Adelaide: more social experiments
Despite his shocking but not altogether surprising resignation as Director, given the hostility towards his ideas, Peter Sellars' community-based Adelaide Festival might well have turned out to be a better thing than many sceptical Adelaideians had been predicting. There is no doubt that it had very little in common with any previous festival here and despite understandable faith in a recipe that has worked not just well but brilliantly for 30 years, it may well be time for reassessment.
The principle of Sellars' festival was that of self-development, and his intention was to build a structure in which Australian product suddenly is given more attention than product from outside. To those of us who hang out for our biennial fix of amazing art from the four corners of the globe Sellars' project was hard to swallow. While we were soaking up the rare offerings we rarely bothered to ask why it was that things we craved to see most were not made here. It is always assumed that our small population conspires to make it difficult to achieve that level of excellence. But of course there is a lot more to it than numbers. There are actually plenty of Australian artists who are bursting with the kind of talent that it takes to get to that level; the problem is that they are not supported adequately, with money or facilities, or even with simple programs of support which tip the scale in favour of their survival as artists.
But even for those who were sympathetic to Sellars' aim, the program as it has emerged piecemeal from its shell of secrecy, has been deeply disappointing. Sellars himself has been absent most of the time including key moments, and has not once talked publicly overseas in his numerous media interviews about the social experiment he was supposedly leading in Adelaide. To some he might as well not have been involved at all. It must also be said that there seems to have been a lopsided use of resources, partly caused by generous salaries for no less than nine associate directors appointed by him, and possibly by shortfalls in sponsorship, leaving precious little for artists, who have been offered token sums to mount major projects, and expected to fund their own travel and accommodation as well.
Sellars' concept may have been laudable and idealistic but it is quite clear that he did not have the ability or the commitment to pull off such an ambitious series of changes. There is a limit to the amount that spiky hair and hugs on their own can achieve.
The whirlwind visit of Dr Kim Veltman to Adelaide to give the second annual Artlink Public Lecture on 7 October 2001 was an inkling of another kind of mind-expansion. A rapt audience listened and watched for 90 minutes while a whole new approach to the study of art history unfolded. Veltman is the Scientific Director of the McLuhan Insitute at the University of Maastricht in Holland, dedicated to the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, so this was no ordinary approach to culture. Veltman has taken the tools of digital communications and used them as an aid to researching material culture in a way which has not previously been possible. We are all aware that keeping places – libraries, museums, archives of all kinds – are beginning to digitise their collections, and the idea of the 'virtual museum' is now not so outlandish as it was only a few years ago. Because of the pressure of population, the cave paintings of Lascaux cannot be visited any more and are only available in a virtual or facsimile form. The extension of this idea is that through the internet the contents of cultural repositories can be made accessible to anyone in the world for study. One immediate bonus is that we will be able to access not just works on display, but all the holdings in the basement. We are by now accustomed to expect radical and rewarding changes to occur whenever the digital comes into the picture, and Veltman gave us a taste of the enormous new horizons that are opening up to not only traditional scholars but to people at all levels of the curiosity business. When you no longer have to rely on books and their inevitably restricted content to explore a subject, but can cross reference material multi-dimensionally through data bases of all kinds including imagery from simple scans of flat objects to 3-D models of whole buildings, the history of art suddenly starts to look very different. Veltman's work makes the old art history with its obsession with periods and styles look very narrow. (see also Donald Brook's groundbreaking essay p.66 this issue)
Zooming out to the large picture it becomes clear that this use of information technology for understanding culture relates to all areas of study and research. His jam-packed calendar of lecturing and teaching around the world brings these ideas to computer associations, librarians, museums, art historians and corporations, and even forum audiences at contemporary art fairs, which is where Artlink first encountered him (at ARCO '01 in Madrid) where he was the unchallenged sensation of the series.
Artlink is delighted that Dr Veltman enjoyed his Adelaide encounter with Australia so much that he has agreed to return in 2003, this time to undertake a series of master-classes, workshops and lectures at institutions nationally. Watch this space.
