Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev with Natalie King

16th Biennale of Sydney, Revolutions – Forms That Turn
17 June – 7 September
Interview with Artistic Director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

NK: The notion of ‘revolution’ has clear political overtones – how are you engaging with local politics especially our recent change in government and momentous ‘apology’ to the Aboriginal Stolen Generation?

CCB: I’m very fortunate and lucky to be able to do a Biennale at the time of this recent change in Government in Australia, and honoured to be doing it at the time of this momentous apology to the Aboriginal ‘Stolen Generation’. I think it was overdue and is an important moment for Australian history. Of course an apology has to be followed by real events, but it is a step in the right direction. I think the issues with the relationship between western colonisers and their descendents on the one hand and the Aboriginal people here on the other is a huge question. I see a great poverty which is not right, and I see the wonderful positive nature of the introduction of Aboriginal art made today in the field of contemporary art in museums. However I also see the sweatshops and the great market increase of values that these paintings have (without any resale rights going back to the communities from which they emerged), so I see many problems. I think part of the wealth of Australia is the mines and I don’t see the money going back to the Aboriginal people, who are the traditional owners of the land. I’m shocked to find that in this country there are no rich Aboriginal people... read the interview
Tracey Moffatt Marie Curie 2005, from Under the Sign of Scorpio, a series of 40 images, archival pigment ink on acid-free rag paper, 43.2 x 58.4 cm, edition of 21



Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street Melbourne, March – May 2008
Daniel Argyle, Matt Hinkley, Sandra Selig, Chris Bond, Gabrielle de Vietri, Paul Knight, Jonathan Jones, curated by Anna MacDonald

Do ACCA’s annual NEW shows act as a “stepping-stone on the road to career success” for artists? It’s unlikely that ACCA is set up to provide for an emerging artist in a meaningful way, as an artist-run initiative, project space or a committed commercial gallery may do by providing an ongoing venue or network of support and opportunity. What NEW does do is commission a one-off work of “scale and ambition” from selected artists. Needless to say, the show is subject to a great deal of expectation and hype, although NEW08 seems to have passed so far with less fanfare or review than usual.

Seven artists are included in the un-themed show, this year curated in-house by Anna MacDonald. The best are those who succeed in creating cohesive solo shows within the larger exhibition. Paul Knight, Matt Hinkley and Chris Bond each simply exhibit great works representative of their ongoing practices. Rather than showing off a body of work, David Argyle, Sandra Selig and Jonathan Jones contribute more singular works that are not necessarily amongst their best and at times struggle to gain traction in ACCA’s cavernous main hall. Gabrielle de Vietri’s series of interactive and performative works attempt to engage, recalling aspects of several recent ACCA exhibitions, including Gillian Wearing (the sincere admissions and personal exposures), A Constructed World (the singing and dancing) and Anastasia Klose (dealing with family relationships).

Previous NEWs have occasionally engaged guest curators allowing the possibility of injecting a different curatorial perspective to ACCAs program, but it’s fair enough to give the institution’s own junior curatorial staff the chance to develop a major show. A different matter however, is the inclusion of two ACCA staff in the artist line-up. Sure we can argue there is an intrinsic “grey area” of nepotism and a chaos of conflicting interests within the art industry, but isn’t it surely crossing even the blurriest of lines when a public gallery includes staff in the program? At best it’s lazy. Strange then that this seems to be accepted practice at such a leading institution, and stranger still that it seems to go unquestioned.
Rosemary Forde
image Chris Bond Mirrorworld 2008, photo John Brash


World's End

Carlton Hotel & Studios
Upper level, 193 Bourke St, Melbourne, March – April
Nadine Christensen, Ross Coulter, Greg Creek, Eleanor Crook, Leslie Eastman, Sean Loughrey, Max Mosscrop, Simon Pericich, PLPFA, Steven Rendall, Benet Spencer, Meredith Turnbull, Lisa Young. Curated by Steven Rendall and Meredith Turnbull
It’s probably because of the impossibility of making anything other than oblique reference to the outsized theme, that this exhibition seems to best fit together through the slightly chaotic and paranoid feeling you get from searching for connections between the works. And it’s probably because of this queasy feeling of meaninglessness that the more immediately personal works are the ones to stick out the most.

Ross Coulter’s Quartz for example, is made up of a basic wood frame supporting a TV, which displays an image of the artist’s head backlit by ethereal blue light. Underneath it a tiny monitor loops a few seconds of an animated human heart, set against a plain white background. At the bottom of the structure is another TV displaying a pair of feet, which dangle in mid-air as if levitating. Accompanying all this is a regular machine beeping noise. Although it looks like a half-serious, half-silly take on the phenomenon of the millennial religious cult, it could also be a high-tech, quasi-sacrosanct self-memorial. Closer to home it vaguely recalls the anonymous final message — “RIP Jodie & Steph” — posted by Melbourne teenagers on their myspace page just before they committed suicide.

Simon Pericich’s LAST DAYS SALE SALE SALE MUST END SOON similarly plays with this self-memorialising, this time with a real garage sale of his and several special invited guests’ artworks and personal junk — t-shirts, cans of beer, a side table that looks like it’s made of sticks, a pair of boots, a gas bottle, etc., etc. The small crumbling room and weak lighting, as with Coulter’s work, can’t help but add to the pathos. So instead of your immortal soul leaving earth for cyberspace, the bleaker picture here is that what’s left over after the “last days” is simply a collection of meaningless stuff. In other words, Pericich’s emphasis is less on the spiritual and more on the material: on what you’ve left behind, living-on after you, as dead weight.
Michael Ascroft