Friday, September 08, 2006

NEW 05 ACCA and the CAOS Phenomenon- INTERVIEWS

Unmagazine Anthology – Celebrating 10 Years of unmagazine – NEW 05 ACCA and the CAOS Phenomenon


un Anthology: Melbourne art & writing 2004-2014 – a new book celebrating ten years of un Magazine.

Including articles, essays, artist pages, and reviews selected from a decade of publishing, as well as special commissions, un Anthology is a critical and celebratory review of Australia’s popular free bi-annual contemporary art magazine.

Available for order online July 2016.

I am deeply touched that one of my artist-run profiles has appeared in this ten year anthology, a review of the NEW series organised by ACCA. Here is my INTERVIEWS archive copy.

un Feature: NEW05

Nothing beats a memorable event. The Australian art world calendar has too few. Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Samstag scholarship and even the good old-fashioned Archibald Prize media circus spring to mind. NEW – the annual Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) exhibition – is the latest to join the gaggle. According to ACCA the series serves to illuminate the latest, the best, the most outstanding new artists (and new works) and afford them an all too
rare opportunity of furthering their professional creative development. Sounds promising. Sadly this year’s selection of works for NEW05 begs the question – new for whom?

Three years on and the NEW exhibitions continue to arouse curiosity. Since the series began at ACCA in 2003 they have attained a certain vibrancy, as commissioning new work suggests the enabling of untapped trajectories and possibilities.

Disappointingly, this year the‘commissioned’ works are reprises of work already seen in recent commercial or major public art institutions and four of the six artists have established commercial gallery affiliations. Choosing established artists is far from ‘new’ and despite the offer of a compelling exposé of individual works, an under-whelming sense of déjà vu prevails.

Stuart Ringholt’s artist books welcome visitors to NEW05 like strange guest registers. Beneath the covers are dark personal narratives, insights into imposed pathologies, personal relationships and profoundly resonant intimacies. Ringholt plays with social paradigms, alters them and imbibes them with murmurs of introspection.

It’s slightly regrettable however that his NEW05 contribution reconfigures a smaller work seen at ACCA’s previous exhibition The Molecular History of Everything*. And there is no breakaway work here, with similar pieces seen in various exhibitions in recent years at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces.

The paintings in NEW05 by Mutlu Çerkez are sublime. His humble and meta-realistic portraits are meticulous studies, appearing as painterly stop-motion excerpts of faces, evincing timelessness. Once again these works are familiar to audiences, seen in It’s a beautiful day: New Painting in Australia: 2 (2002) at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. Mutlu Çerkez, like Temin and Deacon, is something of a big gun now, a recent Level 2 Projects exhibition alongside artist Marco Fusinato at the Art Gallery of New South Wales attesting to his established status.

Kathy Temin’s My House (2004-05) conflates architectural model making with the dollhouse genre, representing her own home. My House segues into this ironic realm of micro, replete with teeny LCD screens simulating domestic video and DVD technologies, where miniature video art unfolds and soft anthropomorphic koalas get hard and nitty gritty. The videos on those tiny screens are repeat performances of works exhibited in any number of group shows in at both public and commercial
galleries – a mini retrospective.

Destiny Deacon parodies and plays with the world of dolls too. Her insight into the way kitsch and mass merchandising haunts indigenous social histories is delightfully paradoxical. Images intersect the masculine and feminine in a blunt photo video assemblage, revealing racial incongruities. In
resemblance to Temin’s My House, the artwork presented covers trajectories and means seen before. Deacon’s work was the subject of a major survey show at The Museum of Contemporary Art in 2004 and quizzically some of these ‘commissioned’ pieces were in fact recently exhibited at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Mira Gojak is a domestic alchemist. Chairs, cupboards, mirrors and light bulbs are subject to transmutations that evince new possibilities for the mundane, and invoke a sense of awe, wonder and comedy. But it is hard to not feel jaded when it’s the third time that Stranded, the stack of Ikea chairs, has been shown in Melbourne. James Lynch’s outdoor cinema is the standout in NEW05.

Lynch turns other people’s dreams into strange videos. His surreal stories about everyday things like Italian espresso coffee pots are transposed into dreamy digital panoramas and stop motion treatment. Single frames are reified and sketched-in like a child’s colouring book, his animations
projected into a mock-romantic outdoor cinema environment contained within ACCA’s privileged white walls. The installation of the work is innovative, yet the form and content is a reworking of Lynch’s recognisable oeuvre.

Max Delany’s appointment as the guest curator provided solace and some hope for ‘new’ artists – emerging and emerged – following in the footsteps of ACCA Director Juliana Engberg (NEW03) and Geraldine Barlow (NEW04). His move to the Monash Museum of Art is a welcome transition from his role as Director of Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces. Gertrude CAS is one of Australia’s longest running Contemporary Art Organisations, founded in 1983 on the ethos of fostering new and emerging artists – the very values that have brought about the recent proliferation of ARIs in
Melbourne. The irony of his curation of this show is that exhibitions like NEW05 serve to widen the perceptual gap between Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs) and the Contemporary Art Organisation system (CAOS).

