Archive for the 'Australian writing' Category

26
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘The Sievers Project’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th June – 31st August 2014

Artists: Jane Brown, Cameron Clarke, Zoë Croggon, Therese Keogh, Phuong Ngo, Meredith Turnbull, Wolfgang Sievers
Curated by Naomi Cass and Kyla McFarlane

 

 

Curated by CCP Director Naomi Cass and Kyla McFarlane, this intelligent exhibition features the work of six early career artists who respond in diverse ways to renowned Australian photographer Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007). It was a joy to see again the large vintage silver gelatin, almost clinically composed photographs by Sievers. The light, tonality and stillness of the images make them seem mythic, modern and monumental.

Each artist offers a unique “take” on Sievers influence on Australian photography and design, including his interest in refugees and human rights issues and the representation of the dignity of labour (although the machine is more often represented in Sievers work with a distinct lack of human presence and the act of work itself).

My personal favourites were Phuong Ngo’s intimate silver gelatin photographs in four groups of sweat shop workers in Vietnam, people on boats coming to Australia, photographs of textile workers in Australia and photographs of his mother. Phuong Ngo’s shared stories of young Vietnamese refugees and the journeys taken by their mothers told through photographs is very moving, but only after you are told what the four bodies of images are about. Positioned in the small Gallery Four it was also difficult to associate this installation with the rest of the exhibition. Initially I thought it was a separate exhibition until the linkages were told, the light dawned, and the connections were made.

While Cameron Clarke’s photographs of Ford factory workers and machinery are meticulously lit and digitally observed, producing a strong body of work, it is Jane Brown’s gridded analogue triptych which steals the show (see photographs below). These are superbly rich and textured photographs, beautifully seen and resolved within the shifting mise-en-scène. Brown’s images kinetically flow from one image to another even as they are self contained within a modernist grid. In some instances the artist has used the same photograph within the triptych but cropped in a different manner, which pushes and pulls the viewer into a different perspective on the subject matter. This is highly intelligent art making that observes the self contained nature and monumentality of Sievers work and reworks it, lucidly commenting on the dis/integration of these spaces and industries in the present day.

This series of work is the best sequence of photographs I have seen this year and any institution worthy of their salt should snap up these works for their collection.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Director Naomi Cass and the CCP for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan 2014

 

 

Jane Brown. 'Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield' 2014

 

Jane Brown
Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield
2014
3 panels of 9, 6 and 6 selenium toned, fibre-based, gelatin silver prints

 

Installation photographs of Jane Brown 'Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield' 2014 (details) at the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of Jane Brown 'Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield' 2014 (details) at the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of Jane Brown 'Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield' 2014 (details) at the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of Jane Brown 'Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield' 2014 (details) at the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Installation photographs of Jane Brown Triptych. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield 2014 (details) at the exhibition The Sievers Project at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Jane Brown. 'Staircase. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield, 2014' 2014

 

Jane Brown
Staircase. The Paper Mill (former Amcor and APM site), Fairfield, 2014
2014
Fibre-based, gelatin silver print

 

Jane Brown. 'Mining machinery, Line of Lode Miners Memorial Complex, Broken Hill 2014-06-10' 2014

 

Jane Brown
Mining machinery, Line of Lode Miners Memorial Complex, Broken Hill 2014-06-10
2014
Brown toned, fibre-based, gelatin silver print
Courtesy the artist

 

installation-m

 

Installation photograph of Jane Brown’s work at the exhibition The Sievers Project at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Wolfgang Sievers. 'Gears for the Mining Industry, Vickers Ruwolt, Burnley, Victoria, 1967' 1967

 

Wolfgang Sievers
Gears for the Mining Industry, Vickers Ruwolt, Burnley, Victoria, 1967
1967
Gelatin silver photograph
49.6 x 39.3 cm
National Library of Australia, Wolfgang Sievers Photographic Archive

 

Wolfgang Sievers. 'Sulphuric Acid Plant Electrolytic Zinc, Risoon, Tasmania, 1959' 1959

 

Wolfgang Sievers
Sulphuric Acid Plant Electrolytic Zinc, Risoon, Tasmania, 1959
1959
Gelatin silver photograph

 

nstallation photograph of the work of Meredith Turnbull (foreground) and Zoë Croggon (rear wall) at the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Installation photograph of the work of Meredith Turnbull (foreground) and Zoë Croggon (rear wall) at the exhibition The Sievers Project at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Zoë Croggon. 'John Holland Constructions, Ginninderra Bridge (after Wolfgang Sievers)' 2014

 

Zoë Croggon
John Holland Constructions, Ginninderra Bridge (after Wolfgang Sievers)
2014
Photocollage
70 cm x 86 cm
Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer, Melbourne

 

Zoë Croggon. 'Comalco Aluminium Used in the Construction of the National Gallery of Victoria [7] (after Wolfgang Sievers)' 2014

 

Zoë Croggon
Comalco Aluminium Used in the Construction of the National Gallery of Victoria [7] (after Wolfgang Sievers)
2014
Photocollage
Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer, Melbourne

 

Zoë Croggon. 'Comalco Aluminium Used in the Construction of the National Gallery of Victoria [18] (after Wolfgang Sievers)' 2014

 

Zoë Croggon
Comalco Aluminium Used in the Construction of the National Gallery of Victoria [18] (after Wolfgang Sievers)
2014
Photocollage
Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer, Melbourne

 

Zoë Croggon. 'Westgate Bridge (after Wolfgang Sievers)' 2014

 

Zoë Croggon
Westgate Bridge (after Wolfgang Sievers)
2014
Photocollage
Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer, Melbourne

 

 

“Six early career artists, working in photography through to installation, have responded in diverse ways to renowned Australian photographer Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007), icon of 20th century Australian photography. Sievers’ commercial practice exemplifies mid-century positivism and modernity, and the mythmaking role of photography. As a German Jewish immigrant, he had a strong interest in refugees and human rights issues as well as an expressed commitment to representing the dignity of labour. The Sievers Project presents key historical works as a context for engaging the past through the present.

Photographers Jane Brown and Cameron Clarke have followed in his footsteps to industrial clients Sievers photographed and valorised, finding sites that are visually dynamic within industries now in decline. Through her intrepid, research-based practice, Therese Keogh has developed a materially-rich work from the starting point of a single, anomalous photograph Sievers took at the Roman Forum in 1953. Meredith Turnbull draws on his connections with Melbourne’s design community in the 1950s and 60s, including Gerard Herbst and Frederick Romberg. In Sievers’ photographs of industrial sewing machines and their machinists, Phuong Ngo finds shared stories of young Vietnamese refugees and the journeys taken by their mothers. Zoë Croggon positions fragments of Sievers’ iconic architectural photographs against found photographs of the human body in movement.”

Text from the CCP website

 

Foreword to the catalogue

The Sievers Project follows a number of exhibitions over the last five years where CCP has opened up a vista on contemporary practice by exhibiting early work by living artists such as Bill Henson, Kohei Yoshiyuki and Robert Rooney, as well as historical photography, alongside contemporary work. As a commissioning exhibition we have titled this a ‘project’ to point towards the year-long research period integral to the exhibition, capturing the curatorial gesture of inviting early career artists to engage with the past.

The Sievers Project represents a significant curatorial endeavour for CCP, the tale of which is recounted in the Introduction. It would simply not have taken place were it not for the willingness and generosity of Julian Burnside AO QC to participate, through allowing the artists research access to his Wolfgang Sievers collection and lending work from it for the exhibition, as well as contributing an essay for this catalogue.

I acknowledge the artists for setting out on this project and for returning with thoughtful and excellent work. It has been a pleasure to both engage with and exhibit the work of Jane Brown, Cameron Clarke, Zoë Croggon, Therese Keogh, Phuong Ngo and Meredith Turnbull.

The Sievers Project has been dignifi ed by contributions by a number of experts and I wish to acknowledge Professor Helen Ennis, Australian National University School of Art who has also contributed a catalogue essay; Madeleine Say, Picture Librarian, Eve Sainsbury, Exhibitions Curator and Clare Williamson, Senior Exhibitions Curator, State Library of Victoria; Maggie Finch, Curator of Photography, National Gallery of Victoria and Professor Harriet Edquist and Kaye Ashton, Senior Coordinator, RMIT Design Archives, who all took time to speak about Sievers and share his work with the artists.

Opportunities to commission artists are relatively rare and funding through the inaugural Early Career Artist Commissions Grant from the Australia Council has enabled the project. CCP is pleased to acknowledge this recognition and support. We are delighted that Lovell Chen Architects & Heritage Consultants have provided further critical support to realise the project, for which we are grateful. We see a germane link between Lovell Chen and the premise of The Sievers Project.

The Besen Family Foundation are champions for enabling CCP to produce catalogues for selected exhibitions. I acknowledge the Foundation for their long-standing and generous engagement with CCP. We thank the National Library of Australia for providing permission to reproduce Sievers’ work in this catalogue.

The Sievers Project has provided a welcome opportunity for CCP to engage with colleagues in the fi eld of architecture and we are delighted to acknowledge a partnership with the Robin Boyd Foundation to present public programs. We are grateful to Tony Lee from the Foundation for his interest in the project.

Without doubt CCP’s ability to both present contemporary art well and look after artists is greatly enhanced through the longstanding and generous support of Tint Design and Sofi tel Melbourne on Collins. CCP is pleased to present a parallel exhibition of The Sievers Project at the 2014 Melbourne Art Fair and we thank the Melbourne Art Foundation for enabling CCP to bring the exhibition to broad new audiences. For the Art Fair exhibition we are also indebted to Christine Downer, previous CCP Board member and current supporter, for the loan of a major Sievers work.

The Sievers Project has been ably assisted by Philippa Brumby, curatorial intern. Co-curator Dr Kyla McFarlane and I thank Philippa for her wide-ranging skills over a substantial period of time. Lastly, I acknowledge Kyla for her excellent curatorial work and for the pleasure of collaborating with such a playful, dedicated and steely intellect.

.
Naomi Cass, Director, CCP

 

And what about his Legacy?

A response to this necessarily combines elements of certitude and speculation. Sievers himself was totally committed to ensuring his legacy as a photographer. He spent years meticulously cataloguing and documenting his work and was assiduous in placing as much of it as he could in major photography collections around the country – art galleries and libraries. The bulk of his archive, a staggering 65,000 negatives and prints, was acquired by the National Library where it has been digitised and is available online to users in perpetuity. But there is another aspect to his preoccupation with legacy that has troubled me over the years – his desire to control the readings of his work, to ensure that he ‘owned’ the contextualisation and interpretation of it. As I see it, some of the framing narratives he constructed were retrospective and are misleading because they are not borne out by the evidence, that is, by the photographs themselves. This is especially apparent in his insistence that the relationship between ‘man and machine’ was central to his industrial photography. In my assessment of his enormous archive, images that extol this interaction are actually relatively few in number. They are outweighed by thousands and thousands of other industrial scenes in which the worker is locked into the dreary, repetitive tasks associated with mass production, or is not present at all having been displaced by machines that are far more efficient than humans will ever be. In other words, the bulk of Sievers’ own photographs contradict his central tenet of the dignity of labour in the modern machine era. The most important aspect of his legacy is undoubtedly his photographs and the astonishingly vast, high quality body of architectural and industrial work he produced between 1938 and the early 1970s. My view is that his black and white photography is the best although he did not agree with me, arguing that his colour photography, with its expressive and dramatic qualities, was equally fine. For me, it is his black and white images that are visionary, their precision, clarity and drama embodying the belief in progress that underpinned modernity. I would also suggest Sievers’ legacy isn’t confined to his photography. As a man he cared deeply about the world and wanted it to be better. He was closely involved in the restoration of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s buildings in Berlin in the 1990s and in the re-evaluation of his own father’s reputation (Professor Johannes Sievers was an expert on Schinkel and had used his young son’s photographs in his books on the architect in the 1930s). Wolfgang donated his photographs to fund-raising campaigns for human rights and remained a passionate antiwar activist until his death.

