Senate enquiry into Indigenous art
Things have to get pretty serious before the Senate holds an enquiry into something to do with art. In June a large committee chaired by Senator Senator Alan Eggleston from WA handed down the results of its deliberations on Indigenous art, a sector often accused of being involved in fraud, fakery, carpet-bagging and exploitation, but which also delivers most of the export dollars derived from Australian visual art sales. Serious business indeed.
The Enquiry was set up in response to lobbying by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA). Together with Desart and ANKAAA, NAVA has now been commissioned to take the findings of the Enquiry as a starting point, and develop a comprehensive Code of Conduct for commercial and other activities in the Indigenous sector. The committee recommended that all commercial galleries, dealers and auction houses dealing in Indigenous art will need to comply with the Code – at first on a voluntary basis, and if this proves after two years not to be working, it will be made mandatory.
An element identified by the committee was that wherever possible art should be bought through the art centres which exist in each community rather than direct from artists. To make these centres more viable the Enquiry recommends that more federal funds be released (potentially $25 million over 5 years) to provide more staff and resources. This will hopefully go some way to restoring lines of federal funding that were drastically cut some years ago during the dismantling of ATSIC. The establishment of an art centre in Alice Springs was also identified as a priority, to accommodate the artists who converge there from surrounding settlements.
The introduction of Indigenous Communal Moral Rights is also recommended. This new legislation would ensure the right of appropriate attribution and protection against derogatory treatment of Indigenous communities' traditional knowledge, which finds expression in cultural works and forms. The difference between this and non-indigenous moral rights is that it can be held in common amongst groups of artists.
At odds with the thorough consideration by the Enquiry of Indigenous art issues is its failure to recommend the adoption of resale royalties, on the basis that it would not benefit 'the vast majority of Indigenous artists'. This is a glaring error in the light of the increasing turnover of Indigenous art in the fine art auction sales, many of which include living artists. It seems that the committee was not convinced that there was any new evidence on offer since the earlier bid to have resale royalties introduced was rejected by the Attorney General Philip Ruddock in 2006, to the disgust of the arts community. In yet another respect Australia is out of step with the rest of the developed world in recognising what is increasingly taken for granted – the right of artists to benefit from the large profits often made when their work enters the secondary market.
The Code, which is a document of extraordinary breadth and depth, is now in final draft form and if the recommendations of the Enquiry are endorsed by the Minister it will become the industry standard. It is available for comment on the NAVA website. www.visualarts.net.au.
One step forward two steps back
Many visual arts people around Australia have been bemused by the fact that in the coverage of the latest federal government intervention – the so-called Indigenous Emergency in the Northern Territory – there has been virtually no reference to Indigenous art centres and the role they play in generating gainful employment not to mention the fostering of individual and communal self-respect.
To those who have been working for decades in and around Indigenous art centres this latest incursion, like those of many previous government attempts at radical change, typically with minimal consultation with communities, is yet another heavy handed political-bureaucratic blunder. This time the sensational style of the first announcements puts it squarely in the pre-election fodder box.
Far more alarming though than the deployment of the army and the police are the extraordinary legislative changes which were rushed through parliament – the scrapping of the permit system and the creation of 5-year government leases over Aboriginal lands. These, along with the suspension of the Racial Discimination Act in the affected communities, have been labelled 'despicable' by Fred Chaney, ex-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Fraser government. If permits to visit Indigenous communities are suddenly no longer required, it will be open season for tourists both international and domestic. Long before the endemic problems of substance abuse, illness, domestic violence and child abuse are likely to be solved, these fragile communities will be thrown open to the world and there will be no lack of tourism operators revved up and ready to move in. As for the leasing back of land won through the long hard battles for land rights it has never been made clear why this should be a prerequisite for the creation of more housing stock. And it is doubly ironic that at the same time as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs enacts measures which could very easily make things worse rather than better for Indigenous people, the same Minister is about to ratify the Senate Enquiry into Indigenous Art.
Art Guerilla Tells All
As the vanguard of Artlink's international marketing strategy attending the 12th Kassel documenta I was able to strategically place the latest Artlink, flown 15,607 kilometres from Australia, around exhibition venues during the opening days of this 100 day event. The synchronicity involved in the fact that paintings by Juan Davila that were in the documenta were also in the Artlink was astonishingly apt. A big part of the documenta was the inclusions of ninety-one journals from all around the world. The journals were laid out on tables in the Documenta Halle. But Artlink Vol. 27 #2 The South Issue was everywhere, like a virus.
One of the first thoughts that I noted down on my Grand Tour was sadness at the abuse of language. So many statements about art, so much false superlative&
The press was treated well in Venice with a huge lounge space, free coffee, wifi and rows of online computers. I loved the wandering through Venice, finding palazzos, the Arsenale, the Giardini, the time-sensitive architecture of all the different pavilions, the grasses, the trees, the insects, and the art with humour or life in it. My favourite was the Romanian Pavilion with fur coats tucked into the holes around its Art Deco signage, and the threadbare displays in which they reveal they want tourists but have nothing to lure them.
