Posts Tagged ‘Erika Diettes: Sudarios

18
Aug
13

Video: Installation of Erika Diettes ‘Sudarios (Shrouds) at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2013

Exhibition dates: 17th August – 15th September 2013

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“Erika Diettes travelled to different cities in the department of Antioquia (Colombia) to interview women who had been present at the torture and murder of their loved ones. Diettes photographed the women, closely cropped in black and white, at a moment of great vulnerability – all but one with their eyes closed. The resultant twenty photographs were printed on seven feet tall silk panels and form the work Sudarios (shrouds are a burial cloak, a cloth that shrouds the body of the deceased). The artist always intended for these images to be printed on silk and had the installation in mind before she took the photographs: in other words previsualisation was strong. The work is usually displayed in sacred spaces such as churches and convents with a sound track of a barely audible, sighing female voice; here in Ballarat the work is hung in the former Mining Exchange building, a seat of colonial power and wealth which can be read as appropriate for the presentation of this work, for torture is always about the power of one person over another.”

From the catalogue essay Intimations of Mor(t)ality: Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes by Dr Marcus Bunyan.

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Installation video of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2013
© Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Ballarat International Foto Biennale
Mining Exchange building
8 Lydiard St N
Ballarat VIC 3350
T: (03) 5333 4242

Ballarat International Foto Biennale website

Erika Diettes website

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17
Aug
13

Catalogue essay by Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Sudarios (Shrouds)’ by Erika Diettes at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Exhibition dates: 17th August – 15th September 2013

Entry free, open daily 10 am – 5pm

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This exhibition is one of the core programs for this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale and I had the privilege of writing the catalogue essay for the Colombian artist Erika Diettes. I met the delightful Erika and her husband today at the opening of BiFB on their first trip to Australia and I must say the art hangs very well in the Mining Exchange building.

This was one of the most difficult but rewarding pieces that I have ever had to write.
In reading, I hope you gather the full import of the text.

Text © Marcus Bunyan. All images © Marcus Bunyan, Erika Diettes and Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

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Intimations of Mor(t)ality: Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes

by Dr Marcus Bunyan

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“There is now a vast repository of images that make it harder to maintain [a] kind of moral defectiveness. Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing – may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don’t forget.”

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Susan Sontag Regarding the Pain of Others 2003 1

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When I was asked to write the catalogue essay on Colombian artist Erika Diettes’ work Sudarios (Shrouds) by editor Esther Gyorki for the Ballarat International Foto Biennale the work gave me pause. What could I say about it that was relevant, insightful and spoke from the heart? I wrote back to Esther saying I needed to do some background research: “This is difficult subject matter and I want to make sure I can do it justice before I commit to writing about it.”2 In a synchronous way that often happens in the world, that is ultimately what this text is about – justice.

The basics are easily told. Artist and anthropologist Erika Diettes travelled to different cities in the department of Antioquia to interview women who had been present at the torture and murder of their loved ones.3 Diettes photographed the women, closely cropped in black and white, at a moment of great vulnerability – all but one with their eyes closed. The resultant twenty photographs were printed on seven feet tall silk panels and form the work Sudarios (shrouds are a burial cloak, a cloth that shrouds the body of the deceased). The artist always intended for these images to be printed on silk and had the installation in mind before she took the photographs: in other words previsualisation was strong. The work is usually displayed in sacred spaces such as churches and convents with a sound track of a barely audible, sighing female voice; here in Ballarat the work is hung in the former Mining Exchange building, a seat of colonial power and wealth which can be read as appropriate for the presentation of this work, for torture is always about the power of one person over another. The viewer can walk through these floating realities and be enfolded in the aggrieved women’s sorrow as if part of a ceremonial procession, perhaps a funeral cortege.

In her creation of an allegorical space for mourning, Diettes work acts as a funeral rite for both living and dead, acts of mourning placed in a context of splendour. The images evoke the representation of the death of Saint Sebastian, the faces recalling “the exquisite suffering of the Catholic saints and martyrs, but also of refugees and victims of contemporary traumas,”4 while the atrocities perpetrated on the body are hidden by the close cropping of the images. As Diettes observes, “You can’t help being a little pierced by their exhalations,”5 an indirect reference by Diettes to the arrows that pierce Saint Sebastian’s body. Diettes opens a space before the camera for the human ‘being’ in context, a terrain (of) or becoming, where the terrors are written on the countenance of the women, their mouths silently singing their song of mourning. Look at their mouths, each one contorted in agony, each one giving voice to the memory of terror.

