Feminist Perspectives on Art: Contemporary Outtakes 2017041497, 9781138061781, 9781138061811, 9781315162072

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Feminist Perspectives on Art: Contemporary Outtakes
 2017041497, 9781138061781, 9781138061811, 9781315162072

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of figures
Notes on contributors
Chapter 1: A feminist curator walks into a gallery…
Suffragist legacy
Curating autonomous art platforms
The aesthetics of listening: a two-way track
Rethinking ‘equal opportunity’ politics
Further reading
Chapter 2: The value of maturity
Chapter 3: Women in the cross-cultural studio: Invisible tracks in the Indigenous artist’s archive
Constant gardeners
Artistic waves: the patrilineal line
Go West, young woman
Borderland action
‘…akin to singing or dancing’
Chapter 4: The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak
Introduction: Lynette Riley’s Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak
Appendix Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak: information
Chapter 5: Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality
Retrac(k)ing country and (s)kin: walking the wave hill walk-off track (and other sites of cultural contestation)
Further reading
Chapter 6: The practice of remaining perpetually contingent
Chapter 7: Curating grief
Chapter 8: The intimate monument: Memorialising from a feminist perspective
Feminist anti-monuments: materiality and scale
The proper name
Matrilineage and women’s experience
Memorialising, postmemory and cloth
Further reading
Chapter 9: Florina Prefecture: Women in the shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ 1900–1922 and 2017: A feminist interpretation of Greek-Australian identity as explored in contemporary art
Introduction: looking for something
Macedonia, the fiery furnace of the Balkans
A history of massacres and atrocities: the perpetuation and creation of inherited loss
Survivor memory/refugee memory/migrant memory/my memory
Fitting the memory fragments together: intergenerational diaspora in a child’s psyche
Florina – an Oriental town
Girls in our Town: source photographs and photographers
Gender identification with FLORINA PREFECTURE
Yesterday was just a hundred years ago
Chapter 10: Feeling seeing: Image, sound and touch in the video installations of Angelica Mesiti
Feminist perspectives on vision and sense perception
Getting back into the world
Angelica Mesiti
Chapter 11: Materialising the interval: Relationality as a feminist art practice
Sexual difference, what is it good for?
Irigaray’s interval as a conceptual framework for artmaking
The interval as the object
Relationships between matter and form
Participatory relations
Further reading
Chapter 12: Heave, ho, ha: Disgust, humour and failure in contemporary feminist art
Feeling funny
Discussing disgust
Such sweet vile relief
Feeling failing
Chapter13: Slim evidence of fat fortunes: Towards a gendered history of fat acceptance
Fat and feminism
How fat becomes a weighty art-historical question
Four reasons against received wisdom
The swelling vocabulary of fat in ancient Greece
Fat inside the body and outside the body
Neurotic signs of fat as unstable
Fat as immoral
Fat as charm and joviality
Fat and gender inverted
Fat from seduction to reason
The pictorial virtue of fat in composition

Citation preview


When the body is foregrounded in artwork – as in much contemporary ­performance, sculptural installation and video work – so is gendered and sexualised difference. Feminist Perspectives on Art: Contemporary Outtakes looks to interactions between art history, theory, curation, and studio-based practices to theorise the phenomenological import of this embodied gender difference in contemporary art. The essays in this collection are rooted in a wide variety of disciplines, including art-making, curating, and art history and criticism, with many of the authors combining roles of curator, artist and writer. This interdisciplinary approach enables the book to bridge the theory–practice divide and highlight new perspectives emerging from creative arts research. Fresh insights are offered on feminist aesthetics, women’s embodied experience, curatorial and art historical method, art world equity, and intersectional concerns. It engages with epistemological assertions of ‘how the body feels’, how the land has creative agency in Indigenous art, and how the use of emotional or affective registers may form one’s curatorial method. This anthology represents a significant contribution to a broader resurgence of feminist thought, methodology, and action in contemporary art, particularly in creative practice research. It will be of particular value to students and researchers in art history, visual culture, cultural studies, and gender studies, in addition to museum and gallery professionals specialising in contemporary art. Jacqueline Millner is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at La Trobe University, Australia. She has published extensively on contemporary art, with a focus on Australian and feminist practices. Her books include Conceptual Beauty (2010), the co-authored Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum (2014), and Fashionable Art (2015). Catriona Moore lectures in art history at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her ongoing engagement with modern and contemporary art and feminism dates from her pioneering books Indecent Exposures: Australian Feminist Photography 1970–1990 (1994) and Dissonance: Twenty Years of Australian Feminist Art Writing (1994).

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Edited by Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore

First published 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 selection and editorial matter, Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore; individual chapters, the contributors. The right of Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Names: Millner, Jacqueline, editor. | Moore, Catriona, editor. Title: Feminist perspectives on art: contemporary outtakes / edited by Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore. Description: New York: Routledge, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017041497 | ISBN 9781138061781 (hardback: alk. paper) | ISBN 9781138061811 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781315162072 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Feminism and art. | Art, Modern–21st century–Themes, motives. Classification: LCC N72.F45 F455 2018 | DDC 700/.4522–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017041497 ISBN: 978-1-138-06178-1 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-06181-1 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-16207-2 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Deanta Global Publishing Services, Chennai, India


Figuresvii Contributorsix Acknowledgementsxiv

Introduction Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore


1 A feminist curator walks into a gallery… Jo Holder and Catriona Moore


2 The value of maturity: Anne Ferran, Judith Wright, Lindy Lee Julie Ewington


3 Women in the cross-cultural studio: invisible tracks in the Indigenous artist’s archive Una Rey


4 The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak57 Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder 5 Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality Brenda L. Croft




  6 The practice of remaining perpetually contingent Bianca Hester with Jacqueline Millner


  7 Curating grief Daniel Mudie Cunningham


  8 The intimate monument: memorialising from a feminist perspective Sylvia Griffin   9 Florina prefecture: women in the shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ 1900–1922 and 2017: a feminist interpretation of Greek-Australian identity as explored in contemporary art Elizabeth Gertsakis 10 Feeling seeing: image, sound and touch in the video installations of Angelica Mesiti Jacqueline Millner 11 Materialising the interval: relationality as a feminist art practice Caroline Phillips



133 144

12 Heave, ho, ha: disgust, humour and failure in contemporary feminist art Jane Polkinghorne


13 Slim evidence of fat fortunes: towards a gendered history of fat acceptance Robert Nelson




1.1 Alex Martinis Roe, It was about opening the very notion of a particular political perspective 17 1.2 Alex Martinis Roe, It was about opening the very notion of a particular perspective, film still of a ‘Bread and Dripping’ production still 18 2.1 Anne Ferran, ‘Slender-Throated Warbler’, from Box of Birds27 2.2  Lindy Lee, Life of Stars30 3.1  Tjitjiti. Carlene West and Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s  Big Yam Dreaming/Anwerlarr anganenty. Installation, Who’s Afraid of Colour?41 3.2 Edwina Circuitt and Peter Lewis working at Warakurna Artists studio, Western Australia 48 4.1 Lynette Riley, Cloak for Pearl Gambanyi Gibbs59 4.2 Lynette Riley, Working with the life and work of Pearl ‘Gambanyi’ Gibbs66 5.1 Brenda L. Croft, Self-portrait on country,Wave Hill, 201470 5.2 Brenda L. Croft, Installation view of dilly bags, n.d., at UNSW Galleries 71 6.1 Bianca Hester, fashioning discontinuities, exhibited within ‘You imagine what you desire’, curated by Juliana Engberg, 19th Biennale of Sydney 84 6.2 Bianca Hester, fashioning discontinuities, exhibited within ‘You imagine what you desire’, curated by Juliana Engberg, 19th Biennale of Sydney 88

viii Figures

  7.1 Installation detail from Katthy Cavaliere: Loved at Museum of Old and New Art. Cavaliere’s brown paper is pictured in the foreground 99   7.2 Installation detail of story of a girl as it was presented in Katthy Cavaliere: Loved at Carriageworks 102   8.1 Sylvia Griffin, Photograph of The Memorial for Jewish Martyrs, Budapest108   8.2 Sylvia Griffin, Hand in Hand112   9.1 Elizabeth Gertsakis, Noli me tangere123   9.2 Elizabeth Gertsakis, Their eyes will tell you, everything and nothing128 10.1 Angelica Mesiti, Citizens Band (still) 138 10.2 Angelica Mesiti, Relay League (still) 140 11.1 Caroline Phillips, Density147 11.2 Caroline Phillips, Social Sphere (left) and Mirror, Mirror (right)  150 12.1 The Twilight Girls, The Twilight Girl161 12.2 Jane Polkinghorne, Foam Rainbow,Version 3 167 13.1 Jodie Whalen, Positive/Negative. Positive/Negative174 13.2 Jodie Whalen, When the Going Gets Tough176


Brenda L. Croft is from the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra peoples from the

Victoria River region of the Northern Territory of Australia, and Anglo-Australian/ German/Irish/Chinese heritage. She has been involved in the Indigenous and broader contemporary arts and cultural sectors for three decades as an artist, arts administrator, curator, academic and consultant. Croft’s artistic practice encompasses critical performative Indigenous auto-ethnography, representation and cultural identity, creative narratives, installation, multi-media and multi-platform work, often drawn from personal and public archives and memory. Croft is currently an Adjunct Research Fellow with the National Institute for Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales Art and Design, where she has been undertaking doctoral research.  Julie Ewington is an independent writer, curator and broadcaster living and working in Sydney. Between 1997 and 2014 she was Head of Australian Art at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, overseeing art from colonial settlement to the present, and she was a member of the curatorial team for the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art between 1996 and 2012. Since 2014 Ewington has undertaken various projects, including essays for catalogues and journals, and reviewing exhibitions in Australia and internationally, including for The Monthly, eyeline and Artforum. For the Australian summer of 2016–17, she curated a retrospective of work for the late sculptor Bronwyn Oliver for TarraWarra Museum of Art.  Elizabeth Gertsakis was born in Florina, Greece. She has a degree in Fine Art and English Literature from Melbourne University and studied for a Master’s Degree in Comparative Critical Theory from Monash University. She was senior curator of the Australia Post National Design Collection from 1995 to 2010 and is currently a doctoral student in the School of Historical Studies and Philosophy, University



of Melbourne. Her subject interrogates the uses of photography in the Southern Balkans and Northern Greece from 1903 and 1916. In 2014, she was invited to lecture on Balkan photography at the British Museum conference Photography and Anthropology (Royal Anthropological Society), and for the City of Sharjah Museum (United Arab Emirates) conference and exhibition The Other and Me. Gertsakis has published critical essays and contributions to anthologies in Australian art history and cultural studies and has exhibited as an artist since 1986. She is represented as an artist by William Mora Galleries; her freelance curatorial exhibitions include The Millionth Migrant, Immigration Museum, Melbourne Museum, Powerhouse Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences; Police News – The Banner of Truth at the State Library of Victoria, 2007, in Melbourne; John Wren 1871–1953 – Glory Glory Glory Champions at Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, Federation Square, 2006–7 and Picture this City, Walter Burley Griffin Incinerator Arts Complex, City of Moonee Valley, 2012. Sylvia Griffin is a cross-disciplinary Sydney-based artist. Her practice and writing

considers artistic means of expressing grief and mourning as an alternative to the traditional monument or memorial. In arguing for contemporary art’s capacity to address issues that cannot otherwise be adequately represented, Griffin is interested in the feminist aspects of memorialising, including personal aspects of mourning such as the use of familial objects. Griffin was recently awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, with a thesis entitled Inscribing Memory: Art and the Place of Personal Expressions of Grief in Memorial Culture. She has exhibited in national and international exhibitions, prizes and projects and has won several awards and scholarships. Bianca Hester recently completed a three-year post-doctoral research fellowship

at the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Before that, she taught in the department of Sculpture and Spatial Practice at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, between 2005 and 2012. She completed a PhD by project in sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in 2007. She was a founding member of CLUBSproject inc (2002–2007), a member of Open Spatial Workshop (OSW) with Terri Bird and Scott Mitchell (2003– ongoing). Recent projects include: sonic objects, solar objects: variously, The Cinema’s Project, 2014; fashioning discontinuities, 19th Biennale of Sydney, 2014; only from the perspective of a viewer situated upon the surface of the earth does day and night occur, commissioned by The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, and The Common Guild in Glasgow as a part of the Glasgow International Festival for Visual Arts, 2012; a world fully accessible by no living being at Federation Square, The Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture, 2011; please leave these windows open overnight to enable the fans to draw in cool air during the early hours of the morning at ACCA, 2010; these circumstances: temporarily generating forms, improvising encounters at Sarah Scout Presents, 2011; only from the perspective of a viewer situated upon the surface of the earth does day and night occur at The Narrows, 2009; The West Brunswick


Sculpture Triennial (with the OSW 2009); fashioning discontinuities at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2009; and projectprojects at The Showroom in London, 2008. The book, entitled accommodating spaces, materials, projects, people, videos, actions, objects, thoughts: relatively, was commissioned by The Narrows in 2009. She is represented by Sarah Scout Gallery, Melbourne. Jo Holder is a curator and writer who works with contemporary artists, scholars and activists both inside and outside gallery contexts, in communities and in public spaces. She is director of The Cross Art Projects in Sydney. She is coconvenor of the independent research cluster Contemporary Art and Feminism (with Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore) and produced the year-long Future Feminist Archive (2015–16). Her curatorial projects often engage with equity and justice issues such as Elastics: DarwinSydneyDili, Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin, 2014; and Green Bans Art Walk Performance Space Walks series, Sydney, 2011. She has held professional roles in the arts since 1984: as director of SH Ervin Gallery, National Trust, Sydney (1997–1999), co-director, Mori Gallery, Sydney (1984–92) and teaching and writing on the visual arts. A former Australian Financial Review art critic, she has published numerous essays and articles and edited many visual arts publications. She was co-editor with Joan Kerr of Past Present: An Anthology on the National Women’s Art Project (1997) and Joan Kerr, A Singular Voice: Essays on Australian Architecture (2009). For the twentieth anniversary of International Women’s Year, she coordinated the National Women’s Art Exhibition comprising simultaneous exhibitions in over 150 galleries, museums and libraries (1995). She is co-author of Human Scale in Architecture: George Molnar’s Sydney (2003). Jacqueline Millner completed studies in law, political science and visual arts before

consolidating a career as an arts writer and academic specialising in the history and theory of contemporary art. She is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at La Trobe University, Australia, having previously been Associate Professor of Art History and Theory at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. She has published widely on contemporary Australian and international art in key anthologies, journals and catalogues of national and international institutions. Her books include Conceptual Beauty: Perspectives on Australian Contemporary Art (2010), Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum (with Jennifer Barrett, 2014) and Fashionable Art (with Adam Geczy, 2015). She co-convenes the research cluster, Contemporary Art and Feminism, at the University of Sydney and is currently writing a book on Contemporary Art and Feminism with Catriona Moore. Catriona Moore is Senior Lecturer in Art History and Film Studies at the

University of Sydney. She has published widely on feminist art and activism, and more broadly on modern and contemporary women artists.  Her research and writing has opened up cross-cultural connections between women artists and explored the visual expression of cultural diversity in modern and contemporary Australian art, within a comparative international framework. She is the author and editor of



books central to the development of the feminist history of Australian art, including Indecent Exposures: Twenty Years of Australian Feminist Photography (1991) and Dissonance: Feminism and the arts 1970–1990 (1991). Daniel Mudie Cunningham is the Assistant Director and Head Curator at Artbank

and Editor of Sturgeon. Since the early 1990s, Daniel has been productive as an exhibition and collection curator, arts writer and cultural critic, and artist working primarily in performance and video. Previously he has held positions at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and University of Western Sydney, where he completed his doctorate on ‘white trash cinema’ in 2004. He has curated exhibitions at Artbank, Museum of Old and New Art, Carriageworks, Gertrude Contemporary, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Blacktown Arts Centre, Performance Space, Plimsoll Gallery, Firstdraft Gallery, Alaska Projects and MOP Projects. His art practice has been widely exhibited and is held in the collections of Museum of Old and New Art, Macquarie University, Campbelltown Arts Centre and DLUX Media Arts. His most recent publication is a monograph on the life and work of the late Katthy Cavaliere (2016). Robert Nelson is Associate Director Student Learning Experience at Monash

University.  His training was in the history and theory of art and architecture, which he has taught for over 25 years.  Making use of philological methods, Robert’s research connects the aesthetic and the moral in art and architecture and education.  He has a special interest in the way language reveals intuitions about space, movement and image. Robert’s books include Instruments of Contentment: Furniture and Poetic Sustainability (2014), The Space Wasters:The Architecture of Australian Misanthropy (2011), The Visual Language of Painting (2010), The Jealousy of Ideas: Research Methods in the Visual Arts (2009) and The Spirit of Secular Art: A History of the Sacramental Roots of Contemporary Artistic Values (2007). He is the author of 1,000 newspaper reviews as art critic for The Age. Caroline Phillips is a Melbourne-based visual artist.Working primarily in sculpture,

her materially charged works have been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the George Paton Gallery, Melbourne; First Draft Gallery, Sydney; the Cité International des Arts, Paris; Slade School of Art, London; and Ontario College of Art and Design Great Hall,Toronto. Phillips has been awarded a number of grants and residencies including NAVA Australian Artists’ Grant, City of Melbourne Arts Project Grant, Arts Victoria VicArts Grant, Australian Tapestry Workshop Artist in Residence and the Art Gallery of New South Wales Moya Dyring Paris Residency. Phillips also works as an independent curator and her most recent projects include The f Word: Contemporary Feminist Art in Australia and f generation: feminism, art, progressions. Her recent PhD Materialising Feminism: Object and Interval, undertaken at Victorian College of the Arts, examined contemporary feminist sculpture. Jane Polkinghorne is a Sydney-based artist with a practice of over twenty years’ standing across a range of mediums, including film/video, photography and


sculpture. Her work is a critical and humorous examination of the pathos and horror around representations of the gendered body. She has recently completed a PhD at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, investigating humour and disgust in contemporary art. She has exhibited in Australia and internationally since the 1990s, including in Los Angeles and New York. Una Rey is an artist and independent curator who managed remote community art centres in Central Australia and the Tiwi Islands between 1997–2002. She has taught Art History at The University of Newcastle since 2008 and is currently curating Black White & Restive for Newcastle Art Gallery. Her writing on Indigenous artists, collaborations and art criticism has been published widely in books, catalogues journals and magazines. Lynette Riley is a Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi artist who works with the traditional

medium of Kangaroo and Possum Skin Cloaks. Riley has 40 years’ experience innovating Aboriginal primary, secondary and tertiary education. Since 2006 Riley has been a senior academic at the University of Sydney in the Koori Centre, the National Centre for Cultural Competence, and now the Sydney School of Education and Social Work, where she has established the innovative online Kinship module and associated Indigenous Studies courses. Riley has written extensively on Indigenous education and culture, and has been instrumental in establishing an Aboriginal presence in universities through her teaching, advocacy and student support programmes. Her career in tertiary education began in 1986 (through to 1992) as a research fellow at the University of New England, where she founded the Aboriginal Student Support Centre at the University, the Oorala Centre and established the Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture series focusing on Aboriginal issues. She was Acting Director of Aboriginal Education and Training NSW Department of Education and Training in 2002–2005.


We would first and foremost like to thank all the writers and artists who have made this anthology possible – thank you for your generosity, creativity, insight and commitment. Many of our contributors belong to the Contemporary Art and Feminism (CAF) community, whose members across Australia and internationally have shared ideas, passion, writings, artworks, time and enthusiasm over the past three years, creating the context – and at times even the content – for many of the essays here. CAF is a research cluster based across visual arts and art history at the University of Sydney that we founded in 2013 and that has been the hub of feminist art and art history events including exhibitions, conferences, publications and symposia. In particular, we owe thanks to fellow founding CAF member Jo Holder, Director of Cross Art Projects, for her erudition, vision and championing of feminist curating and Indigenous art and artists.Thanks also to CAF research assistants Jane Polkinghorne and Elizabeth Pulie. CAF has been generously supported in its activities, including the research and writing of this publication, by the Faculty of Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. We are thankful to Routledge and in particular to Gender Studies editor Alexandra McGregor and editorial assistant Kitty Imbert for their enthusiasm for the project and their timely (and patient!) support throughout. Finally, thanks to personal friends, colleagues and family who have provided the emotional and practical sustenance integral to any academic writing! Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore August 2017

INTRODUCTION Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore

From afar, feminist cultural politics looks like a patchwork of spot fires. For some time now, much of our thinking about gender and sexual differences has taken its lead from forceful artworks generated in our beleaguered art schools, through opportunist art exhibitions, and discussed during ‘off-campus’ pedagogic events and in online academic journals. Does that mean that we have to follow countless tracks through this diffuse field of creative practice in order to take stock of feminist cultural thought? The answer is surprisingly simple: it’s more a joy than a chore! These seemingly fragmented spaces of analysis, affect and action nonetheless braid together strands of academic, art and activist thinking in ways that feel quite different to the more compartmentalised frameworks of academic cultural theory and studio practice that had dominated feminist cultural politics from the later 1970s. Back then, more institutionalised areas of feminist cultural action became a counter-balancing force with the diffusion of Women’s Liberation as an organised mass movement in many Western regions. Today, however, academic art’s feminism is feeling the increasing pressures imposed by conservative university and museum priorities. Not that this is entirely new, for we have always had to gouge out cramped spaces for creative feminist practice within shifting and usually adversarial institutional contexts. Over the decades we have become used to being told: the time is never ripe, audiences will be turned off by the F-word, and there is never enough room in the budget for ‘side issue’ feminist projects. No. While some overarching structures will always resist change, what characterises current feminist work in the visual arts is how theoretical and ethical issues are aired with gusto through the speculative forms of associative thinking that were first facilitated in the poetic laboratories of studio and street politics. Feminist Perspectives on Art: Contemporary Outtakes (‘Outtakes’) looks to both the studio and to art history to theorise the phenomenological import of embodied

2  Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore

gender difference – for when the body is foregrounded, as in much contemporary performance, sculptural installation and video work, so is gendered and sexualised difference. While both studio and seminar are equally alert to essentialising assumptions, contemporary feminist epistemological assertions of ‘how the body feels’, or how the land itself has creative agency in Indigenous art, or how the use of emotional or affective registers may form one’s curatorial method, are valued for their analytic purchase. This synergy between art history, theory and practical investigation remains one of feminism’s important and hard-won lessons. It seems self-evident now to assert that studio research gives substance to and tests the corporeal limits of theorisations of gendered embodiment and sexual difference, even if at certain points in recent feminist histories studio work tipped into illustrations of theories of sexual difference that were formulated elsewhere (on the post-Freudian couch, in the academic seminar). However, we tend to lose sight of the theoretical contribution of studio-based art research. Outtakes reformulates those speculative interactions between art historical, theoretical, curatorial and studio-based practices that characterise feminist interdisciplinarity and that continue to resonate in contemporary art. The essays here emerge from, and continue to, renovate this field of creative feminist thought, methodology and action, offering fresh insights on feminist aesthetics, women’s embodied experience, curatorial and art historical method, art world equity and intersectional concerns. The anthology is partly indebted to the activities initiated by Contemporary Art and Feminism (CAF), a research platform we founded in 2013 across schools of visual arts and art history at the University of Sydney, Australia, together with Jo Holder, director of the independent art space Cross Art Projects in central Sydney. We established CAF in response to what we perceived as a massive groundswell in engagement and curiosity about feminism’s role in the development of contemporary art and its current relevance to art-making and analysis. We hoped CAF would become a major point of coalescence for this groundswell, ‘an ever-evolving and multifaceted project’ that would facilitate collaboration and communication and produce all manner of feminist-inspired art-related knowledge – exhibitions, online archives, publications, conferences and symposia – but also create a community of thinkers and makers.The platform’s opening gambit was an open call to ‘all artists, writers, students and creative thinkers who have an interest in or a passion for feminism to come together’ in hopes of attracting ‘participants and contributors from around Australia and internationally who articulate the most dynamic and current interpretations of the links between contemporary art and feminism’. And indeed, since its inception CAF has done just that, acting as a framework for generating new feminist art and art discourse from a large and diverse community, focusing on practices including pedagogy, curating, archive creation and retrieval, material working and art historical reframing, always prioritising indigenous, trans-disciplinary, intergenerational, and regional dialogues.1 Outtakes reflects the approach and captures the energy of the CAF community and its collective pleasure at being able to share perspectives on art while unreservedly reclaiming the F-word. The authors bring a variety of disciplinary

Introduction  3

backgrounds to consider contemporary art, including art-making, curating, and art history and criticism, and many of them combine the roles of curator, artist and writer. This enables the collection to bridge the theory–practice divide and highlight the new perspectives emerging from creative arts research. It forms part of a broader resurgence of feminist scholarship in contemporary art, and in particular in creative practice research, as evidenced in exhibitions, special issue journals, conference panels and postgraduate degree topics. The anthology also facilitates intergenerational dialogue, so vital to maintaining the rigour of contemporary feminist scholarship and practice. It combines the latest research from emerging scholars with the views of long-standing feminist academics and curators. Much contemporary feminist art wears this art ‘herstorical’ homage on its sleeve, in the fabrication of the works themselves.2 Feminism has laid a rich cultural trail, and contemporary artworks tell those stories as a working studio archive. Artists, writers and curators now honour this recognisable, though plural, vocabulary of material forms and processes that articulates dialogic relations between past and present. Feminist art history has become a generative, studio shorthand and rhetorical ploy that is used to fabricate complex and reflexive ‘feminist footnotes’ at the heart of contemporary work. Often critical, sometimes humorous, these ‘herstorical’ homages in contemporary feminist art also demand the institutional recognition of feminist legacies. As the pioneering slogan warned us, women artists had been ‘hidden from history’, and we all have stories of women’s work being under-exhibited, sidelined by the art critics, or simply not collected: sure-fire pathways to art historical disappearance. Art practice and art history – central sites of feminist intervention in the last five decades – come together in current artworks that ply archival activism and institutional critique into their aesthetic fabric. Canny collecting institutions take note: today feminist art offers ‘more for the price of one’, for many artworks now entering private or public collections carry within them the echoes of earlier projects that were ahead of their (institutional) time, and which are now possibly lost, given away to friends, or left gathering mould under the proverbial mattress. Feminist and Indigenous curatorial strategies also periodically revisit the inclusive strategies, institutional critique, iconoclastic displays and/or community base of pioneering exhibitions.3 These ‘more for the price of one’ curatorial events prompt the art institution to reflect upon its own historical blind spots, and to become more porous, flexible and attentive to both artists and audiences. Intergenerational honouring in this collection puts paid to easy ‘decadeism’ as an analytic default that is so often demanded by the structuring logic (and market pressures) that helps drive the academic publishing industry, the curatorial machine and art school curriculum reviews. While terms such as ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’ wave feminism are handy historical catchphrases, they court simplistic (or even negative) misuse, misrepresenting important ideological differences within feminism or competing tendencies within Women’s Liberation as a social movement as ‘stages and phases’ in a reductive, developmental model. For instance, misreading the creative and materialist analyses associated with ‘new materialism’ in the visual

4  Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore

arts and academic feminism could mistakenly occlude earlier materialist projects and their particular legacies in contemporary practice. This is weak art history. We should be sceptical of any too-easy recourse to claims that ‘70s’ or ‘80s’ feminism – supposedly informed by ‘the textual turn’ – eschewed a materialist approach or nuanced notions of ‘women’s time’. ‘New materialist’ principles of process, interdisciplinarity, and the ‘animacy’ of matter are really not so new, but subtend a great deal of historical feminist theory as well as studio practices. Much current feminist art implicitly acknowledges those ‘early’ (that is, not so ‘new’) materialist, ‘memory cycle’ ventures that sought to unravel the personal–political implications of women’s lives through unconventional art materials embedded in women’s social and cultural spaces. As well as questioning the categorisation of complex histories into decades and new materialism’s claims to novelty, this anthology also sounds a note of caution around categorisation of practices as ‘intersectional’, a relatively recent concept and political guide in academic Euro-American feminism. Indigenous women live their intersectionality every day, everywhere – even before the term was coined in the 1990s and garnered political currency in the time since – their feminism always enacted through the decolonising lens of race, cultural difference, language, class, geography, and sexuality. Unwittingly, the use of the term ‘intersectional’ can combine with a reductive decadeism to blind us both to the complex ways in which generations of feminists have framed their experience in terms not only of gender but also race, class, ethnicity and sexuality, and to the everyday realities of much of the world’s women. Early slogans from Women’s Liberation – ‘sexism = racism with roses’, and the gendered derivation of ‘chauvinism’ from its derogatory usage during the Vietnam war – evidence how feminism acknowledged the inspiration it drew from civil rights and anti-colonial movements, in Australia as much as in the US. A quick review of Women’s Liberation journals dating from the 1970s on – particularly the socialist– feminist Australian presses – reveals strong, respectful engagement with, and a sense of solidarity with, Indigenous, migrant, working-class women. This historical picture is more complicated when it comes to the organised Women’s Art Movements, where membership largely reflected the white, predominantly middle-class origins of the typical art school and university student. However, the feminist ‘studio’ has always included spaces such as suburban malls and quilting collectives, the preserve of women from diverse socio-economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Feminist artists were central in shaping the multicultural community arts sector: a vibrant yet institutionally ghettoised, intersectional space contoured by socialist–feminist ideologies in suburban, industrial and trade union contexts. In this period, many feminist artists also went to work and learn in regional and remote Indigenous communities (as discussed by Una Rey in this volume).These nuanced models of practice can be obscured with an insistence on contemporary ‘intersectional feminism’, which in the contemporary art world often looks to have more to do with global (that is, first) world institutional realities than women’s lived experiences. Prevailing strands of contemporary practice including performance, participatory art and video foreground an embodied subjectivity, moving feminist analysis

