Posts Tagged ‘judith butler


Exhibition: ‘Janina Green: Ikea’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th November 28 – 15th December 2012


Installation photograph of 'Ikea' by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne


Installation photograph of Ikea by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne



“It is necessary to revisit what Walter Benjamin said of the work of art in the age of its mechanical reproducibility. What is lost in the work that is serially reproduced, is its aura, its singular quality of the here and now, its aesthetic form (it had already lost its ritual form, in its aesthetic quality), and, according to Benjamin, it takes on, in its ineluctable destiny of reproduction, a political form. What is lost is the original, which only a history itself nostalgic and retrospective can reconstitute as “authentic.” The most advanced, the most modern form of this development, which Benjamin described in cinema, photography, and contemporary mass media, is one in which the original no longer even exists, since things are conceived from the beginning as a function of their unlimited reproduction.”

Jean Baudrillard. ‘Simulacra and Simulation’. 1981 (English translation 1994)


“To apprehend myself as seen is, in fact, to apprehend myself as seen in the world and from the standpoint of the world. The look does not carve me out in the universe; it comes to search for me at the heart of my situation and grasps me only in irresolvable relations with instruments. If I am seen as seated, I must be seen as “seated-on-a-chair,” … But suddenly the alienation of myself, which is the act of being-looked-at, involves the alienation of the world which I organise. I am seated on this chair with the result that I do not see it at all, that it is impossible for me to see it …”

Jean-Paul Satre. ‘Being and Nothingness’ (trans. Hazel Barnes). London: Methuen, 1966, p. 263.


“It must be possible to concede and affirm an array of “materialities” that pertain to the body, that which is signified by the domains of biology, anatomy, physiology, hormonal and chemical composition, illness, age, weight, metabolism, life and death. None of this can be denied. But the undeniability of these “materialities” in no way implies what it means to affirm them, indeed, what interpretive matrices condition, enable and limit that necessary affirmation. That each of those categories [BODY AND MATERIALITY] have a history and a historicity, that each of them is constituted through the boundary lines that distinguish them and, hence, by what they exclude, that relations of discourse and power produce hierarchies and overlappings among them and challenge those boundaries, implies that these are both persistent and contested regions.”

Judith Butler. ‘Bodies That Matter’. New York: Routledge, 1993, pp. 66-67.



Fable = invent (an incident, person, or story)

Simulacrum = pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original

Performativity = power of discourse, politicisation of abjection, ritual of being

Body / identity / desire = imperfection, fluidity, domesticity, transgression, transcendence


Intimate, conceptually robust and aesthetically sensitive.
The association of the images was emotionally overwhelming.
An absolute gem. One of the highlights of the year.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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


Janina Green. 'Waterfall' 1990


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Silver gelatin print on Kentmere Parchment paper, tinted with coffee and photo dyes
58 x 48cm
Vintage print


Janina Green. 'Pink vase' 1990 reprinted 2012


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Pink vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with pink photo dye
85 x 70cm


Janina Green. 'Blue vase' 1990 reprinted 2012


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Blue vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with blue photo dye
85 x 70cm


Janina Green. 'Nude' 1986


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with blue photo dye
60 x 45cm
Vintage print



My photographs are always about the past.

The Barthesian slogan, “this has been,” is for me, “I was there.” This series of images of a vase from Ikea consists of silver gelatin prints tinted in different coloured photographic dyes; photographs of a simple mass produced vase – its form the familiar vessel which so dominates Art History. “Ikea” for me is symbolic of the useful homely object and of the ideal home. The vase from Ikea no longer exists. The picture of that vase stands in for the vase that once existed. The photograph can be seen now – at this moment. It will continue to exist in the future. Its representation crosses time barriers.

My photographs are always documentations of a private performance.

Every photograph records what is in front of the camera, but my interest is in the occasion and the complex conditions of the making of the photograph – first the negative then the print. Each photograph ends up being a documentation of my state of mind during this intensely private moment as well as something for other people to look at. Because of changing conditions, every one of these prints from that same negative is different. For me each analogue print is an unsteady thing. They are now relics from another era, as is the vase.

As a counterpoint to the repetition of the vase prints, I have selected four vintage works from my archive.

Artists statement by Janina Green

Janina is represented by M.33


Janina Green. 'Orange vase' 1990 reprinted 2012


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Orange vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with orange photo dye
85 x 70cm


Janina Green. 'Green vase' 1990 reprinted 2012


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
Green vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with green photo dye
85 x 70cm


Janina Green. 'Interior' 1992


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
C Type print
38 x 30cm
Vintage print / edition of 5


Janina Green. 'Telephone' 1986 reprinted 2010


Janina Green (Australian, born Germany 1944)
1986 reprinted 2010
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, tinted with coffee
58 x 48cm


Janina Green. 'Yellow vase' 1990 reprinted 2012


Janina Green
Yellow vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, hand tinted with yellow photo dye
85 x 70cm



Edmund Pearce Gallery

This gallery is now closed.

