Archive for July, 2011

28
Jul
11

Review: ‘Ricky Maynard: Portrait of a Distant Land’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 14th August 2011

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Ricky Maynard
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania
2005
from the series Portrait of a Distant Land
gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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“For me, photographs have always been personal and I hope to convey the intimacy of a diary. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and how the photograph has power to frame a culture.”

Ricky Maynard

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Having posted about this exhibition when it was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney I was looking forward to seeing it ‘in the flesh’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art. I have seen the exhibition three times now and each time I have left feeling underwhelmed.

While it is encouraging to see the development of an Aboriginal photographic art practice and the documentary depiction from inside this culture as a form of visual oral history, there is something leaden about this story telling. Other than a few incisive images I had no feeling for these photographs; the photographs don’t really take me anywhere. The best of them give access to the spaces they depict (usually the landscapes of distant islands or mountains that evoke “a sense of absence that exist within these landscapes,” a sense of displacement and departure) but most of the work seems to be blocked at the surface of the image: there just seems to be no way in to the emotional and psychological aspects of the photographs. The viewer is hardly ever drawn into the pictures force field. Occasionally they come alive but even when photographing scenes of friends and happiness there is a deadness about the work – a portrait of an emotionally distant and constrained land that is understandable (due to the “existence of the struggle beneath the surface”) but does not make for very compelling art. Even in the printing the highlights are occluded and grey as though a miasma hovers over their production. Commenting in The Age newspaper, Dan Rule observes that series such as Maynard’s mid-80s ‘The Moonbird People’ that describes the Aboriginal community of his native Flinders Island during the annual mutton bird season, “are at once formally sparse and richly layered in the textural and historical narrative of the land.” Poetic and bearing an incredible weight of history. Personally I didn’t buy into the poetry of the storytelling and I found the photographs heavy going as though that incredible weight of history was inexorably weighing them down. If you want to see real poetry in the art of photography look at the work of William Clift.

I am asked by the curator Keith Munro “Do not forget these faces” but there is nothing truly memorable about them unlike, for example, some of the photographs of Sue Ford or Carol Jerrems. A perfect example are the photographs of Wik elders from the series ‘Returning to places That Name Us’ (2000, see three photographs below). The viewer is caught at the surface of these images, observing the minutiae of detail, the faces closely cropped at the forehead and neck against a contextless white background. These are confronting images of presence at the large size they are produced in the exhibition but what else are they? At a smaller scale one might have related to the scars, creases and furrows of the Elders like the bark of the tree weathering the storm, an intimacy with a fellow human being and their life journey – but not here. My favourite photograph was an untitled landscape from the series ‘In the Footsteps of Others’. In this beautiful image a mountain hovers in the distance while in the foreground dark grasses and trees are shot through with raked sunlight. A mysterious, haunting evocation of space and place that left me wanting more precisely because of its ambiguity and longing.

While the photographs capture individuals and their relationship to place it is a journey they do not take me on. This is the crux of the matter for a photographer – allowing the viewer to see things that are not immediately visible, to construct their own narrative and take that leap of faith invested in the equivalency of the image. For me this never happened with this exhibition.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Katrina Raymond for her help and to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ricky Maynard
Mission
2005
from the series Portrait of a distant land
gelatin silver resin-coated print
70 x 100 cm
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Ricky Maynard
Custodians
2005
from the series Portrait of a distant land
silver gelatin resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Ricky Maynard
Broken Heart
2005
from the series Portrait of a Distant Land
gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Portrait of a Distant Land is an exhibition of 60 works by leading indigenous photographer Ricky Maynard, spanning two decades of his practice. Through his photographs Ricky Maynard offers a journey of alternative perspectives and cultural insights. His passion and meticulous attention to detail encapsulates an honest and deeply felt interpretation of his people and the land they inhabit.

Drawing on six bodies of work, this remarkable exhibition was first shown as part of the inaugural Photoquai Biennale organised by Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

Maynard is based on Flinders Island in Bass Strait and has been recording the lives of his people since the mid 1980s. Several of Maynard’s renowned photographs trace songlines, massacre sites, key historical events, important meeting places, sacred cultural sites and practices of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The artist works closely with the communities he photographs and his approach to social documentary represents a major development in the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

In Urban Diary (1997) Maynard focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Melbourne’s beachside suburb, St Kilda, while his portraits of Wik elders in Returning to Places that Name Us (2000) are inspired by the landmark High Court of Australia’s ruling which recognised the existence of the traditional lands of the Wik people located on Cape York in northern Queensland. Also on view are images from the series The Moonbird People (1985–88) which depicts a Tasmanian Aboriginal community during the annual muttonbird season, and No More Than What You See (1993), a confrontational and emotionally-charged portrait of Indigenous people incarcerated in the South Australian prison system.

Maynard’s personal pilgrimage and spiritual journey as a member of the Ben Lomond and Big River people of Tasmania comes full circle with his images of important cultural sites, ochre trails and scarred trees represented in the series In the Footsteps of Others (2003).”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

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Ricky Maynard
Untitled
1997
from  the series Urban diary
gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Ricky Maynard
Untitled
1997
from  the series Urban diary
gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Portrait of a Distant Land

“DO NOT FORGET THESE FACES – THEY HOLD SOMETHING YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE 1

Through his photographs Ricky Maynard offers a journey of alternative perspectives and cultural insights. His passion and meticulous attention to detail encapsulates an honest and deeply felt interpretation of his people and the land they inhabit.

Maynard, of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent, is a documentary photographer who lives on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and the southeast Australian mainland. This exhibition presents his latest developing body of work Portrait of a Distant Land, which he began in 2005, as well as a selection of images from five earlier series including The Moonbird People (1985-88), No More Than What You See (1993), Urban Diary (1997), Returning to Places that Name Us (2000) and In The Footsteps of Others (2003), tracing key aspects of Maynard’s practice to the present day.