These are confronting images about trauma and grief, documenting the ongoing effects of atrocity on the mind of the observer for they are portrayals of the effect of intim(id)ation, where intimations of mortality are evidenced by the removal of an identity, the beloved id, which reveals the intimate – expressed in the adoration/adornment of the women with jewellery which signifies the women’s dignity, comfort, and continuing engagement with the world as an extension of personal self/belief.

The signs of erasure of these murders are rearticulated through Diettes work. The bodies are held in suspended animation, in endless agony, through an act of re-terror-itorialization. Through the evacuation of loved ones, their discontinuity and deterritorialization, and the reterritorialization / re-terroring of that space through memory – portrayed on the faces of the women – the images recast and represent issues of power, domination and abuse. Through suspended sorrow, suspended mourning, the disappearance of some bodies and the speaking of others, the images become a representation of a doubled absence, a doubled momenti mori – for the photographs picture the women (making them dead) as they themselves remember the violence perpetrated before them from behind closed eyes (as the dead have their eyes closed), remembering in their mind’s eye the death of the beloved. The image of the victim has become a ghost, a trace etched upon the face of the relative, a trace of that which “persists and gives testimony of a vanished state” in art, for if art is linked to memory and to what survives, it is from the perspective of its own corpse-oreality, its own ghostly and fragile materiality that these images emerge: the hanged man, the hung woman. Remaking but always recording the past through interaction with the present, the shrouds are a palimpsest in which “personal memories are always interwoven with historical consciousness”6 and are constantly being rewritten.

Of course the photographs elicit our empathy but more than that they make us feel their terrible vulnerability while drawing us into uncomfortable complicity as subsidiary witnesses to the event.7 Normally when looking at a photograph the viewer is a secondary witness but here the viewer becomes a tertiary witness – the actual event, the memory of that event etched on the face of the women captured by the camera and now observed by the viewer. There is an osmotic effect taking place as one as one image is super imposed on another. Even after an event is over, “there’s an after image or an echo that exists… a spirit or a residue, a trace.”8 These visions are like images of the Holocaust. As soon as we see them we are implicated in a narrative – and we are helpless in this process – which is an essential part of history.

Diettes work reframes the subject because there is no traditional frame of reference for the viewer, only a memory of that reference in the form of a ghost-like shroud. The normal definition of a shroud no longer pertains to these images for the cloth is no longer around a dead body but represents / holds a trace of what was once dead.

As spirit photographs in the Victorian era solidified a fractured, unknown reality, so these apparitions of the departed are brought forth and solidified, just for a moment, in the faces of the suffering women. The viewer of these images does not see the (dead) carrier of messages, but only their shadows carried by the grief of their loved ones, shrouded as they are in remembrances of the past. We feel that the women are not looking at us but that the aura of their invisible seeing is directed toward us from outside of its normative context – from behind their eyes. It is this imprint on the Shrouds; the imprint of their memories that travels great distances towards us, that enfolds us in sorrow and shadow.

“It is the special feeling of the ‘presence’ of a work produced not by its remaining where it is but by its moving across boundaries where it reaches us from a distance, looking at us even when it appears not to. It is where the work seems peculiarly meant for us even in its indifference to or difference from us.”9

If photographs really are “experience captured” then Diettes explores this arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood,10 probing the limitation of the medium, shaping the space within the available conditions. Her images become images of sentience that enable the viewer to live in the world with open eyes (while the victims eyes are closed) – to be made aware of the injustices of this world and not remain silent. Diettes work is not about remembering, it’s about an answerable “not forgetting” for hers… is to remind us of the responsibility to make art in response to mor(t)ality.

As human beings, we must fight for the right to be heard and use art as a visual language to textualise our experience and thereby make it available for interpretation and closure. Powerful, simple questions (and I believe) undeniable questions have to be asked; and in response to those questions (power: it will corrupt you, but if you don’t want it, it will be used against you), intelligence, justice and integrity must be used in the service of art. While human truth may be ephemeral qualities like justice are not; the struggle is to define justice and to live it. And for artists to display it.

You place innocence at the heart of human depravity – and hope it survives.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Melbourne 2013

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Endnotes

1. Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003, p.102.

2. Email to Esther Gyorki. Tue, March 26, 2013

3. The capital of the department of Antioquia is Medellin. The city is a 35-minute flight from the Colombian capital Bogota and has one of the highest rates of violence concerning drugs in Colombia. Most of the crimes were committed between 2001 and 2008.

