Posts Tagged creativehistory

Gympie Woodworks Museum


Carol Bradtke with a slice from a giant kauri pine.

On the opposite end of town to the Gold Mine Museum, Gympie Woodwork Museum tells the story of Australian forests and forestry. A significant collection of woodworking tools, photos, machinery and woods form part of a ‘living’ museum that includes a working steam driven timber mill and a working blacksmith shop, as well as being home to Gympie District Woodworkers Club.  Timber getting and wood work has been a vital part of the development of Gympie and Australia as a whole, including its role in mine supports and the railway as well as the first buildings in the township.

Carole Bradtke made curator, Judy Barrass, welcome and was delighted to be able to support the G150 artists project. Artists will find a wealth of inspirational material here, from the massive wagons used to haul logs to the delicate treadle driven scroll saws. img_0613



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Catalogue Essay – Collective Insites Exhibition, Gatakers Artspace 2011


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.

Judy Barrass

 Curator of Collective Insites

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Peta Duggan – Maryborough Military Museum, Collective Insites, Gatakers Artspace Mackay

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.

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David Hodges – Collective Insites – Gatakers Artspace, Marybourough

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 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.

Peepholes were available at various heights.

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Maryborough’s Industrial Past Comes to Life

Things are getting exciting for the ‘Collective Insites’ project at Maryborough with the opening of the group exhibition at Gatakers Artspace to take place on May 6th.  This will be followed by a series of solo exhibitions by each of the artists from June 13th onwards. I caught up with Niels Ellmoos, one of the artists, who has been looking at Maryborough’s industrial past. This is what he had to say:

What is the exhibition about?

This exhibition is called ‘Collective Insights’ and it is about re-interpreting several of Maryborough’s museum collections. There are 5 artists involved and each of us have selected a particular museum collection. For instance I am using a Bond store collection which relates to Maryborough’s industrial history. These wooden patterns were removed when the bond Store basement flooded. I am looking at aspects of the industrial history related to them, the kind of industry they represent and as artefacts, how they have a voice from the past.

How are you going to use them?

I see them as a part of a larger picture so to speak. As objects they now , especially in a gallery setting, relate to us as beautiful forms. We enjoy the timber quality, the design and appreciate the skill of the artisan/tradesman who made them. However they were only part of an extensive process . They were used to produce metal components of machinery systems for a variety of industries. Now I want to incorporate the idea that they have a link to the past so in my drawing I use them in the overall composition , to give a recognition and acknowledgement to the design. I also want to show the human element as they were not just stand alone objects. The human form is important and adds to the drama of the drawing. This drawing though is only a part of my overall installation. I usually interface other mediums such as sculptural forms, digital media with the large-scale drawings to create what I call multi dimensional collages or what has been termed Grand narratives.

What do you want to achieve with this multi dimensional Collage Niels?

What I want to achieve is to hopefully involve  or immerse the viewer with the different mediums so that they get an overall reading of the installation. I generally have a number of themes that are just below the surface. These relate to art history, community, history and cultural landscape. Walkers Engineering company and Croydon foundries which I am investigating have a grand local history which in these patterns whilst they are part of it , you can’t really know about it so it is up to the artist to bring other aspects to light. Museums today have the same problem as often and in this case there is scant evidence so often a museum has to make up a narrative about a particular exhibit and generally provide a story or diorama which somehow relates to the artefact they are presenting.

I like the idea of a tension between education and entertainment. When you see the other parts of my concept hopefully you will see what I am getting at. So overall I want  the viewer to be entertained, question and be educated in some way. There should be a few optical tricks and an extension from the basic artefacts which are the patterns.

I am exploring hidden histories a theme which I began back in 2001. I feel that I can engage with a particular community that I am living in if I shed light on various local histories.

I am influenced by a number of artists that have dealt in some way with these kinds of themes. The significance of material evidence is crucial where documentary evidence is inadequate and in technological history this is often the case.

Here the real original pattern is on view. How do I bring a more eclectic and vigorous history to light? In the large drawing I try to inject a sense of drama and action of those early working conditions of which there are documentary proof in BW photos. Then I incorporate the outlines of the patterns to create a flow. This is an expressionist way of working quite vigorous in its

application. I also let my sub conscious mind work so that the drawing becomes infused with abstract shapes that become lines of energy which link focal points in the composition almost like a blueprint.

For the sculptural or 3 dimensional parts of the installation I will use some of the patterns themselves to provide a museum context. Other materials such as transport palettes, wooden box , plywood cut outs, dioramas etc will be incorporated. The digital media will consist of a tv monitor showing a loop of documentary footage.

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