Archive for category Collective Insites
COLLECTIVE INSITES CATALOGUE ESSAY
Judy Barrass – Curator
In 2010 Gatakers Artspace in Maryborough received RADF funding for a project that sought to stimulate audience engagement and interest in local museums through innovative approaches to interpreting and examining their collections.
At a time when museums are moving away from being mere repositories of material objects, to a broader role of engagement and communication, creative approaches developed by artists can enliven experiences and develop new ways of reaching audiences. Artists are used to dealing in concepts and ideas, used to questioning, commenting and seeking fresh approaches.
Five artists were selected, each to work with one of five historical collections chosen to be part of the project. Each has developed a body of work as a response to this interaction. We deliberately chose artists with varying levels of experience who were working in a variety of mediums. Each has brought their own skills, biases, interpretations and personality to the project.
The collections chosen for the project were also a widely differing selection, from the traditional military museum to a scattered collection of objects and memorabilia relating to Maryborough’s industrial past.
Collaborations between historical collections and artists are not new, although very few have taken place in a regional context, where small museums often make a significant contribution to the cultural and economic fabric of the community.
While the primary focus of this project has been interaction between the artists and individual collections, it has also been about the forging of new relationships and repositioning the role of cultural institutions in the community. In this project Gatakers Artspace chose to redraw the boundaries between art, gallery, and heritage, museum, adding to and enriching the cultural mix in Maryborough.
There are many ways artists can work with collections and each of the five artists involved in Collective Insites has approached the project in a different way.
New media artist David Hodges’ reaction to Brennan and Geraghty’s store was immediate and enthusiastic. Rather than making comment on the collection he chose to augment and restate its existing message. David’s interactive, digital recreations of objects from the store offer a new way for audiences to engage with the museum. His objective was to work collaboratively with museum curator Ken Brooks to restate the museum message to reach a younger, more tech-savvy age group. The partnership that grew out of the project has produced a lasting resource for the store, which David has generously donated to the owners, the National Trust of Queensland.
In contrast to David’s approach, digitial artist Peta Duggan has used her own reactions to the Military Museum as the basis for her works.
Peta’s strong pacifist principles made interacting with this collection a personal journey that sometimes evoked strong emotions, uncertainties, and mixed feelings. At times the desire to respect and honor the museum and its custodians was at odds with her immediate reactions and long held beliefs. Peta’s richly layered digital imagery recontextualises the message of the museum, positioning it in a far less certain environment where truths are contested, assumptions are laid bare, and alternative points of view are allowed. The time capsule piece is safely positioned sometime in the distant future, allowing her to say what she wants about a possible future without offence to the past.
Christine Turner used her interaction with the collection at MavisBank to reiterate themes she has previously explored in her work. She uses household objects from the past to represent the role of the ‘domestic goddess’ or Mother figure.
The rich and eclectic Mavis Bank collection provided ample fodder for Christine to continue to explore the intersections between the public and private faces of women, between the relentless drudgery of household chores and the refinement of the parlour; between the reality and the romanticised goddess. Christine draws our attention to these unstated tensions and untold stories in the everyday objects in the collection.
Susan Hutton is acutely aware that what many perceive as the long history of Maryborough is but a moment in the story of an ancient land. Such perception heightens her awareness of the ephemeral nature of things. She sees objects in the museum as having only a fleeting ‘presence’ that fades with time, until meaning is lost and they become relics. Like old bones, her ceramic objects retain their shape but are bleached of colour and pattern suggesting a withdrawal from the procession of time.
In isolating, recreating and repositioning objects from the collection Susan makes reference to museum practices of chosing, collecting and displaying objects from the past, preserved on a pedestal but divorced from the life where they once played an active part as treasured or practical objects.
“For many of us, our families have been implanted into this land for only a few generations. We move house we exchange neighbours. Our sense of history has been pulled out from under us. The museum collection delivers us a tangible connection, a feeling of fraternity, a part ownership of history maybe.”