The ten works from the Portrait of a Distant Land series trace song lines, key historical events, massacre sites, petroglyphs and midden2, important meeting places, sacred cultural sites and practices of Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Presented alongside insightful and poignant quotations by community members who have maintained their local cultural heritage, these powerful images reaffirm a cultural dynamic forged by a strong belief in the importance of upholding cultural integrity both in and through picture making. Importantly, they provide the viewer with a greater understanding of both individual and  collective histories from outside a dominant gaze. Wybalenna on Flinders Island as depicted in Death in Exile and The Healing Garden for instance, is one of numerous historically-scarred sites; and for Maynard Vansittart Island encapsulates the crude and culturally insensitive research and documentation by dominant societies that continues to this day. Some photographs such as Mission, Broken Heart and A Free Country capture moments of reflection while others, like Traitor and The Spit are powerfully loaded references to either specific historical acts of oppression that contributed greatly to the devastation of Aboriginal people of Tasmania or recall childhood memories of people and place. Alongside these works, Coming Home is an example of cultural assertion: it depicts the ongoing significance of muttonbird hunting to Maynard’s people.

The annual muttonbirding season is the subject of Maynard’s powerful and innovative black and white series The Moonbird People, a deeply personal story relating the importance of this tradition to the people on the islands in Bass Strait3. The series was commissioned for the book After 200 Years: Photographic Essays on Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, produced as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations in 19884. These images record a cultural practice that significantly predates European colonisation and continues today.

Urban Diary focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Melbourne’s beachside suburb, St Kilda. This body of work captures the interactions between members of the community whilst also depicting some of the challenges Aboriginal people face in urban environments. Through his ability to connect with his subjects, Maynard reveals and honours the humility of this group of individuals who have invited him into their lives.

In the early 1990s, Maynard was given special access by the South Australian Correctional Service to document the life of Aboriginal inmates held in South Australian prisons. No More Than What You See goes beyond mere documentation. The photographs not only reveal the regimented and sanitised environment that inmates are forced to inhabit, they emphasise the dehumanising aspects that have had an indelible impact upon their lives – suggesting personal experiences that may have led to imprisonment and demonstrating the effects of prison life upon them. The fact that the photographs were taken in 1993 during the International Year of the Indigenous People, makes the series more poignant.

Contributing to the provocative nature of this diverse range of images of male and female inmates are the piercing eyes that confront us and expressions of individuality: the family snapshots pinned to the walls of their cells that express the desire to make even the most hostile spaces appear homely. Maynard’s portrayal stands in stark contrast to the impersonal and statistical report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987-90) 5 and to the common presumption that young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees will become adult offenders.

There is a change of direction in Returning to Places that Name Us. This series of exclusive large-scale portraits was inspired by the landmark High Court of Australia’s Wik ruling which recognised the existence of the traditional lands of the Wik people located on Cape York in northern Queensland. 6 Maynard’s visit to Aurukun to photograph Wik elders became complicated because the Federal Government responded to the High Court ruling on Native Title with the introduction of an amended Wik ‘Ten Point Plan’. In his portraits of Wik elders, Maynard’s aim was to:

IDENTIFY IN THESE PICTURES THE EXISTENCE OF STRUGGLE BELOW THE SURFACE, TO SEE THINGS THAT ARE NOT IMMEDIATELY VISIBLE AND TO RECOGNISE THAT WHAT THINGS MEAN HAS MORE TO DO WITH THE OBSERVER. 7

As Maynard has stated: ‘… I seek a balance between craftsmanship and social relevance. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and… the photograph has the power to frame a culture.’ 8

Important cultural sites found in the artist’s ‘country’ are the focus of the series In The Footsteps of Others including ochre trails, petroglyphs, stonework sites and scarred trees. Points of travel, contact and interaction, departure and displacement are also referenced. What you begin to sense in these landscapes is a strange absence, an echo of which occurs in his current body of work Portrait of a Distant Land. There is also a strong sense of presence within this absence – of markings, events and cultural practice that have been in existence for thousands of years.

In all of his photographs, Ricky Maynard’s emphasis is on the broader social and cultural context: he is determined not to present Aboriginal people as victims. Rather, he challenges the assumptions of many non-Indigenous Australians and proposes social change by questioning popular notions of historical events and shared histories. He addresses elements of historical amnesia or highlights social issues that affect Aboriginal people.

While this form of documentary photography is not something new, what becomes an interesting development is the formation of an Aboriginal photographic practice, documenting a cultural framework that sees Maynard acknowledge the importance of co-authorship between image maker and subject. This is significant from a wider Aboriginal viewpoint and certainly from the local perspective he represents in his latest body of work.

Focusing on Aboriginal people who historically were ignored and continually denied their cultural heritage, Ricky Maynard considers landscape photography to be a process of rediscovery, a ‘revaluation of where we find ourselves’… ‘a continuing journey’, a way ‘to address issues of identity, site, place and nation’. 9 His personal pilgrimage and spiritual journey as a member of the Ben Lomond and Big River people of Tasmania back to the country where he produced his very first body of work The Moonbird People becomes then, much more than just a portrait of a distant land.”

Keith Munro
Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

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Footnotes

1. Quote accompanying Custodians 2005, from the series Portrait of a Distant Land.

2. Petroglyphs, pictures carved into stone, are one of the oldest forms of human expression. A midden (or kitchen midden) is an archaeological term used worldwide to describe any kind of feature containing waste products such as animal bones, shells and other refuse that indicate a site of human settlement. Shell middens, some nearly 40,000 years old, have been found in Australian coastal regions.

3. Muttonbirding is the seasonal harvest of petrel chicks, especially the shearwater species, for food, oil and feathers. It usually refers to the more sustainable and regulated harvesting of chicks in the southern regions of Australia and New Zealand for five weeks every autumn. For the Bass Strait Islanders it is short-tailed shearwater, or ‘yolla’; and in Aotearoa/New Zealand it is the sooty shearwater or ‘titi’.