The triple bottom line
" In response to the worldwide economic recession which seems to be creeping on, Winsome McCaughey director of the Australian Business Arts Foundation, has recently called on the corporate sector to recognise the arts as truly part and parcel of their core business. The view is widely held these days that the arts can actually help businesses to be more successful, and in the long run to make more profits. Exposing business employees to values other than the bottom line supposedly widens their horizons and makes them approach their jobs in a less blinkered way. If this better outlook can filter through to management perhaps we will see less of these 'sudden' 'unexpected' company meltdowns. It seems the bosses of the failed or damaged companies have a problem with their long range vision – they can only see as far as their next bonus.
MCA 10 years old
On 11 November 2001 the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney celebrated its first decade of operation during which it put on 130 exhibitions. Listing its successes the museum names all the imported shows as the most popular eg Mao Goes Pop! (1993), Jeff Koons' Puppy (1995), Robert Mapplethorpe (1995), Keith Haring (1997), EAT! (1998), The Warhol Look (1998), and FULL MOON (2000) exhibitions. Other critically acclaimed exhibitions include Louise Bourgeois (1995), Sol LeWitt Wall Pieces (1998), Yves Klein (1998), Cindy Sherman: Retrospective (1999), Hitchcock: Art, cinema and suspense (1999), the 12th Biennale of Sydney (2000), and The Film Art of Isaac Julien (2000). Showings of Kathleen Petyarre, Ricky Swallow, Robert McPherson and Primavera are mentioned as prominent Australian events.
Audiences in Adelaide are gradually becoming aware of the living artists in their midst through the annual SALA Week. Its fourth edition in August this year resulted in more coverage in the press in SA than in any other week on record. SA Living Artists Week organisers are urging artists to start thinking about cooperating in geographical networks to put out printed matter for 2002 about shows and studios. For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org or ph (08) 8216 8850.
" The Australian Bureau of Statistics has turned its attention to the activities of private commercial art galleries in 1999-2000. The figures show that galleries in NSW account for 44% of the total $218m sales of visual art nationally, with Victoria following at 30% and Queensland at 14%. Aboriginal and TSI sales, at $36m (17% of total sales) were lower than the anecdotal evidence would suggest. In other interesting revelations only $6m of the total sales was gallery commission, way below the accepted 40%, sales of art by overseas artists totalled $14m and salaries to gallery proprietors and staff that year averaged $22,600 per person. Given that undoubtedly some proprietors would be earning a lot more than that it puts the earnings of a manager or curator of a small gallery into the non-viable category.
The Australia-Japan Foundation is providing a remarkable $240,OOO towards the development of a series of exhibitions of contemporary Australian art and craft to travel in Japan over the next three years and to be coordinated by Asialink. You are invited to start dreaming up projects for Japan: contact Alison Carroll on email@example.com
" The Adelaide Festival will host a program of twelve cultural residencies for artists from developing countries with assistance from the Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Practitioners across all art forms will be attached to arts companies, and will participate in the Festival in 2002 thus enabling far-reaching benefits to both the visitors and the hosts.
" Noosa Regional Gallery is bringing 22 artists to Noosa including 9 from Costa Rica, USA, South Africa and Europe to take part in an international site-specific art laboratory on water which is part of The Floating Land Festival. Over an intensive three weeks the artists will execute some intriguing proposals relating to river and sea with the help of local people and will also be engaging with locals through a series of nightly dinners in small community halls through the Noosa Shire. The ephemeral works will be up and viewable around mid-December. Contact the Gallery on (07) 5449 5279 or on firstname.lastname@example.org or www.noosaregionalgallery.org
" The Sydney Biennale titled (The World May Be) Fantastic runs from May - July 2002. Director Richard Grayson is working with three advisers – Susan Hiller from London, Janos Sugar from Budapest, and Ralph Rugoff from San Francisco.
" Debra Paauwe, Adelaide photographer, was one of 10 invited to participate in the central event of the celebrated FotoNoviembre 2001 the 6th International Photographic Biennial of Tenerife in November 2001. The only other Australian was Tracey Moffat who was part of one of the Biennal's 59 curated exhibitions of photography across the island of Santa Cruz.
