Artlink goes to Soweto
A large box of copies of Artlink's South issue arrived at the Johannesburg home of South African artist Clifford Charles, co-ordinator of The South Project''s Soweto Gathering which took place 19 – 21 October 2007. Seeing these copies filtering gradually into the nooks and crannies of the Johannesburg alternative and mainstream art scene was a metaphor for the project itself. Designed to work like a series of branching streams rather than one full torrent, the ideas, like the copies of Artlink, turned up and were examined in contexts ranging from community centres, museums of the revolution, to city and university galleries, bookshops, craft centres and the breakfast tables of a range of B&Bs in Soweto. Seizing a special moment before an extraordinary performance by seven young actors in a run-down experimental theatre in the city, Magdalena Moreno, newly appointed interim Director of the South Project, while explaining the project to The First Lady of South Africa, Mrs Zanele Mbeki, pressed a copy of Artlink into her hands.
Dialogue and exchange between the artsworkers of the countries of the Southern Hemisphere is the means by which the four SOUTH Gatherings to date have tried to open up knowledge of each other's working lives, aspirations and areas of commonality. This time, the visitors (from Australia and Chile) were hosted by the people of Soweto, the gigantic township of 600,000 to the south of Johannesburg, a place where few local whites go, partly because they can't find a good enough reason to visit and partly because of fears for their personal safety. This has not prevented Soweto from becoming one of the important tourist destinations of the province of Gauteng (previously the Transvaal). A network of bed and breakfast establishments has sprung up in the little streets centring on Vilakazi St in Orlando West, sacred site of the home of Nelson Mandela after being released from jail as well as that of his mate Bishop Desmond Tutu. Just round the corner lived hero of the revolution and survivor of the 1950s Treason Trials, Walter Sizulu. My kind hostess at Neo's B&B was exiled to boarding school in Swaziland with Sizulu's daughters to escape the appalling 'Bantu Education' system. Though the privations endured under the Apartheid regime are still constantly rehearsed in an effort to consign those days, finally, to history, householders of Orlando West today, despite the huge levels of unemployment, are moving rapidly into an aspirational consumerist mode, with new malls being built to meet this demand.
Daytime sessions saw us talking in small and large groups about what we do and think about art practice outside the mainstream. The conversations were thus less about biennales, blockbusters or curatorial conundrums, than about dealing with the massive inequity between the tiny white minority (16% in 2006) which still pulls the levers, despite the shunting of blacks into directorial positions in order to fulfil the social and political agenda of the government. The art sector seems as split as any of the corporate domains. The heritage modernist architecture of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, because it is sited next to Joubert Park in a black neighbourhood of the CBD, is being allowed to fall into disrepair, pending its likely relocation to the more salubrious northern suburbs where it will attract the well-heeled audience which already patronises the commercial galleries there. No doubt the reinvention of the JAG will be financed by a large corporation.
Between the swapping of stories there were workshops dealing with creating out of recycled or natural materials, performance and spoken word, dance, weaving, and art writing. And, being Africa, of course in amongst the talking there was spontaneous music, dancing, enthusiasm and great good humour.
A big concern was the fact that the new black middle class has seemingly not yet realised the potential of their creative artists, and support is thin on the ground. There are few outlets in Soweto for the sale of art or craft, and no funding to set any up. The traditional way for many 'crafters' still survives – either sell on the street, or from home via word of mouth. Delegates from craft-producing centres in rural areas, however, seemed to be stealing a march on their city cousins, with marketing strategies involving websites, cell phones and branding.
Participants were privileged to look behind the scenes at a collection of African art at the gallery of the University of the Witwatersrand, where we could compare and contrast the contemporary-traditional modes of African arts of the past few decades with a similar trajectory in Australian Indigenous arts, though so very different in its visibility.
Watch www.southproject.com.au for participant reports and blogs on the Gathering.
Melbourne seizes the higher ground
In launching its new VCA Graduate School in performing and visual arts education in late October 2007, the University of Melbourne has stolen a march on less well connected art schools who are battling to hang on to their postgraduate degrees, currently under scrutiny by the notorious national Research Quality Framework review.