4. Penny Taylor (ed), After 200 Years: Photographic Essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1988.

5. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody led to fundamental changes to the way the criminal justice system deals with Indigenous people in Australia. The Commission (October 1987 and November 1990) investigated the deaths of 99 Aboriginal persons in police and prison custody between 1983-87. The disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal people were arrested and imprisoned in Australia was identified as the principal and immediate explanation for deaths in custody. Although more than 300 of the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, little has changed and there is still widespread suspicion in the Aboriginal community about a spate of deaths in custody.
www.austlii.edu.au/au/special/rsjproject/rsjlibrary/rciadic/rciadic_summary/rcsumk01.html

6. Following the 1992 Mabo Decision that established that native title is recognised under Australian law, The High Court of Australia’s 1996 Wik Decision further investigated land ownership of pastoral leases. The Wik Decision recognised native title rights for land that was owned on behalf of the Australian public by government; issuing co-existence to Indigenous peoples and pastoral owners. The Native Title Amendment Act (commonly referred to as the ‘Ten Point Plan’), passed by the government in 1998 in response to the Wik Decision, counteracted the coexistence and authorised the absolute governing of land rights issues to the newly established Native Title Tribunal. www.nlc.org.au/html/land_native_wik.html

7. Artist statement, Returning to Places that Name Us 2000.

8. Artist statement, In Response to Place, exhibition catalogue, City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, 2007.

9. Ibid.,

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Ricky Maynard
Bruce, Wik elder
2000
from the series Returning to places that name us
gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Ricky Maynard
Arthur, Wik elder
2000
from the series Returning to places that name us
gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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Ricky Maynard
Gladys, Wik elder
2000
from the series Returning to places that name us
gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

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The Ian Potter Museum of Art
Swanston Street between Faraday and Elgin streets in Parkville
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 to 5pm
Monday closed

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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24
Jul
11

Exhibition: ‘Another Story’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates: February 2011 – end of the year

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A bumper posting from an exhibition highlighting a collection of over 100,000 photographs – how lucky are they! Many thankx to the Moderna Museet for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Another Story: Possessed by the Camera

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Annika von Hausswolff
‘I Am the Runway of Your Thoughts’
2008
© Annika von Hausswolff

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Andreas Gursky
‘Bibliothek’
1999
© Andreas Gursky/BUS 2011

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Candida Höfer
‘The Louvre in Paris X 2005 – the caryatid hall’
2005
© Candida Höfer/BUS 2011

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Thomas Ruff
‘Häuser Nummer 9’
1989
© Thomas Ruff/BUS 2011

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Cindy Sherman
‘Untitled’
2008
© Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures

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“In 2011, Moderna Museet’s new directors, Daniel Birnbaum and Ann-Sofi Noring, will launch a new presentation of the collection. Another Story gives a fresh angle on art history, based on works from the Moderna Museet collection. We will start by focusing on photography, which will gradually be given a more prominent position, only to fill the entire exhibition of the permanent collection this autumn.

If you want an art collection to develop and stay alive, it can’t remain static. You need to present it in new ways and look at it from new angles. That may sound obvious, but it is not that common. In 2011, Moderna Museet will take a radical step, with Another Story. Photography from the Moderna Museet Collection. This is possibly the most extreme re-hanging of the collection undertaken in the history of the museum.

There is a growing interest in photography today, as proven by the panoply of exhibitions, fairs and festivals throughout the world. And this is hardly surprising. Nowadays, practically everyone is a photographer, at the very least snapping pictures with the camera built into most mobiles.

Moderna Museet’s collection of photography, ranging from 1840 to the present day, is one of the finest in Europe, featuring many of the most prominent names in photo history and comprising more than 100,000 photographs. The collection provides a historic background to the art of photography, and now we are sharing this with all our visitors. Moreover, several magnificent private donations have recently enriched the collection with works by famous artists practising in the field of photography.

Moderna Museet has one of Europe’s finest collections of photography, ranging from 1840 to the present day. Many of the most famous names in photographic history are represented, and the collection comprises more than 100,000 works. The re-hanging of the permanent collection exhibition will be done in three stages. In February, we will open the first part, Another Story: Possessed by the Camera, which presents contemporary photography-based art. Just before summer, we open Another Story: See the World!, presenting the period 1920-1980. This autumn, finally, we look at the early days of photography. Another Story: Written in Light presents the pioneers of photography from 1840 to the first three decades of the 20th century. In autumn 2011 and for the rest of the year, the entire permanent collection exhibition will consist of photography and photo-based art.”

Text from the Moderna Museet website

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Another Story: See the World!

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Aleksandr Rodtjenko
‘Sjukov-masten, radiomast i Moskva’
1929
© Aleksandr Rodtjenko

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August Sander
‘Die elegante Frau – Sekrutärin beine WDR’
1927/ca.1975
© August Sander/BUS 2011

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Christer Strömholm
‘Barcelona’
1959
© Christer Strömholm/Bildverksamheten Strömholm

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Christer Strömholm
‘Hiroshima’
1963/1981
© Christer Strömholm/Bildverksamheten Strömholm

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Irving Penn
Frozen Foods with String Beans, New York, 1977′
1977
© Irving Penn Foundation

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Irving Penn
‘Mouth (for L’Oréal), New York, 1986’
1986
© Irving Penn Foundation

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Another Story: Written in Light

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Julia Margaret Cameron
‘The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty’
1866
© Julia Margaret Cameron

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Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

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20
Jul
11

Review: ‘Paradise’ by Brook Andrew at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th June – 30th July 2011

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Many thankx to Olivia Radonich for her help and to Tolarno Galleries for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Images courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne. Photos by Christian Capurro.

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Brook Andrew ‘Paradise’ installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

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Brook Andrew
Paradise 1 (red)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 28.5 x 8 cm

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Brook Andrew
Paradise 2 (orange)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 34 x 8 cm

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Brook Andrew
Paradise 3 (yellow)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 28.5 x 8 cm

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Brook Andrew
Paradise 4 (green)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
25 x 33.5 x 8 cm

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Brook Andrew
Paradise 5 (magenta)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 28 x 8

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This is a strong, refined photo-ethnographic exhibition by Brook Andrew at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne, one that holds the viewers attention, an exhibition that is witty and inventive if sometimes veering too closely to the simplistic and didactic in some works.

Rare postcards of Indigenous peoples and their colonising masters and surrounded by thick polished wood frames (the naturalness of the wood made smooth and perfect) and coloured neon lights that map out the captured identities, almost like a highlighting texta and forms of urban graffiti. This device is espcially effective in works such as ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ (both 2011, below) with their male and female neon forms, and ‘Flow Chart’ (2011, below) that references an anthropological map.

