Posts Tagged Maryborough
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
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).
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.
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.
New media artist David Hodges has used the Collective Insites project to develop a new interpretive resource for the National Trust property, Brennan and Geraghty’s Store, donating many hours, his artistic talents and his technical expertise at a minute fraction of the real cost. The final result, an interactive DVD of short video clips telling the story of significant items from the collection will be unveiled at the opening of the exhibition and donated by David to the National Trust.
David talks about his work with Brennan and Geraghty’s Store below.
“The project has been a collaborative process between Ken Brooks and myself. Ken’s involvement has been providing input into every stage of the project, passing ideas on the items being displayed, the interface design, acting in the production video and providing feedback at the stage meetings.
My involvement has been vast across a number of areas in the screen and media field. The interface concepts were drawn before the digital version was created to save time. A test video was shot and modified for proof of concept. These processes allow you to get a feel for the production inspiring ideas, identifying pitfalls and highlighting areas of improvement.
Working with digital media has it draw backs as well as its benefits. Systems are software driven and to complete this project, improvements had to be made to the workstation I currently use. Software crashes and files can become corrupt; this is a standard in the digital media field so professionals save versions of work over and over along with automated system backups on a daily and weekly basis. All of these processes add to the space taken on the hard drives in the system.
The work represents around 300 hours of work that has been completed over two and a half months. That, combined with my main job meant a seven day week for the entirety of the project (I am looking forward to a day off). The process mentioned has created over 200 gigabytes of information contained in 19,282 files.
As his part of the Collective Insites project multimedia artist David Hodges will be focusing his attention on the historic Brennan and Gerhaghty’s store in Maryborough, Queensland. It’s a surprising combination, an artist working with the cutting edge of new technologies and a store that time forgot.
The Trust acquired the shop with all of the contents which are now displayed on the shelves. The interior is very intact and is typical of many all purpose stores that were once located throughout Queensland. Contents range from unsold stock from the 1890’s to 1920’s advertising material.
Visiting Brennan and Gerhaghty’s is like taking a step back in time. The patina and colours, the pace of the experience , and the advertising material all add to the experience of being in a place that time forgot.
David Hodges started in the commercial art industry air brushing motor bike tanks in the early eighties. He changed mediums frequently and discovered computer drawing and air brushing techniques in the late nineties. He went on to study multimedia at QANTM and now teaches at Wide Bay TAFE and has undertaken a number of major projects and commissions.
David has developed techniques and processes that secure specialized work in the industry, so it is exciting to have him as part of the Collective Insites project which matches artists with museums in Maryborough.
Collective Insites will be on show at Gatakers Artspace in Maryborough from May 6th.
The Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum is a surprising gem to find in a regional centre. It was established as a private museum by John and Else Meyers using much of John’s own extensive collection. The museum is now a public trust, and the collection has been added to by generous donation and further collecting.This important collection interprets military campaigns and aspects of Australia’s colonial history. It is housed in a magnificent old warehouse style building near the wharf area in Maryborough, and contains many significant objects.
The museum is staffed by volunteers and is very much a part of the local community.
As part of the Collective Insites project t Peta Duggan will be interpreting the collection in her own inimitable style.
Peta is a local resident of Maryborough who likes to manipulate images of everyday objects and shapes in her work. Her imagination leads her to find hidden meanings and satire of a dark nature reflected in many of her images. She says ” humans can be seen as concepts and intrigue of the imagination, where space, time and thought are one ”
It will be interesting to see what Peta makes of the museum and what the museum makes of her. It is certainly not a conventional mix, and John Meyers from the museum is to be congratulated in his willingness to participate in the project, and to allow an emerging artist working in new technologies full reign in his museum. Peta’s mind is already racing ahead with the possibilities. She says, after her first visit:
“As I walked into the old historical building in Wharf Street Maryborough, in Queensland, my senses were filled with awe…Not only is this building, built in the 1800’s, the military collection is the most highly prized museum in –as to be so bold! in Queensland, and even bolder! Possibly more impressive than the National war museum located in Canberra (1991 visit).”
Peta’s work will be part of the Collective Insites exhibition at Gatakers Artspace in May, and she will be having a solo exhibition at the gallery later in the year.
Sometimes one comes across a collection that sits outside the norm. Mavis Bank in Maryborough is one of those.
It is an eclectic and personal, private collection of bric-a-brac, furniture, vehicles, household appliances, toys and much more from no particular era (except it’s mostly late 19th early 20th Century), housed in a generic, not overly interesting Queenslander style house hidden behind a magnificent overgrown garden. There are no labels and no particular arrangement of the objects other than what suits the fancy and the needs of the owners. Everywhere you turn you see something new and interesting and perhaps disconnected from the last thing you just saw. The house is filled to overflowing with collected ‘stuff’, treasured and displayed in a domestic, ‘cottage’ setting.
Owners Elizabeth McKenzie and partner Patrick live in the building, in the collection amongst the objects which they sit on, play with, tinker with, listen to and use. So for them it is not a museum, it is their home, and a very personal space. Many of the objects have a story directly related to their own personal histories. Elizabeth and Patrick kindly open their home for the public to visit, and once through the doors it’s a journey into domestic nostalgia.
As part of the Collective Insites project artist Christine Turner will be working with the Mavis Bank collection, letting it speak to her, and making her own particular interpretations of the objects and the collection as a whole.
Christine’s practice encompasses assemblage, installation, digital imaging, collage and photography. Her works relate to identity, memory, the body, power and the sacred. An avid collector herself, she uses her own collections in her works, and understands the urge that drives those who fall in love with objects from the past. At Mavis Bank she has found an instant rapport with Elizabeth McKenzie in a shared love of domestic memorabilia and is working to incorporate items from the Mavis Bank collection into her artwork that will form part of the Collective Insites exhibitions at GatakersArtspace later in the year.
Artist Susan Hutton will be working with the Maryborough Historical Society collection as part of the ‘Collective Insites‘ project. Susan’s mediums include painting, drawing, assemblage and artist books. She is also interested in various methods of printing and has recently acquired a kiln to experiment with printing onto ceramic work. Susan describes her work as using images as metaphors to tell stories from the inside.
Maryborough Historical Society is the main repository of Maryborough’s social history. Many objects, photographs and documents in the collection are cared for and put on display by a team of volunteers. The sheer size and diversity of the collection can be overwhelming for the visitor.
The collection occupies a significant heritage building, the Maroborough School of Arts and includes the original School of Arts library which is still in situ on the mezzanine floor.
Susan has made several visits to the collection spending some time there absorbing the feeling of place and space and ambling through the collection to see where it leads her. She intends to explore the books, documents and plans and the objects before deciding on her approach to making artworks about the collection. To get started she is playing with photographs and drawings making digital images that may be used in later works. For her this process is as important as the final work. She lets the collection speak.