4. Anon. “Berlinde De Bruyckere Into One-Another To P.P.P.” on the Hauser and Wirth website [Online] Cited May 5, 2013.
www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/899/berlinde-de-bruyckere-into-one-another-to-p-p-p/view/

5. Diettes, Erika quoted in Tobón, Paola Cardona. “The exhalation of sorrow,” in  El Colombiano, November 4, 2012 [Online] Cited Cited May 5, 2013.
erikadiettes.com/links/prensa/houston/02_ExhalationOfSorrow_ElColombiano_v2.pdf

6. Garb, Tamar. “A Land of Signs,” in Journal of Contemporary African Art 26, Spring 2010, p.11.

7. Op. cit. “Berlinde De Bruyckere Into One-Another To P.P.P.”

8. Rakes, Rachael and Goldsmith, Leo. “Pasolini’s Body: Cathy Lee Crane with Leo Goldsmith and Rachael Rakes,” on The Brooklyn Rail website. January 13, 2013 [Online] Cited May 5, 2013.
www.brooklynrail.org/2013/02/film/pasolinis-body-cathy-lee-crane-with-leo-goldsmith-rachael-rakes

9. Butler, Rex. “”Lines”, Leading Out of Sight?: Is Aboriginal Art Losing its Aura?” in Australian Art Collector No. 13, July-September 2000, p.87.

10. Campany, David. “Photography and Photographs,” on the Still Searching blog. April 14, 2013 [Online] Cited May 11, 2013.
blog.fotomuseum.ch/2013/04/1-photography-and-photographs/#more-1282

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat
Photographs by Marcus Bunyan
© Marcus Bunyan, Erika Diettes and Ballarat International Foto Biennale

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ballarat International Foto Biennale
Mining Exchange building
8 Lydiard St N
Ballarat VIC 3350
T: (03) 5333 4242

Ballarat International Foto Biennale website

Erika Diettes website

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18
Jul
13

Openings: ‘John Cato Retrospective’ / Erika Diettes ‘Sudarios (Shrouds)’ at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Opening date: 17th August 2013
BiFB dates: 17th August – 15th September 2013

Venue: The Mining Exchange, 12 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm daily

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I have the great honour of being guest speaker at the John Cato Retrospective and book launch at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale on the 17th August, 2013. My essay … And His Forms Were Without Number from the 2002 retrospective I co-curated at the Photographers Gallery, has been included in the book. John is one of the most underrated but influential artists in the history of Australian photography and it is wonderful that a book is being published about his work. Finally, the recognition he so strongly deserves.

I have also written the catalogue essay for another core program, Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) that also opens on the same day. This was one of the most complex writing assignments that I have undertaken for the subject matter is very difficult and I wanted to do the work justice. I will publish the essay in an upcoming posting. The artist is flying over from Colombia for the opening so it will be great to meet her.

I hope you can make the trip to Ballarat for these important events!

Marcus

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John Cato Retrospective opening and book launch invite
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John Cato Retrospective


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“The meeting of land and sea has always held a mystic fascination for me. Through my camera, my experience of it has been heightened, my awareness of its wonder deepened. Above all, I remember its clamourous silence.”

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John Cato 1976

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“John Cato was one of the first photographers in Australia to consider the lyrical and poetic aspects of landscape and to create extended series of photographic essays. He wanted to ‘explore the elements of landscape’ and gave himself 10 years to complete his study, two years for each of the five elements. His practice would take him into the desert for extended periods of time. He would spend 40 days, seeing, observing and waiting for the perfect conditions for the shot, on one occasion exposing 3 rolls of film and being satisfied enough to use only 11 photographs from them. These powerful images, free of manipulation, capture the essential qualities of natural elements and indeed how John Cato saw the world.

This exhibition of work from 1971-1991 honours the achievement of John Cato as mentor and as teacher. It pays homage to his significant contribution of photography in Australia. John Cato was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1926. From the age of 12 years he was apprenticed to his father the photographer Jack Cato. John Cato had been a press photographer with the Argus newspaper and a commercial photographer in partnership with Athol Shmith for 20 years before experiencing ‘a kind of menopause’. He walked away from a successful career, quietly burned all his commercial work and became an educator and fine art photographer. Cato was involved in the foundation years of the Photography Studies College, still in South Melbourne, and a lecturer there and at Prahran College of Advanced Education becoming Department Head in 1979 until he retired in 1991 by which time it was called Victoria College. He felt ‘duty bound’ to hand on his experience. He loved teaching and he was a much-loved teacher. Many of his past students are now highly regarded photographers, whilst others hold important positions in universities and art institutions around Australia.

