Spirituality, Emily and Art
Few artists have done more to shift Aboriginal art from the domain of ethnography to art than Emily Kame Kngwarreye*. The raw abstract power of her work insists that it be viewed as contemporary art alongside some of the great artists of this century, and yet it is derived from deeply traditional origins. Kngwarreye's prime concerns varied from those artists in the sense that her art embraces the full width and depth of her country in a religious way and express the artist's spiritual and cultural sense of belonging to her place, Alhalkere. Her paintings in some ways are like ceremonial grounds on which she performs the ritual act of mark-making and fulfills her role as a senior custodian of Aboriginal law.
In performing this 'ceremony of art' Kngwarreye sometimes engaged in a form of visual prayer. An observer recalled witnessing Kngwarreye 'singing a painting': "She bowed her head and with her left hand covered her eyes. As her outstretched right arm pointed to the picture she quietly began to intone a thin, droning song... Her niece began to drum with her fingers on a board at hand in a steady supporting rhythm and with soft voice entered Kngwarreye's song... shortly Kngwarreye half looked up at her painting, pointed to another region, and started another song". This method of singing a painting stems from the Aboriginal spiritual practice of 'singing country' and is one of the many dimensions of her life and culture which Kngwarreye drew into her art.
*Please note: The artist's full name is used with permission from the Utopia community.
The Queensland Art Gallery exhibition Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Alhalkere - Paintings from Utopia is on display at the Queensland Art Gallery until 13 April, and will then travel to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (15 May - 19 July) and the National Gallery of Victoria (8 September - 22 November).
These words by Margo Neale, curator of Aboriginal art at the QAG are as good a way as any to introduce an issue dealing with Contemporary Art and Spirituality, a huge topic, and one largely avoided by the artworld who fear overtones of New-Ageism and woolly thinking. We hope to open up the debate by recognising that many artists in fact are dealing with what used to be called 'the soul' when they make work, and many viewers who have strong emotional responses to art are often not able to fit their responses easily into today's art-critical language.
Robyn Archer's choice of Sacred and Profane for her first Adelaide Festival theme is a sure indicator of a zeitgeist which has crept up on us, together with gloomy prognoses for the future of the human race on planet Earth. In defiance of, (or perhaps presaging?) the end of the world, the fires were burning in a huge ritual event on opening night titled Flamma Flamma.
Fire we have plenty of; water, air and earth are not in such good shape. Do artists have a role in our survival?
Get your culture here
The new Museum of New Zealand, which will be known as "Te Papa", opened on February 14th in Wellington, the nation's capital. The opening festivities began with a series of Maori dawn ceremonies involving war canoes (waka) gliding across Wellington harbour to the backdrop of a moving "karanga" or women's call. At a cost of NZ$317m this museum is being promoted as the world's biggest national museum project. (The recently opened Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim in Bilbao are not, of course, national museums). The waterfront site upon which this gargantuan structure has been built is the size of three rugby fields. In Australian terms it would be bigger than the combined size of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Australian National Gallery in Canberra. From this ground plan it rises five storeys in the air and at the turn of every corner the visitor is greeted with ever more spectacular vistas of the city of Wellington whose population is only a little more than that of Geelong in Victoria.
What has been brought together inside will infuriate museum purists and delight just about everyone else. In the words of Sir Neil Cossins, director of the British Science Museum and a recent visitor to Te Papa, it is "Not a hands-on and minds-off museum. It has been able to disregard all the old irrelevant academic boundaries that tend to restrict the way in which museums think. It will be a mould breaker internationally." What does this mean? Well, on the ground floor you can visit "The Time Warp" where you can don virtual reality goggles and go virtual sheep shearing, virtual bungey jumping, or be strapped into a simulator and experience what it is like to be caught in an earthquake. On other floors you can learn about the whole history of New Zealand from prehistoric times through early settlement to the present day. On the top floor you can visit a fully functioning "marae" or Maori meeting-place which the press release says will be respectful of traditions but also used for corporate functions and sponsorship events. There are several conventional gallery spaces within the building, one of which will be hosting Damien Hirst and other young British artists in "Pictura Britannica". Another gallery is itself the size of one rugby pitch (a standard New Zealand unit of measurement) and will be able to accommodate everything from trade fairs to blockbuster exhibitions. Te Papa is really several institutions in one. There is a concert hall, an outdoor amphitheatre, retail outlets, restaurants and bars. One side of it has been landscaped with 14,000 plants collected from all over New Zealand, and there is a huge sand-pit where children can dig for hidden fossils.