A buzz about Dubai was in the air, Charles Merewether advising,& tomorrow's Venice?
In terms of publications I was overwhelmed. I am a paper magnet and had to be particularly strategic. I kept The Reactionary Times from Russia and The Freee [sic] Art Collective Manifesto for a Counter-Hegemonic Art from the UK but had to ditch the excellent but weighty New Zealand book distributed by Kiwis all across the Biennale. It found a home by a window on a train to Basel.
In Basel the art fair was like a visit to Ikea, stimulating but headache-inducing, not at all a sympathetic environment in which to look at contemporary art. However the Robert Gober retrospective at the Schaulager was simpatico and I sat and read all his words in the catalogue before wandering slowly through the exhibition. This is the way to look at art.
Stephanie Radok editor of the South Issue
(The writer's trip to Venice, Basel and Kassel as an accredited member of the art press was self-funded – unusual, crazy, but true.)
Vale Paddy Bedford
Gija elder and renowned artist Paddy Bedford died in Kununurra in mid July 2007 aged around 85. His magisterial paintings, which were always made in natural ochres, helped audiences to understand the remarkable stories of his mother's and father's country in the East Kimberley region of northern Australia, including the recent history of massacres and strychnine poisonings by settlers. In 2006 his work was installed in the new Quai Branly Museum in Paris and a survey exhibition of his work organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney is currently touring Australia. He was a founder member of the famous Jirrawum Artists group in Kununurra. (see Artlink Vol 25#2: Remote) Showing at Bendigo Art Gallery to 16 September 2007 and at the University Art Museum, University of Queensland 3 November 2007 - 1 March 2008.
Australian art overseas
Feminist art collective VNS MATRIX, comprised of Julianne Pierce, Virginia Barrett, Francesca da Rimini and Josephine Starrs, were invited to be part of a major international retrospective of feminist art. Staged at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in Spain, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 45 Years of Art and Feminism celebrates feminist art since the 1960s and includes big name artists from around the world. The exhibition, which has attracted big audiences, runs from 11 June to 9 September 2007.
More interactivity in Arnhem Land
Buku Larrnngay, the Aboriginal art centre at the very remote community of Yirrkala in Arnhem Land, home of the Yolngu people, has opened its brand new Mulka Centre, housing audio-visual material relating to local artists, histories and environment. It was very popular with visitors in mid-August at the time of the famous Garma Festival.
Randin Graves, in charge of the Centre writes:
The Mulka Project digital archive is in the early stages, but we have lots of stuff waiting to go in. The basic setup at the moment is:
A project office with a bank of computers including two powerful Mac Pros for video and audio editing and a server. There are two Yolngu cultural directors and funding for four younger staff to be trained in archival practices, everything from scanning images to operating cameras and editing software. We already had one great 3 week film workshop wrap up yesterday. One short film has already been invited to a festival!
There are two iMacs in the public space linked into the server to provide internet access as well as the archive access via two bits of software.
" Our Story, a database system provided by the NT Library, which allows documenting, browsing and printing of images. At the moment it has about 400 photos of people and places around Yirrkala and the mining town of Nhulunbuy during its construction in the 1970s, as well as 84 photos of Yirrkala from an RAAF officer who was here in 1945. We have heaps more images of people, places and objects to document and digitise going back to 1935. People of the community will be able to browse the images and request laminated photo quality prints up to A3 size, depending on arrangements with copyright holders.
" iTunes - we're building an archive of all sound and video of the community we can track down from different academic, missionary and museum sources. Currently these go back to 1948. Again, Yolngu can browse in the public booth and in the case of out of print materials, request copies.
There is also an auditorium with a 3 metre wide screen, projector and surround sound. Films can be screened throughout the day for tourists and locals, and we will hold community events in there. One of the iMacs in the public booth is linked in to the projector so people can choose films and then send them to the big screen.
The Mulka Project was just opened last Friday, 3 August, by senior Dhalwangu clan artist Dr. Gawirrin Gumana AO.
The seed funding was actually generated by the artists of the community. The Saltwater project was initiated in the late 1990s to create a collection of works asserting Yolngu knowledge and ownership of the seas. This toured for a few years then was acquired as a whole by the National Maritime Museum for $300,000. $200,000 of that went to the building of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka's multimedia centre expansion. Additional funding was received from DCITA and the Yirrkala Dhanbul Community Association to complete the building. Approximately $70,000 was received from DCITA for equipment. DCITA is also providing operating funds under the Indigenous Culture Support and Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records programs. Further support for salary for Yolngu staff is being provided by an anonymous philanthropist. We're still very short however on funding for staff housing and operating costs, especially for special projects such as films and bringing skilled trainers in.