Introduction  5

away from ‘the politics of representation’ – linguistically based theorisations of gender, race and sexual difference – to participating in or inhabiting those spaces of self-(mis)recognition, in all their sensate pleasures. Such practice includes performative exploration of hitherto unfashionable analytic categories such as emotion or sensation, where the body – usually fragmented, partial, blemished – feels. The re-valorisation of a creative, personalist politics reframes human experience as a treasure trove of stuff known only privately, through taste and smell as much as sight and hearing. Or it might take the form of bold gallows humour brought to bear on hitherto taboo areas. Some of these were first whispered in 1970s studiobased, conscious-raising groupings and through work on central core and abject feminine imagery, subsequently fed queer and punk aesthetics, and today are folded back into carnivalesque forms. Four to five decades on, the feel of the body still lies at odds with fetishised feminine representations – a form of the return of the Real.4 These forms of creative, corporeal play are energising and transgressive. The artist’s body-as-studio experienced in its inescapable, hilarious awkwardness might point towards something like freedom and creative chaos. Here, feeling is integral to cognition, to the apprehension of social power hierarchies, and to how we might undermine the current ways of the world. Moreover, embodied subjectivity necessarily implies other bodies in their specific materiality. That subjectivity is relational is now a commonplace, but it has long underpinned feminism, with its explorations of collective making and new forms of organisation and institutional critique that place care at the centre. … Outtakes begins with an overview of feminist curating’s own herstories. Catriona Moore and Jo Holder indicate a century-long, interconnected trail of feminist and Indigenous curatorial strategies based on ideas of inclusivity, collectivity and social (‘the personal is political’) engagement. Exhibitions today reference the history of these challenges, prompting the contemporary art institution to redress lingering inequities and to reconsider foundational ideas of cultural betterment, operational issues of autonomy, transparency and myths of individual curatorial vision. Julie Ewington underlines the argument about the pressing need to preserve the feminist archive by focusing on recent exhibitions by three mature female artists with a significant artistic legacy, which she argues deserve much greater praise in retrospect than they garnered when first shown – a neglect that is attributable in part to a combination of their age and gender. Feminist curatorial strategies exist within a network of communicative actions across diverse groups and audiences, where alliances are built through the shared community base of grassroots and community-based movements facing down growing right-wing populism and the waning of liberal democracies. Given in Australia the Indigenous struggle for civil and land rights is as paramount as it is also gendered, increasingly important have been intersectional feminist collaborations that have helped to shape the force of Aboriginal art. One aspect of this which has

6  Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore

been little studied to date is the effect that having predominantly female directors of Indigenous arts centres working with predominantly female artists practising from such centres may have had on the development of Indigenous contemporary art: this is the focus of Una Rey’s contribution here. The historical and ongoing brutality of racial and cultural asymmetry in countries like Australia requires more than academic recognition of white feminist privilege and the fact that Indigenous women are doubly oppressed: it requires strategies for cultural and community resilience and remembrance informed by the experience of women. Here, Lynette Riley recounts her revival of the traditional Wiradjuri art of kangaroo skin cloaks to memorialise the pioneering Aboriginal feminist activist Pearl ‘Gambanyi’ Gibbs and to celebrate the ongoing resilience of her current community. As eloquent power objects, the cloaks electrified the federal parliamentary chamber when ceremonially worn to introduce Australia’s first Indigenous woman MP Linda Burney in 2016. Riley also reminds us how feminist intersectional practices require practical yet fundamental cultural acknowledgements and protocols when undertaking research in Aboriginal communities, even when your collaborators are your own family and community members. Brenda L. Croft elaborates on the complexities and pleasures of respectful community research protocol in relation to her fractured Gurindji/ Malngin/Mudpurra/Bilinara cultural heritage, as a member of the dispossessed, second-generation Stolen Generations. As in her earlier art projects, Croft’s transgenerational ‘homecoming’ to Gurindji lands in the Northern Territory investigates the personal–political complexities of Indigenous and feminist self-portraiture.5 Feminist methods and principles have also played a major role in the development of new forms of collective and political engagement crafted by artists of social practice, many of whom are actively engaged in grassroots campaigns and continue to creatively forge links between art and broader questions of state and institutional power. In this volume, Australian artist Bianca Hester narrates her experience as one of the artists who threatened to boycott the 19th Sydney Biennale in 2014 on the grounds that one of the event’s signature sponsors had financial interests in the company operating the Australian government’s draconian offshore detention centres for asylum seekers. Hester contextualises this specific action within a practice that foregrounds an ‘ethics of care’, an approach with roots in earlier forms of feminist association ‘that overflow the patriarchal tendencies for individualisation, competition and performance.’6 Hester explains that her commitment to her practice remains open and ‘radically contingent’, holding and confronting spaces of difficulty, and as such is grounded in a feminist ethics. Hester’s ‘ethics of care’ affirms personal feelings and emotional investment as integral to politics. Until recently, however, feminist assertions of ‘how the body feels’ as a form of analysis, or using one’s emotional or affective register as a priori or pre-discursive elements in formulating critical perspectives, were ruled out by post-structuralist academic cultural theory alert to essentialising discourse or overly individualist positions.7 In contrast, feminist-inspired studio practices have always insisted upon the generative and discursive force of somatic or emotional registers, and the analytic force of such personal–political figuration has slowly regained

Introduction  7

theoretical and art historical acceptance. Ethics of care can also inform attempts to re-conceive the curating process as a labour of love, the subject of Daniel Mudie Cunningham’s chapter. In a moving description of his personal experience of ‘curating grief ’, Cunningham underlines how feminist sensitivities and insights helped craft a uniquely self-reflexive curatorial response. An emphasis on the personal intersects with a feminist focus on women’s material culture in a number of the essays here by artists who engage with history. Bringing an artist’s sensibility to material culture – one that honours but also transforms eloquent objects that have been handed down, handled and revalorised through usage – allows for more embodied, complex ways to remember and memorialise. Elizabeth Gertsakis finds her path back through the remarkably rich archive of postcards from her Macedonian birthplace, retracing traumatic family histories in the former Ottoman Empire while practising a feminist critique of Orientalism and historical memory. Sylvia Griffin reconnects to the symbolic power of her mother’s monogrammed dowry linen, a material token of life in Hungary before the Holocaust. In a related manner to the Indigenous art projects discussed in Outtakes, these artistic projects are materially rich forms of intergenerational honouring and cultural reclamation. They continue the investigation of ‘women’s time’ first explored in inclusive, process-driven, often community-based ‘memory cycle’ projects of the 1970s and 1980s (as noted in Moore and Holder’s opening chapter). This has been the stuff of feminist art historical and studio-based investigations for many decades, and has changed the face of art history from narrowly conceived connoisseurial models and a modernist telos, to current anti-canonical investigations that shake foundational assumptions of genre, media and authorial hierarchies and their relation to aesthetic value. These studio theorisations are more numerous today, and we look to performance, video, sculptural and sound installations to grasp the phenomenological import of embodied gender difference – as we said, when the body is foregrounded, so is gendered and sexualised difference. Jacqueline Millner focuses on Australian artist Angelica Mesiti, whose work attempts to disarticulate the process of meaning-making through vision. Millner argues that Mesiti’s video installations/performances do not simply invert the pyramid of the senses, but diversify vision, exploring different relationships between sight, sound and touch to de-habitualise, critically enhance and develop a consciously embodied seeing. Caroline Phillips’ artworks explore the interval of sexual difference as a generative space and place of relations, seeking to make feminist art in ways other than based on identity and subjectivity. In her intensely crafted sculptures, Phillips evokes how identities and things are connected, and asks what might be revealed by thinking through relations as an interactive, material framework. Jane Polkinghorne takes a very different approach to the politics of embodiment, arguing for the generative potential of disgust in contemporary art – as distinct from the abject art of the 1990s. Hitching disgust to tropes of humour and failure, Polkinghorne creates artworks where experiences of bodily ambivalence, shame and discomfort transform into possibilities for critical pleasure and a radical feminist, ethical–aesthetic framework.

8  Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore

Also taking feminist understandings of disgust and humour as points of departure, Robert Nelson excavates the literary and art historical roots of fat, to reposition its contemporary politics, reminding us of the rich pickings for feminist art histories which take politically grounded and unconventional prisms through which to view canonical artworks. Here, Nelson’s feminist focus on fat allows him to convincingly argue that the more inclusive Renaissance and Baroque bodies should not be ideologically dismissed as signifiers of wealth and prosperity, as they were much more likely born of a humorous or endearing lack of restraint. Outtakes is likewise inclusive and ample in its methodology insofar as we aim to capture a sense of burgeoning feminist art, art historical and curatorial research that today does not restrict itself to work by female artists or that written by female theorists, but is informed by the generative framework of feminist analysis and observes the inclusive ethics of feminist method.

Notes 1 CAF events have included: ‘Transgressive Teaching’, a day-long conference in 2014; Curating Feminism, a major exhibition, conference, keynotes and workshops in 2014; the Future Feminist Archive exhibitions, conference and regional workshops in 2015; the Femflix touring exhibition in 2016; web resources including on the CAF website and Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney website; a special feminist issue of the national art history journal Australia and New Zealand Journal of Art; national conference panels and papers including for the Australia and New Zealand Art Association; a conference presentation at World Congress of Art History, Beijing; as well as this volume. 2 As evidenced in work exhibited at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art survey show Contemporary Art: Women, curated by contributor Julie Ewington in 2012, discussed here in the chapter by Jo Holder and Catriona Moore. 3 Australian instances include the magisterial 1995 National Exhibition of Women’s Art, which paid homage to the ambitious 1907 Exhibition of Women’s Work; and the Feminist Revival Arts Network (FRAN) events through September 2017 to mark the pioneering South Australian Women’s Art Movement-organised Women’s Art Show of 1977. These curatorial homages are discussed here in the chapter by Catriona Moore and Jo Holder. 4 Hal Foster, The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996, p. 159. 5 It is significant that this year, Australia’s most lucrative art prize, the Archibald Prize for portraiture, included an Indigenous self-portrait by esteemed senior artist Ken Tjunkara from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) region of South Australia. At issue was the fact that she paints in a style usually associated with landscape topographical and cosmological renditions of country. The painting’s inclusion sparked much public debate as to what constitutes a self-portrait ‘from life’. As the artist noted of her work, ‘My painting is a self-portrait through Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa, the Seven Sisters dreaming – a self-portrait of my country. For Anangu, they are one and the same’. See Archibald Prize 2017, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/prizes/archibald/2017/29841/. 6 Bianca Hester in this volume, ‘The practice of remaining perpetually contingent’. 7 A stance characterised, for instance, by essays from the mid- to late 1970s associated with the British feminist journal m/f.


Introduction A feminist curator walks into a gallery… and takes a bite.While women artists have always wanted a piece of the proverbial ‘poisonous pie’, as art writer Lucy Lippard once famously taunted,1 feminist interventions aim to structurally and conceptually transform the art institution and engage other social spaces. Outtakes from the history of feminist curating thus reveal much more than equal opportunity strategies seeking to ‘redress the balance’ through all-woman shows and sporadic affirmative actions; although in some cases, demands for equity have made the power structures of contemporary art more porous, as U.S. curator Maura Reilly asserts, ‘Curatorial activism is the practice of organizing art exhibitions with the principal aim of ensuring that large constituencies of people are no longer ghettoized or excluded from the master narratives of art.’2 For over a century, feminists have curated alternative paradigms for creative social action. We see the partial legacy of this venture in today’s experiments with forms of art and sociality that come under the rubric of ‘social practice’, whilst feminist exercises in cooperative consciousness3 spearheaded current art curating as a testing ground for social actions and critical collaborations, both in and outside of art institutions.4 History suggests that Reilly’s counter-hegemonic perspectives are best fostered through feminist curatorial methods of collaboration, negotiation and research. Our examples are often artist-initiated and collectively organised enterprises, where women gain agency through mechanisms such as oral history or history from below. Contingent and local elements air the white cube and decentralise the curatorial process, often blurring the lines between contemporary art making and curating as exhibition production. Post-colonial yet racially asymmetric regions5 like Australia also benefit from the strategic links First Nations curators make between art practice, care for country,

10  Jo Holder and Catriona Moore

law, individual and community wellbeing. Indigenous curators relay ‘personal is political’ connections in a way that resonates with feminist tenets, through exhibitions that embed individual and community arts into broader political and economic structures.This chapter traces important points of influence and intersection between feminist and Indigenous curatorial methods. All these actions challenge lingering inequities in our institutional programmes and power structures.6 Must cutting-edge projects still simply bypass metropolitan ‘flagship’ art institutions, or are smart curators re-tooling the cultural power of the museum in innovative, political ways? Does the myth of ‘individual curatorial vision’ still narrow the institutional imagination? Will our festivalised, experiential art economy nudge galleries towards genuine and equitable social inclusion? That said, we welcome galleries’ increased visitor sensitivity, and note that they have opened their doors to more varied public programming, research workshops, ‘craftivism’ and audience engagement ephemera. However, more creative structural reforms, affirmative action policies and equitable curatorial funding beyond the urban mainstream would ensure that generative, intersectional forces are not ­co-opted or rebranded into banality.

Suffragist legacy Contemporary feminist practice gains strength through knowledge of our curatorial history. We learn from significant exhibitions that have positively addressed the performance of gendered identities (that of ‘woman artist’, for instance). In Australia, progressive critics cheered the game-changing possibilities of the 1907 Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work for linking creative expression with hard-won changes brought by campaigns for women’s employment, education, health and suffrage. The cultural journal The Lone Hand trumpeted that this was more than a show; it is of national significance, proclaiming loudly Australia’s leading place in the great phenomenon of last century – the advancement of women…. Each year a fresh range of positions in the professional and industrial world is attacked by women: each year women’s work becomes of more profound social and economic importance7. Feminist exhibitions thus started out as socially engaged, lively and inclusive affairs that cut across restrictive hierarchies of genre and art form, professional and amateur. The Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work crowded Melbourne’s vast Royal Exhibition Building with 16,000 eclectic exhibits.8 Art historian Joan Kerr observed that ‘Virtually every known craft and domestic art could be found in it, as well as all the fine arts’.9 It was the first to include (unattributed) Indigenous women’s arts, which were astonishingly ‘not exiled to a separate Anthropology annexe or inferior location in an official court’ but displayed beside ‘the work of highly trained self-dependent white female artisans’ and ‘the handiwork of crowned heads (itself a bizarre marriage)’.10 The exhibition design inventively recalibrated cultural value

A feminist curator walks into a gallery…  11

between the traditional, gendered hierarchies of the professional and domestic arts to promote ‘best practice’, be it in painting, basket weaving or rifle shooting. The inclusion of a model crèche – meeting the needs of a central though invisible part of women’s working lives, and allowing large numbers of ordinary women to participate – was also applauded.11 Inter-war exhibitions also located women’s creativity along a spectrum of fine art, commercial and popular arts. An emerging new artistic subject – the modern woman artist – gained support through the networking and exchange afforded by these ventures.12 The artist-curated Women Artists of Australia (1934) was a case in point, with participants choosing what media and works they wished to enter.13 Sydney printmaker Thea Proctor used the event to underline women’s contribution to all that was forward-thinking at the time: It has sometimes been said that women are incapable of imaginative creation. Great art is inventive, not imitative. The great weakness of Australian art in the past has been its lack of imagination and inventive design. Therefore it is pleasant to see an increasing number of young artists, and most of them women, who are showing imaginative qualities in their work.14 Despite Proctor’s enthusiasm, modernism did not automatically guarantee a New Deal for all women artists. While many white women appropriated First Nations artwork to modernise their own designs, Indigenous artists were often not directly paid (or paid in kind) for their work, sold largely unattributed through mission or souvenir outlets around the country.15 More broadly, from the 1940s, as our male-dominated art institutions slowly and conditionally accepted modern art, allwoman exhibitions narrowed in media, style and inclusivity. The modernist art cloister kept women and Indigenous artists at arm’s length through supposedly universalist values of formal innovation and art historical progress. Kerr wryly noted that this narrowing of focus for art world acceptability accelerated in the post-war period as a ‘reign of terror, which continued well into the 1970s’.16

Curating autonomous art platforms Curatorial ambitions expanded again as postmodern feminism responded to the inequitable biases of the art world. As Adelaide artist and art historian Jude Adams later recalled, ‘In 1971 a survey of the Whitney Museum in New York showed only 2% of exhibitors were women. In Australia, a 1973 interview canvassing all galleries in Sydney (public and private) revealed a slightly higher percentage at 11.5%.’17 From 1974, Women’s Art Movements (WAMs) emerged in our metropolitan centres with a two-pronged strategy: calling for gender equity in collections, exhibitions and other employment opportunities; and providing an autonomous space for fostering a feminist aesthetics. In the same period, but under very different circumstances, Indigenous women artists also called for autonomous and collectively run platforms from which to engage with the white, male-dominated art world.

12  Jo Holder and Catriona Moore

As Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council ­co-founder Tjunmutja Myra Watson argued in 1980, ‘We all hold strong Tjukurpa and we don’t want to see our culture lost… If we don’t talk up for ourselves, our rights, we get nowhere.’18 The force of the Land Rights and outstations movement, allied with community employment programmes at former missions and government settlements fostered the assertion of Indigenous women’s centres, often with an art studio component. One result has been the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, whose radical collectivism facilitates self-determination when doing business with white art institutions.19 Again, in very different ways, and under differing circumstances, the understanding that personal life has political implications (and vice versa) has also helped both Indigenous and non-Indigenous feminist curators to radically reinvent cultural politics. The WAMs integrated feminist aesthetics, social critique, mentoring and campaign work through hosting women-only exhibitions, workshops, art courses, conferences and the use of separatist spaces20 like Women’s Liberation House (in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney). Consciousness raising (CR) methods were used in these spaces to guide individual and group reflection on the political implications of women’s personal experience. Embodied, female subjectivity was valued as an aesthetic source, enabling artists and curators to be both subject and object of their own practice. The feminist slogan ‘the personal is political’ challenged the mythic opposition between public and private realms, including art world divisions between art institutions, the ‘politics of the street’ and the domestic spaces of home and studio (in practice, often the same space). Feminist artists continue to draw connections between their own studio work and what they do in other fields – parenting, curating, teaching, community activism. Moreover curating ‘the personal as political’ still upsets canonical ideas of artistic subjectivity, linear time and art’s proper subject matter, processes and materials. Back in the day, WAM events roughed up the hierarchies of fine arts/crafts that had marginalised a wealth of creative work, through shows that stressed the possibilities of process over finished product and tidy exhibition. Mainstream critics were confounded. Sandy Taylor’s hyperrealist soft-form sculpture in The Women’s Show (Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 1977) included a plastic bucket of dirty nappies, which were removed by the end of the first week following art world complaints (South Australian Women’s Art Movement, 1977). The Lovely Motherhood Show (Experimental Art Foundation, 1981) was also castigated for curating such ‘icons of distress’.21 Sanitised art world censure meant that a lost world of dripping-red tampon and body art, aroma-rama installations and cleansing performances remained so utterly domestic as to be institutionally uncollectable.22 At the same time, the communal spaces of Indigenous Australian art production, reception and exchange have pushed feminism’s domestic ‘institutional critique’ still further.23 The bush camp, ceremonial ground and remote art centre are interrelated sites of art and education, land ownership and custodianship, law and kinship. In this sense, ‘the domestic’, as a privileged location of personal experience, need not denote specific home or studio spaces in the Western colonial sense.24

A feminist curator walks into a gallery…  13

The connective, personal–political agenda outlined above was also advanced by urban-based Indigenous artists and curators allied to the re-emergence of the Black Arts Movement.25 They have crafted and curated an art of survival, truth-telling and reconciliation that typically combines oral histories, film, photography, maps, painting and other archival citations. These stress the political importance of family and community connectivity, and in doing so, they interrogate the genocidal fallout of our settler colony. Judy Watson (Waanyi language group, North West Queensland) combines official documents with evocative images to tell of her grandmother, born to an aboriginal mother and a white father, who was removed from her parents as decreed by laws aimed at assimilating Aboriginal peoples into dominant white culture (Under the act, 2007). REA (Gamilaraay/Kamilaroi, Wailwan, from northern New South Wales) dresses in Edwardian mourning to re-run her grandmother and great aunt’s desperate flight as ‘Stolen Generation’ children, removed by the Protection Board from family, country and culture to be brought up in the Cootamundra Girls’ Home and subsequently placed in domestic service in white people’s homes (Poles Apart, 2009). Artist–curator Brenda L. Croft also explodes ­self-portraiture across political, geographic, linguistic and cultural histories of the Stolen Generations. Gurindji location, experience and visuality (2016, further discussed by the artist in this volume) archives complex relays of dispossession and recuperation from her grandmother’s country, family and community, through her father Joe’s forced removal and the family’s hard-won yet bittersweet ‘journey home’. These personal–political re-enactments elaborate women’s artistic subjectivity through kin and country, in ways that haunt (and enliven) our bloody colonial archive.

The aesthetics of listening: a two-way track Feminism sees the art world as an expanded social field. How, for instance, was the Women’s Liberation stall at the 1975 Sydney Royal Easter Show received? Did a display of feminist art and craftwork – cheap and accessible hand-printed T-shirts, posters, badges, jewellery and ceramics – add an affective force to the adjacent pamphlets on contraception, women’s health and rape crisis centres?26 In these unpredictable public contexts, the then-dominant feminist concept of sisterhood assumed that artists and their female audiences might share kitchen, bathroom and bedroom experiences. Sometimes they did, sometimes they did not: such are the vagaries of naïve though inventive ‘social practice’. Multicultural curatorial adventures in community arts, trades unions, printmaking and mural collectives from the 1970s onwards challenged white, middle-class assumptions of a priori commonality by promoting a more effective ‘aesthetics of listening’ to women’s experiences across a range of community settings – a feminist forerunner to what is now commonly considered part of the ‘post-documenta 11’ curatorial platform. We should acknowledge this feminist legacy when considering today’s ‘expanded field’ of the everyday, the domestic and the collective – now an aesthetic norm in global exhibitions of contemporary art, with artists creating ‘diurnal’ projects responding to local problems, working with local art co-ops, unexpected sites, walks and mapping to engage memory and place.

14  Jo Holder and Catriona Moore

Early feminist curatorial projects reached beyond art world norms to develop frameworks for affirming intersectional difference and specificity, whilst simultaneously listening for shared gender and sexual experiences, analysis and points of community alliance. Mothers Memories, Others Memories (MMOM) (Vivienne Binns, artist-in-community, 1979–81), for instance, investigated women’s multi-faceted material culture, documented as a rack of steel-enamelled postcards ‘from the highway of life’ alongside other domestic arts at both an outer-suburban shopping centre and at the 1982 Sydney Biennale.27 Projects like this curated the aesthetic and social eloquence of domestic arts to produce some of the finest and most challenging work of the period.28 Garage Graphix (1981–1996) further extended the collaborative ‘aesthetics of listening’ through its Indigenous women’s collective and art worker training.29 This feminist print workshop served Indigenous and migrant communities largely displaced from the inner city to Sydney’s outer western suburbs through artworks addressing land rights and cultural identity, women’s refuges, public housing, and the hopes and dreams of newly arrived migrants at the Villawood Migrant Hostel (now the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre). As Una Rey observes elsewhere in this volume, cross-cultural exchanges between white feminists and remote Indigenous women artists have been another important though little-discussed intersectional force in contemporary Aboriginal art. Artists have invited non-Indigenous colleagues to teach and work with them in regional and remote Indigenous art centres, and while these initiatives battle scant resources, they endure in the strength of Indigenous ceramics, printmaking and textiles.30 Cross-cultural teaching flows both ways. For instance, South Australian WAM was an early beneficiary of Indulkana Arts Association’s establishment in the 1970s, which expanded the community’s art production to batik, patchwork, jewellery, painting and printmaking. In 1978, elders from the Indulkana community settlements travelled from the APY lands to Adelaide to run an introductory song, dance and cultural education workshop for South Australian WAM members.31 In 1982 Norah Bindle, a Ritarrngu artist living in Katherine (NT), designed and painted a section of the collaborative feminist mural Women at the Edge of Town, near the Art Gallery of NSW for the 1982 Women & Arts Festival.32 Suzie Bryce and Pitjantjatjara artist Yipati Williams introduced batik to Utopia women as part of adult education craft classes in the 1970s,33 where Anmatyerre elder Emily Kame Kgnwarreye developed a fluency of hand from her dazzling experiments in batik on silk cloth.34 Kgnwarreye and others founded the Utopia Women’s Batik Group to assert cultural identity, economic independence and to demonstrate the powerful nature of art as evidence for showing connection to country, helping the Anmatyerre and Alyawarr peoples to gain freehold title to Utopia under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Once Kgnwarreye moved to painting on large canvases in acrylic in 1990 (aged 85), she was ‘discovered’ by white male critics and curators and was thereafter showcased in international museum shows, including the all-woman showing (with Waarnyi-Gulf region artist Judy Watson and Yvonne Koolmatrie, a Ngarrindjeri artist from the Coorong in South Australia) at the Australian Pavilion in Venice in 1997.35

A feminist curator walks into a gallery…  15

These cross-cultural collaborations often reveal tensions between the honest attempt to exchange skills and knowledges, on the one hand, and white privilege, as reflected in disparities in wages and living standards, though not necessarily in art world recognition or reputation.36 Indigenous perspectives on white feminism remain alert to neo-colonialism37 and artists are sensitive to the art world’s conditional and often dubious benefits, seeking to avoid simple aesthetic co-option by the museum and the market (‘These are not just pretty pictures – they are our Law’, as senior Yolgnu painter Djambawa Marawili cautioned Sydney Biennale audiences in 2006). Artist lawmen and women like Marawili and Kngwarreye have worked within, but also through and beyond the art institution, strategically exploiting the formal beauty of indigenous art for cross-cultural education and environmental advocacy, and to raise awareness of the paintings’ status as legal evidence in land and sea rights claims.38 Exhibitions of this kind harness the cultural power and prestige of the museum to serve Indigenous politics, which are in turn relayed further afield through the art-institutional realignment of the (post-1990s) ‘new internationalism’.39 For instance, decolonial ideas from Tyerabowbarwarryaou – I Shall Never Become a Whiteman travelled from Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art to the 1994 Havana Biennale (curators Djon Mundine and Fiona Foley), were relayed to True Colours at InIVA, London, 1995 (curator Hetti Perkins), and further developed through parallel high-end exhibitions in regions with parallel colonial histories. Closer to home, Indigenous artists and curators developed top end regional exchanges.40 More recent curatorial collaborations (notably exhibitions of textiles, shell-work and weaving) also rework the ‘aesthetic hang’ of the modernist white cube within Indigenous critical frameworks for describing technical innovation, beauty and refinement, individual as well as community-led practice, and historical, cultural and political contexts.41

Rethinking ‘equal opportunity’ politics Relative to Indigenous Australian curators, non-Indigenous feminists have had a more difficult time in repurposing the art institution, due in part to the latter’s resistance to equity issues. Looking backwards, the eye gazes over a chain of 1980s curatorial juggernauts celebrating a masculinist, monocultural and individualised curatorial vision of the postmodern condition.42 Affirmative action protests and pickets by women artists (AAWVA at the Sydney Biennale, 1984) and protest groups like the Guerrilla Girls (New York from 1985) offered documentary proof of systemic discrimination against women artists and artists of colour. Artworkers’ Union (NSW) and Australia Council research revealed that women artists were receiving around a third of exhibition and employment opportunities and, not surprisingly, earned a third of their male counterparts’ salaries.43 Women and Indigenous Australian artists were featured in survey exhibitions, but rarely had retrospective shows, a sign of lingering tokenism. And yet, despite the inequitable art world statistics, feminist and decolonial concepts continued to underwrite postmodernism and contemporary art, and a few