Edmund Pearce Gallery website


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Exhibition: ‘The Body as Protest’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 5th September – 2nd December 2012



Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, b. 1947)
Courtesy by The Third Gallery Aya



“The past neglect of the body in social theory was a product of Western mind-body dualism that divided human experience into bodily and cognitive realms. The knowledge-body distinction identifies knowledge, culture, and reason with masculinity and identifies body, nature, and emotion with femininity. Viewing human reason as the principal source of progress and emancipation, it perceives “the rational” as separate from, and exalted over, the corporeal. In other words, consciousness was grasped as separate from and preceding the body (Bordo 1993; Davis 1997). Following feminist thinking about women’s bodies in patriarchal societies, contemporary social theories shifted focus from cognitive dimensions of identity construction to embodiment in the constitution of identities (Davis 1997). Social construction theories do not view the body as a biological given but as constituted in the intersection of discourse, social institutions, and the corporeality of the body. Body practices, therefore, reflect the basic values and themes of the society, and an analysis of the body can expose the intersubjective meaning common to society. At the same time, discourse and social institutions are produced and reproduced only through bodies and their techniques (Frank 1991, 91). Thus, social analysis has expanded from studying the body as an object of social control and discipline “in order to legitimate different regimes of domination” (Bordo 1993; Foucault 1975, 1978, 1980) to perceiving it as a subject that creates meaning and performs social action (Butler 1990). The body is understood as a means for self-expression, an important feature in a person’s identity project (Giddens 1991), and a site for social subversiveness and self-empowerment (Davis 1997).”

Orna Sasson-Levy and Tamar Rapoport. “Body, Gender, and Knowledge in Protest Movements: The Israeli Case,” in ‘Gender & Society’ 17, 2003, p. 381. For the references in the quotation please see the end of the paper at attached link.



Despite my great admiration for John Coplans photographs of his body, on the evidence of these press photographs and the attached video, this exhibition seems a beautiful if rather tame affair considering the subject matter. Of course these photographs of the body can be understood as a means for self-expression and self-empowerment but there seems little social subversiveness in the choice of work on display. The two Mapplethorpe’s are stylised instead of stonkingly subversive, and could have been taken from his ‘X’ portfolio (the self portrait of him with a bull whip up his arse would have been particularly pleasing to see in this context). The exhibition could have included some of the many artists using the body as protest during the AIDS crisis (perhaps my favourite David Wojnarowicz or William Yang’s Sadness), the famous Burning Monk – The Self-Immolation (1963) by Malcolm Browne, photographs by Stellarc, Arthur Tress, Duane Michals, Nan Goldin, Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman to name but a few; even the Farm Security Administration photographs of share cropper families by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange would have had more impact than some of the photographs on display here. Having not seen the entire exhibition it is hard to give an overall reading, but on the selection presented here it would seem that this was a missed opportunity, an exhibition where the body did not protest enough.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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



theartVIEw – The Body as Protest at ALBERTINA



Hannah Villiger (Swiss, b. 1974)
Block XXX
© The Estate of Hannah Villiger



Ketty La Rocca (Italian, 1938-1976)
Le mie parole e tu
Courtesy Private Collection, Austria



John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait Interlocking Fingers No 6
Albertina, Wien



Bruce Nauman (American, b. 1941)
Studies for Holograms
Siebdruck, 1970
© VBK, Wien 2012
Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln



Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation



The exhibition The Body as Protest highlights the photographic representation of the human body – a motif that has provided a wide variety of photographers with an often radical means of expression for their visual protest against social, political, but also aesthetic norms.

The show centres on an outstanding group of works by the artist John Coplans from the holdings of the Albertina. In his serially conceived large-format pictures, the photographer focused on the rendering of his own nude body, which he defamiliarised through fragmentation far from current forms of idealisation. Relying on extremely sophisticated lighting, he presented himself in a monumental and sculptural manner over many years. His photographs can be understood as amalgamations of theoretical and artistic ideas, which in the show are accentuated through selective juxtapositions with works by other important exponents of body-related art.

The body also features prominently in the work of other artists such as Hannah Wilke, Ketty La Rocca, Hannah Villiger, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Miyako Ishiuchi. By means of these positions, such diverse themes as self-dramatisation, conceptual photography, feminism, body language, and even transience are analysed within an expanded artistic range. Moreover, the exhibition offers a differentiated view of the critical depiction of the human body as it has been practiced since 1970.

Text from the Albertina website



Hannah Wilke (American, 1940-1993)
Basierend auf der gleichnamigen
Video Performance von 1974
(35:30 min, b&w, sound)
12 Blatt je 12,7x 17,8 cm
© Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, The Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, L.A./ VBK, Wien 2012



John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Frieze No. 6
Albertina, Wien



John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait (Hands)
Albertina, Wien



Ketty La Rocca (Italian, 1938-1976)
Radiografie mit überblendeter Fotografie



Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation



John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait Interlocking Fingers No 17
Albertina, Wien



John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Back with Arms Above
© The John Coplans Trust



Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm
Wednesday 10am – 9pm

Albertina website


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Review: ‘Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography’ at NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2010 – 20th March 2011


Nici Cumpston. 'Nookamka - Lake Bonney' 2007


Nici Cumpston (Barkindji Australian, b. 1963)
Nookamka – Lake Bonney
watercolour and coloured pencils on ink on canvas
74.2 x 203.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2008
© Nici Cumpston



“It is this irreversibly modified world, from the polar caps to the equatorial forests, that is all the nature we have.”

Simon Schama. Landscape and Memory 1


“The term “landscape” can be ambiguous and is often used to describe a creative interpretation of the land by an artist and the terrain itself. But there is a clear distinction: the land is shaped by natural forces while the artist’s act of framing a piece of external reality involves exerting creative control. The terms of this ‘control’ have be theorised since the Renaissance and, while representations of nature have changed over the centuries, a landscape is essentially a mediated view of nature.”

