EXTRA OCTOBER 2020
MONUMENTS AT 4A CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
In Western culture a monument is created to commemorate a moment in history. Dean Cross’ Monuments challenges this static inclination through his work’s active embodiment of histories, and through these histories’ unbridled permeation of time. Currently in its third iteration at Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Monuments takes on a grid formation – this iteration comprises 232 handfuls of Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country white ochre, many of which are resting on top of a sheet of gold leaf – that sprawls across the entire first level gallery. Accompanying information lets visitors know that each handful of ochre represents one year of colonisation in Australia, and so each handful represents a monument.
First shown in 2016 while Cross was undertaking a Bachelor of Visual Art at Sydney College of the Arts, Monuments was subsequently commissioned and installed in 2018 at the Shepparton Art Museum – the second iteration marking a material departure from its first, which used only soil. The material metamorphosis of the work brings the idea of the work, rather than its objecthood, sharply into the picture. Bridie Moran, curator of Monuments at 4A, emphasises the dual thematics of the work. Not only does it grapple with the memorialisation of colonisation from the perspective of an Indigenous person, Cross being born and raised on Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country and of Worimi descent, but it also invites critical reflection upon the significance of a ‘monument’.
Speaking with Cross, it becomes clear that ideas of responsiveness, tenderness, cultural safety and resonance are cornerstones of the works’ legacy. Cross intends for the work to be exhibited every two years, with each iteration embracing the variables of site-specificity by responding to the architecture that confines the work; accommodating the growing number of years passed since the colonisation of Australian in 1788; and responding to the contextual situation in which the work is presented. Thinking about the future of the work, Cross notes that “the work is not about me.” Monuments, in its process and meaning, embodies Cross’ experiences and values as an Indigenous person, but the individual is not extricable from Country and culture. When describing his relationship to the work, Cross considers himself more as a custodian, noting that “as an iterative work it has a lifespan, hopefully beyond my own, and so in that there become challenges around custodianship, ownership is less important – I don’t particularly feel I own this work.” The equivocal future significance of the work is built into Cross’ current thinking around it – but ideas remain discursive and open rather than resolved. “There’re perhaps two alternate futures for the work,” Cross says. “There’s this one where it does need to be a reminder to think again about where we live, the histories that we all embody and the way that we remember. But then there might be this alternate reality – and I don’t know whether this will ever happen – but a reality where the decolonial idea fully blooms, and we won’t need to be reminded in the same way.” The responsiveness of the installation implicates its cultural meaning in real time. In doing so, Monuments represents a remarkable deviation from the Western monuments that Cross notes as a key aspect to the work, and one that he hopes may inspire the creation of more monuments that commemorate the multiplicities of Indigenous histories and experiences.
Cross’ process, material choices, the enduring nature of the work and of course the title, open up thinking about the meaning of Monuments and a monument. The ceramic used in Monuments is white ochre of Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country, where Cross was born and raised. With permission from local Elder and Traditional Custodian Aunty Matilda House, the artist, accompanied by his father, extracted the white ochre that will continue to be used for each iteration of the installation – a process that encompasses practices of cultural safety, as well as sustainable approaches to mineral extraction and art making. As the work exists over the years, its composition will change. As the mineral is swept up and placed in a bucket after each instalment there will be loss of ochre and gold but other particles may be picked up along the way, and perhaps more white ochre will need to be added over the years. These changes are important because they embrace the unknown, and invite the viewer to think through what is unresolved and to ponder their own relationship to what the work presents.
The structure of the installation itself facilitates reflection. Visitors are invited to walk through the methodically spaced out piles of ochre, bringing a bodily relationship to the material and the work that is not exclusive to the artist. The white ochre and gold leaf work together to enhance the space – the gold catching your eye in the light, playing into the social value placed on its materiality and effect – their delicate yet earthly quality combined with the implication of bodies within the space evokes an air of contemplation upon the history that is still unfolding.