16  Jo Holder and Catriona Moore

feminist artists gained mainstream visibility through the 1980s with ­conceptually and aesthetically sophisticated studio-based work that elegantly formalised questions of sexual and gender difference, and later through electronic media.44 In this period, the diffusion of Women’s Liberation as an organised mass movement into fragmented yet still potent areas of struggle prompted academic and art world feminists to reimagine cultural activism. Feminist studio and art history courses sporadically flourished then vanished in the art schools.45 We debated whether all-women shows were sustainable equal opportunity measures, or whether they simply invited institutional tokenism and political essentialism.46 In other words, feminism had to negotiate its partial institutionalisation: its containment as academic poststructuralist theory, museum-installed art and bureaucratic mandate. The priority funding of ‘flagship’ art spaces in metropolitan centres from the mid-1980s also re-­territorialised contemporary art infrastructures and stalled activist curating. Despite our attempts to ‘mainstream’ feminist art, we lacked the clout to structurally alter an accelerating romance with the globalised museum and market sectors, both here and overseas.47 Feminists reconsidered the usefulness of all-women shows and stand-alone equal opportunity campaigns through the so-called anti-feminist ‘backlash’ from the later 1980s. Equity in the Australian art world was still a long way off when the 1995 National Women’s Art Exhibition (NWAE) revived feminism’s two-pronged strategy of arts activism and aesthetic exploration. Ringleader Joan Kerr looked around and disingenuously asked, What do we see? Standard art histories with equal male-female representation being used in all schools? Fifty percent of the works on view in every part of every gallery by women?...The voluntary disbanding of women’s only art registers, unions, university courses, exhibitions and publications because they have served their purpose? Well… not exactly.48 The NWAE was a dispersed curatorial venture that generated over 300 projects individually curated across national, state, regional, local, community and archives. This mix of collective central organisation and individual or host-institution curation was again deliberately eclectic, accessible and inclusive, combining collective and individual curation in honour of earlier feminist curatorial ventures.49 Decolonisation and feminism are again in the forefront of contemporary art. But times have changed, and feminism is now commonly curated outside traditional political platforms, in parallel to those of the Autonomia and Occupy-style movements. As British academic Angela Dimitrakaki observes in the international context, ‘The rise of female curatorial collectives compels us to think at least about how the curatorial field of labour is not crowded with Harald Szeemanns but has opened up to the energies of precarisation, flexibilisation and feminization’. She cites contemporary curatorial collectives such as Why, How and for Whom? (WHW, Zagreb, 1999) who maintain feminism’s longstanding programmatic and anti-capitalist work of ‘curating critique’ (rather than simply ‘curating art’).50 The Berlin-based Australian

A feminist curator walks into a gallery…  17

artist Alex Martinis Roe researches these creative models of feminist association. Her 2014 film, It was an unusual way of doing politics: there were friendships, loves, gossip, tears, flowers… recreates the autonomous feminist groups of the 1970s in Western Europe as a context-specific ‘culture of gathering’,51 as a point for contemporary reflection. In contrast, many Australian feminists of the 1970s considered separatism as being of transitional or strategic use for women’s liberation, and the relative strength of socialist feminism led to those innovative art projects already noted in the industrial, suburban–rural and multicultural fields of trade unions and community arts. These reflections have led Martinis Roe’s subsequent research, entitled It was about opening the very notion of a particular political perspective, 2015–17.52 Roe and other contemporary artist–curators review past practices to reconsider and re-value personal experience and affective (not purely symbolic or representational) knowledge as a means of curating fluid forms of feminist association and studio critique. The ‘personal is political’ is again invoked as a form of arts activism: semi-performance, semi-installation and semi-pedagogy, as for instance in the Brisbane-based feminist collective LEVEL’s53 communal ‘critique and action’ exhibitions, workshop-salons and strategy dinners (2010–). Sister events in other regions54 also combine informal and collaborative networking–studio and reading group–exhibition–learning circle formats to insert a critical edge in today’s experiential and participatory art economy.The negative response to ‘feminist aesthetics’ as an artistically uncool ‘F-word’ has inspired a carnival of F-word events, hilariously re-gendering the clichéd oxymoron ‘Feminist Humour’55 (Figures 1.1 and 1.2). It is interesting to note that these artist-curated collaborations largely bypass our ‘flagship’ contemporary art spaces. As in past decades, feminists ‘curate critique’ where it has most impact, and so we note how eco-feminist curator Beth Jackson uses rural community exhibition spaces to link artists and environmental activists

FIGURE 1.1  Alex Martinis Roe, It was about opening the very notion of a particular political perspective, 2015–2016

18  Jo Holder and Catriona Moore

Alex Martinis Roe, It was about opening the very notion of a particular perspective, film still of a ‘Bread and Dripping’ (1981) production still courtesy of Margot Nash, 2015–2016


working against coal mining in the vast Galilee Basin.56 In the case of the Williams River Valley Artist Group57 and Knitting Nannas,58 curating art generates experimental and innovative campaign materials used in successful ‘barnstorming’ exhibitions and blockading actions to stop unwanted dam development and coal seam gas mining in NSW. While these regionally scattered and artist-run curatorial actions need support, they do not render the flagship, urban art institution completely irrelevant. As previously noted, Indigenous curators have demonstrated how the metropolitan ‘white cube’ art space can be a useful advocacy platform when linked to Land Rights and self-determination campaigns on remote country. By the same token, the often celebratory and spectacular ‘femi-buster’ also remains a smart curatorial vehicle for feminist aesthetics that can be used to interrogate lingering beliefs that our art world is ‘post-ideological’ – an idea starkly belied by both artworks and statistics. In Australia, Contemporary Australia:Women (2012) highlighted the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art’s weak track record on representing work by women artists.59 As its curator Julie Ewington was quick to note, it is not enough to host spectacular and Indigenousinclusive, all-woman shows every 20 or so years.60 When it is responsive to grassroots activity, the femi-buster helps recalibrate the art institution by legitimating affirmative actions and critical analysis as well as cross-cultural ethics and protocols. Contemporary feminist curatorial practice re-defines ‘equal opportunity’ through advocating for policy change and governance in arts funding. Like most artist-run initiatives, the curatorial ventures cited here model structures and processes that realise the founding vision of our publicly funded contemporary art spaces – as porous, experimental ventures firmly connected to their artist base, playing host to independent curating and providing a relay between urban centres and other places where the majority of artists live and work. Why not look to vital

A feminist curator walks into a gallery…  19

resource and education agencies like Desart and ANKA (formerly ANKAAA or Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists), which link remote Aboriginal artist-run art centres and pilot innovative resource-sharing and enabling roles? These are models that our urban art institutions might learn from. No one wants contemporary art spaces to solidify into non-collecting museums – we need them to become an important relay in the increasingly devolved, activist field of contemporary art.61 Our institutions could, for instance, undertake simple reforms like re-establishing transparent governance through public membership,62 to help make contemporary art’s driving ideas of participation, democracy and exchange a reality. Artists have long called for affirmative action measures, and suggested that the art institution open up its governing boards to at least 50% artist representation, with women and Indigenous practitioners equitably included. This chapter has demonstrated that intersectional feminist and decolonising curating has left a generative (though largely unacknowledged) historical trail. If not documented, these ventures will disappear from art history and practice – another reason for our public contemporary art spaces to collaborate, relay and resource grassroots art action and ideas that are curated elsewhere.63 In a festivalised art world where everything (and nothing) is ‘relevant’, the intertwined histories of feminist and Indigenous curating continue to irritate exhibition conventions. We have argued that activist practices assert subject-positions to safeguard difference and cultural survival alongside the need to act with others against today’s right-wing popularism. We have also argued that ‘personal is political’ curatorial strategies may reflect the intersectionality of women’s experiences.They provide a conceptual bridge for political alliances that respect difference and strategic, identity-based autonomy, whilst continually probing the meaning of inclusivity and democracy that lies at the heart of feminist curatorial method.

Notes 1 Lucy Lippard, From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art, New York: Dutton, 1976, p. 86. 2 Maura Reilly, ‘Curating Feminism’, Keynote address at Curating Feminism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 23 October 2014. Available at: http://contemporaryartand feminism.com/events/conference-curating-feminism/. This talk was later published as ‘Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes’, Women in the Art World, ArtNews, May 2015. Available at: http://www.artnews.com/2015/05/26/taking-themeasure-of-sexism-facts-figures-and-fixes/. 3 This concept was introduced by A.I.R Gallery (Artists in Residence, Inc.), New York – a pioneer U.S. women’s cooperative gallery founded in 1972. 4 Michael Birchall, ‘Curating Feminism’, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, 23–26 October 2014. Available at: http://contemporaryartandfeminism.com/events/ conference-curating-feminism/.  5 Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. New York: Picador, 2005. 6 CoUNTess Report and Future Feminist Archive. Available at: www.futurefeministarchive. com.au/the-archive/2015-symposia/agnsw/5-agnsw-symposium (Accessed April 2017). 7 Joan Kerr, ‘Three Firsts’, in Past Present: The National Women’s Art Anthology, Sydney: Craftsman House, 1999, p. 9.

20  Jo Holder and Catriona Moore

8 Ann Stephen, ‘With One Pair of Hands and with a Single Mind’: The First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work 1907, LIP, No. 2 & 3, 1977, p. 78. 9 Joan Kerr, ‘Introduction’, Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book (ed. Joan Kerr), Craftsman House, 1995, p. 3. 10 Kerr, ibid., p. 3. The works were mainly woven baskets from Queensland’s Yarrabah Mission. Basketry is still exhibited today in Yarrabah’s Gunggandji-run art gallery. 11 A kindergarten had been first introduced in the Women’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago. 12 Carol Ambrus, ‘Australian Women Artists between the Wars: The Unacknowledged ­Generation’, The Ladies Picture Show: Sources on a Century of Australian Women Artists, Hale & Iremonger, 1984, pp. 11–26; Angela Philp, ‘From Wallflowers to Tall Poppies? The Sydney Society of Women Painters 1910–1934’, in Wallflowers and Witches: Women and Culture in Australia 1910–1945 (ed. Maryanne Dever), Brisbane: UQP, 1994, pp. 11–26; Janda Gooding, Western Australian Art and Artists 1900–1950, AGWA catalogue, Perth, 1987, np. 13 Batchen, in Kerr (ed.) Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book, 1995, p. 25; Organisers were Ailsa Lee Brown, Alice Stephens, Juanita Job, Myrtle Innes and Valerie Lazarus. 14 Proctor, cited Kerr, ‘Three Firsts’, 1999, p. 4. 15 Catriona Moore, ‘Margaret Preston at Home’, Radical Revisionism in Australian Art (ed. Rex Butler) IMA, Brisbane, 2005, pp. 220–212 and ‘Craftwork: Margaret Preston, Emily Carr and the Welfare Frontier’, Antipodean Modern, ACH 25/2006 (eds. Neil Levi and Tim Dolin), Curtin University of Technology, 2006, pp. 57–82; Aboriginal Women’s Artefacts in the Museum of Victoria, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, 2nd ed., 1995. 16 Kerr, ‘Three Firsts’, 1999, p. 8. 17 Jude Adams, ‘Sexism in Art Education’, in Women’s Art Movement 1978–1979, Adelaide, South Australia, January 1980, p. 4. See also Jude Adams, ‘Looking from with/in: Feminist Art Projects of the 70s’, Outskirts online journal, v 29, Nov 2013. Available at: www. outskirts.arts.uwa.edu.au/volumes/volume-29/adams-jude-looking-with-in (Accessed March 2017); The South Australian Women’s Art Movement, Adelaide: Experimental Art Foundation, 1981; Barbara Hall, ‘Woman as Creator’, Refractory Girl, Autumn 1975, p. 70; and ‘Review of the Last Decade’, unpublished paper, ‘The Growth of Women’s Art: From Manifesto to Polemics’, Conference, 2–4 October 1982, Paddington Town Hall, Women and Arts Festival, Sydney. 18 See full statement on the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council at www.npywc.org.au/ (Accessed March 2017). In this context see also Nicholas Peterson and Fred Myers (eds.), Experiments in Self-Determination: Histories of the Outstation Movement in Australia, Canberra: ANU Press, 2016; Central Land Council, Vincent Lingiari Art Award: Our Land, Our Life, Our Future, 2016 exhibition catalogue, Desart, Tangentyere Artists. 19 Jennifer Biddle, Remote Avant-Garde: Aboriginal Art Under Occupation, 2016: Duke University Press, pp. 109–138. 20 Ian Barnard (1998) ‘Toward a Postmodern Understanding of Separatism’, Women’s Studies, 27:6, 613–639. Available at: www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00497878. 1998.997923. 21 Jenny Boult, ‘The Lovely Motherhood Show, or Let No Faint Hearts Enter Here’, Art Network # 3–4, 1981, p. 10. 22 Catriona Moore and Jo Holder, Forbidden Fruit, Sydney: First Draft, 1986;  Julie Ewington, Domestic Contradictions, Power Gallery, Sydney University, 1986. 23 Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore, ‘Domesticating Institutional Critique’, CIHA Conference Beijing, September 2016. 24 Anna Crane,‘Introduction’, Garnkiny: Constellations in Meaning, Western Australia:Warmun Art Centre, 2014, p. 3; Shirlie Purdie in ‘Ngali-Ngalim-Boorroo (For the Women)’, ed. and trans. Alana Hunt and Anna Crane in Jo Holder and Alana Hunt Curating Feminism: A Contemporary Art and Feminism Event, Sydney: University of Sydney, 2014, pp. 28, 44.

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25 Including Brenda L. Croft, Fiona Foley, Djon Mundine, Margo Neale, Hetti Perkins, Avril Quail, Tess Allas and others working with collectives such as Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative in Sydney. 26 ‘Sally’, ‘Women’s Liberation at the Show’, Scarlet Woman, No. 1, Sept 1975, pp. 26–28. 27 Mothers Memories collection is currently housed at the Blacktown Art and Craft Society and in the Australian National Gallery collection. 28 See also in this context the historical research, fine screen prints and fancywork produced by The Women’s Domestic Needlework Collective. Artists included Marie McMahon, Francis Budden, Joan Grounds, Bernadette Krone, Kathy Letray, Patricia MacDonald, Noela Taylor and Loretta Vieceli. See The D’Oyley Show: An Exhibition of Women’s Domestic Fancywork, Watters Gallery, Sydney, October 1979. 29 Louise Mayhew, ‘Jill Posters Will Be Prosecuted: Australia’s Women-Only Print Collectives’, Garage Graphix (1981–1996) included Lin Mountstephen, Marla Guppy, Jan Mackay and Alice Hinton-Bateup. Lin Mountstephen and Marla Guppy, conversation with Jo Holder, The Cross Arts Projects, 25 February 2017. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/628487/Jill_Posters_will_be_prosecuted_Australias_ women-only_print_collectives_from_the_1970s_and_1980s (Accessed July 2016). 30 ANKAAA, Talking Up Textiles: Community Fabric and Indigenous Industry, A Report from the 2012 ANKAAA Forum at Gunbalanya, Darwin. 31 South Australian Women’s Art Movement, 1980, Adelaide: SAWAM, 1980, p. 11. 32 Bindle was in Sydney as a member of a Native Title negotiating team and held a solo exhibition at Hogarth Galleries in Paddington. Personal communication between Chips Mackinolty and Jo Holder, 2016.The mural was initiated by WAM member Carole Ruff, Domain Car Park, near Art Gallery of NSW, now disfigured by council modifications and graffiti. 33 With the help of Jenny Green and Julia Murray. 34 See Utopia – A Picture Story, Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), 1988, and Out of Indonesia – Collaborations of Brahma Tirta Sari documenting batik workshops with artists from Utopia, 2005, and Ernabella and Fibre Face, exhibition in Darwin and   Yogyakarta, 2011. Emily Kngwarreye, Audrey Kngwarreye, Lena Pwerle, Rosy Kunoth Kngwarreye and the Petyarre Sisters: Kathleen,Violet, Gloria, Nancy, Myrtle and Ada. 35 Curators were Brenda L. Croft (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra) and Hetti Perkins (Arrernte/Kalkadoon). Kngwarreye’s work was included in the Arsenale exhibition. 36 Fiona Salmon, Anita Angel and Vivonne Thwaites, Roads Cross: Contemporary Directions in Australian Art, 2012 exhibition catalogue, Flinders University Art Museum and Charles Darwin University Gallery; Una Rey, Black and White & Restive, Newcastle: Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, 2016, and chapter in the present volume. 37 24Hour Art, Wijay Na..?: Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Art and Artists Forum, Darwin: 24Hour Art / Northern Territory Centre for Contemporary Art, 1996; Foley and Marika in Catriona Moore (ed.) Dissonance, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1994, pp. 195–204, 205–212; Jo Holder, interview with Djon Mundine, The Cross Arts Projects, Sydney, April 2017. 38 For instance, the majestic 1998 Ngurrara canvas painted by Mangkaja artists, produced as a 10 x 8m map for the Ngurrara Native Title Claim, was later displayed at the ceremonial events celebrating the final recognition of the Ngurrara peoples Native Title in 2007. The 2009 exhibition, Saltwater, toured the country and was used as evidence in the successful High Court ruling for Native Title over the territorial waters of Mud Bay to be included in the Yolgnu landed estates. 39 Ian McLean (ed.), ‘Theories’, Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Contemporary Art, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014. 40 Artists in Darwin, Alice Springs and Ramingining have drawn on long-standing South East Asian trade routes to work with artists from Bali, Java and Timor Leste. 41 These include ReCoil: Change & Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art, curator Margie West for Artback Northern Territory, 2007, to Shimmer, co-curators Tess Allas, Darrell and Garry Sibosado, Wollongong Art Gallery, 2015.

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42 Mira Schor, ‘Backlash and Appropriation’, in Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (eds.), The Power of Feminist Art: Emergence, Impact and Triumph of the American Feminist Art Movement, London & New York: Thames & Hudson, 1994, pp. 248–263. Schor cites by way of example, Documenta 7 1982: 28 women, 144 men; Documenta 8 1987: 47 women out of 409 artists; Zeitgeist, Berlin 1982: 1 woman and 45 men; Carnegie International 1985: 4 women, 42 men; Carnegie International 1988: 10 women, 41 men; the 1984 opening of MoMA’s enlarged gallery spaces with An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture: 13 women out of 164 artists. 43 Artworkers Union (NSW) submission to the 1984 NSW Government White Paper on Affirmative Action: ‘Affirmative Action for Women in the Visual Arts’ (1985) booklet, slide talk and film. Available at: www.futurefeministarchive.com.au/images/ffA-A (Accessed April 2017); David Throsby and Virginia Holister, Don’t Give Up Your Day Job: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia, Sydney: Australia Council, 2003. 44 Femflix: Feminist Screen Culture of the 1990s, a Contemporary Art and Feminism project exhibition, University of Sydney College of the Arts, March 2015. 45 Helen Grace, Margaret Morgan and Diana Smith, ‘Teaching to Transgress’, A Contemporary Art and Feminism event, University of Sydney, March 2014. 46 This issue was debated in many forums outside the academy, including at a panel discussion on the feminist exhibition Heartland, Wollongong Regional Gallery, 1985. 47 Angela Dimitrakaki, Gender, artWork and the Global Imperative: A Materialist Feminist Critique, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013. 48 Joan Kerr, ‘Introduction’, Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book (ed. Joan Kerr), Craftsman House, 1995, p. vii. 49 Joan Kerr and Jo Holder (eds.), Past Present: The National Women’s Art Anthology, Sydney: Craftsman House, 1999. 50 Dimitrakaki, Gender, artWork and the Global Imperative: A Materialist Feminist Critique, 2013, p. 220. 51 Alex Martinis Roe, Artist’s Statement, The Cross Arts Projects, 7 February 2015. 52 Martinis Roe’s 2015–17 project includes Our Future Network, a series of closed workshops exploring the legacy of New South Wales filmmakers Co-op, the Sydneybased cultural theory journal, The Working Papers Collective, women in the Builder’s Labourer’s Federation and allied feminist ventures from the late 1970s. This project was exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of The National: New Australian Art, 2017. 53 https://levelari.wordpress.com/about/ (Accessed April 2017). 54 See performances in Sydney by the collective Barbara Cleveland (formerly Brown Council), 2014–2017, ‘The Feminist South’, Curator: Kelly Doley, Gallery 4A, 2017. Available at: www.4a.com.au/category/events/coming-soon-events/ and ‘Women in the Arts’ at Verge Gallery (2015–16). https://verge-gallery.net/2016/09/14/serieswomen-in-the-arts-2016/ (Accessed April 2017). 55 Laura Castagnini, Backflip: Feminism and Humour in Contemporary Art, Margaret Lawrence Art Gallery, Melbourne, 2013; Caroline Phillips, ‘The F Word: Contemporary Feminist Art in Australia’, Matters of the Body, Melbourne: University of Melbourne, 2014; Virginia Fraser and Elvis Richardson, Femmo (ongoing art-publishing project from 2015). 56 Bimblebox: art - science – nature, curator Beth Jackson, 2013–2016. 57 http://williamsrivervalley.blogspot.com.au/ (Accessed April 2017). 58 www.knitting-nannas.com/ (Accessed April 2017). 59 Amelia Groom, ‘Some of my Best Friends are Women’, Overland, March 2013. 60 Julie Ewington, Introduction to Contemporary Australia: Women Exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Gallery of Modern Art, 2012. 61 As in recent projects like See You at the Barricades (curator Macushla Robinson), AGNSW, 2015, or Sovereignty and Unfinished Business at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2017. 62 This was the case with many Australian contemporary art spaces and the Biennale of Sydney in the 1980s.

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63 A good example of this is the Future Feminist Archive – now archived with the Design and Art of Australia Online database (curator Jo Holder/Contemporary Art and Feminism 2015–ongoing).

Further reading Lesley Dumbrell, ‘The Victorian Women’s Art Register’, LIP, no 1, 1976, pp. 11–12. Jenny Green, Utopia: Women, Country and Batik, Utopia, NT: Utopia Women’s Batik Group, 1981. Laura McLeod, ‘Sydney Women’s Art Movement’, unpublished Honours thesis, University of Sydney, 1980. Djambawa Marawili, ‘Zones of Contact’, Artist’s Talk, Pier 2/3, Biennale of Sydney 2006. Catriona Moore, Indecent Exposures: Feminist Photography in Australia 1970–1986, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1994. Catriona Moore and Catherine Speck, ‘How the Personal Became (and Remains) Political in the Visual Arts’, Conference Paper, How the Personal Became Political: Re-Assessing Australia’s Revolutions in Gender and Sexuality in the 1970s, Australian National University, Canberra, March 2017. South Australian Women’s Art Movement, Documentation, The Women’s Show, Adelaide: Experimental Art Foundation, 1977. South Australian Women’s Art Movement, ‘Inma: Indulkana Tribal Elders’, Women’s Art Movement 1978–1979, Adelaide: WAM/Experimental Art Foundation, 1980. Harald Szeeman, Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (Works – Concepts – Processes – Situations – Information), Kunsthalle, Bern, 1969. Kay Vernon, ‘The Impact of the Women’s Movement on the Commercial Galleries in Sydney’, unpublished Honours thesis, University of Sydney, 1981. Felicity Wright and Francis Morphy (eds.), The Art Craft Centre Story, Canberra: ATSIC, 2000.

2 THE VALUE OF MATURITY Anne Ferran, Judith Wright, Lindy Lee Julie Ewington

During 2014, Anne Ferran, Judith Wright and Lindy Lee, three senior Australian visual artists, were each accorded major solo exhibitions, with substantial accompanying publications. I believed all these exhibitions were worthy of note, indeed of praise. At the time, however, none of the exhibitions attracted much critical attention: in this current era of focus on mass audiences and blockbuster projects, and with contracting critical arenas in this country, as in others, these exhibitions seemed, like so many other excellent projects, to have more or less slipped under the discursive radar.1 Yet they did deserve to be registered, and appraised, for each in its own way was exemplary. As it happens, and not coincidentally, these intelligent exhibitions were organised by university art museums: Anne Ferran’s Shadow Land, a career retrospective, was organised by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at the University of Western Australia, in Perth, and toured to other venues across the country until late 2016. Judith Wright’s project exhibition Desire, encapsulating related works from 2007–14, was presented by the Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane, in late 2014. Lindy Lee’s survey exhibition, at the University of Queensland Art Museum, also in Brisbane, was seen in late 2014/early 2015.2 (I’ll return later to the significance and value of this university context.) Anne Ferran, Judith Wright and Lindy Lee have something else in common: they all came to practise as artists after other careers, other lives. More than that, all three emerged in the 1980s, so they share a background in that decade of ferment and development in Australian visual art: while Lee and Ferran trained at Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), a tertiary art school opened in 1977 and in the vanguard of pedagogical commitment to a generously post-medium approach to art, Wright was a self-starter who did not undertake an undergraduate degree in visual arts, eventually completing a Master’s Degree at Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology after almost a decade of exhibiting. My point is that making art was

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a deliberate choice for these artists, made as mature women; and now each has, over three decades of constant work, refined a distinctive vision through producing exceptional bodies of work. So, while this essay is not exactly ‘in praise of older women’, following the title of Stephen Vizinczey’s infamous 1965 novel, it does recognise the inestimable advantages of life experiences in the making of an artist – and the great value of maturity. Moreover, in thinking about these exhibitions and the work of these three artists, it is worth noting the often-idiosyncratic ways and eccentric timetables that many artists, especially women, follow in finding ways of working and pursuing their own creative agendas. Proving my point nicely, these three artists found divergent paths to reach their mature practices: they all, effectively, changed fields to become visual artists. And this is a crucial matter: ever since the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, we have understood that it is the incomers to intellectual and creative fields who very often make substantial innovations.3 This is precisely what I am claiming for Ferran, Wright and Lee. Anne Ferran came to critical attention with her graduating exhibition in late 1984 at Sydney’s Performance Space. At the time, it was like seeing Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus, or, more accurately, a kind of feminine auto-genesis: as its reappearance in Shadow Land shows, the series Carnal Knowledge (1984) was work of startling maturity for a recent student. But mature age students are always far from average, as those of us who have worked in art colleges and universities can testify. There is a special joy in recognising students who have found their moment, and their métier, and in leaving her work as a schoolteacher and with two children already in school, Ferran had entered into her own territory. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, her first series of works, both Carnal Knowledge and the subsequent Scenes on the Death of Nature (1986), took the entry of young girls into womanhood, through representation, as her subject, and her daughter and friends as models. But if this personal investment was an immediate starting point, Ferran’s stance as a photographer was always theoretically considered reflexive: the ambitious intellectual climate at SCA, and in Sydney’s feminist theoretical context generally during her student years in the early 1980s, suited her interests perfectly. Having previously gained a degree in psychology and education, along with studies in anthropology and languages, Ferran found, in photography’s newly interrogative bent, a rich historically inflected tool that had a fresh relevance, not only in Australia but internationally, for considering pictorial representations of women.4 In the next decade, Ferran’s interests widened to consider colonial sites in Australia where women had been present, but where that painful and often longstanding occupation was barely registered, whether in scant historical records or, more rarely, with physical historical remains, let alone photographs. Beginning with a 1995 joint project with Canberra artist Anne Brennan at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks, Ferran began to address the presence (and absence) of women in historical sites, investigating over many years how their presence might possibly be conjured. This almost quixotic project is rendered more poignant because of its impossibility: how to make a photograph of what is no longer there? Ferran welcomes this