 

What would he have thought about this project?

I suspect that he would have been thrilled to know that his contribution to Australian life and photography is the touchstone for the six photographers involved in the project and that his work continues to be appreciated.

.
Professor Helen Ennis is Director of the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at ANU School of Art, Canberra.

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition The Sievers Project at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

nstallation photograph of the work of Therese Keogh (detail) in the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Installation photograph of the work of Therese Keogh (detail) in the exhibition The Sievers Project at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Installation photograph of the work of Meredith Turnbull (detail) in the exhibition 'The Sievers Project' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Installation photograph of the work of Meredith Turnbull (detail) in the exhibition The Sievers Project at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP)

 

Therese Keogh. 'In the Forum Romanum (after Sievers)' 2013

 

Therese Keogh
In the Forum Romanum (after Sievers)
2013
Graphite on paper
Courtesy the artist

 

Cameron Clarke. 'Loui Nedeski, Ford Motor Company, Geelong' 2014

 

Cameron Clarke
Loui Nedeski, Ford Motor Company, Geelong
2014
Archival inkjet print
50 x 63 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Cameron Clarke. 'Küsters Washer, Bruck Textiles, Wangaratta' 2014

 

Cameron Clarke
Küsters Washer, Bruck Textiles, Wangaratta (detail)
2014
Archival inkjet print

 

Cameron Clarke. 'Theis Dye Jets, Bruck Textiles, Wangaratta' 2014

 

Cameron Clarke
Theis Dye Jets, Bruck Textiles, Wangaratta (detail)
2014
Archival inkjet print

 

Phuong Ngo. 'Untitled' 2014

 

Phuong Ngo
Untitled
2014
from the Mother Vietnam series
Inkjet print
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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02
Aug
14

Catalogue essay: ‘Aspects of the Self (Revealed)’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan for the exhibition ‘Hidden Talents’ at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM), The University of Melbourne, Australia

Exhibition dates: TBC

 

This is the catalogue essay for the exhibition Hidden Talents, an exhibition of the hidden talents of professional staff at the Faculty of the VCA & MCM, The University of Melbourne, Australia. The exhibition has been postponed until a later date but I did not want the catalogue essay to metaphorically sit under the bed with no one reading it.

The essay was written without seeing any of the art work for the exhibition (which is going to consist of knitting, performance, video, sculpture, painting, etc…). I have used my imagination to write about the subject matter, asking why it is important to reveal hidden aspects of the self.

Curator Tracey Claire observes, “Practicing artists are as likely to be found behind a desk as in front of a class at the VCA & MCM… Be it dancing, cycling, sailing, knitting, painting, writing, film making or performing, all the individuals in this exhibition are creative artists thriving in a melting hot pot of creativity… Professional staff tend to go about their business quietly, excelling in the dark arts of spreadsheet wizardry and effortless administration but in their private lives, conjuring mysterious creations. Toiling endlessly in the hours beyond their professional lives, yet inspired and nurtured by precisely this environment, they distill these experiences and produce magic.

This catalogue essay examines the significance of these activities and is accompanied by 5 of the very first black and white images that I ever took, long before I ever started studying photography in 1989.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Keywords

Hidden Talents, The Self, Aspects of the Self, self-expression, image man, essence man, actual self, networked society, perfomative self, citational self, cosmopolitanism, hybridity, visibility, bricolage, Goethe, hybrid identities, identity formation, self actualisation, social transparency, The University of Melbourne, Australia, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, VCA.

 

Download the Aspects of the Self (Revealed) catalogue essay (2.6Mb pdf). Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Zen' 1984

 

Marcus Bunyan
Zen
1984
From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Aspects of the Self (Revealed)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

“In our era of internet ubiquity, the line that separates our selves from the media with which we self-express has dissolved, and the distinction between medium and maker is confused. As we publicise our private stories, and perpetually alter, rebrand, and repaint ourselves to the world, performances of self are status quo and everyone is an artist.”

.
Josephine Skinner 1

 

.
We are all performance artists. And this text is a performance piece, an aspect of myself as I choose to express it in this place and time. An aspect – appearance, look, character, view, interpretation, phase, countenance2 – which, like the word itself, is both stable and fluid, and will change at any time: perhaps even now; or in the future.

Having noted the amorphous nature of the wor(l)d, what I will do in this performance is examine the truths and separate them from the platitudes of Josephine Skinner’s quotation in order to understand not only that the private be made public but also why the hidden should be revealed. Of course, our sense of self changes when the private becomes open, public and possibly universal. I will ask why this is important and how it affects our sense of connection to other human beings. To do this I will examine my own private story, not to rebrand or repaint myself to the world, far from it, but because every life path has important lessons for us all.

In the beginning, I grew up on a farm. My parents were impoverished. It was subsistence living and we were the working poor. We had no running hot water and my mother used to have to boil water on a stove and fill a bathtub on the kitchen floor so that we could be cleaned. We ate what my abusive father shot and took the violence that he dished out. I used to explore the remote reaches of the land, out behind the pond at the front of the farmhouse and up the cart path into the forests, creating fantasy worlds to escape what was going on at home. There, fantasies became a form of escapism, for my imagination, for action,3 a place where I could create new worlds of magic, light and freedom.

My mother was a piano teacher and my father was a part-time singer. I started to study piano at the age of 5 years old under my mother’s tutelage. I had a natural gift and became a child prodigy, the youngest person at that time to attain a distinction in Associated Board Grade 8 examination, at age 11. I was sent to boarding school on a music scholarship at the age of 12, leaving all my school friends behind. There, in that upper class boarding school, I was ostracised because they found out I was gay (just as I was discovering it myself), and because I was a music scholar. My parent’s adage to life was what I would come to call Protestant work ethic: ‘you never work hard enough, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never make anything of yourself.” This damnation has stuck with me and I have struggled against its prophecy, working hard to make something of myself, something I can be proud of. Even now my mother (I don’t see my father) still fails to recognise my achievements, my life path.

So I was abused at home and bullied at school. At boarding school I developed what I was told was depression but which was actually bipolar disorder, undiagnosed until I was in my forties. At the age of 16, I was one of the youngest people to go to the Royal Academy of Music and at 17 I went to the Royal College of Music full time. I moved away from home, which was a blessing, and started living on my own. It was a tough initiation into adult life but I was determined not to be dependent on anyone else. My parents finally divorced when I was 18 and, at the same age, the stress of my hidden sexuality leading me to have a nervous breakdown. After nearly a year recovering I came out as a gay man. I graduated with my degree at 21 and gave up being a concert pianist the same year. The time to start living my own life had begun.

I worked in pubs around London for years. I hated classical music (a rejection of the past) and was really into the funk scene. I was a dilettante, a person without real commitment or knowledge. Not once did I ever think of myself as intelligent or creative, it just wasn’t in my vocabulary. I enjoyed partying, holidays, friends and motor racing and started taking a few photographs. That was it until I was about 28 when I returned to Year 12 and university to study, study, study, to read Carlos Castaneda, Robert Johnson and Joseph Campbell, to devour Borges, Jung and Foucault – not the usual university curriculum for an artist, but I was searching for a spiritual way in life. These authors offered wisdom and learning, and a network to other authors and artists investigating similar subject matter. The start of a path had been found and an inquiring mind slowly emerged. I tell you all of this simply as a statement of fact – this was my beginning, this is what I went through, and this journey and learning informs my being and relation to other people and to the world.

Today, we need to understand our own paradigm of sharing, what we are prepared to reveal of ourselves now that we live in a networked society. In a networked society the private and the public self are no longer two endpoints of a linear dichotomy for the boundaries have well and truly been breached: mobile technologies, computers and social media bring the outside world into our home and we willingly promote our point of view to others. Our interior thoughts are advertised through our exterior relations and appearance – on videos, on mobile phones, through millions of images and informational flows that surround us everyday. Our performative self, our citational self constantly performs and citationally quotes our relations of our self to others through different nodal points, or contexts of connection. But our interiority is still different from our exteriority, even as we perform the self.

Yet, while it is correct that in our era of internet ubiquity, the line that separates our selves from the media with which we self-express has dissolved – we are still not yet fully immersed in this system. Critically, we still have a choice about what we reveal of ourselves to others. My degree as a concert pianist may appear at the bottom of my CV, and I may not tell many people about it, but how I imagine my art, how I write my words and my worlds, is inherently related to the line and ‘magic’ of music. How I relate to other people is based on my core values (strong moral code, loyalty, love of helping people) developed during childhood, core values that have remained stable but whose context may have changed over the journey from youth to adulthood. And because of our class (our position in the world and our contexts), we inhabit the privilege of that disclosure. In this moment, we can still prioritise what other people know of us. What we should not do is divest this choice from our whole selves, partitioning ourselves off in different contexts. We cannot act within our core values in one situation and not in another – unless we want to deceive ourselves and those around us – AND YET WE DO!

While our fundamental values remain consistent (the actual self) what is rapidly changing is the environment in which our social self operates.4 As Sally Shaw notes, “We are experiencing an important cultural moment: the next generation will not be able to recall a time without smartphones, the internet or other enhanced means of communication.”5 Globalised mass media, technological advances in communications, future generations’ normalising of the constant barrage of information and the endless pursuit of “stuff”6 (materialism gone mad) means that “image man” takes precedence over “essence man.”7 But all is not lost if we are prepared to be open to possibilities, to be brave in our choice of engagement with others, and be accepting in our attitude and perspective on life. As the artist Bill Henson observes, “Of course, we live with each other and get along using “civilisational logic” – go at a green light, stop at a red light. But there is a deeper logic – no less exacting or emphatic.”8

This deeper logic, a logic that opens up spaces of inquiry, has links to creative, moderate cosmopolitanism,9 hybridity,10 bricolage and visibility. It is how creativity is changing how our talents are recognised by our friendship networks, our work colleagues or students, without having to justify or hide their existence. It is how the networked personality extends along a horizontal consciousness (not a vertical hierarchy), in which interior/exterior, self/other, is re/formed. Through respect, authenticity (and not anxiety about it!) and openness, we can embed the self into naturalised flows of increasingly open (media) systems. We have a new freedom to construct social relations across time and space for the horizon of social relationship – my body, the social body, the actual self – can become open constellations. Here there is fluidity in identity representation in which stable dimensions, persistent appearances and secure meanings are disavowed. This is coupled, however, with a paradoxical insecurity of those in power, evidenced by the proliferation of borders, walls, security cameras and protected areas.11

This new process of self actualisation enables a creative context, the context for understanding creativity, intelligence, self and what you bring to an encounter, what you are prepared to reveal of your self during that encounter – whether it be baking cakes, knitting scarves, making a video, documenting the self or creating, as I did in my childhood and still do in my art, imaginative worlds to express inner self. Through the lived practice of social transformation we, as social actors, have to rethink our hybrid identities and the function of our imagination as a world-making process.12 This process is about the exposure of the hidden; it is about social transparency; and it is about the emergence of something new.13

Finally, we can say it is neither about the roles we play nor the destination that many seek, but it is about the journey that we take and about rejoicing in that journey. It’s about the moment before ecstasy, the anticipation: of company, of environment, of friends, places, being human, that joy of being human. It’s an inquiring instability that leads, as in Beethoven, to the resolution of stability, a love of the human being and our existence. It’s about understanding the personality and possibility of being.
Instead of the byte sized tweet (in which we understand everything, in an instant), we understand our hybrid being only by moving mentally and physically through heterogenous spaces via flows, nodes and lexias, accessing different perspectives and viewpoints. If we are attentive and aware of these viewpoints, we can open up lines of inquiry and access spaces of plurality which may allow us to be better informed as to the value of self and others. Through an understanding of difference. Through an understanding of the obligation of all human beings to each other.