Initially, Monuments was to be shown in the context of a group exhibition titled Drawn by Stones, curated by Bridie Moran. The exhibition was scheduled for 2020 but has been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Since Monuments cannot be shown outside of its two-year exhibition cycle, it is currently installed as a “grounding work and precursor for the exhibition.” Overarchingly, Drawn by Stones brings together artists from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan who all work with ceramic to critically explore notions of nationhood, Indigenous sovereignty and contested histories – ceramic hereby being posited as a medium that places agency in the hands of the beholder, with the capacity to memorialise a multiplicity of histories. Monuments is framed in the support material for Drawn by Stones as challenging “colonial concepts of ceramics, memorialisation and memory,” as well as representing a monument “to strength, survival and custodianship.” With these themes in mind, the process of contemplating each considered aspect of Cross’ installation flags a starting point, not only for learning about a specific story but also for asking questions – and the answers are not necessarily resolved.
Dean Cross, Monuments at 4A Centre for Contemporary Art is on until October 1, 2020.
Feature by Sophie Prince, Sept 2020
Image credit: Dean Cross, Monuments (installation view), 2018 – ongoing (2020 iteration), handfuls of Ngunnawal ochre & gold leaf, dimensions variable. Installation view, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, 2020. Photo: Kai Wasikowski for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Courtesy the artist.
IF THE FUTURE IS TO BE WORTH ANYTHING: 2020 SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ARTIST SURVEY AT ACE OPEN
Coming to fruition during a time when notions of purpose, direction and productivity have been deeply challenged for so many, this year’s South Australian Artist Survey takes the title of If the future is to be worth anything. Expressly geared towards thoughtful and productive experimentation, the theme offers artists the opportunity to re-imagine selfhood and structures, all the while considering creative tools for grappling with strength, vulnerability and survival.
The theme invites consideration of the function of art, a pertinent notion since the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has forced the arts community to face uncertainty about its role within the community at large. While the arts have proven time and again to be a cornerstone to life, the organisers of the survey have acknowledged the timeliness of continuing to engage with pursuits of self-preservation and community care, stating that “recent events have exposed how truly our lives are enmeshed with those of others – with potential for support and harm in both a micro and macro sense.”
ACE Open’s Artistic Director Patrice Sharkey, and Curator-in-Residence Rayleen Forester, developed the survey by leading state-wide research and studio visits, which subsequently informed their choice of artists and collectives and the survey's theme. The breadth and diversity of the arts landscape in the region is exemplified by the artists selected, while also demonstrating the passion and rigour towards exploring the way culture is formed, and what counts as art.
The ten South Australian artists and collectives commissioned to create work for this major exhibition outcome at ACE Open are: Aida Azin, Carly Dodd, Emmaline Zanelli, fine print, Kate Bohunnis, Matt Huppatz, Sandra Saunders, Sundari Carmody, Tutti Arts and Yusuf Hayat. Presented in partnership with the South Australian Living Artists Festival, the project will include an exhibition along with public programs, including two artist-led workshops and an artist talk series titled West End Art Talks presented in collaboration with JamFactory and Samstag Museum.
If the future is to be worth anything: 2020 South Australian Artist Survey at ACE Open is on until December 12, 2020.
Image credit: Portrait of Emmaline Zanelli in the studio, 2020. Photo: Sam Roberts.
THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE PODCAST, HOUSE STORIES: THE TAPESTRIES
If you are lacklustre for art historical, research-led discussion, the Sydney Opera House has recently launched a podcast series titled House Stories: The Tapestries. Hosted by award-winning broadcaster and 20th century architecture and design enthusiast Tim Ross, the four-part series delves into the stories behind the unique tapestries designed for the Opera House by Australian abstract painter John Coburn, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon. Ross is a lifelong lover of Coburn, and it is his passion for the artist that led him to unravel fascinating insights into the commissioning and fabrication of the tapestries – the setbacks faced in their development, and the extensive conservation that has been undertaken to maintain these largescale textile works.
