Going backward to go forward?
The new national arts curriculum launched in August this year has set out a plan for a wildly new idea - that all children in schools from Kindergarten to Year 12 should be exposed to all artforms during their schooling. Not just some visual art, or music, which most schools offer, but drama, dance and new media. The radical program contrasted with the earlier proposal for a new national curriculum where the arts were entirely missing from the core subjects. Furious lobbying from the peak arts bodies has now yielded the All Artforms model.
Far from universal delight, this has created confusion in the ranks. In NSW for example they are worried about what would happen to the 29,000 Year 10 students in that state who are doing visual art as a major subject, and the 12,000 who follow it through to HSC in Year 12. What will happen if their hours are to be split up in order to learn dance, music, drama and new media, all at once? Where will the quality teaching they have built up so painstakingly over the years end up? Back in a 1950s style mixed 'activity room'?
John O’Toole, Professor of Art Education at Melbourne University, one of the architects of the new arts curriculum, believes that the potential loss of depth is compensated for by a corresponding gain in diversity, and the benefit of offering choices to students.* He says that individual schools will be in charge of how they put the plan into action. Members of the teachers’ unions are worried that their members would be expected to teach subjects about which they know precious little. They would not be the only ones worried on this score! The consultation goes on and the curriculum will not be set in stone until the end of 2011. Comments are invited up to 17 December via the ACARA website www.acara.edu.au.
*Late Night Live ABC Radio National, discussion with John O’Toole, Marion Strong and Kerry Thomas, hosted by Phillip Adams 31 Aug 2010.
• Samstag Scholarships for 2011 have been awarded to Christian Capurro, Melbourne and Bridget Currie, Adelaide.
• Juan Ford has won the People’s Prize in the Basil Sellers Prize for his mixed media work A Memoir from the Break of Day.
• Bonita Ely has launched her new public art piece Thunderbolt at Olympic Park which is linked to the Homebush electricity grid and changes colour as power consumption levels fluctuate.
• Hany Armanious will represent Australia at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
• Suzanne Archer is the winner of the $25,000 2010 Dobell Prize for Drawing for her work Derangement at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Art to boost city coffers
The Sydney Art International Series is a new push to bring large touring shows exclusively to the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The two museums have formed a strategic alliance which the state’s politicians and other powerbrokers hoping to generate economic benefits for NSW and attract more than 350,000 visitors to Sydney each year. Starting in the summer of 2010 – 2011 are tested and tried international crowd-pleasers starting with Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life 1990 – 2005 at the Museum of Contemporary Art from 19 November 2010 – 27 March 2011. This brings together almost 200 iconic images of show business celebrities, many published in Rolling Stone, with personal photographs of Leibovitz’s family and close friends. It was put together by the Brooklyn Museum in 2005 and has toured the United States and Europe. This is followed by 'The First Emperor: China’s Entombed Warriors' at the Art Gallery of NSW from 4 December 2010 – 13 March 2011 comprising 120 objects including the 10 Terracotta Warriors and horses that were buried with the First Emperor of China, Qin Shihuang in 210 BC. In 2011 the Art Gallery of NSW will get the largest Picasso exhibition ever to come to Australia.
• MONA, the much anticipated Museum of New and Old Art just outside Hobart is launching in mid-January 2011 at the culmination of the MONA/FOMA festival of art and music.
New models new money
Emerging from the 2020 Arts Summit in 2008 comes a plan to set up a Foundation for the Artist whose principles are based on artists being accorded the same kind of respect and status as research scientists. A team headed by Julianne Schultz for the Centre for Social Impact at the University of NSW has worked together with Arts Queensland to produce a discussion paper about finding new money for the arts in order to realise these goals. They have noted the greatly increased contribution of the creative industries to the GDP these days (equal now to agriculture) and the large numbers of people who are involved in R & D and enrolling in university courses. They suggest that a new agile, entrepreneurial organisation would work with a range of partners and other agencies both public and philanthropic to identify the gaps in existing funding programs and try to fill them. One of their goals is to restore the levels of funding to individual artists, a group which receives three times less government funding now than a decade ago, a shortfall of around $15m. This proposal is now in a public consultation stage and you are invited to take part in an online survey. www.newmodelsnewmoney.com.au/
Biennales and art fairs coming up
• Art Stage Singaporeis an ambitious new enterprise masterminded by Lorenzo Rudolph, the former Director of Art Basel. It combines an array of dealer galleries with commissions and a major contemporary Asian art exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum, and alliances with the bigger collectors of Asian art in the region. The shift in the balance of power from Europe to Asia is reflected by what Rudolph sees as a surging Asian art market which offers new collectors a chance to invest in their own. Singapore is seen as the natural bridge between East and West, and the new Marina is the place where it will all happen. Our cover artist Ariel Hassan has been commissioned to show a 14m version of his 'Mathematiques Modernes' at Art Stage. (see p.41) www.artstagesingapore.com/en/
• The 3rd Singapore Biennale ‘Open House’ runs from 13 March – 8 May 2011. Artistic director Matthew Ngui assisted by Russell Storer and Trevor Smith have selected 50 artists from across the world, including Singaporean and South East Asian artists. Approximately a third have been commissioned to make new works or projects that are specifically adapted for the Biennale exhibition sites. This represents a major increase from the 2008 edition. Over half a million people are expected to visit the biennale.