Dr Isobel Crombie 2


“And, finally, what of the vexed, interrelated matter of non-Aboriginal Australians’ sense of belonging? While the Australian historian Manning Clark speculated that European settlers were eternal outsiders who could never know ‘heart’s ease in a foreign land, because … there live foreign ancestral spirits’, it now seems plausible that non-Aboriginal Australians are developing their own form of attachment, not to land as such, but to place. Indeed, it has recently been argued that for contemporary non-Aboriginal Australians, belonging may have no connection with land at all. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why art photographs of the natural landscape have lost their currency and are now far outnumbered by photographs of urban and suburban environments – after all, it is ‘here’ that most Australians live and ‘there’ that the tourist industry beckons them to escape.”

Helen Ennis. Photography and Australia 3



This review took a lot of research, reading, thinking and writing, all good stuff – I hope you enjoy it!


Heavy Weather: Photography and the Australian Land(e)scape

There is nothing fresh about the work in this exhibition. If feels like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the term ‘landscape’, the land itself gasping for air, for life. What the exhibition does evince is an “undercurrent of disruption and contradiction that suggests that all is not as it may appear” (wall text) – and on this evidence the process of photographing the Australian landscape seems to have become an escape from the land, a fragmented and dislocated scoping, mapping and photographing of mental aspects of the land that have little to do with the landscape itself. Landscape as a site of psychological performance. In this sense, the title Stormy Weather should perhaps have been Heavy Weather for contemporary photographic artists seem to make heavy going of photographing our sense of belonging to land, to place.

Is it the artists or the curators that seek to name this work ‘landscape photography’ for it is about everything but the landscape – an escape from the land, perhaps even a denial of it’s very existence. I believe it is the framing of landscape and its imaging in terms of another subject matter. While I am not going to critique individual works in the exhibition, what I am interested in is this framing of the work as ‘landscape photography’.

Since colonial settlement there has been a rich history of photographing the Australian landscape. In the early colonial period the emphasis was on documenting the building of new cities and communities through realist photography and later more picturesque and panoramic vistas of the Australian land as settlers sought comfort in familiar surroundings and a sense of ‘belonging’ to the land (for example day trippers and photographers travelling to the Blue Mountains). Photographers rarely accompanied expeditions into the interior, unlike the exploration and mapping of the land from the East Coast to the West Coast in the United States. Unlike America there has been little tradition of photographing sublime places in Australia because they are not of the same scale as in the USA. It is very difficult to photograph the vast horizon line of the Australian outback and make it sublime. Photographing the landscape then ventured through Pictorialism in the interwar years, Modernism after WWII through to the emergence of art photography in the 1970s (for example see my posting on Dr John Cato), wilderness and tourist photography. An excellent book to begin to understand the history of photography in Australia is Photography and Australia by Helen Ennis (London: Reaktion Books, 2007) that contains the chapter “Land and Landscape.” As Ennis comments in this chapter, “… landscape photography has been the practice of settler Australians and the expression of a settler-colonial culture … The viewpoint in landscape photography has therefore been almost exclusively European”4 although this culture has been changing in recent years with the emergence of Indigenous photographers.

Ennis observes that contemporary landscape photographers embrace internationalist styles, showing a distaste for totalising nationalist narratives and a rejection of essentialist or absolutist viewpoints, noting that an overarching framework like multiculturalism has lost its currency in favour of transnationalism (which is a social movement grown out of the heightened interconnectivity between people and the loosening of boundaries between countries) that does not disavow colonial inequalities and asymmetrical relations between countries and continents.5 Photographers have developed a “photographic language that allows for the expression of the contradictions inherent in contemporary settler Australians’ relations with the land,”6 whilst offering visual artists a “non-linear, non-didactic way of dealing with the complexities of Australia history and experience, and the relationship between past and present.”7

This much then is a given. Let us now look at the framing of the work in the exhibition as ‘landscape photography’.

Simon Schama in his erudite book Landscape and Memory (New York: Vintage, 1996) believes that there can never be a natural or neutral landscape (even the brilliant meadow-floor [at Yosemite] which suggested to its first eulogists a pristine Eden was in fact the result of regular fire-clearances by its Ahwahneechee Indian occupants) and that it is our shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape. There was also a recognition that ‘nature’ was neither neutral nor beyond ideology during the 1970s – 1980s. Hence there is a double mediation – by both nature and the artist.

Despite the rejection of essentialist or absolutist viewpoints by contemporary photographers and an acknowledgment of the mediated view by/of nature one can say that there is not a single photograph in this exhibition that is just a ‘landscape’. Even the most sublime photographs in the exhibition, David Stephenson’s (Self-portrait), Reflected moon, Tasmania (1985) is cut up into a grid, or Murray Fredericks Salt photographs (2005, see below) where the photographer has waited agonisingly for weeks for just the right weather conditions to take his photographs which the general public, when visiting Lake Eyre, would have no chance of ever seeing. Through this mediation there seems to have emerged an abrogation or denial of landscape by the artists and curators conceptualisation of it, as though they are performing a particular condition, a style; working out a plan of what to do and say. Is it just a denial or is it an artistic strategy?

I believe that these are strategies that limit artists, not strategies that enable them. The curators are equally implicated in these strategies by their naming of these works ‘landscapes’. What purpose does this naming serve, in terms of the development of a sense of place, not nation, that people living in Australia seek to have? We can ask the question: Where do you stand in relationship to the landscape both philosophically and geographically?