Exhibitions to watch
" Painting Forever: Tony Tuckson, major touring survey show organised by the National Gallery of Australia, at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, just south of Sydney, 15 December – 10 February
" Buddha: past, present, future is an important exhibition of images of Buddha from the 1st to the 21st Century from major museums around the world and represents the three main schools of Buddhism as well as many other manifestations of the religion. Art Gallery of NSW until 24 February, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
" Neo-Tokyo: Japanese art now is a major exhibition of sculpture, painting, installation, moving image and digital art forms from new and emerging Japanese artists including Masato Nakamura (dreams of childhood), Kenji Yanobe (sites of environmental destruction), Miwa Yanagi (futuristic shopping malls)and Myeong-eun Shin (giant multi-coloured poodles). Supported by the Japan Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art to 10 February, free admission.
" Stranger than truth, photographs of mythical creatures and other 'superfictions' curated by Peter Hill, Australian Centre for Photography, to 10 February
" Trade Winds: arts of Southeast Asia is a new exhibition of decorative arts and design from the region including textiles and dress, jewellery, metalwork, ceramics etc from the collection of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, chosen to illustrate the notion of continuity and change in traditional arts. The Museum has published a book to coincide with the show, which runs until October 2002.
" Births of a Nation: women, childbirth and Federation explores women's experiences of childbirth around the time of Federation and the connection between the birth of a nation and the nation's first babies. Until 28 January 2002.
" Glebe: Twentyfour seven is an exhibition of photographs by Robert Billington documenting in quirky style the old Sydney suburb with all its contrasts. Museum of Sydney until 24 March 2002.
" Len Lye (1901-1980) is the subject of an exhibition and series of events at the Art Gallery of NSW. The talented and innovative New Zealand-born artist made experimental films, photographs and kinetic sculptures and his animation film of 1929 Tusalava will be screened for the first time with music by Eugene Goosens on 23 January at the Domain Theatre. Exhibition runs to 27 January. Ph (02) 9225 1878.
" Arthur Streeton: The Passionate Gardener is a collection of still life and garden paintings by Streeton and an account of his obsession with gardening. He divided his time between two properties and their large gardens and was an authority on roses. Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery until 17 February 2002.
" Treasures from the World's Great Libraries includes pages from famous manuscripts like Darwin's theory of evolution from The Origin of Species and The 10 Commandments on a Dead Sea Scroll along with another 140 items of significance to the history of human culture. The rare items come from 35 major libraries around the world and will be on show at the National Library of Australia until 7 February.
" Yarns: Jewish stories from emerging artists : twelve emerging artists from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide who share a desire to tell stories weave these tales in video (David Evans, Eden Altman) knitted and woven crafts (Sophie Benkemoun, Renee So, Sherna Teperson) photography (Anat Cossen and Marzena Wasikowska), at the Jewish Museum, St Kilda until 24 February.
" A Person Looks At A Work of Art showcases works by 11 contemporary artists selected from the collection of real estate magnate Michael Buxton whose company MAB Corporation is also the main sponsor of the show. Included are works by Howard Arkley, Peter Booth, Tony Clark, Juan Davila, Bill Henson, Tracey Moffatt, Mike Parr, Peter Tyndall, Callum Morton, Ricky Swallow and Constanze Zikos, a group which has been carefully crafted to represent a particular moment in contemporary Australian art, mostly from Victoria, mostly male and mostly regarded as challenging to the everyday gallery visitor. Meet the challenge at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen until 17 February 2002. www.heide.com.au
" Elvis has just left the building: Urban legends/contemporary myths is new work on this theme from a large group of Australian and international artists, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth Festival 25 January – 3 March.
" The Divine Comedy: Francisco Goya, Buster Keaton, William Kentridge explores black comedy through comparing the intent and effect of the videos, etchings and silent movies of these three very different artists. Art Gallery of WA, Perth Festival 24 January – 1 April.
" Semena Santa Cruxtations by Philippines artist Alwin Reamillo is a chaotic pseudo-biblical tableau as backdrop for a 'para-evangelical action' by the artist relating to Catholicism in an old colonial context. Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth Festival 26 Jan – 3 March
" Multiplicity by the group Uncertain States of Europe (USE) is an ongoing collective research project based in Italy which has turned its attention to Perth and Fremantle looking at architecture, urbanism, geography, art, anthropology. The Moores Building, Fremantle, Perth Festival 2 – 24 February.