• Bice Curiger is Director of the 2011 'Venice Biennale: ILLUMInations', To encourage a sense of international unity, she has subtitled the event Five questions to the artists of the world which she has been asking each artist:
- Where do you feel at home’?
- Does the future speak English or another language?
- Is the artistic community a nation?
- How many nations do you feel inside yourself?
- If art was a nation what would be written in its constitution?
She believes the National Pavilions, far from being old hat, allow people to reflect on nationhood.
The Australian Pavilion will be occupied by the work of Sydney artist Hany Armanious, whose Egyptian background offers some food for thought .
• The 12th Istanbul Biennial, 17 September-13 November 2011 organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and sponsored by Koç Holding is curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann.
• Carolyn Christian-Bakargiev is the Director of Documenta (13) June – September 2012. She is assisted by a large group of ‘agents’ ranging from curators and artists and people from other professional sectors.
• Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster will be Joint Artistic Directors of the 18th Biennale of Sydney, 27 June – 16 September 2012, the first time the BOS has appointed joint directors. McMaster is senior curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. He and de Zegher have collaborated there on various projects as well as at the Drawing Center in New York. She is an independent curator with large exhibitions to her credit. She feels Sydney is a good place to explore "the fluent dynamics of a 21st-century thinking".
A two year Curatorial Fellowship in memory of Nick Waterlow was established earlier this year by the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council and is currently being appointed. The Fellow will work with the curatorial and exhibitions teams on research and writing as well as management.
Shock of the ancient made new: Desert Mob 2010
Quoting the immortal words of Juan Carlos Samaranch upon the launch of the Sydney Olympic Games a decade earlier, the Chief Administrator of the Northern Territory declared the 20th Desert Mob show at Araluen “the best ever”. The exhibition of recent works from Aboriginal Art Centres in Central Australia was large – up to ten works from each of the desert communities represented under the Desart Umbrella and in 2010 there were 34 communities exhibiting. In so far as the only selection of works is that of the community or its arts adviser the show is unmediated. Large works and smaller were hung over walls of three galleries. It was a visual feast and within 15 minutes of the opening there was a buying frenzy. There was no time for considered selection. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. Red spots appeared everywhere.
Judith Ryan, senior curator of indigenous art at the National Gallery of Victoria since 1977 gave the keynote address at the opening of the exhibition. Her words echoed her essay in the accompanying catalogue. Acknowledging the debt to Albert Namatjira and the Arrernte school of watercolours, Ryan stated that the contemporary indigenous art movement was/is one of the great modern movements equal to the best contemporary art produced anywhere, including cubism, fauvism and abstract expressionism. She spoke of “unsettling surprise”, the shock of the ancient made new. The Desert Mob show, now an annual event, displays the oldest and the newest manifestations of many different types of media, changing and unpredictable, an exponential trajectory of art practice in the desert (and in the town centres too). The exhibition asserts both identity and vision.
To further acknowledge and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Desert Mob show, the printmaker Basil Hall, in February 2010 sent 40 wood blocks to 40 communities. The blocks were carved by artists and then returned to be printed. The result is a suite of 40 prints representing the Desart communities which was launched at the opening ceremony. There were also five panels of the prints showcasing the stylistic differences between the communities on display. The show was held at the Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs 10 September – 24 October 2010. [Janet Maughan]
Melbourne curator and writer Ulanda Blair managed three Australian projects at the Setouchi International Art Festival in Japan, which was held across seven islands in the beautiful Seto inland sea between 19 July and 31 October 2010. The Setouchi Festival, which was organised by Tokyo’s Art Front Gallery, also responsible for the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, included 75 site-specific projects that responded to the landscape, history and culture of the Setouchi islands. Blair noted that the event is unique in its ability to re-energise communities, whilst remaining sensitive to local traditions. Visitors could stay in the area and travel by boat each day, with the expectation of seeing one large or two small islands each day. The Australian artists Claire Healy & Sean Cordiero (NSW), Cameron Robbins (VIC) and Sue Pedley (NSW) all worked closely with the Kou community of Teshima Island in the month-long development of their ambitious works. Pedley covered small fishing cabins with plastic string netting, referring to the situation facing the world’s fish stocks. The Australians all found the experience of working in the peaceful marine setting inspirational, with the one-month residency enabling a deep and meaningful exchange between the individual artists and Kou residents. 930,000 visitors attended the Setouchi International Art Festival over 100-days.
In Vol 30#3 Art in the Public Arena, we neglected to credit David Cross with his co-authorship with Claire Doherty of the curating and accompanying publication of 'One Day Sculpture' in New Zealand.