This challenge to established rhythms, institutions and boundaries – the polity of the state, the indifference of the masses, and the speed of informational flows – can be accomplished by both stepping back and contemplating but also by moving forward and engaging in acts of informed choice, thinking, believing, and relating to other people. This is where I disagree with Josephine Skinner’s quote at the beginning of this aspect of myself: performances of self should never become just so, status quo – for we must not be afraid to reveal aspects of our self and expose the hidden to light. In the day-to-day world, the roles we play and the masks we wear must never come to define who we really are. As Lou Benson observes, “If people begin to see their roles as their true selves and deny thoughts and feelings that are really present, they become estranged from themselves.”14

By not being secret but secreting wisdom and seeking creation we may ultimately find better paths through life. This journey is about being extra/ordinary, however that may be. It is about the ‘making present’ of our imagination in the moment we are in, being consciously aware of that moment, being happy in that moment without ego. It’s about what you do and who you are, not cowering behind the bulkheads.

.
“O God, how the world and heaven shrink together when our heart cowers in its barriers.”

.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

 

© Dr Marcus Bunyan
August 2014

Word count: 2,164

 

first-experiments-b

 

Marcus Bunyan
Brighton Pier (horizontal)
1984 From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Craig in his Docs' 1984

 

Marcus Bunyan
Craig in his Docs
1984
From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Endnotes

1. Skinner, Josephine. “Totally Looks Like.” Exhibition catalogue. Stills Gallery, Sydney, June 2014.

2. as·pect [as-pekt]
noun

  • Appearance to the eye or mind; look: the physical aspect of the country.
  • Nature; quality; character: the superficial aspect of the situation.
  • A way in which a thing may be viewed or regarded; interpretation; view: both aspects of a decision.
  • Part; feature; phase: That is the aspect of the problem that interests me most.
  • Facial expression; countenance: He wore an aspect of gloom. Hers was an aspect of happy optimism.

Aspect as defined on the Dictionary.com website [Online] Cited 22/06/2014 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aspect

3. “The ubiquity of images and the constant enhancement of the modes for public participation have not only disrupted the conventional division between the agency of the artist and collective authorship but also underscore the necessity to rethink the function of the imagination as world-making process. Arjun Appadurai stated it most succinctly: ‘the imagination is today a staging ground for action, and not only escape’.”

Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, p. 7 quoted in Papastergiadis, Nikos. Cosmopolitanism and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012, p. 95.

4. “A natural extension of social comparison theory is the development of the self-concept. Self-concept is a person’s perceptions and perceptual organization of his/her own characteristics, roles, abilities and appearance. One’s self-concept is based in part on how one compares to other individuals with regards to traits, opinions and abilities … Self concept can have a number of dimensions which evolve from social comparisons and evaluations. The self-concept consists of:

  • the actual self (how a person perceives him/herself),
  • the ideal self (how a person would like to perceive him/herself), and
  • the social self (how a person presents him/herself to others).

Sproles, George and Burns, Leslie Davis. Changing Appearances: Understanding Dress in Contemporary Society. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1994, pp. 208-209.

5. Shaw, Sally quoted in Beesley, Ruby. “Challenging Normality,” in Aesthetica, Issue 59, June/July 2014, p. 52.

6. Ibid.,

7. “Essence man approaches life from the standpoint of being who he is without concern for the way he is perceived by others. Image man, on the other hand, focuses on what he wishes to appear to be. In reality, Buber admits, we are all a combination of both. But the tendency is to develop a life-style that is dominated by one pole of this duality.”

Benson, Lou. Images, Heroes and Self-Perceptions. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974, pp. 26-29.

8. Henson, Bill. “Unfinished Symphony,” in the Weekend Australian Review, June 14-15, 2014, p. 5.

9. “The more moderate [cosmopolitan] alternative “is to say that, in addition one to one’s relationships and affiliations with particular individuals and groups, one also stands in an ethically significant relation to other human beings in general” … This second approach starts with rights rather than obligations, and holds that wherever people are joined in significant social relations they have a collective right to share in control of these.”

Calhoun, Craig. “‘Belonging’ in the cosmopolitan imaginary,” in Ethnicities, 3 (4), 2003, pp. 531-553.

10. “At the first level, hybridity refers to the visible effects of difference within identity as a consequence of the incorporation of foreign elements… Recognition of the second level refers to the process by which cultural differences are either naturalized or neutralized within the body of the host culture… The third level of hybridity is linked to aesthetic processes and can be thematized through the early modernist techniques of juxtaposition, collage, montage and bricolage.”

Papastergiadis, Op. cit., p. 117.

11. For these ideas I am indebted to the “Introduction: The Uncanny Home,” in McQuire, Scott. The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space. London: Sage Publications, 2008, pp. 22-24.

12. Papastergiadis, Op. cit., p. 95.

13. “Hybridity refers not only to the ambivalent consequences of mixture but also to the shift in the mode of consciousness. By mixing thing that were previously kept apart there is both a stimulus for the emergence of something new and a shift in position that can offer a perspective for seeing newness as it emerges.”

Papastergiadis, Op. cit., p. 131.

14. “This is not to say that it is possible or even desirable to try to live in the day-to-day world without playing certain roles and wearing certain masks. Societies function through the role play of their inhabitants. But if people begin to see their roles as their true selves and deny thoughts and feelings that are really present, they become estranged from themselves.”

Benson, Lou. Images, Heroes and Self-Perceptions. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974, pp. 26-29.

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Craig with halo' 1984

 

Marcus Bunyan
Craig with halo
1984
From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

first-experiments-a1

 

Marcus Bunyan
Brighton Pier (vertical)
1984 From the series First experiments
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

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23
Jul
14

Catalogue essay: ‘Being (t)here: Gay liberation photography in Australia 1971-73′ from the exhibition ‘Out of the closets, onto the streets’

Exhibition dates: Tuesday 22nd July – Saturday 26th July, 2014

Artists represented: Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes, Rennie Ellis
Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson

 

This is my catalogue essay that accompanies the exhibition Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73 at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne. It’s a bit of a read (3,000 words) but stick with it. I hope you like the insights into the background of the images and the people in the exhibition.

Marcus

 

Many thankx to all the artists for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the Being (t)here catalogue essay (2.2Mb pdf)

 

 

Being (t)here: Gay liberation photography in Australia 1971-73

.
“For the colour and the soundtrack to be part of the politics, even a central part of the politics… meant something new by way of embodiment. Much of the political action was about being there, about putting one’s body on the line. A demonstration, sit-in or blockade is centrally about occupying space. A nonviolent movement tried to occupy space with bodies, not bullets.

It was a key feature of the new left that this embodied politics couldn’t stop in the streets: that is, the public arena as conventionally understood. ‘Being there’ politically also applied to households, classrooms, sexual relations, workplaces and the natural environment.”1

 

I came out as a gay man in 1975, six years after Stonewall and only a few short years after the photographs in this exhibition were taken. The first open acknowledgement of my nascent sexuality was to walk into a newsagent in Notting Hill Gate, London, head down, red as a beetroot and pick up a copy of Gay Times. I literally flung the money at the person behind the counter and ran out. I was so embarrassed. I was seventeen.

From the gay rag I found the name of the local convenor of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and went to meet him at his home. John was the very first openly gay man that I had ever met. We became lifelong friends. He used to hold coffee evenings a couple of times a week in his flat so that the local gay men had somewhere safe and secure to meet – to chat and laugh, to talk about love and life. Once a month there was a pub that we all went to in the country for a bit of a dance night, but that was it unless you went up to London to a nightclub.

None of us were very active politically, although we kept an eye on the papers and we all understood the discrimination and persecution we faced. But by the very act of being openly gay, as most of us were, we were making a political statement. I was openly gay at college in London and stopped “passing” as something I was not (a straight man) by coming out to my family and friends. I placed my being – there, there and there, in different contexts, so that my family, friends and the community could not ignore my sexuality. I never lived in fear but there was a great deal of self-loathing going on behind the scenes. In those days you were always thought of as “abnormal” and defective if you were a poofter. And there was the guilt of that association. As James Nichols observes, “To be gay or lesbian meant belonging to a genealogy of suffering, to have a dramatic, if not a tragic, destiny. Despite the many battles and certain victories that ensued, the homosexual remained a victim in the collective consciousness; a hidden man.”2  William Leonard continues the theme: “If concealment is a psychic wounding that divides each gay man against himself, it is also a collective division that precludes the forms of public association and political affiliation on which gay liberation depends. As gay men confront their own internalised feelings of self-recrimination, if not disgust, they begin to rattle the closet door and seek out, in public, others of their own kind.”3 And rattle the closet door I did. I flaunted my hi-vis identity for all to see. If the liberation movement meant putting your body on the line – not so much by consciously protesting on the streets but by being visible in whatever setting as a gay man – then I certainly did that.

 

Photography documented this Gay Liberation thing, the emergence in public and private of gay people. It not only documented this visibility but also represented it in very aesthetic and artistic ways that up until now have not really been recognised as such. This is where the photographs in this exhibition make their presence known. As gay people found their voice in the early 1970s artists, often at the very beginning of their careers, were there to capture meetings in lounge rooms, consciousness raising groups and street protests. The photographer as artist was not just a witness to these events but actively participated in these actions, which they envisioned in a subjective way. Unlike earlier images of protest marches where there is an observational distance between the photographer/event which allowed for the depiction of environment and numbers (for example in the 8 hour day marches, see figures 1-4) – from the mid-1960s onwards there is a seismic shift in how photographs represent social change and observed history. Now the photographer marches with the inmates and becomes an intimate participant in the proceedings (see figures 5-6).

In this revolutionary era, the artist evidences an empathy with the events being photographed, an up close and personal point of view. Whatever meeting or protest they were there to record was important to them, be it anti-Vietnam war, anti-Apartheid, pro abortion, nuclear disarmament, Gay Liberation, Women’s Liberation, Aboriginal rights, anti-fascist marches and student protests from around the world. And it didn’t matter whether the photographers were gay, straight or whatever. People appropriated public and private space as a form of collective activism, using social movement cultures to re-make the world. The ways of imagining life and transformation, of imaging life and transformation were enabled by the photographer actively participating in these events. The photographer’s “second sight” did not consist in “seeing” but in being there.

As Professor Barbara Creed states of her interest in artistically documenting these actions, “I was very keen on the slogan – ‘The personal is political’. I was in favour of political action of all kinds – direct action, demonstrations, marches, meetings, consciousness raising groups, media publicity, television appearances, coming out at work, talks to schools etc. I was also very interested in the possibility of using artistic practices (film, photography, poetry, fiction, art) to build solidarity among gay people and to help change public opinion.”4

 

Photographer unknown. 'The original eight hour day banner' 1856

 

Figure 1
Photographer unknown
The original eight hour day banner
1856

 

John F. Shale. 'Mounted police assembled in the square during the General Strike, Brisbane' 1912

 

Figure 2
John F. Shale
Mounted police assembled in the square during the General Strike, Brisbane
1912

 

 

While “the early demonstrations illustrated in this exhibition did often include sympathetic “straights” – a term that seems to have disappeared from the language – for whom gay liberation was part of a wider set of cultural issues,”5 for gay men pictured in the photographs these meetings and marches could be seen as a form of “coming out”, or a place to find solidarity, friendship or sex.6 Gay Pride Week in 1973, for example, was seen as a chance to target, “all the institutions of our oppression: the police courts, job discrimination, the bigoted churchmen and politicians, the media, the psychiatrists, the aversion therapists, the military, the schools, the universities, the work-places … It will also seek to change the mind of the prejudiced, the fearful, the conditioned, the sexually repressed, all those who in oppressing us, oppress themselves.”7 It was also intended to say to gay and straight alike, “gay is good, gay is proud, gay is aggressively fighting for liberation. It will say to gays: come out and stand up. Only you can win your own liberation. Come out of the ghettos, the bars and beats, from your closets in suburbia and in your own minds and join the struggle for your own liberation.”8