The conservative estimate is that there will be one million visitors per year. Many are expected to come several times. Six days are recommended if you want to see everything at less than breakneck speed. But if you can't make it, there is of course a web-site which can be visited on: http://www.tepapa.govt.nz
More museums " Noumea
This year the Pacific region is the place for the realisation of grand schemes. As if to outdo Aotearoa, the Republic of France is inaugurating the Centre culturel Tjibaou in Noumea which architecturally at least must challenge anything in the world in terms of sheer audaciousness, some would say fantasy. Ten soaring cases (pavilions) the tallest 28m high, house all the art forms and make up three spectacular 'villages'. Italian celebrity architect Renzo Piano drew his inspiration for their shape from traditional Kanak building design and applied a combination of laminated hardwood and steel. The centre is named after the late Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou who organised a festival in 1975, setting the agenda ("Notre identité, elle est devant nous") for cultural development for the Kanak people. The Centre opens on 4 May. Fax 687 26 45 35, email: email@example.com
Urrbrae House on the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide is the home of the new National Textile Museum of Australia which opens in time for the Adelaide Festival with an exhibition from the Museo Serfin in Mexico City. Director Gillian Ridsdale has a charter to build a world-class collection of textiles as well as working with other Australian museums which hold collections but rarely display them.
In final design stage with architect Greg Burgess is Stage 2 of the new Footscray Community Arts Centre precinct beside the Maribyrnong River already home to the hugely successful Women's Circus, and various studios and rehearsal spaces. Funds are being raised to complete the building this year and the choice of Burgess as architect will guarantee them to be "people buildings". The project is documented in a new publication on community arts from the Australia Council titled Not a Puppet.
Conferences & Seminars
" Korero a te whatu - the persuasive object is an international conference addressing the future of the crafts in Aotearoa New Zealand. Hosted by the Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, 16 - 19 April, there will be pre-conference workshops led by exponents of contemporary craft. Details from Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins ph 64 9 815 4321 fax 64 9 815 4343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
" The Australian Copyright Council is running a comprehensive series of seminars on copyright from March - November in major cities aimed at five different interest groups including galleries & museums and photographers. For a brochure fax (02) 9698 3536 or email email@example.com
" The Australian Film Commission's fourth Multimedia Conference will be held 30 April - 2 May at Storey Hall, Melbourne. It will focus on the online environment and implications for multimedia producers. Details ph Brenda Nash on 1800 338 430, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
" Shift 98 is an international symposium on contemporary textile practice organised by the Canberra School of Art for 10 - 12 July. It is preceded by four days of workshops 6 - 9 July plus supporting exhibitions.
" A Changing Landscape is the 1st national regional arts conference and aims to tackle all the questions affecting how art gets made and seen in the country. It will be held in Mount Gambier in the SE of South Australia 16 - 18 October. Brochure and registration form from SA Country Arts Trust ph (08) 8447 8910 email: email@example.com
Major events, Festivals
" The appointment of Frances Lindsay and Juliana Engberg as inaugural joint curators of the new Melbourne Biennial was recently announced. Protesting that they are not setting up in opposition to the Sydney Biennale, Arts Victoria has pledged to start small and build up, and has guaranteed three terms to the curators. One can only pray that the project is not being funded with Casino money, which seems to be dwindling at an alarming rate. The decision to use Australian rather than the more usual overseas celebrity curator was a deliberate strategy to give at least two Australians the chance to travel the world looking for art, in the hope that this expertise will rub off and up the ante for local artists, especially in terms of their chances of being seen overseas.
