Archive for November 24th, 2008


Review: ‘Intimacy’ at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2008 – 30th November 2008


The exhibition includes works by Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, Steve McQueen, Sophie Calle, Mariele Neudecker, Jesper Just, Gabrielle de Vietri, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mutlu Çerkez, Amikam Toren, Margaret Salmon and Annika Ström.


Sophie Calle. "Doleur exquise" 1984/1999


Sophie Calle
Doleur exquise

Set up by Frank Gehry and Edwin Chan
Exhibition view at Rotonde1, Luxembourg, 2007



An eclectic mix of mixed media, photography and video work is presented in this exhibition. The work examines concepts of intimacy – staged performances, stories of the city, of men, women, families and children; the artists “contemplate passion, love and longing, as well as feelings of disquiet, loss, and loneliness that embody intimate human relations.”

The show exudes a certain melancholia and is troubling in many aspects: loneliness, separation, desire for intimacy, desire for love all being expressed through the presented works. Some of the works are strong but others left me cold and uninterested. Few are joyous renditions of the closeness of intimate relations and most works ponder the dangers and disillusionment of failed intimacies that involve feelings of vulnerability (intimate acts often involve a degree of self-disclosure where intimates show something of themselves that may make them feel vulnerable), ambiguity (intimate acts are often an ambiguous and incomplete shared and often idiosyncratic view of the world) and secrecy (intimate acts are private: they are often constructed, by their participants, to be hidden from the view of others).1

The large work by English artist Steve McQueen features two naked black wrestlers shot in slow motion in grainy black and white video. The wrestlers are photographed from the waist down, images of moving legs, or from below, bodies clinging together, faces grimacing in a hyperreal performance of some hypnotic intimate dance – an acted out state of being.

Amikan Torren’s 2008 video work is by comparison is about the improbabilities of life’s daily encounters: in Downstairs over a video image of 3 steps outside a London railway station the narrator tells of a man, a stockbroker who after an accident sometimes needs help descending steps; in Blind the narrator comments on a person helping a blind man across the street; and in Carrots, over a video image of a London street the narrator tells a story about an adolescent and fresh carrots! The musings on the synchronicity and serendipity of everyday encounters are very effective.

Jesper Just’s two video works No Man Is An island II (2004) and The Lonely Villa (2004) were very effective and moving. In the first lonely men in a pub sing the Roy Orbison song Crying with pictures of naked ladies behind them – it is funny and sad at the same time. In the second men in the shadows sit or stand with telephones in front of them: two men sing to each other the song I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire with close-ups of their lips singing into the telephone: songs of loss, longing and remembrance.

The two most interesting pieces are not video works, nor are they the overrated photographs of Nan Goldin featuring photographs of a family hugging and lying on a bed, but the work of two women: Sophie Calle and Louise Bourgeois.

In Doleur exquise (exquisite pain) Calle revisits fifteen years later the breakup of a relationship and the aftermath of that event: the distress and pain, the experiences of her friends in such circumstances and turns them into brilliant insightful art. A selection of the whole work is presented here that features colour photographs (multiples of a red telephone, abandoned car with it’s doors open, washbasins and empty bedrooms) above text woven onto linen – black on white, grey on grey. The texts are both painful and repetitive (Calle’s on the left) and others heartbreaking accounts of pain (on the right): “6 days ago, the man I love left me …”

(For an insightful analysis of this work see “Can Pain Be Exquisite? Autofictional Stagings of Douleur exquise by Sophie Calle, Forced Entertainment and Frank Gehry and Edwin Chan” by Anneleen Masschelein. “On the one hand, it deals with the most intense, acute experiences of pain in a human life. On the other hand, these moments are unique and “localised”, that is, they are connected to a concrete time and space, of which the details are forever inscribed in memory.”)

My favourite work from the show is Louise Bourgeois 10AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME (2006) – drawings on music paper of mainly red hands, the key a drawing of a 10am clock with a man the big hand with hands extended drawing towards him (or is it tethered to him) an armless woman, the small hand. Some have seen these as “ambiguous images of a hermetic cosmos, as acts of violence or love” but they represent “both Bourgeois’s hands and those of her friend and muse Jerry Gorovoy” and how he helps her and arrives at her studio at this, the designated hour.

To me they are joyous, liberating, spontaneous expressions of love and intimacy, fingerprints on the page, hands intertwining together. They made me feel the intimate expression of humanity: holding a babies hand, so small and vulnerable and feeling them grasp your hand. That connection is what Bourgeois achieves with this work and I thought it was wonderful.