For photographers it was a chance to picture a changing world. As Sydney photographer Roger Scott has observed, “I knew I could make a point with my camera. It was exciting. The old conservative world was ending and a new Australia was beginning.”9 With the birth of a new Australia came the end of the White Australia policy when the Whitlam Government passed laws to ensure that race would be totally disregarded as a component for immigration to Australia in 1973; with it came the presence of gay people on the streets shouting ‘come out, come out, wherever you are’ – but certainly not in the newspapers or on television for there was, essentially, the suppression of any reference to, or reportage of ‘homosexuals’ in the mainstream press in Australia.10 If they were pictured, gay people still usually turned away from the camera or had their faces blacked out for fear of discrimination and abuse. As artist John Storey notes, “Conservatism flooded the media, government and all the rest. Homophobia was everywhere but was not a term used in public.”11

As for what prompted artists to document organizations and events, Professor Creed remarks, “I loved to film life around me. I had access to good equipment. I thought it was important to have a visual record of the emergence of Gay Liberation. I believed that films and photos would help to create a sense of community for everyone involved in Gay Liberation. Many members of Gay Lib had been ‘closeted’ all of their lives and so it was a new experience for them to join what is best described as an alternative family. In those days, the Gay Lib group was relatively small – perhaps 30-40 members, so we all knew each other. We held regular meetings, joined CR groups, took part in demonstrations, went away for weekend group events, held dances etc. I also wanted to capture the way we looked, couples together, friends, what we wore, our fashions and styles. Some of the guys had a fantastic sense of style – much more than many of the women who were in revolt against ‘feminine’ fashion. I hoped my films and photos would give support to the gay community and to our emerging sense of forming a new identity.”12

By their very embodiment, the art and politics of these photographs awakens what Roland Barthes calls the “intractable reality” of the image 13 – that prick of consciousness (the punctum), that madness that documents activism and freedom from persecution as both aesthetic and ethical, performative and political. Here, the idea of “being there” – being fully present, in mind and body; being there at the marches; being in the images; being in front of the image looking at it; coupled with the physical presence of the photograph, manifests itself most strongly. Even today, the photographs shock the viewer with their intractable reality. You can just feel the passion of these people, the police presence, the fear, and the authenticity of the photographers’ voice – raw, in your face, people really standing up to be counted.

 

Photographer unknown. 'Eight Hour Day parade in Brisbane' 1912

 

Figure 3
Photographer unknown
Eight Hour Day parade in Brisbane
1912

 

Photographer unknown. 'Women evening students' float on Park Street in the 1940s' Photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

Figure 4
Photographer unknown
Women evening students’ float on Park Street in the 1940s
Photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

 

There is also another side to these photographs – the documentation of the more private moments (meetings, consciousness raising groups, friends in the car etc) and the portrayal of gays one on one, close up and personal with the camera in mugshots used in a grid for the cover of CAMP Ink magazine in 1972. Only today can we truly appreciate the intimacy and beauty of these photographs: the photographs of two young gay men in the back of a VW Kombi van that exists only as a 35mm contact print, now scanned and rescued from oblivion; or the presence of gays posing for the camera against a neutral backdrop, every pore of their skin able to be seen (a precursor to the large colour portraits of Thomas Ruff). As Professor Creed states of her desire to capture these intimate moments, “In the 70s film, media and television rarely if ever depicted us at all – let alone our public or private lives. I have always been drawn to the aesthetic power of film and photography to represent the inner world and inner lives of people. The visual image is a great leveller – it reveals the commonality of living things, the need for affection, companionship, community. Contrary to popular myths of the time, gays and lesbians also have a need for intimacy, as does everyone else. When I made my documentary, Homosexuality A Film For Discussion, I included a segment of intimate moments between couples before the commencement of the documentary street interviews, to link the two (private and public together) and to show that many of the negative comments from the general public about loneliness did not match the actual lives of gay people.”14

So where did the photographs that were taken by these artists end up? Often they were collectively passed from hand to hand and used in newsletters, pamphlets and magazines such as CAMP Ink. As Jill Matthews, who compiled the album of Adelaide photographs observes, “The groups and events were very collective enterprises. In those days anyone who had a camera took photos. If people took photos of you, you asked for copies or they gave you prints. There were many prints made and various people had copies. At the time the use of the photos was personal and collective. The newsletters were collective enterprises with everyone chipping in, using whatever was to hand. There was no editor, although some efforts were made to achieve a sense of continuity. Making the newsletters were always fun group events, with a lot of different things you could do, they were basically parties really.”15

Eventually the photographs settled in personal archives and were largely forgotten or were donated to institutions such as the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. And then they all but disappeared from view.

 

A second (but different) “coming out”

With this exhibition these eclectic photographs re-emerge in a kind of second “coming out.” Having been put away for so many years they appear in the clear light of day, in the clear light of new thinking about their artistic merit and how they act as memory aids to feelings and relationships, events and politics.

While analogue photographic images carry Roland Barthes imprint ‘this has been’ – in other words, a photograph is a depiction of something that has already happened, that is already dead – images do not have fixed or settled meanings. As Scott McQuire insightfully observes, meaning in images “is always transactive: it is the result of complex and dynamic processes of interpretation, contestation and translation. Evidence and testimony is always to be actively produced in the complex present… the photograph’s combination of unprecedented visual detail, which seems to anchor the image in a particular time and place, [is] coupled to the endless capacity for images to travel into new times and places.”16 He goes on to say that photographic history is littered with images that have their meaning altered by entry into a new setting. The images in this exhibition are a case in point for I am examining them as artworks as much as they can be seen as documentary evidence of things that have been.

We should not be afraid of this new interpretation for, as McQuire notes, “Too often when we talk about ‘context’ in relation to a photograph, it is as if there is a finite set of connections that might be fully reproduced, if only we had the time or resources. In other words, the polysemy of the image is given a cursory and limited acknowledgement, in the hope that it can be thereby tamed. Rather than this partial, rather defensive acknowledgement of the fragility of meaning, I am arguing that we need to begin with acceptance of the irreducible openness of technological images. This quality is integrally related to the capacity of any image to circulate and appear in new situations.”17 In other words there is no definitive context for any image and we should not be afraid to approach new interpretations of the work or the coexistence of many possible meanings within that work. This process can be seen as analogous in a contextual sense to the construction of what the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) called the ‘composite’ in the physical sense, which he defined as, “construction/model where things different in kind are reconciled through our experience over time. Differences are reconciled not unified. The composite embraces ideas of complexity and multiplicity, allowing different conventions, materials and contents to coexist in an artwork. It therefore permits complexities and relationships of readings to coexist. The viewer becomes aware of new and shifting layers of content revealed over the time of viewing, and of our role in constructing, interpreting and experiencing content(s). This is not just theoretical, it is the way we experience and negotiate the world everyday, as complexity in the continuum of time and space.”18 The viewer thus creates a composite view of these images in the here and now.

The images importance, then, lies in the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. Their residence in the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) archive, which undoubtedly preserves them, marks this institutional passage, this transition of marginalised histories from private to public, “which does not always mean from the secret to the non-secret.” Under the privileged topology of ALGA they are classified and ordered and made available for study and research, but we must also acknowledge that archives give shape to and regulate cultural memory. They influence our perception of the past and present. As Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever: “”There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.” He indicates that the stakes are high over the memorialisation and excavation of sites and people’s histories.”19 This does not mean that ALGA does not promote an active engagement with the works it holds in safe keeping, far from it. They encourage the use of the archive by artists and the recontextualisation and renarrativisation of the images in this exhibition, from documentary objects to visual art works and back again, could not have occurred without their forthright help. But as Mathias Danbolt notes in his excellent article Not Not Now: Archival Engagements in Queer Feminist Art, archives will always be sites of contestation: “The conversations on archives in queer and feminist contexts tend to center on ways to break with the strictures and structures of archival logics, in order to give room for alternative forms of historical (and herstorical) transmissions. But even though archival logics tend to be a continual object of critique in feminist and queer work, the desire for archives is still present… If the process of archivization is fundamentally about conferring historical status upon material, how to avoid that the status as archival disconnect the queer feminist “past” from the “present” – the “then” from the “now”?”20 Danbolt goes on to suggest that this process is a balancing act, “between the desire for having a history, and the anxiety for being historicized, in the sense of being cut off – metaphorically, practically, systemically – from the present.”21

For me, then, this exhibition is as much about freeing these images from the guardianship of the archive, if ever so briefly, to let them live again in the real world, to let them speak for themselves, as those first gay protesters did all those years ago. To free them of the shackles of being seen as “historical” documentary photographs, the official history of gay liberation in Australia and for them to be seen works of art in their own right. It is about the representation of queer identity through the evidence of photography – from that place, in that time, now breathing in a different era, these people fighting for their liberty. It is about these images and the people in them being (t)here.

In contemporary society, where we are flooded with a maelstrom of images, I believe it is important to contemplate these images for more than just a few seconds in order to understand their history and importance not just for the past, but also for the present and the future. Today, we compose our stories and our histories out of fragments and alterations of spaces. We gather together our sources (in archives, for example) and try and make sense of the past in the present for the future. This process of understanding is about an acknowledgement of the past in the present for the future. Again I say, it is about being (t)here.

In an era of ubiquitous media images, the photographs in this exhibition deserve our attention and contemplation for they are survivors – images that perceptively visualise the initial stages of Gay Liberation in Australia, images that are still alive in the present. Their contemporary re-emergence may lead the community to finally have some iconographic images of the early stages of gay resistance and visibility – intimate representations of protests, meetings and events that ultimately changed the lives of many GLBTI people. They may also have some damn good art upon which to feast their eyes.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan
July 2014

Word count: 3,423

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Poofters!' 1973, printed 2014

 

Figure 5
Ponch Hawkes
Poofters!
1973, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Ponch Hawkes

 

John Englart. 'Gay Pride Week poster, Gay Pride march outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall' Sydney, 1973

 

Figure 6
John Englart
Gay Pride Week poster, Gay Pride march outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

 

Endnotes

1. Connell, Raewyn. “Ours is in colour: the new left of the 1960s,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p. 43.

2. Nichols, James. “Sébastien Lifshitz Releasing ‘The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride’,” on The Huffington Post website 05/01/2014 [Online] cited 02/05/2014.

3. Leonard, William. “Altman on Halperin: politics versus aesthetics in the constitution of the male homosexual,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p. 197.

4. Email text in response to the question ‘What were your politics during your involvement with Gay Liberation/events (Gay Pride Week etc)’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

5. Altman, Dennis. “Out of the closets, into the streets.” Catalogue essay. Melbourne, 2014, p. 2.

6. Ibid.,

7. Anon. “Gay Pride Week,” in Melbourne Gay Liberation Newsletter, 1973 quoted in Ritale, Jo and Willett, Graham. “Rennie Ellis at Gay Pride Week, September 1973,” in The La Trobe Journal No. 87, May 2011, pp. 87-88 [Online] Cited 11/07/2014.

8. Ibid., p. 88.

9. Scott, Roger quoted in Scott, Roger; McFarlane, Robert and Hock, Peter. Roger Scott: from the street. Neutral Bay, N.S.W.: Chapter & Verse, 2001, p. 13.

10. Email text from co-curator Nicholas Henderson 12/03/2014.

11. Email text from John Storey to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 17/05/2014.

12. Email text in response to the question ‘What prompted you to document the organisations/events?’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

13. Barthes, Roland. Camera lucida: Reflections on photography. Hill and Wang, 1st American edition, 1981.

14. Email text in response to the question ‘One of the aspects of your photographs that I am quite intrigued by is the documentation of the more private moments (meetings, consciousness raising groups, friends in the car etc), what brought you to photograph these subjects?’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

15. Jill Matthews notes from telephone conversation to Nicholas Henderson, Tuesday 22 April 2014.

16. McQuire, Scott. “Photography’s afterlife: Documentary images and the operational archive,” in Journal of Material Culture 18(3) 2013, p. 227.

17. Ibid.,

18. Thomas, David. “Composite Realities Amid Time and Space: Recent Art and Photograph,” on the Centre for Contemporary Photography website [Online] Cited 12/07/2014.

19. Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 4, note 1 quoted in Eckersall, Peter. “The Site is a Stage/The Stage is a Site,” on the Archaeology and Narration blog, Saturday, April 9, 2011 [Online] Cited 05/07/2014.

20. Danbolt, Mathias. “Not Not Now: Archival Engagements in Queer Feminist Art,” in Imhoff, Aliocha and Quiros, Kantuta (eds.,). Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent. Bétonsalon No. 14, 2013, p. 4. ISSN: 2114-155X.

21. Ibid., p. 5.

 

 

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16
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73′ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: Tuesday 22nd July – Saturday 26th July, 2014

Opening: Tuesday 22nd July 6-8pm

Nite Art: Wednesday 23rd July until 11pm
Artists represented: Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes, Rennie Ellis

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson
Catalogue essay by Professor Dennis Altman (below)

 

 

Five days, that’s all you’ve got! Just five days to see this fabulous exhibition. COME ALONG TO THE OPENING (Tuesday 22nd July 6-8pm) or NITE ART, the following night!

The exhibition Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73 pictures the very beginning of the gay liberation movement in Australia through the work of Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes and Rennie Ellis. The exhibition examines for the first time images from the period as works of art as much as social documents. The title of the exhibition is a slogan from the period.

As gay people found their voice in the early 1970s artists, often at the very beginning of their careers, were there to capture meetings in lounge rooms, consciousness raising groups and street protests. The liberation movement meant ‘being there’, putting your body on the line. “It was a key feature of the new left that this embodied politics couldn’t stop in the streets: that is, the public arena as conventionally understood. ‘Being there’ politically also applied to households, classrooms, sexual relations, workplaces and the natural environment.”1

Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson and with a catalogue essay by Professor Dennis Altman (see below), the show is a stimulating experience for those who want to be inspired by the history and art of the early gay liberation movement in Australia.

The exhibition coincides with AIDS 2014: 20th International AIDS Conference (20-25 July 2014) and Nite Art which occurs on the Wednesday night (23rd July 2014). The exhibition will travel to Sydney to coincide with the 14th Australia’s Homosexual Histories Conference in November at a venue yet to be confirmed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to all the artists for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Barbara Creed. 'Julian Desaily and Peter McEwan in the back of a VW Combi van, Melbourne' Melbourne, c. 1971-73

 

Barbara Creed
Julian Desaily and Peter McEwan in the back of a VW Combi van, Melbourne
Melbourne, c. 1971-73
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Barbara Creed

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Gay Liberation march, Russell Street, Melbourne' Melbourne, 1973

 

Ponch Hawkes
Gay Liberation march, Russell Street, Melbourne
Melbourne, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Ponch Hawkes

 

John-Englart-Gay-Pride-Week-Sydney-1973-c

 

John Englart
Gay Pride Week poster, outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

 

Out of the closets, onto the streets

Professor Dennis Altman

.
This exhibition chronicles a very specific time in several Australian cities, the period when lesbians and gay men first started demonstrating publicly in a demand to be accorded the basic rights of recognition and citizenship. Forty years ago to be homosexual was almost invariably to lead a double life; the great achievement of gay liberation was that a generation – although only a tiny proportion of us were ever Gay Liberationists – discovered that was no longer necessary.

The Archives have collected an extraordinary range of materials illustrating the richness of earlier lesbian and gay life in Australia, but this does not deny the reality that most people regarded homosexuality as an illness, a perversion, or a sin, and one for which people should be either punished or cured. It is revealing to read the first avowedly gay Australian novel, Neville Jackson’s No End to the Way [published in 1965 - in Britain - and under a pseudonym] to be reminded of how much has changed in the past half century.

Gay Liberation had both local and imported roots; the Stonewall riots in New York City, which sparked off a new phase of radical gay politics – when ‘gay’ was a term understood to embrace women, men and possibly transgender – took place in June 1969. They were barely noticed at the time in Australia, where a few people in the civil liberties world, most of them not homosexual, had started discussing the need to repeal anti-sodomy laws.

Small law reform and lesbian groups had already existed, but the real foundation of an Australian gay movement came in September 1970 when Christabel Pol and John Ware announced publicly the formation of CAMP, an acronym that stood for the Campaign Against Moral Persecution but also picked up on the most used Australian term for ‘homosexual’. Within two years there were both CAMP branches in most Australian capital cities, as well as small gay liberation groups that organised most of the demonstrations illustrated in this exhibition.

The differences between gay liberation and CAMP were in practice small, but those of us in Gay Liberation prided ourselves on our radical critique, and our commitment to radical social change. CAMP, with its rather daggy social events and its stress on law reform – at a time in history when homosexual conduct between men was illegal across the country – seemed to us too bourgeois, though ironically it was CAMP which organised the first open gay political protest in Australia [immediately identified by the balloons in the Exhibition photos].

It is now a cliché to say “the sixties” came to Australia in the early 1970s, but a number of forces came together in the few years between the federal election of 1969, when Gough Whitlam positioned the Labor Party as a serious contender for power, and 1972, the “It’s Time” election, when the ALP took office for the first time in 23 years. We cannot understand how a gay movement developed in Australia without understanding the larger social and cultural changes of the time, which saw fundamental shifts in the nature of Australian society and politics.

The decision of the Menzies government in 1965 to commit Australian troops to the long, and ultimately futile war in Vietnam, led to the emergence of a large anti-war movement, capable of mobilising several hundred thousand people to demonstrate by the end of the decade. Already under the last few years of Liberal government the traditional White Australia Policy was beginning to crumble, as it became increasingly indefensible, and awareness of the brutal realities of dispossession and discrimination against indigenous Australians was developing. Perhaps most significant for a movement based on sexuality, the second wave feminist movement, already active in the United States and Britain, began challenging the deeply entrenched sexist structures of society.

To quote myself, this at least reduces charges of plagiarism: “Anyone over fifty in Australia has lived through extraordinary changes in how we imagine the basic rules of sex and gender. We remember the first time we saw women bank tellers, heard a woman’s voice announce that she was our pilot for a flight, watched the first woman read the news on television. Women are now a majority of the paid workforce; in 1966 they made up twenty-nine per cent. When I was growing up in Hobart it was vaguely shocking to hear of an unmarried heterosexual couple living together and women in hats and gloves rode in the back of the trams (now long since disappeared). As I look back, it seems to me that some of the unmarried female teachers at my school were almost certainly lesbians, although even they would have been shocked had the word been uttered.”

In Australia Germaine Greer’s book The Female Eunuch became a major best seller, and Germaine appeared [together with Liz Fell, Gillian Leahy and myself] at the initial Gay Liberation forum at Sydney University in early 1972; looking back it is ironic that a woman who has been somewhat ambivalent in her attitudes to homosexuality was part of the public establishment of the gay movement.

But the early demonstrations illustrated in this exhibition did often include sympathetic “straights” – a term that seems to have disappeared from the language – for whom gay liberation was part of a wider set of cultural issues. It is essential to recognise that while political demonstrations may seem to assert certain claims they play widely different roles for those who participate. For some of us a public protest is a form of “coming out”; indeed many people had never been public about their sexuality before they attended their first demonstration. For others a demonstration is primarily a place to find solidarity, friendship, and, if lucky, sex.

For the gay movement more than any other just to declare oneself as gay was to take an enormous step, a step that some found remarkably easy while others had to wait until late in life to discover that actually almost everyone knew anyway. I remember the now dead Sydney playwright, Nick Enright, who was one of the first people to be open about his homosexuality, and was so without any sense of difficulty; at the same time there are still people who go to great lengths to hide their sexuality even while acknowledging they would face little risk of discrimination were they not to do so

Maybe there is a parallel for people who now declare their lost Aboriginal heritage, unsure how they will be regarded but aware that this is crucial to their sense of self. Every generation has its own version of coming out stories, this exhibition hones in on that time in our national history when everything seemed in flux, and gay liberation seemed a small part of creating a brave new world in which old hierarchies and restraints would disappear.

Looking back at the photos creates a certain nostalgia – we all look so young, so sure that we were changing the world, though in reality most of us were putting on a brave front. The oddest thing is that in some ways we did change the world. Forty years ago we looked at the police as threatening, symbolised in the photograph from Melbourne Gay Pride 1973 where the policeman is clearly telling people to move on. Today openly lesbian and gay cops march with us in the streets, and the very idea that homosexuality could be criminalised, as it still is in many parts of the world, has largely disappeared from historical memory. Indeed to many people attending this exhibition that may be the first time they confront the reality that being gay in Australia in the early 1970s was to live in a world of silence, evasion and fear.

.
Professor Dennis Altman
July 2014

© Dennis Altman
Reproduced with permission

 

Anonymous. 'I am a Lesbian, Gay Pride Week' Adelaide, 1973

 

Anonymous
I am a Lesbian, Gay Pride Week
Adelaide, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

Anonymous. 'Man in black hat and red shirt, Gay Pride Week' Adelaide, 1973

 

Anonymous
Man in black hat and red shirt, Gay Pride Week
Adelaide, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

 

Sponsored by

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ALGA logo.
The Archives actively collects and preserves lesbian and gay material from across Australia alga.org.au

 

Supported by

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EP is a contemporary Melbourne art space dedicated to the appreciation of photography (03) 9023 5775 edmundpearce.com.au

 

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Rennie Ellis is an award winning photographer and writer (03) 9525 3862 www.rennieellis.com.au

 

 

1. Connell, Raewyn. “Ours is in colour: the new left of the 1960s,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p.43.

 

AIDS 2014: 20th International AIDS Conference
20 July – 25 July 2014
Melbourne, Australia

AIDS 2014 website

Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000
T: (03) 9023 5775

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

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10
Jul
14

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: The Songs of Eternity, 1994

 

 

NOW friends. These are really important photographs for me.

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As Minor White’s artist book The Temptation of St. Anthony is Mirrors (1948) is a visual love poem to Tom Murphy, so my artist book The Songs of Eternity (1994) is a visual love poem to my then long-time partner Paul. Both are exceedingly rare books: there are two copies of White’s book and there is one copy of mine.

And yes, the prints are even more beautiful in the flesh (so to speak).

Marcus

 

I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991 – 1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

All images © Marcus Bunyan but can be used freely anywhere with the proper acknowledgement. Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image. Please remember these are just straight scans of the prints, all full frame, no cropping !

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

The Songs of Eternity

Images and poetry by M. Bunyan 1994

 

I stood at the edge of the precipice / and peered in as William Blake would say

The timepiece of eternity / swung hands through all the hours

so how naive I’ve been / not to see its powers

Did I deceive / or was I led

What a rude awakening / throughout my head

Many fabulous things were said /

many a doubt was in silence bled …

Nothing is certainty but the change – I was must be strong to attain

Depth, spirit, integrity and the rest

This affirmation I will confirm – not in conformity but in my own special way

Not this way nor that but my own path / that one day will whisper gently in my ear

Be strong, for we have much to say / when the sea becomes the sky.

Strong in your arms I become your scent

Lying in my bed the sheets of flowers enfold me

Trusting in my heart I know

Today    Yesterday    Tomorrow

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Shroud' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Shroud
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
The Songs of Eternity

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Paul, shadows' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Paul, shadows
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
I stood at the edge of the precipice / and peered in as William Blake would say

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Eternal timepiece' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Eternal timepiece
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
The timepiece of eternity / swung hands through all the hours

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Paul, head covered' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Paul, head covered
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
so how naive I’ve been / not to see its powers

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Pendent #1' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Pendent #1
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Did I deceive / or was I led

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
What a rude awakening / throughout my head

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Many fabulous things were said /

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Suspension #1' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Suspension #1
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
many a doubt was in silence bled …

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Chyralis' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Chrysalis
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Nothing is certainty but the change – I was must be strong to attain

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Décolleté' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Décolleté
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Depth, spirit, integrity and the rest

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Paul, doorway (for Georgia O'Keeffe)' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Paul, doorway (for Georgia O’Keeffe)
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
This affirmation I will confirm – not in conformity but in my own special way

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Pendent #2' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Pendent #2
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Not this way nor that but my own path / that one day will whisper gently in my ear

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Shadow, wreath' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Shadow, wreath
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Be strong, for we have much to say / when the sea becomes the sky.