" The annual Festival of the Southern Ocean 6 - 18 April at Malacoota on the coast between Melbourne and Sydney offers its average of 10,000 visitors outdoor theatre, workshops, and an impressive Beach Ritual involving four weeks preparation of sculptural objects made by community members and students. Established 18 years ago, it has begun to attract support from arts funding bodies including Arts Victoria perhaps in recognition of its links and exchanges with other coastal towns on the 38th Parallel. Details: ph (03) 5158 0890 fax (03) 5158 0743
" The Bridge Prominent artists, writers, scientists and activists from all over the world are converging on Melbourne in March to collaborate on works in the cityscape in the sixth of a series of events known as Construction in Process (CIP). Held in a different country each time, CIP aims to make energetic cross-disciplinary links in an attempt to open up new social and artistic alternatives. Melbourne's winning proposal was to site most of the collaborative activity around the lower reaches of the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers; elaborate negotiations have been going on for months with dozens of authorities and individuals for permission to use remnant indigenous landscapes, disused maritime sites, bridges etc. The Footscray Community Arts Centre will be home base for the intensive working period of 10 days, and artists will be housed in The Bridge Village nearby. CIP emerged in 1981 in Poland from the Solidarity movement and is regarded as the world's most powerful artist-driven event.
Public symposia will be held 27-28 March at the Victorian College of the Arts. There will also be an Allen Ginsburg mini-festival on the Beat Train running between Footscray and Melbourne, and film program with works by Kristoff Kieslowski and Josef Robakowki (Poland) and David Bradbury (Aus). Details from Katherine Armstrong (03) 9628 5086, firstname.lastname@example.org
" The Canberra National Sculpture Forum 3 - 26 April. This triennial event will open at sunset on Friday 3 April with the installation of 6 Tetrahedrons Revisited by Bert Flugelman. Other outdoor exhibits will cluster round the Parliamentary Triangle or be sited in Canberra City and many galleries are showing sculpture. A day of discussion with papers by Donald Brook, Ian Howard and Juliana Engberg follows on 4 April. More details from Judy Pearce ph (02) 6279 8164.
" Adelaide Festival
Emerging craftspeople and designers from SA and the ACT are showcased during the Telstra Adelaide Festival in E-merge - part of the Federal government's policy of promoting new/emerging groups of practitioners. The exhibition is being held in the old and semi-derelict Gerard & Goodman building in the East End which has been renovated in four months with extensive help from SA business houses and carpentry students from TAFE. The enterprising organisers Craft South and the Helpmann Academy have even scored a state of the art lighting rig (on loan) and airconditioning.
" The Sydney Biennale has received $150,000 in funds from the Australia Council. Jonathan Watkins, Artistic Director of the 1998 event has titled it Every Day. Opening in mid-September it will be multi-venued, centring around the Art Gallery of NSW and the MCA.
" MAAP (Multimedia Arts Asia Pacific) is a new festival percolating in Brisbane, scheduled for September 1998 and focusing on multimedia, digital and electronic art in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. The National Digital Art Awards, which are now hosted by the Institute of Modern Art will coincide with MAAP along with a host of exhibitions, conferences and forums. MAAP's online exhibition is part of SOCOG's Sea of Change festival, the second of the Sydney Cultural Olympiad Festivals. Details from Kim Machan, Chair (see below)
Residencies and awards
Successful applicants for Asialink Arts Management Residencies for 1998 and their destinations are: Gail Fairlamb of Craftsouth SA to the National Theatre Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Anne Farren of City of Melville WA to Gallery in Japan; Lorena Felicetti of City of Melbourne to Urban Council of Hong Kong; Simone Lourey of Playbox Theatre to Fringe Festival in Hong Kong; Nicola Tse of the Ian Potter Conservation Centre to the Cultural Centre of the Philippines; Christine Clark of the Queensland Art Gallery to the National Gallery in Jakarta and the Lawang Art Foundation, Bandung, Indonesia; Bernadette McNamara of Musica Viva to National Arts Council in Singapore.
" Asialink artist residencies in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and China will be announced in our next issue.