Undeniably, ARIs are today’s event horizon for new art.

Artists are taking business, networking and marketing into their own hands. This has dual purpose: to create greater balance and to circumvent exclusivity and privilege. The brokers of power and knowledge in the arts industry have long relegated artists to second fiddle.

Today, exhibition opportunities and commissions are still hard to come by, as is the opportunity to shift one’s creative paradigm, which past NEW exhibitions have demonstrated. Paradoxically, this is why ACCA – and the CAOS phenomenon – first emerged. Organisations like ACCA, Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art, Sydney’s Artspace and Adelaide’s Experimental Art Foundation were established in the 1970s and 1980s for the ongoing showcase of new ‘local cultural practice’.

Conceptual Art had gathered momentum and with it came an enervating cultural climate and a growing interest in the prismatic possibilities of conceptualism. In the unsettled scene of
contemporary art practices in the 80s, these spaces set about to evince and distribute the conceptual art of the time; the new language of a generation that served to question the traditions, orthodoxy and status anxiety surrounding object-driven art.

ACCA (like Gertrude CAS) was opened in 1983 largely to address the lack of exhibition possibilities for Victorian contemporary artists and has since become increasingly more institutionalised. Now ACCA is deeply entrenched in the private sector, more dependent on bureaucratised government support, more expensive to run, more selfserving and more deterministic – within the frame of
economic rationalism and a myopic political climate.

NEW05 serves to remind us that today ACCA is outward and internationally focused. The proliferation of new local art isn’t a regular programming event as it once was. Accordingly ARIs have become today’s conduits for contemporary conceptualism and have largely eclipsed
the original role of CAOS. With time a disproportionate discrepancy has emerged. Funding, attendance and the positive aspects of institutional clout are guaranteed for the CAOS spaces.

Whereas this is certainly not so for the ever mercurial and organic ARIs who shoulder new local practice and struggle with sustainability and the will to patronage, while ACCA shoulders less.
Admittedly, recent ARI émigrés and NEW recruits like David Rosetzky and Guy Benfield have been afforded great momentum by their inclusion. Along with artists like Tom Nicholson, Daniel Von Sturmer, Nadine Christensen, Stephen Honegger and Anthony Hunt (NEW04), all of whom cut their teeth on Melbourne’s ARI circuit, at spaces like First Floor, West Space, Penthouse & Pavement and TCBinc.

Kathy Temin by way of example, exhibited at Store 5 – a major stomping ground for many of today’s established artists. Store 5 was a Melbourne artist run space set up in the early 1990s and a Store 5 survey show, concurrent with NEW05, on at the Anna Schwartz Gallery is a piece of timely programming [see p.44-45 Unmagazine for the Store 5 is…review]. This synchronous alignment serves to remind us how integral the ARI system is to the public and private gallery network; Store 5 is… is a historic show no less and a clarion call to the commercial gallery sector for a greater exchange with ARIs at the outset rather than in hindsight.

Events like NEW and the annual Primavera exhibitions at the MCA are invariably struck as transitioning events. Artists are primed, geared and packaged for the departure lounges bound for high consumerism, media spectacle and global celebrity. Curatorial authority is primary, entirely celebrated and dependent on finding the next big thing and launching it to join the art star
alumni and media distribution networks. Set against this commotion, are artist run galleries where new art pulses everyday, alongside the bittersweet reality that the art starlet phenomenon is indeed a very rare creature.

Contemporary art spaces and commercial galleries would do well to ‘mentor’ and forge greater interrelationships with artist run initiatives. Surely outward internationally focused exhibitions are the domain of the lucrative State Art Galleries (perhaps CAOS spaces have lost their way as they endeavour to tap into mainstream resources and outshine the state gallery system).

While the NEW series appear to be a step in the right direction, the question ‘new for whom?’ remains unanswered. Then again, maybe NEW is for the uninitiated. ACCA does indeed attract new audiences: school students, tourists and the spill over from neighbouring blockbuster shows at the National Gallery of Victoria, Federation Square, and the university and commercial gallery precincts.

Perhaps, ACCA’s audiences with curiosity spiked will stretch their legs and their imaginations, and find themselves down some quiet cul de sac in a refurbished warehouse or renovated shop front where they will behold the greater part of the new art event horizon – artist run initiatives. There
again, ACCA may return to programming new local art without the hoopla, retrieve its origins and authenticity and present local conceptual art and installation art as a mainstay rather than an exception.

Stuart Ringholt, Destiny Deacon, Mutlu Çerkez, James Lynch,
Kathy Temin & Mira Gojak


Curated by Max Delany
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
14 March – 15 May 2005
Paul Andrew is a Melbourne-based arts writer and
Artists and Documentary Producer.

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