Melbourne is the first Australian university to abandon the status quo in favour of a US-style model of a graduate school, though it protests that it remains 'distinctively Australian'.
The VCA Graduate School will be the brave new destination for postgraduate study and research training for the 1100 visual and performing arts students comprising undergraduate, postgraduate and short course participants at the existing Victorian College of the Arts. It has the advantage of being a faculty of one of the oldest-established and most prestigious Australian universities – the self-named Group of Eight. Which university art school will be the next in line to get a graduate school?
Art & Science couplings
FROM the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT): The scene was set at the swanky Dome Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney - opulent chaise lounges, chandeliers & floor-to-ceiling baroque nude portraits. In the intimate corner bar, couples sat with drinks in hand, impressing their passions upon each other. The bell rang, those on the inside moved onto the next table, taking their place for their next speed date. But not everything was as it seemed – for a start, the 'couples' were world-renowned scientists and artists, introduced to spark the possibility of merging their professional interests, with the support of ANAT.
For the past decade, ANAT has been at the forefront of supporting collaboration between the arts and sciences, most effectively through a residency program placing artists within science organisations both within Australia and internationally. Seven partnerships were announced at the Launch on August 17th: four will be delivered under the auspices of the Synapse initiative, which ANAT runs with the Inter-Arts office of the Australia Council for the Arts, and three to be delivered with Arts Victoria, specifically for Victorian participants. The successful projects for 2007 are:
· Kirsty Boyle (NSW) + Dr Lijin Aryananda of the Artificial Intelligence Lab (Switzerland)
· Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey (VIC) + Dr Shane Grey of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (Australia)
· Tina Gonsalves (QLD) + Professor Rosalind Picard of the Affective Computing Group, MIT (USA), Emeritus Professor Chris Frith of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging (UK), and Professor Hugo Critchley of the Brighton & Sussex Medical School (UK)
· Greg Hooper (QLD) + Professor Jason Mattingly of the Queensland Brain
· Frances d'Arth (VIC) + Dr Chris Fluke of the Centre for Astrophysics
and Supercomputing, Swinburne University (VIC)
· Leah Heiss (VIC) + Dr Peter Binks and Dr Bob Irving of Nanotechnology
· Chris Henschke (VIC) + scientists from the Australian Synchrotron
For more information on the residencies, visit www.anat.org.au and
the database at www.synapse.net.au.
Funds have begun to flow towards enabling Australian artists to set up shop in the networked and virtual reality environments of Second Life.
" ANAT is funding emerging artist Julian Stadon from Perth to be mentored by Professors Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, of the University of Art and Design in Linz, Austria in distributed, portable, online, wearable, gaming, mobile platforms. The results will also be viewable in a gallery setting. Stadon has an MA in Electronic Arts from Curtin, and has packed his 'Augmented Reality Tool Kit' for his journey into the strange parallel internet based community of Second Life where creativity is virtual. www.anat.org.au.
" The Australia Council has awarded a $20,000 collaborative artist residency in Second Life to visual artist Christopher Dodds, musician/3-D real-time artist Adam Nash and writer Justin Clemens. They will create a metaphor for the Tower of Babel, using voice recognition software that converts the spoken word of real and virtual world participants into 3-D letterform images in an evolving tower of words.
Mapping the regions
A $2.5 million project, 'Cultural Asset Mapping for Planning and Development in Regional Australia', to run from 2008 to 2012 will examine ways many areas in regional and rural Australia might revitalise their economies and communities by engaging in new approaches to the arts and creative activity.
Regional Arts NSW is a partner with the University of Technology, Sydney, the University of Wollongong, the University of New England and 10 other community partners in a successful Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkages Project.
" Belle Bassin is the winner of The Victorian College of the Arts and Wallara Asset Management' $10,000 Wallara Travelling Scholarship 2007.
" Fremantle Print Award: $10,000 Acquisitive Prize to Tony Ameniero (NSW) for Big Night Skull. $3000 Non-Acquisitive Prize to Rose Farrell and George Parkin (Farrell & Parkin, Vic) for Chinese Birds of Prey. (see pics page 86.)
" Olga Cironis is the winner of the $15,000 2007 BankWest Contemporary Art Prize for her work Essence.