" Around Now: Grace Weir comprises two 5-minute films about flying in circles recently shown at the Irish Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. John Curtin Gallery 27 Perth Festival January – 24 March.
" Tauria is a video by NZ artist Lisa Reihana inspired by the experience of an imaginary marae or Maori meeting house which only exists in her head. Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane to 26 January.
" On Contemporary Silence comprise tiny constructions by Eugene Carchesio at Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane to 26 January 2002.
" ConVerge: where art and science meet is the title of the 2002 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art coordinated by Linda Cooper and looking at issues from bio-ethics to robotics through cutting edge art. Art Gallery of SA 1 March – 28 April.
" Click is two six-month programs of interactive digital art works in five regional galleries in Victoria curated by Daniel Palmer. In Part Two you can play with works by Australian and international artists arranged around the theme of 'everyday digital worlds'. Check them out at Bendigo, Geelong, Latrobe, Mildura and Swan Hill Regional Galleries until April 2002.
" The large and well appointed $15m Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts opened in October in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane to house seven contemporary arts organizations previously spread around town. Saying goodbye at last to its old substandard premises, the Institute of Modern Art may now feel more comfortably matched to its impressive name. (In that vein reports are out that the catering, printing and PR for the series of lavish openings for the Centre would have sustained the old IMA for a year or two.)
In amongst the extraordinary explosion of new bricks and mortar for the visual arts which is under way in Queensland with the Judith Wright Centre, the new Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (opening 2005), a $1m grant to Metro Arts to purchase the old warehouse in Edward St that they have leased for so long, a redeveloped state library, new premises for the Queensland College of Art and more, let us not lose sight of the need for funds to run these and other more modest existing organisations to their maximum potential, including professional fees for artists and writers without whom etc&..
" A very substantial redevelopment of Brisbane's State Library of Queensland is the subject of an architectural competition in which five consortia made up of an outside firm paired with a Queensland firm have been shortlisted. They include Ashton Raggatt McDougall + Arkhefield, Bligh Voller Nield + John Mainwaring & Associates, Donovan Hill + Peddle Thorp. The winner will be announced next year and the new library will be completed in late 2004.
" The building program for the National Gallery of Victoria is grinding on, with the new gallery for Australian art (to be known as The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australian Art), due to open in mid-2002 in a building at Federation Square which from the outside at least is an unfortunate design. The old battleaxe on St Kilda Rd now dedicated to International Art and to be known by the catchy name of 'National Gallery of Victoria NGV International Art' will, they promise, be transformed into magnificence with every modern thing the visitor could desire. What a pity, when the opportunity was there that the old inaccurate 'National Gallery' moniker could not have been quietly dropped and the two centres called something like 'Museum Australia at Victoria' and 'Museum International at Victoria'.
" Desart has closed its Sydney Gallery after difficulties with management of the organization.
" Tanunda in South Australia's Barossa Valley will have a new 'A' Class regional art gallery through a dollar for dollar funding arrangement announced by Arts Minister Diana Laidlaw. Over a staged program the old Soldiers Memorial Hall will eventually be converted into four climate controlled gallery spaces with all the facilities required for it to receive large touring exhibitions.
" Adelaide's dramatic new National Wine Centre, supported by a grant from Arts SA, has incorporated a small art gallery for a changing exhibition program of work from regional SA artists.
" The Epicentre Gallery in Byron Bay has reopened as baSE under Ilka Nelson who states she will curate exhibitions by people like builders, bakers and signwriters.
The Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne is running printmaking classes during January and February 2002 in etching, book binding, traditional Japanese woodblock printing, wood engraving, and lithography. To book or get a pamphlet phone (03) 9419 5466.
" Cath Cantlon has been awarded the $40,000 Ros Bower Award 2001 for her outstanding contribution to community arts mainly in South Australia over 20 years. The Award is administered by the Australia Council.