After Butler, we can also ask: What forms of cultural myth making are “embedded” in the framing of landscape by the curators, the naming of such work as ‘landscape photography’?

Rarely is the framing recognised for what it is, when it is the viewer interpreting the interpretation that has been imposed upon us, that limits the visual discourse, producing a view of Australian landscape as fragmented norms enacted through visual narrative frames – that in this case efface the representation of land and place. This conceptual framing of what the work is about limits the grounds for discourse for a frame excludes as much as it corrals. The curators form an interpretative matrix of what is seen (or not seen, or withheld), reinforcing notions of landscape photography, the ‘landscape photography’ “that requires a certain kind of subject that actually institutes that conceptual requirement as part of its description and diagnosis.”8 In other words the description ‘landscape photography’ established by the curators becomes a limiting, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Personally, I think the problem with a landscape exhibition is that this is virtually an inane topic. Somehow “documentary” works as a topic because it is about a mental discipline. But “landscape” is no longer really a topic – it used to be a topic when landscape painters wanted to show the landscape (!) but does anyone really want to show this today? Even when the landscape painters wanted to show the sublime, the landscape was always treated with deference. No-one thinks of Minor White as a landscape photographer for he was a metaphysical photographer. And that’s what this exhibition needs – another word to give sense to a photographers efforts.

This is difficult subject matter. While artists may reject essentialist or absolutist viewpoints what has been substituted in their place is a framing, a definition that is post-nature, that undermines any sense of belonging to land, to place. The dissolutive pendulum has swung too far the other way; we look to theory to be inclusive and sometimes stand on our heads to achieve this to our detriment.

As of this moment we are not at the point where we can look back with some certainty and see that we have reached the beginning of the path of understanding. What I would propose to any artist is a photography that is broadly based, cumulative, offering a layered body of work that builds and refers back to an original body of work, much like the photographs of Robert Adams – photographs that do not make claims but ask questions and hint at a more responsive engagement with the landscape.

My hope is that a more broadly based view of place and our sense of belonging to the land emerges, one that challenges our contemporary understanding of the landscape, a viewpoint and line of sight that calm our troubled sense of reality. Robert Adams has written eloquently about photography and the art of seeing. Here is a quote from his seminal book Why People Photograph (Aperture Foundation, 1994) that aptly concludes this review.

“At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect – a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.”9

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier and 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.



Further to my argument above there is a session ‘Australian Identity: Australian Bio-diversity and the Landscape of the Imagination’ at the Festival of Ideas, Friday June 17th 2011 at the University of Melbourne where, in the details of the upcoming session, Ian Burn has been quoted about the loss of the landscape:

Details of the session: ‘The connection between landscape and national identity figures prominently in discussions of Australian experience. Recently the pairing of the two has taken a melancholic turn; artist Ian Burn has remarked that ‘A commitment to representing the landscape has come to be about the “loss” of the landscape’. Has the landscape that once supported the Australian legend disappeared? The landscape is represented not only in art but also through science, law and commerce. Are new landscapes and new identities now being imagined and discovered?’

Quotation: “The idea of landscape does not just invoke rival institutional discourses, but today attracts wider and more urgent reflections. A commitment to representing the landscape has become about the ‘loss’ of landscape in the twentieth century … that is about its necessity and impossibility at the same time. Seeing a landscape means focusing on a picture, implicating language in our seeing of the landscape.”

Burn, Ian quoted in Stephen, Ann (ed.,). Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn. Sydney: Power Publications in association with Monash University Gallery, Melbourne, 1996, p. 8.

Other sessions on Saturday June 18th 2011 include ‘The Pull of the Landscape’ and ‘Contemporary Visions and Critiques of the Landscape’.



  1. Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage, 1996, p. 7
  2. Crombie, Isobel. Stormy Weather. Contemporary Landscape Photography (exhibition catalogue). Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2010, p. 15
  3. Clark, Manning quoted by Peter Read in “A Haunted Land No Longer? Changing Relationships to a Spiritualised Australia,” in Australian Book Review CCLXV (October 2004) pp. 28-33 in Ennis, Helen. “Land and Landscape,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, pp. 71-72
  4. Ennis, Helen. “Land and Landscape,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, pp. 51-52
  5. Ennis, Helen. “Land and Landscape,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 123, p. 133
  6. Ibid., “Land and Landscape,” pp. 71-72
  7. Ibid., “Localism and Internationalism,” p. 128
  8. Butler, Judith. Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2010, p. 161
  9. Adams, Robert. Why People Photograph. New York: Aperture Foundation, 1994, p. 179



Harry Nankin. 'Of Great Western tears / Duet 2' 2006


Harry Nankin (Australian, b. 1953)
Of Great Western tears / Duet 2
From The rain series 2006-07
Gelatin silver photographs
(a-b) 107.1 x 214.3 cm (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2007
© Harry Nankin


Stephanie Valentin. 'Rainbook' 2009


Stephanie Valentin (Australia, b. 1962)
From the earthbound series 2009
Colour inkjet print
69.9 x 86.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Philip Ross and Sophia Pavlovski-Ross, 2009
© Stephanie Valentin


Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 154' 2005


Murray Fredericks (Australia, b. 1970)
Salt 154
From the Salt series 2003-
Colour inkjet print
119.3 x 149.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Murray Fredericks


Siri Hayes. 'Plein air explorers' 2008


Siri Hayes (Australia, b. 1977)
Plein air explorers
Type C photograph
104.3 x 134.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Siri Hayes



The work of the contemporary Australian photographers highlighted in this exhibition comes from a profound engagement with the lived landscape around them. The quiet intensity of their work comes from their close and sustained relationship to particular environments. These photographers may use that lived observation to reveal the layers of history in a landscape; to provoke ecological concerns; as the place for site specific performances; or to use the specific poetics of light to reveal the beauty of a place.  However for all of them, the real world is the starting point for images of particularity.