Niels Ellmoos has appropriated aspects of museum practice and discourse as a strategy in his work with the collection of wooden patterns from Walkers Foundry. A central concern of his art has been to show how time and images construct our relationship to the world around us.
Maryborough’s industrial history revealed rich imagery for Niels.Documentary photographs of men working in the foundries provided a reality of a particular place and time.
‘Images of harsh and dangerous working conditions of the foundry workers as bare handed and bare-chested ‘bronzed Aussies’ contrasted dramatically with the pristine wooden forms of the patterns, the material evidence remaining today. The inscriptions (the orders for production), written on the patterns reveal the human link to those dangerous situations’.
A mural sized charcoal drawing forms the centerpiece of Niels’ installation. Incorporating the drama of human intervention, it is interwoven with the energy of the foundry activities, reflecting an interplay of chaos and order.
The collection of moulds was stored in several locations and had recently been moved because of floods. This necessary portability provided a departure point for the notion of a portable or traveling museum. Rough timber transport palettes pose as a microcosm of museum space that theoretically can be moved from place to place and re-assembled in various ways.
The third element of his installation, a documentary digital movie loop of a 1950’s industrial training film, draws attention away from fascination with the sculptural and aesthetic qualities of the patterns by making direct reference to a utilitarian, industrial past.
Niels says it was his intention not only to re-interpret the collection but also to explore the tension between entertainment and education created by placing a museum collection in an art gallery space.
‘My intention was to inject a sense of history, disjuncture, humour and absence into a multi faceted installation of seemingly disparate elements of media.’
His use of several different mediums within the same installation explores the concept of collage in a new context. Each of the elements in the installation fits together to tell the whole story.
This project has been a major undertaking by a gallery that seeks to become an integral part of the Fraser Coast community. Gatakers Artspace is a relatively new community facility, being barely a year old when this exhibition opens. The gallery welcomed Niels Ellmoos as ‘artist in residence’ in the early part of the project giving visitors an insight into an artist’s practice and a taste of what was to come in the future. It also gave Niels the opportunity to come into contact with people who had memories of working at Walkers in the past.
Collective Insites positions local museums as a place of relevance to contemporary culture and local community. The project provides a model for collaborations between artists, galleries, and historical collections in regional areas, and gives an insight into how creative approaches can invigorate the interface between museums and their audience. This is of particular relevance in regional areas where small local museums often contribute significantly to the cultural and economic fabric of the community, and where partnerships between cultural institutions are of great importance.
Many have contributed to the success of the project. It would not have been possible without funding from RADF, without the assistance and support of Museums Development Officer, Fiona Mohr, and the direct involvement of staff and volunteers at the gallery. Downer EDI have sponsored the printing of this catalogue. The museums have been equal partners, opening their doors and their collections to the artists with great generosity. All deserve credit, but it is the artists who have made the project what it is. They have worked with great enthusiasm and commitment to bring to us their own creative interpretations and responses to the collections.
I hope you enjoy Collective Insites. It has been an interesting and rewarding experience for me to have been part of the project and I thank all involved.
Curator of Collective Insites
Peta Duggan is a young woman who thinks things through, who asks the difficult questions and worries about the answers. Her interaction with the Maryborough Military Museum led to hours of thought and internal discussions that were documented in diary format.
Working with the Military Museum presented her with a personal dilemma. She was acutely aware of the honour and pride that the museum and its collection engendered in its custodians and in the community, and of the need to give due deference to the museum’s stories and heroes; and yet she was also not prepared to ignore her own distaste for war and aggression. Peta’s diaries tell of an internal conversation and questioning that went far deeper than interaction with mere objects.
The curator and the selection committee had deliberately chosen this vibrant young digital artist to interact with the conservative militarymuseum, and were sure the owners and staff had the goodwill and maturity to cope with what might come of it. The outcome has been exciting and rewarding.
The museum gave Peta full access to the collection and to a bank of many images of objects. She used many of these images in her work, combining them with her own imagery into a richly layered digital tapestry of story upon story.