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singular obstruction – indeed, it might be seen as her creative motivation – and in a 2014 interview for ABC Radio National’s Book and Arts is quoted as saying ‘photography’s insufficiencies are one of the things I value about it’.5 Amongst these works, I particularly enjoy the photograms made between 1998 and 2003, which explore collections of historical clothes, from Sydney’s Rouse Hill House to the Pioneer Women’s Hut in Tumbarumba in rural New South Wales, though some photograms were made from treasured family items: they are exquisite, detailed and entirely unsparing, summoning the exact phantom of their wearers. However, and going against the grain of the ghostly transparency of the photograms, and the direct contact with the object they require, is the series Lost to Worlds 2008: it is undoubtedly the major achievement in this long-standing project. These photographs, printed on shimmering solid aluminum sheets, are of the now barren ground at Ross, in central Tasmania, where convict women and their infant children were incarcerated, and sometimes died. The implacable silence of the ground in these magisterial images is eloquent, and final: as Thierry De Duve remarks, in his probing interview with Ferran published in the catalogue, ‘The photos themselves… are poignant in a way that the narrative, with its inevitable humanism, cannot be’.6 This exhibition was a career retrospective, but given its necessary abbreviation for touring, it might better be described as a survey; the mix of works across decades I saw installed in Sydney at the Australian Centre for Photography was not a standard chronological account, but co-mingled older and more recent works. This strategy was telling: it emphasised Ferran’s consistent interrogation of the limits of photography as a guarantee of veracity, and pointed to the mnemonic character of many images. Thinking about this, I keep coming back to the hands shown in her Insula: Books 3–4 (2003), cropped from photographic records made in 1948 of women inmates at Gladesville Mental Hospital in Sydney, which are now housed in the State Library of New South Wales. Those hands that had nothing to occupy them, except waiting, often clutched at thick felt jackets; the thick woollen material of the women’s clothes, with its signal mute expressivity, has recently been recapitulated in the series Box of Birds (2013; see Figure 2.1), where dancers perform to articulate the potential of lengths of cloth in subdued colours that recall thick wool institutional-style blankets, and conceal the identities of the performers. (I’ll return to these haunting works.) The same complex interweaving of an artist’s project, across time, subtended Judith Wright’s exhibition Desire. Unlike Ferran’s exhibition, which encompassed three decades, Wright’s focused on just seven years, from 2007–14, with barely a dozen works exhibited. Of the three exhibitions, this was the most concentrated visually, installed in an enfiladed series of rooms that permitted one installation to bleed into the next, using dramatic light and shadows to unify the whole. Shadows are, in fact, the key to the entire ensemble: both in the seven videos, where the performers might be shadows flickering across the screens, and in bizarre shadows thrown onto the gallery walls by carefully deployed spotlighting.These spooky doubles, often far larger than the actual sculptural objects, dramatised them effectively,

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FIGURE 2.1  Anne Ferran, ‘Slender-Throated Warbler’, from Box of Birds. Pigment print, 72 x 48cm, 2013

and drew both the performers in the seven videos, and we visitors, into this imaginative world. Judith Wright came to art practice only after a successful career as a classical dancer in the Australian Ballet, and after bearing four children. Initially self-taught, and only sometime after commencing exhibiting in the mid-1980s, she completed a Masters degree at Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology, and went on to teach sculpture there for many years. Equally famously, though this was not widely known until some years later, amongst Wright’s key creative motivations had been the loss of her baby daughter in 1973, shortly after birth, and her efforts to come to terms with what had been, at that time, a grief conventionally unspoken, and generally unwelcome, in Australian social life. Over three decades, Wright’s work has traversed many ostensible subjects, generally at least elliptically figurative, and

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media as various as sculpture, large-format books, video and painting.Yet, in some senses, all her work has been at the service of understanding the circumstances of her own life, and of those closest to her. Once again, Wright sought practice as an artist as a mature individual, and has always been driven by searching for personal answers that she needed to find. The powerful motivating force that Wright encountered in the death of her child has found its most explicit expression in the seven videos shown in Desire, collectively titled ‘Seven stages of desire’, and in three sculptural suites made between 2011–13. Beginning with the mesmeric video One Dances (2003), which shows Wright’s actor son dancing with an archaic, almost life-size, mannequin, these works directly address the missing girl in Wright’s life and family. All seven videos, often set in dim studios or even, in the case of The Stager (2008), in an abandoned theatre, evoke loss, grief or displacement through bodily contact, whether between living people or proxy mannequins. Even more directly, the three suites A Wake (Collection QAG | GOMA, not exhibited in Desire, 2011), A Journey (2011) and Destination (2013) evoke, in turn, a solemn wake for the departed, the journey she makes to the underworld, and, finally, the fiesta-like atmosphere accompanying her arrival into paradise. This is completely idiosyncratic work. There is nothing else like it in this country, though it recalls for me the theatrical allegiances of installations by the celebrated Pole Tadeusz Kantor (1915–1990), with his similar respect for the evocative potential of objects – in Wright’s case ranging from masks to costumes to antiquated conveyances for A Journey – and for the exact character of bodily gesture. As Catherine de Zegher notes in the suggestively titled text ‘Judith Wright: Life? or Theatre: An Elegiac Choreography’, gesture is central in Wright’s work: Imbued with the movement of dance, touch, empathic relation, Wright’s art practice of reinventing sensation and relation becomes an instrument, a tender tool, an exquisite mouthpiece for hopeful and affecting resistance against the devastating experience of separation, not only personal parting but also new forms of migration and disunion.7 As De Zegher points out, Wright’s work tackles personal loss in its broadest implications, offering her own experience to, and for, others. In this way, her work recuperates sorrow. In this trinity, Lindy Lee is the exception that proves my rule. She has already had two careers as an artist, so the mature decision to take a particular path was taken after she had already trained. In the mid-1980s, Lee was known as an early adopter of postmodernist appropriation, with the singular peculiarity that she specialised in moody photocopied works on paper of famous European Old Master works, and later (mostly monochrome) paintings of similar subjects. (In an interview with Suhanya Raffel, Lee notes she made her first photocopy work as a student at SCA.)8 These are beguiling works, in which Lee took striking faces from European Renaissance art as her distinguishing motif. A fine selection of these earlier works

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was shown in Lindy Lee:The Dark of Absolute Freedom, where the darkness of the title might be taken, almost literally, as the velvety depth of the layers of photocopy ink constituting such mysterious works as Philosophy of the Parvenu (1990). Yet in what I see as the second phase of Lee’s career, she turned away from canonical Western European imagery towards images from her own Chinese family’s history, and sourced from her embrace of Buddhism. Continuing her long fascination with portraiture, early in the 2000s Lee began to incorporate images from family albums into multi-panelled works, culminating in the major installation Birth and Death (2003); she even deployed a beautiful portrait of her mother on street banners in 2004. This decisive turn towards Lee’s Chinese heritage, repressed in her Australian childhood in the era of official assimilation, is associated with the significance of her eventual decision to become a Buddhist. Around 1995, the year when Lee spent time on an Asialink residency in Beijing intending to study calligraphy, the notion of ‘darkness’ in her work began to take on an another meaning altogether: here the dark might begin to signify, in consonance with Buddhist philosophy, ‘the void that holds everything and nothing’.9 In recent years a number of Australian-born artists have explored the significance of Buddhism for their lives and work, in part reflecting Buddhism’s status as Australia’s fastest growing spiritual affiliation: in 2001, for instance, Lee’s work was shown with that of Tim Johnson and Peter Tyndall in the exhibition Three Views of Emptiness at Monash University Museum of Art, curated by Linda Michael. Today Lee is perhaps the most senior Australian artist whose work is significantly informed by Buddhist practice, and this was made clear in Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom. In her choice of subjects, such as Bubhi and Me or True Ch’ien, both works on paper from 2009 that were altered by the application of fire, and in her methods, particularly the thrown bronze works such as Cosmos – A Life of Fire (2014) or The Life of Form: One Billion Worlds (2012), Lee is clearly making her commitment to practising as a Buddhist an integral part of her life as an artist (Figure 2.2). This is one of the most thoroughgoing renovations of an artist’s practice that I can recall. In remaking herself as an artist in this way, and for deeply felt reasons, Lindy Lee is articulating a vision of life that is relevant to increasing numbers of Australians. As with Ferran and Wright, I am struck by the importance of the artist’s commitment to taking on her own personal circumstances, views and desires as a source for making work. Not for a minute do I believe art historian Rex Butler’s elegant account of Lee’s career as a transit from abstraction back to abstraction. Too neat by half! Lindy Lee’s work is far richer than this, in my view.10 I believe that Anne Ferran, Judith Wright and Lindy Lee share a larger territory that I will not attempt to define precisely, as that would betray the individuality of their projects. This terrain, however, encompasses a firm basis in the artist’s personal life, and a commitment to exploring what that might mean in their practices. In all three cases the singularity of the work of each artist is the guarantee of the intimate character of her work, and it is correspondingly valuable for this. What of the work of these three artists since 2014? How does this short period relate to the larger themes that were explored in their comprehensive exhibitions?

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Lindy Lee, Life of Stars. 2015, Ting Hsin Plaza, Shanghai. Photo: Charlie

Xia, 2015

Were these exhibitions termini, or waystations, of a sort, in far longer trajectories? Since 2014, and the career milestones marked with these exhibitions, each artist has continued to develop her practice.Thinking about the intervening years, I am struck again by personal threads that continue to run through the works made by each woman. It is no small matter to continue to find inspiration and substance in the issues life throws up to one, yet Anne Ferran, Judith Wright and Lindy Lee, in different ways, continue to draw on the immediate environments of their lives, families and communities. These three Australians are not alone in the intimate personal cast of their oeuvres: this has been marked in art in the postmodern era, arguably as a reaction to the high formalism of much modernist art. Certainly, the value of the personal and the intimate, and the power of the immediately biographical, have been fundamental to the feminist contribution to contemporary art, and it is no coincidence

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that all three artists I am considering here came to artistic maturity in the 1980s, and in the case of Ferran and Lee, in an art school where feminism’s relationship to art was part of the curriculum.11 Since 2014, Anne Ferran has continued to work with the interactions of women’s bodies with cloth, as she has throughout her career. (She commenced a new series of works in 2013 that has continued to the present.) On occasion, working with the expressive possibility of fabric has led Ferran to items of historical clothing, such as photograms made with archived clothes from collections, or Rydalmere Vertical (1997), where historical styles of caps, made by the artist herself, were photographed unworn: in both cases the absence of wearing bodies is precisely the point.The ways women relate to, even express, the potentialities of fabric associated with their lives has been an allusive and recurring motif in Ferran’s work from almost the beginning: in Scenes on the Death of Nature (1984), for example, young women wore roughly sewn garments approximating classical drapery. In Box of Birds (2013), made at the time her survey was being prepared, Ferran began to work collaboratively with dancers who either posed motionless, behind spare falls of thick fabric, as solid and impenetrable as modernist monochromes, or improvised to animate them, as if to suggest the lightning movements of birds. There is a nice word play in ‘Box of Birds’ – a selection of women who are also, as the vernacular expression has it, sprightly and joyful; this has another resonance in Ferran’s life –she is an ardent birdwatcher. But as writer Kyla McFarlane suggested, there is a darker suggestion in this title: ‘Ferran’s engagement is drawn more from Plato, who likened the mind to a cage of birds; in confusion our thoughts flutter from our grasp’.12 I have wondered whether Ferran sees birds, as many cultures do, as symbolic of the impulse to freedom, or as messages from afar. Her use of felt began with Insula: Books 1–4 (2003), working with 1948 photographs of women effectively incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital, often in bleak and harsh conditions. These photographed inmates wore thick felt-like garments, and in Sydney, from 2013, and in Paris and Helsinki in 2015, Ferran has been collaborating with dancers to articulate lengths of felt cloths, photographing sessions that resulted from their conversations. Ferran notes: the lengths of felt were one starting point, and the 1948 photos of the Gladesville women were another… I don’t remember the details of the conversation but it would have included my idea of releasing energy from those archival images… we were all aware that the lengths of felt ‘represented’ the felted clothes of the patients, and that covering their faces was partly about the patients’ anonymity.13 The work from Box of Birds onwards alerted me to think, retrospectively, about the ways Ferran’s work, from time to time, has touched on her own life experiences: in Carnal Knowledge (1984), for instance, the coming to maturity of her daughter is foregrounded, and two years later young women featured in Scenes on the Death

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of Nature (1986). Other works, such as the series I Am the Rehearsal Master (1989), started from considerations of the ways women are acculturated, especially how the social institutions of medicine and psychiatry have borne on their lives, or, later, on how colonial history does, or does not, record the lives of women. Here Ferran’s engagement seemed to me to be both personally felt and also broadly general in its implications: its value was to implicate all Australians in the social experience and historical lives of women. Working with a variety of dancers as she has recently, on the other hand, seems to have brought Ferran’s work, perhaps serendipitously, into a closer alignment with her own stage of life. Several years ago, she notes, ‘I started to be interested in the expressive potential of a “non-standard” (for want of a better expression) body’, and this was sharpened by the opportunity to collaborate with Ervi Sirén, a leading Finnish dancer, stage director and dance artist now aged 69, during the course of a broad programme of research undertaken during a residency in Helsinki. Ferran continued: placing the photos of Ervi next to this other material I’d been gathering… let me see that an older body has an expressive ability that a younger one doesn’t. Something to do with holding in place complex/contradictory/ painful experiences… The insight into the expressive potential of older bodies probably owed something to the sheer amount of felt I gave her to work with, so she was always working hard to keep it together. If I do more work of this work in future, it will definitely be with older dancers.14 This being so, it seems to me that each of Anne Ferran’s recent collaborations with dancers proposes a photographic mediation on the conundrum of how to see individual corporal experiences, accumulated over many decades, as something that might be shared. The performative photographs from Box of Birds onwards could be seen as a series of essays exploring how to seize, as it were on the wing, not only specific movements in time and space, but life itself: what was, inevitably, always going to be fleeting. With Judith Wright, connections between her artistic work and events in her life are always close and to a degree direct, if not always immediate or immediately interpretable, even by the artist herself.15 As seen earlier, the death of her only daughter just after birth, and the experience of social and official repression of that grief at the time, had been a powerful force in her work. But since exhibiting the works in Desire, which spanned the years 2007–14, the sudden tragic death of another infant occurred in Wright’s family. A granddaughter succumbed in December 2014 to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at the age of four months, leaving the family inconsolable, and causing Wright to revisit, once again, the persistent sorrow that had prompted so much of her artistic work. Wright’s work as an artist may not be reduced to a transcription of the facts of her biography, or that of her family members, but her work is fundamentally compelled by her emotional life; it may even play a cathartic role in it. When Wright

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lost her daughter Nicole many decades ago, infant deaths were generally unremarked and unacknowledged in Australian social life; they were seen as a trial to be born stoically – it was usual for stillborn and very young infants to be buried in unmarked graves, as Nicole Wright was, until her mother found the child’s grave in 2000 and erected a stone for her. (As a contemporary comparison, when a memorial was erected to stillborn and young babies buried from the 1920s to the 1980s in unmarked graves in West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide, another major Australian city, it was revealed over 30,000 infants had been interred, more or less unceremoniously, with the collaboration of hospital staff.)16 Today attitudes to such losses are markedly different: they are acknowledged and grieved, with active support from hospitals, churches and other services. Members of Wright’s family, including the artist herself but especially the child’s grieving mother, have been able to access supportive networks, and have become involved in projects to raise awareness of SIDS, and in fundraising for research.17 Because of the longstanding impetus for Wright’s work in the memory of her daughter’s death, coupled with this more recent bereavement, I recently noticed the appearance in her work of oversize infants’ heads presented in simplified outline, hugely scaled up: the works measure two metres square. In Significant Others (2016, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales), the blocky forms of the children’s heads are simple and benign, but in the recent Lines of Confluence (2017), the colours are strikingly acidic, heightening the emotional tension of the assertive intersecting forms that characterise this series and named it. Wright has suggested that these are ‘more confrontational’ than her previous works, and she attributes the bolder colour, and the departure from her characteristic emotional reticence, to a gathering sense of mortality: as she gets older, Wright believes she is prepared to expose more of herself, and her vulnerabilities; she commented that she no longer has ‘time to pull back.’18 Taken together with other recent works, especially the installation The Garden of Good and Evil (first exhibited 2015, ongoing) and the associated suite of paintings entitled Fragments from The Garden of Good and Evil (2017), which sit directly in line with the three preceding large installations, Judith Wright’s recent work continues and expands her work on memory. This is active remembering, a process rather than a project. Since her 2014 survey exhibition, alongside her regular commercial gallery exhibitions, Lindy Lee has continued to explore her social location as an Australianborn Chinese through major sculptural projects, both in Australia and China. She has been commissioned to create major civic sculptures such as The Life of Stars (2015) for Ting Hsin Plaza in Shanghai, China, and Life of Stars – The Tenderness of Rain (2017), for Zhengzhou Cultural Centre in Henan Province. For the Australian projects, Lee’s focus is the current lived experience of her Chinese-Australian heritage. Two significant projects have allowed Lee to work closely with different communities of Chinese in Australia: the first was a civic garden in the small town of Avoca, in the southern state of Victoria near the city of Ballarat, some 200 kilometres from the metropolis of Melbourne; the second a sculptural installation in

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the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown. The Garden of Fire and Water at Avoca was made during 2014, with a substantial Small Town Transformations project grant, sought by the town community from the Victorian Government. Launched in December 2014, it is a civic amenity that is a tribute to the long-standing Chinese community in the town and district, which dates back to the 1850s and the Victorian gold rush. Lee worked closely with a multi-disciplinary team, comprising community representatives, a designer and a soil expert, convened by artist Lyndal Jones, a local resident.19 Winding paths lead through a garden filled with both Australian natives and Chinese plants, to a central pavilion surmounted along the roof-line by Lindy Lee’s scorched metal flame forms that continue her long-term engagement with the element of fire. The structure is part Chinese pavilion, part Australian shed. As Lee noted, ‘I think what we’re creating in this garden is a really beautiful and particular kind of Chinese-Australian vernacular.’20 Nestled among the plants is another of Lee’s contributions – a polished-metal scholar stone. Underlining its Chinese references, the entire garden owes its inspiration to hexagram 64 of the I Ching (the ancient Chinese book of divination also known as The Book of Changes); this is, the final hexagram, ‘Nearing Completion’, which suggests that life (like a garden) is never finally completed. Lindy Lee’s next major project was much closer to her then home in Sydney. She has led the development of the renewal of the Thomas Street Plaza, creating a new public art space in the heart of Chinatown, which commenced in 2016 as part of a revamp of this central historical Chinese cultural precinct; it is scheduled to be finished late in 2017, with shading metal discs overhead. Entitled The New Century Garden, the work pays homage to traditional Chinese gardens, while reflecting an Australian identity. It is well used: sitting at the intersection of three major streets, it is populated by men smoking, women shopping, and children climbing and swinging from the sturdy metal forms, which are reminiscent of the wind-hewn rocks beloved of traditional Chinese gardens, here rendered in a virtually indestructible material. This Chinatown project has brought Lindy Lee back to working with the community from which she sprang. As Lee says: I feel like I have now come full circle. I spent a large part of my life finding my place, my identity. Now I am creating an important place that represents and celebrates Chinese Australian culture. It is an exciting moment in my life.21 With Lindy Lee’s recent public projects in Australia we see a senior artist, from one of the country’s longest-established cultural communities, asserting the specificity of that community’s cultural heritage, which is historically located in the centre of the country’s largest city, in a project sponsored by the city of Sydney. Importantly, the Thomas Street Plaza project was, for the first time in the city’s distinguished public art programme, led by an artist. (Lee worked in collaboration with Sydney architect Philip Thalis and landscape architect Jane Irwin.) This is a tribute both to Lindy Lee’s achievement as a visual artist, but also to her ability

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to broker connections between her visual arts world and the leaders of the city’s Chinese community. Lindy Lee, artist, is now a community identity, both Australian and Chinese, and authentically both. Finally, I want to return to the crucial institutional contexts of the three major exhibitions featuring works by Anne Ferran, Judith Wright and Lindy Lee with which I began this essay. It is no coincidence that these exhibitions were mounted by university art museums. Today, the Australian network of university art museums and galleries has emerged, as I believe it has in other countries, as providing significant sites, resources and expertise for in-depth considered research into the practices of contemporary artists. These university foundations have become considerably more sophisticated and better resourced in recent years, and this is significant for contemporary artists, since following the countrywide reforms of the tertiary education sector in the late 1980s, almost all Australian art schools have become incorporated into the university sector. Thus, this network of Australian university art museums now has the mandate, and the responsibility, to explore the achievements of the artists that it has trained and continues to employ, and to educate successive generations of artists and cultural workers. More generally, these university museums participate vigorously, as part of their educational role within their respective institutions, in broader discourses in contemporary art, with access to, and support from, experts across many fields including art historians and art theorists, but also from the university communities of scholars, that allow them to initiate and sustain thoughtful projects, such as these substantial exhibitions. Consequently, they have in recent years grown into extremely important nests for manifesting and developing practice-based research. All three exhibitions came out of particular research focuses at the respective university museums: Ferran’s exhibition was initiated by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at the University of Western Australia, which houses the important Cruthers Collection of Australian Women Artists, and thus places special emphasis on work by contemporary Australian women, with Sydney’s Australian Centre for Photography organising the exhibition’s tour; Judith Wright’s exhibition follows Queensland University of Technology Art Museum’s policy of staging substantial exhibitions for Queensland-based, mid-career artists; and Lindy Lee’s exhibition was curated for the University of Queensland Art Museum by Michele Helmrich, a longstanding Brisbane-based curator, in part following that museum’s established interest in the Australia-wide (and international) diaspora of artists of Queensland origin. Moreover, the feminist orientation of the women curators in the initiating museums has played a role in sustaining these projects: the curators, and their museums, are aware of the impact of considered exhibitions dedicated to the work of senior women artists, all of whom have had substantial careers teaching in university art colleges. This commitment to intelligent, focused exhibitions for leading living artists is, in Australia, more important than ever, given the audience-driven focus of the national and state art museums, the principal institutions able to stage contemporary art exhibitions. At one time, one would have expected to see solo exhibitions by

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contemporary artists of the achievement and sophistication of Ferran, Wright and Lee undertaken by the larger public art museums, but this is less likely today, with increasing pressure on budgets and staff, and the corresponding pressures to secure expanding audience numbers.This being so, it is a tribute to the growing complexity and maturity of the Australian cultural landscape that projects of this high calibre are being undertaken by university art museums, now more frequently than before, and that they are being supported by both university budgets and philanthropic foundations.22 The downside, of course, is that these university art museums do not attract the same large numbers and very broad demographic that the larger public museums are able to command, a point I made at the outset when I commented on the lack of published critical responses to these exhibitions. As one manifestation of the research-directed energy in Australian university art museums, however, these three exhibitions were accompanied by fine publications, with a wealth of material by leading authorities, and supplemented by many generous illustrations. It is fortunate that these published records exist: my only regret in thinking about these three splendid exhibitions is that wider audiences may not have had the opportunity to encounter them, given the relative lack of publicity accorded university-based museums in Australia, which are often ideas-rich but resourcespoor. For Anne Ferran, Judith Wright and Lindy Lee are artists with rich complex bodies of work, at the height of their powers. For this, they do deserve our attention, and merit our praise. A version of this text, entitled ‘In Praise: Exhibitions by Anne Ferran, Judith Wright, Lindy Lee’, was first published in Eyeline, 2014. My thanks to Sarah Follent, editor, for her kind permission to expand that essay for this volume.

Notes 1 See a brief mention of the exhibition by John McDonald in a Sydney Morning Herald review of the Festival of Perth, dated 22 February 2014. Available at http://johnmcdonald.net.au/2014/perth-festival-2014/, accessed 3 August 2015; the detailed review mooted here by McDonald did not appear. See also Phil Brown, ‘Wings of desire’, Courier Mail, Brisbane, 27 September 2014, p. 11 on Wright’s exhibition and Lucy Rees’s webbased review of Lee’s exhibition, www.artasiapacific.com/Magazine/WebExclusives/ TheDarkOfAbsoluteFreedom, accessed 5 August 2015. 2 Anne Ferran: Shadow Land was at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia, 8 February–19 April 2014; at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, from 29 November 2014–15 February 2015, at Newcastle Art Gallery from 12 September to 15 November 2015, and at Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, from 23 April to 26 June 2016. Judith Wright: Desire was at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Art Museum, Brisbane, 12 September–23 November 2014. Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom, was at the University of Queensland (UQ) Art Museum, Brisbane, 20 September 2014–22 February 2015. 3 Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Originally published 1962. 4 All this is sketched with economy and decision in Susan Best’s excellent catalogue essay: Susan Best, in Anne Ferran: Shadow Land, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia, and Power Publications, 2014, pp. 13–57.

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5 Anne Ferran quoted on 14 March 2014, speaking on ABC Radio. See www.abc.net.au/ radionational/programs/booksandarts/anne-ferran3a-shadow-land/5258648, accessed 3 August 2015. 6 Thierry De Duve, ‘Interview with Anne Ferran’, in Anne Ferran: Shadow Land, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia, and Power Publications, 2014, pp. 65–73, p. 73. 7 Catherine de Zegher, in Judith Wright: Desire, QUT Art Museum, Brisbane, 2014, pp. 68–74, p. 73. 8 Michele Helmrich, ‘From Darkness to Light: Pathos and Reverie in the Work of Lindy Lee’, in Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom, The University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 2014, pp. 15–31, p. 29. 9 See Suhanya Raffel, ‘Between the Oceans of Birth and Death: An Interview with Lindy Lee’, in Lindy Lee:The Dark of Absolute Freedom, pp. 73–83, see pp. 74–5. 10 Rex Butler, ‘When One Becomes Two’, in Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom, pp. 45–59. 11 Susan Best, in Anne Ferran: Shadow Land, p. 15, and also, more generally on emotion in modernist art, her Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-Garde, London: I.B. Tauris, 2011. 12 See Kyla McFarlane, Anne Ferran: Box of Birds, at https://anneferran.files.wordpress. com/2013/08/anne_ferran_catalogue.pdf. 13 Anne Ferran, email communication with author, June 2017. 14 Anne Ferran, email communication with author, June 2017. 15 Judith Wright, telephone communication with author, June 2017. 16 The Baby Memorial was commissioned from Julie Blyfield, Sue Lorraine and Catherine Truman of Adelaide’s Gray Street Workshop. 17 Judith Wright, telephone communication with author, June 2017. 18 Judith Wright, telephone communication with author, June 2017. 19 For Lyndal Jones’s Avoca Project, see http://avocaproject.org. 20 See interview with Lindy Lee, http://vimeo.com/106165131. 21 See http://sydney.edu.au/sca/news/2016/lindy_lee.shtml. 22 The University of Sydney’s Power Institute supported the Anne Ferran catalogue, through Power Publications, and the Gordon Darling Foundation supported the Lindy Lee catalogue; Australia Council support was also crucial for the Ferran catalogue and the Lindy Lee exhibition. See Felicity Johnston and Anne Ferran (eds.), Anne Ferran: Shadow Land, Sydney: Power Publications and Perth: Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, 2014; Judith Wright (et al), Judith Wright: Desire, Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology, 2014; Michele Helmrich (curator, et al.), Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom, Brisbane: University of Queensland Art Museum, 2014.