Photographers’ interest in the landscape has increased in the last few years. Perhaps as a result of heightened environmental awareness, or an evolution in our engagement with Australian history, practitioners are again turning to the natural world as a site for critical practice and inspiration.

Drawn from the permanent collection the National Gallery of Victoria, the selected photographers in this exhibition have a particular focus that comes from their active relationship to various environments. The artists displayed here reveal history in a landscape; provoke ecological concerns; use the landscape as a site of performance; or reveal the distinctive beauty of a place.

Frequently underpinning these works of quiet intensity and considerable beauty is an undercurrent of disruption and contradiction that suggests all is not as it may first appear.

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website [Online] Cited 26/02/2011 no longer available online


Rosemary Laing. 'weather #9' 2006


Rosemary Laing (Australia, b. 1959)
weather #9
From the weather series 2006
Type C photograph
109.9 x 184.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007
© Rosemary Laing and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne


Jill Orr. 'Southern Cross to bear and behold - Burning' 2007)


Jill Orr (Australia , b. 1952, lived in the Netherlands 1980-84)
Southern Cross to bear and behold – Burning
Colour inkjet print
65.5 x 134.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2010
Photographer: Naomi Herzog for Jill Orr
© Jill Orr



The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square

Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Open daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website


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Judith Butler: Who I am – vectoring the body, a life worth living, framing war

February 2011



This is a photograph I took of Lord Buddha at Wot Poh, Bangkok, something beautiful to meditate on!
Click on the photograph for a larger version.



I love reading Judith Butler; she challenges you to think about the world in different ways, always intelligently and insightfully.


“We can think about demarcating the human body through identifying its boundary, or in what form it is bound, but that is to miss the crucial fact that the body is, in certain ways and even inevitably, unbound – in its acting, its receptivity, in its speech, desire, and mobility. It is outside itself, in the world of others, in a space and time it does not control, and it not only exists in the vector of these relations, but as this very vector.11 In this sense, the body does not belong to itself.

The body, in my view, is where we encounter a range of perspectives that may or may not be our own. How I am encountered, and how I am sustained, depends fundamentally on the social and political networks in which this body lives, how I am regarded and treated, and how that regard and treatment facilitates this life or fails to make it liveable. So the norms of gender through which I come to understand myself or my survivability are not made by me alone. I am already in the hands of the other when I try to take stock of who I am. I am already up against a world I never chose when I exercise my agency. It follows, then, that certain kinds of bodies will appear more precariously than others, depending on which version of the body, or of morphology in general, support or underwrite the idea of the human life that is worth protecting, sheltering, living, mourning. These normative frameworks establish in advance what kind of life will be a life worth living, what life will be a life worth preserving, and what life will become worthy of being mourned. Such views of lives pervade and implicitly justify contemporary war. Lives are divided into those representing certain kinds of states and those representing threats to state-centered liberal democracy, so that war can then be righteously waged on behalf of some lives, while the destruction of other lives can be righteously defended.”

Butler, Judith. Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2010. pp. 52-53


Footnote 11. A given morphology takes shape through a specific temporal and spatial negotiation. It is a negotiation with time in the sense that the morphology of the body does not stay the same; it ages, it changes shape, it acquires and loses capacities. And it is a negotiation with space in the sense that no body exists without existing somewhere; the body is the condition of location, and every body requires an environment to live. It would be a mistake to say that the body exists in its environment, only because the formulation is not quite strong enough. If there is no body without environment, then we cannot think the ontology of the body without the body being somewhere, without some “thereness.” And here I am not trying to make an abstract point, but to consider the modes of materialization through which a body exists and by means of which that existence can be sustained and/or jeopardized.




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Text: quotation from ‘frames of war: when is life grievable?’ by Judith Butler (2010)

October 2010


The quotation below is a follow up to the posting of my new body of work Missing in Action (red kenosis) 2010. It is a wonderful meditation on the link between image, frame, war, the senses and the successful conscription of the public into a complicit view of the world or, in opposition, resistance to that view. This is especially relevant at the moment with the current debate about Australian troops in Afghanistan. Butler is never less than a fascinating and insightful writer. This book is no exception; Butler’s ideas continue to inform my work.




“Efforts to control the visual and narrative dimensions of war delimit public discourse by establishing and disposing the sensuous parameters of reality itself – including what can be seen and what can be heard. As a result, it makes sense to ask, does regulating the limits of what is visible or audible serve as a precondition of war waging, one facilitated by cameras and other technologies of communication? Of course, persons use technological instruments, but instruments surely also use persons (position them, endow them with perspective, and establish the trajectory of their action); they frame and form anyone who enters into the visual or audible field, and, accordingly, those who do not. But further, under conditions of war waging, personhood is itself cast as a kind of instrumentality, by turns useful or dispensable. How is the public sphere constituted by the visual technologies of war? And what counter-public emerges over and against the ideal postulate? We think of persons as reacting to war in various ways, but communicable reactions to war also variably constitute and de-constitute personhood within the field of war. Is there some way to register war in a way that transforms the senses? And what role do transformed senses have in the demands for the cessation of war? If those of us who watch the wars our governments conduct at a distance are visually solicited and recruited into the war by embedded reporting and publicly approved media reports, under what conditions can we refuse that recruitment effort? What restructuring of the senses does that require and enable?