To overcome some of the conflicts Peta found in dealing with her subject she positioned her work well into the future.
A time capsule (a large sculptural object created from found objects and digital imagery, created 100 years earlier has recently landed in the year 4200AZ into a world where humans are no longer like us, but wars and conflicts are still occurring. The contents are now opened and revealed to the earth’s inhabitants.
Peta’s collection of 18 digital images shown in the exhibition documents the contents of the capsule. They represent both an aftermath and our own future. Many fantastic and unimagined things have happened, and many wars have taken place, but ethical questions remain unanswered, which leads us to wonder about the nature of conflict and war. Will we continue to repeat history?
Her work recontextualises the message of the museum, placing it in a far less certain environment where truths are contested, assumptions are laid bare, and alternative points of view are allowed. In doing so she allows her audience to consider the message of the museum outside the emotive context of its sacred objects and stories.
David Hodges knew right from the beginning that he was going to put together a new media work that built upon and reiterated the message of the National Trust property, Brennan and Geraghty’s Store Museum. His interaction with the collection immediately developed into a collaborative working arrangement with curator Ken Brookes.
David applied his considerable skills in graphic design, digital 3D modeling and video production to producing a touch screen installation that interpreted various significant items in the Brennan and Geraghty collection. In doing so he also created a lasting resource for the National Trust.
The video can be seen in a modified version for the internet here http://davidhodges.net/dms/brennanGeraghty/index.html. There are also some working videos and a summary from David of his approach to his work on the Collective Insites ABC Pool site.
For the group exhibition David’s installation was housed in a strange tardis-like construction made from old wooden election booths, which is shown under construction below.Visitors operated the touchscreen outside the booth and peeped through holes to see the large screen projection inside, an idea reminiscent of the old Victorian peephole shows.
The openings for the screen and peepholes were framed in ornate gilt , the whimsical idea of Trevor Spohr who helped David construct the booth. It was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, and fitted well with the theme of David’s work.
The touchscreen mounted in the viewing booth.
As an artist who often uses objects from the past as a metaphor, Christine Turner found an ample supply of inspiration in the eclectic collection at the historic house, Mavis Bank. The essentially personal and domestic nature of the collection fitted well with the recurrent ‘domestic goddess’ themes in Christine’s previous work.
Her work in the Collective Insites group exhibition explored the intersection between the private and public faces of women and between the reality and the dream. Objects of household drudgery from the Mavis Bank collection were juxtaposed with symbols of refinement and romanticized notions of womanhood. Her transformation of machines from the Mavis Bank collection reminds us of the meaning we find in objects from the past. Their inclusion in an art gallery exhibition, transformed by the artist raises our perceptions of these objects from mere curiosities with long gone practical uses to symbols of wider and more esoteric stories.
An old washer became a bride like figure with a veil of lace. The backdrop hanging of impossibly white, starched lace and linen richly embroidered with the word ‘Mother’ as the centerpiece pointed to yet another idealized notion of womanhood. Indeed, the idea of ‘mother’ is often central to Christine’s work.Christine’s third piece in the group exhibition was a tribute to the collection and its owners. From the beginning of her association with Mavis Bank she had fallen in love with the ancient mangle whose ornate form combined with a practical purpose seemed to embody her domestic goddess theme. Images of the collection and it’s owners Elizabeth and Patrick have been interwoven into a large scale sepia print that rolls out of the mangle onto the floor. There are allusions to printing processes here, and to the way history is often preserved only in fading images that flatten memory into two dimensions.
Christine continued these themes in her solo exhibition. The copper bubbled up colourful detritus of womanhood from lipsticks, hairclips and compacts to baby shoes and flowers.
