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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you'll never work in this town again

4:36 AM  
Blogger Kate Smith said...

never work in ACCA town perhaps. But hang on maybe you already have to be working there to get a job there? Thank goodness someone has said what we have all been saying anyway. Who would begrudge Hinkley and Gabrielle for accpeting a place in New, how could any artist so no. Hinkley's pieces of paper from outer-space are as good as always. It's not for artists to do the stops and idealism that are the charter / character of institutions. Its funny how the title of something can contradict is nature so bad. AUSTRALIAN cetre for contemporary art. As if. Maybe Rose should have gone further, there is a possible theory floating about that a few artists included in New were exhibiting concurrently in this town (Paul Knight at Neon Parc, Chris Bond at Linden, Sandra Selig at Project Space, Daniel Argyle at TCB. all in July) Maybe?. So one skimpy lap of inner Melbourne was all that was needed to fill New 08 bill. Perhaps this glich has kept the usual media away. It would be good if this review might not just add to the usual ACCA v's the public thing, but reboot something, cause it's all a bit obvious.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

Someone recently wrote me a show 'didn't have anything to say but I'm not going to tell anyone because I don't want to talk art down.' It's like the triple whammy.
There was a case here in Paris recently where Loris Greaud was the first artist to be given the whole of the Palais de Tokyo ( I think he's 31) to make an ongoing installation. Everyone I spoke to said very dismissive even disappointed things about the show. But all the reviews I read were positive and promotional, more or less as though they were written before the events. By not talking about it, it seems history wasn't narrated at all. Not that it should be gutted but it feels like we are losing speech. Every show and gesture becomes a postcard to the future and history is remote from what people say and feel in the present.
In the 'chain of complicity’ it seems very difficult for people to say anything. After following these processes over the years I begin to think that contemporary art, in general, is a device for repressing discourse rather than a means of creating it.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to finally see a review for the show. It didn't seem to have the same critical exposure as the last few did.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

Geoff that's too depressing a conclusion! It's not art's fault, it's all the stuff that goes with it. But you're right to worry about how history will see contemporary art if we leave it to the catalogues and newspapers. Given this need/lack I don't know why so many art critics today complain their role has lost "power" in the art world. We should forget about power and just value an honest conversation for what it's worth. (How naive do I sound?)

I also think places like ACCA and Palais de Tokyo are robust and smart enough to benefit from questioning now and then.

5:37 AM  
Anonymous Jarrod said...

is this not an emotional response? how is it possible that we can reduce what (at least from the outside) appears to be a random curatorial decision, to nepotism? When I think we may finally open up the discourse out the work we just explain it with nepotism? Is there not a kind of reason that explains to us why in a tiny art community like Australia that two ‘staff’ members of the local contemporary art space would at some point (and after 8 years) be included in an exhibition there? Please, can we use this fruitless conspiracy to find the real villains! Cheers, Jarrod

7:04 AM  
Blogger michelle said...

i agree jarrod..the problem itself isnt new08..it goes further than one show...and back to geoff..i was having the same conversation with someone the other day about the Loris Greaud /palais show..and how when an institution invests that much time and money into an artist (i could be wrong but i think he went thru their residency program) it is in their best interests to have people say "what a great show??" how independent are the writers? if the reality is "depressing" - that our words & opinions are suppressed (by ourselves not necessarily by others)for fear of "never working in this town again" - who wants to live in that town anyway..? new 08 - was one of the worst shows i have seen by far in melbourne for a really long time - i congratulate the curator for doing such a superb job of stuffing it up...but it comes of no suprise...and this is what disappoints me the most. I have very little faith in ACCA representing any emerging talent from melbourne...and it has been a while since i was wow'ed by any curatorial talent within the iron walls. the intellectual structure of new 08 performed more like a 3rd year grad show. I'm a big believer in a great show being based on the success of a good combination between curator / artist / admin. why is the center of australian art still approaching group shows on a model that is completely out-of-date?
I would like to think it is encouraging to see a junior curator be given such a grand opportunity - but not when the "junior curators" of ACCA have such little curatorial experience, independent ambition or visible creativity - ESPECIALLY when Australia has plenty of other curators who deserve the opportunity, have unique opinions and methods and bring with them their hard earned local knowledge of artists. accas boring..i've stopped going there. (and Geoff i never even got my acw catalogue they made me order for talking that day because they didn't have them printed for the show??)

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Brendan said...

The New series has always been an exhibition based around the artist and not the curator. The secrecy around who is in it extends to the artists themselves. The artists can't make thematic or process based reactions to the other works being they generally don't know who is in it or what they are making. From what I can gather as a keen punter of the NEW shows and from being in last years one, the artists are selected based on their practices and not on a particular artwork or theme. The MCA 's Primavera or Gertude's Octopus have an emphasis on the curator and giving them the chance to push the limits, which is the opposite to NEW where ACCA primarily acts as the space for the artists to create a larger work or statement on their practice.

2:12 AM  
Blogger JEN & PAT said...

I remember the criticism that was leveled at Max for his curating of New a few years ago(new 04?), the common phrase seemed to be "wow, Max really dropped the ball!" I never imagined that in hindsight and in comparison to New shows since that Max's effort would appear, well, good. Apparently the ball can be dropped a lot further.

