I’ve been accumulating short notices on Aboriginal art over the past weeks and will share some of these snippets today.
Art on your television: The premiere of Hetti Perkins new three-part documentary Art + Soul is set for October 7 at 8:30 p.m on ABC1. It looks to be a wonderful anthology…quite literally all over the map. As I was watching it a few minutes ago I caught glimpses of Perkins interviewing Yukultji Napangati, Destiny Deacon, John Mawurndjul, Gulumbu Yunupingu, Pedro Wonaemirri, Richard Bell, and Judy Watson among others. All this in addition to the customary incredible scenery rendered by director Warwick Thornton.
Art in America: Back on my side of the ocean, but on the West Coast, a new exhibition of Aboriginal art from the collection of Margaret Levi and Bob Kaplan opens on September 30 at the Washington State University Museum of Art with a reception at 6:00 and a lecture at 7:00 p.m. On October 5 Susan Kennedy Zeller, Associate Curator at the Brooklyn Museum of Art will deliver another lecture. Highlights from the exhibition can be viewed in a brief animation posted on the WSU website.
New online resource: The Dictionary of Australian Artists Online is a wonderful research tool for information on a broad range of Australian artists, and one which provides unusually extensive biographical information about many Aboriginal artists in its pages. I posted a brief introduction to the database almost three years ago and have used it extensively since then.
Just recently an important new project within the DAAO has come online. Storylines: This Side of the Frontier: Indigenous art in settled Australia provides an in-depth exploration of artists whose work you may not see at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards every year. Here is the summary from the Storylines website:
Storylines is the first sustained attempt to explore Indigenous art making outside of ‘remote’ Aboriginal Australia. The research was conducted by DAAO’s Editor-in-Chief Professor Vivien Johnson, Indigenous Research Officer Tess Allas, and research assistant Laura Fisher. It was supported by a three year (2007-9) Australian Research Council Discovery grant supplemented by the College of Fine Arts UNSW. Data collection proceeded on a state-by-state basis over a three year period, starting with NSW, the ACT and parts of Queensland, followed by Victoria and Tasmania, followed by those parts of Western Australia and South Australia which lie south of the so-called ‘Rowley line’ dividing ‘remote’ Indigenous Australians from those who live on this side of the ‘frontier’. Storylines’ findings have implications for Indigenous arts funding policies, but the project’s concerns are primarily cultural and conceptual: the re-positioning of Indigenous artists from ‘settled’ Australia as part of both Indigenous art and Australian contemporary art.
Storylines is a blueprint for what the DAAO platform can achieve in terms of documenting a specific thread of Australian artistic practice. This Report is intended in part to provide future researchers with a guide to how similar projects, documenting other aspects of Australian art practice can be carried out. Tess Allas and Laura Fisher of the Storylines team prepared A Guide to Researching with the DAAO on the methods they used to gather the data, which they hope will be useful to others. We also encourage you to follow the links in this Report to some of the 641 individual biographies published on the DAAO during the lifetime of the project on which these survey results are based, and to trace through them a rich narrative of Indigenous lives.
You can download the report’s narrative, or preview its parts online. Statistical information on the distribution of language, age, place of residence, occupation (other than “artist”), country, and more among these “non-remote” artists provides a fascinating glimpse of what might be called “outsider art” alongside the mainstream of Indigenous art practice.
A Keeping Place no more: The Keeping Place, the collection of hundreds of Aboriginal works of art built by artist Gordon Syron, has been evicted from its home in Sydney’s Eveleigh rail yards this week after months of uncertainty and failed attempts to find a new location for it. On September 10, ABC Stateline NSW ran a fine piece on Syron and his collection, “Indigenous Urban art collection needs a home.” A few works had a short-lived home at an exhibition at the Australian Museum in July and August, but now the entire collection has been put into storage by the Redfern Waterloo Authority. If you’ve never had a chance to see this unique assemblage, have a look at this short documentary.
And finally, footy: If you haven’t had your fill of the #AFL finals, or even if you have, the Australian Museum has the amazing Yiloga! Tiwi Footy photographic exhibition by Peter Eve and Monica Napper on show until November 14. The AM website has a great short video featuring sculptor Edward Malati Yunupingu talking about the relationship between his footy player’s design and traditional pukumani poles. One great little anecdote from the film: in the early days of the game among the Tiwi, before the players had jerseys, they would paint themselves up with jilamara (designs) to distinguish members of the opposing teams!