Other works such as ‘Monument 1’ (2011, below) lay the postcards into the rungs of a small step ladder covered in white paint that has echoes of the colonisers renovation of suburban homes and becomes a metaphor for the Indigenous peoples being stepped on, oppressed and downtrodden. In a particularly effective piece, ‘Monument 2’ (2011, below) the viewer stares down into a black box with multiple layers of neon that spell out the words ‘I see you’ in the Wiradjuri language: we can relate this work to Lacan’s story of the sardine can, where the point of view of the text makes us, the viewer, seem rather out of place in the picture, an alien in the landscape. The text has us in its sights making us uncomfortable in our position.

The work ‘Paradise’ (2011, six parts, above) can certainly be seen as paradise lost but the pairing of black/white/colour postcards is the most reductive of the whole exhibition vis a vis Indigenous peoples and the complex discourse involved in terms of oppression, exploitation, empowerment, identity, mining rights and land ownership. The two quotations below can be seen to be at opposite ends of the same axis in this discourse. My apologies for the long second quotation but it is important to understand the context of what Akiko Ono is talking about with regard to the production of Indigenous postcards.

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White… has the strange property of directing our attention to color while in the very same movement it exnominates itself as a color. For evidence of this we need look no further than to the expression “people of color,” for we know very well that this means “not White.” We know equally well that the color white is the higher power to which all colors of the spectrum are subsumed when equally combined: white is the sum totality of light, while black is the total absence of light. In this way elementary optical physics is recruited to the psychotic metaphysics of racism, in which White is “all” to Black’s “nothing”…”

Victor Burgin 1

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“In his study of Aboriginal photography, Peterson also looks at the dynamics of colonial power relations in which both European and Aboriginal subjects are constituted in and by their relations to each other. Peterson in the main writes about two different contexts of the usage of photography of Aboriginal people

1. popular usage of photographs, especially in the form of postcards in the early twentieth century (Peterson 1985, 2005)

2. anthropologists’ ethnographic involvement with photography (Peterson 2003, 2006).

Regarding the first, Peterson depicts how the discourses of atypical (that is, disorganised) family structures and destitution among Aboriginal people were produced and interacted with the prevalent moral discourses of the time. He makes an important remark about the interactive dimensions that existed between the photographer and the Aboriginal subject. Hand-printed postcards in the same period showed much more positive images of Aboriginal people (Peterson 2005: 18–22). These were ‘real’ photographs taken by the photographers who had daily interactions with Aboriginal people…

Peterson gives greater attention to photographs taken by anthropologists for scientific purposes, and in this second context provides a more detailed treatment of his insight regarding the discrepancies between the colonisers’ discourse and the actual visual knowledge that photography offers…

These two contexts are not, of course, mutually exclusive. By dealing with image ethics and the changing photographic contract, Peterson (2003) shows the interlocking formations of popular image, anthropological knowledge and Aboriginal self-representation. In particular, it is important to remember that Aboriginal people have not always rejected collaboration with and appropriation of the idioms of the coloniser. Aboriginal people were not bothered by posing for photographers to produce images such as ‘naked’ Aboriginal men and women in formal pose, accompanied by an ‘unlikely combination’ of weapons (Peterson 2005); and at times complex negotiations occurred between the photographer and the photographed – resulting in both consent and refusal (Peterson 2003: 123–31).

These anecdotes suggest the necessity of unravelling the ‘lived’ dimensions of colonial and/or racial subjugation and resistance to that subjugation from the site of their occurrence …

Rather than scrutinising the authenticity of Aboriginality or taking it for granted that ethnographic photography is doomed to reproduce a colonial or anthropological power structure, it is more important to attend to the ‘instances in which colonized subjects undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer’s own terms’, as Pratt (1992: 7, emphasis in the original) suggests. She proposes the term ‘autoethnography’ to refer to these instances: ‘If ethnographic texts are a means by which Europeans represent to themselves their (usually subjugated) others, autoethnographic texts are those the others construct in response to or in dialogue with those metropolitan representations’ (Pratt 1992).

Akiko Ono 2

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The work ‘Paradise’ buys into the first quotation in a big way, playing as it does with the idioms of black/white/colour. It can also be seen as a form of autoethnographic text that uses rare postcards to critique historical relations between peoples and cultures. What it does not do, I feel, is delve deeper to try to understand the “interlocking formations of popular image, anthropological knowledge and Aboriginal self-representation” and resistance to that subjugation from the site of their occurrence. As the quotation observes “Aboriginal people have not always rejected collaboration with and appropriation of the idioms of the coloniser” and it is important to understand how the disciplinary systems of the coloniser (the ethnographic documenting through photography) where turned on their head to empower Indigenous people who undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer’s own terms. Nothing is ever just black and white. It is the interstitial spaces between that are always the most interesting.

In conclusion this an elegant exhibition of old and new, an autoethnographic text that seeks to address critical issues that look back at us and say – ‘I see you’.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Brook Andrew
Flow Chart
2011
Rare postcards, sapele and neon
283 x 449.5 x 8.5 cm

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Brook Andrew ‘Paradise’ installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

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Brook Andrew
Men
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
82 x 264 x 12.5 cm

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Brook Andrew
Women
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
179 x 179 x 6 cm

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Brook Andrew
Women (detail)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
179 x 179 x 6 cm

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“Tolarno Galleries is pleased to present Paradise, a major solo exhibition by Brook Andrew. Widely regarded as a multi-disciplinary artist, Brook Andrew’s Jumping Castle War Memorial was a highlight of the 17th Biennale of Sydney. Recently his major installation, Ancestral Worship 2010, was included in 21st Century: Art in the First Decade at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. His powerful new installation – Marks and Witness: A Lined crossing in Tribute to William Barak 2011 – was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria and is currently on display at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Paradise expands Brook Andrew’s interest in forgotten histories. His new works ask us to think about what has disappeared from our worlds, literally, and also from our consciousness. The exhibition features a number of assemblages made in neon and wood and incorporating rare postcards and photographs collected over many years. Men 2011 includes the original postcard that became the source for Sexy and Dangerous, Andrew’s iconic work of 1995.

