Posts Tagged ‘transnationalism

02
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou’ at the Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 25th March – 4th September 2016

Curator: Christine Macel

Artists include: Pawel Althamer/ Maja Bajević / Yto Barrada / Jean-Michel Basquiat / Taysir Batniji / Christian Boltanski / Erik Boulatov / Mohammed Bourouissa / Frédéric Bruly Bouabré / Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard / Mircea Cantor / Chen Zhen / Hassan Darsi / Destroy All Monsters / Atul Dodiya / Marlene Dumas / Ayşe Erkmen / Fang Lijun / Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica / Samuel Fosso / Michel François / Coco Fusco und Paula Heredia / Regina José Galindo / Kendell Geers / Liam Gillick / Fernanda Gomes / Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster / Felix Gonzalez-Torres / Renée Green / Subodh Gupta / Andreas Gursky / Hans Haacke / Petrit Halilaj / Edi Hila / Gregor Hildebrandt / Thomas Hirschhorn / Nicholas Hlobo / Carsten Höller / Pierre Huyghe / Fabrice Hyber / Isaac Julien / Oleg Kulik / Glenn Ligon / Robert Longo / Sarah Lucas / Gonçalo Mabunda / David Maljković / Chris Marker / Ahmed Mater / Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy / Annette Messager / Rabih Mroué / Zanele Muholi / Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba / Roman Ondák / Gabriel Orozco / Damián Ortega / Philippe Parreno / Nira Pereg / Dan Perjovschi / Wilfredo Prieto / Tobias Putrih / Walid Raad / Sara Rahbar / Tobias Rehberger / Nick Relph und Oliver Payne / Pipilotti Rist / Chéri Samba / Anne-Marie Schneider / Santiago Sierra / Mladen Stilinović / Georges Tony Stoll / Wolfgang Tillmans / Rirkrit Tiravanija / Danh Vo / Marie Voignier / Akram Zaatari / Zhang Huan

 

 

Thomas Hirschhorn. 'Outgrowth' 2005

 

Thomas Hirschhorn (Swiss, b. 1957)
Outgrowth
2005
Installation: 374 x 644 x 46cm
Minimum dimensions of the rail: 400 x 670cm
Wood, plastic, newspaper clipping, tape, metal, bubble wrap
Achat en 2006, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

 

Take your pick: some interesting, some not. My favourite: Annette Messager Mes voeux (1989, below) … such a strong, creative and inspiring artist.

I’m not writing so much as I have bad RSI in my left wrist at the moment.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In 2016, two prominent exhibition projects explore the pressing question of which factors remain relevant to the writing of art history. While “Postwar – Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965” concentrates on the time immediately after World War II, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an overview of contemporary art since the 1980s with 160 works by more than 100 artists.

The year 1989 marked a break with the past and the start of a new era. The fall of the Berlin Wall toppled divisions in the world of European art, while the events of Tiananmen Square focused attention on a new China. The ongoing globalisation allows for an unprecedented mobility. The static understanding of identity, once based on origin and nationality, has since given way to a more transnational and variable narrative. Contemporary artistic proposals, which arise from the new “decolonised subjectivity”, are also based on a new understanding of site-specificity. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s the protagonists of Land Art still understood landscapes primarily as post-industrial ruins. In contemporary artistic practice, however, space is defined above all socially and politically – by traumatic historical events, home country, exile, diaspora and hybrid identities, such as African-American, Latino, Turkish-German, African-Brazilian, and so forth. The new presentation of the Centre Pompidou contemporary collections at Haus der Kunst focuses particularly on this altered geography, notably the former Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, and various Middle Eastern countries, India, Africa, and Latin America. This is the first time such a large-scale view of the Centre Pompidou collection has been presented outside France.

 

 

Lijun Fang. 'Sans titre' 2003

 

Lijun Fang (Chinese, b. 1963)
Sans titre
2003
400 x 854cm
Each panel: 400 x 120cm
Woodcut on paper
Achat en 2004, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle

 

Marlene Dumas. 'The Missionary (Le Missionnaire)' 2002 - 2004

 

Marlene Dumas (South African, b. 1953)
The Missionary (Le Missionnaire)
2002-2004
60 x 230cm
Oil on canvas
Don de la Clarence Westbury Foundation, 2005
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Marlene Dumas

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat. 'Slave Auction (Vente aux enchères d’esclaves)' 1982

