Adelaide Festival 2002
If the 2002 Adelaide Festival is to be viewed as the pivotal festival against which future festivals are to be judged, it may well be because of events like Intertwine and associated exhibitions.
Intertwine was a series of community workshops, master classes and a public forum that linked exhibitions and dialogue across Adelaide in at least 12 different venues. Co-ordinated by Sandy Elverd, it was an event that demanded community involvement well before the official 10 days of the Festival and will challenge the boundaries of 'exhibitions', and concepts of involvement and audience for future festivals.
Ideology and Artefact: the Faltering of Dreams.
Pat Hoffie and members of the Filipino community: 2 – 31 March
Sited in the Pacific Gallery of the SA Museum were eight woven mats suspended centrally against a backdrop of an abundance of Pacific artefacts in glass cases. The mats reflected the beliefs of the Russian constructivists, in particular Aleksandr Rodchenko, whose working manifesto was that art and life could be much more synonymous or intertwined. The powerful images on the mats were woven by women in Samar, the Philippines, from images of computer print-outs of designs for advertising or movie posters dating from 1923-1928. The location of this show at the SA Museum was conceptually important in terms of the aim of the exhibition, however, the force of the works was lost in the profusion of stuff in the Pacific Gallery, the lack of adequate signage to the work and the unattractive but necessary text (B/W A4 stapled photocopy).
The second part of the exhibition, again conceptually well located in the western suburbs at the Parks Community Centre, highlighted further the relationship between artefact and life. Small woven objects, brought to Australia by members of the Filipino community or salvaged from everyday life, were incorporated into a series of images on backgrounds of boards crossed with hard edge tape and stripes of colour. This juxtaposition of these usually insignificant items encouraged recognition of the relationship between the craft of the hand-made, the challenge of art and the role of these objects in everyday life. Stories gathered together by the curator Marg Edgecombe from members of the Filipino community added to the project in a meaningful way. Again the documentation could have been better presented.
These exhibitions are part of an ongoing series of art projects entitled Fully Exploited Labour by Pat Hoffie and artists of the Asia Pacific region. It is to be hoped that these significant exhibitions will be drawn together and well documented in a readily available text in the near future.
Weaving the Murray
Prospect Gallery: 3 March – 24 March
Commissioned by the Centenary of Federation (South Australia), this project brought together the skills of Rhonda Agius, Nici Cumpston, Kirsty Darlaston, Sandy Elverd, Chrissie Houston, Kay Lawrence and Karen Russell and a vast number of others who are acknowledged in the very useful (but typographically difficult to read at times) accompanying catalogue.
The central installation Flooded Gums with silver sun-bleached logs and roots from the Murray River evoked a sense of a failing eco-system with the white circle of salinity marked clearly at the high water mark. Pondi, a highly intricate weaving of the Murray Cod, full of belly and shiny of eye, constructed with traditional material using Ngarrindjeri techniques hung in forceful contrast to the suspended logs which echoed the tall trunks of gums drowned along the stretches of the Murray.
Artefacts, complete with documentation tags, from both indigenous and non-indigenous river dwellers, placed ordinary aspects of life in the exhibition context. Plied string stretching the length of the exhibition space emphasized longevity and the
language of the River for all dwellers -- Milewa to Murray Corryong to Kumurangk.
Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute: 2 – 31 March
This touring event encompassed multiple exhibitions, performances and movies. Exquisitely and intricately woven baskets and mats from 7 communities in the Top End of Australia, hung next to baskets which echoed the form of pop star Madonna's conical bustier designed originally by fashion couturier Jean Paul Gaultier.
Technically excellent, these items displayed a facility with material born of generations of training, together with a world view that acknowledged the wider culture but asserts the value of the traditional culture. These are confident statements. A glossy colour catalogue that displays the weavings in their contexts, their use in ceremonies together with photographs of the makers locates these weavings in their remote communities far from the exhibition spaces.
The workshops, catwalk, performances, movies and associated exhibitions will be at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney from July – November 2002. It is worth a visit.
Located in the adjacent gallery at Tandanya was the international collaborative exhibition of Sisters which brought together Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Maori women artists and curators. Curated by Ngapine Te Ao and Franchesca Cubillo, the exhibition celebrated the strengths of these two indigenous cultures. For example, images such as Te Manewa 2001 by Vicky Lee Hipora Stark symbolised the coming together and the unity of these two cultures while Disturbed Sisters 1, 1999 a hand coloured silver gelatin print by Agnes Love strives to 'break down stereotypes and show the Aboriginal community in all its diversity.' [Sisters 2002 p.14]
Accompanying these exhibitions were workshops held in different venues across town for people with no prior knowledge of the craft of weaving.
The aim of Intertwine was to involve the community in a very active way through the interlocking of threads, using materials that were crafted from the lands, hopefully to create visions of new communities with consequential new possibilities.
Perhaps it can be seen as reconciliation in practice: Aboriginal communities were central to this program, as were women from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
It was political, clever, cheeky, challenging, comforting and confronting. It aimed to intertwine people and ideas and celebrate the links between art and life.
This particular program promoted 'inclusion' on a scale that future Festivals will do well to emulate.