"The Australia Council's CEAD Award recognises outstanding achievement in urban design, particularly for innovative and creative collaborations between communities, artists and designers. The 1997 recipient is the Liverpool Hospital Redevelopment Arts Program, in NSW. This program, spearheaded by Marily Opperman of the consultancy Identity, Environment and Art, was featured in our June 1997 issue Art &Medicine. There were 54 artists and 42 local community groups working on this program in collaboration with architects, designers, staff and patients. It has been so successful that a volunteer group CARE was established this year to make sure the program is stays healthy.
Greg Andrews, formerly of Arts Queensland, is the new Executive Director of the Helpmann Academy in Adelaide. Katherine Wilkinson, formerly of Arts on the Move, WA, is the new General Manager of Craft Victoria. Kirsty Parker is the new Director of Tandanya, the Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide. Catherin Bull is the new Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Melbourne.
Call for Submissions
Artists interested in submitting a work or a proposal for the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk in Sydney which comprises Sculpture by the Sea to be held 8 - 11 October are invited to do so before 1 April. Exhibited works will be eligible for various prizes, including the acquisitive Sydney Water Sculpture Prize of $15,000. For an application form send a SAE to PO Box 560, Potts Point NSW 2011 or phone (02) 9357 1457.
" Melbourne artists Katy Munson, Sandra Drummond and Patrick Jones have received support from Arts Victoria under the International Cultural Exchange Programme to exhibit in Hanoi at the Trang An Gallery, 10 - 31 March.
" Master potter Milton Moon is showing some of the fruits of his five-year Creative Fellowship during the Adelaide Festival. The Australia Council award has allowed Moon to focus exclusively on new creative works as opposed to the domestic ware which he has always been obliged to make in order to pay the bills. A potter in Australia, however famous, cannot command prices comparable with those paid for painting. The work deals with the presence - and absence - of indigenous Australians in the landscape. The floor pots, platters, vase forms and wall plaques can be seen at Aptos Cruz Galleries in the Adelaide Hills until 11 April.
[Picture by Matt Turner courtesy the Australian[
The Adelaide Central School of Art has become the only private art school in Australia to offer an accredited BA degree in visual art. This has been achieved by an affiliation with Flinders University and will be offered for the first time in 1998. Details ph (08) 8364 fax 8364 4865.
" Peter Anderson is the author of a new publication titled Investing in the Arts: A guide to wise collecting and investment in visual arts, craft and design put out by the Arts Office of the Queensland Government. It is aimed at financial planners to help them advise their clients. Copies may be ordered by phoning (07) 3224 4896
" Undeterred by the negative publicity surrounding her assumption of an Aboriginal alter ego known as Eddie Burrup, WA artist Elizabeth Durack has published a book called The Art of Eddie Burrup on the World Wide Web at http://www.ozpages.com/eddieburrup
" 30 women artists in the Northern Rivers region of NSW are represented in the 1998 Women Artists' Diary with 24 full colour reproductions of artworks, selected annually from a call for entries. It includes a moon calendar and writings from local writers, poets and health practitioners. It was designed and printed in Byron Bay and distributed nationally. Ph (02) 6685 6418 to order.
" Kim Machan's Art Rage, Artworks for Television is now heading into its third series, presenting another 30 video/animation works by Australian artists for national broadcast through the ABC's much loved rage music video program and simulcast with Triple J radio. As with past series, a compilation video will tour to galleries and schools, looking for every possibility to be exposed on a national front. Artists include Lauren Berkowitz, Christopher Lambert, Rea, Robyn Stacey, Brad Miller, Elizabeth Newman, Martine Corompt, Richard Tipping, Laurens Tan ... Ready for broadcast late 98. Tapes of the first two series are available from Kim Machan Art fax (07) 3348 4109 email: email@example.com
In the meantime, Machan is working on a new project, Art Rush, Contemporary Art Reviewed on Video which will be released soon. This "art magazine" will be available on VHS video and aims to provide national coverage of contemporary visual arts. The first issue visits all State Art Galleries and the National Gallery of Australia looking at their contemporary art collections and interviewing the current curators of contemporary art on their policies and attitudes ... should be compulsive viewing for artists.