vol 30 no 2, 2010
The term 'underground' has a set of historical uses in various spheres of culture - comics, film, art and music. It maintains a symbiotic relationship with the mainstream, trading street-level and institutional in a continual cycle of unearthing and the risk of not being marginal any more. Guest Editor Lucas Ihlein casts a critical eye on what it was and is now including: copy culture, web-based and email art, comix, animation, zine and fan culture, activism, totally disappeared artists of the 1960s and 70s, marginal and experimental art, guerilla gardening, mining, rubbish dumps, living underground and archiving the underground. About the launch of this issue Prints of Lucas Ihlein's design Under Ground that was used for the cover of this issue are available from Big Fag Press Big Fag Press
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Hall of Mirrors: Anne Zahalka Portraits 1987-2007; Aehee Park: Caring for AeheeJuliette Peers, Review
Hall of Mirrors: Anne Zahalka Portraits 1987 - 2007
Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale
Curator: Karra Rees
30 January - 28 February 2010
Aehee Park: Caring for Aehee
Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale
6 February - 14 March 2010
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Ahee Park Caring for Ahee 2010, Gippsland Art Gallery.
Many of the innovations that made the 1980s a lodestone for subsequent practice are articulated within Anne Zahalka's photographs. They are driven by narrative, art history and post modernism, intellectually complex in subject matter and above all image-based rather than painterly. Zahalka’s visible personal identity as a feminist and second generation new Australian is also a constant given in the work, shaping both the content and context of audience reaction. As a representative figure, she stands for a number of formerly marginalised subgroups that finally began to make a clear and lasting impact on arts practice in the 1980s.
As many portraits in this survey document important artist peers, who share Zahalka’s cultural and intellectual concerns, the memorialising of historic moments of Australian art practice is further emphasised. State Libraries and Universities collect Zahalka’s portraits as tangible evidence of outstanding creatives, thus documenting, but also in turn shaping, public memory and the culture of honouring the new immortals. The circuitous nature and closed loop of the elite of culture-making in Australia has rarely been presented in such a beguiling manner.
The show does not fail the artist insofar as it provides a tangible demonstration of her abilities and confirms her significance for understanding the recent past. Yet despite the professional, well-researched path charted through Zahalka’s various phases, the exhibition lacks the final dazzling immersive quality that a full-scale monograph retrospective should have, or that Zahalka’s intellectual and formal rigour could well support. When an artist presents work frequently in linked sequences, the result of picking the eyes out of those sub-collections gives the show the character of a memo. Even so there are still a couple of less familiar images for this reviewer. The 'Woven Threads' series taken in the Philippines in 1997 literally refracts the same image through different ideological and aesthetic filters, indicating how the interaction of colour and framing in photography impacts upon the socio-political intent of communication.
In light of the logistical demands of a touring show with mostly regional venues (which explains the concise nature of selection) the assembled works perform well as curatorial 'product’. The thorough, if self-conscious, competence of Zahalka’s technical and formal skills as a photographer, the cinematic glamour of her sets, the appealing gestural clarity of her subjects, the lush authority of her large scale glossy prints combines with an unmistakable intellectuality and opens up major cultural shifts to a diffused, non-metropolitan audience. The work offers an entrée into the international debate that has occurred in the last three decades around communication, representation, image and narrative. It engages with massive recent cultural shifts around Australian citizenship and society, yet the images, whilst packing an intellectual punch, neither preach nor alienate. For regional secondary school students she offers an image of art as a serious career option for a professional woman and as a commitment to public ideas. Art here is at no times relegated to the margins of fandom or train spotting, but takes its place as a significant repository for ideas and as a medium for social communication. Perhaps it is in this sense that the images rightfully belong to the intellectual currents of their era, as much as the legible quotations of lighting, gesture and props, that facilitate their continuity with the art of the Renaissance and the Baroque. Photography is a halfway station where a popular audience can easily read the visual image, yet is bound by fewer inhibitions when offering interpretation and comment.
The Gippsland Art Gallery must be all too briefly commended for its effective curatorial partnering of the Zahalka survey with visiting Korean artist, Aehee Park, a recent resident at the Cowwarr Art Space located north of Sale. Like the Kellerberrin Art Space in West Australia Cowwarr transplants cosmopolitan urban artists into an immersive and sometimes sparsely resourced rural environment. At first glance Park’s practice frankly looked shrill and narcissistic outside of Korea and the artist floundered without language skills, car or cultural context in a relatively isolated community. Park appeared set to demonstrate the complexities of these infusions of situational practices into ‘the regions’, but by happenstance she alighted upon the well- known rituals of portrayed and portrayer in photography as a way to drive new work. If Zahalka represents the formal centred stasis of Vermeer and Holbein, representation as a sign of power and privilege, then Park plays with the camp auteur of fashion photography, memories of all bad bio-pics of Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec and that modern heroine Coco Chanel, the mobile, slippery, trivial, self-making world of home movies and phone videos, the collusion of non-innocent, mutual benefit between subject and artist. Together the shows emphasise the liveness of portraiture as politics within a diffused transnational popular imagination.
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Articles in this issue
- Artrave: Artrave
- Editorial: Editorial
- ETW: Exhibitions to watch
- Feature: 1. Muffled sounds 2. The ear trumpet of the artworld has been struck by lightning
- Feature: Adapt or die
- Feature: Conquest for country: Rockhole or mine
- Feature: Dig it! The Hole in Australian Contemporary Art
- Feature: Hiding in plain sight: regionalism and the underground
- Feature: My own private underground: Discovery and adventure in the zine world
- Feature: Scene, Not Herd: The evanescent underground
- Feature: Seed bomb
- Feature: Steampunk: gunpowder and cups of tea
- Feature: Stop the press: the allure of ink
- Feature: Street dreams
- Feature: The arse-end of public art
- Feature: The Last Share House
- Feature: Thirteen paragraphs on the underground
- Feature: Underground film in Australia
- Feature: Underground networks in the age of web2.0
- Feature: When zines meet archives: above- and below-ground collections
- Interview: How to make trouble and influence people: Pranks, hoaxes, graffiti and political mischef-making from across Australia
- Obituary: Remembering Judith Hoffberg 1934-2009
- Preview: Tim Burton, Filmmaker and artist
- Profile: Renew Adelaide pilot: 2 wheels good
- Review: Adelaide International 2010: Apart, We are Together
- Review: Before and After Science: 2010 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art
- Review: Cubism and Australian Art
- Review: Everything's Alright: Hossein Ghaemi, Andrew Liversidge, Yasmin Smith
- Review: Feminism Never Happened
- Review: Hall of Mirrors: Anne Zahalka Portraits 1987-2007; Aehee Park: Caring for Aehee
- Review: Local Studies: Fiona MacDonald
- Review: Ruth Waller: A 30 Year Survey
- Review: Sculpture By the Sea: Cottesloe
- Review: Sue Lovegrove: The Shape of Wind
- Review: Sylvie Blocher: What is Missing?
- Review: The City of Fremantle Festival of Photography: FotoFreo 2010
- Review: Warm Up: Mike Singe