Issue 32:4 | December 2012 | Disaster & Fortitude
Disaster & Fortitude
Issue 32:4 | December 2012


Editorial: Art in the face of disaster
Humanity seems to be on the brink of annihilating the natural world on which we depend. Our quarrelsome species has built a gigantic web of capitalism, connecting global corporations, consumerism, the markets, the military, rhetoric machines called politicians and the organisations and institutions that now include, tragically, the universities.
Shen Shaomin: The day after tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is Chinese-Australian Shen Shaomin’s first solo show in Australia in ten years. His visions of a warped natural world tap into anxieties about civilisation’s ghastly effects. “The space for our lives is shrinking,” Shen said in a recent interview. “The world is more and more dangerous because of the way that we live our lives.”
Jarragbu-nungu Warrambany: Flood in Warmun
On 13 March 2011 a deluge of water swept through the Warrmarn [Warmun] community. It rushed into Turkey Creek from the tributaries that flow northward from the Purnululu ranges and from the eastern hills. Assistant manager and curator at Warmun Arts Centre Cate Massola asks how much consultation with residents occurred around their evacuation and the rebuilding of their homes.
Calamity Japan: grieving artists respond to quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis
Former editor of Japanese Art Scene Monitor and the current Arts, Entertainment and Features Division Chief at The Japan Times, Edan Corkill looks at the wide variety of sensitive works produced by Japanese artists in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent Fukashima Daiichi nuclear Power Plant disaster.
Before and after: the haunted image in a post 9/11 era

From September 11, 2011 to January 8, 2012 an exhibition called September 11 curated by Peter Eleey was held at MoMA PS1 in New York. Charity Bramwell describes key works in this "shocking and intriguing" exhibition which commemorated the tenth anniversary of the historic attacks on the World Trade Centre Twin Towers.