Peppered with dramatic turns, Ross takes listeners through the controversies and public opinions surrounding the works and their handling. The controversies were predominantly incited by their decommissioning in the 1980s, however the tapestries seem to have magnetised drama throughout their existence. Sydney Opera House Head of Talks & Ideas Dr Edwina Throsby comments: “I’ve long marvelled at the beauty of the Sydney Opera House tapestries, but until we started working on this series I had no idea of the tales of intrigue, deception and controversy that surround them.” The episodes, each around 15 to 20 minutes long, offer robust and entertaining insights into the capacity for art to garner a reaction that speaks to the mores of the time, leaving present day listeners impassioned by the discourse at hand.
Presented as a series of interviews between Ross and several experts on the tapestries, including John Coburn’s daughter Kristin Coburn and Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM, listeners are privy to the tales that cement these tapestries’ status as World Heritage-listed masterpieces.
Episode one of House Stories: The Tapestries is available on the Opera House website now, along with playlists, articles and video content
Image credit: Host Tim Ross with Jørn Utzon’s tapestry Homage to C.P.E Bach (2004). Photo: Daniel Boud. Courtesy the Sydney Opera House.
ART AS AN ESSENTIAL ACTIVITY: AN INQUIRY AT TARRAWARRA MUSEUM
Life under Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne has brought with it the fragmentation of communities, leaving many people reeling without an outlet. In light of these unprecedented times, Melbourne-based independent curator Biljana Ciric has conceptualised and curated Art as essential activity: an inquiry, commissioned by the TarraWarra Museum of Art. Ciric says the pandemic has shown that we need to develop new modes of connection and exploration. This has become the central thesis of this project, which hopes to encourage participation and connection while fostering a sense of collective memory and co-existence.
Art as essential activity: an inquiry brings together works from around the globe that both respond and constructively contribute to life in a pandemic. The first in the series is a participatory work titled Stories from the Room by New York and China-based Chinese-American artist Jasphy Zheng. In this work, the artist invites us to submit written reflections upon the experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, and in doing so contribute to the building of a living archive that documents this unique moment in history. Zheng states: “Through this long-term project, I am rethinking the gap between on and offline worlds as a new territory that defines, questions and challenges the distance between sociality and solidarity at a time like this. Through a collective act, this project simulates a physical gathering of text by collecting paralleled realities from participants and displaying them in a public space.” The work has already been exhibited at the Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan, where it received submissions from people living in Japan, China and the United States of America.
Zheng’s work, and Ciric’s curatorial project at large, is a testament to the agility of the arts. Moreover, they exemplify the ingeniousness and generosity of arts practitioners who, who even through personally tumultuous times, manage to find the collective pulse of humanity that can activate social connection and insight. With an open heart and mind about what will result from the projects, Art as essential activity: an inquiry acknowledges the disillusion of the unknown and turns it into a unifying and creative force. Submissions for Stories from the Room are now open, with the archive set to be exhibited at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art once galleries in Victoria can open safely.
Visit twma.com.au for more information about the project.
Image credit: Jasphy Zheng, Stories from the Room (detail), 2020, Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan. Photo: Ken’ichi Miura. Courtesy the artist.
RAQS MEDIA PRESENTS AFTERGLOW AT THE YOKOHAMA TRIENNALE
If we were to visualise the sensory experience that Afterglow conjures up, we could view it as radiant and luminous burn – the finishing ambers of a fire, the exuberant glow after an energetic jog, the glint of light emerging from the curtains as upon waking up in the morning. As a curatorial premise, Afterglow (2020) marks a new career milestone for Raqs Media Collective.
