Soup Kitchen and Southern Cross University, and sisters Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano.
Whisper in My Mask explicitly draws on the trope of the mask. The accompanying exhibition catalogue essays elaborate an understanding of the origins, meaning, symbolism and use of masks in Western and indigenous cultures. Masks allude, we know, to human disguise, to camoflage, to erasure, secrets and hidden meanings. How then is this theme articulated across the exhibition? The curators have taken a broad perspective selecting artworks that either formally or by way of subject probe this idea. Walking through the gallery space there was a palpable sense of intensity. Between Polinexi Papepetrou’s photographs of clowns, some wearing costumes made of the Union Jack, boat-people’s video instillation Muffled Protest depicting the collective artists sitting on the steps of the Sydney Opera House with their faces covered by the Australian flag, Tony Garifalakis’ photographic camouflage portraits, and Nasim Nasr’s video installation of a weeping woman wearing a chandor, I felt the full impact of so many potent symbols in close proximity. Fiona Foley’s sculptural installation of towering serif letters spelling out Black Velvet rendered in wood and metal (referring to the racial slur and not simply fabric) ratcheted it up a notch. Foley’s words loomed like a provocative headline in an exhibition that read like a newspaper; a cacophony of people, stories, recent events demanding action.
An edited version of this review appears in the forthcoming issue of Artlink 34 #4 Sustainable? out in December.
image: Tony Garifilakis, The Hills Have Eyes, 2012
Monday, October 27, 2014
At Monash Gallery of Art on the weekend for the opening of the Photography Meets Feminism: Australian Women Photographers 1970s–80s exhibition I found myself on the floor where pencils and paper had been provided for the kids. I doodled with the monkeys who were enjoying the materials and space. Otto found loose sheets of photocopies, reproductions of early photographs and got busy defacing them. Shortly afterwards assembled in the large hall for comedian and art history graduate Hannah Gadsby's opening address things got a bit raucous. Speaking without notes, Gadsby dropped a few expletives. Nothing too outrageous but someone left the room in protest. Gadsby enjoying the unfolding scene called out to Otto "What is the rudest word you know?". Was there something in the cheese? The air? I can't say for certain but it was kinda funny.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
With long winters it's no surprise those living within a coo-ee of the Arctic Circle can work a needle and thread. I was amazed by this chair and cushion combo in Norway. Actually almost everything in this living room was fantastic. We were visiting for lunch. Not being handy with a camera I turned to my parter in crime and wiggling my fingers in mime mouthed "Take some photos."
I have a big appetite for interiors magazines and read everything: from the accessible, aspirational end of the publishing spectrum to cold architectural titles and the peerless World of Interiors. I like looking at photos of other peoples homes a great deal. There is something about photography and interiors that click, excuse the pun. The good fit became apparent to me thinking about art and the cluster of magazines devoted to that sector and creative activity. Why is it that I love art but have little interest in art magazines? In the end I want magazines to be an uncomplicated pleasure. Discourse or chairs? No contest.
Monday, October 6, 2014
David Rosetzky and I have been working on a feature film for as long as it takes to learn to speak, crawl, walk, sleep, eat and take up the violin. I can say this for certain because the project's inception coincided roughly with the year of Hazel's conception. Given Hazel is on on her way to school next year, I would have thought it would have progressed further but I've been writing for long enough to know creative writing, as practised by moi, is painstakingly slow work. Occasionally thinking on it is cause for a grade 'A' funk but I've come to view it as a correction. I chew through other kinds of work at a scary clip. I am almost reconciled to the fact that I am unlikely to view my work in a cinema (I should have been born a decade earlier and taking my small, indie films into production back when Steven Soderbergh was fretting about the sexual mores of Andy McDowell and the Kino was the only art house cinema in town). For this reason I took extra pleasure in seeing David's 30 minute video Gaps at ACMI since I played a part in its creation. Officially I am down as co-writer though I am the first to admit that's a stretch given not one of the words uttered by its fabulous cast were familiar to me. Drawn loosely from material developed by us, it is a beautiful, hypnotic exploration of similarity and difference. I found it warm and graceful thanks largely to Stephanie Lake's earthy choreography which shifts speeds and plays with movement in simple, affecting ways and the sound track that is twangy acoustic. That I had a hand in this lovely work is a testament to magical thinking.
Gaps at ACMI until February 2015 (though the long screening time is no excuse to miss it!)
Sunday, September 14, 2014
I wish I wrote more often about shops, and retail generally. I think about the sector a lot. Like a trend forecaster with a crystal ball, I often speculate about its future. Is it bright or uncertain? Mostly I think about the dynamic relationship between online and real world environments, services and experiences. What can bricks and mortar offer, that online can't? How does a shop and the brand's online presence intersect? I have to say, I think Obus does it better than most. Not only do they make awesome clothes right here in Australia that I like to wear (hello Obus knit), that age gracefully and hold their shape but I like visiting their stores and staff. Last week I realised the feeling was mutual when I was invited along to their Spring VIP launch. You heard right, I count as a very important person. I had a stellar time drinking champagne, listening to some talented musos plucking at guitars while ladies swirled around me clutching hangers. Most featured the latest Kachina print. At one point with so many people wearing the same outfit, I thought I might be in Michel Gondry's video clip – that one he shot for Kylie Minogue where Kylie passes a hundred times over in a London street. Did I buy anything? Not that night. I was a bit too weirded out by everyone looking identical. As a twin, I've got that covered. I'll go back though.
Photo: Courtesy of Obus