Brook Andrew’s continuing search for curious portrait images from the 19th and early 20th century represents his fascination with the way the camera has documented a particular ‘colonial’ gaze and an interest in the exotic. Outlining or highlighting these images in glorious colored neon emphasizes this point.

However bright the neon, Brook Andrew’s works are characterized by a formal beauty and simplicity that explores conceptually complex ideas and themes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Monument 4, a ‘boomerang bar’ or Monument 2, a black lacquer box of neon containing the words ‘I see you’ in Wiradjuri. Gazing into this ‘well of words’ is like looking into infinity.

Brook Andrew’s work is held in every major collection in Australia. An important survey of his work: Brook Andrew Eye to Eye was presented by Monash University Museum of Art in 2007. In 2008 his work was showcased in Theme Park at AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art in The Netherlands. Major publications accompanied both of these solo exhibitions.”

Press release from Tolarno Galleries

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Brook Andrew
Monument 2
2011
Black lacquer, wood, perspex, neon, mirror and wire
38 x 99 x 87 cm

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Brook Andrew
Monument 2 (detail)
2011
Black lacquer, wood, perspex, neon, mirror and wire
38 x 99 x 87 cm

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Brook Andrew
18 lives in Paradise
Single box detail
2011

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The basic unit used in 18 Lives in Paradise is a cardboard printed box 50 x 50 x 50 cm. The boxes are the building blocks for a sculpture, wall or any other structure. The box is also a parody of the courier box – those containers daily transported around the globe in the vast movement of lives and identities today. What was thought of as fixed may not be so.

The images are sourced from postcards. The postcards range from the early to mid-twentieth century and form part of a worldwide curiosity in indigenous people, circus acts and personalities, environment and resources … The images come together as an assemblage of ‘freaks’ and represent the collision paths of indigenous and non-indigenous cultures; those being documented out of curiosity and those belonging to dominant cultures who have used the land and its people for entertainment and wealth.

18 Lives in Paradise can form a column or wall. It can be a barrier, a beacon or epitaph. En masse, the boxes are a symbol of many lives whose identities are sometimes twisted for the gaze of the curious world.

Brook Andrew 2011

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Brook Andrew
Monument 1
2011
Black lacquer, are postcards, wood, mirror and metal
104.5 x 69.5 x 58 cm

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1. Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p.131.

2. Ono, Akiko. “Who Owns the ‘De-Aboriginalised’ Past? Ethnography meets photography: a case study of Bundjalung Pentecostalism,” in Musharbash, Yasmine and Barber, Marcus (eds.,). Ethnography & the Production of Anthropological Knowledge: Essays in honour of Nicolas Peterson. The Australian National University E Press [Online] Cited 16/07/2011.

  • Peterson, N. 1998. “Welfare colonialism and citizenship: politics, economics and agency,” in N. Peterson and W. Sanders (eds), Citizenship and Indigenous Australians: Changing Conceptions and Possibilities, pp. 101-17. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Peterson, N. 1999. “Hunter-gatherers in first world nation states: bringing anthropology home.” Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology 23 (4): 847–61.
  • Peterson, N. 2003. “The changing photographic contract: Aborigines and image ethics,” in C. Pinney and N. Peterson (eds), Photography’s Other Histories, pp. 119–45. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Peterson, N. 2005. “Early 20th century photography of Australian Aboriginal families: illustration or evidence?” Visual Anthropology Review 21 (1–2): 11–26.
  • Peterson, N. 2006. “Visual knowledge: Spencer and Gillen’s use of photography in The Native Tribes of Central Australia.” Australian Aboriginal Studies (1): 12–22.
  • Pratt, M. L. 1992. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writings and Transculturation. London: Routledge.

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Footnote 1. Peterson has built up a collection of process-printed (that is, mass-produced) postcard images and hand-printed images dating from 1900 to 1920 (that is, real photographic postcards), over 20 years, during which time he obtained a copy every time he saw a new image. He feels confident that he has seen two-thirds of the process-printed picture postcards from the period although it is harder to estimate how many hand-printed images were circulating (Peterson 2005: 25n.3). He had a collection of 528 process-printed postcards (Peterson 2005: 25) and 272 hand-printed photographs (p. 18) by 2005.

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Tolarno Galleries
Level 4
104 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Australia
T: 61 3 9654 6000
Website: www.tolarnogalleries.com

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm, Sat 1 pm – 5 pm

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16
Jul
11

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘At Newport’ series 1991

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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.

Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

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1991

‘At Newport’ series

This series of photographs was taken in Melbourne at the old Victorian Railway’s Newport Workshops and formed the second part of my first solo exhibition, ‘Of Myth, Magic and Music’ held in 1991. Some of the titles e.g. ‘Fords are a Joke, GMH are shit’ (1991, below) are taken from the graffiti scrawled on various surfaces. All are silver gelatin photographs on fibre-based paper.

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Fords are a Joke, GMH are shit’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Harrys got a…’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Screened figure’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Heavy springs’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Untitled’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘I, Robot’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Large Anvil’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Spring, Turrets, Keep and Ladder’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Big Cogs’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Coronation’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Frank’s Apron’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Hand is fucked, Farm is flooded, Caravan drifted away I’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Hand is fucked, Farm is flooded, Caravan drifted away II’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Untitled’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Hoe with Surging Rainwater’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms I’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms II’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms III’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan
‘Forms IV’
from the ‘At Newport’ series
1991

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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12
Jul
11

‘A Thousand Little Suns’ by Martina Lindqvist

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“This end of the world will occur without noise, without revolution, without cataclysm. Just as a tree loses leaves in the autumn wind, so the earth will see in succession the falling and perishing all its children, and in this eternal winter, which will envelop it from then on, she can no longer hope for either a new sun or a new spring. She will purge herself of the history of the worlds. The millions or billions of centuries that she had seen will be like a day. It will be only a detail completely insignificant in the whole of the universe. Presently the earth is only an invisible point among all the stars, because, at this distance, it is lost through its infinite smallness in the vicinity of the sun, which itself is by far only a small star. In the future, when the end of things will arrive on this earth, the event will then pass completely unperceived in the universe. The stars will continue to shine after the extinction of our sun, as they already shone before our existence. When there will no longer be on the earth a sole concern to contemplate, the constellations will reign again in the noise as they reigned before the appearance of man on this tiny globule. There are stars whose light shone some millions of years before we arrived … The luminous rays that we receive actually then departed from their bosom before the time of the appearance of man on the earth. The universe is so immense that it appears immutable, and that the duration of a planet such as that of the earth is only a chapter, less than that, a phrase, less still, only a word of the universe’s history.”