Raqs Media Collective are a curatorial and artistic collective based in New Delhi, India. Raqs “is a word in Persian, Arabic and Urdu and means the state that whirling dervishes enter into when they whirl.” It is also a word used for dance. At the same time, Raqs could be an acronym for “rarely asked questions.” Raqs consists of Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, collaborators who work across art, documentary filmmaking, new media, critical theory, education and curatorial practice.
This edition of the Yokohama Triennale brings together 67 artists – many of them exhibiting in Japan for the first time – whose work engages with diverse belief systems, histories and forms of sensory experience. Instead of attending the opening of their new curatorial project in Yokohama, Japan – like most of the artworld in 2020 – I watched on digitally. What followed was listening to Jeebesh, Monica and Shuddha as they gave an intimate, experiential walkthrough of the exhibition via a Zoom link. Based in New Delhi, and like all of us utterly hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, they too were not able to be physically present at the opening. And so, we were all traversing the exhibition together, through a digital frontier.
Yokohama is the second most populated city in Japan. Traditionally working-class, it is a port city known historically for the production and distribution of some of Japan’s major industries. Highlights of the triennial includes US-based artist Nick Cave, who has created a new version of his largescale installation Kinetic Spinner Forest (2016, recreated in 2020). The work is positioned within the entry of the museum, and is comprised of thousands of colourful hanging mobiles. These metallic prisms remind us of joyful contexts such as garden ornaments, however upon closer inspection it is evident the shapes of the individual items comprising the installation are actually more sinister in their content – teardrops, bullets, guns. Other highlights include Eve Fàbregas ‘tangles’ installation, a sculpture comprised of sensory balls and lycra that appears as a spillage of intertwining intestinal forms encouraging us to ‘think with our gut’, here perhaps pointing audiences towards a bodily depiction of afterglow. Other highlights include Beirut-based artist Haig Aivazian who works with installation, video, drawing, sculpture and performance to explore the ripple of control and sovereignty in sports, museums and music. Similarly, Australian First Nations artist Robert Andrew exhibits his work for the first time in Japan, using technology to speak to the erasure of First Nations voices and language in Australia through a kinetic sculptural work.
On the streets on Yokohama, the triennial had street presence due to an intervention by Ivana Franke. Titled Resonance of the Unforeseen (2020), Frankie’s work saw the Modernist building’s façade transform to a dark, striated screen that – in fitting with the subtitle of the seventh edition of the Yokohama Triennale – resembles an analogue television patterned with the white noise inspired by the big bang, here intertwining science and the curatorial theme. Blockbuster exhibitions like biennials and triennials are designed to be experienced physically, but the new ‘COVID-normal’ has offered us all an opportunity to critically examine the way we are engaging with audiences. Raqs Media Collective, and the wider Yokohama Triennale kit, have navigated this with intelligence and elegance; a case study for others to follow and build upon.
Feature by Tess Maunder, Sept 2020
Image credit:Nick CAVE, Kinetic Spinner Forest 2016 (recreated in 2020), © Nick Cave. Installation view of Yokohama Triennale 2020, Photo: OTSUKA Keita, Photo courtesy of Organizing Committee for Yokohama Triennale
THE BODY ELECTRIC AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA
The Body Electric takes the subject of sex, pleasure and desire and explores these themes through the works of women artists from Australia and abroad. In his major exhibition at Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia, you will find works by Polly Borland, Pat Brassington, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin, Petrina Hicks, Mayumi Hosokura, Claire Lambe, Tracey Moffatt and Cindy Sherman. Engaging the mediums of photography and video, the exhibition offers a radical discourse around the ways in which women’s sexuality has been represented by offering images that celebrate love in conjunction with the erotic, intimate and emotional. Showing the works of pioneering figures of video and photography art together offers both an active reflection of, and shift in, how women have been institutionally represented.
The Body Electric at the National Gallery of Art is part of the Know My Name project and is on until March 26, 2021.
Image credit: Pixy Liao, Some words are just between us from Experimental Relationship, 2010. Courtesy the artist.