To approach this question, we have to understand how the senses are part of any recruitment effort. Specifically, there is a question of the epistemological position to which we are recruited when we watch or listen to war reports. Further, a certain reality is being built through our very act of passive reception, since what we are being recruited into is a certain framing of reality, both its constriction and interpretation. When the state issues directives on how war is to be reported, indeed on whether war is to be reported at all, it seems to be trying to regulate the understanding of violence, or the appearance of violence within a public sphere which has become decisively transformed by the internet and other forms of digital media. But if we are to ask whether this regulation of violence is itself also violent in some way, part of violence, then we need a more careful vocabulary to distinguish between the destruction of the bomb and the framing of its reality, even though, as we know, both happen at the same time, and the one cannot happen without the other. In the same way that Althusser (drawing on Spinoza) once argued that there can be different modalities of materiality, there can surely be, and are, different modalities of violence and of the material instrumentalities of violence. How do we understand the frame as itself part of the materiality of war and the efficacy of its violence?

The frame does not simply exhibit reality, but actively participates in a strategy of containment, selectively producing and enforcing what will count as reality. It tries to do this, and its efforts are a powerful wager. Although framing cannot always contain what it seeks to make visible or readable, it remains structured by the aim of instrumentalizing certain versions of reality. This means that the frame is always throwing something away, always keeping something out, always de-realizing and de-legitimating alternative versions of reality, discarded negatives of the official version. And so, when the frame jettisons certain version of war, it is busily making a rubbish heap whose animated debris provides the potential resources for resistance. When versions of reality are excluded or jettisoned to a domain of unreality, the specters are produced that haunt the ratified version of reality, animated and de-ratifying traces. In this sense frame seeks to institute an interdiction on mourning; there is no destruction, and there is no loss. Even as the frames are actively engaged in redoubling the destruction of war, they are only polishing the surface of a melancholia whose rage must be contained, and often cannot. Although the frame initiates (as part of weaponry) or finishes off (as part of reporting) a whole set of murderous deeds, and seeks to subordinate the visual field to the task of war waging, its success depends upon a successful conscription of the public. Our responsibility to resist war depends in part on how well we resist that daily effort at conscription.”

Butler, Judith. Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London: Verso, 2010, Introduction pp. xi – xiv.




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Review: ‘Warrina Portraits’ by Ewen Ross at Anita Traverso Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th July – 8th August 2010


Ewen Ross. 'Plain of Mars' 2010


Ewen Ross
Plain of Mars
from the Warrina Portraits series



There is little more to say about this exhibition of works by Ewen Ross than the erudite catalogue essay by Geraldine Barlow enunciates (see essay below), except to say that the ‘presence’ of these works is extremely moving. It is difficult when viewing photographs of the work to explain the physical impact of actually standing in front of these works, absorbing their energy, examining their surfaces, their depths.

The larger photograph of Thenar Eminence (2010, below) is the closest one can get in the virtual world to appreciating the elemental quality of the work – the fire, the fragmentation and the soil, the contour-like mapping of the earth – as the work resembles a memory of earth, of place, re(as)sembles a signification, a meaning wholly of its own in the mind of the viewer. In the spectator the act of looking may turn into contemplation and this work does seem to have that effect = the context of looking at the work invites a contemplation on place and connection to earth.

Barlow asks. “Is this matter, or its coded representation? Ross sets up a liquid movement between such possibilities.”

Ross does indeed set up a liquid movement between matter and representation. But here I would offer a counter argument to the idea that matter and coded representation are binary opposites. As noted by Judith Butler in the excellent quotation below, matter is already meaningful, already coded and materialised. It always has a history and narrativisation embedded within it. Butler suggests the body is never a valueless matter on which inscription takes place because this hides the inscription already there.

Continuing this idea, Ross brings matter back into the fold, into the peeled away surfaces of his work. His process of materialisation offers these liquid movements not through an oppositional relationship between matter and coded representation but because a) his works are no longer anchored in an unquestionable reality and b) they have moved beyond coded representation. Ross reconceptualises both space and matter in his objects of place and invites us, the viewer, to contemplate these (e)motional environments.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Anita from Anita Traverso Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting and to Geraldine Barlow for allowing me to publish the catalogue essay, all very much appreciated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Body and Text

“Judith Butler has done much to interrogate and upset the assumes inside/outside binary of culture and nature, and has shown that what is called matter, and therefore presumed to be extra-discursive, is already meaningful. In her book entitled Bodies That Matter (1993) she argues that matter is already materialized, that is, it always has a history, is always narrativized. Any reference to matter will always be a particular formation of materiality that has been discursively set. Matter, nature or the body is never an absolute outside but is rather a constitutive outside that generates the significance of an interiority, culture or law. It is an outside that gives the inside its meaning and is, therefore, already textualized and incorporated within the oppositional space in which signification takes place. For Butler, the suggestion that the body is the valueless matter on which inscription takes place hides the inscription already there … Bringing matter back into the fold of inscription increases the manoeuvrability of political activism as it is no longer anchored by an unquestionable reality, the fixity of which is only secured by continual iteration of the norms attributed to it. ‘I would propose’, Butler argues, ‘a return to the notion of matter as a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce effects of boundary, fixity, and surface we call matter’ (Butler 1993: 9).