Camille Flammarion, Le Fin du Monde (The End of the World) 1893

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Many thankx to Martina Lindqvist for allowing me to publish the six photographs in this series. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Martina Lindqvist
Untitled 1
from the series A Thousand Little Suns
2011

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Martina Lindqvist
Untitled 2
from the series A Thousand Little Suns
2011

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Martina Lindqvist
Untitled 3
from the series A Thousand Little Suns
2011

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“A Thousand Little Suns is an autobiographical body of work that uses childhood landscapes as metaphor for human experience, and is further influenced by an interest in spatial psychology, or more precisely, the emotive effects of landscapes and forested wilder land. Marcault and Therese Brosse once wrote that “forests, especially, with the mystery of their space prolonged indefinitely beyond the veil of tree-trunks and leaves, space that is veiled for our eyes … are veritable psychological transcendents.” Forests, in spite of being the most natural of spaces, are truly unnatural for the cultured human being. Soon, if we don’t know where we are going we no longer know where we are, and standing on the brink of a forest always represents this possibility of going deeper and deeper into the unknown.

A Thousand Little Suns takes a contemplative look on the landscape of Ostrobothnia in central Finland, which during the autumn and winter months should be shrouded by an impenetrable darkness, but instead finds itself lit by a thousand glowing lights. Shining upon uneasy buildings trapped in the middle of darkness and light; forestation and cultured space, these ephemeral lights place the border with its inherent dialectical problematic of inside/outside in focus. The concept of the border is thus echoed in the structural quality of the land; in the patches of light with their opposing darkness, and is a reflection of the experience of an inherited yet closed off culture that was always seen through the eyes of a visitor.”

Martina Lindqvist 2011

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Martina Lindqvist
Untitled 4
from the series A Thousand Little Suns
2011

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Martina Lindqvist
Untitled 5
from the series A Thousand Little Suns
2011

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Martina Lindqvist
Untitled 6
from the series A Thousand Little Suns
2011

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Martina Lindqvist website

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08
Jul
11

Exhibition: ‘Ai Weiwei – Interlacing’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 28th May – 21st August 2011

 

Many thankx to Fotomuseum Winterthur for allowing me to publish the text and the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for another version of the image.

 

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn
1995
Triptych
C-prints
each 150 x 166 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Profile of Duchamp, Sunflower Seeds
1983
From New York Photographs, 1983-1993
C-print
20 x 28.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
6/1/08, Wenchuan, China
from Blog Photographs, c. 2005-2009
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
June 1994
1994
C-print
117.5 x 152 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei – Interlacing is the first major exhibition of photographs and videos by Ai Weiwei. It foregrounds Ai Weiwei the communicator – the documenting, analyzing, interweaving artist who communicates via many channels. Ai Weiwei already used photography in his New York years, but especially since his return to Beijing, he has incessantly documented the everyday urban and social realities in China, discussing it over blogs and Twitter. Photographs of radical urban transformation, of the search for earthquake victims, and the destruction of his Shanghai studio are presented together with his art photography projects, the Documenta project Fairytale, the countless blog and cell phone photographs. A comprehensive book accompanies this exhibition.

Ai Weiwei is a generalist, a conceptual, socially critical artist dedicated to creating friction with, and forming reality. As an architect, conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, blogger, Twitterer, interview artist, and cultural critic, he is a sensitive observer of current topics and social problems: a great communicator and networker who brings life into art and art into life.

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957, the son of the poet Ai Qing. Following his studies at the Beijing Film Academy, he cofounded in 1978 the artists’ collective The Stars, which rejected Social Realism and advocated artistic individualism and experimentation in art. In 1981 Ai Weiwei went to the USA and 1983 to New York, where he studied at Parsons School for Design in the class of the painter Sean Scully. In New York he discovered artists like Allen Ginsberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and, above all, Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp is important for him because he understood art as part of life. At this time, Ai Weiwei produced his first ready-mades and thousands of photographs documenting his life and friends in the Chinese art community in New York. After his father fell ill, he returned to Beijing in 1993. In 1997 he cofounded the China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW) and began from then on to deal with architecture as well. Ai Weiwei opened his own studio in 1999 in Caochangdi and set up the architecture studio FAKE Design in 2003. In the same year, he played a major role, together with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, in the construction of the Olympic stadium, the so-called Bird’s Nest. Following its completion, it became a new symbol of Beijing. In 2007, 1001 Chinese visitors traveled, at his instigation, to Documenta 12 in Kassel (Fairytale). In 2010 the world marveled at his large, yet formally minimal carpet of millions of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern.

Ai Weiwei deliberately confronts social conditions in China and in the world: Through photographically documenting the architectonic clear-cutting of Beijing in the name of progress, with provocative measurements of the world, his personal positionings in the Study of Perspective, with radical cuts in the past (made to found pieces of furniture) in order to create possibilities for the present and the future, and with his tens of thousands of blog entries, blog photographs, and cell phone photographs (along with many other artistic declarations). This first, large exhibition and book project of his photography and videos focuses on Ai Weiwei’s diversity, complexity, and connectedness, his “interlacing” and “networking” with hundreds of photographs, blogs, and explanatory essays.

The artist as network, as company, as activist, as political voice, as social container, as agent provocateur: at every moment – in the past, present, and future – every society on Earth needs outstanding unique figures like Ai Weiwei in order to stay awake, to be shaken awake, to be made to recognize their own obstinacy, and to be able to avoid tunnel vision. We are therefore deeply saddened that the completion of this book coincides with Ai Weiwei’s arrest which we deplore. We are extremely concerned about the artist. And we wish that this great thinker, designer, and fighter will remain a resistant public voice for all of us – and especially for China.