3 WOMEN IN THE CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIO Invisible tracks in the Indigenous artist’s archive Una Rey

Born of the 1970s, second wave feminism and Australia’s Aboriginal art movement have both matured gracefully: at first glance, we might acknowledge that they both won their original fight for art world recognition. Yet the question of whether feminism is welcome at the contemporary art table persists. Two recent exhibitions of Aboriginal women’s art offered the opportunity to reflect on the intergenerational shifts of what I will call the post-essentialist, intercultural feminist practices that lie at the heart of these two ‘historic’ movements but are rarely acknowledged in the narratives of Australian contemporary art. Over the summer of 2016–2017, the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) Who’s Afraid of Colour? surveyed the work of 118 ‘great contemporary Indigenous innovators –transformers of tradition and precedent – who all happen to be women’.1 Yet, rather than focus on the significance of gender, curator Judith Ryan was quick to emphasise the title’s reference to both Barnett Newman’s famous late modernist series Who’s Afraid of Red,White and Blue (1966–70) and American racial politics (in which colour is a euphemism for non-white).2 At least the NGV settled a debt incurred in 1981 when it showcased 328 male and no female artists in Aboriginal Australia.3 On a similar crusade, Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia touring the US and Canada in 2016–2019 follows the all-male No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting (2015–2016). The American collectors Debra and Dennis Scholl, whose works featured in both exhibitions, appear keen to demonstrate that Australian Indigenous art is a virile heir to the formalist adventure of modernism. 4 But they also celebrate the distinct cultural identities of the artists, all drawn from remote community art centres across inland and tropical Australia.5 Was I alone in hearing echoes of Edward Albee’s 1962 play on middle-class dysfunction Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and whispering the riposte ‘Who’s afraid of

Women in the cross-cultural studio  39

feminism?’ Are curators afraid that feminism’s supposedly dated essentialist identity politics could evoke nostalgia for something that was never so simple, or disrupt the carefully constructed cultural essentialism of much Indigenous contemporary art? Curatorial revisionism without penetrating scholarship can’t resuscitate feminism, but an assembly of women’s work is one way to take the pulse of contemporary practices in an art world where public institutions continue to underrepresent female artists and commonly disavow the influence of feminist theories and practices on contemporary art. However, tweaking the numbers is only a start. For nearly 40 years, Judith Ryan has orchestrated key exhibitions of all forms of Indigenous art, with one eye on modernist aesthetics and one on the social, cultural and political force of the work, including the development of women artists whom she called ‘the sleeping giants of the Aboriginal art movement.’6 Yet, in reconstructing the castle of modernism, Ryan stays firmly within its walls. She does not take the opportunity to revisit anthropologist Diane Bell’s critical analysis of 2002 that drew the obvious conclusion that ‘Aboriginal women are indeed rewriting the patriarchal script and in so doing posing a number of challenges for feminists’.7 We may wonder how feminism can be imagined in the uneven, inequitable conditions of postcolonial Australia, so amplified in remote communities. Curator Hetti Perkins made an attempt when lamenting Aboriginal women’s invisibility from the canon: ‘First Fleeters carried to Aboriginal Australia an ethnic lens that asserted the subordination of women and took this sexist, and by extension racist, perspective to bear on the Aboriginal societies they met in the colony.’8 In other words, colonial histories rendered Indigenous women invisible and the Western art world doubled down on that blind spot. At the same time, however, Western feminism brought wider recognition to Aboriginal women’s cultural knowledge and authority and brokered the emergence of women painters in remote Australia.The modernising of Aboriginal communities had as much impact on traditional gender relations as it did in Western society, although the rates of change have been shaped by different complexities. What is clear is that the presence of female anthropologists, teachers, linguists, art coordinators, critics and curators invested in feminism together with the will of Aboriginal women bore a legacy that was instrumental in the development of women’s Indigenous contemporary art.9 This was paralleled in the work of Indigenous women curators such as Perkins, Brenda L. Croft and Margo Neale who were paving the way for the work’s urban reception. So far so conventional: a local mirroring of the broader Western social and political history of the late 20th century, in which the Other (white ladies first) and ‘the Rest’ fought their way to the tables of cultural production and consumption. The tensions between white and black feminism and across generations of feminists have been so well scrutinised in academia that they have reached the point of cliché – as evident in a student FEMSOC poster on a regional university noticeboard: ‘We are intersectional, anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-heteronormative, anti-capitalist feminists, with an emphasis on DIY and relational activism in [insert place name].’10

40  Una Rey

This self-conscious brand of feminism suggests to me that the generative ­creative force of capital F feminism has plateaued, and may have limited traction against the trauma of colonisation, the variegated ambitions to ‘decolonise’ local art world institutions, and the complex manifestations of a postcolonial Australian consciousness. And yet, despite what might be read as an overreaction to essentialism among younger feminists, at least this intersectionality shows no fear of the F word. Intersectionality – one of the potentially generative theories of post-essentialist feminism on the aforementioned student poster – was coined in 1989 by African American lawyer and civil rights campaigner Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in her influential article, ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics’.11 Crenshaw argued that black women were discriminated against by virtue of their gender and their race, and built cases that formally recognised this ‘double jeopardy’ of discrimination. In the decades since, intersectional feminism has travelled widely as a ‘rallying cry’ against ‘single-issue feminist conversation’, especially in white, middle-class media.12 In one of many critiques of intersectionality, Devon W Carbado defends its capacity to operate across identities as well as across disciplines suggesting (after Edward Said’s travelling theory) that ‘rather than domesticating or enervating theories, movement might radicalise and reinvigorate them’.13 Crenshaw’s article coincided with a transcultural turn in global contemporary art discourse and curatorial practice first writ large in Jean-Hubert Martin’s Magicians of the Earth (1989).14 In concert with postcolonial theory, post-structural feminism and postmodern analysis, centre/periphery debates and theories of hybridity, Crenshaw’s notion of intersectionality offers a guide to understanding the productive and provocative zones of cross-cultural contact where women, in spite of, and because of, their uneven power relations, find themselves face to face on the ground. In the Australian context, the art market has been the unlikely catalyst in this liaison, its multiple networks and willing audiences opening a space for numerous hybrid cultural forms. Despite Ryan’s claim that Who’s Afraid of Colour? is neither an exhibition about feminism nor a feminist exhibition, there are, as always if you go looking, counter narratives about the politics of women’s lived experience – both black and white. This is especially the case in remote communities, where feminism may never be uttered aloud – though women’s rights and issues of domestic violence are critical. But if we follow Crenshaw, the interdisciplinary intercultural practices occurring in remote community art centres are rich sites of post-essentialist politics, and they generate much of the work being exhibited as far afield as Tokyo and New York. These reconciliatory gestures, however, remain invisible on the gallery walls.The preliminary curatorial work being performed ‘out bush’15 through black/white relationships is also largely rendered invisible: doubly so when the mediator is a woman. These mutable curatorial practices carried out in the art centre remain the most ‘inarticulate’ and under-investigated aspects of these transcultural art worlds, in spite of their influence and power. This is largely because the modernist paradigm and the cultural essentialism governing most exhibitions highlights ‘genius’

Women in the cross-cultural studio  41

and Indigenous identities, concealing feminist relational action which was a key factor in opening a space for Indigenous women artists in the 1990s.

Constant gardeners The artist who most famously took advantage of this feminist opening was Emily Kame Kngwarreye, whose Big Yam Dreaming/Anwerlarr Anganenty (1995) is the indisputable queen of Who’s Afraid of Colour? Eclipsing the scale of two of Australia’s most iconic publically owned works, Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles (1952) and Spirit Dreaming Through Napperby Country (1980) by Tjapaltjarri brothers Tim Leura and Clifford Possum, Kngwarreye’s black and white register symbolises the interracial and intertextual. The painting’s stark gestural glamour captures a protean signature of place and time, looping through the conceptual language of Anmatyerr women’s ceremony (awely), and the artist’s primary Dreaming, anwerlarr anganenty, the pencil yam at Alhalkere north-east of Alice Springs. Like Kngwarreye, the painting has assumed the status of a national treasure that accords infinite interpretations. As visual banner, it has rendered services as diverse as Deleuze’s theories and the Indigenous botanical archive, while also offering a grand feminist challenge to the heroics of abstract expressionism (Figure 3.1).

Tjitjiti, 2015. Carlene West and Emily Kame Kgnwarreye’s Big Yam Dreaming/Anwerlarr anganenty 1995. Installation, Who’s Afraid of Colour? National Gallery of Victoria, 2017. Photo: Una Rey


42  Una Rey

From the late 1980s until her death in 1996, Kngwarreye was the magnum opus of the Australian art world, epitomising the ‘remote star’ theory of contemporary art’s mythologising and inadvertently announcing the women’s turn in Aboriginal art from remote communities. Like an ‘ideal feminist’, the ‘impossible modernist’16 never married, remained childless and was stridently independent in character while fulfilling all the interdependencies of Anmatyerr social, political and cultural being. Big Yam Dreaming/Anwerlarr Anganenty marks the apogee of Kngwarreye’s art career, but the origins of her transactional painting practice first surface in the laborious efforts of craft: the low-cost and profane women’s work well represented in Who’s Afraid of Colour? As the art/craft debate served second-wave feminist discourses in the 1970s, white women craft advisors introduced the women of Utopia to the laborious but socially invigorating batik process. The technique would ultimately be abandoned: craft may be reframed as critical practice, but it doesn’t pay like painting does. Nevertheless, the genesis of Kngwarreye’s art owes a debt to her decade-long apprenticeship in batik painting from 1977. Linguists Jenny Green and Julia Murray were central to this development: Murray managed the commercial batik enterprise for five years followed by a string of women coordinators, while Green would continue to work in Central Australia permanently.17 However, it was a man, Rodney Gooch, who acted as a catalyst to move Utopia women’s work in a transformative new direction.18 Gooch began working for Utopia artists in 1987 and is written into the legend of Kngwarreye. His decision to introduce the artists to more ambitious art projects was first evident in Utopia: A Summer Project, in which he encouraged the women to add distinctive painterly borders to their large-scale silks, a hands-on approach that stimulated rather than obstructed the artists in their discoveries.19 It was his maverick approach in pushing the artists’ work, paired with his eye to contemporary art market desires, that created a perfect storm with Kngwarreye riding the headwind. In his PhD thesis, Quentin Sprague (an ex-art coordinator) examined a number of close creative intercultural partnerships against the rolling swell of the market,20 with a focus almost exclusively on male ‘brokers’ who have proven to be the most visible examples of intercultural arts workers – in part because they easily inhabit the roles of mavericks and radical innovators, in part because they have proven better publicists. By contrast, there is an uncomfortably essentialist ‘feminine reluctance’ on the part of women coordinators to acknowledge their impact on the art being made and on the relevance of gender or feminist critiques of their practice. Nevertheless, Sprague’s assessment ‘that creativity will cut its own path regardless of the ideological barriers that so often surround cross-cultural engagements in Australia’21 applies across the gender divide.

Artistic waves: the patrilineal line Like the conventional precis of feminism, the contemporary Indigenous art movement has been interpreted as having two historic waves. Both are, in 20th-century

Women in the cross-cultural studio  43

fashion, masculine in tenor and heroic in ambition, narratives frequently revised to reflect contemporary prejudices and aspirations. The first eruption was the Arrerente artist Albert Namatjira’s mastery of watercolour, a medium introduced by Rex Battarbee in the mid-1930s. This intimate relational exchange of worldviews which lasted until Namatjira’s death in 1959 would have sweeping implications for Australian modernism, but more significantly it planted the seed for a new profession in Aboriginal Australia: becoming an artist.22 A second revolution occurred at Papunya in 1971 when senior Aboriginal men, encouraged by schoolteacher Geoffrey Bardon, began painting in acrylics for an outside audience. This now magnificent history obscures the little-known fact that the men were also introduced to tie-dye, batik and screen-printing – the ‘lesser’ media associated more with women’s practice which were so significant in the Utopia story.23 Like Battarbee before him, Bardon published his account of those heady days in books that made passionately subjective arguments for the artists and the radicalism of their work under the banner of Papunya Tula. In recent scholarship, Vivien Johnson – who since the 1980s has added critical insights into the Papunya art movement and been its most significant champion after Bardon – has granted considerably more agency to the artists’ lives before and after Bardon’s 18-month tenure. All the same, his ‘foundation story’ of the Western Desert painting movement has been ‘told so intensely’ and ‘retold so often and so widely, that it has almost the force of a Dreaming narrative itself ’. Even if ‘the real Papunya is surely not the one of Geoffrey Bardon’s memories,’24 he is perennially associated with Papunya Tula artists, just as Battarbee is with the Hermannsburg landscape painters. The point here is to emphasise the commitment from both black and white individuals in creating new forms to communicate the richness of Indigenous knowledge, culture, sovereignty and political will. Both Battarbee and Bardon represent early examples of what is now a tide of arts workers moving in and out of the complex cultural field of the remote Indigenous community. While there are important differences between then and now – notably in gender and the broader racial politics of Australia – the continuities are remarkable: white interlocutors whose presence is essential but paradoxical within the Indigenous art story. With the rare exception of Bunjalung curator and artist Djon Mundine who managed the art centres at Milingimbi from 1979 and Ramingining from c1983– 1988, art coordinators are mostly non-Indigenous. This is unsurprising, given the administrative and financial skills required of an art coordinator and the structural obstacles that local Indigenous populations have faced in acquiring them, at least until recently.25 While state and regional galleries are under increasing moral and political pressure to employ Indigenous curators to manage Indigenous collections and programmes, the art coordinator is not (yet) an ‘Indigenous identified position’.26 Mundine’s example remains singular: his influential role as conceptual producer and cross-cultural mediator of The Aboriginal Memorial (1987–88) has not established a precedent for Indigenous art coordinators in remote communities despite bringing to the project rich political and cultural symbolism unmatched by any non-Indigenous coordinator.27

44  Una Rey

Mundine’s ability to engage and negotiate with the Ramingining community and the Sydney art establishment was crucial to the realisation of The Aboriginal Memorial, but such epic public works have not been the primary object of remote community art centres or their staff. Implemented by the Aboriginal Arts Board in 1973, the role of arts and craft advisors was to market, promote and ensure the production of cultural material that conformed to an ‘authentic’ Indigenous product.28 Improved infrastructure and communications along with industry support has made the coordinator’s role less demanding at a logistical level, but negotiating across worlds remains central. Coordinators perform a contract of mutual obligation and need to operate in diverse and demanding fields, from the art world, to the dislocated and dynamic social realities of remote communities, to the perpetuity of the Dreaming. These imported workforces are studio assistants, curators, critics, administrators, dealers, strategists and writers who tacitly agree to downplay their influence and impact on the artists as they perform what is a relatively silent pantomime. There are, of course, some noises from time to time: journalist and long-time critic of Indigenous art, Nicolas Rothwell, has called attention to the art coordinator’s presence and participation in two-way influence and intimate exchange that is ‘so profound… that it is almost a perversion of the record to underplay this hybrid aspect of the tradition.’29 Anthropologist Fred Myers, in his analysis of arts coordinators at Papunya Tula, notes that coordinators are often ‘significant theorists in their own engagement and practices’,30 an observation more applicable to the writings of men than women. An exception is artist and writer Kim Mahood, one of the most articulate observers of the intercultural field. While not an art coordinator, she has collaborated with Aboriginal artists and worked closely on several remote community projects. Her outback pastoralist heritage grants her a rare perspective – tempered with irony and wit – on the prosaic and sometimes tragic cross-cultural collisions of remote Australia, and her essays offer sharp insights into the art centre dynamic that neither appeases nor apologises to the cosmopolitan reader.31 My own experience as an art coordinator bears mention here as background to my long-term interest in the shifting priorities – aesthetic, ethical, gendered and political – of remote community art centres. In 1997 as a recent painting graduate I was employed as art coordinator at Ikuntji, Haasts Bluff, 220 kilometres west of Alice Springs. I was familiar with the artists’ work and the nuances of the market following five year’s employment in a commercial gallery in Darwin specialising in Indigenous art. The capacity to sell the art and to understand painting processes was critical to my appointment, and I would go on to work at Balgo in short-term contracts and on the Tiwi Islands as art coordinator between 2000–2002.32 In each case, I was replacing women art coordinators, or working alongside them. By 2014, women accounted for around 70 percent of remote community arts workers, although definitive statistics are hard to establish given the average tenure of art coordinators is between two and three years.33 This gender trend is reflected in curatorial and arts administration roles in metropolitan and regional centres elsewhere in Australia and is also reflective of the high percentage of women enrolled

Women in the cross-cultural studio  45

in tertiary art degrees, though at the time of writing only one state public art institution has a female director.34 It is highly unlikely that men at Papunya would have inculcated a woman into their painting plan as they did Bardon and subsequent male coordinators in those early years – even though the painters’ wives would soon be helping with the laborious dotting of the large paintings. By the same token, Aboriginal women have been instrumental in inviting white women to work for them and with them, and the stream of willing urban women remains constant. These women may be drawn to ‘the adventure of art advising’, as Myers described it, but how much of that ‘adventure’ is shaped by gender? More specifically, has the gender of coordinators had an impact on the art that gets made in remote communities and how that art is exhibited? In seeking some broad answers to these open-ended questions, I looked to the writing of women art coordinators as well as interviewed some long-term practitioners. My selection of subjects aims to capture some of the changes of the past two decades, reflecting different ages and professional backgrounds, including painters, art teachers, linguists, community arts workers, and arts administrators or museum professionals. Though none of the women identified as curators prior to their role as art coordinators, some have become active in this area and most consider ‘curatorial thinking’ one of the most creative aspects of the job; for some, curating has become part of their post-art centre practice.

Go West, young woman The 1990s witnessed steady growth across the Aboriginal art market building on its incremental rebranding as contemporary art. Curatorial gestures such as Bernice Murphy’s Perspecta (1981) and Nick Waterlow’s Biennales of Sydney (1979, 1986, 1988) were instrumental in framing the work as culturally unique and conceptually avant garde.35 A willing market; postcolonial, post-bicentennial (1988) optimism; and a liberally inclined art world coincided with the rise in university graduates enriched by second-wave feminist art practices to precipitate a surge in female arts coordinators.The frontier mythology intrinsic to the Australian psyche was reimagined and feminised, a zeitgeist echoing the 19th-century Indiana journalist’s famous challenge to dystopian urban youth: ‘Go West, young man, and grow up with your country.’36 The geopolitical landscape of remote Aboriginal Australia now offered an invitation to young women to test their mettle in a relatively new hybrid field of creative practice. Karen Dayman and Marina Strocchi were emblematic of a generation of artists seeking new horizons in the desert. Strocchi, an insider with the Roar group of Melbourne neo-expressionist painters (her partner Wayne Eager was a founding member of the informal collective) first travelled to Central Australia and the Western Desert in 1990 with an enthusiasm for the Papunya Tula painters inspired by exhibitions at the NGV and Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi.37 This fieldtrip led directly to women at Haasts Bluff asking her to establish a women’s art centre. Arriving with ‘a suitcase full of white T-shirts, a roll of fabric and a slab of butcher’s paper’38 to run

46  Una Rey

screen-printing workshops, Strocchi would become the inaugural art coordinator at Ikuntji and a catalyst in the Papunya Tula women’s painting movement. Though Daphne Williams was the first female manager at Papunya Tula, a post she held for 20 years from 1981, she didn’t encourage women to paint as artists in their own right.39 This historic moment was instigated by Pintupi women at Kintore (kin to the leading Papunya Tula painters) when they instructed Strocchi to run a canvas workshop out bush in 1996. Her role in the Minyma Tjukurrpa [Women’s Law] painting project was a reciprocal act of relational exchange, as the Kintore women had ‘opened’ the art centre at Ikuntji: ‘We danced for you… bring us big canvas… When are you coming with the really big canvas, not little ones, really big ones?’40 Big canvases were also taking shape further north in the Kimberley in 1996. By then, Dayman was already six years into her coordinator’s role at Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency in Fitzroy Crossing; she would spend a total of 17 years in the job. Fitzroy’s painting history predates Dayman’s arrival, but the implications of the 1993 Native Title Act for the Walmajarri, Wangkajunga, Juwaliny and Mangala brought a different force to the Mangkaja studio – politically and aesthetically. Many of the forty plus custodians of the Great Sandy Desert who collaborated on the monumental Ngurrara I (1996) and Ngurrara II (1997) were key painters at the art centre, and more than half were women.41 Dayman – who humorously and selfdeprecatingly referred to herself as ‘paint monitor’ – discerned an inventiveness and freedom in the Ngurrara canvases, ‘not principally concerned with women’s body paint iconography or detailed ngarrangkarni narratives…’ The fact that they were painted on country half a day’s drive from the art centre also explains the vitality of these historic canvases. As all art coordinators soon learn, visiting country is implicit to better understandings of the artists and their paintings; such experiences added to what was for Dayman ‘an incredibly rich field of translations: the Bible, languages, paint.’42 Not surprisingly, writing would become a critical part of her practice and a way of interpreting the cross-cultural idiom of painting.43 Strocchi and Dayman were key chaperones to what curator Margie West called ‘third wave Aboriginal art’44 coming out of the desert in the 1990s, that is, women’s painting. Each can claim a legacy here: Strocchi’s hand in the activation of Pintupi women painters and Dayman’s role in the landmark Ngurrara canvases. In Strocchi’s case, being a woman invested in relationships was significant to the women’s painting project, whereas in Dayman’s case, the collective language groups and mix of men and women collaborators suggests gender was not as important. In their respective art centre studios at Ikuntji and Mangkaja, however, both nurtured individual artists and encouraged experimentation and long apprenticeships painting on paper that generated works of exquisite subtlety. These could be framed in the art historical tradition of women’s work: low cost, small scale works with an emphasis on dialogical exchange and materiality. As Dayman observed, ‘it was the market that led to the use of canvas over paper – pure economics.’45 While gender bears some conceptual, aesthetic and material influence in the studio, such as the women’s drawing and printmaking that flowered under the auspice of coordinators

Women in the cross-cultural studio  47

Diane Moon and Fiona Salmon at Maningrida in the 1990s, it is also true that art centres by decree are subservient to the market.46 When Myers describes Daphne Williams’s management style at Papunya Tula as pragmatic with an interest to the long-term stability of the business rather than with an eye to ‘the adventure of art advising’, it is tempting to take his observation as a gender template and apply it to other female coordinators. While Williams formed close relationships with the artists, unlike Bardon, she did not write herself into the narrative of Papunya Tula, nor have the stream of women who have worked in her wake, though their influence in subtle ways – mixing paint, selecting alternatives to large-scale canvases – can be discerned: the invisible tracks in the archive. As documenter, Strocchi leaves little evidence of her subjective experience as artist and art coordinator, her writing mostly confined to artists’ oral histories and the community painting movement.47 But Strocchi is also representative of the art coordinator/artist who treads a delicate line in maintaining her own artistic practice, which is often a motivation for working in the field. Ever conscious of the ethics of exchange and the conflicts of interest that surface in the cross-cultural terrain of Australian painting,48 she has been careful to patrol the borders of interpretations of her own painting given its pictographic style that shares a formal resemblance to painters at Ikuntji and Papunya Tula.49 Strocchi’s agreement to exhibit in Black White & Restive50 in 2016 and to be curated in direct relationship with Papunya Tula painters Narrabri Nakamarra and Wintjiya Napaltjarri suggests that the transcultural, feminist narrative within the grand schema of Aboriginal art history now meets with the self-assessment of her work. However, this is a recent turn for Strocchi, who declined to participate in Roads Cross: Contemporary Directions in Australian Art (2012) at Flinders University Art Museum. Roads Cross featured a number of female art coordinators and was co-curated by linguist and one-time art coordinator Fiona Salmon, who cut her curatorial teeth within the gendered dynamics of Maningrida in Central Arnhem Land.51 Strocchi’s reservations were in response to publicity circulated about an exhibition in the AAMU Netherlands in which she and Wayne Eager were wrongly cited as art coordinators who introduced Pintupi painters in the CoBRA style.52 A piece of poorly researched publicity, Strocchi perceived it as potentially damaging to working relationships so prudently nurtured. Influence between black and white artists is still tightly enmeshed with the wounds of colonisation and art world aspirations for economic and aesthetic autonomy, and Roads Cross did attract minor controversy, stimulated in part by the competing interests of a new wave of women art coordinators whose art centre custodianship was facing different challenges (Figure 3.2).

Borderland action By the early 2000s art centres were proliferating across the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands) and Ngaanyatjarra Lands, a combined area of approximately 350,000 square kilometres of sentient desert impervious to the

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FIGURE 3.2  Edwina Circuitt and Peter Lewis working at Warakurna Artists studio, Western Australia, 2006. Photo: Tim Pearn

South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory borders that cut through the country. By the early 21st century most art centres were receiving government funding and following best practice models rather than inventing them through trial and error. These communities were also inheritors of a booming art market and a critical art world reception of Aboriginal painting, making Anangu artists especially vulnerable to independent dealers or ‘carpet baggers’ to use the pejorative term.53 A veteran, serial art coordinator, Amanda Dent and her partner Brian Hallett began their apprenticeship at Wingellina (Irrunytju) in 2000. Here, Anangu women worked closely with Dent to establish Irrunytju Arts, selling second-hand clothing to finance infrastructure in the first instance. The quick success of the paintings – a vibrant expressionistic dot style with a strong underlying structure – brought tensions, as peripheral community interests wrested financial control from the artists and their original enterprise. Amidst these conflicts and contests, Dent gained a reputation as an art coordinator who balanced the competing demands of a productive studio against the expectations of an increasingly sophisticated audience for the work: that is, an emerging connoisseurship among collectors and a number of competitor/art centres, many in relatively close proximity making work in a related style.54 Trained as a jeweller, Dent established her own exclusive studio practice in Perth in the 1990s before her desire to work more collaboratively in a community service role triumphed. Or so she claims: her attention to the form of the paintings along with her intuitive responsiveness to the developing vision of the artists reveals an

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artist intent on the adventure of art coordinating and the quasi-maternal pleasure in nurturing painters and revelling in their painterly achievements – though she is quick to defer to the artist’s agency and authority.55 Reluctant to entertain feminist or gendered readings of her art centre role, Dent recognises the mainstream art world’s prevailing gender inequities that are partly reflected in higher financial returns for men’s paintings along with more institutional opportunities for male artists. That said, women were the high earners at the art centres she managed, though she has observed that exposure to ‘mission activity, or tourist moneymaking ventures’ could undermine an artist’s work. A formative experience for Anangu women in the APY region was Ernabella Arts, established in 1948 and managed for 32 years by Winifred Hilliard.The first women-only art centre, it produced batik, pottery, pokerwork and gouache drawings for the tourist market. Hence when Dent actively encouraged old men to paint at Wingellina, some of them would say they couldn’t do it. Their wives agreed, saying ‘they [women] were the ones who knew how to paint’,56 a confidence reinforced through their history of selling art product to outside audiences. While gender power struggles and distinctly gendered cultural authorities are common in Aboriginal communities and by extension art centres, they do not align consistently with any singular approach to painting. Dent raises concerns familiar to all art coordinators: the perennial issue of artist versus artisan and the tensions caused when cultural significance of an artist’s story isn’t reflected in financial returns. In countless informal studio critique sessions, primarily with younger and middle-age artists, conversation would return to the idea of Western visual preferences: ‘…we talked about … palette… symmetry, and “breaking the cross”’, 57 the ‘Union Jack’ composition that young painters often rely on. Over a 12- to 18-month period, Dent would work closely with artists to identify the habits and construction of their work on small-scale canvas boards – much like Strocchi and Dayman’s paper experiments – constantly returning to the idea of a personalised response to tjukurrpa58 and ways of pushing pictorial habits into new ground. Another of Dent’s innovations was in keeping buyers away from the art centre, which relied on high-end galleries and an exclusive annual exhibition programme of ‘boutique’ product. Few art centres have the luxury of turning away direct buyers whose visits grant personal contact with the artist and enhance the cultural tourism and economic agendas of the small business enterprises. However, in Dent’s experience, bringing the point of sale to the studio created adverse tensions. Today financial transparency and cross-cultural, bilingual ‘money-stories’ are common in art centres, and Dent and the artists shared endless informal conversations about cash, financial planning, strategic career planning and artistic profiles as well as using culturally relevant analogies to communicate the seemingly abstract logic of art market preferences to the artists. By 2005 when Edwina Circuitt was employed as inaugural manager at Warakurna Artists, the professionalisation of the art centre was complete: custom built studios, broadband access and specialised database systems, a result of longterm benchmarking by industry peak bodies. With degrees in studio practice and

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arts administration, Circuitt is typical of the current cohort of art coordinators. At Museums Victoria she had worked with an earlier wave of art coordinators including Julia Murray, John Kean and Philip Batty, who had stimulated her interest in the uniquely intercultural aspects of the work. She was mentored into her new role by seasoned arts workers Tim Acker and Tim Pearn who, along with the artists, had laid much of the logistical groundwork and modelling for Warakurna Artists. Circuitt recalled the anticipation that attended the art centre’s official opening and the artists’ collective and universal existentialist enquiry, ‘What should we paint?’59 The hesitation was short-lived, and likely reflected the artists’ self-awareness in terms of a localised market identity: they soon made their mark through regular exhibitions and continued to find new ways of negotiating the market after the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Circuitt regularly questioned what the art centre could be and how it should best be served, and she was alert to the opportunities and dynamism – risks included – of more collaborative gestures, as two examples illustrate. One was Warakurna’s invitation to anthropologist David Brooks and art historian Darren Jorgensen to collaborate on a book on the late style ‘old wobbly’ painters at the Wanarn Aged Care Centre,60 in which Circuitt hoped to encourage a ‘more playful’ interpretation of the work beyond the ubiquitous ‘selling the Dreaming, selling the Country, where there is little room for the artist’s voice.’61Another opportunity to depart from commercial imperatives was the Ngaanyatjarra History Painting project, in which middle-aged artists recorded early contact events such as the death of ill-fated explorer Lasseter in the 1930s, an early example of cross-cultural narratives.62 While these interactional models arguably owe a debt to feminist practices including socially responsive engagement, they are better described as intersectional and transcultural gestures: that is, more layered narratives of what makes Indigenous contemporary art so enriching. With the increasing mobility of global artists both physically and virtually, ‘cross-cultural collaboration’ has become a regular feature of contemporary art. In Australia, this is optimistically framed as a ‘relational’ practice (after Bourriaud)63 and more sceptically as a variant of Hal Foster’s ‘ethnographic turn’ – though for Indigenous artists, collaboration is as old as culture itself. Curator Margo Neale and academic Marcia Langton are two Indigenous advocates of intercultural collaboration as a form of dual agency and intellectual exchange, although for many peripheral observers the risks of exploitation when black and white artists get together is a given, hence collaboration raises the alarm that appropriation did in the 1980s when white artists turned to Aboriginal paintings in search of new quotations.64 The art centre studio and its creative cultural mixing present more nuanced conceptions of what collaboration and collective art production are, and all the coordinators I have spoken to are unequivocal in advocating the artists’ agency. Firstly, they know as Dent states, exactly what’s right in terms of tjukurrpa, and won’t compromise it – on pain of death… so that charges of appropriating or colonising culture, or of ‘selling

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the secrets’ are redundant… and secondly, painting, it’s a different thing [from ceremonial art], the canvas tradition. Artists know they are boss for the tjukurrpa, no question. But they think the white fella is boss for the painting, it is his/her tradition, s/he understands it the best, is the rightful authority.65 Likewise, the artists defer to the art coordinator in decisions of canvas business. Herein lies the cultural diplomacy at the heart of the art centre: each to their own business, with a sharp eye on the common but shifting ground of cross-cultural communication and creative expression. Men and women may negotiate these dynamics differently at times, but to grandstand on gendered differences is ultimately limiting: rather, the intersections between women artists and coordinators reveal a series of feminised practices largely glossed over in Australian art world narratives. As an aside, finding photographs to illustrate this essay featuring female art coordinators on the job was surprisingly difficult – and revealing in itself. One conclusion to draw from the examples of women art coordinators touched on here is that while they are engaged in post-essentialist feminist practices, they do not conform to a gendered position. Each is a willing participant in ‘the adventure of art advising’ and committed to Indigenous agency and cultural expression, and in their own ways each has made a creative practice responsive and alert to two overlapping art worlds. Whether subscribing to a feminist critique of their methodology or not, art coordinators (irrespective of gender) are all beholden to the market and they continue, by and large, to reinforce Western assumptions of artistic ‘greatness.’ It is left to curators and art historians to reveal the complex threads of intercultural feminism.

