Artists as bioterrorists
Steven Kurtz, an artist and lecturer at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a member of the well-known art collective Critical Art Ensemble was indicted in May on bioterrorism charges by a federal grand jury after he came under suspicion for making a piece of art. Critical Art Ensemble is dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical politics and critical theory. Kurtz was working with lab equipment (petri dishes etc) in the process of making a work titled Free Range Grains which was due to be shown at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art this year. The work is about testing food products for possible genetic modification and is similar to previous works that he has shown in museums in recent years. Kurtz' art work was discovered by police who answered his emergency call in relation to the apparent death of his wife in her sleep, and they confiscated books, computers and materials used in testing the foods, which were subsequently found to be safe and also not difficult to obtain for scientific purposes. Kurtz had received them from a scientific colleague at the University. The case went to trial on charges of illegally scheming to obtain two bacterial agents (both legal and low-threat).
When the bioterrorism case was not upheld the prosecution switched the charges to mail and wire fraud, (a common tactic for face-saving on the part of the FBI but which still could put him away for 20 years) and he faces another federal grand jury trial, despite a groundswell of support from artists and fellow academics in the US and around the world. Where his work should have been shown the Museum has placed documentation about the FBI action.
On top of the tragic loss of his wife Hope, who died of heart failure, and whose body was also confiscated by the squad in biological warfare suits that night, Kurtz is trying to deal with the huge personal and financial cost of these events. This could only happen in America – or could it? A defence fund has been set up http://caedefensefund.org/donate.html which is being energetically supported by scientists as well as other concerned groups, as they see this as part of an incremental loss of freedom to pursue their legitimate work as scientists if they also happen to be opposed to genetic modification of food. There are mutterings that the whole fiasco is part of a larger agenda to protect the GM industry and intimidate anyone who looks like getting anti-GM information out to the public, even through little old art museum exhibitions. In addition scientists are concerned about the Bush government's plans to construct a network of hugely expensive high security labs around the country for germ warfare research which are seen as a recipe for disaster on every count you care to name.
Bottom of the food chain?
Artists gathered in cities around Australia on Saturday 13 August to sit down for 15 minutes in public galleries to draw attention to the failure of federally funded galleries to pay realistic fees for solo shows (the Myer Report found that the average fee paid by contemporary art organisations in 2000 was $164 per artist). Organisers of this action, Sydney Art Seen Society, point out that in 1979 the Australia Council was persuaded by an artist lobby to mandate a strict scale of fees for exhibitors which all funded galleries had to build into their budgets, but that in 1997 this requirement was quietly dropped from the funding handbook. Artists are told that having a show in a public gallery will be good for their future prospects, but with average annual earnings of artists now officially only just above the poverty line and getting worse, this argument has a hollow ring. With the increasing corporatisation of the arts, including funding for buildings, IT and increased salaries for administrators, artists are being treated with less than the respect they deserve. After all, everybody in the food chain depends on their creativity and effort. The Starving Artists Petition is asking that no less than $2000 be paid for solo shows. The strategy suggested is that extra funds be requested from the Federal government by galleries, and earmarked specifically for artists' fees. For more info check email@example.com or visit the blog http://sydneyartseen.blog-city.com.
Visual art education under the microscope
Following NAVA's Myer triumph last year, another blow for freedom was struck in mid-August when the lobbying by NAVA of the federal education and arts ministries for a major study of art education – from kindergarten through to tertiary – has resulted in the allocation of $250,000. The terms of the study are not yet fully developed but its breadth is particularly welcome to many, with the sector suffering relentless decay for a decade or more. It is hoped that better grounding in education will help students, parents, educators and their bosses to recognize visual arts as a real subject rather than a soft option.
Australian art projects overseas
" 14 artists from Australia, Germany, India, Austria,Singapore, UK, USA and Switzerland were awarded grants for 3 – 5 months in the Artists-in-Labs-Project run by the University of Art and Applied Sciences Zurich in 2004. Sydney artist Nigel Helyer (Interactive Digital Environmental Audio Systems) is working at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen to develop an ensemble of autonomous solar powered digital audio sculptures that are capable of interacting with one another (via local FM networks) and interacting with human presence/proximity.