The exhibition and book were developed in close collaboration with Ai Weiwei. For reasons already mentioned, however, he was unable to be involved in completing the book. We continue to hope that he will be personally present for the installation of the exhibition.

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Provisional Landscapes
2002-2008
Diptych
Inkjet-prints
each 66 x 84 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
10/29/04, Hebei Carpet Factory, China
from Blog Photographs, c. 2005-2009
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Study of Perspective – Tiananmen
1995-2010
C-print
32.5 x 43.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
from Bird’s Nest
2005-2008
02.17.2007
C-print
46.5 x 60 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Fairytale 1
from Fairytale
2007
Inkjet-print
92.5 x 92.5 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei. Williamsburg, Brooklyn
1983
from New York Photographs, 1983-1993
C-print
29.2 x 20 cm
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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05
Jul
11

Exhibition: ‘NGV 150th Felton Bequest Gift – Living Water: Contemporary Art of the Far Western Desert at NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th May 2011 – 28th May 2012

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“This is me: this is mine. The whole lot is me. I been walking all around, I know him proper way, he is always with me…”

Weaver Jack

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Someone keyed my car the other day and it sent me into a bit of a downward spiral. Who knows why people do these things – stupidity, boredom, sheer bloody mindedness. This exhibition brought me back from that space to a rejoicing in human creativity and connection. It helped me leave my troubles behind. The stories in these paintings ground you, bring you back to earth through the experience and feeling of colour, movement and stillness.

I, we, cannot understand this ancient culture for it is foreign to us. We are not of it. But we can feel the stories in our own way. While we can’t understand every nuance of symbology and traditional narrative that the paintings contain they can speak to us all as human; we all come from this earth and must return to it. I felt the place from which they emanate, an intimacy with earth, self and soul.

I might not know much about anything, about understanding the vagaries of human beings, but I do know what is honest and truthful, has feeling for the piquancy of life. These paintings let my troubles and vicissitudes drop away and uplifted my spirit. Surrounded by love, by colour, by belonging to earth, sky, water, spirit. A wonderful gift to any human being and a wonderful gift from the Felton Bequest to the National Gallery of Victoria and to all the people of Australia. Go and experience their embrace.

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

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Yikartu Bumba Manyjilyjarra born (1940s)
Jakayu Biljabu Manyjilyjarra born (c. 1937)
Nyanjilpayi Nancy Chapman Manyjilyjarra born (c. 1941)
May Chapman Manyjilyjarra born (1940s)
Doreen Chapman Manyjilyjarra born (1970s)
Linda James Manyjilyjarra born 1984
Mulyatingki Marney Manyjilyjarra born 1941
Reena Roger Manyjilyjarra born (1950s)
Beatrice Simpson Manyjilyjarra born (c. 1966)
Ronelle Simpson Manyjilyjarra born 1988
Muntararr Rosie Williams Manyjilyjarra born (c. 1943)
Ngayarta Kujarra
2009
synthetic polymer paint on canvas 300.0 x 500.1 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011

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Ngayartu Kujarra

The artists who collaborated on this work (above) live at Punmu community, on the shore of a vast salt lake, (Lake Dora), which is surrounded by a scattered array of water sources.

The artists from this region are profoundly affectionate and respectful towards the salt lake and the fresh waters hat have sustained htem and their families for as long as memory can stretch.

The women have reproduced the feeling of the salt lake viscerally: their work conveys its immense scale, fine texture, extreme whiteness and shimmering light.

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Tommy Mitchell
Ngaanyatjarra born c.1943
Kurlilypurru
2009
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.0 x 212.0 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Tommy Mitchell, courtesy Warakurna Artists Aboriginal Corporation

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Nyumitja Laidlaw
Ngaanyatjarra born c.1938
Kuriella
2009
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
142.3 x 175.0 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Nyumitja Laidlaw/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

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Kalaju Alma Webou
Yulparija c.1920-2009
Pinkalarta
2006
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152.0 x 152.0 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Kalaju Alma Webou, courtesy Short Street Gallery/Yulparija Artists from Bidyadanga

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Today, 24 May 2011, the National Gallery of Victoria celebrates its 150th birthday.

To honour this tremendous milestone, the NGV today unveiled an exceptional gift of 173 important Indigenous works of art including three by contemporary artists Vernon Ah Kee, Brook Andrew and Jonathan Jones who were commissioned to create works that pay homage to the highly celebrated Wurundjeri artist, William Barak. These pieces have been gifted by the Felton Bequest, established in 1904 by the NGV’s greatest benefactor, Alfred Felton.

The Honourable Alex Chernov, AO, QC, Governor of Victoria and Mrs Elizabeth Chernov were present at the NGV’s unveiling ceremony.

Dr Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV said: “This is the most significant gift of Indigenous art to the NGV since the Gallery opened its doors for the first time on this date 150 years ago in country of the Kulin nation. It is appropriate on this date both to honour the memory of Alfred Felton and also celebrate the Indigenous art of our country, the world’s oldest continuous visual tradition.”

The gift of 173 works encompasses two exceptional collections: the first comprises 63 nineteenth and early twentieth century shields on display as part of the Australian Art collection, and the second 107 twenty-first century paintings from the Far Western Desert, forming the new exhibition Living Water.

Dr Vaughan said: “This outstanding gift adds tremendous strength to the NGV’s collection of Indigenous Art. Since the NGV first collected Indigenous art, the collection has grown to hold over 3,000 works representing cultures across Australia.

These exciting and dynamic acquisitions will enable the NGV to continue to educate visitors of all ages about the visual art of Indigenous Australians. This gift is a highlight of the NGV’s 150th anniversary year, reminding us of the crucial and continuing role the NGV has played in collecting and displaying the finest art works that can be acquired.

The Barak Commissions pay tribute to one of the most important figures of nineteenth century Australian Indigenous art, acknowledging Barak’s central place in the history of Victoria and the NGV,” said Dr Vaughan.

William Barak was born in country of the Wurundjeri people and became a leading Indigenous artist and figure in Melbourne during the 19th century. He is said to have witnessed John Batman ‘purchase’ Melbourne in 1835.