The washer was again transformed as a bridelike figure with a wispy net veil, but if one looked closely the veil decoration consisted of tiny objects of everyday domesticity interspersed with flowers. Wardrobes, chairs, beds and other domestic furniture reminded us of the reality behind ceremony and decorative effect and of the collection at Mavis Bank.An old stove from Mavis Bank collection, included in Christine’s solo exhibition was adorned with richly decorative biscuit tins, reminding us again of the importance of exterior appearances that may have little to do with the contents. Also on the stove a womans head, idealised with a tiara or halo made from old chandelier pieces. But this goddesses head is not filled with mystical or heavenly thoughts- just the everyday tasks of sewing and mending. The sorts of things mothers think about while they cook?
The Collective Insites project has been over now for some time, but before I wrap it up on this blog I should congratulate everyone involved for achieving a GAMMA Award for one of the best projects in 2011. Read about the awards at http://www.magsq.com.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=868.
Collective Insites is also now featured as a case study on the Arts Queensland website at http://www.arts.qld.gov.au/docs/collective%20insites%20case%20study.pdf.
There’s possibly more I’ll post about collective Insites. I have a lot more images I should sort out and post and hope I can get to do that soon.
In the meantime I’m going to start using this blog to feature other works and projects that take a creative approach to history.
An extended version of the catalogue essay with an introduction to the project and a section on the work of each of the artists is now available in e-book format at all major e-book retailers including the Kindle store on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. The book can be easily accessed in all e-reader formats as well as PDF and HTML by visiting the Smashwords publishing site at this link http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/60135 or through any of the e-book retailers above.
The funding available through the RADF grant was augmented by a generous donation from Downer EDI that allowed the production of a printed package that included a small fold out colour catalogue and an artist card for each of the artists. The whole was enclosed in a vellum envelope and was a much sought after memento of the exhibition. The full text of the catalogue essay by curator Judy Barrass is available in the pages on this site (above or right).
A large crowd gathered at Gatakers Artspace to celebrate the opening of the Collective Insites exhibition on May 6th 2011. Jenny Galligan,Executive Director (Arts Development), Arts Queensland opened the exhibition.
It seemed like it was never going to happen. The gallery looked like a construction site. It’s hard to image what comes before a beautifully presented exhibition in a white cube gallery space. Chaos and stress.
Susan Hutton seemed like she was on a dream run, putting together four of her five pieces in record time. But it seemed like a cat was going to be her undoing. Many tries later the cat finally conformed to Susan’s idea of where and how it should sit on its pedestal.
It was then up to Christine Turner to create havoc and challenge everyone to remember how the mangle went back together. Trevor Spohr from Gatakers was his usual unflappable self coming up with solutions to every problem, and finding a way to get everything done.
Of course Fiona Mohr also had a hand in trying to put that mangle back together. In the end we had to call in the experts in the guise of Patrick from Mavis Bank. Fiona was heard emitting huge sigh of relief that her expertise would no longer be called into question.
Over in a corner was what we affectionately called ‘the Tardis’, but which was, in reality David Hodges’ installation. Sometime after lunch workmen in flurescent vests arrived and started doing all sorts of things to it. We don’t know what. Perhaps they were attempting time travel. We’re looking forward to how this thing is going to operate, if it does. Peta Duggan was nowhere to be found. We think she was at home putting the finishing touches to a fantastic and amazing sculpture that will definitely not be able to be transported and will never fit into the lift to the first floor. But we hope she’s having fun. John Meyers from the military Museum came in to go over her work with a fine tooth comb and we are pleased to say he actually liked some pieces. Thanks John!
Make sure you’re there for the opening of this amazing exhibition. Gatakers Gallery, Maryborough, Friday May 6th, 6 pm. The catering is going to be great! All are welcome to attend.
The opening of
of two new exhibitions at Gatakers Artspace: Collective Insites curated by Judy Barrass and
featuring works by five artists and In the Half Light by Noel Brown.
DATE 6 May 2011
LOCATION Gatakers Artspace, 311 Kent Street, Maryborough
TIME 6.00pm for 6.30pm
Collective Insites to be opened by Jenny Galligan,
Executive Director (Arts Development), Arts Queensland
In the Half Light to be opened by Trevor Spohr
TELEPHONE Trevor Spohr (07) 4190 5723
RSVP 2 May 2011