Sculpture to go
After 12 years, the Thursday Plantation Sculpture show is looking for a new home. The annual juried event founded by original CEO Christopher Dean at his TP Health headquarters near Ballina NSW has created momentum for sculpture in the landscape which inaugural curator Priya Woolston is determined to maintain. The extensive sculpture garden collection at TP Health are a fine legacy of the original vision, but the search is on for a new direction and a major sponsor to match. Contact: email@example.com
New web network www.cv.vic.gov.au
Culture Victoria (CV) is a new collaborative partnership between the Victorian Government and Victoria's major museums and art centres to bring together the cultural material held in these places on one high profile and easy to remember web address.
The main cultural entities are the Arts Centre, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Museum Victoria, NGV International and NGV Australia, and the State Library of Victoria, plus a range of regional agencies. cv.vic.gov.au enables the public to search within and across the websites of Victoria's key cultural organisations, and also to track down any one of the 720 community museums, galleries, historical societies, libraries and performing arts centres located across Victoria. This project has involved first of all the digitisation of the core collections, which has been going on for many years, and now the linking of all of them into one portal. On first glance cv.vic.gov.au looks like a rather ordinary site, but behind this innocent look lies a wealth of material including images, texts and moving image which is now available to anyone who has a broadband connection. It will be especially valuable to students in regional areas and will also connect with the Victorian Government Gateway (VGEX) to enable access to cultural content by significant audiences, including schools, through emerging broadband networks, such as Victoria's education network, VicSmart.
And talking of digitisation, the National Library of Australia has just digitised tis 100,000th picture, a black and white photograph of a joey, snugly wrapped in an overcoat improvised from the sleeve of an old jumper taken in 1968 by Australian photo-journalist Jeff Carter.
In 2001 the Library embarked on a major digitisation project to provide improved access to its large and diverse collection including new picture acquisitions. Materials already in the collection, including rare maps, sheet music, manuscripts, printed works and audio recordings, are digitised according to their historical and cultural significance, and likely demand. Placing digitised collections on the internet has completely transformed the way the collection is used, as previously people had to visit the library in Canberra in person to view items.
" Kevin Murray has resigned his position as Director of Craft Victoria to explore other horizons, which have opened up since his instigation 5 years ago of The South Project.
" Magdalena Moreno is the new Director of The South Project.
" Jason Smith has left the National Gallery of Victoria to become Director of the Monash Gallery of Art in Melbourne.
" Jane Scott, former Director of MGA, has been appointed to Washington DC as a Cultural Attaché to the Australian Embassy.
" Shelagh Magadza has been appointed the Artistic Director of the Perth International Arts Festival for 2008-11.(Founded in 1953 by The University of Western Australia, it is the oldest international arts festival in Australia. As Western Australia's premier cultural event it connects with over 300,000 people each year.(
" Binghui Huangfu has been appointed Deputy Director, Artistic Programs, at the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai.
" John Teschendorff, artist and lecturer at Curtin University, has been given the ACUADS Award for his lifetime of successes in visual arts education.
" Melissa Keys, formerly with the Monash Museum of Art is now the Curator at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art.
" Aaron Seeto is the new Director of Gallery 4A – the Asia-Australia Art Centre in Sydney.
" The Art Gallery of NSW has renamed one of its spaces the 'Franco & Amina Belgiorno-Nettis & family Contemporary Galleries' to reflect a $4m donation from the family, being the last philanthropic decision by the late Franco who was also the founder and patron of the Biennale of Sydney.
" City Village is a new grouping of like-minded arts organisations formed by the City of Melbourne at 225 Bourke Street (the old Commonwealth Bank building). They include The South Project, Melbourne Fringe, Melbourne International Film Festival, Experimenta & Platform Artists Group. This dynamic new hub should be up and running by December 2007.
" Hobart's new artist-run space, 6a, fills the Letitia St-shaped void. A former slaugherhouse, it is at 6a Newdegate Street, North Hobart. See http://www.myspace.com/six_a.
" After the grand opening in October, the new Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art at the University of South Australia is establishing itself as one of the must-see art destinations in Adelaide.