A useful analogy for this lack of fixity might be the reconceptualization of both space and matter within the new sciences, especially quantum mechanics, where matter, even that which we perceive as rigid or solid, is shown to be permanently in motion, and where the space which gives form to seemingly individual and autonomous objects is now understood to be a less dense area of matter itself.”

Curtis, Neal. “The Body as Outlaw: Lyotard, Kafka, and the Visible Human Project,” in Featherstone, Mike (ed.,). Body Modification. London: Sage, 2000, p. 258.


Ewen Ross. 'Thenar Eminence' 2010


Ewen Ross
Thenar Eminence
from the Warrina Portraits series



Warrina Portraits

This body of work presents as a suite of portraits, and continues my ambition to track the truth through creative practice. Metaphorically the palm of my left hand symbolises the natural patterns and rhythms of line found in the landscape along the Glenelg River in the Southern Wimmera, with particular reference to the property where I lived (Warrina).

This work presents as part of a portrait series derived solely from my left hand. It continues the story of my search for the truth of my genesis in reference to the property (Warrina) where I was raised. The notion of touching the landscape with an open hand in order to investigate the relationship between landscape and portraiture underpins this image.

The concept of looking down and across this country continues to drive the format of my work as does the idea of using fire to peel back the surface of the plywood which often reveals new and mysterious information to work with. Fire is part of the natural ecosystem and a valuable means of cleansing and regenerating new life and truth into this landscape. This premise remains integral to my practice.

The linear information gleaned from the palmar in theory creates a conduit for bridging the concept of portraiture and landscape. The notion of inlaying the narrative of my palm into the surface to construct an image of landscape underpins this body of work.

The significance of the left hand is relevant to the principle. It is controlled by the right brain (pattern recognition, relationship understanding), reflects the inner person, the natural self, the anima, and the ability to think laterally. It could even be considered to be part of a person’s spiritual and personal development.

It is also said the left hand is the one we are born with, the one the gods give you; the right is what we do it with.

Ironically, of the four descriptors allied with hands, earth, air, fire, and water, my hands are relative to fire.

Ewen Ross July 2010


Ewen Ross. 'Palmar Quartet' 2010


Ewen Ross
Palmar Quartet
from the Warrina Portraits series



Catalogue essay by Geraldine Barlow

Our palms and fingers each bear unique imprints. The intricate and entwined lines and loops of each palmscape have been generated from within the very core of what makes us individual, our encoded DNA.

“DNA molecules themselves, as physical entities, are like dewdrops. Under the right conditions they come into existence at a great rate, but no one of them has existed for long, and all will be destroyed within a few months. They are not durable like rocks. But the patterns they bear in their sequences are as durable as the hardest rocks.”1.

How should we read the patterned lines of a palm? The art of palmistry promised to decode the connections between this intimate landscape and our life to come. Palmistry is now dismissed as a quaint pseudoscience, yet the palm holds a special resonance, a very special part of the body from which the future might be foretold. Via the fingerprint, and now DNA traces, contemporary technology has developed seeking absolute recognition of each individual. Through our palms and fingers we hold and grip the world, we wield tools and touch those we care for. These interior sensate surfaces of the hand are at the centre of our embodied being in the world.

In his latest body of work Warrina Portraits, Ewen Ross has taken his own palm print as the starting point for a highly personal exploration of the relation between self and place. The furrowed banks of lines and shadows etched into ply sheets do not relay the literal five-fingered imprint of a hand, more a topography of interlaced systems, networks of lines which are at once familiar and strange to us.

In bringing these works into being, Ross has evolved a deliberate and multilayered process of making. He relays a detail of his palm print onto plywood, then channels the resulting lines into the layered timber surface. The finished surface of the ply sheet is then removed, to reveal an entirely new layer, with it’s own character and markings. Filler is applied, dries and the surface is sanded back, many times over. Sometimes further layers of stain or fine in-painting are added. This process involves a constant relay between layers of information, impression and counter-impression. At each stage there is the potential for slippage, opportunities for translation, room for the materials and the process of making to assert themselves. When Ross removes the finished surface of the plywood he welcomes chance into the artistic process, allowing for the planned and entirely unexpected to collide.

In Palmar Trilogy 2010 the mapped tracery of white lines and dark hollows sprawls over a surface of many parts. Various separate pieces of timber have been joined on this layer of the sheet; we can still see the remnants of the glue where the pieces were taped. Two systems of information are in conversation here, jostling against each other. Sometimes the incongruities suggest meaning; at other times they raise a series of questions. Looking at this work, I am reminded of a contour map superimposed onto a satellite image, or a geological survey. I see the echo of a tree branch in the patterns on a sheet of timber, overlaid with something more like an x-ray or a brain scan.

Is this matter, or its coded representation? Ross sets up a liquid movement between such possibilities.

In these works, palm print and wood grain take us into an intimate landscape. For Ross this is a place of memory. Warrina is the name of the Wimmera property where he grew up, where he ploughed the fields as a young man. Like Ross’ previous bodies of work Such is Dry Land, Red Gum Country and The Green Pick, these works speak of an intimate and formative connection with the Wimmera landscape. The artist works into and over ground that is familiar in the measure of his own life, as well as in the lives of previous generations.