Cato exhibited nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions and his work is featured in many public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.”

Text from the Ballarat International Foto Biennale core special guide.

The exhibition is curated by Paul Cox.

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John Cato (1926 - 2011) 'Tree, a journey #1' from the 'Tree, a journey' series 1971-73

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John Cato (1926 – 2011)
Tree, a journey #1

from the Tree, a journey series 1971-73
Gelatin silver photograph
45.3 x 35.1 cm

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John Cato (1926 - 2011) 'Tree, a journey #18' from the 'Tree, a journey' series 1971-73

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John Cato (1926 – 2011)
Tree, a journey #18

from the Tree, a journey series 1971-73
Gelatin silver photograph
45.3 x 35.1 cm

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John Cato (1926 - 2011) 'Double concerto #13' from the 'Double Concerto' series 1985-91

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John Cato (1926 – 2011)
Double concerto #13
from the Double Concerto series 1985-91
Gelatin silver photograph
45.5 x 32.8 cm

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Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds)

“Many times, with my camera, I have been a witness of the moment when people have to close their eyes as they recall the event which divided their life into two parts. My decision to create Sudarios (Shrouds) comes from unanswered questions that came out of my pervious series Silencios (Silences), which dealt with survivors of the Second World War who live in Colombia. Similarities are also to be found in Río Abajo (Drifting Away), a series which focuses on the victims of forced disappearance, and A Punta de Sangre (By Force of Blood), a series in which I examine the idea of the search for the bodies of the disappeared by their families, who, in the midst of despair, find a ray of hope in the vultures that might lead them to the remains of their loved ones. To date, I have received the testimonies of more than 300 victims of the violence in Colombia. They have confided intimacies of this violence to me: not only its harrowing details, but the way they rebuild their lives and keep going despite what they have suffered.

The women who serve as the models in Sudarios were first-hand witnesses of acts of horror. The intention of the series is to enable the spectator to observe the moment when these women close their eyes, with no other way to communicate the horror that they witnessed and the intensity of the sorrow they were subjected to. They were forced to feel on their own flesh, or in front of their own eyes, that there is no difference between man and the most savage beasts of nature; but that we are the only species capable of mass murder and the only ones who do not adapt to our own kind (N. Timbergen, 1968). I am convinced that this series speaks of something that is timeless, universal and infinite.

Erika Diettes is a visual artist who lives and works in Bogotá. Her work explores the problems of memory, sorrow, absence and death. She has a Masters in Anthropology from the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, with a major in photographic production, and a degree in Social Communication from the Pontificia Universidad de Bogotá.”

Text from the Ballarat International Foto Biennale core special guide.

Erika Diettes website

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Erika Diettes. 'Untitled' 2011 from the series 'Sudarios (Shrouds)'

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Erika Diettes
Untitled
2011
from the series Sudarios (Shrouds)
Digital black and white photograph printed on silk
2.28 x 1.34 m
© Erika Diettes

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Erika Diettes. 'Untitled' 2011 from the series 'Sudarios (Shrouds)'

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Erika Diettes
Untitled
2011
from the series Sudarios (Shrouds)
Digital black and white photograph printed on silk
2.28 x 1.34 m
© Erika Diettes

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Installation photograph of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Iglesia de Chinquinquirá (La Chinca). Santa Fe de Antioquia [COL] December 5-9, 2012

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Installation photograph of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Iglesia de Chinquinquirá (La Chinca). Santa Fe de Antioquia [COL] December 5-9, 2012

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Installation photographs of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Iglesia de Chinquinquirá (La Chinca). Santa Fe de Antioquia [COL] December 5-9, 2012 © Erika Diettes

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Installation photograph of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Ex Teresa Arte Actual. México D.F. [MEX] May-Jun, 2012

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Installation photograph of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Ex Teresa Arte Actual. México D.F. [MEX] May-Jun, 2012 © Erika Diettes

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Installation photograph of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Trinity Episcopal Church. Houston TX [USA] Feb-Apr 2012

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Installation photograph of Erika Diettes Sudarios (Shrouds) at Trinity Episcopal Church. Houston TX [USA] Feb-Apr 2012 © Erika Diettes

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Ballarat International Foto Biennale
Office: upstairs at the Mining Exchange, 12 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat.
Postal address: PO Box 41 Ballarat, Vic 3353 Australia
Telephone: + 61 3 5331 4833
Email: info[at]ballaratfoto.org

Ballarat International Foto Biennale website

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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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