Current Issue

emaj issue 9, 2016


Giles Fielke, Katrina Grant, Helen Hughes, Paris Lettau, Tim Ould, Amelia Sully, Christopher Williams Wynn


The Cinematic Body in View of the Antipodes: Philip Brophy’s Body Melt as the bad copy


webpage image - screamThrough a wide ranging study of Philip Brophy’s academic and critical writings on horror cinema, this essay considers how Brophy’s theory of the spectator’s body is figured in his only horror feature Body Melt (1993). Body Melt is noteworthy insofar as it poorly copies a number of infamous sequences from classical horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, a form of figuration that this essay will theorise as distinctly Antipodean. Body Melt will be related as an antagonistic ‘turning inside out’ of the subjectivity of the horror movie spectator, which will be read in the light of both the usurped subject of semiotic film theory, and the political aesthetics of Australian exploitation cinema.

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The Bauhaus Link in the Life and Work of Émigré Artist Gerard Herbst


98/99/4 Wolfgang Sievers, Gerard Herbst and Prestige Materials, Red Bluff, Sandringham, Melbourne, 1950

The German-born artist Gerard Herbst (1911-2011) arrived in Australia in 1939 with practically nothing. He would go on to transform a multitude of artistic fields such as typography, poster design, window displays, art education, film, theatre, photography, and textile design. This article contextualizes the work and life of Herbst by illustrating his Bauhaus-inspired education, migrant experience, and his ongoing artistic interactions and collaborations with émigré photographer Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007) once in Australia. To situate and exemplify Herbst’s deeply rooted German Modernist aesthetic we explore the connection and influence of prominent Bauhaus figures such as László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius, and Josef Albers on Herbst’s artistic creations and on the Prestige Studio, a multi-disciplinary industrial and commercial design studio, which Herbst ran. By demonstrating the central role that Herbst played as a major exponent of a German Modernism on Melbourne soil, we hope to further illuminate the complex Bauhaus’ story of mobility and exchange between Australia and Germany.

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‘New Possum Found!’ Photographic Influences on Anmatyerr Art



Despite extensive and at times contested retellings of the origins of Papunya Tula painting, few authors have identified the extent to which intercultural influences affected the work of the founding artists, preferring instead to interpret the emergence of contemporary Aboriginal art, at a remote settlement in Central Australia, as a marker of Indigenous cultural autonomy and resistance. A recently unearthed painting by the Anmatyerr artist Clifford Possum challenges this interpretation and suggests that the desert art movement arose from a more complex social milieu than has previously been acknowledged. As one of the earliest and most unusual paintings by a major Australian artist, the ‘new Possum’ is of undeniable significance. Our analysis of this work reveals that it is, in large part, derived from photographs published in a well-known anthropological classic. An examination of the painting and its sources will begin to build a picture of early influences on Anmatyerr art and the intriguing intercultural context in which the ‘new Possum’ and related works were created.

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Hipster Aesthetics: Creatives with no alternative


Wes Hill_image_aid1518040-900px-Be-a-Hipster-Girl-Step-7-Version-3What is a hipster, and why has this cultural trope become so resonant of a particular mode of artistic and connoisseurial expression in recent times? Evolving from its beatnik origins, the stereotypical hipster today is likely to be a globally aware “creative” who nonetheless fails in their endeavour to be an exemplar of progressive cultural taste in an era when cultural value is heavily politicised. Today, artist memes and hipster memes are almost interchangeable, associated with people who are desperate to be fashionably distinctive, culturally literate or as having discovered some obscure cultural phenomenon before anyone else. But how did we arrive at this situation where elitist and generically “arty” connotations are perceived in so many cultural forms? This article will attempt to provide an historical context to the rise of the contemporary, post-1990s, hipster, who emerged out of the creative and entrepreneurial ideologies of the digital age – a time when artistic creations lose their alternative credence in the markets of the creative industries. Towards the end of the article “hipster hate” will be examined in relation to post-critical practice, in which the critical, exclusive, and in-the-know stances of cultural connoisseurs are thought to be in conflict with pluralist ideology.

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Relational Agency: Rethinking The Aboriginal Memorial


Djon Mundine, Drawing for 200 Burial Poles, c.1987. (Courtesy of the artist.)

Twenty-two years after its first exhibition at the 1988 Biennale of Sydney, and following numerous subsequent iterations, in 2010 The Aboriginal Memorial was re-designed and installed in the foyer of the National Gallery of Australia. This essay seeks to reinterpret the circumstances of both its origins as well as its historical trajectory in the Biennale, in the National Gallery of Australia, in its subsequent international contexts, and in its current situation. Its original context and conventional recognition as a masterpiece of contemporary Australian art (Waterlow, Mollison) plus the processes of its redefinition as “installation art” (Davidson, Desmond) and later its presentation as a form of international cultural exchange, all suggest a process of reinterpretation and realignment as a manifestation of a late modernist sensibility, which was validated by its ultimate institutional recognition. In this essay I argue that despite the distance from its original political origins and motivation, revisiting The Aboriginal Memorial and what I call its “constitutive literature” invites new modes of interpretation that allow The Memorial to regain its original sociopolitical power. By investigating the social relations of its production and reception, the nature of the creative motivation of its forty-three Yolngu artists plus its “conceptual producer” Djon Mundine, I seek to apply a concept of collective agency informed by models of relational art first introduced by Bourriaud, Kester, Bishop et al. in order to amplify the social relations of its reception as a paradigm of intercultural artistic production.

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Turrel WithinWithout

Exhibition Review

Subliminal Massage


James Turrell: A Retrospective, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 13 December 2014 – 8 June 2015

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Artists at the Yellow House Jalalabad


George Gittoes: Artist, Peacemaker


In the early 1970s in Sydney, George Gittoes and Martin Sharp ran The Yellow House, combining visual arts with film and theatre to introduce a new kind of art to Australia. Today, after thirty years of making art in war zones around the world, Gittoes lives with performance artist Hellen Rose at a second Yellow House he has established in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Underneath the ominous sound of US drones and helicopters, and on the frontier of an ongoing war between the US and the Taliban, he runs a creative hub for actors and filmmakers. He also runs a circus, touring the provinces of Afghanistan with a monkey on his shoulder, and entertaining children who have never seen film or performance before. While he draws and paints, Gittoes is also making films: Snow Monkey (2015), Love City, Jalalabad (2013) and The Miscreants of Taliwood (2009). These follow his earlier filmmaking ventures in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Rose works with film too, running filmmaking workshops for women. To secure local support to carry on his work there, Gittoes has been in negotiation with the Afghani Taliban, and suspects he is being watched by Islamic State (I.S.). A portrait painting that Gittoes is exhibiting in Perth, Moulana Gul Badshah (2009), represents how amidst the violence of the region, The Yellow House stands for peace. The mullah had been planning to kidnap Gittoes and Rose before they invited him to the Yellow House to persuade him that they were doing good things in Jalalabad. The following interview with Gittoes was conducted in Perth, where he is exhibiting alongside other artists in ‘9/11’, a show curated by Chelsea Hopper about 9/11 and its aftermath at MOANA Project Space. He is also the subject of a retrospective that is currently touring Australia, called ‘I Witness’. In 2015 he was the first artist to receive Download PDF (1 MB)