New Orleans': Resilience goes way back before Katrina
The Big Easy is a nickname for New Orleans, USA, referring to the easy-going, laid back attitude to life that jazz musicians and local residents indulge in there. Carol Schwarzman, with the aid of her brother, reviews some resilient responses to the Big Hurricane Katrina's path through it on 25 August 2005. In the words of US writer Tom Piazza: "The ‘underprivileged’ people of New Orleans “spun a culture out of their lives – a music, a cuisine, a sense of life – that has been recognised around the world as a transforming spiritual force.”
The cinemas of disaster
Curator, film programmer and writer Danni Zuvela reviews the genre of disaster films since 1903 and finds that the most recent example 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' expresses a spirit of resilience that is both wild and magical.
Falling through time
In September 2011 at the UTS Gallery in an exhibition called The Fall before the Fall Elvis Richardson and Daniel Mudie Cunningham showed work reflecting on 9/11. Anna Gibbs analyses how their works make this trauma "articulable, shareable and ... to some extent, bearable."
Coming soon: Big mining and the question of scale
Ann Finegan raises the alarm on the fiendish short-sighted depradations of Big Coal open cut mining in the lower Hunter Valley and other places currently under threat. She describes the work done by artist/activists in response and asks: "How does one fight such incommensurables of scale and the slow unfold of food bowl and water disaster? Where do we start? With protective changes to State and Federal legislation? With commensurable economic data?"
Khmer pop-lock: saving kids through breaking
It's tough being a refugee, really tough for some. Cambodian Tuy 'KK' Sobil's story begins in a refugee camp in Thailand, travels to the US where he winds up in prison for eight years and more happily shifts to Phnom Penh where he landed as a deportee from the US and has since become an important role model teaching hiphop dancing and music to vulnerable children.
Cambodia and youth arts
Life is tough in Cambodia if you are not a tourist. Dragonfly Tours is run by a unique partnership model which results in terrific holidays as well as contributing to the betterment of life in Cambodia for its residents.
The place you stay when you visit the future today
In 2011 at Tin Sheds Gallery in Sydney as part of The Right To The City project an installation and performance by NZ/Australian artist D.V. Rogers called DISASTR explored the idea of shelter in times of disaster by building a functioning Hexayurt Hotel in the centre of Wadigal Green at Sydney University.
Somewhere: Manuwangku life with a nuclear waste dump
The current touring exhibition by Jagath Dheerasekara, Manuwangku: Under the Nuclear Cloud (2012) is a salutary reminder that the struggle for self-determination by Aboriginal people continues unabated. Jagath’s project dates back to July 2010 when Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI) organised a forum in Sydney to inform people of the impact of a decision made in mid 2005 by the Howard government to dump nuclear waste at Manuwangku, or Muckaty as it is popularly known, 120 km north of Tennant Creek.
Promoting the long view
Artist and filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon's current practice is focused around documentary filmmaking and social history, motivated by an appreciation of living memory and local vernacular. He writes about the Illuminated by Fire project, an initiative of Regional Arts Victoria, that involved a dozen artists working with eleven local communities in the wake of Black Saturday.
Making a virtue out of adversity: Christchurch post-earthquake
Director of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu Jenny Harper writes about the resilience and the pioneering spirit of the many and varied achievements of the Gallery since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Canterbury.
Evidence of a catastrophe: The weather reports of James Guppy
The cloud/explosion paintings of James Guppy's The Weather Report series of 2006 were made as a response to 9/11.
Contact lenses: Lloyd Godman's ecological art
New Zealand-born ecological artist, Lloyd Godman, who now lives in Australia, has in his own determined way for over thirty years, pondered and acted upon questions of how aesthetics might be involved in creating sustainable solutions to environmental problems. Historian Helen McDonald uses eco-critic Timothy Morton's notion of ambient aesthetics to examine three of Godman's multimedia projects.
9th Shanghai Biennale: Re-Activation
Chief Curator: Qiu Zhijie Co-curators: Boris Groys, Jens Hoffmann, Johnson Chang Shanghai Power Station of Art and other venues 2 October 2012 – 31 March 2013
Beata Batorowicz – Tales within Historical Spaces
QUT Art Museum, Brisbane 1 September – 28 October 2012
Bungaree: the First Australian
Curator: Djon Mundine Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney 1 September – 25 November 2012 then touring
Roads cross: contemporary directions in Australian art
Curators: Vivonne Thwaites, Fiona Salmon, Anita Angel Flinders University City Gallery 29 June – 26 August 2012
In a silent way
Curator: Matt Warren Laura Altman, Monica Brooks, Nicolas Bullen, Darren Cook, Gail Priest, Lawrence English, Samaan Fieck, Joel Stern Contemporary Art Spaces, Hobart 28 July – 26 August 2012
Curator: Katie Lenanton Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Perth 11 August – 6 October 2012
Pat Brassington: Á Rebours
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne 11 August - 23 September 2012
Colour by number
!Metro Arts, Brisbane 19 September – 6 October 2012
Conversations in ellipsis: an exercise in affect & association… time & (e)motion studies, or things unsaid
Curator: Lisa Harms Adelaide Botanic Garden, FELTspace, SASA Gallery 31 July – 26 August 2012
Remarking | Remaking: Contemporary Australian Drawing Connections
Curators: Abdullah M. I. Syed and Wenmin Li Nicole Barakat, Denis Beaubois, Nick Brown, Muamer Cajic, Anie Nheu, Ana Pollack, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Marikit Santiago, Shay Tobin, Teo Treloar Remarking | Remaking Community Project Nicole Barrakat in collaboration with Blacktown Indian Subcontinent Women’s Group Blacktown Arts Centre 20 July – 1 September 2012
A Universe of Small Truths: Julie Henderson
AEAF (Australian Experimental Art Foundation), Adelaide 20 July – 18 August 2012
Ian Burns: In the Telling
ACMI, Melbourne 24 July 2012 – 20 January 2013
History of Cultural Responses to Disastrous Storms (1612-2012)

Jennifer Hamilton reviews English and European responses to big storms over time and suggests that even today we need "the more metaphysical dimensions of our existence – the cultural, social and political – to even begin to understand how thunder, lightning, strong winds and an abundance of water falling from the sky can still completely destroy a city and change the course of history."