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Madonna, male' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Madonna, male
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Strong in your arms I become your scent

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Suspension #2' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Suspension #2
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Lying in my bed the sheets of flowers enfold me

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Paul, wreath and hands' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Paul, wreath and hands
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Trusting in my heart I know

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series The Songs of Eternity
Silver gelatin photograph

.
Today    Yesterday    Tomorrow

 

 

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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09
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Transmissions: Archiving HIV/AIDS – Melbourne 1979 – 2014′ at George Paton Gallery, The University of Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th July – 25th July 214

Artists include: Marcus Bunyan, Juan Davila, Andrew Foster, Brent Harris, Mathew Jones, Peter Lyssiotis, Lex Middleton, Andi Nellssun, Marcus O’Donnell, Scott Redford, and Ross T Smith

Opening: Wednesday 16 July 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm

 

Another important exhibition to coincide with the 20th International AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne this July. The exhibition – which focuses on the seminal exhibition Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art In The Age Of AIDS, curated by Ted Gott at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra in 1994 – is supported by an extensive program of public events (see below) some of which I hope to get to. The community lost so many good people.

I just want to say ‘good on ya, Andi’, hope your smiling up there somewhere!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Michael Graf and The George Paton Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The exhibition will be open until 9pm on Wednesday 23 July as part of the Nite Art Walk.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'ACT UP D-Day on the steps of Flinders St. Station, 6 June 1991' 1991

 

Unknown photographer
ACT UP D-Day on the steps of Flinders St. Station, 6 June 1991
1991
Image courtesy of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

 

To coincide with the 20th International AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne in July, TRANSMISSIONS | Archiving HIV/AIDS | Melbourne 1979-2014 is an exhibition of artworks, manuscripts, and other material from private collections and public archives. It will focus on the partnership between government, health professionals, and Melbourne’s gay community, and on relations between activism, art and design.

Australia is recognised for having implemented one the world’s most successful HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns. The exhibition and conference, however, coincide with a twenty-year high in infection rates. To be able to reach a younger generation,current health promotion campaigns have become increasingly sophisticated. TRANSMISSIONS will investigate several of these campaigns in relation to others from the past thirty years.

TRANSMISSIONS will feature artworks by Marcus Bunyan, Juan Davila, Andrew Foster, Brent Harris, Mathew Jones, Peter Lyssiotis, Lex Middleton, Andi Nellsün, Marcus O’Donnell, Scott Redford, and Ross T Smith.

A publication and a comprehensive public program will accompany this two-week exhibition.

Exhibition curated by Michael Graf and Russell Walsh.

 

Andi Nellsün. 'Matr'x' 1993

 

Andi Nellsün
Matr’x
1993

 

Andi-Nellsun-Synergy-WEB

 

Andi Nellsün
Synergy
1993

 

 

Free Public program

Wednesday 16 July 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm – Exhibition Launch
(all welcome but please RSVP to transmissions-rsvp@unimelb.edu.au)

Thursday 17 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Introduction to the archives
Nick Henderson (Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives) and Katie Wood (The University of Melbourne Archives) in conversation with Russell Walsh.

Friday 18 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Activism, archives and history
Graham Willett (Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives) in conversation with Russell Walsh.

Saturday 19 July, 3 pm – 4 pm – Curator floor-talk with Michael Graf and Russell Walsh

Wednesday 23 July – exhibition open till 9pm for Nite Art Walk

Wednesday 23 July 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm – Hares and Hyenas Word is Out presents: Charles Roberts, Infected Queer – 20 years on
Melbourne writer Javant Biarujia will read from the polemical AIDS diary that he helped edit and publish in 1994.

Thursday 24 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art In The Age Of AIDS: 20 years on
Ted Gott, Curator of the seminal exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994, in conversation with Michael Graf, with several of the exhibition’s artists present for comment.

Friday 25 July, 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – The Face of HIV/AIDS: Photographic Portraiture and HIV/AIDS 1984-1994
Susannah Seaholm-Rolan reflecting on why many of the artists featured in Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art In The Age Of AIDS worked in the medium of photographic portraiture and self-portraiture (includes exhibition closing drinks).

Please note: all events will commence sharply at advertised times owing to the early closure of the Student Union Building

 

Lex Middleton. 'Gay Beauty Myth' 1992

 

Lex Middleton
Gay Beauty Myth
1992
Gelatin silver photographs

 

Juan Davila. 'LOVE' 1988

 

Juan Davila
LOVE
1988
Oil on canvas
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

 

“The central theme of the exhibition is the response from Melbourne’s LGBT community to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It will contain artworks from this period as well as activist, government and other cultural responses – some of the works have never been exhibited before.

Michael Graf is co-curator of Transmissions, along with Russell Walsh. Both Graf and Walsh have spent the past seven months trawling through the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) and the University of Melbourne Archives, where they have discovered some of the most moving and unique stories in Melbourne’s LGBT history.

“We wanted to focus on some of the cultural responses to the crisis,” Graf says. “The main part of that has been Ted Gott’s exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994: Don’t leave me this way: art in the age of AIDS. That exhibition became an incredibly important event for a lot of people. The NGA actually thought they would get 10,000 people through the space in four or five months – they got 140,000 people.

“It became a kind of pilgrimage for people from Melbourne and Sydney and other places around Australia. They went to Canberra specifically to see that exhibition. It was the first time a national gallery anywhere in the world put on an exhibition about HIV/AIDS.”

Transmissions includes copies of the visitors books from Don’t leave me this way: art in the age of AIDS. As the exhibition became a place where people remembered those they had lost, they poured their emotions and their experiences of the exhibition into the visitors books.

“There are some extraordinary accounts,” Graf says. “They had this experience in a national gallery to actually grieve.”

Graf and Walsh also tracked down artists from this exhibition. While many concede thatDon’t leave me this way has been long forgotten, the milieu surrounding Transmissions is that it is time for this work to be considered again.

“They [the artists] have also said this is the perfect time to remember it,” Graf says. “Sometimes these things have to wait until they have receded enough back into history before they can be looked at again.” …

Graf hopes people visiting Transmissions will take away the richness of these collections. He also hopes they attract a younger audience as well as those who will remember what life was like in the gay community at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“We’re hoping people might be inspired to access places such as the Australia Lesbian and Gay Archives and for a younger generation of people in Melbourne to be exposed to this incredible important history.”

Rachel Cook. “Transmissions: Archiving HIV/AIDS – Melbourne 1979 – 2014,” on the Gay News Network website, 2nd July 2014 [Online] Cited 06/07/2014

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'How will it be when you have changed' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
How will it be when you have changed
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Tell me your face before you were born' 1994

 

Marcus Bunyan
Tell me your face before you were born
1994
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

George Paton Gallery
Level Two, Union House
The University of Melbourne 3010
Enquiries: +61 3 8344 5418
Email: gpg@union.unimelb.edu.au

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 12 pm – 6 pm
Saturday 2 pm – 5 pm

George Paton Gallery website

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The University of Melbourne logo Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives website
Victorian AIDS Council website Nite Art Melbourne website
George Paton Gallery University of Melbourne Student Union
The Ian Potter Museum of Art

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11
May
14

Text / exhibition: ‘Australian vernacular photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 8th February – 18th May 2014

 

Australian vernacular photography. Such a large subject. Such a small exhibition.

With only 27 photographs from various artists (18 of which are shown in this posting), this exhibition can only ever be seen as the runt of the litter. I would have thought such a large area of photographic investigation needed a more expansive exposition than is offered here. There are no photobook, photo booth, Aboriginal, anonymous, authorless, family, gay or marginalised cultural photographs / snapshots. There are no light leaks, blur, fingers obstructing lenses, double exposures – all examples of serendipity and happenstance which could enter into an aesthetic arena.

Vernacular photography1 can be defined as the “creation of photographs, usually by amateur or unknown photographers both professional and amateur, who take everyday life and common things as subjects… Examples of vernacular photographs include travel and vacation photos, family snapshots, photos of friends, class portraits, identification photographs, and photo-booth images. Vernacular photographs are types of accidental art, in that they often are unintentionally artistic.”2 ‘Found photography’ is the recovery of a lost, unclaimed, or discarded vernacular photograph or snapshot.

While all of the photographs in the exhibition are unique images, some are definitely not vernacular in their construction – they are planned and staged photographs, what I would call planned happenstance (after John Krumboltz’s theory of career development). A perfect example of this are the photographs by Sue Ford (Sue Pike, 1963, printed 1988, below), Anne Zahalka (The girls #2, Cronulla beach, 2007, below) and Fiona Hall (Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975, below) which have an air of ceremonial seriousness that belies their classification as part of this exhibition. My favourites are the fantastic images by Glen Sloggett – witty, colourful, humorous with the photographer “acutely aware of the photographer and photograph’s role in pointedly constructing a narrative around Australian identity and history” – they are nevertheless self-deprecating enough that this does not impact on their innate “found” quality, as though the artist had just wandered along and captured the shot.

The route that the AGNSW has taken is similar to that of MoMA. Residing in the collection and shot by artists, these “vernacular” photographs are placed in a high art context. Their status as amateur or “authorless” photographs is undermined. This exhibit does not present vernacular photographs as just that. As the article on the One Street blog notes, what is being exhibited is as much about what has been collected by the AGNSW, its methodical and historicising classification, as it is about vernacular photographic form: chance, mistake and miscalculation. It is about creating a cliché from which to describe an ideal Australian identity, be it the beach, larrikinism, or the ANZAC / sporting “warrior”, and not about a true emotional resonance in the image that is created by, or come upon by, chance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.
Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

1. “Vernacular photography,” on One Way Street blog 20th October 2007 [Online] Cited 11/05/2014

“What is vernacular photography? Too broad to be understood as a genre per se, it can encompass anonymous snapshots, industrial photography, scientific photography, “authorless” photography, advertising, smut, as well as work that might be perceived as “other” than any of this random list. It could be understood as an oppositional photography – outside technical or artistic histories, yet, especially with the snapshot, it could also be entirely conventionalized, a manifestation of visual banalities, or an image so enigmatic that its meaning or genesis is entirely obscured. It is mistakes & failures as much as it may not be. & how we understand the images may or may not be separate from their initial intents. Is this a category we are making up?
The idea of the vernacular in photography is also an indication of photography as a medium informing the everyday, prevalent, “naturalized.””

2. Szarkowski, John. “INTERVIEW: “Eyes Wide Open: Interview with John Szarkowski” (2006)” by Mark Durden, Art in America, May, 2006, cited in “Vernacular photography,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 11/05/2014

 

Words and Photos: Geoffrey Batchen’s Writing About Vernacular Photography

“At first, I was simply interested in bringing attention to a diverse range of photographic objects and practices that had not been much written about. But I soon recognized that these objects represented a significant challenge to the predominant history of photography. This history, dominated by the values ​​and tropes of art history, was not well-equipped to talk about photographs that were openly commercial, hybrid and mundane. Ie: the history of photography ignores most types of photography. My interest, therefore, has become more methodological and theoretical, in an effort to establish new ways to think of photography that could address the medium as a whole. I suggest that any substantial inclusion of vernacular photographs into a general history of photography will require a total transformation of the character of that history…

I suggest that any inclusion of vernacular photography in the larger story, will require a complete transformation of the character of that story; it will require a new kind of history altogether. My writings may have encouraged this idea, but I am just one of many scholars who have been pursuing this goal. Indeed, I would say that this idea is now the norm. The next step is to look beyond this and engage other parts of the history of photography that have been similarly neglected. For example, there are many researchers at the moment that are examining the photographs produced outside Europe and the United States, such as China, Indonesia, and Africa…

Snapshots are complicated objects. They are unique to each maker and almost always completely generic. They happily adopt the visual economy that mediates most photographic practices: same but different. You might say that every snapshot is an authentic copy of a prescribed set of middle-class values and familiar pictorial clichés. That does not make them any less fascinating, especially for people who treasure them. But it does make them difficult to write about…

It is certainly possible to recognize the existence of regional practices of photography. I wrote, for example, about the making of fotoescultura in Mexico, and about a specific form of ambrotype in Japan. No doubt one could claim to see some regional aspects of snapshots made in the United States that distinguish them from ones made in Australia or, say, Indonesia. But the more challenging task is to talk about those things that can’t be seen. For example, snapshots made in Australia and China may look exactly the same to my eye, but it stands to reason that they don’t mean the same thing (after all, access to the camera for personal photos is a fairly recent phenomenon in China). We must learn how to write these kind of differences.”

