Issue 3 2008

emaj issue three, 2008


Robyn Dold, Amelia Douglas, Katrina Grant, Ryan Johnston, Tim Ould, Mark Shepheard


A Forest of Lines: An Interview with Pierre Huyghe 


Amelia Douglas: For the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, you constructed a temporary forest of a thousand trees, real trees, inside the concert hall at the Sydney Opera House. 1 A song was sung in the forest, and the audience was invited to walk through this space filled with mist, through paths in the trees, to listen to a story. First, why did you want to use the Opera House in particular for this work?

Pierre Huyghe: I was looking for a place of representation. When you think about theatre, spectacle, opera, you think about this place and this iconic building. View/download pdf (688kb) »

Art Beyond the Globe: Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Identity


In several works produced in the 1950s and 60s, the Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1899 – 1968) proposed that the advent of space travel would lead to a profound decentring of human identity. In this article selected works by Fontana are discussed with reference to statements made by the artist and his contemporary critics as well as to more recent, theoretical writings on space and the body. It is argued that Fontana put forward in his work the idea that travel through outer space would render the image of the modern subject unrecognisable. View/download pdf (280kb) »

The Guitar, the Musette and Meaning in the fêtes galantes of Watteau


This paper examines the depiction of the guitar and musette in the fêtes galantes of Watteau by considering the theoretical, musical and literary evidence for the reception of these instruments in Watteau’s culture. Documentary evidence suggests that the presence of the guitar and musette in the fêtes galantes may provide a tool for reading the nuances of these contested images. View/download pdf (125kb) »

A Colonial Conundrum: Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo


This paper presents a detailed analysis of the perplexing painting Boy with Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Unfortunately, there is little information on the provenance of the portrait, including the identity of the artist, sitter and patron. It will be argued that it is the work of Augustus Earle and that it is a portrait of Daniel Cooper II and was commissioned by his uncle, also named Daniel Cooper. The aim of this article is to start to unravel the ambiguities of the image, and I suggest that the painting is a strong statement on the rights of freed convicts in Australian colonial society. View/download pdf (103kb) »

The curator/patron: Foundations and contemporary art


This article addresses the role of private foundations in commissioning site-specific ephemeral art works: contemporary art projects of a temporary nature that are realised outside of public institutions. Though small in number, I argue that the private individuals creating and managing private foundations of this nature demonstrate a new form of patronage, creating in the process a new role of ‘curator/patron’. Equally, this process of realisation reflects the changing needs of contemporary art practice. Work of this scale and ambition would increasingly not be possible without the vision, perseverance and funding of these kinds of foundation. In Australia, this trend is demonstrated by two foundations: Kaldor Art Projects, and their commissioning of works by artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Gilbert & George and Jeff Koons; and the more recently formed Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, whose first project was with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. In this article, these examples are placed within the broader international context of foundation models such as Artangel, UK, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan, and The Public Art Fund, New York. View/download pdf (385kb) »

Regarding Terror: On Art and Politics


‘Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition’, held in Berlin in 2005, presented art works and documents dealing with the Red Army Faction (or Baader-Meinhof Group), a left-wing terrorist association active in Germany from the late 1960s until well after the controversial deaths of key members of the group in 1977. For some, the initial plans for the exhibition threatened to turn the RAF into heroes at the expense of any acknowledgement of the RAF’s victims. As a result, the government withdrew its funding, the exhibition was reconceptualised, and it was decided to present the material in as unbiased way as possible. The controversy and discussion surrounding ‘Regarding Terror’ exposes some critical issues regarding art’s relationship with politics. It is argued in this article that while individual art works and curatorial decisions influence our responses to political issues, shortcomings exist in the way the relationship between art and its subject matter is implicitly understood. These issues are explored by investigating the extent to which the fears about the exhibition and the debate surrounding it are indicative of a need to rethink the relationship between art and politics in the light of considerations of the implications of art’s autonomy and of art’s relationship with reality. Such a rethinking would bring into focus the nature of art’s responsibility to politics. View/download pdf (196kb) »

From History to Memory: Alain Resnais’ and Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima mon amour


This paper examines the representation of history and memory in Alain Resnais’ and Marguerite Duras’ 1959 film Hiroshima mon amour. It argues that the film’s privileging of subjective remembrance reflects a broader cultural interest in using memory as a counter discourse to established history. The widely documented cultural preoccupation with memory became particularly prominent in the early 1980s. However, Hiroshima mon amour can be read as an important early example of a film that predates the contemporary ‘memory boom’. For Resnais and Duras, the magnitude of the devastation in Hiroshima exceeds the limits of filmic representation. Their solution to the problem that the historic event is unrepresentable is to approach the event indirectly while focusing on an individual traumatic memory. Through a close analysis and critique of the film I argue that the film’s emphasis on individual memory validates the legitimacy of the personal narrative but problematically subsumes the political events and displaces history from the discursive realm. I also suggest that problems emerge in the film’s depiction of its traumatised female subject. While Hiroshima mon amour represents a complex female subjectivity and interiority, the process of remembrance depicted deprives the woman of agency and renders her trapped within a compulsive repetition of the past. View/download pdf (65kb) »

Flower Men: The Australian Canon and Flower Painting 1910-1935


Historical studies of Hans Heysen, George Lambert, Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton concentrate on paintings of landscape and people. Less well known are their paintings of flowers, which take the form of still-life painting or adjuncts to figure painting, such as portraits. While these artists are famous for the masculine way they approached masculine themes, and flower painting represents a stereotypically feminine subject, I argue that by making flowers their object of study, they intended to define and differentiate femininity from masculinity in an era of the ‘New Woman’. Sex and gender are central to the subject of flower painting and are important for discussions about the work produced by all four men, although sex is often camouflaged behind the innocence of naturalistically painted flowers. View/download pdf (251kb) »

Caught on film: The story of Melbourne’s original visual archive


The University of Melbourne’s Fine Arts slide library, now held within the collections of the Elisabeth Murdoch Library, is the earliest and one of the most significant collections of its kind in Australia. It owes its founding to the introduction of the discipline of art history at a tertiary level at the University in 1947 through the newly created Department of Fine Arts. So central was it to the teaching of art history that the inaugural Herald Chair of Fine Arts, Professor Joseph Burke, had already begun to assemble the library prior to leaving England. It is a unique collection, one that has been at the very core of art historical teaching and research in Melbourne for more than half a century, and it and its history are thus of major significance in the history of art education in Melbourne. This article presents the history of the establishment of the collection. View/download pdf (60kb) »

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