" The 29-year old Melbourne sculptor Ricky Swallow will represent Australia at the Venice Biennale next year. Curator Charlotte Day's proposal was selected by the current Commissioner for the Australian pavilion, art world legend John Kaldor, together with the ubiquitous Michael Snelling and Tony Ellwood.
" The second Yilpinji Portfolio Edition from the Aboriginal Art Print Network has been showing in Europe during the northern summer at Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London, and at galleries in Denmark and Sweden. 15 senior artists from Balgo Hills, as well as Yuendumu and Lajamanu have each created 49 prints on the theme of Love Magic or Yilpini. These have been editioned as etchings, screenprints and linocuts and are on sale at $11,000 each portfolio. The market for the first edition proved very strong. The portfolio project has involved indigenous artists, remote art centre staff and community organisations, a fine art print publishing house, a number of anthropologists including Dr Christine Nicholls, who have specialist knowledge of these cultural groups and two highly respected non-indigenous printmakers. Yilpinji is when men sing with other men to get women to fall in love with them and has proved a popular topic with both artists and public. This edition was shown at the Australian Museum, Sydney and will tour public and commercial galleries internationally and throughout Australia until 2005. www. aboriginalartprints. com.au
" Janice Lally has been appointed Director of the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale, NSW on the departure of long-term Director Joe Eisenberg to direct the Maitland Regional Gallery.
" Anna Maclean is the new coordinator of Watch This Space, the artist-run initiative in Alice Springs.
" Djon Mundine has been appointed Senior Consultant Curator in Indigenous Australian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery.
" Michael Snelling has left the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane after 10 years to take up the position of Chief Executive Officer of Major Brisbane Festivals.
" Charles Merewether is the Director of the 2006 Biennale of Sydney.
" Sue Rowley, previously Executive Director for Humanities and Arts of the Australian Research Council, has been appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) at University of Technology, Sydney.
" Linda Michaels is the Director of the 2006 Adelaide Biennial
" Alan R. Dodge, Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, has been awarded the presitigious L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
" Thanks to the new Myer funds, twice the number of grants under the New Work category of the VACB of the Australia Council to individual artists (120) were handed out in August this year compared with last year.
" Two-year VACB Fellowships of $80,000 have been awarded to Sue Ford, Barbara Campbell, David Hansen and Catherine Kay.
" Fleur Elise Noble has won the $8000 Vicki Nottage Memorial Youth Art Award which is managed by Country Arts SA in Adelaide.
" The John McCaughey Memorial Prize 2004 was awarded to Jan Nelson from Melbourne, Marie Hagerty from Canberra and Paul Wrigley from Brisbane, and the acquisitive prize enables the National Gallery of Victoria to acquire works from each of the winning artists to a total value of $30,000.
Environment, art and youth
" The Office of Sustainability of the Government of SA has set up a new Environment Youth Art Prize which invites artists from 15 – 26 to address issues of water, climate change, species loss and the coastal environment. Carclew Youth Arts Centre is jointly managing it, deadline for entries 30 September 2004, awards on 1 November and prizes total $8,000. Info from www.environment.sa.gov.au/environmentyoutartprize or phone 08 8204 1700.
Real Estate boom
Seems like there was something in the air this winter to encourage the opening of new galleries around the country.
" Über Gallery opened at 52 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Vic, with a program linking Australian with European artists. Currently showing Regina Heina (London) and Paul Waycott (Melbourne), open Tues – Sun ph (03) 8598 9915
" Artestablishment another new gallery opened on 4 August at 6 Yarra Street, South Melbourne with a show of paintings by Pete Groves curated by Ken Wong, open Wed-Sun ph 03 9690 0902 or 0419 570 846. www.watchtowerstudio.com.au
" The Dentist is a new cooperative art space which says it is about filling holes and repairing cracks. It's doing this at Room 33, Level 2, 94 Oxford St, Sydney (entry next to Thai Terrific) and opened 17 August with a showcase selection of its artists. By appointment only. Ph Nadja Kabrielova, 0403 083 283 email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.afera.biz
" Soda Gallery opened on the ground floor of Avalon Cinema on Sydney's north shore on 2 July with three local artists. Shop 3, Old Barrenjoy Rd, Avalon ph 02 9918 3359, www.sodagallery.com.au.