Interview by LG. “Words and Photos: Geoffrey Batchen’s Writing About Vernacular Photography,” on the LesPHOTOGRAPHES.com website Nd (translated from the French) [Online] Cited 04/05/2014

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 - ) 'City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 – )
City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2012
© Ed Douglas

 

After relocating from USA to Australia in 1973, Ed Douglas spent a few years living in the country prior to taking on a teaching position at Sydney College for the Arts in 1976. The series City-spaces was commenced in Sydney and then developed further when Douglas moved to Adelaide in 1977. Having been schooled in the formal traditions of American documentary photography, Douglas’s images appear like notations of an urban explorer attempting to locate himself in a new country. Seemingly fragmentary, they look at the specificities of the mundane and the ordinary. Close acquaintances such as photographers Ingeborg Tyssen and John F. Williams appear in City spaces #29 and City spaces #28, indicating the personal nature of the series.

Intimately scaled and tonally rich, the black and white images exalt the formal beauty which can be found in the random textures of daily existence. They are also permeated with gentle humour and a sense of quiet drama that unfolds in the strangely misplaced confluences of objects, figures and spaces. Douglas’s interest in the formal and emotional qualities of topography was emblematic of new approaches in documentary photography of the time. His 1983 series of colour photographs depicting the gypsum mine on Kangaroo Island (collection of AGNSW) developed this trajectory further by fusing the aesthetics of abstraction and objective documentation.

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 - ) 'City-spaces #40, Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 – )
City-spaces #40, Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 x 30.7 cm image
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2012
© Ed Douglas

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 - ) 'Woman hosing, Canberra' 1979

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 – )
Woman hosing, Canberra
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
34.9 x 46.5 cm image
© Gerrit Fokkema

 

Gerrit Fokkema’s photographs of everyday Sydney and Canberra in the early 1980s are examples of Australian photography becoming more self-aware. These decisive snapshots of suburban life reveal an irony and conjure Fokkema’s own history growing up in Queanbeyan. Though captured in seemingly banal settings, the images intrigue, pointing to issues beyond what is represented in the frame. The housewife watering the road and a young tattooed man in front of a car are both depicted alone within a sprawling suburban landscape, suggesting the isolation and boredom in the Australian dream of home ownership. The sense of strangeness in these images is consciously sought by Fokkema, aided by his embrace of the glaring and unforgiving ‘natural’ Australian light.

Gerrit Fokkema’s Woman hosing, Canberra is an affectionate and gently ironic portrait of suburban life in Canberra. Fokkema was familiar with his subject matter, raised as he was in the nearby township of Queanbeyan. After studying photography at Canberra Technical College 1974-77 he became the staff photographer for the Canberra Times in 1975. He held his first exhibition in the same year at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. His career as a photo-journalist lead him to work with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1980 and participation with several international Day in the life of…. projects between 1986 and 1989.

Fokkema uses the ‘decisive moment’ of photo-journalism to reveal the incidental quirks of ordinary life in this image. The bland uniformity of the streetscape, with its identical archways and mundanely shuttered doors, is punctuated by the absurd proposition of a woman watering the street rather than the adjacent grass. Her presence is the only sign of life in an otherwise inanimate scene, and her actions suggest a kind of strangeness that lies within the normality of suburbia. Many of Fokkema’s images play with such chance incidences and odd juxtapositions, revealing his interest in surrealism and the notion of automatism. Indeed, the repeated archways and the lone figure inhabiting otherwise empty urban space of Woman hosing, Canberra recall the proto-typical surrealist painting, Mystery and melancholy of a street 1914, by Giorgio de Chirico. Fokkema’s image is, however, very much a product of Australia – of its bright ‘available’ light and of the dream of home-ownership. Fokkema has continued to document the Australian way of life. In 1986 he left newspapers to freelance as a commercial photographer and published Wilcannia, portrait of an Australian town. He has since exhibited works based on tender observations of his family members and of family life.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 - ) 'Blacktown man' 1983

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 – )
Blacktown man
1983
Gelatin silver photograph
30.6 x 40.6 cm image
© Gerrit Fokkema

 

The work of Gerrit Fokkema exhibits a particular sensitivity to the uneasiness of people in Australian landscapes, both urban and rural. Fokkema was born in New Guinea in 1954, but raised in Canberra and worked as a press photographer before freelancing from 1986. Although his photographs demonstrate an interest in the formal qualities of landscape, the sense of rhythm his compositions generate also evoke the monotony of Australian space – sweeping terracotta roofs and long straight paths. This monotony is only interrupted by the presence of the human figure, usually isolated, alone and awkwardly out of place. In Blacktown Man 1983, the flat image of the man appears dramatically superimposed on the land and sky of the suburban street. By reminding us of our sometimes uncomfortable relationship with the spaces we inhabit, Fokkema’s work rejects any attempt to romanticise Australian life.

 

John F Williams. 'The Rocks, Sydney' 1973

 

John F Williams
The Rocks, Sydney
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
22.6 x 34.1cm
Purchased 1989
© John F Williams

 

Trent Parke. 'Backyard swing set, QLD' 2003

 

Trent Parke
Backyard swing set, QLD
2003
From the series Minutes to midnight
Type C photograph
109.9 x 164cm
Gift of Albie Thoms in memory of Linda Slutzkin, former Head of Public Programmes, Art Gallery of New South Wales 2006
© Trent Parke

 

 

Australian vernacular photography traces developments in photographic practice from the postwar period through to the present day, with images ranging from documentary or ‘straight’ photography (where the subjects are usually unaware of the camera), through to those that look self-reflexively at the constructed nature of the medium.

The increasing role of photography in the latter part of the 20th century attests to the rising need Australians felt to apprehend the nation, personal identity and society through images. Many of these photographs offer frank perspectives on Australian culture without the romanticising tendencies of earlier photographers. Photographing the everyday became a way of understanding how Australia saw (and sees) itself, with recurrent themes such as beach culture, suburbia, race relations, protest and the role of women among the central concerns of image-makers then and now.

By the 1960s Australian photographers were comparing their work with international peers, thanks to photographic publications and the watershed 1959 tour of The family of man exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Institutional support for photography didn’t come until the 1970s; however those committed to the medium forged on, intent on capturing their visions of Australia photographically. The family of man exhibition toured Australia in 1959 and was enormously influential, with its themes of birth, love and death common to all humanity. However, possibilities for Australian photographers to be noticed were rare until the 1970s due to the lack of institutional support. Nonetheless, photographers from David Moore and Robert McFarlane to the young Sue Ford forged on, trying to find their own vision of Australian life and how it could be represented photographically. This exhibition looks at some of the photographers from then as well as those working more recently – such as Anne Zahalka, Trent Parke and Glenn Sloggett – to consider their various approaches to the depiction of modern Australian life.

In the Australian Photography Annual of 1947, photographer and director of the Art Gallery of NSW Hal Missingham wrote: “In a country supposedly occupied by people indulging in a vigorous outdoor life, where are the [photographic] records of beach and sport… where are the photographs of the four millions of people who live and work in our cities? What are they like – what do they do – what do they wear, and think?”

Text from the AGNSW website

 

Jeff Carter (Australia 05 Aug 1928 - Oct 2010) 'The Sunbather' 1966

 

Jeff Carter (Australia 05 Aug 1928 – Oct 2010)
The Sunbather
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
39.1 x 27.6 cm image
© Jeff Carter

 

“I don’t regard photography as an art form, although I know it can be for others… To me the camera is simply an unrivalled reporter’s tool. It is an aid to getting the story “properly true,”” Jeff Carter said in 2006. Working mainly as a photojournalist, Carter wanted to make images that depicted social reality. He aimed to show the ‘unknown’, those people who are rarely seen. His approach resulted in frank, arguably even unflattering, images of Australian life, such as this of a beach-goer in the 1960s, heralding the changing social mores of the time.

 

John F. Williams (Australia 1933 - ) 'Sydney' 1964, printed later

 

John F Williams (Australia 1933 – )
Sydney
1964, printed later
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 x 24.3 cm image
© John F Williams

 

Sydney photographer, lecturer and historian John F. Williams has a long and personal interest in the ramifications of the Allies’ commitment to and sacrifice in the First World War which he later explored in his 1985 series From the flatlands. Williams became an amateur street photographer, inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson and the photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. He read The family of man catalogue and saw the exhibition in 1959 but he rejected its “saccharine humanism and deliberate ahistoricism” choosing instead to socially document the raw character of Australia.1

When interviewed in 1994 Williams said: “After the [First World War] you had a range of societies which were pretty much exhausted, and they tended to turn inwards. In a society like Australia which had a poorly formed image of itself, where there was no intellectual underpinning, the image of the soldier replaced everything else as a national identity.”2

Sydney expresses the ‘Anzac spirit’ born in the battlefields of Gallipoli, the Somme and Flanders, a character study of an independent, introspective soldier. With an air of grit, determinedly smoking and wearing his badge, ribbons and rosemary as remembrance, Sydney stands apart from the crowd, not marching with his regiment. Williams embraced the ‘element of chance’ or the ‘decisive moment’ as he documented the soldier in a public place observing the procession. Taken from a low angle and very close up the man is unaware of the photographer at the moment the shot was taken, apparently lost in his own memories. The old soldier represents a generation now lost to history but portraits such as these continue to reinforce the myth of national identity.

1. Jolly, M. “Faith sustained,” in Art Monthly, September 1989, pp. 18-19
2. “John Williams – photographer and historian: profile,” in Sirius, winter, Macquarie University, Sydney, 1994, p. 5

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia 1942 – ) 'Happening Centennial Park, Sydney' c. 1968

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia 1942 – )
Happening Centennial Park, Sydney
c. 1968
Gelatin silver photograph
25.9 x 17.6 cm image
© Robert McFarlane

 

Hal Missingham (Australia 08 Dec 1906 – 07 Apr 1994) 'Surf carnival, Cronulla' 1968, printed 1978

 

Hal Missingham (Australia 08 Dec 1906 – 07 Apr 1994)
Surf carnival, Cronulla
1968, printed 1978
Media category
Gelatin silver photograph
38.1 x 26.3 cm image
© Hal Missingham Estate

 

Photographer and former Art Gallery of NSW director, Hal Missingham wrote in the 1947 Australian Photography annual: “In a country supposedly occupied by people indulging in a vigorous outdoor life, where are the [photographic] records of beach and sport…? Where are the photographs of the four millions of people who live and work in our cities? What are they like – What do they do – What do they wear, and think?” This image points to Missingham’s own attempts to answer that question. An interesting counterpoint to the images taken at Cronulla around 40 years later, here Missingham shows a group of young women standing behind a fence watching as young men train to be lifesavers.