The multi-media installation by Vernon Ah Kee presents conversations between prominent Indigenous people as they reflect on how Barak has inspired them. Brook Andrew, renowned for his multi-disciplinary works, has created a powerful installation which adorns the entrance atrium at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Jonathan Jones, who works with fluid and dancing light as a metaphor of living culture, has created five light boxes that map important cultural designs belonging to Barak as a way of honouring Barak’s life.

The collection of 63 rare and stunningly beautiful 19th and early 20th century shields is largely contemporary with Barak’s life. The shields serve to remind us of the time when the plains of Southeast Australia contained carved trees bearing elegant inscriptions, with people dressed in possum-skin cloaks and carrying elaborate shields living extraordinary living in harmony with country and ancient beliefs.

The Living Water exhibition unveils the Felton Bequest gift paintings: 107 adventurous works by male and female artists from newly established art centres in the Far Western Desert, an area stretching across far flung parts of Western Australia and South Australia.

This exhibition of 21st century art highlights today’s momentous art movement which originated at Papunya in 1971 when senior men decoded their archival narratives and laws, forging a new form shared by many Indigenous peoples across the Western Desert.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Roy Underwood
Pitjantjatjara born c.1937
Mulaya
2008
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
197.0 x 135.0 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Roy Underwood, courtesy Spinifex Arts Project

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Simon Hogan
Pitjantjatjara born c.1930
Ilkurlka
2004
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
134.5 x 176.6 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Simon Hogan, courtesy Spinifex Arts Project

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Spinifex People

The country of the Spinifex people, who speak a southern dialect of Pitjantjatjara language, consists of vast plains of deep red sand, salt lakes and Spinifex.

In 1998 the community produced a series of ten large paintings that were bequeathed to the people of Western Australia in a symbolic reciprocal exchange of paintings for land. Most Spinifex works, subsequently produced on infrequent painting trips back to country operate as complex maps as well as religious landscapes that detail sources of spiritual power in country belonging to individual artists.

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Milatjari Pumani
Yankunytjatjara born 1928
Ngura Walytja, Antara
2010
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
168.6 x 137.4 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Milatjari Pumani, courtesy Mimili Maku Arts & Crafts

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Living Water: Exhibition Background Information

“Living Water, an exhibition showcasing 107 contemporary Indigenous paintings by 94 artists from the Felton Bequest Gift, displays works by male and female artists from the Far Western Desert, an area stretching across parts of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

A modern art movement originated at Papunya in 1971, which has since transformed the way we see the land and the history of art in Australia. Almost forty years after the genesis of the Western Desert art movement, its epicentre has dramatically shifted from Papunya in the Northern Territory to the Pintupi homelands of Kintore and Kiwirrkura in the Gibson Desert, and to communities that lie hundreds of kilometres to the south and west in far-flung reaches of South Australia and Western Australia (the Far Western Desert).

During the first decade of the 21st century, Pintupi, Spinifex, Anangu, Yulparija and Martu artists have developed a dynamic and fresh expression of Western Desert Art. The male and female artists not only share close kinship, social, linguistic and ritual interconnections and lived experience of desert country built up during pujiman (nomadic, bush) days but also have parallel experiences of making art with introduced materials for the commercial market. Their paintings – bearers of sanctity – resonate with the shock of the ancient made new and tell tjukurrpa (stories) associated with special places in their ngurra (country).This dramatic new wave of acrylic painting is the focus of Living Water, comprising the NGV’s 150th anniversary gift from the Felton Bequest of 107 paintings.

Aboriginal people from across the Western Desert use the term ‘living water’ to describe water sources, including rock holes and soakage waters that are fed by underground springs. The path of these springs was created by the ancestral beings of the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming) as they themselves journeyed underground, their entry into the earth often marking the site of current day water sources. ‘Living water’ is revered also because it does not seem to be affected by the harsh conditions above the ground that the people themselves have to endure.

This exhibition has been curated by Judith Ryan, Indigenous Art Curator, NGV. The following groups of people are represented in this spectacular exhibition.

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Pintupi people

Pintupi is the name of a Western Desert language spoken by Aboriginal people who belong to a large stretch of country in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia and the western edge of the Northern Territory. When the Pintupi arrived in the government settlements east of their traditional lands between the 1930s and the 1950s, they adopted the term ‘Pintupi’ to distinguish themselves amongst the surrounding Aboriginal inhabitants as the ‘people from the west’.

The Pintupi’s complex relationship to the land of their ancestors is expressed through stories, songs and ritual practice that are also depicted in the acrylic paintings of the artists from the Pintupi communities of Walungurru and Kiwirrkura.

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Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjara People

The Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjara people of the tri-state region of the Western Desert constantly interact and are related by kinship, language and genealogy.

Here they specialised in making walka (drawings), batik, punu (wood carvings) and tjanpi weavings, avoiding painting on canvas for the art market until the 21st century because of their suspicion of earlier forms of Western Desert art and their reluctance to disclose sacred elements of men’s and women’s law.

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Yulparija People

The Yulparija people originally come from the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia, which runs from Telfer in the south to Walungurru in the east and close to Fitzroy Crossing in the north.

Their work contains deep threads of cultural memory and is daring in its vigour of application and iridescent palette. The Yulparija have forged a painting style that combines their cultural memory of desert birth country with the rich blues and greens of saltwater terrain.

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Martu People

Martu means ‘one of us’, or ‘person’ and is the word chosen to represent a number of different language groups from country across the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Martu are interconnected to other surrounding peoples from the Great Sandy Desert through their shared country of birth and associated Dreaming stories.”

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Dadda Samson
Kartujarra born c.1933
Puntuwarri
2009
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
124.5 x 293.4 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Dadda Samson, courtesy Martumili Artists

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Lawrence Pennington
Pitjantjatjara born c.1940
Kurparu (Magpie)
2005
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
138.6 x 92.7 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Lawrence Pennington, courtesy Spinifex Arts Project

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Wingu Tingima
Pitjantjatjara c.1917–2010
Kungkarakalpa (Seven Sisters)
2007-09
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
140.0 x 210.0 cm
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Wingu Tingima, courtesy Tjungu Palya

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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