" QCP Gallery which opened in May is the shopfront for the Queensland Centre for Photography, a new organisation which will run exhibitions, seminars, workshops and provide professional advice for local artists. 33 Oxford St, Bulimba, (Brisbane). It is calling for exhibition proposals for 2005. www.qcp.org.au
" The TarraWarra Museum of Art opened in December 2003 in the Yarra Valley, Australia's first significant philanthropically-funded art museum with the support of Eva and Marc Besen who have been collecting contemporary art for the last 50 years. Directed by Maudie Palmer the museum attracted 15,000 visitors in its first four months. 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd, Healesville Vic, 03 5957 3100 www.twma.com.au
" Quadrivium, the gallery specializing in glass and all fine craft, in Sydney's landmark Queen Victoria Building, recently closed its doors after 10 years of successful operation.
" Newcontemporaries gallery in the same building, an enterprise of critic John McDonald, has been asked to vacate after only two years, as the new Singapore owners want the space for a retail training centre. The ambitious rhetoric of 'The Director's Elegy' (on the website) for this failed example of a non-commercial gallery appears to translate into 'Sydney is not ready for a gallery which does not sell', which seems odd given the huge range of non-profit art spaces extant. The difference is more that McDonald was relying on a private patron, the previous owner of the building, to keep the doors open. The original proposal to occupy a large part of Level 3 with an 'art museum as cultural attraction' rationale relied on owner Ipoh Ltd's interest in being a good corporate citizen and giving something back to the city. That was never realised in the time, and when General Investments Corp took over at the end of 2003 time was definitely up. McDonald states that if Newcontemporaries is to be born again somewhere else it would necessarily be in a commercial mode but he continues to maintain that he will be offering something quite different from anything else on offer. That is the most puzzling part of his 'exciting, imaginative and inspiring' description, as from the record NC seems to have drawn on the general pool of emerging and established artists in Australia. He continues: 'I also believe that there has never been a better time for a gallery like Newcontemporaries, since the Australian art world has entered a period of unprecedented conformism. Art criticism has been replaced by advertorial, collecting has given way to "investing", and the auction houses are used as devices to set up false prices and false expectations for a wide range of artists. There is a desperate need for projects that are independent, maverick, critical, humorous and brave. Newcontemporaries has aimed to be all of the above, and – although it may be closing, it has not outlived its usefulness.'
" Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design re-opened in style in July 2004 at 415 Bourke Street Surry Hills after being forced to leave its grand situation at Customs House overlooking Sydney's Circular Quay. The Chapel of St Margaret's Hospital designed by architect Ken Woolley in 1956 has had a thorough makeover by Sam Marshall including a new curved wall in the gallery, and Object the organisation has also retro-fitted its role slightly with a stronger emphasis on being a place where the best new design can be seen and fostered. Ph 02 9361 4555 www.object.com.au
" The Centre for Contemporary Photography, a publicly funded gallery which promotes photo-based art closed the doors in June after 11 years at its 205 Johnston Street, Fitzroy premises. It has found a larger space in Fitzroy with long-term tenure, and will re-open in early 2005 in more splendid galleries purpose-designed by Sean Godsell.
East-West Arts: Australia, Asia & Beyond is subtitled 'A different kind of art magazine for a different kind of world' and launching in September 2004. John McDonald is the editor of this independent magazine and his statement that it will 'engage, stimulate and leave the door open to debate and differences of opinion' sounds uncannily like the rationale for Australian Art Review of which he was founder editor in 2003 and left after about three issues. With the move of Art Asia-Pacific to the US there is a space in our region for a magazine to publish material from Asia, so if the management regime is more conducive to John's requirements perhaps his editorship will have a longer and more rewarding tenure.