‘…akin to singing or dancing’ American high priestess of post-conceptual art theory Rosalind Krauss insisted it was bad art history to rely on the artist’s biography, but women’s experience is still central to feminist practice, even if it has slipped out of vogue in contemporary discourse. Returning to Who’s Afraid of Colour? two artists whose work encodes contemporary experience are Maryanne Mungatopi and Lorna Napurrurla Fencer, the latter’s canvases hanging among fervent cultural-expressionist works proclaiming the resilience of women’s ceremonial knowledge and the matrilineal abundance of country. However, Napurrurla’s oeuvre was aesthetically uneven over her two decades of painting, and for good reason. The NGV wall text amplifies only one part of the story: ‘For Napurrurla, painting was a performative process, akin to singing or dancing.’ However, her biography reveals more compelling forces at work on her life and art. She began painting in what constituted an Indigenous feminist groundswell at Lajamanu in 1986, when Walpiri women initiated a series of paintings for use as teaching aides at the school, launched in Paint Up Big: Walpiri Women’s Art of Lajamanu at the NGV curated by Judith Ryan. Although never an art coordinator per se, linguist Christine Nicholls played a key part in organising Paint Up Big, and following her decade at Lajamanu,

52  Una Rey

she has made a significant contribution to the intercultural archive in her writing, curating and teaching. In her comprehensive essay for Napurrurla’s retrospective in Adelaide, Nicholls portrays her subject as a solitary figure living within frenetic communities, an independent and mercurial woman whose polyamorous approach to the art market – there was no consistent art centre in Lajamanu in her lifetime – was both inspiring for its anarchy and sobering in its necessity. Napurrurla was determined to paint, with the help of whoever she could muster, and for whatever price was going. Her compulsive mark-making and prodigious output indicates her strength of character and her cultural authority, but as Nicholls writes, painting was also a form of expunging grief, or losing herself: here was a woman who outlived eight of her ten children. Ever her champion, Nicholls even claims ‘she should be remembered as an artist rather than a “woman artist” or an “Aboriginal artist.”’66 Should we say the same of Mungatopi, whose archetypal portraits of the leading players of Tiwi cosmology echo contemporary conflicts between men and women, gravely mirrored in her own biography?67 In disregarding their gendered experience and by extension the strength and inventiveness of their creative triumphs, are we selling the artists short? Who’s Afraid of Colour? never promised us a room of our own, no matter how much Ms Woolf howled for us. Local institutional politics aside (the NGV’s Indigenous galleries are a labyrinthine squeeze tucked away on the third floor), the exhibition begs the question: is there an institutional disinterest in the cosmopolitan textures of 21st-century feminism? Marking the Infinite tries harder in this respect, with Perkins’s commissioned essay and curator Henry F. Skerritt paying tribute to women’s agency and history: ‘One of the great lessons of Aboriginal women’s art… is that feminist responses take their own culturally specific forms’, negotiating the constraints of local patriarchies and finding expressive opportunities within the market place.68 The exhibitions discussed here are just two indicators that women are paragons of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement as it approaches its half-century. Nevertheless, they are generated within the modernist paradigm of the artist’s individual genius and established discourses of cultural identity. Put differently, such exhibitions resist the intersectional narratives that would situate them as feminist projects within their political relations of cross-cultural production and consumption. For each interpretative claim for Indigenous contemporary art there is a dialectical counter claim, as real-world inequities across race, gender and class in postcolonial Australia are never far away. Feminism may be besieged by its many hybrid identities, but it remains a powerful force, however concealed, in bringing black and white women together in creative, generative exchanges. Who’s afraid of that? The author would like to acknowledge the art coordinators cited in this essay and the many others (both male and female) who took time to engage with these ideas and histories.

Notes 1 Judith Ryan, National Gallery of Victoria, www.ngv.vic.gov.au/essay/whos-afraid-ofcolour/ (Accessed 4 February 2017).

Women in the cross-cultural studio  53

2 Judith Ryan, personal communication, 1 February 2017. 3 Commentary has been critical of Tony Ellwood’s directorship in terms of gender representation. See www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/sep/15/gender-and-the-ngvmore-white-male-artists-than-you-can-shake-a-stick-at (Accessed 24 June 2017). 4 No Boundaries and Marking the Infinite were curated by Henry F. Skerritt for Nevada Museum of Art, touring ten venues overall. Collector Dennis Scholl acknowledges the ‘spirituality’ and cultural power of the work, and also notes, ‘…these artists were all committed abstract painters…’, ‘…strong formalists, working in a consistent style, with traceable threads from work to work and year to year.’ Henry F. Skerritt, No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection (London, New York, Munich: Prestel Publishing, 2014), 9. 5 ‘Remote’ community art centres are government funded and collectively managed by Aboriginal artists on Aboriginal lands that employ (usually non-Indigenous) art coordinators. Most art centres are extremely isolated and far from metropolitan centres. Indigenous languages and pre-contact cultural traditions are still widely practised. 6 Judith Ryan, Colour Power: Aboriginal Art Post 1984 (Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2004), 104. 7 See Diane Bell, ‘Person and Place: Making Meaning of the Art of Australian Indigenous Women’, Feminist Studies 28, no. 1 (2002): 101. 8 Hetti Perkins, ‘A Gift from the Heart’ in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia (Munich, London, New York: DelMonico Books Prestel, 2016), 19. 9 The work of Bell and earlier anthropologists such as Catherine Berndt, Phyllis Kaberry and Jane Goodale has been significant in this field. 10 This flyer was circulated at the University of Wollongong, 2017. 11 In 1991 Crenshaw worked on the legal case in which Anita Hill accused (then) Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, galvanising Crenshaw’s commitment to intersectionality as a way of recognising black women’s experience in the eyes of the law. 12 Amanda Hess, ‘How a Fractious Women’s Movement Came to Lead the Left’, The New York Times, 7 February 2017. 13 Devon W. Carbado, ‘Colorblind Intersectionality’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 38 (2013): 812. 14 Martin’s exhibition was a response to the much criticised “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, 1984. The term ‘transculturation’ first appears in Fernando Ortiz’s foundational text on cultural cosmopolitanism, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar, trans. Harriet de Onís (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947). 15 ‘Out bush’ is a colloquial Australian term referring to the outback, desert, remote or isolated parts of the country. In Aboriginal English vernacular, it may refer to custodial country lying beyond settled communities. 16 See Akira Tatehata’s essay ‘The Impossible Modernist’ in Margo Neale, ed. Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Tokyo: The Yomiuri Shimbun, 2008. 17 Judith Ryan and Robyn Healey, Raiki Wara: Long Cloth from Aboriginal Australia and the Torres Straits, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1998. 18 See Philip Batty, ‘The Gooch Effect: Rodney Gooch and the Art of the Art Advisor’ in Fiona Salmon et al., Gooch’s Utopia: Collected Works from the Central Desert (Adelaide: Flinders University Art Museum, 2008), 26–31, 26. 19 Ibid. 20 Quentin Sprague, Making in Translation:The Intercultural Broker in Indigenous Australian Art, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Wollongong, 2016. 21 Quentin Sprague, ‘Pushing the Line: An Unlikely Artistic Collaboration in the Kimberley’, The Monthly (2013): 38. 22 Namatjira is widely acknowledged by artists Australia-wide as an inspiration. His direct legacy continues in the Iltja Njarra Many Hands Art Centre in Alice Springs. 23 Ryan and Healey, 10.

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24 Vivien Johnson, Streets of Papunya:The Reinvention of Papunya Painting (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2015), 16. 25 Desart Inc. and ANKAAA are two advocacy organisations that support Indigenous Arts Worker Programmes in remote communities. It is worth noting that cultural and familial obligations within communities can put unique pressures on local staff in management roles, though Aboriginal arts workers and trainees are increasing. 26 Although not legislated, Indigenous Identified Positions are recommended best practice within the Australian Public Service following Special Measures amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. 27 First exhibited in 1988 at The Biennale of Sydney, the installation of 200 hollow-log coffins represents 200 years of colonisation and the countless Aboriginal people who died fighting for their land since 1788.The Aboriginal Memorial is on permanent display atThe National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. See Nigel Lendon, ‘Relational Agency: Rethinking the Aboriginal Memorial’, emaj, no. 9, 2016. At https://emajartjournal.com/2016/06/15/ nigel-lendon-relational-agency-rethinking-the-aboriginal-memorial/. 28 Figures from peak bodies ANKAAA and Desart Inc. put the number of remote community art centres at around 100 in 2016. The Australian Government (www.australia.gov. au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-indigenous-art) estimates the Aboriginal art industry at $200 million per year. ‘Industry’ is inclusive of tourist and souvenir product, fine art, secondary market auction resale and remote community sales, which average between $30–35 million per year, Tim Acker, email 22 May 2017. See also Tim Acker and Alice Woodhead, ‘The Art Economies Value Chain Report Crc-Rep Cr004’, Alice Springs, 2014. 29 Nicolas Rothwell, ‘Bridge between Worlds’, The Australian, 18 April 2009. 30 Fred R. Myers, Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 147. 31 Kim Mahood, Position Doubtful (Melbourne, London: Scribe, 2016). ‘Kartiya Are Like Toyotas’, Griffith Review, no. 36 (2012). See also Una Rey, ‘Women’s Business: CrossCultural Collaborations in Remote Indigenous Art Centres’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Art 16, no. 1 (2016). 32 Ikuntji Artists at Haasts Bluff c. 250km west of Alice Springs was once serviced by the Papunya Tula company. Warlayirti Artists at Balgo in the Tanami Desert in Western Australia and Jilamara Arts and Craft on Melville Island, 80km north of Darwin, are leading Indigenous art centres established in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. 33 Acker and Woodhead. 34 Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, 1999. 35 Ian McLean, ‘Aboriginal Art and the Artworld’, in How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art: Writings on Aboriginal Art 1980–2006, ed. Ian McLean, Brisbane and Sydney: Institute of Modern Art and Power Publications, 2011. 36 First published as an editorial in the Terre Haute Express, 1851. The quote is often attributed to Horace Greeley who made similar calls to populate the American west. www. britannica.com/topic/Go-West-1086091. 37 Pizzi was an early champion of contemporary Indigenous art, along with Melbourne dealers Vivien Anderson, Beverly Knight and Gabriella Roy in Sydney, and Sandra Le Brun Holmes and Dorothy Bennett, both in Darwin. 38 Marina Strocchi, Ikuntji Tjuta Touring (Campbelltown: Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery, 1999), 4. 39 Richard Kimber, ‘The Solid Core: Daphne Williams’, Artlink 26, no. 4 (2006). 40 Marina Strocchi, ‘Minyma Tjukurrpa: Kintore/Haasts Bluff Canvas Project. Dancing Women to Famous Painters’, ibid.: 104. 41 The collective campaign that produced Ngurrara II (now held in the National Museum of Australia) was eventually successful in securing land tenure for the claimants in 2007, a decade after the painting was presented to the National Native Title Tribunal. The

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Northern Territory Land Rights Act (1976) first recognised Indigenous possession of land; however, it was the 1992 Mabo vs Queensland (2) in 1992 that overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius and led to The Native Title Act (1993). Paintings have been recognised as ‘documents’ of sovereignty and have been used in land and sea claims, most famously in the Yirrkala Bark Petitions of 1963 and in the Saltwater Collection, in which bark paintings were presented to the High Court in 2008 as evidence the Yolngu’s claim to sea rights. 42 Interview with Karen Dayman, 25 January 2017. 43 Dayman completed a PhD thesis on the Ngurrara canvases in 2016 and has contributed reviews and written portraits of the artists. See for example ‘Jimmy Pike: There Is More’, Artlink 33, no. 2 (2013). 44 Interview with Karen Dayman, 25 January 2017. 45 Ibid. 46 At Maningrida, drawing and printmaking were embraced by women who were active in fibre-arts: bark painting remained the men’s domain. Salmon invited Waanyi artist Judy Watson to curate Bush Colour:Works on paper by female artists of Maningrida region in 1999. 47 Marina Strocchi, Ikuntji: Paintings from Haasts Bluff 1992–1994 (Alice Springs: IAD Press, 1995). 48 See Felicity Wright, ‘A Complex Dance:Working in Indigenous Art Centres’, Artlink 31, no. 2 (2011). For a more detailed account, see Felicity Wright and Frances Morphy, eds., The Art & Craft Centre Story (Canberra: ATSIC, 1999). 49 Sasha Grishin, ‘The Unconventional Artist: Marina Strocchi’, in Marina Strocchi: A Survey 1992–2014 (Alice Springs: Marina Strocchi, 2015). 50 See Una Rey, ed. Black White & Restive: Cross-Cultural Initiatives in Australian Contemporary Art (Newcastle: Newcastle Art Gallery, 2016). 51 Interview with Fiona Salmon, 14 February 2017. 52 Interview with Marina Strocchi, 25 September 2012. See also: Khadija La, ‘Breaking with Tradition: Cobra and Aboriginal Art’, Artlink 31, no. 2 (2011). 53 For a history of the region’s art centres, see Tim Acker and John Carty, eds., Ngaanyatjarra: Art of the Lands (Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing, 2012). 54 Discussions with gallerists Gabriella Roy and Dallas Gold, and Nici Cumpston, curator of Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of South Australia. See Rothwell, op. cit. 55 Interview with Amanda Dent, 23 January 2017. 56 Ibid. 57 Ibid. 58 Tjukurrpa is a term common across several Western desert language groups that refers to the Aboriginal ontological systems, a cosmological worldview of creation, Law and kinship often referred to as the Dreaming. 59 Interview with Edwina Circuitt, 15 January 2017. 60 Wanarn Aged Care was serviced as an outreach programme under the regional strategy devised by Tim Pearn, coordinator of Ngaanyatjarra Regional Arts between 2003 and 2006. 61 Interview with Edwina Circuitt, 15 January 2017. See David Brooks and Darren Jorgensen, Wanarn Painters of Place and Time: Old Age Travels in the Tjukurrpa, Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing, 2015. 62 The project included joint painting workshops with Docker River and followed a legacy of similar paintings made at Warburton in the 1990s. While Circuitt was circumspect as to ‘the art outcome’ of the project, the entire series was purchased and donated to the National Museum of Australia. See Pamela Faye McGrath, ‘The Past Is Everywhere: Ngaanyatjarra History Paintings’, in Ngaanyatjarra Art of the Lands, ed. John Carty and Tim Acker (Crawley: The University of Western Australia, 2012). 63 Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Paris: Les presses du réel, 2002). 64 Post conceptual artists Imants Tillers and Tim Johnson are the best-known examples, provoking often vitriolic debate. Since 2001, Tillers has collaborated with Michael Nelson Jagamara, and Johnson also collaborated with many of the Papunya Tula artists through

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the 1980s. These issues were further complicated by a series of copyright infringements which were, accordingly, taken up in courts of law. 65 Interview with Amanda Dent, 23 January 2017. 66 Christine Nicholls, ‘Painting Alone: Lorna Fencer Napurrurla’, in Yulyurlu Lorna Fencer Napurrurla, ed. Margie West (Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2011), 60. 67 See Una Rey, ‘Maryanne Mungatopi’s Tiwi Portraits’, Artlink 31, no. 2 (2011). 68 Skerritt, 15.

4 THE PEARL GIBBS ‘GAMBANYI’ KANGAROO CLOAK Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder

Introduction: Lynette Riley’s Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak In this chapter, Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi artist, writer and educator Lynette Riley explains how the important art form of kangaroo and possum skin cloaks is being revived through Australia’s south-eastern regions. These cloaks were traditionally made and worn by the Wiradjuri people for warmth and protection, and were highly valued as ceremonial, trade and gift items, and as peace offerings during conflict.1 In Victoria, Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong artist Vicki Couzens notes how possum skin cloaks, worn at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in 2006, sparked a major cultural phenomenon, a renaissance of an almost lost cultural practice.2 The Games brought together the largest gathering of Aboriginal people in ceremonial cloaks in over 150 years, representing families, clans and communities in unity. This healing journey has fostered kinship, transference of knowledge and strengthening of identity, leading to the growth of cloak-making in other southeastern groups in Canberra, New South Wales and South Australia. Lynette Riley is a pioneer cloak maker in New South Wales, and her embrace of the materiality of this art form has helped her to re-learn Wiradjuri language (her father’s Nation) and symbols, and those of her mother’s (Gamilaroi) Nation. She designs the cloaks as history books for specific individuals, ‘as an extension of that person’ by incising the underside of the pelt ‘with various designs to indicate the person’s Moiety and Totemic connection as well as their journey through life and that person’s status within the web of Nations and across Clan groups.’3 Riley made the Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak as part of a broader project, the Future Feminist Archive (FFA, curator Jo Holder), which crossed metropolitan and regional New South Wales archives and communities over a two-year period. Riley was one of nine FFA artists to engage with local histories to (re)value women’s

58  Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder

cultural and political work from the past, and to investigate their legacy for present and future feminism.4 Riley’s Gambanyi Cloak reactivates community-based and institutionally held archival material on her (Ngemba) godmother, Pearl (Gambanyi) Gibbs (1901–1983). Gibbs was chosen as the unifying figure in the FFA project exploring feminist legacies, as the Cloak honours Gibbs as a pioneering Indigenous Australian activist and feminist.5 Archival material was garnered from a mix of community and institutional sources,6 and Riley worked closely on the project with Gibbs’ granddaughters Anny and Helen Druett. Much of Riley’s studio research took place in the rural community of Dubbo, a small city in the geographic heart of New South Wales where Gibbs had lived as a young woman and then in later life. Riley’s work on the Gambanyi Cloak was undertaken in the context of Australia’s current celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum recognising Aboriginal people in the national census. The successful referendum amended the controversial ‘race power’ given to individual states over Aboriginal people under Section 51 (xxvi) of the Australian Constitution.7 The Commonwealth could now override the States on Indigenous affairs, paving a legislative pathway for the federal Native Title Act following the High Court’s 1992 Mabo decision that legally buried the colonial rationale of ‘terra nullius’. This landmark referendum also commonly symbolises the (uneven) enfranchisement and extending of citizens’ rights to Indigenous Australians. Gibbs was an important force in obtaining the 91% ‘Yes’ referendum vote through her public advocacy for civil rights over the four decades leading up to the 1967 referendum. A gifted speaker and talented networker, Gibbs brought together Aboriginal organisations, feminist and women’s organisations, progressive church groups, the communist party, trade unions and Parliamentary contacts. However, as an active mentor for a younger generation of civil rights activists,8 Gibbs’ crucial role is often overlooked in the anniversary fanfare that now surrounds the 1967 referendum. As Riley explains, Gibbs experienced double marginalisation as a black woman. The Gambanyi Cloak testifies to a life spent on the move – as a feminist and civil rights organiser, and as an Aboriginal woman and mother with little legal, social or economic clout who fruitlessly tried for years to get her children back during the ‘sorry decades’ of the Stolen Generations. This is difficult material for artists to work with: Riley’s Gambanyi Cloak triggers feelings of anguish, love and loss associated with the Stolen Generations which still resonate in Australian society today. Riley’s goddaughter relationship with her subject no doubt enhanced the emotionally confronting nature of this community research, which is formally inscribed as lingering, colonial trauma underlying symbols of connection, survival, pride and action. Riley’s sister Diane Riley-McNaboe makes the further observation that In making Kangaroo Skin Cloaks and Possum Skin Cloaks it’s a healing; as our mothers and grandmothers weren’t allowed, through government policy and practices, to make these items. So, in making these now for our aunties and uncles who weren’t allowed, they get a chance to see how they were made and to hold these items.9

The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak  59

Importantly, Riley at a major family reunion held a workshop for extended ­family and community, with around 100 people taking turns to touch and handle the Cloak, both to honour Gibbs’ memory and as an informal, ritualised assent for the project.As Riley has said of the cloaks, traditionally a person would wear their cloak at all important times and ceremonies, and they would be buried in their cloak10 (Figure 4.1).

FIGURE 4.1  Lynette Riley Cloak for Pearl ‘Gambanyi’ Gibbs, 2015–2016. Modelled by Anny Druett (granddaughter), Blue Mountains. Incised poker work on kangaroo skin. Photo: Lynette Riley, 2016

60  Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder

Through continuing ritual use, the Gambanyi Cloak retains its power to represent Gibbs and by extension all the old people, past and present, and those to come. In a community hall in Dubbo and in a Sydney contemporary art space, the Cloak made the FFA project’s findings and speculations physically present. In Sydney, historian Heather Goodall, who interviewed Pearl Gibbs at the Pearl Gibbs Hostel in Dubbo, connected these geographically and culturally disparate feminist histories.11 In August 2016, Riley wore the Gambanyi Cloak to sing a ritual, Wiradjuri acknowledgement in Federal Parliament to introduce her long-time friend the Honourable Linda Burney as Australia’s first Indigenous woman to be elected as a Federal Member. Then Burney herself followed Parliamentary ritual by delivering her Maiden Speech to the Lower House draped in one of Riley’s personalised cloaks. Riley had inscribed Burney’s cloak with the goanna totem (her Nation totem) and the white cockatoo (her personal totem), ‘because she is the messenger, representing her electorate, her clan and Indigenous Australians in Parliament’.12 Of this ritual Riley notes, ‘Linda wore the cloak and I sang the acknowledgement, introducing myself and paying respect to my Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi elders, before inviting Linda to present who she is. Her desire to do something culturally significant had a major impact.’13 The Gambanyi Cloak contains further important insights for the intersectional concerns of contemporary feminism. The feminist legacy of Pearl Gibbs’s activism was not only to battle ‘tirelessly against racism (but also to) stress the “inter-­ relationship of racism and sexism” for Aboriginal women’.14 From the 1930s, Gibbs had worked closely with feminist organisations and women’s groups15 and made good use of women’s media outlets, ‘to create empathy towards and action for Aboriginal people.’16 Her reconciliatory strategy insisted that, non-Aboriginal activism for Aboriginal causes was not about non-­Aboriginal people themselves, but always about, and for, the Aboriginal community. In doing so she placed Aboriginal experiences at the forefront and demanded that non-Aboriginal activists accede to the needs of Aboriginal communities, ensuring they recognise their own complicity in Aboriginal disadvantage.17 This acknowledgement fosters intersectional work on shared strategies for change; for instance, as Marilyn Lake indicates, campaigns for Aboriginal rights and the women’s movement share a strong community base.18 Like Gibbs’ own flair for grassroots organisation, the importance of the Gambanyi Cloak lies in its grounded, community research, as Riley underscores when describing the importance of a collaborative approach that follows cultural protocols and obtains community permissions as an intrinsic part of the art-making process. Riley’s description of her complex symbolism and production process also indicates the deep interpretation required for this kind of artwork. Each element of the Gambanyi Cloak carries multiple voices, and white feminists cannot assume that Indigenous history and iconographic traditions are easily translated. Riley reproduces the Cloak here with an associated interpretive legend that gestures towards

The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak  61

cross-cultural education and much-needed cultural competence on the part of non-Indigenous audiences. Like Gibbs’ radio broadcasts19 and articles in the women’s press, or Burney’s ‘cockatoo’-messenger role in the Australian Parliament, the Gambanyi Cloak similarly underlines the need for cross-cultural communication as a basis for shared action. In the following discussion, Riley thus adopts an artist– educator role through which non-Indigenous audiences may start to appreciate the multi-layered and culturally hybrid elements of Pearl Gibbs’ life and legacy. … It is with a great deal of enthusiasm, excitement and privilege that I was approached to create a Kangaroo Skin Cloak in the memory of Pearl ‘Gambanyi’ Gibbs (1901–1983). At first, I was daunted by the prospect and whether I could sufficiently honour Aunty Pearl who is a Kinswoman from my hometown of Dubbo. When discussing the project with my family, my sister Christine Riley commented that it was only right I be the person approached to make the Cloak. When I asked why, she said, ‘Well she was your godmother’.This is probably why I recollect visiting her all the time as a child, but had forgotten in the passage of time the nature of that relationship. This was an even stronger reason to properly represent Aunty Pearl. One of the first conditions required when working with someone in an Aboriginal community is the engagement, involvement and approval of family. My first task was therefore to approach Aunty Pearl’s family and ask permission to create the Cloak for her. I met with Anny Druett, one of Aunty Pearl’s granddaughters. I took examples of other Cloaks to show what I do in creating the artwork on the Cloaks. Next thing I need a good understanding of the person I am creating for: their history; Nation, Clan and traditional affiliations; and Totems of significance. I spent a wonderful morning with Anny, getting a better image of the woman Aunty Pearl was; all her personal hardships and despite this (or maybe because of this), her triumphs for Aboriginal people. I must admit to being distraught at her hardships and trying to reconcile the woman I had known as a little girl, to the personal tragedies Aunty Pearl had had and then understanding what was behind her resolve to gain civil and human rights for Aboriginal people, right across Australia. I gained the personal insights about Aunty Pearl from Anny, but also from my sister Diane Riley-McNaboe, who spoke to other people in Dubbo for me and tracked down a lot of information. Diane even – following guidance from Anny – searched the cemeteries with me to find Aunty Pearl’s resting place in Dubbo. From Anny, Diane and Charlie (Marbuk) Wilson, I got the information on Aunty Pearl’s Totems – Nation: Eagle Hawke; Clan: Crow; and Personal: Rock Wallaby. I was also sent a lot of material from Jo Holder (Cross Art Projects) and the Librarian at Dubbo Macquarie Regional Library, Simone Taylor. I am also indebted to work produced by Heather Goodall,

62  Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder

Rachel Standfield, Ray Peckham and John Nolan – who wrote with great clarity and insight about the complexities of Aunty Pearl, her life and fights for Aboriginal rights. Pearl Gibbs had an amazing resilience, intelligence and networking ability. I spoke with Uncle Ray Peckham in Dubbo, who talked of being almost interned by Aunty Pearl as her personal researcher. She would send Uncle Ray out across NSW to gather information from a wide range of Aboriginal communities regarding their needs. Uncle Ray travelled across northern NSW from Tamworth and Armidale across to Coffs Harbour and further up the coast. He collected first-hand information from Aboriginal people living on Reserves and Missions about what they needed someone to fight for them, and brought this back to Aunty Pearl to use in her range of networks as evidence of Aboriginal peoples’ plights. The Cloak for Aunty Pearl therefore had to represent all the intricacies in her life; and in many ways in her life she was underrepresented as a woman; but she was also undervalued as an Aboriginal woman. It is clear in all I have read and heard from people about Aunty Pearl that she was the foundation for many Aboriginal rights organisations and battles. She was the person behind the scenes who did the research, found out what was required and how to make it happen. She spoke with a young Charles Perkins about the need for and replication of the Freedom Rides in Australia. Aunty Pearl was the instigator – not always the upfront spokesperson for change, challenges and movement for Aboriginal rights – though she could do that as well when required; but she always had a hand in pushing the agendas and directions to be undertaken. People such as Uncle Ray Peckham commented that, ‘without Aunty Pearl, many of the rights agendas wouldn’t have happened’. At the same time Aunty Pearl was the ultimate networker, finding and bringing together people and organisations that could make real changes. She threw these people and groups together, demanding that they work with each other to make the changes she wanted for Aboriginal people and communities. The more I learn of Aunty Pearl, the more I admire her intelligence, tenacity and resilience. The Cloak designed for Aunty Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ depicts her traditional affiliations, family connections, life journey and networking for Aboriginal civil and human rights.