Hal Missingham often holidayed at his beach house at Garie in the Royal National Park south of Sydney, not far from Cronulla. In 1970 he published Close focus a book of photographic details of rocks, pools, sand and driftwood. As a beachcomber and observer of beach culture Missingham delighted in his immediate environment. Surf carnival, Cronulla is a quintessential Australian scene, one that frames an important aspect of national identity and culture. As passive observers, the 1960s was a time when many girls were still ‘minding the towels’ for the boys who surfed or competed in carnivals. Barricaded from the beach and its male activity the young women in bikinis are oblivious to the photographer who has foregrounded their relaxed tanned bodies behind the wire as they in turn observe and discuss the surf lifesavers in formation at the water’s edge. Although a beach is accessible for the majority of Australians and is now an accepted egalitarian space where women bodysurf, ride surfboards and compete along with beachgoers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, Surf carnival, Cronulla suggests a specific demography.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Fiona Hall (Australia 1953 - ) 'Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975' 1975

 

Fiona Hall (Australia 1953 – )
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
28.2 x 27.9 cm image
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1987
© Fiona Hall

 

 

Australian vernacular photography considers how photographers have used their cameras to depict Australian life, and how ideas of the nation have been constructed through photographic images.

Sixteen Australian photographers are represented by some 27 photographs taken from the 1960s to the 2000s. The photographs range from the more conventionally photo-documentary through to later works by photographers positioned more consciously in an art context. A selection of photography books of the period are also on display.

Artists include: Jeff Carter, Ed Douglas, Peter Elliston, Gerrit Fokkema, Sue Ford, Fiona Hall, Robert McFarlane, Hal Missingham, David Moore, Trent Parke, Roger Scott, Glenn Sloggett, Ingeborg Tyssen, John F Williams, William Yang and Anne Zahalka. Each of these artists in their own way interweave personal, documentary and fictional aspects through their images.

The works in Australian vernacular photography expose the sense of humour or larrikinism often seen as typical to Australia through showing aspects of beach and urban culture that hadn’t been imaged so bluntly before the 1960s. The characters that emerge range from leathery sunbathers, beer-drinking blokes and hippies, to beach babes, student protesters and suburban housewives, shedding light on the sense of liberation and self-recognition that arose during this period.

As photography struggled to gain recognition as an art form in the mid 20th century, the influence of exhibitions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Family of Man, which toured Australia in 1959, was vital in allowing Australian photographers to compare their work to that of their international peers.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, photographers such as Jeff Carter, Sue Ford, David Moore, Roger Scott and John F Williams worked in a photo-documentary mode that was less about staging a shot or creating formal harmony within the frame than about capturing a moment of lived reality. To this end, such photographs involved minimal intervention from the photographer, both before and after the shutter release. Subjects were often unaware of being photographed and extensive darkroom manipulation was frowned upon, the rawness of prints was supposed to signal authenticity.

This approach resulted in images that seemed to offer a frank perspective on Australian culture, without the romanticising tendencies of earlier photography, which had sought to construct ideals rather than document what was actually there. As artists began to realise what they could do with the camera, so too did the images evolve. By the 1980s and ’90s photographers were making images that showed the subject’s awareness of being photographed, as with Gerrit Fokkema, or presented a harsh, even aggressive perspective on the depicted situations by removing people altogether, as with Peter Elliston. This signalled the increasingly self-conscious role of photographers themselves in the equation, suggesting the influence of post-modern theories of subjectivity and their effect on the images produced.

By the time we reach the 2000s, artists such as William Yang, Anne Zahalka and Trent Parke are acutely aware of the photographer and photograph’s role in pointedly constructing a narrative around Australian identity and history. The exhibition maps out this history and offers unexpected insight into the construction of a particularly Australian vernacular within photographic practice.”

Press release from the AGNSW

 

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943 - 06 Nov 2009) 'Sue Pike' 1963, printed 1988

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943 – 06 Nov 2009)
Sue Pike
1963, printed 1988
Media category
Gelatin silver photograph
34.2 x 34.2 cm image
Gift of Tim Storrier 1989
© Estate of Sue Ford

 

Sue Ford’s photograph of her friend Sue Pike blow-drying her hair in the kitchen captures the young woman preparing for a night out. Ford often photographed those close to her as well as continually making self-portraits throughout her career. The photograph is domestic and intimate, showing a common aspect of life for young women in the 1960s. It suggests the procedure of preening necessary to go out and find ‘marriage and children’, while the alcohol and cigarette indicates the emerging movement for women’s liberation.

“My earliest “studio portraits” … were of my friends from school … These photo sessions were approached with a ceremonial seriousness, My friends usually brought different clothes with them and during the sessions we would change clothes and hairstyles.” Sue Ford 1987 1

Sue Ford took the majority of her photographs at this time with the camera set on a 1/60th of a second at f/11, a ‘recipe’ she wrote which had more chance of success. Poetic, fragmentary text relating to Ford’s 1961 photo-essay in “A sixtieth of a second: portraits of women 1961–1981″ identify the young women’s recipe for flirtatious endeavour – ‘gossamer hairspray’, ‘peroxide’, ‘plucked eyebrows’, ‘big hair rollers to achieve “La Bouffant”‘, ‘Saturday nite’ and ‘Jive’. Sue Pike exemplifies the era of girls preparing for a night out with the boys in their ‘FJ Holdens and Hot Rods’. Staged in the kitchen, probably on a Saturday afternoon, Sue Pike, in a padded brunch coat with hair in rollers plugged into a portable hair dryer, will be a part of the action, the gossip and camaraderie. A further portrait taken in the same year shows Sue Pike metamorphosed as a beautiful bride, carefully coifed ash blonde hair under a white net veil, eyes momentarily shut, traditionally decorated with pearls and posy. Ford suggests in her prose and portraits that there are choices to be made – ‘marriage and children’ or mini-skirts and the Pill, as her old school friends go in different directions.

1. Ford. S. “A sixtieth of a second: portraits of women 1961-1981,” Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 1987, p. 4

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia 14 May 1957 – ) 'The girls #2, Cronulla beach' 2007

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia 14 May 1957 – )
The girls #2, Cronulla beach
2007
Type C photograph
72.5 x 89.5 cm image
Gift of the artist 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Anne Zahalka. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

As part of a generation of Australian women artists who came to the fore in the early 1980s, Anne Zahalka’s practice has always been concerned with questioning dominant myths and cultural constructs. The broad sweep of Zahalka’s oeuvre has often been underpinned by a common strategy: the world in her images appears as theatre where place, gender and national identity are questioned.

Many of Zahalka’s more recent works are located outside the studio though the natural environment can be seen to be equally constructed. In The girls #2, Cronulla beach, the photographer has returned to the seaside, which was the setting for one of her most iconic series, Bondi: playground of the Pacific 1989. The girls was made as a response to the Cronulla riots and after an introduction to Aheda Zanetti, the designer of the burqini. Zahalka “also knew of a documentary film being made following the recruiting of Lebanese men and women into the lifesaving club. It seemed like there was change adrift on the beachfront.”1 The permutations and post-modern anxiety about what constitutes Australian identity seen in the Bondi… series, have spilled out into the real world. But the image of these young Muslim women lifeguards seems to celebrate the potential to transgress accepted value systems.

Anne Zahalka said in 1995: “I am primarily concerned with… representations to do with place, identity and culture. Through the appropriation and reworking of familiar icons and styles I seek to question (and understand) their influence, meaning and value.” Twelve years later, Zahalka continues this line of inquiry with the series Scenes from the Shire. In this image, three Muslim girls wearing Burqinis (swimwear made for Muslim women conceived by Lebanese-Australian designer Aheda Zanetti) are standing cross-armed on Cronulla beach, a lifesaving raft is in the background. Zahalka made this work in response to the Cronulla riots of 2005. The image juxtaposes Muslim tradition with the Australian icon of the lifesaver, suggesting cultural overlap and changing national identity.

1. A. Zahalka et al, “Hall of mirrors: Anne Zahalka portraits 1987-2007,” Australian centre of photography, Sydney 2007, p. 43

 

William Yang (Australia 1943 – ) 'Ruby's kitchen Enngonia' 2000, printed 2002

 

William Yang (Australia 1943 – )
Ruby’s kitchen Enngonia
2000, printed 2002
From the series miscellaneous obsessions
Type C photograph
35.5 x 53.5 cm image
© William Yang

 

William Yang was born in North Queensland, a third generation Chinese-Australian. He is known both as a photographer and for his monologues with slides which he has presented around the world to great acclaim. One of these, Sadness 1992, was adapted for the screen by Tony Ayres and won AWGIEs amongst other awards. A major retrospective of Yang’s work, Diaries, was held at the State Library of NSW in 1998. Through April 24 – June 1, 2003 Yang presented all his monologues at Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney.

Yang has documented various subcultures over the last 30 years and this is reflected in his photographs as well as his monologues. A remarkable storyteller with a unique style, his current work is a synthesis of his ongoing concerns. While these concerns spring very much from his experiences growing up with a Chinese background in far north Queensland, through to his exploration of the gay community in Sydney, the work transcends the personal and becomes a meditation on the subtleties of the ordinary and everyday.

This series of images reflects Yang’s current life of travel and contact with his far flung friends and extended family. Though the subject, at its most superficial, is food, where, when and who is there at the time is of equal importance. Consequently each photograph in the series presents a web of connections and is underpinned with similar intentions to Yang’s other work, regardless of the subject.

“I don’t think I have a great technical attitude but I am interested in people,” William Yang said in 1998. Yang is known for his candid photographs of friends and situations he encounters. The images are usually accompanied by a story about his life, sometimes handwritten on the print itself, sometimes spoken aloud in performative contexts. He uses narrative as a way of locating his images in a particular moment in his personal history as well as social history at large. Yang explores themes around Australian and gay identity in a way that is frank and sometimes confronting. In this work, from a series about food, a chunk of kangaroo meat sits casually atop a laminate bench; other Australian icons such as Wonder White and Weet-Bix are also visible. The work allows for a multiplicity of signs to coexist: the slaughtered Australian mascot, the drab generic kitchen, the processed ‘white’ bread, with the Chinese-Australian photographer observing it all.

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Cheaper & deeper' 1996

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Cheaper & deeper
1996
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.0 x 79.9 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Based in Melbourne, Glen Sloggett has exhibited extensively across Australia, including a touring exhibition with the Australian Centre for Photography, New Australiana 2001. Internationally, his work was included in the 11th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh, 2004 and the 9th Mois de la Photo ‘Image and Imagination’ in Montreal 2005.

Sloggett’s work depicts scenes from Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy. Devoid of people, his photographs reflect the isolation and abandonment that afflicts the fringes of Australian urban centres. His images don’t flinch from the ugly, kitsch, and bleak. Sloggett says, “No matter where I go, I always find places and environments that are in the process of falling down. These are the images of Australia that resonate most strongly for me as an artist. I want to capture the last signs of optimism before inevitable disrepair.” (Glen Sloggett, quoted in A. Foster. Cheaper and deeper, ex. Bro. ACP 2005) His images of disrepair are infused with black humour and at the same time, affection for Australian suburbia.

From dumpy derelict flats to pavements graffitied with the words ‘mum killers’, Sloggett’s photographs capture an atmosphere of neglect. One classic image depicts a pink hearse, with the slogan Budget burials cheaper & deeper!! stencilled in vinyl on the side window. Another image shows an industrial barrel, on which is scrawled the evocative word ‘Empty’. In a third image, a dog rests on the pavement outside ‘Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning’ – the bold red and yellow lettering on its window in stark contrast to the cracked paint of the exterior wall, and half-clean sheet that forms a makeshift curtain. These images have a profundity that is at once touching and surprising; as Alasdair Foster has commented, “In a world of rabid materialism and shallow sentiment, Sloggett’s photographs show us that life really is much cheaper and deeper.”

These five works by Glenn Sloggett serve as forms of photographic black humour. Devoid of people and always in colour, his photographs often take mundane elements from the world and make us notice their tragicomedy. This group is rooted in a play with text, where the tension between what is written and what we see is paramount. Sloggett makes comment on Australian life and culture, showing how the fringes of towns and the paraphernalia of the everyday give insight into the Australian psyche.

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Hope Street' 2000

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Hope Street
2000
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.4 x 80.6 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Empty' 2000

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Empty
2000
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.4 x 80.6 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Kong's 1 hour dry cleaning' 1998

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning
1998
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.2 x 80.0 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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