6:25 AM  
Blogger JEN & PAT said...

sorry, that should have been posted solely as Pat, not Jen & Pat.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the criticism with Max's NEW was that it it didn't seem new. The artists included were terrific, unfortunately it counteracted the title and appeared to be a survey of the last decade.

7:13 AM  
Blogger michelle said...

i remember asking max about his NEW and he said he was taking the angle that what is NEW? new for who? and the artists he chose had never shown at acca..or was that an institution.?..and new for the people who go to acca. at least he was trying to play with it curatorially. brendan, when does a show that has a curator does not request the curator to take part? secrecy between artists? how does this help anyone..curator or artist? secrecy for shows is bullshit - everyone finds out anyway - its just for publicity. no one appears to be pushing the limits of anything in New 08...other than how low can we go. I feel for Matt Hinkley. He was the only one to hold his own and not fall for the pressure of creating a "larger work" or "statement on their practice". good on matt for being mr humble...it was the same problem with the palais de tokyo show and Loris Greaud..its an attempt to create "heros"...or "art stars". Wheres the emphasis on nurturing artists to make great art? How the hell can you change it anyway...you could tell them but they don't listen.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me the entire concept of NEW at ACCA is a bit pointless. No one - other than those not included, or those who already know what is 'new' - really care for the premise. It would seem to me that the aura of competition (when there is no actual financial reward for the artists - aka Turner Prize), is actually antithetical to creating good artwork. Perhaps it is the pressure placed on these shows that seems to result in good artists creating drab, trite or hyperbolic grand statement (empty of content) works.

Perhaps it may be a more productive use of funds to commission larger scale, more thoughtful projects by some of these younger artists, or else dedicate time to curating with finesse a show featuring younger more emerging artists. This would enable the artists involved to feel like artists rather than merchandise.

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Angela said...

It’s common to hear comments from people in the local art scene saying how much they disliked NEW 08, it’s also common to hear that people haven’t visited ACCA for years, dismayed with its lack lustre curatorial efforts. I also hear ‘I would like to work at ACCA but not under the current directors leadership’.

I think this is a submissive response to a problem that will not go away anytime soon. ACCA will keep running NEW because it’s an annual drawcard, which has been cleverly branded for the public, and draws large crowds. It will keep getting favourable reviews in The Age because they are supporting partners of ACCA. And I doubt the current ACCA directors are leaving soon.

Perhaps we could write to the ACCA board and asked to view the modus operandi on artists who work at, and also exhibit at ACCA? Or has anyone written to ACCA’s funding partners with their concerns and disappointments?

It seems we are taking a defeatist role in an issue that we could actually change by been more constructive and smart with our energies. I’m off to write to ACCA and Arts Victoria with my concerns.

1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle, ("I feel for Matt Hinkley. He was the only one to hold his own and not fall for the pressure of creating a "larger work") - didn't you notice that bloody great room that Matt had purpose built to house his little drawings!? It was just as expensive, wasteful and sameo as the rest of what passes at ACCA.

8:19 AM  
Blogger michelle said...

compared to the "bloody great (monstrosity of a) room" that acca is? kinda helped paul knight out too, no? angela, thx for making the good point about acca & the age. I did once write to the directors of acca...unfortunately they reduced the exchange of feedback to me "simply not agreeing with what they had to say". kinda killed the conversation..what did you write to ACCA and Arts Vic? Can you post it online?

11:04 PM  
Anonymous JArrod said...

I see a problem with finances here. there is a kind of moralizing of how funding is spent by artists. Rooms and structures in contemporary art spaces worldwide stem from some weird imperative economics – if you don’t spend it or design to spend the funds will not reappear somewhere else, the funding body reabsorbs them. I see ‘NEW’ as a simple hook. I have always considered the title of this series to be quiet tongue-in-cheek, almost sarcastic. I am sure those behind it are aware that NEW is not a statement, it is more literal – the things in the room are new, ‘they are not previously used or owned’. For me that is the distinction, the difference between all other institutions in Melbourne. New is just new, it is not zeitgeist.

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

The Whitney Biennial is always a much maligned show in the media, because it attempts to represent what 'going on' in the US. I guess if there are 100 rising artists in Melbourne each year or even 50, then only 4 have been chosen to be in NEW, so it seems fairly likely that those that weren't chosen and their supporters seek vituperative reasons for not being recognised by the major institution. That a show like this doesn't satisfy everyone is likely. It seems reasonable to me that people could want to infer how it should have been, to bring events and history closer to where their interests and practice are. Choosing 4 out of many is unlikely to be fair it can't be a system or regulated for this reason I can see a role for complaining. A proposition has been made in the form of a show and the work of the audience is yet to be done.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Charlotte Laubard said...

I don't understand this? As a Director of a museum I would give a job to a young artist as a carpenter. Then if the work of the artist improved and they were able to be in a show at the institution this is what I would like.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous David said...

why doesnt anyone feel they can discuss the show itself at ACCA? everyone is talking around it

6:13 AM  

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