We have the first researcher coming up soon to do a collaborative project working with materials from the 1948 Australian-American Expedition to Arnhem Land of the Australian Museum in Sydney. Of course, there's the film workshop as well, for two weeks leading up to the official launch. This was a partnership with the Yirrkala Community Education Centre and the Yothu Yindi Foundation, who brought in David Vadiveloo, director of the Us Mob project, the first Aboriginal TV series to run on ABC Kids. This involved about a dozen secondary students shooting and editing their own stories - beginning to end the era of non-Yolngu film crews coming to tell Yolngu stories!
Art beyond Europe
" 10th International Istanbul Biennale 8 Sept – 4 Nov 2007
The 10th International Istanbul Biennial will not be a conventional thematic exhibition, rather it will emphasise collective intelligence and the process of negotiating with physical sites. The choice and naming of the venues give clues to the intent of the curators: Burn It or Not?, Atatürk Cultural Centre, Taksim, Istanbul Textile Traders' Market, Unkapani, a complex of 1000 shops, Entre-polis and Dream House, in old customs warehouses located on the Bosporus near Tophane. Projects are equally intriguing. The Nightcomers project of non-stop videos shown throughout the night in the streets of Istanbul, international workshops and residency programs in the historic power station, Silahtaraga Power Plant, recently converted into a Museum of Contemporary Arts. http://www.iksv.org/bienal/english/
" 6th Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil 1 Sept - (17 Nov 2007. Theme: 'The Third Bank of the River'. Chief curator:(Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro is working collaboratively with a group of six curators:(Luis Camnitzer,(Alejandro Cesarco,(Inés Katzenstein,(Luis Enrique Perez Oramas,(Moacir Dos Anjos and(Ticio Escobar. Artists will be drawn from the Mercosul region and other countries. The program includes solo exhibitions(of three major figures in Latin American and international art, Conversations,(an exhibition exploring cultural geography through specific relationships between works of art, Free Zone(a series of projects selected by a special team of international curators and Three Frontiers(an international artists' residency programme based in the Three Border zone at the heart of the Mercosul region. www.fundacaobienal.art.br/ or check the wonderful www.universes-in-universe.de
Game On, the world's biggest celebration of video games heads to Melbourne in 2008. Gamers will converge on Melbourne in February 2008 to experience the world's largest and most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the history and future of video games and gaming, presented exclusively in Australia at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). It traces the technology behind the incredible pace of development in game production over the last 35 years and gives audiences a thrilling hands-on experience to explore how games and gaming has evolved into a massive billion-dollar industry of today. www.acmi.net.au
New books released
" David Keeling by David Hansen, the fourth in a series of monographs on Tasmanian artists, published by Quintus Publishing, an initiative of Arts Tasmania, $39.95.
"Culture Club by Craig Schuftan, published by ABC Books, musings on the connections between modernist art and the popular culture that followed it many decades later. Paperback.
"Australian Pastoral: the making of a white landscape, by Jeanette Hoorn, published by Fremantle Press, $29.95.
"Breasts, Bodies, Canvas: Central Desert art as experience, by Jennifer Biddle, published by University of NSW Press, 128pp, $49.95
"Julie Blyfield by Stephanie Radok with Dick Richards published by Wakefield Press, for SALA Festival 2007, latest in annual series of titles on SA artists and craftspeople, now in its tenth year.
" Untitled. Portraits of Australian Artists(by Sonia Payes, Macmillan Art Publishing 400 pages, case-bound $150
Julianne Pierce, curator of the visual arts and Artists Week for the Adelaide Festival and previously Director of the Australian Network for Art & Technology has been appointed Director of Blast Theory, the new media organisation based in Brighton, England.
Cath Bowdler, art writer and researcher based for many years in Darwin is the new Director of Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.
Nick Mitzevich has left his position as Director of Newcastle Regional Gallery to be Director of the University of Queensland Art Museum.
Suzanne Miller is the new director of the South Australian Museum.
Paul Greenaway, Director of Greenaway Art Gallery is also Chair of the SALA Festival which he founded in 1997 as SA Living Artists Week. After a decade of inspired leadership he announced at the launch of the Festival in August 2007 that he was stepping down. Thanks to his rare gift of matching vision with practical solutions SA has gained an annual winter rush of activity including specially curated shows, moving image projects and other visual arts events which extend beyond Adelaide to regional centres. The annual SALA artist monograph is a significant addition to publishing on contemporary artists and craftspeople. His latest inspiration is getting the State Library of SA to collaborate on a visual arts section of their website to which 20 key visual arts venues in SA have agreed to upload all the texts generated by current exhibitions and arts projects, thus capturing a large amount of previously ephemeral content. In this way information-hungry secondary and tertiary students will be able to access catalogue essays, biographical details and artists statements, material which otherwise is expected to be supplied on demand by overworked curators and gallery staff.
Fellowships of $90,000 each have been announced for 2008 by the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council. They go to mid-career artists Pippin Drysdale, Jacky Redgate, Mari Velonaki and David Stephenson.