Ross is sensitive to the connections of the many past generations associated with this land, stretching back beyond his own family’s history in this country. He works with the surface, but also looks behind it, tearing back the first skin, so that what was embedded in the substrate is now called into dialogue with other marks and textures, highlights and shadows.

In these works the artist’s hand is the model for a series of shimmering, chimera-like patterned imprints, echoes, reflections, templates and coursing sequences of code – allowing us to measure one life against many generations, the transitory against the eternal, our intimate landscape against the widest horizons.”

Geraldine Barlow
Senior Curator/Collection Manager
Monash University Museum of Art / MUMAelbourne, May 2010

  1. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, Penguin, London, 2006, p. 127


Ewen Ross. 'Palmar Trilogy' 2010


Ewen Ross
Palmar Trilogy
from the Warrina Portraits series



Anita Traverso Gallery
PO Box 7001, Hawthorn North 3122
Phone: 0408 534 034

By appointment only


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Review: ‘Cindy Sherman’ at Metro Pictures Gallery, New York

Exhibition dates: 15th November – 23rd December 2008


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled #466' 2008


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #466
Chromogenic print
254.3  x 174.6 cm



The artist Cindy Sherman is a multifaceted evocation of human identity standing in glorious and subversive Technicolor before the blank canvas of her imagination. Poststructuralist in her physical appearance (there being no one Cindy Sherman, perhaps no Sherman at all) and post-photographic in her placement in constructed environments, Sherman challenges the ritualised notions of the performative act – and destabilises perceived notions of self, status, image and place.

The viewer is left with a sense of displacement when looking at these tableaux. The absence/presence of the artist leads the viewer to the binary opposite of rational/emotional – knowing these personae and places are constructions, distortions of a perceived reality yet emotionally attached to every wrinkle, every fold of the body at once repulsive yet seductive.

They are masterworks in the manner of Rembrandt’s self portraits – deeply personal images that he painted over many years that examined the many identities of his psyche – yet somehow different. Sherman investigates the same territories of the mind and body but with no true author, no authoritative meaning and no one subject at their beating heart. Her goal is subversive.

As Roy Boyne has observed, “The movement from the self as arcanum to the citational self, has, effectively, been welcomed, particularly in the work of Judith Butler, but also in the archetypal sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. There is a powerful logic behind this approbation. When self-identity is no longer seen as, even minimally, a fixed essence, this does not mean that the forces of identity formation can therefore be easily resisted, but it does mean that the necessity for incessant repetition of identity formation by the forces of a disciplinary society creates major opportunities for subversion and appropriation. In the repeated semi-permanences of the citational self, there is more than a little scope for counter-performances marked, for example, by irony and contempt.”1

Counter performances are what Sherman achieves magnificently. She challenges a regularised and constrained repetition of norms and as she becomes her camera (“her extraordinary relationship with her camera”) she subverts its masculine disembodied gaze, the camera’s power to produce normative, powerful bodies.2 As the viewer slips ‘in the frame’ of the photograph they take on a mental process of elision much as Sherman has done when making the images – deviating from the moral rules that are impressed from without3 by living and breathing through every fold, every fingernail, every sequin of their constructed being.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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


  1. Boyne, Roy. “Citation and Subjectivity: Towards a Return of the Embodied Will,” in Featherstone, Mike (ed.,). Body Modification. London: Sage, 2000, p. 212
  2. “To the extent that the camera figures tacitly as an instrument of transubstantiation, it assumes the place of the phallus, as that which controls the field of signification. The camera thus trades on the masculine privilege of the disembodied gaze, the gaze that has the power to produce bodies, but which itself has no body.”
    Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 136
  3. “Universal human nature is not a very human thing. By acquiring it, the person becomes a kind of construct, built up not from inner psychic propensities but from moral rules that are impressed upon him from without.”
    Goffman, Erving. Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behaviour. London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1972, pp. 44-45



Rembrandt van Rijn


Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Self-portrait as the apostle Paul (left)
Self-portrait as Zeuxis laughing (right)


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled #464' 2008


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #464
Chromogenic print
214.3 x 152.4 cm



For her first exhibition of new work since 2004, Cindy Sherman will show a series of colour photographs that continues her investigation into distorted ideas of beauty, self-image and ageing. Typical of Sherman, these works are at once alarming and amusing, distasteful and poignant.

Working as her own model for more than 30 years, Sherman has developed an extraordinary relationship with her camera. A remarkable performer, subtle distortions of her face and body are captured on camera and leave the artist unrecognisable to the audience. Her ability to drastically manipulate her age or weight, or coax the most delicate expressions from her face, is uncanny. Each image is overloaded with detail, every nuance caught by the artist’s eye. No prosthetic nose or breast, fake fingernail, sequin, wrinkle or bulge goes unnoticed by Sherman.

Sherman shoots alone in her studio acting as author, director, actor, make-up artist, hairstylist and wardrobe mistress. Each character is shot in front of a “green screen” then digitally inserted onto backgrounds shot separately. Adding to the complexity, Sherman leaves details slightly askew at each point in the process, undermining the narrative and forcing the viewer to confront the staged aspect of the work.

Press release at Metro Pictures Gallery


Installation view of 'Cindy Sherman' exhibition at Metro Pictures Gallery, New York, 2008


Installation view of Cindy Sherman exhibition at Metro Pictures Gallery, New York, 2008


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled' 2008


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Chromogenic print
177.8 x 161.3 cm



Metro Pictures Gallery
519 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm

Metro Pictures Gallery website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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