" The Code of Practice for the Australian Visual Arts and Craft Sector published by the National Association for the Visual Arts is the national best practice standard for the sector. It provides a set of practical and ethical guidelines for the conduct of business between visual and craft artists and their galleries, agents, retailers, buyers, sponsors, commissioners and the managers of residencies and workshops and competitions, prizes and awards.
The second edition of the Code of Practice has been extensively revised and incorporates changes based on feedback from the sector. It includes sections on fees and wages, exhibiting, selling and collecting art and craft, residencies and workshops and associated issues such as copyright, moral rights, resale royalty, insurance, tax, occupational health and safety, equal employment opportunity and freedom of expression. A condensed version can be viewed online at www.visualarts.net.au or the full version can be purchased direct from NAVA for $27.50 for members and $38.50 for non-members. ph 02 9368 1900 email@example.com
With sharing resources and collaborations on the arts agenda, the SA School of Art of University of South Australia and JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design are now offering a unique Graduate Diploma leading to a Master of Visual Art and Design. JamFactory currently offers the only professional development program of its kind in the southern hemisphere. National and international applications are invited for this highly competitive program. Email John Barbour firstname.lastname@example.org, University of South Australia. http://www.unisa.edu.au/art/
Lectures on Photography
A series of six free lectures is currently running in Melbourne, organized by the Centre for Contemporary Photography in association with the Australian Centre of the University of Melbourne.
Subjects are enticing and range from surveillance to personal histories to the role of celebrityhood in fashion photography.
" 29 September Abigail Solomon-Godeau (Univ of California, Santa Barbara) Photography and Sexual Difference: Both Sides of the Camera at Prince Philip Theatre, Architecture and Planning Building at the University of Melbourne.
" 27 October Peter Davis, Matthew Sleeth and Jason South War and Photography Forum Chaired by Daniel Palmer
" 17November Sylvia Harrison The Role of Celebrityhood in Early Fashion Photography both at Gryphon Gallery, 1888 Building, at the University of Melbourne (near the corner of Grattan and Swanston Streets) All sessions on Wednesday nights at 6.30pm. Full details at www.ccp.org.au
Abigail Solomon-Godeau is a keynote speaker at the symposium, Masculinities: gender, art and popular culture, 1 – 2 October 2004 organised by the Ian Potter Museum of Art, and has been brought to Australia by the Ian Potter Foundation. www.art-museum.unimelb.edu
Two South Australian artists Sarah McCarthy and Wendy-Jane Sheppard, Bachelor of Visual Arts (Specialization) students at the South Australian School of Art, University of South Australia are passionate about animals. Concerned with animal welfare and an animal's right to a life that is free from inflicted cruelty and suffering they advocate helping every animal to have a happy and contented life. They have organized an art auction and exhibition to benefit Animal Welfare on 6pm Friday 29 October, 2004 at N Gallery, South Australian School of Art, UniSA Underdale Campus, Holbrooks Road, Underdale. Artists are invited to donate a postcard sized painting to be auctioned. Contact Wendy-Jane Sheppard Mobile 0402 576 068 Email: shewJ003@students.unisa.edu.au
The 20th Parallel(o)
Congratulations to para//elo, based at the Lion Art Centre in Adelaide, and celebrating its 29th anniversary this year. Formerly Doppio Teatro it was Australia's first professional Italian-English bicultural theatre company and 'creation house', expanding its platform in 1997 to a cross-cultural one under the para//elo banner, in response to a more complex world. A small, hungry and constantly innovating company working across video, acting, visual arts and sound, para//elo has chalked up many other firsts and awards, such as the Sidney Myer Award and are regularly invited to take part in festivals nationally and internationally. Founder director Teresa Crea continues to fearlessly steer the company into uncharted waters with results that are often perplexing but always challenging.
New media in Kabul
For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, an exhibition of new media art was held in Kabul. MOMAK (Museum Of Media and Art Kabul), a virtual museum curated by Said Ismael Noori, organized this exhibition in the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, located in the heart of Kabul. It was inaugurated on 13 June 2004 among a large crowd of Afghan artists, journalists, foreign diplomats and amateurs from all horizons. For details contact Robert Kluyver email@example.com www.momak.org