Appendix Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak: information The following provides information on the symbols and placement of symbols used on the Cloak to tell Pearl Gibbs’ ‘Gambanyi’ life story. These are the many influences and drivers in Pearl’s life, her connections across a multitude of organisations, with her always fighting for Aboriginal people, women and children’s rights.

The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak  63

1. Cloak border The Cloak is outlined by a single thick line. On the outer edge of this is a series of little lines – in traditional art done by Wiradjuri people from our region, this is called ‘Little Trees’ and serves the purpose of letting other people know that this artwork was completed by a Wiradjuri person.

2. Totems represented Nation: Eagle Hawke (Ngemba) Clan: Crow (Ngemba) Personal: Rock Wallaby Note: i Pearl lived a large part of her life in Wiradjuri Nation’s Country; on the righthand side of the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ are the tracks for the ‘Guuga’/Goanna, the Wiradjuri Nation Totem. ii We weren’t able to identify Pearl’s family Totem – due to colonisation practices of dispersing Aboriginal families. Therefore, the Cloak used is a grey kangaroo which is the family Totem for the Rileys of the Dubbo-ga region. Due to Pearl’s close association with the family, it felt appropriate to wrap Pearl’s story in the Riley family Totem. iii Underneath the rock wallaby is represented the granite of the Terramungamine Reserve at Dubbo.This is a significant site for Aboriginal people in this region. Contained within the site is an area which has three grooves ground into the rocks – these act as directions to the next site which people travel to. I feel that Pearl was directed in her life’s work by her Elders.

3. Tree of knowledge The large tree on the right of the Cloak is a ‘Tree of Knowledge’ to represent Pearl’s knowledge and wisdom. It’s important to note that Pearl’s traditional name is embedded within the tree, as the foundation for her identity.

4. Spider’s web – on the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ Pearl was the ultimate networker: entwined within the spider’s web are the organisations and issues Pearl fought.

5. Organisations


Network of Organisations and Issues fought for: AAF Australian Aboriginal Fellowship AAL Australian Aborigines’ League

Activist and Advocate Racism

64  Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder


Aborigines Progressive Association Aborigines Protection Board Aborigines Welfare Board Committee for Aboriginal Citizenship Rights CAR Council for Aboriginal Rights FCAATSI Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders SFC Sydney Feminist Club UWA Union of Australian Women Hostels Waterside Workers Federation of Australia

Equality Living Conditions Feminism Reserves and Missions Social Reform Human Rights, Civil Rights, Social Reform Unions Women and Children Communism Day of Mourning Referendum 1967

6. Family tree/connections On the far left are large concentric circles – three within each other – with symbols around them, which indicate parents, siblings, sons and daughters in Pearl’s immediate family. These relate, bottom up, to: i ii

Pearl’s grandmother and mother; Pearl’s mother and father with two girls: Pearl and her sister Olga, the darker thicker; iii Pearl’s marriage and three children: daughter (Marie) and two sons (Charles and Jack); iv Pearl’s daughter, Marie, and six children: three daughters and three sons; v Pearls’ son Charles: three daughters; vi Pearl’s son Jack: not known. After Pearl’s marriage broke up, she was left with the children as a sole parent.When the children were 7 (Marie), 5 (Charles) and 3 ( Jack), Robert (Pearl’s estranged sailor husband) came for a visit and disappeared with the children. He told the children that their mother didn’t want them anymore and put them into an orphanage in Sydney, and then he sailed away. Despite Pearl’s constantly trying to find her children throughout her life, they did not make contact again in her lifetime.Whilst the older two siblings were able to maintain contact, it is not known within the family what happened to Jack. It is my feeling that Pearl used this personal trauma as her driver to fight for Aboriginal, women and children’s rights. As such the travelling tracks – wavy lines – between the circles indicate family lines of connection; the dots within the lines indicate continuous relational contact.Where there are no dots between the lines, this indicates a non-continuing relationship.

7. Eight smaller concentric circles across the Cloak There are eight small concentric circles across the Cloak – these represent the townships/geographical locations in which Pearl resided. They are placed in a

The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak  65

fashion to represent their location on the map of NSW. They are, left side (down), across the bottom, and up right side: Brewarrina, Bourke, Byrock, Dubbo, Cowra, Yass, Nowra and Sydney. There is dispute as to where Pearl was born. According to Jack Horner and restated by Heather Goodall, Pearl was born at La Perouse in Sydney. But family comments are that the La Perouse Aboriginal community denies this and state she was born in Brewarrina, her mother’s birthplace, as do other Aboriginal people in Dubbo. As there is no birth certificate for Pearl, and the birth, death and marriage certificates were destroyed by a clergyman at La Perouse, it is open to dispute. Apparently, the only proof Pearl had of her existence – to gain the Old Age Pension – was her Baptism Certificate, gained when she was a child in Yass. As such, I have indicated – with a dark half circle shape – where Pearl was born by indicating both Brewarrina and Sydney, and her final resting place in Dubbo.

8. Footprints There are footprints across the Cloak – the darkened ones represent Aboriginal people, and the outlined footprints indicate non-Aboriginal people. The footprints around the townships indicate where Pearl interacted predominantly with Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal people, or both. The other grouping of footprints – one darkened set represents Pearl herself and then Pearl’s working with other people. Pearl worked with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people; either one-on-one or in groups. The tracks indicate where she was clearly the leader or speaker at different gatherings. This is to demonstrate the wide range of people Pearl interacted with and influenced throughout her life.

9. Sun and stars on Cloak tail At the top of the tail is the symbol for the sun – our life giver. The stars down the length of the tail (top to the tip of the tail) are to recognise people who had personal contact and influence in Pearl’s life and formed the issues she fought for, such as: Pearl’s three children – Marie, Charles and Jack – and their children (Pearl’s grandchildren); Faith Bandler; Jessie Street; Bill Ferguson; Jack Patten; William Cooper; Michael Sawtell; Bert Groves; Charles Perkins; Kevin Gilbert; and Ray Peckham. The list of people who worked with Pearl is long. This small group of recognised people is to symbolise Pearl’s personal drivers in gaining rights for Aboriginal people; they are her family, and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women and men. I think that Pearl realised we achieve nothing on our own and need to work with a multitude of people to create improved circumstances for all people (Figure 4.2).


Lynette Riley, Working with the life and work of Pearl ‘Gambanyi’ Gibbs, 2015–2016. Archives: Macquarie Regional Library, Dubbo, Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, NSW State Archives, National Centre for Cultural Competence, the University of Sydney. Cloak for Pearl ‘Gambanyi’ Gibbs, incised poker work on kangaroo skin. Courtesy Future Feminist Archive Print Set, The Cross Art Projects, 2016

Working with: Pearl Gibb’s granddaughters – Anny Druett & Helen Druett Macquarie Regional Library Dubbo Western Plains Cultural Centre Dubbo NSW State Library Archives The University of Sydney, Audio Visual Services Future Feminist Archive Print Set, 2016.

The footprints across the Cloak represent people Pearl worked with: darkened ones for Aboriginal people and outlined footprints for non-Aboriginal people. The sun, our life giver, is at the top of the tail. The stars down the length of the tail are significant people who influenced Pearl’s life.

The Cloak’s Border which indicates this artwork was created by a Wiradjuri person. Pearls’ Totems are Nation, Eagle Hawke (Ngemba); Clan, Crow (Ngemba); and Personal, Rock Wallaby. Pearl’s traditional name ‘Gambanyi’ is embedded within the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ on the right. The spider’s webs around the large tree note organisations Pearl fought within on justice issues for Aboriginal people and women’s and children’s rights. To the right of the tree are the tracks of the ‘Guuga’ / Goanna, the Wiradjuri Nation Totem, the Nation in whose Country Pearl resided. On the far left are large concentric circles (3 within each other) and the symbols around them indicate Pearl’s immediate family; mother, father and siblings; her sons and daughters. The 8 small concentric circles across the Cloak represent where Pearl lived: Brewarrina, Bourke, Byrock, Dubbo, Cowra, Yass, Nowra, and Sydney.

The key symbols on the artwork are:

The placement of symbols on the artwork Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak, tell the story of ‘Gambanyi’ (1901–1983).

Lynette Riley, Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak, ©2016

The Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak  67

Notes 1 Riley cites an early example of this form of gifting when Windradyne and three other Wiradjuri ‘warriors’ presented the NSW colonial governor Lachlan Macquarie with a possum skin cloak on 15 May 1815, in exchange for ‘a tomahawk and a piece of yellow cloth’. Transcript of Lachlan Macquarie’s Journals, 1809–20, cited Riley, ‘Reclaiming Tradition and Re-affirming Cultural Identity Through Creating Kangaroo Skin Cloaks and Possum Skin Cloaks’, Journal of Indigenous Wellbeing,Volume 1, #1, Article 2, August 2016, p. 21.Available at: https://journalindigenouswellbeing.com/media/2016/12/32.25. Reclaiming-tradition-and-re-affirming-cultural-identity-through-creating-KangarooSkin-Cloaks-and-Possum-Skin-Cloaks.pdf (accessed May 2017). 2 Vicki Couzens, ‘Cultural Reclamation and Regeneration’, Culture Victoria, see: www. cv.vic.gov.au/stories/aboriginal-culture/possum-skin-cloaks/kooramook-yakeen-­ possum-dreaming-by-vicki-couzens/ (accessed 13 June 2017). 3 Lynette Riley, ‘Reclaiming Tradition and Re-affirming Cultural Identity Through Creating Kangaroo Skin Cloaks and Possum Skin Cloaks’, 2016, p. 5. 4 See Future Feminist Archive website https://contemporaryartandfeminism.com/ffa. 5 See for instance Stephanie Gilbert, ‘“Never Forgotten”: Pearl Gibbs (Gambayani)’, in Cole and Paisley (eds.), Uncommon Ground, Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2005, pp. 107–126. Available at: http://lryb.aiatsis.gov. au/PDFs/cole_ch5.pdf (accessed May 2017). 6 Gibbs’ papers are housed in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, with some additional material in Macquarie Regional Library, Dubbo. 7 See ongoing discussion on Constitutional recognition and Treaties or ‘Makarrata’ – an Indigenous term meaning the ‘coming together after a struggle’, in the light of the June 2017 ‘Uluru Statement’. Karen Middleton, Making of the Uluru Statement’ and ‘Statement of the Nation’, The Saturday Paper, June 3–9, 2017, No 159, pp. 1, 10–11. The race power was used against people, as it was in 2007 for the Northern Territory ‘Emergency Intervention’ leading to the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act plus when the Australian Army occupied 73 Aboriginal townships. Pat Anderson, ‘The Intervention: Personal Reflections. June 2009’, in The Intervention: An Anthology, edited by Rosie Scott and Anita Heiss, New South Publishing, University of NSW, 2015, pp. 26–42. 8 See Jackie Huggins, ‘Indigenous Women and Leadership: A Personal Reflection’, Indigenous Law Bulletin, 6(1), 2004, p. 4. 9 Lynette Riley’s sister Diane Riley-McNaboe also works with owl and emu feathered head-dresses and belts and related woman’s ritual materials and power objects. See Lynette Riley video interview with Diane Riley-McNaboe, Dubbo, NSW, in conjunction with exhibition at University of Sydney Macleay Museum, May 2015. http://sydney.edu.au/ museums/exhibitions-events/where-we-all-meet.shtml (accessed April 2017). 10 Ibid., p. 7. 11 Heather Goodall, Future Feminist Archive Report, Cross Art Projects, Sydney, 7 May 2016www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmuQgv51fic. 12 Riley, cited Anna Henderson, ‘Sung into her Seat: Indigenous MP Linda Burney Makes History as the World Watches’, ABC News, posted 7 September 2016. www.abc.net. au/news/2016-09-07/indigenous-mp-makes-history-as-world-watches-wiradjuri-welcome/7822482 (accessed May 2017). 13 Riley, cited Michael Gordon, ‘Tears, Song and History as the Lower House Welcomes Linda Burney as its First Aboriginal woman’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31August 2016. www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tears-song-and-history-as-the-lowerhouse-welcomes-its-first-aboriginal-woman-20160831-gr5szn.html; www.smh.com.au/ video/video-news/video-national-news/linda-burneys-first; and www.theguardian.com/ australia-news/video/2016/aug/31/wiradjuri-woman-sings-linda-burney-into-parliament-for-her-maiden-speech-video -speech-20160831-4k0v7.html (accessed May 2017).

68  Lynette Riley with Catriona Moore and Jo Holder

14 Rachel Standfield, Ray Peckham and John Nolan, ‘Aunty Pearl Gibbs: Leading for Aboriginal Rights’, Diversity in Leadership: Australian Women, Past and Present, edited by Joy Damousi, Kim Rubenstein and Mary Tomsic, Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2014, p. 54. http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p292111/ pdf/3.-Aunty-Pearl-Gibbs-Leading-for-Aboriginal-rights.pdf (accessed May 2017). 15 See Victoria Haskins, ‘“Lovable Natives” and “Tribal Sisters”: Feminism, Maternalism, and the Campaign for Aboriginal Citizenship in New South Wales in the Late 1930s’, Hecate 24(2), 1998, pp. 8–21; Marilyn Lake, ‘Citizenship as Non-Discrimination: Acceptance or Assimilationism? Political Logic and Emotional Investment in Campaigns for Aboriginal Rights in Australia, 1940 to 1970’, Gender & History 13(3), November 2001, pp. 566–92; and Stephanie Gilbert, ‘“Never Forgotten”: Pearl Gibbs (Gambanyi)’, in Uncommon Ground: White Women in Aboriginal History, eds. Anna Cole and Victoria Haskins, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2005, pp. 107–26. 16 Rachel Standfield, Ray Peckham and John Nolan, ‘Aunty Pearl Gibbs: Leading for Aboriginal Rights’, 2014, p. 54. See also Pearl Gibbs, ‘An Aboriginal Woman Asks for Justice’, [Letter], Woman Today, April 1938, Scrapbook of news cuttings, c. 1938–1946, MS6922/3X item 1, CY4043, frame 16, Gibbs Papers. And in response to Gibbs’ letter, Woman Today interviewed Gibbs for a follow-up article. See Sally Bannister, ‘Our Aboriginal Sisters: Appeal for Justice for their Unhappy Race’, Woman Today, May 1938, Scrapbook of news cuttings, c. 1938–1946, MS6922/3X item 1, CY4043, frame 21, Gibbs Papers. Also in 1956, see ‘Justice, Not Sympathy’, Our Women, March–May 1956, 4, newspaper cutting, Gibbs Papers. 17 Rachel Standfield, Ray Peckham and John Nolan, ‘Aunty Pearl Gibbs: Leading for Aboriginal Rights’, 2014, p. 56. 18 Marilyn Lake, ‘Founding Fathers, Dutiful Wives and Rebellious Daughters’, 2001 Eldershaw Memorial Lecture, THRA Papers and Proceedings 48(4), December 2001, p. 268– 79, cited Rachel Standfield, Ray Peckham and John Nolan,‘Aunty Pearl Gibbs: Leading for Aboriginal Rights’, 2014, p. 56. See also Heather Goodall, ‘Three Tributes to Pearl Gibbs (1901–1983) – Pearl Gibbs: Aboriginal Patriot’, Aboriginal History 7(1), 1983, p. 21. 19 See Pearl Gibbs, ‘Radio Broadcast, 1941’, Macquarie Pen Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, ed. Heiss and Minter, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2008, pp. 37–39.

5 STILL IN MY MIND Gurindji location, experience and visuality Brenda L. Croft

Introduction Still in My Mind: Gurindji Location, Experience and Visuality1 is a practice-based research project that addresses the personal and political capabilities of Indigenous performative autoethnography, encompassing the multiple theoretical standpoints that have emerged from my working closely with members of my patrilineal family and community at diverse sites across Australia. The chapter is structured as a diptych, setting side by side texts with different tones and contexts, one apparently more academic, the other more personal, reflecting the academic and curatorial exchange that subtended the research. 2 I argue, however, that both texts are equally ‘personal–political’ in their explanatory power, the play between the two suggesting how the multiple viewpoints of Indigenous performative autoethnography resonate in textual form.

Retrac(k)ing country and (s)kin: walking the wave hill walk-off track (and other sites of cultural contestation) My existence as a person of mixed heritage is a contested site of engagement. I am in(di)visible, a paradox that challenges the notion of a single nation-state – whether it be generic Australian or Indigenous. Can I represent any/one or self, other than through my own reflexive narrative? Whose country and (s)kin am I retrac(k)ing? My research position thus radiates from neither-of-here-nor-of-there. Perhaps I am more aptly situated as everywhere/when; I occupy spaces and territories as neither insider nor outsider, but as an in-betweener, working from within literal and metaphorical dispossessed memory-scapes that query concepts of home/land, body/ soul and identity (Figure 5.1). My practice-led research combined theoretical writing with experimental creative work, including action (walking on/through/in country), visual media

70  Brenda L. Croft

FIGURE 5.1  Brenda L Croft, Self-portrait on country, Wave Hill, 2014, 2014, detail from Self-portraits on country, Wave Hill, 2014, 2014, installation, pigment print on archival paper, 42 ¥ 59.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

(photography, moving image, printmaking, installation multimedia work), aural (sound, spoken word), and curatorial (a touring exhibition, with accompanying textual materials and public programmes). Embodied performative autoethnography3 is rendered by (re)trac(k)ing journeys and kinship bloodlines of family and community members through and across metaphorical and literal terrains. It can also be understood as description and analysis (graphy) of one’s personal experience (auto), and also as a means of understanding one’s cultural experience (ethno): in this case, mapping corporeal, metaphysical and cosmological pilgrimages – in/under/on/through/within lived/imagined experience.4 I am utilising this multifaceted toolkit consisting of experimental still and moving images, as well as sound, to explore and reference 19th-century technologies and representation (collodion/wet-plate processes, digitally reimagined and performed as both subject and documenter), interwoven with material drawn from extensive public and personal archives, all reworked into a 21st-century contextualisation and conceptualisation of Gurindji-specific, multidimensional, cultural identity/ies.5 I am thus attempting to engage in a genuinely collaborative, crossgenerational, multidimensional representation of Gurindji-specific knowledge that may be shared with other Gurindji family and community members – whether they live ‘on country’, or are part of an extensive dispossessed community.

Still in my mind: Gurindji   71

Representational and identity politics shapeshift through cultural ambiguities and slippages, and I often feel unsure of my footing, as if I am stumbling rather than walking. With these visual, aural and performative methods of memorialisation, memento mori and re/collection, I am proposing to create a new form of archive that is simultaneously public and personal, with media, content and context as multivalent messages (Figure 5.2). As a person associated with a specific Indigenous community, my heritage as a member of the Gurindji-dispossessed positions me within in-between spaces. Initially I had used the term ‘diaspora’ in my research, but that indicates being part of a community searching for a homeland; as a Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra6 woman I know where my patrilineal homeland lies. I am additionally guided here by the invaluable feedback from Ngugi/Wakka Wakka Goori woman Professor Tracy Bunda: Diaspora… I am wondering if this too is a reductive term to explain our located-ness… diasporic as dispersed… is there not a passivity in this concept that denies that our ‘dispersion’ was forceful, intended, violent, systemic, built from eugenicist knowledges… it is a term that is derived in the post-colonial but determined for the privileged and the white who ‘travel’ to places, the new ‘explorers’ who transfer their white supremacist lives into these spaces whilst looking back into a ‘place of belonging’ that in itself denies how those senses of belonging render invisible dispossessed lives. Dispossession has rendered the inside/outside/in-between located-ness of a lived life rather than a diasporic condition.7


Installation view, dilly bags, n.d. Courtesy of the Gurindji community, displayed in the exhibition, Still in my mind, UNSW Galleries, 2016. Curator: Brenda L. Croft Image: silversalt

72  Brenda L. Croft

This liminal, heterogeneous, yet interconnected space is in continual flux. I have an infinite obligation to critically assess whether my research is ethical, since it is being conducted from a site of privilege as someone who is accepted as part of these communities. I am not only analysing my methods and ways of being and doing my Gurindji heritage, but by extension that of my family, community and other dispossessed members. I am central in this research project but at the same time peripheral, shifting between here and there, yet never able to completely inhabit one place or another. Am I Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, or kardiya (whitefella)8, both, or neither? What of my Chinese heritage, revealed in the archives of the South Australian Museum? Does my lack of language and proficiency in cultural praxes lessen my agency and representation in the provision of critique from an insider/outsider/in-betweener perspective? From a Gurindji-specific ontology, the critically reflective methodology of Indigenous performative autoethnography intrinsically interweaves the personal with the political as I am both embodied and immersed within my research subject. The actions conducted throughout my research are an extension of my ongoing lived experiences, which arguably commenced prior to my conception or birth, possibly at the moment my mother and father first met, some five years before my corporeal existence, or when my paternal grandfather (kardiya) met my paternal grandmother (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra/Chinese), or the disparate journeys of all my ancestors. While this action of cultural collision could be considered significant only to me and my immediate family, its manifestations and representation through multiple sites (embodiment, creative and theoretical texts, visual, aural and performative modes) amount to an ongoing complex ‘politics of resistance’.9 Thus this critical/ Indigenous (as opposed to capital/Indigenous) autoethnography has been referenced through performative mechanical processes, incorporated into critical and dialogic textualities, (re)enacted and (re)imagined through the act of walking on, in and within sites of engagement. As an Indigenous autoethnographer I am concerned with addressing and disrupting existing power structures in my chosen field of research. For instance, I am cognisant that as one of the (as yet) few Gurindji-specific researchers working with family and community members on Gurindji lived experience, I have multiple ethical responsibilities due to mutable researcher positionality. Agency and representation require cultural responsibility and obligation to be continually reflective and transparent about the purposes and outcomes of research. The term ‘mixed heritage’ is sometimes considered problematic, as are the benefits of ‘insider’ status (direct community connections) as opposed to that of an ‘outsider’ (non-Indigenous researcher). However, I embrace these terms, as they indicate that my cultural background is a result of colonisation. My critically reflective narrative is equally problematic, in that the position I inhabit is dependent on specific, intangible moments. I am neither insider nor outsider, inhabiting a bit of both in that shifting, liminal space of in-between-ness. At times I have found myself considered to be Ngumpin/Ngumpit10, strongly acknowledging my connection to my father’s family, much to the confusion of

Still in my mind: Gurindji   73

some non-Indigenous residents at Kalkaringi.11 Although clearly not proficient in Gurindji12 I know key terms and laughed on hearing someone announce my arrival at my pakartu (cousin)’s house, ‘Kardiya at the door!’ It is also apparent that ethnic codifying is occasionally enacted on long-term community members at Wave Hill, who have Ngumpin and other heritage (including Afghan and Asian), possibly for hierarchical purposes of exclusion, depending on the associated specificities/privileges – for example, exclusion from mining royalties and housing. When I travel to other places with strong Gurindji-dispossessed connections (such as Darwin), I inhabit a different outsider rank, because my father was taken away from our community in the early 1930s, fracturing my family’s connection to an extensive community. This situation continually shifts from internal to peripheral, depending on the specificities of a given moment. Arguably, I could consider myself to be comprised of ‘mixed-up heritage’. The narrative that follows negotiates and navigates multiple sites of self-centeredness, self-awareness, and critical self-reflexivity. The act of walking country, planting one foot in front of the other, breathing in, breathing out, rhythm and rhyme, walking memory (land)scapes, back through the timelines of the archives, through and on sites of contested cultural and physical territor(ialit)ies is painful yet soothing, revelatory while concealing, truthful yet unstable, reflecting the ground that I have covered over the past quarter century, as I find myself continually backtracking, circling. Every now and then events happen which underscore how I am always watched over and guided by my ancestors.

Home/lands When you first go home, you are setting out on two journeys. First is the physical journey… sitting in a car and driving to meet long-lost relatives.The second journey may take a lot longer.13 My father Joseph ( Joe) Croft’s ongoing, fractured journey home took place over many decades of his life. It has endured in the two decades since his death, as I continue on his behalf by retrac(k)ing my family’s tangled kinship connections through, upon, and immersed in country. He first returned home in May 1974, when our family travelled from the small country town in New South Wales where we lived to be with his ailing mother, Bessie.We spent three weeks together at one of the cottages at Retta Dixon Home,14 where Bessie was the laundress and de facto ‘nana’ to its incarcerated children, some of whom were my cousins. She died seven months later. Only two photographs of my father and grandmother together document their reunion – one in black-and-white, the other in colour. Although my mother had taken hundreds of photographs in Darwin, all the films except for one were accidentally destroyed during processing after we returned home.

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I was 10 years old, and while some memories have faded as the years have passed, the impact of that short time remains indelibly imprinted on my heart, mind and soul. Perhaps the deeply felt loss of those visual records are what spurred me on my path as an artist/researcher, conducting cultural archaeology into personal and public archives on my own ongoing journey, seeking ‘home’ wherever that may be. Underlying much of my work is an intention to surmise if an actual place can exist for people such as myself – a descendant of the Stolen Generations, so many of us dispossessed of our homelands, languages and communities. The second stage of my father’s journey home occurred 15 years later, when he drove almost 900 kilometres down the Buchanan and Buntine Highways from Darwin to Kalkaringi and Daguragu, seeking more details of Bessie’s connections to the Gurindji community. While Joe had always known that he was Gurindji, Bessie told him during our visit that he was also Mudburra, but within our family history there were conflicting versions. Although Joe had been told by Bessie that he was born on Victoria River Downs, 71 kilometres northeast of Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, confusion existed as to whether she was his mother or his mother’s sister, which, if true, would still make her my father’s classificatory mother. This prompted my father to seek explanation from community elders at Wave Hill; however, this led to even less clarity as they believed him to be the child of another woman who was deceased.15 Further interviews were also conducted with Stolen Generations members who had been incarcerated alongside my father in government institutions: Kahlin Compound, Darwin; Pine Creek Home, Pine Creek; and ‘The Bungalow’, Alice Springs. Joe recorded these interviews on audio-cassette tapes, whilst long-time family friend and photographer Elaine Pelot Kitchener (later Syron) documented his travels from Alice Springs to Katherine, Wave Hill and Darwin. This research formed the foundation for what was to be Joe’s autobiography, which was incomplete when he died in July 1996.16 The third stage of my father’s journey home took place following his funeral in Sydney, when my brother Tim and I took his ashes home to Wave Hill for a memorial service in the local Baptist Church and burial in Kalkaringi cemetery on 22 August, the day before the 30th anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk-Off. To my brother and I, it seemed fitting that the two events were connected, as they intrinsically embodied the personal and the political. My own journey home took an analogous path to my father’s, and encompassed similar, often intangible, methods – geographical, spiritual, literal, metaphysical. After that first trip in 1974, I returned as an adult in 1987, then again in 1989. In 1991, I followed my father’s trek to Wave Hill, meeting family and community members with whom he had talked and recorded interviews two years earlier. I travelled home with Gurindji elder Daisy Ruddick (nee Cusack), a former inmate of Kahlin Compound who knew my father when he was a small child, through her role as a nurse’s aid at Old Darwin Hospital, adjacent to Kahlin Compound. Many of the children would self-harm in order to be sent to the hospital, in the knowledge

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that Daisy would ensure they received a proper meal, which was not the case at Kahlin Compound. Our other travelling companion was Gurindji woman Sybil Fordham, who was the same age as Daisy’s eldest daughter, Roseanne. Often at sunset I would drive alone out to the grid on the road between Kalkaringi and Daguragu to watch the desert skies shapeshift in colour and tone as the night deepened. I could almost hear the echoes of the conversations that Joe had recorded floating in the evening air. In the decades since my father’s death, I have found myself following his and our people’s footsteps – going over the same ground time and again, retracing, re-tracking, revising, revisiting, recollecting, reconnecting. My family’s layered history has always informed my creative practice, whether in visual, written or spoken presentation. Throughout the last five years, the act of walking on, through, and over hallowed ground has seen me try to retrace the footprints of those who covered the 22 kilometres of the Wave Hill Walk-Off Track half a century ago. I wanted to do this in tribute to those whose profound collective and communal acts of courage, resilience and determination were the genesis of the national land rights movement in Australia. I wanted to do this in memory of all those who were walked away and driven off their homelands, separated from their families and communities or, worse, massacred on their country because of others’ desire for their land. I wanted to do this in honour of my grandmother Bessie, my father Joseph, my father’s siblings who were taken. I wanted to do this for my brothers Lindsay and Tim, and for Tim’s children – my father’s grandchildren – Luca, Sasha and Maddie. However, I could not do this alone, so I sought permission from family and community and was grateful when family members not only approved but also offered to walk with me, effectively guiding my way. I remain indebted to my family for their support and encouragement. I walked sections repeatedly, sometimes in a solo act of meditation while recording the soundscape; at other times, with family members, in silence or talking, depending on the situation. I felt simultaneously released, yet compressed, by the expansive, bleaching skies, the searing heat of midday or late afternoon, or the chill of pre-dawn. Trips took place during the dry season of mid-year, the enervating monsoonal build-up to the wet, and the torrential downpour of early rains. Blood moons rose over Wattie Creek and Kalkaringi, lighting up the desert night in orange and red. Black cockatoos roosting at dusk by Lawi at Wattie Creek provided an avian chorus to my musings. While walking and recording, I would sometimes close my eyes to consider what happened not so long ago, wondering what might or could have been had the kartiya (white people) been less avaricious in their desire for property. While the newcomers wished the land unpopulated and empty, they could not survive without the unpaid labour of ngumpit/ngumpin (Aboriginal people) that created the pastoral barons’ wealth.