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988)
Slave Auction (Vente aux enchères d’esclaves)
1982
183 x 305.5cm
Acrylic paint, oil pastel and collages
Collage of crumpled papers, oil pastel and acrylic paint on canvas
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 1993
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Fabrice Hyber. 'Peinture homéopathique n° 10 (Guerre désirée)' 1983 - 1996

 

Fabrice Hyber (French, b. 1961)
Peinture homéopathique n° 10 (Guerre désirée)
1983-1996
225 x 450cm
Each panel: 225 x 225cm
Mixed media on canvas
Graphite lead, charcoal, coloured pencil, resin, gouache, India ink, acrylic, pastel, watercolour, felt-tip pen, adhesive tape, on paper, photocopy, photographs and tissue paper pasted on canvas
Achat en 1996, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Jacques Faujour/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Adagp, Paris

 

Hans Haacke. 'MetroMobiltan' 1985

 

Hans Haacke (German, b. 1936)
MetroMobiltan
1985
Installation: 355.6 x 609.6 x 152.4cm
Fibreglass, photography, hardboard, polyester fabric, aluminum, acrylic paint
Fibreglass pediment, 1 fibreglass plate with English text, 1 black and white photograph in 5 parts laminated on hardboard, 3 banners in synthetic polyester fabric each mounted on 2 aluminium tubes: on the left and on the right 2 banners blue with English text (letters in cut and sewn white polyester fabric), in the centre 1 brown banner with photographic enlargement in cut and sewn fabric and English text), platform in 8 elements of acrylic painted fibreglass
Achat en 1988, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Chéri Samba. 'Marche de soutien à la campagne sur le SIDA' 1988

 

Chéri Samba (Democratic Republic of Congo, b. 1956)
Marche de soutien à la campagne sur le SIDA
1988
134.5 x 200cm
Oil and glitter on prepared canvas
Purchase in 1990
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Chéri Samba, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

Haus der Kunst is pleased to present A History: Contemporary Art from Centre Pompidou, an exhibition originally curated by Christine Macel at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. With approximately 160 works by more than 100 artists from across the world, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an incisive overview of artistic positions since the 1980s in painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, and performance.

The Centre Pompidou’s collection of contemporary art has rarely been presented so comprehensively outside France. The selected works on view date from the 1980s to the present raising two significant questions: What factors are relevant for ensuring that art history is written in a specific way, and what does an ever changing understanding of the term ‘contemporary’ mean for public museums and their collections? Still, the concentration on Euro- American domains, which many museums formerly pursued in the acquisition of works for their collections, can hardly be sustained today and is no longer the aspiration of most museums. Globalisation, with its expanded narratives, has recently become too determining for the position of contemporary art to ignore. Curator Christine Macel defines her intention accordingly: to present ‘one’ among many possible histories of contemporary art.

With the progression of globalisation – understood here as the consolidation of economic, technological and financial systems, but also the questioning of linear history, and hegemonic cultural narratives – our perception of identity has changed. Since the first globally-oriented biennial in Havana in 1986, exhibition organisers and larger museums in Europe and North America have strived to display art created beyond the Western artistic circuit. The static understanding of identity as something based in origins and a “home base” has largely given way to a transnational and variable one.

The turning point for Centre Pompidou was its 1989 exhibition “Les Magiciens de la Terre”, in which curator Jean-Hubert Martin aimed to confront the problematic phenomenon of “one hundred percent of exhibitions that ignore eighty percent of the world.” Half the participating artists came from non-Western countries, while the other half came from the West. In addition, all exhibiting artists were – without exception – still active, making the presentation truly contemporary. Since then, the Centre Pompidou, like many large museums, has had to confront the reality of the expanded circuits of contemporary art. Over the years the museum gradually changed its acquisition practices and has increasingly opened its focus toward Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, the Middle East, India, Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Mexico and Brazil.

Meanwhile, our understanding of the term “origins” has continued to evolve. Consequently, the definition of “site-specific” has also changed. In the 1960s and 70s, artists of the Land Art movement still essentially regarded landscapes as post-industrial ruins. By contrast, Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst believes that, in today’s artistic practice, space is defined by impermanence, by the mutability of politically and socially grounded positions, by aesthetic pluralism, and by cultural differences. Furthermore, colonial and postcolonial experiences shaped by traumatic historical events, home, exile, diaspora produced hybrid identities – such as African-American, Euro- American, Latino, Turkish-German, French-Arabic, African-Brazilian, etc. Consequently new forms of cosmopolitanism and provincialism jostle next to one another. It is no coincidence that the exhibition practice of today can already look back on a number of shows that focused on borders and issues of migration.

Against this backdrop of dynamism and permanent transition the exhibition is divided into seven chapters:

 

The Artist as Historian

An interest in the historical document and a more general obsession with the past, have led to the nostalgic excavation and re-enactments of existing works of art. Artists from the Arab speaking world are increasingly present in the art world; having borne witness to the Gulf War in 1991, these artists have developed new practices around the examination of history.

 

The Artist as Archivist

A passion for the archive initially led to a demand for completeness and later to an acceptance of the fragmentary, resulting on the one hand in concurrence of taxonomic efforts and endless accumulation, and, on the other, in an insight into the accelerated loss of memory. On a higher level, both coincide: Archives are especially useful in helping to identify and address wounds in the collective memory.

 

Sonic Boom

Trying to capture the sensation of listening to music in an image has a long tradition. Yet, even for artists who take their works to the edge of physical dissolution, listening often moves to the fore. Further, changes in the music industry and music production have reinforced the permeability of art and composition.

 

The Artist as Producer: The “Traffic” Generation

The concept of artwork is transformed through its dematerialisation. An awareness of temporality, volatility, and process shifts to the foreground. Artists develop new forms of collaboration and collective creation, and make aesthetic use of clips, sampling, and film narrative (which is also regarded as an exhibition platform). As a result, copyright as an object of reflection has come into focus.

 

The Artist as Documentarist: As Close as Possible to the Real

The proliferation of the Internet in the context of a market economy and consumer society has led to a greater interest in the real, in the status quo of the observer and the reporter and generally in an engagement with all areas of human life. The artist takes on the role of a witness who accepts the subjectivity of his observations.

 

Artist and Object

Between 1980 and 1990, artists turned to an exploration of the everyday and the object; the 1990’s can be considered as the ultimate epoch of the aesthetic of the mundane. The now-famous video, “The Way Things Go” by Fischli and Weiss (1986-87) sings this song of songs to the everyday. No less iconic is Gabriel Orozco’s modified Citroën (La DS, 1993). The confrontation with consumer society is manifested in photography in detailed and richly coloured compositions like Gursky’s 99 Cent (1999), and in sculpture with the integration of found objects. The common denominator is the attention artists pay to excessive consumption – as an opportunity or as a fact.

 

The Artist and the Body

Video and photography seem to be particularly fitting mediums for artists whose works include a performative element. The theme of the human body – wounded or damaged by oppression – returns as a theme with a vengeance. Many works with erotic and sexual overtones emerge. New technical possibilities, either through plastic surgery or image manipulation, bring the grotesque into the fold.

Press release from Haus der Kunst

 

 

 

Fischli and Weiss
The Way Things Go
1986-87

 

Erik Boulatov. 'Printemps dans une maison de repos des travailleurs' 1988

 

Erik Boulatov (Russian, b. 1933)
Printemps dans une maison de repos des travailleurs
1988
169.2 x 239 x 4cm
Oil on canvas
Purchased in 1989
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016,
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Michel François. 'Affiche Cactus' 1997

 

Michel François (Belgian, b. 1956)
Affiche Cactus
1997
120 x 178cm
Print on paper
Don de l’artiste en 2003
Collection Centre Pompidou
Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Pawel Althamer. 'Tecza' (Rainbow) 2004

 

Pawel Althamer (Polish, b. 1967)
Tecza (Rainbow)
2004
120 x 185 x 57cm
Metal, cotton, felt, rubber, cork, plastic
Purchased in 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Pawel Althamer
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Samuel Fosso. 'La Femme américaine libérée des années 70' 1997

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
La Femme américaine libérée des années 70
1997
127 x 101cm
Chromogenic print
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Samuel Fosso, courtesy J.M. Patras, Paris
Achat en 2004, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle

 

Atul Dodiya. 'Charu' 2004

 

Atul Dodiya (Indian, b. 1959)
Charu
2004
183 x 122cm
Peinture émaillée et vernis synthétique sur contreplaqué
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2013
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Atul Dodiya

 

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000

 

Huan Zhang (Chinese, b. 1966)
Family Tree
2000
396 x 318cm
Each print 132 x 106cm, 9 chromogenic prints
Montage of the nine prints
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle,
Purchased in 2004
© droits réservés, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000 (detail)

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000 (detail)

 

Huan Zhang (Chinese, b. 1966)
Family Tree (details)
2000
396 x 318cm
Each print 132 x 106cm, 9 chromogenic prints
Montage of the nine prints
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle,
Achat en 2004
© droits réservés, photo
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Andreas Gursky. 'Madonna I' 2001

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Madonna I
2001
282 x 213 x 6.5cm
Chromogenic print
Achat en 2003, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Courtesy : Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Ahmed Mater. 'From the Real to the Symbolic City' 2012

 

Ahmed Mater (Saudi, b. 1979)
From the Real to the Symbolic City
2012
292 x 245cm
Digital proof
Don de Athr Gallery, avec le soutien de Sara Binladin et Zahid Zahid, Sara Alireza et Faisal Tamer, Abdullah Al-Turki, 2013
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © droits réservés

 

Annette Messager. 'Mes voeux' 1989

 

Annette Messager (French, b. 1943)
Mes voeux
1989
320 cm, diamètre: 160 cm
1 épreuve 24 x 17cm, 50 épreuves 20 x 14cm, 57 épreuves 15 x 11cm, 49 épreuves 13 x 9cm, 106 épreuves 8 x 6cm
Overall dimensions: 320 x 160cm, 263 gelatin silver prints framed under glass held in place by black adhesive paper and hung on the wall by long strings
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Achat en 1990
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, photo Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Annette Messager. 'Mes voeux' 1989 (detail)

 

Annette Messager (French, b. 1943)
Mes voeux (detail)
1989
320cm, diamètre: 160cm
1 épreuve 24 x 17cm, 50 épreuves 20 x 14cm, 57 épreuves 15 x 11cm, 49 épreuves 13 x 9cm, 106 épreuves 8 x 6cm
Overall dimensions: 320 x 160cm, 263 gelatin silver prints framed under glass held in place by black adhesive paper and hung on the wall by long strings
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Achat en 1990
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, photo Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Ayse Erkmen. 'Netz' 2006

 

Ayse Erkmen (Turkish, b. 1949)
Netz
2006
Installation: 220 x 60 x 20cm
Cotton garment labels, nails
Purchased in 2012
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Ayse Erkmen
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt' 1993

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968)
Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt
1993
99 x 66 x 2cm
Chromogenic print
Donation de la Caisse des Dépôts en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Wolfgang Tillmans
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Gabriel Orozco. 'La D.S.' 1992

Gabriel Orozco. 'La D.S.' 1992

 

Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1962)
La D.S.
1992
Centre national des arts plastiques, FNAC 94003
© Gabriel Orozco/CNAP, courtesy photo Galerie Crousel-Robelin-Bama

 

Gonçalo Mabunda. 'O trono de um mundo sem revoltas (Le trône d’un monde sans révolte)' 2011

 

Gonçalo Mabunda (Mozambique, b. 1975)
O trono de um mundo sem revoltas (Le trône d’un monde sans révolte) (The throne of the world without revolt)
2011
79 x 88 x 49cm
Recycled iron, weapons of the civil war in Mozambique
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2012. Projet pour l’art contemporain 2011, avec le soutien de Nathalie Quentin-Mauroy
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Gonçalo Mabunda

 

Chen Zhen. 'Paris Round Table' 1995

 

Chen Zhen (Chinese-French, 1955-2000)
Paris Round Table
1995
180 cm, diamètre: 550cm
Wood, metal
Purchased in 2002
Dépôt du Centre national des arts plastiques, 2002
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Présentation dans “Extra Large”, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, juillet 2012
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Yto Barrada. 'Sans titre' 1998 – 2004

 

Yto Barrada (Franco-Moroccan, b. 1971)
Sans titre
1998-2004
73 x 73cm
Chromogenic print
Donation de la Caisse des Dépôts en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Yto Barrada
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

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Prinzregentenstraße 1
80538 Munich
Germany
Phone: +49 89 21127 113

Opening hours:
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Tuesday closed
Thursday 10am – 10pm
Free First Thursday until 12pm
Friday, Saturday 10am – 8pm

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28
Feb
11

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
2007
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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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’.

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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’.

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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’?

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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

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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.

 

Addendum

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.

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

 

Footnotes

  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
2006
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)
Rainbook
2009
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
2005
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
2008
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
2006
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
2007
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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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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