This exhibition is no easy ride but is well worth the contemplation necessary to tease out the themes and feelings that the work investigates.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


  1. Steve Howard, Frank Vetere, Martin Gibbs, Jesper Kjeldskov, Sonja Pedell, Karen Mecoles, Marcus Bunyan, and John Murphy. Mediating Intimacy: Digital Kisses and Cut and Paste Hugs. 2004.


Louise Bourgeois. 'TEN AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' (detail) 2006


Louise Bourgeois


Louise Bourgeois. 'TEN AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006


Louise Bourgeois



Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street
Victoria 3006
Phone: 03 9697 9999

Opening Hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends and Public Holidays 11am – 6pm
Monday by appointment
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website


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Exhibition: ‘Broken Glass: Photographs of the South Bronx by Ray Mortenson’ at the Museum of the City of New York

Exhibition dates: 14th November 2008 – 12th April 2009


Ray Mortenson. "Untitled (7-16-6)" 1984


Ray Mortenson
Untitled (7-16-6)
Gelatin silver print



Documenting the abandoned, burnt out, and razed structures of entire city blocks in the South Bronx in the aftermath of the 1970s, during which this neighborhood experienced dramatic decline, Broken Glass: Photographs of the South Bronx by Ray Mortenson will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York from November 14, 2008 through March 9, 2009. The 50 black and white cityscapes and interiors on view – five of which are large-scale – were taken between 1982 and 1984, and they vividly illustrate the results of a downslide that began in the Great Depression of the 1930s and accelerated with the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway in the 1950s and the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Broken Glass is Mortenson’s first museum exhibition in New York City, and it is the first presentation of the South Bronx photographs.

The 50 photographs on view, all black and white, range in size from the smallest at approximately 11″ by 14″, to the most monumental at 40” by 60”. Each conveys a devastating silence, serving as a reminder that these city blocks were once the homes of individuals, families, and a large community. Mortenson has written, “The buildings were like tombs – sealed up, broken open and plundered. Inside, stairways with missing steps led up to abandoned apartments. Doors opened into rooms that were once bedrooms or kitchens. Small things left behind hint at who the occupants might have been – a hairbrush, photographs, or bits of clothing.” Ghostly remnants of the once prosperous and thriving neighborhoods can be glimpsed in his images which document the extent and severity of the urban decline experienced in the South Bronx.

These photographs document an important chapter in the history of a New York City neighborhood, augmenting their aesthetic power. The decline of the South Bronx began as early as the Great Depression when previously sustained development came to an abrupt halt. After World War II an exodus of New York’s middle class began and continued into the 1970s. This caused a population decline throughout the city, but the effects were particularly hard on the South Bronx as more than 200,000 residents left the community between 1970 and 1980. As entire communities left the city, Robert Moses’ road building and slum clearance, along with other urban renewal initiatives had dramatic effects on the lives of all who remained. In the 1970s New York City faced another economic crisis and virtual bankruptcy. City government was unable to maintain services in the South Bronx and “planned shrinkage” became an unofficial policy as services were slowly withdrawn. With little incentive for landlords to upgrade or even maintain their property, waves of arson and “insurance fires” decimated the by now largely minority community. Astonishingly, some 12,000 fires a year occurred through the 1970s, averaging more than 30 a day.

A successful resurrection of the South Bronx began in the mid-1980s, as grass roots organizations and community development corporations, along with financial reinvestment by the City, sparked its regeneration. The photographs on view stand in starkest contrast to today’s revitalized neighborhood, which has been the result of the dedication of its citizens combined with government support. The photographs serve as a reminder of the ruins that once dominated the now-vibrant streets and that the balance between prosperity and urban decline can be fragile.

Brief Biography

Ray Mortenson was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1944 and studied art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the San Francisco Art Institute. In the early 1970s, Mortenson moved to New York and began working with photography. His first significant photographic project was a comprehensive investigation of the industrial landscapes of New Jersey’s Meadowlands (1974-1982). Since then, Mortensen has continued to focus on landscape photography that is often interested in liminal places of transition, set apart from everyday life. His photographs have been accepted into the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.”

Press release from the Museum of the City of New York website



Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street
New York, NY 10029
Phone: 212-534-1672

Opening hours:
7 days a week 10.00 am – 6.00 pm

Museum of the City of New York website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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