HATCHED: NATIONAL GRADUATE SHOW 2020 at PICA
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art is currently showing the work of 24 recent visual arts graduates from every State and Territory across Australia. The works in Hatched National Graduate Show 2020 traverse questions of identity, political protest and media consumption. The exhibition is a testament to the institution’s championing of emerging artists, with one exceptional exhibiting artist being awarded the Dr Harold Schenberg Art Fellowship, worth $50,000 an presented in partnership with the University of Western Australia (UWA).
Hatched: National Graduate Show 2020 at PICA is on until October 18, 2020.
Image credit: Olivia Davies, Body/Object #2, 2019, photographic paper. Courtesy the artist
DESERT MOB 2020 AT ARALUEN ARTS CENTRE
Featuring hundreds of new artworks from emerging and established artists, Desert Mob 2020 is currently showing at Araluen Arts Centre in Mparntwe. The nationally recognised event, inaugurated in 1991, includes a dynamic exhibition of innovative works at the centre, as well as presentations and artist talks staged across Mparntwe. The event is also accessible through the Desert Mob online gallery and virtual symposium, all of which is geared towards sharing the art, stories and vitality of First Nations people.
Desert Mob 2020 at Araluen Arts Centre, Mparntwe (Alice Springs) is on until October 25, 2020.
Image credit: Marlene Rubuntja, Hubert Pareroultja and Mervyn Rubuntja. Photo: Rhett Hammerton.
MIGNON STEELE AT THE EGG AND DART
The Egg and Dart has programmed a suite of incredible exhibitions over the coming months that includes a strong representation of women artists such as Mignon Steele. Nearer by Far taps into a recurrent premise explored by Steele – that she paints to understand painting. Her recent works are developed from ‘night drawings’, self-explanatory modes of expression she has found herself turning to in these times of being tethered to the domestic environment. Steele’s drawings and larger paintings are all included in the exhibition, and together demonstrate the artist's ability to both search and settle within the creation of a work, and to offer forth an image that is dually ineffable and articulate.
Mignon Steele: Nearer by Far at The Egg and Dart is on until October 3, 2020.
Image credit: Mignon Steele, Nearer by Far, 2020, oil on canvas, 121 x 183 cm. Courtesy The Egg and Dart.
THE BURNING WORLD AT BENDIGO REGIONAL ART GALLERY
At an incredibly dystopian global moment, The Burning World currently showing at Bendigo Regional Art Gallery takes its title from the apocalyptic science fiction text of the same name by celebrated author J. G. Ballard. The Burning World brings together major works by Hoda Afshar, Peta Clancy, Rosemary Laing and Michael Cook to reveal truths about human inhabitations through the artists’ overarching exploration of urban and natural landscapes. Works in the exhibition address the implications of the contemporary way of life and the ongoing impacts of historical figures and systems, all the while challenging master narratives by drawing attention to what has been obscured. Employing a decolonial curatorial approach, the exhibition considers the landscape as an amorphous political site.
The Burning World at Bendigo Regional Art Gallery is on until November 8, 2020.
Image credit: Michael Cook, Invasion (Laser girls) (detail), 2017, Inkjet print. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer. © Michael Cook
PIGS AND POISON AT THE GOVETT-BREWSTER
Candice Lin’s solo exhibition Pigs and Poison is now showing at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. As the world grapples with closing borders and historic racial tensions, Lin’s show examines the effects of migration, race and borders through generations. Pigs and Poison brings together new and existing works by the Los Angeles-based artist that explore her own Chinese heritage, as well as weaving together stories of Chinese migration with the history of American and British colonialism to offer candid insight into issues still relevant today. Pigs and Poison is showing at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery before traveling to partner institutions, Times Museum, Guangzhou, and Spike Island, Bristol.
Pigs and Poison at The Govett-Brewster/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth is on until November 15, 2020.
Image credit: Candice Lin, A Robot Spoke What My Father Wrote, 2019. Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber.