The University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Gertrude Contemporary have announced a new international residency partnership based at the VCA’s Norma Redpath Studio in Carlton.
The program will support invited international artists to pursue studio production and curatorial research.
Director of the VCA Professor Jon Cattapan said he was delighted with the partnership and that he envisaged many positive outcomes. “This partnership is a brilliant way for the VCA to forge new international relationships of sustenance and meaning, which will benefit our students,” said Professor Cattapan.
“The artists in the residency will all commit to some activities with VCA Art, for instance, delivering lectures, masterclasses and tutorials with appropriate cohorts and students,” he said. “It will create learning opportunities with leading local and international artists and provide models of how to establish a professional studio art practice.”
Both Professor Cattapan and Gertrude Contemporary’s Artistic Director Mark Feary said the partnership reflected an increasingly strong relationship between the two significant cultural institutions, which have been entwined since Gertrude was founded in 1985.
Mr Feary said: “The Gertrude International Studio Residency has been one of the most coveted and dynamic aspects of Gertrude Contemporary’s engagement since its establishment, enabling visiting artists and curators to be enmeshed within Gertrude and our community.”
“This new partnership with the VCA enables this important component of our studio program to continue and flourish, and further solidifies our engagement with staff and students at Melbourne’s most important art school.”
Australian sculptor Norma Redpath’s house and adjoining studio were generously bequeathed to the University of Melbourne by the artist’s family, with the intention that they be made available to artists and academics. The studio has been managed by the VCA since 2015.
The first participants in the partnership program began their residency last week. Mexican artist Joaquin Segura and San Francisco-based Mexican-Australian curator Ivan Muniz Reed, will hold an exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary in collaboration with Melbourne-based artist Tony Garifalakis.
Banner image: Norma Redpath Studio, by Sanjeeva Vancuylenburg.
Sean Michael Mcdowell is one of four VCA Art students who have curated Proud 2017, an annual exhibition showcasing work by current students. Find out why Sean chose VCA, what he's learned at art school so far, and what to expect in this year's instalment of the annual exhibition at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery.
For more than 15 years, artist Jon Campbell’s Remedy programs have encouraged Victorian College of the Arts students to explore artistic expression beyond their studio practice. He talks to Precinct ahead of this year's events.
Jon, you’ve curated Remedy, two programs of performance by alumni, staff and current students. Can you tell us what they’ll involve and what audiences can expect?
The program will include a series of five-minute performances with short changeovers between acts. A stage will be set up in the Margaret Lawrence Gallery, complete with special lighting and a mirror ball. Past Remedy flyers will be enlarged to poster size and displayed throughout the gallery. The audience can expect a lively program that includes group and solo singing, storytelling, costumes, plate-smashing and experimental noise, to name but a few.
Your Remedy programs have been going for more than 15 years. How did they come about and how have they evolved?
When I started teaching in the VCA Painting Department in 1999, I quickly realised a lot of students had an interest in music and performance and thought this interest could be expanded as part of their experience at art school. It wasn't about skill or being a good singer – it was about the desire to perform to an audience, often for the first time. The program has generally been the same format throughout the years. We put out a call for performers, make a flyer, set up the gallery and let the students give it their best shot. I imagine Remedy will go on, year after year, until no one wants to do it anymore.
How has your own artistic practice changed over your career?
I started out making loose, gestural figurative paintings. Now I make hard-edged text-based paintings. I feel the subject matter has generally stayed the same but expanded, and I've become more critical and demanding of my work. The use of text has allowed me to explore other mediums such as neon, flags and banners and lithography.
A couple of years ago I exhibited recent text paintings alongside figurative paintings I made 25 years earlier and I think the subject matter, the vibe and the politics held them together as a group, even though they looked very different pictorially. I continue to use the enamel house-paint that I started using in the mid-80s.
If you weren’t a visual artist, what would you be doing?
When I was a teenager I always wanted to be in a band, tour the world and make hit records. While I do still play music and perform, I see it as part of my expanded art practice. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I'd only concentrated on music.
Can you tell us a little about your current projects?
I've recently finished a book – it’s a world full of cover versions – based on painted text cards I've used in previous performances. It was designed and printed in Christchurch, New Zealand, by artist and musician Aaron Beehre. I'll be travelling to Christchurch later this month to launch the book at the Ilam Campus Gallery, where I'll also be putting on an exhibition.
Otherwise I am busy in the studio planning and making work for a solo presentation with Darren Knight Gallery in Sydney, a mural for the drawing wall at Shepparton Gallery and a solo presentation at the MCA, Sydney, in December. These are exciting and busy times.
Main image: Melbourne band Terry perform at the launch of ART150. Photo: Drew Echberg.
The much-anticipated new art museum is opening in the United Arab Emirates later this year; here’s why it should be considered a global art envoy rather than an agent of the West.
By Associate Professor Christopher Marshall, School of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open its doors to the public in November 2017 following ten long years of planning. It marks the latest international cultural franchising deal, where big name museums and galleries lend their brand to overseas institutions.This ambitious and controversial project has attracted criticism aimed at everything from employing a migrant construction labour force under harsh conditions, to undermining the dignity of French culture (similar to the Guggenheim franchises being labelled ‘McGuggenheims’).
But perhaps the biggest criticism, led by Professor Andrew McClellan (Tufts University, author of The Art Museum from Boullée to Bilbao) is one of cultural imperialism; that the new museum will impose Western notions of art, culture and history in the Gulf Region.
After the oil
The Louvre Abu Dhabi forms the centre-piece of a 27 square kilometre man-made island off the coast of Abu Dhabi that has been conceived as a commercial, tourist, and cultural hub for the entire Gulf region; part of the United Arab Emirate’s economic strategy for when the oil runs dry.
When complete, Saadiyat Island will comprise a network of iconic cultural developments. Besides the Louvre Abu Dhabi there will be a new Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry, a museum dedicated to the founding president of the UAE formulated by Norman Foster, a maritime museum by Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, and a performing arts centre designed by the celebrated late Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid.
The island will also contain a series of luxury hotels together with a golf-course, a beach club and shopping malls lined with international luxury outlets.
As the opening flagship attraction for the development, there is clearly much at stake in achieving a smooth launch for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
A new institution in its own right
Writing in The Journal of Curatorial Studies, Professor McClellan questions the curatorial rational of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, arguing that it “appears set to re-inscribe the familiar western story of art” into the Gulf Region and that this will result in the Louvre “essentially reproducing itself in the Persian Gulf while claiming to do something new and different.”
But the new art museum is not simply another Louvre; it is a new institution in itself, which is ‘borrowing’ the Louvre brand for 20 years (to the tune of 1.3 billion USD, or 1.6 billion AUD).
The so-called ‘universal survey’ approach adopted by the Louvre and other museums in the past has undoubtedly resulted in a markedly pro-Western bias within many museum collections. Though founded on the ideal of a supposedly ‘universal survey’ of culture, in practice this has always meant that the vast encyclopaedic museums of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have reinforced a peculiarly Western notion of cultural distinction from Ancient Greece through to the European Renaissance and so on.
This concern may well have been valid during the project’s early years, when much about it was still to be defined. It has become harder to sustain, however, following the publication of Louvre Abu Dhabi: Birth of a Museum, a lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanying an exhibition of the same title held in 2014.
This catalogue outlines the recent acquisitions made for the museum’s permanent collection that are funded from its staggeringly impressive annual accessions budget of USD 56 million (70 million AUD).
Far from following a policy of obvious ‘name brand’ acquisitions, the catalogue demonstrates the extent to which the curators have searched far and wide to locate strikingly distinctive and unusual objects that can be used to offer up fresh and intriguing cross-cultural comparisons between artefacts sharing certain affinities and similarities across time and space.
The earthy materiality of an ancient Bactrian sculpture of a female figure is juxtaposed with the neo-primitivist vigour of Yves Klein’s 1960 Anthropometry, a white canvas imprinted with the blue outlines of the bodies of two models who were contracted by the artist to cover themselves in paint before rolling onto the canvas as a form of ‘living paintbrush’.
The curators have also selected a series of striking, standalone works that powerfully evoke ideas of cross-cultural hybridity within themselves including, for example, an eighteenth century portrait of a European ambassador to the court of Constantinople by the Swiss Rococo artist Jean Étienne Liotard. The painting presents the ambassador clad in extravagant European attire while standing in a meticulously detailed Arab interior. It also demonstrates the artist’s simultaneous interest in introducing into the composition the flattened and surface-oriented emphasis of Islamic art more generally.
So too, a sixteenth century mother of pearl ewer from Gujarat in Western India has been selected for its intriguing afterlife in Baroque Naples. Here the ewer was taken and adapted for a new purpose via the addition of elaborate Neapolitan gold-smith work so that it now appears to hover somewhere between an Indian princely possession and an object of finely worked exotica to be displayed in an Italian Baroque cabinet of curiosity.
Confirmation of the success or otherwise of this novel approach, of course, will not be evident until the new museum opens its doors to the public later this year.
Still, the catalogue offers up the tantalising possibility that the Louvre Abu Dhabi may well be poised on the brink of presenting a new model for the universal survey museum for the twenty-first century.
This new curatorial agenda of cross-cultural exchange and comparison has the potential, in turn, to break down the old polarities existing between Eastern and Western understandings and to replace them with a new more inclusive form of art historical survey museum that is, at last, truly global in scope.
Banner image: Louvre Abu Dhabi
Construction of the $104.5 million Ian Potter Southbank Centre will begin with an official “breaking ground” event on Wednesday 2 August.
Attended by University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis, Dean of the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Professor Barry Conyngham, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley, and Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, the event will include speeches, a brass ensemble fanfare and photo opportunities for media.
Professor Glyn Davis said the new building was one of the largest enhancements in the Faculty’s history and would confirm the Faculty internationally as a pre-eminent school of art and music.
“The realisation of this project is the culmination of years of collaboration with our project partners, and the exceeding generosity of our donors,” Professor Davis said.
Professor Barry Conyngham said the project was a once-in-a century event that would produce Australia’s next generation of musicians and bring together the VCA and MCM.
“The University of Melbourne was one of the first Australian universities to offer formal studies in music, and the new headquarters for the Conservatorium will see that legacy continued and amplified alongside all arts disciplines on our Southbank campus,” Professor Conyngham said.
Minister Foley said the Victorian Government was proud to partner with the University – and with its philanthropic supporters – to make the project happen.
“The new Melbourne Conservatorium will be a transformative link in our arts precinct that will boost our cultural and educational offering and attract the best and brightest talent to our creative state. It will further help build Southbank's Sturt street as the cultural hub of Melbourne.”
Cr Doyle said Melbourne’s vibrant arts community had been a drawcard for the world’s most-liveable city.
“The introduction of the new Conservatorium further confirms Melbourne’s reputation as a hub for the arts,” Cr Doyle said.
The Ian Potter Southbank Centre joins the current $42 million redevelopment of the Dodds Street Stables into a visual arts wing, and the introduction of the Buxton Contemporary Museum.
Banner image: Artist’s impression of the new Ian Potter Southbank Centre. Image courtesy of John Wardle Architects.
Would you drink from a cup made from blood once infected with HIV? The inaugural exhibition from Science Gallery Melbourne challenges our deeply held beliefs about blood.
By Andrew Trounson, University of Melbourne
Human blood can be made into bio-plastic. It is dried, powdered, moulded into a shape, heated to 200 degrees Celsius and put under 10 tonnes of pressure. It might become an ornament or a bowl or a drinking cup.
But what if a person with the HIV virus had donated the blood in the bio-plastic? Would you touch it, eat from it, drink from it?
Science says you shouldn’t be at all bothered. The bio-plastic will be completely sterilised once heated to 120 degrees. But would you hesitate?
Plastic objects made out of HIV and Hepatitis B infected blood are the creation of German artist Basse Stittgen and are just one of the many intriguing, confronting and beautiful artworks on display in Science Gallery Melbourne’s inaugural exhibition, Blood: Repel and Attract. Here science and art meet in a way guaranteed to disturb and enlighten.
At the exhibition you will be able to not only feel blood, but also smell it and even taste it. You will be able to detect blood with light, have your blood type determined, and add the pulse in your finger to a fugue of pulses sounding through the gallery.
For Professor Sharon Lewin, a University of Melbourne infectious diseases physician and director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, who helped to select the artwork, Blood is a unique opportunity for art and science to confront the mysteries and fears that surround blood, and inform us along the way.
“I think if you asked people in the community whether they are at risk of catching HIV from sharing a cup they would say they are, and many others will feel slightly uncomfortable at the prospect. But there is no risk at all,” says Professor Lewin.
She says misconceptions, stoked by emotion and fear, drive the stigmas that are so often attached to people living with infections such as HIV.
“To lose that emotional reaction you have to understand and trust the evidence,” she says. “That is why science literacy is so important in understanding how it is we come to conclusions on what is safe or unsafe, and then trust the science. But I think in science we still have a long way to go in better communicating these messages.”
She notes that in healthcare it has been recognised that exposure to blood puts people at risk of many potential blood-borne diseases, not just HIV. The adoption of universal precautions means all blood is treated the same when it comes to safety. The approach has also been adopted in sport where, under the blood rule, players bleeding from an injury must immediately seek treatment off the field.
“To a healthcare worker it should make no difference if a person is HIV positive or not because we treat all blood as infectious and take the necessary precautions,” Professor Lewin explains.
The risk of contracting HIV is limited to infection through unprotected sex and or by blood exposure such as sharing needles or having a blood transfusion. According to the US Centre for Disease Control, the risk of HIV infection from a needle stick penetrating the skin is just 23 out of every 10,000 people, or 0.23 per cent.
Blood is the inaugural exhibition of the University of Melbourne’s Science Gallery Melbourne – part of the world-wide Science Gallery Internationalnetwork of university-linked galleries that are dedicated to promoting public engagement with art and science. Blood, which has been curated by creative director Dr Ryan Jefferies, was inspired by the 2015 exhibition of the same name hosted by Science Gallery Dublin at Trinity College. Science Gallery London at King’s College is hosting its own Blood program this year.
One of Professor Lewin’s favourite works in the Science Gallery’s exhibition is One drop of blood by Queensland artist Daniel Elborne, who has made 20,000 porcelain white blood cells the size of pebbles. That is the approximate number of infection-fighting white blood cells in a single drop of blood in someone with a high-ranging white blood cell count. Viewers of the work are invited to take away the white pebbles in a symbolic representation of the falling white blood-cell count that cancer patients suffer when they undergo chemotherapy.
The work was inspired by Mr Elborne’s own mother’s fight with cancer, and the pebbles can only be taken in exchange for a donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
“It is a beautiful and haunting representation of what happens to people during chemotherapy,” says Professor Lewin.
But just as science is uncovering the mystery and truth about blood, artist Robert Walton says that in many ways art had already anticipated the science. Ritualistic ideas around sharing blood, such as in the idea of blood brothers or the Christian ritual to symbolically share Christ’s blood, have in a sense been realised in the form of blood transfusions and blood donations.
“Through thousands of years of cultural practice and art we have always known how important blood is,” says Mr Walton, who lectures at the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatory of Music at the University of Melbourne and was also on the selection panel for Blood.
“The mystery of blood prefigures the scientific discoveries, and those mysteries have proven to be in many ways true.
“Blood is something that we share with others, it is something that can give life to others, and it does tell us about who we are in that that it holds our genetic inheritance,” says Mr Walton, whose own core art practice is as a director of experimental theatre and live art.
He says our reaction to blood is fascinating because it both repulses us and connects us. He suggests that the sight of blood disturbs us partly because we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as separate and sealed off from the world and others. But when we bleed we are graphically reminded of our own bodies and our vulnerability.
“Our cultures sometimes make us forget that we are part of the animal kingdom, and make us think that we are detached from our bodies. But when blood spurts out of a wound it becomes the liquid that connects us to the outside world, and it is horrifying. We imagine our life trickling away,” he says.
But blood is also a vehicle for building empathy and awareness. The empathetic powers of blood, he says, have been famously explored by such performance artists such as Franko B, Ron Athey, Kira O’Reilly, and Marina Abramović who have purposely made themselves bleed in front of a close-up audience.
“When we see someone bleeding it creates a huge amount of empathy when we realise that like us, blood courses through another being’s veins. The reality of inhabiting a fragile, bloody body, connects us,” he says. “And then that awareness can prompt us further to think of the bigger picture, and how all creatures are connected.”
Walton says one of blood’s most enduring powers is the way it has come to symbolise our common humanity in the face of cultural prejudices towards stigmatised groups.
Perhaps one of the most well know examples in English are the lines of Shylock the Jew in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”
“A lot of performance artists with blood borne diseases like HIV use blood to remind us again and again that we all share an experience of existing as a living, breathing, bleeding body,” says Mr Walton.
“We all feel pain, and we all need love and warmth. It is the human condition.”
The Doherty Institute is a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Science Gallery’s Blood: Attract and Repel exhibition opens 2 August and runs through to 22 September at the Frank Tate Building at the University of Melbourne, Parkville.
Banner image: You Beaut, Hotham Street Ladies, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist
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