" Latest round of $80,000 Visual Arts/Craft Board Fellowships were awarded to Marion Borgelt, Nigel Helyer and Jennifer Robertson.
" Robin Best has won the South Australian Ceramics Award 2001 with her engraved porcelain work Slime Mould.
" 22 finalists including Nigel Helyer, Julie Rrap and Ari Purhonen, have been selected for the 2002 Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award in Victoria. This unusual and very valuable art prize will be awarded in March by a 5-person panel of judges which, unusually, includes a practising sculptor, Inge King.
" Juan Ford from Melbourne is the winner of the 2001 City of Whyalla Art Prize.
" The 2002 Samstag Scholars are Darren Siwes, Renato Colangelo, Daniel von Sturmer, Annie Hogan, Mathieu Gallois, Astra Howard, Timothy Horn and Sarah Elson. They receive a generous package of fees and cash to take them through a year's overseas study.
" Fiona Foley: Solitaire by Dr Benjamin Genocchio is a readable 96pp hardcover book on this artist published by Piper Press ph (02) 9660 0364. It has 50 excellent colour plates RRP $49.50 (see feature article on Fiona Foley this issue)
" Darkness and Light, the Art of William Robinson is a major book brought out by the Queensland Art Gallery to coincide with the retrospective there this year. Editor Lynne Seear has brought together a fine group of essayists for this superbly produced 160 page full colour book. RRP ????
" The Bank Book is a collection of photographs created by Max Creasy, Peter Milne, Matthew Sleeth and Danielle Thompson who were invited onto the set of The Bank by producer John Maynard, to engage with the making of the movie however the spirit moved them. Introduction by Daniel Palmer, published by M.33, 105pp full colour RRP $55.
" Spray: The Work of Howard Arkley by Ashley Crawford and Ray Edgar, is an updated and revised edition of the 1997 book of the same name. A new section documents the action-packed last two years of Arkley's life before his untimely death in 1999. Published by Craftsman House, 110 colour plates, RRP $88.
" Australian Art is a new book by Andrew Sayers covering the history of art including prehistory. Oxford University Press RRP $42.95
" From Power Publications: What is Installation? an anthology edited by Adam Geczy & Benjamin Genocchio; Japanese Exchanges in Art 1850s – 1930s by John Clark. email@example.com
" Valuing Art, Respecting Culture – Protocols for working with the Australian Indigenous visual arts and craft sector by Doreen Mellor and Terri Janke is a much needed and comprehensive guide to the entire indigenous art sector, how it relates to visual arts as a whole, and how to best approach any professional engagement with the sector, as well as to specific legal issues relevant to the sector, such as copyright, moral rights etc. Published by the National Association for the Visual Arts. Executive summaries are available on NAVA's portal www.visualrts.net.au and go to Practical Advice, Best Practice.
" Cairns Regional Gallery has put out a very nicely-designed full colour education kit to for school students to accompany its big Centenary of Federation exhibition Local Colour, Local Lives, which reflects on the culture and history of Far North Queensland. The noticeably more lavish but not always hugely innovative publications for Centenary projects nationwide speak of the bigger budgets available for these projects which were privileged over other more risky ideas during 2001 by direct-line funding a the behest of the Prime Minister. In this case, adding as it does to our notoriously under-resourced school art programs, the education kit is an astute use of the money.
Call for entries
" You have until 21 December to enter your work in the Nikon Summer Salon 2002. This is an open-entry exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne which accepts all photo-based media. Prizes comprise photographic equipment and services from Nikon and other sponsors. For a form phone (03) 9417 1549 or firstname.lastname@example.org
" Visual arts graduates or art practitioners with a professional profile wishing to undertake a Master of Visual Arts at the Central School of Art in Adelaide can now apply for a $5000 scholarship which covers course fees for two years. The inaugural Bob Piper MVA Scholarship is funded by the Gordon Darling Foundation and named after one of the School's Patrons. Applications close on 10 January - for info phone (08) 8364 5075
" Mary Jung is the inaugural Australia Business Arts Foundation (AbaF) representative in Queensland
" Michael Snelling is the new Chair of the New Media Board of the Australia Council