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During the long hours on the road back and forth from Darwin to Gurindji country, I would sometimes listen to the interviews conducted by me, my father and my brother, Lindsay. The vehicle would feel as if it was full of all those people, now long gone and ghosts of the archives, who were keeping me company and on the right track. I have delved ever deeper into my family’s past, immersing myself in personal and public archives, each search more labyrinthine than the last, revealing increasingly fragile documents and, with the loss of elders, elusive memories. There have been many times and places where I have felt lost: wandering in circles, stumbling, seeming to make little or no ground, or even going backwards. When I am standing on, walking in, engaging with all these aspects of country, if I listen intently, I can almost hear the echoes of those recorded, disembodied conversations – perhaps they are spirit guides from the everywhen. By coming home you’re not just coming home to your family, you’re finally coming home to yourself, to the self that is your birth-right.17 In June 2014, while on a journey to document cultural sites with senior traditional custodians, our convoy stopped at a place known as No. 17 Bore. It was the first day in a fortnight of travels through Gurindji homelands with these senior knowledgeholders, who were relating stories transmitted through ancestral connections since time immemorial, as well as more recent colonial impact stories. Immutable Gurindji cosmologies were revealed, alongside disclosures of conflict sparked by the arrival of the cattlemen in the late 1800s. The latter accounts are steeped in blood – massacre narratives, festering wounds, carved like scarification marks on the collective, corporeal Gurindji soul. As I stepped down from the Toyota ‘troopie’ I had been driving, my eyes were drawn to the rocky ground beneath my feet. Despite the impact on the land from untold head of cattle for over 130 years, a cultural talisman caught my eye and I bent down to pick up a magnificent stone axe. My aunt, Violet Nanaku Wadrill, watching from another vehicle, beckoned me over and I handed the axe to her through the window. She turned it over in her hands and passed it to her granddaughter, Leah Leaman Namija. Leah, my niece, has acted as a significant guide during my research project. Younger than me, her cultural knowledge is comprehensive, learnt alongside her grandmother,Violet. She has been tireless in her support of my research project, organising trips to sites around country, sharing her knowledge of bush medicine, relating stories of her own experience as a Gurindji woman of mixed heritage – her mother Gurindji, her father, kardiya. Leah’s deeply generous spirit has been a salve during times of doubt about what I was trying to achieve and I often seek her counsel. I asked if I could keep the stone axe with me during the period of my research project. So, in my care for the time being, this axe has become my version of a Venn diagram.18 Whenever I feel I am losing my way, in the archives, in my research, in creating work, I return to

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the object/artifact and the images I took that day. As I turn the axe over, fitting it perfectly within my palm, I am awed by the skill of the maker who shaped it at an indefinable moment in time. I experience a similar response when holding a handmade pannikin (tin cup) that I collected from the old dump at Jinparrak (Old Wave Hill Station) during a separate journey back home. Discarded between 1925, when the second station was established further away from the floodplains of    Victoria River, and the WalkOff in 1966, the cup was fashioned from an old food tin and twisted fencing wire. Although it is rusted, the vessel has a solidity that provides comfort in the same way that the stone axe does; both objects ground me in and on my journey, not only through their aesthetic sublimity but also because of their distinct cultural profundity. One has been created in the same manner since ancient times; the other was made from necessity and available means during frontier contact, revealing the colonial impact on peoples, their lands and customs. We ngumpit/ngumpin who are disposed from place, ceremony and kin are like fragments flaked from that ancient stone tool, quarried from our homelands, riven from our families and communities. Individually, we have all been chipped from that same solid piece of rock, but some of us are still making that long journey home – wherever, however and through whatever methodologies that may involve. Marntaj.19

Notes 1 Still in My Mind: Gurindji Location, Experience and Visuality, PhD, National Institute of Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales, Faculty of Art & Design with the assistance of an Australian Research Council Discovery Indigenous Award. One component of this project was a touring exhibition, Still in My Mind: Gurindji Location, Experience and Visuality, hosted by the University of New South Wales Galleries, Sydney, 5 May–29 July 2017.The show was subsequently shown at the University of Queensland Art Museum, 12 August–29 October 2017. 2 These combined texts are reworked from material first published as ‘Retrac(k)ing Country and (S)kin: Walking the Wave Hill Walk-Off Track (and Other Sites of Cultural Contestation)’, in Westerly: New Writing from Western Australia, 61.1, 2016, pp. 76–82, and ‘Home/lands’, in Still in my Mind: Gurindji Location, Experience and Visuality, exhibition catalogue, University of New South Wales 2016, pp. 19–31. 3 S. Pace,‘Writing the self into research using grounded theory analytic strategies inautoethnography, TEXT Special Issue: ‘Creativity: Cognitive, Social and Cultural Perspectives’, 13, 2012. Sourced at: www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue13/Pace. 4 C. Ellis, T. E. Adams, and A. P. Bochner, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum, Qualitative Research, 12.1:10, January 2011. Sourced at: www.qualitativeresearch.net/ index.php/fqs/rt/printerFriendly/1589/3095 (Accessed 2016). 5 This research is also framed within the critical modalities of Indigenous-specific (Gurindji/ Malngin/Mudburra/Anglo-Australian heritage) Woman StandpointTheory, informed by Indigenous Knowledges scholars (Denzin 2008, Foley 2003, 2006, Moreton-Robinson 2013, Nakata 2007, 2012, Rigney 1999, and Tuwhai Smith1999). 6 From this point on in the chapter, ‘Gurindji’ assumes all three Indigenous language groups. 7 Tracy Bunda, Personal correspondence with the author, 4 June 2015. 8 ‘Kardiya’ is a Gurindji word for whitefella/white person: see The Gurindji to English Dictionary, Batchelor Press, 2013. http://batchelorpress.com/node/256.

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9 Denzin, in T. Spry, Body, Paper, Stage:Writing and Performing Autoethnography,Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2011. 10 Ngumpit/Ngumpin: Gurindji word for man/Aboriginal, see the Gurindji to English Dictionary, Batchelor Press, 2013, http://batchelorpress.com/node/256. 11 On one occasion I was amused when my cousin Judith Nimarra Donald proudly introduced me to the kardiya store manager as, ‘Brenda is my full blood cousin’.From the store manager’s quizzical, non-verbalised reaction, I realised that Judith’s statement of familial claiming was heard as, ‘Brenda is my full-blood cousin’. 12 To paraphrase Waanyi artist/activist Gordon Hookey, ‘English is my second language, I just don’t have access to my first language’ (yet). 13 Coral Edwards,‘Introduction’,The Lost Children, Morebank, NSW:Transworld Publishers, 1989, p. xxiv. 14 Retta Dixon Home (1946–1982) was established at Bagot Road Aboriginal Reserve in 1946 by the Aborigines Inland Mission (AIM). See ‘Retta Dixon Home’, Find & Connect, www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nt/YE00023. 15 Many children were removed during those early days, and their incomplete records made it difficult to know just how many and who they were. Elders whom my father spoke with in 1989 assessed that he was another child removed around the same period. From the records that I have been able to access in recent years, however, it is clear that Bessie was Joe’s mother. 16 The audio recordings were deposited with the Australian institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands Studies (AIATSIS), which funded my father’s research trip. ‘Oral History Interviews in Alice Springs,Wattle Creek, and Darwin, NT’, Joe Croft and Peter Read, Interview with Joe Croft (1989), http://nia.gov.au/nia.cat-vn2188669. 17 Edwards, op. cit., ‘Introduction’, p. xxiv. 18 A mathematical term for a set, collection or group of things used to illustrate fixed, shared and logical relationships that exist between a few or select categories, which emanate from ‘a universe’; Elizabeth Stapel, ‘Venn Diagrams’, Purplemath, see: www.purplemath.com/modles/venndiag.htm. 19 Gurindji for ‘finish’, ‘that’s all’.

Further reading N. K. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, and L. T. Smith (eds.) Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008. Gary Foley, The Koori History website, 1998–2010: www.kooriweb.org/foley/indexb.htm. Gary Foley, Bruce McGuinness, 2003: www.kooriweb.org/foley/heroes/brucemac.html. Aileen Moreton-Robinson,‘Towards an Australian Indigenous Women’s Standpoint Theory’, Australian Feminist Studies,Vol. 28, Issue 78, 2013. N. M. Nakata, Disciplining the Savages: Savaging the Disciplines, Canberra, ACT: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2007. N. M. Nakata, V. Nakata, S. Keech, and R. Bolt, ‘Decolonial Goals and Pedagogies for Indigenous Studies’, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 2012, pp. 120–140. L. Rigney, ‘Internationalization of an Indigenous Anticolonial Cultural Critique of Research Methodologies: A Guide to Indigenist Research Methodology and its Principles’. Wíčazo Ša Review, 14 (2), 1999, pp. 109–121. L. Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People, London, New York, Dunedin, NZ: Zed Books: University of Otago Press, 1999. L. Tuhiwai Smith, and E. Tuck, Decolonizing Methodologies: Reimagining the 21st Century, 2013. www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIZXQC27tvg.


Outtakes is interested in innovative takes on contemporary practice that come from reading that practice through a feminist prism, in seeking out feminist methodologies in creative arts research, in identifying knowledges that come from practice in modes that diverge from conventional individual artist–creator. In your practice you work across different disciplines, and have forged new ideas about what the artwork is by mobilising the various roles and structures that sustain a practice, bringing these together with material experimentation. I always had a strong interest in socially engaged methods. I was interested in how the practice might become a vehicle that constructively questions the situation in which you find yourself working. After leaving art school I worked closely within a community of peers who were also enquiring or experimenting with ways to reshape the structures that enable art production, as much as making ‘artwork’ itself. From the outset, I sought to avoid making discrete work that fits any pre-given context; rather I wanted to consider how working contextually might become part of the process of production. And is that something that comes from a conscious institutional critique, or an awareness of your own embodied positionality? It began at art school, where we were given license to rethink how we wanted to make our practices public.The year we graduated, for example, we refused the convention of a graduating exhibition with all its restrictions, and instead we produced a box set of objects, multiples that we then launched at another venue with a party. We were always engaged with the social dimensions of the pedagogical context and this proposition arose from that. While studying we also developed public projects offsite, and through this kind of work we experienced a sense of empowerment born of working together and making decisions to reformulate the frameworks that enabled our production. Much of the pedagogy was focussed around peer-topeer learning through ‘feedback sessions’ where the artist was not asked to justify

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their ‘intentions’, but where instead the focus was on opening up the ways that art operates within a specific situation. The group would then discuss the relationships emerging from a work before bringing the artist in at the end – a different way of engaging the production of meaning, given this is still predominantly focused upon an artist’s intent. But my desire to explore art beyond the object and out into broader social processes also came from a reaction against the kind of work that was being institutionally feted at the time I began practising. Ricky Swallow’s work became really prominent.1 I remember finding this work problematic in its exclusively objectfocussed orientation as well as the intense hype around a very young individual – the solo-figure, who happened to be male! I remember feeling critical about that hype, and not finding it very interesting as a model of validation of practice from ‘top down’…. It seemed incongruous to me that after going through art school and being energised by the histories of post-conceptual practice, feminist legacies and socially engaged processes, that what was then being celebrated and exemplified was what we’d been actively encouraged to critique through art history and theory. There was a disconnect between the histories of radical practice that we were nurtured upon, and the conservative art world’s ‘business as usual’. That moment galvanised a desire to work differently, or at least in ways that expanded upon the social, emergent and discursive foundations that we had already experienced together as a group and gained a great energy from. We translated that energy into an artist run project called CLUBSProject Inc., whose subtitle was ‘Dedicated to the perpetually provisional’. This statement came about through our interest in working in a process-oriented way, always in formation, always in negotiation, where context is always shifting. Was there a theoretical framework that you drew upon in defining yourself as ‘perpetually contingent’? It was Deleuzian, and I was reading Elizabeth Grosz in art school, Volatile Bodies, a major feminist text. It was Terri Bird – one of my teachers at that time but now a collaborator in the Open Spatial Workshop collective2 – who introduced me to Grosz.The main ideas influencing the practice related to contingency of experience and a sexually embodied perspective and the sited subject. I was really interested in subjectivity not as centred but as contingent and formed in relationship to other contexts, other forces, emergent from within the midst of relationships. At the time, I wasn’t declaring my practice to be feminist in content, but in method, in how I was approaching or rethinking subjectivity in relation to a material and spatial practice. After art school, I was occupied with how to combine my interest in socially engaged methods with an equal interest in materiality. For a long time, I didn’t know how to incorporate these threads, so I’d often make separate projects that either placed more emphasis on social engagement and dialogue, or were more overtly sculptural and spatial. For example, after studying for a year in The Netherlands at the Sandberg Institute, I was included in an exhibition organised by a former peer

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from art school, called Fame at what was then known as 200 Gertrude Street.3 My contribution was to interview local artists every day for a month during the exhibition. I asked, ‘what is your concept of and relationship to success within the art world?’ The work in the exhibition itself was an A4 printed timetable of the interview schedule, so potentially an audience could come and witness the discussions. So, the work consisted of the timetable and the series of one to one discussions happening in the local vicinity for the exhibition’s duration. The idea of a work occurring in multiple places, distributed across the city – that is a method that continues in my projects up to the present day where the work doesn’t happen only in the site of experience but also expands beyond that frame… the work can’t be fully or easily contained, consumed, or appropriated. At this time, I was really preoccupied with the question of ‘practice’, what constitutes it and how practice is embodied in the form of an exhibition. An Example of an Exhibition was based on a range of artist interviews about what an exhibition was. The interviews were all transcribed and placed in piles on the floor, surrounded by photos and notes and ephemera of the project, as well as a photocopier so people could copy and take texts home with them. On reflection, I realise that these interview-based projects have been key to how I’ve continued to work: the dialogical has been consistently central to the methodologies of my practice. It sounds like there’s this transformative desire within this practice, that it’s not just about tracking how artists are working, but asking how art practices can be socially transformative. Yes, but I’ve always directed this critical edge towards what I’m doing, to the point where I would often think that the practice was possibly becoming too instrumental.To counter that I would make attempts to ‘pollute’ the work by making complex what I was doing, not occupying a singular position but inhabiting or testing multiple positions simultaneously, for example by activating an excess of relationships that worked to divert the project from being a straight forward interview exercise. I had a chance to further explore the interview work when I was curated into Gail Hastings’ Primavera 2001,4 called The Blind Spots We Sometimes See. Gail was interested in looking into the structure of production. She invited me to participate through my interview project: my subjects were the other artists in the show, and their projects constituted the expanded ‘site’ for the work.5 In this interview-based work, I not only transcribed the discussions verbatim but also added all the ambient sounds and sonic signatures captured on the recordings, and kept in the sounds that didn’t make sense or clouded the text. In these transcriptions, there are moments that are indecipherable because the text is overburdened with the materiality of the process of transcription.Visually they look like extended concrete poems, and the work was installed as an expanded archive, deliberately overburdened with excess material like notes, photos, and ephemera. I wanted to ‘de-instrumentalise’ the work through introducing complexity. I wanted to confuse the divisions between discrete artworks by discursively ‘inhabiting’ other projects. And to ‘pollute’ the work through excess, to undermine any particular moral position that might have been emerging in my

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project.The work engaged in a form of institutional critique, but was agnostic on taking a moral position. I’ve been broadly influenced by Deleuze’s point that ‘to create is to resist’. My aversion to taking a moral position comes out of this understanding.The question is how to bring forth a difference with critical acknowledgement of one’s deep imbrication and implication within each socio-political situation. It is worth thinking through what is a common reaction among artists against having their work described as either didactic or taking a moral position, as if that necessarily then simplifies and discounts it. I think the key thing is to approach those moral questions with complexity; introducing levels of complexity to cultural values and assumptions is a political act and takes a certain moral position, and is an important part of feminist critique that is seeking to transform social realities. Absolutely, I’m interested in the project activating difference, in producing a complexity and in testing multiple positions simultaneously. This is the overarching relationship that my practice has to feminism – it’s structural and based in methodologies that tend towards complexity. I think the real concern for deep social engagement that’s transformative within the culture that one participates in was translated into the artist run initiative called CLUBSproject. It began in 2002 – we secured the top floor of a pub by negotiating with the publican downstairs to sell their beer at our events in lieu of rent. CLUBSproject became the physical and discursive venue where our interest in exploring the social and political potential of art practice could occur. We were not content with the prevailing model that we regarded as replicating a more commercial structure at the time.That generally consisted of an exhibition that runs for three weeks with little margin for experimentation. We saw ourselves as trying to generate other ways of making ‘practice public’, and throughout the time we ran CLUBSproject we allowed for quite a motley mash of projects to occur. But aside from this, I think the most interesting thing we developed together were what we called feedback sessions, which were basically dialogues focused upon particular works of art by peers. These were recorded and formed a resource for the artist who produced the work. For me, the generation of in-depth knowledge around each other’s practices at this time was significant because of the kind of audience that it produced. We became active interlocutors helping to generate meaningful discourse around each other’s practices. Working this way is marked by generosity and by an ethics of openness and inclusivity: all aspects of feminist methodology. The way CLUBSproject works it seems to me is not as a bounded project with particular outcomes, but as a phenomenon that continues in perpetuity and may develop in unprecedented ways. So (ironically!) it’s not project-based as such – even though CLUBSproject itself closed, you continue its iterations today in different forms. So, there is that sense of investing in something that you’re not going to get an immediate outcome from necessarily, or sowing the seeds for something that is actually going to develop potentially out of your hands in the future. It is about cultivating an artist ecology and seeing social responsibility in that, and that being an integral part of your practice.

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We were conscious that the ‘project’ was not just the art and the exhibitions. The project was as much about the way you organise, the way you write, the way you curate and structure a programme – you treat each aspect with the same rigour and ethos. Something we often discussed was how organisational relations enable particular forms of practice to emerge (or not). Testing the organisational structure was part of our collective work, our communal ‘practice’; it was not bound solely to exhibition making. So yeah, that’s definitely an important feminist way of working. I see cultivating that ecology as integral to my practice. It appears though that your work began to reorientate, from an art ecology to broader public discourses and public spaces. I am interested in working in public space, in exploring how to think through the multiple histories that converge in public sites and how to translate that into a material and spatial practice.When I moved from Melbourne to Sydney in 2013, I became fascinated by the presence of sandstone. Through this geologic materiality that pervades Sydney, I began to perceive the city in terms of its obvious colonial inheritances in a very different way to how I had ‘seen’ place in Melbourne. Because Melbourne is so thoroughly transformed both spatially and figuratively into a European image, it is more difficult to witness a pre-colonial landscape. In Sydney, the struggle between the cadastral grid or the anthropogenic landscape in relation to remnant terrains is absolutely physical and everywhere to be seen.This compelled me to educate myself on colonial and indigenous histories of the area, and I became really interested in time, deeper time and how that impinges upon the present moment and how it can be sensed or felt. This concern has infiltrated my work enormously. The first project I worked on in Sydney was fashioning discontinuities for the 19th Biennale of Sydney. I familiarised myself with key sites like Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), through fieldwork and archival research at the City of Sydney council. I worked with historians6 to understand the many changes in Hyde Park, from the violent clearing of the dry sclerophyll forests that once populated that area, to the use of the space for racing and fighting in colonial times, to modernisation which saw the construction of the underground rail networks. I became really interested in how those layers of time were probably evident in the soil structure and this led me to work with some soil scientists7 who assisted in doing some test auguring of the park, which led to excavating a 1 × 1 × 1 metre hole. This project involved cordoning off a small area of grass which the RBG agreed not to mow or maintain for 6 months, as a gesture towards suspending routine procedures in order to allow other grasses or at least weeds to grow. This annexation of grass was one of many actions conducted around Sydney within the context of fashioning discontinuities, which reflects my desire to work in a way that is distributed, to embrace the fragmentary, partial and contingent that had been brewing for a long time in other projects. I was also interested in how in making a minor, light-handed amendment to the way things normally operate, you can shift people’s perspective about the spaces they inhabit (Figure 6.1).

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Bianca Hester, fashioning discontinuities, exhibited within ‘You imagine what you desire’, curated by Juliana Engberg, 19th Biennale of Sydney, 2014. A multi-part project distributed across Sydney involving objects, propositions, interventions, sonic actions, collaborations and an installation on Cockatoo Island. Detail of Annexing a patch of grass, temporarily. Amendment into Royal Botanical Gardens. It was negotiated with the gardens that a patch of grass be annexed from mowing for six months between January and July 2014


As a whole, fashioning discontinuities involved multiple actions and ‘amendments’ across Sydney, including the Hyde Park digging and the annexation of grass in RBG. The residues and narratives around these actions were then collected and presented as an installation of fragments in a large building on Cockatoo Island. The work could be received by an audience as both dispersed throughout the city as well as collected into an installation.This project was highly provisional, so when the crisis regarding the Biennale’s funding arrangements and the associated protests arose, this was put to the test and exercised. I am very interested in the way that you negotiated that process, how you incorporated your stance on the Biennale crisis and your critical activity into the work you made and exhibited. You once described this as creating a ‘holding environment’.8 The call to boycott the 19th Biennale of Sydney came to my attention through other Melbourne-based artists in the show, about six weeks before the Biennale was due to open. A refugee advocacy group had posted on social media reports outlining Transfield’s connection to both extrajudicial mandatory detention and to the Biennale of Sydney. The Transfield Foundation – a joint venture between Transfield Services (listed on the Australian Stock Exchange) and Transfield Holdings (a shareholder of Transfield Services) – provided 7% of the Biennale’s

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total sponsorship.9 The publication of this connection was very timely because Transfield was in the process of signing a multi-million dollar contract with the conservative Abbott Government that very week to operate the detention centres on Manus and Nauru, effectively taking over from the contract with the Salvation Army that had been terminated by the government. In particular they would be taking over security, infrastructure and welfare services. The refugee advocacy group had also directly contacted the Biennale of Sydney, which subsequently sent us a ‘media Q&A’ factsheet that stated their position on the call to boycott. This factsheet raised our suspicions because there was a crucial bit of information that was incorrect, namely: ‘Our understanding is that the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru are run by the Serco Group, which is not a Biennale sponsor. To our knowledge, Transfield Services provides food, clothing and other welfare services to the Nauru and Manus Island facilities’. Our fact checking through mainstream media reports and direct conversations with the Salvation Army and Transfield revealed that Transfield was indeed taking over the contract to run the offshore camps. For me, engaging with this situation became an intellectual choice as much as an ethical responsibility. Knowing the facts of this connection, you might choose to ignore them and get on with business as usual – uphold the status quo, which is a strategy of patriarchy – or you can let this knowledge change you through a direct and murky engagement with what Julia Kristeva has called the ‘intolerable’ in her theory of abjection – a liminal space of transformation. And transform us this knowledge did indeed! A small group of artists including Gabrielle di Vietri, Nathan Grey, Charlie Sofo and Deborah Kelly put our artwork on hold and worked exclusively, and more importantly – collectively – over weeks, doing research and participating in debates with our peers, conducting meetings and phone calls with colleagues including respected artists, writers, academics and curators within our community. We also participated in town hall style meetings in Melbourne and Sydney with over 100 arts workers and refugee rights activists. We met with the curator Juliana Engberg and some staff from the Biennale of Sydney. At this meeting, we were encouraged to question the situation both within and outside the framework of the Biennale; we made it clear that we were going to write a letter to the board expressing our concerns, an action wholly supported by the curator.10 Beforehand, though, we wrote an extensive letter to the other 95 national and international participating artists that provided all the information that we had gathered on our understanding of the connections between Transfield and the Biennale of Sydney, and on Australia’s policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers. The letter invited these artists to take part in drafting the letter we planned to send to the Biennale board. We wanted a dialogue with our international peers. It was an incredible moment of collaborative work, where the care of many people was made palpable through their input into the letter, helping us to think through the situation in a way that was open, complex and as critical as possible. I was impressed and moved with how our community supported us through direct engagement in the process.

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From the outset, we had repeatedly emphasised that we were considering ­ ultiple responses including dialogue, debate, protest, actions, forums and a possible m withdrawal. I believe that this is crucial because we were always in favour of multipronged strategies, and had resolved to support each other no matter what action we took. For us the important thing was that an actively questioning dialogue was taking place. I feel that this attempt at complexity was unfortunately simplified into a binary of ‘to boycott or not’. The board’s response to our letter was really disappointing.We believed that it demonstrated a lack of preparedness to take a more auto-critical perspective or show leadership regarding the issues we had raised. Their response also indicated that they were committed to honouring their numerous ‘stakeholders’, but that the artists were not considered worthy stakeholders.The board in their response appeared to consider our raising of these difficult issues as the destruction of a cultural asset, namely the Biennale. We felt the board read our concerns reductively and disavowed our political agency beyond the sanctioned and privileged platforms determined by their frameworks. After our letter was published, we were amazed to see how widely it resonated, in the mainstream media, and among politicians from local government such as the independent mayor of Sydney. We were shocked at how much it spoke to the time. How were you feeling during all this? And how do you think what you were experiencing at that time was related to the kind of practice – always contingent and open – that you’ve been developing over many years? I remember feeling that although it was very stressful, I was happy to be part of an intense public discourse, and to be in a privileged position to engage with this as deeply as possible.There was no question that I would respond to the situation: I was absolutely compelled and I felt responsible as an artist and a citizen. I also didn’t feel that I could just obey what was being asked of us by those who were calling for the boycott: that felt wrong, it felt wrong as an artist who desires to understand the complexities before embarking on actions. Also, the Salvation Army was really supportive of the work that we were trying to do. A high-ranking Salvation Army representative told us that they had lost their contract because the government wasn’t happy with the fact that they were a benevolent society and that they were prepared to report on human rights abuses. Their take was that this other tenderer (that is Transfield) was going to do the government’s bidding and keep a lid on it. After the initial letter was released things got crazy. The situation seemed to change daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Before releasing the letter, we discussed who would be the central spokesperson for the group – I remember recoiling from taking on this position due to the expectation from media for ultra-fast responses and definite positions.Witnessing the speed and oversimplification within the space of the media was alarming; I remember thinking that it hampered the necessary time and space for more complex thinking to continue. After the board responded as they did, there was a serious push from a small group – the Australian artists who had closely collaborated on writing the first letter, along

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with a few of the internationals – to withdraw participation.The writing of this second letter declaring withdrawal produced quite a different situation; there was a lot of discussion about solidarity and I felt that there was now a very definite position being occupied. I personally chose not to join this move, as I believed that taking such a clear position was to deny the complexity of our original arguments. I wanted to continue dealing with this complexity especially given my practice’s long-term commitment to testing multiple positions and holding a space open for perpetual negotiation. On the other hand, I also supported the withdrawal because it was a catalyst for bringing maximum public attention, and hence p­ olitical ­pressure, to the situation on Manus and Nauru. I also supported the taking of a range of different actions amongst the group and I felt there were other ways to be politically effective involving keeping the agitation active within the framework of the Biennale. And was there any strategy that you could deploy in order to change the discourse or the temporality of that discourse? There are many ways to engage in activism, and I felt that my practice had embodied different forms and degrees of action over the years – so the withdrawal seemed to demand identifying as a certain kind of activist that was inauthentic to my practice. I remember articulating: ‘I think I have to stay and eat this shit sandwich, and remain engaging the complexity of this intolerable situation’. Another important factor in my decision involved my acknowledging that withdrawal promised a kind of redemption, of public support in occupying ‘a correct position’ and the potential of this to bring relief from the super-charged stress of the situation. However, when I realised this I also recognised the self-indulgence of my desire and that recognition helped me to resolve the decision to continue to participate and to deal with the mess – to remain present to it and ‘cop it sweet’. In deciding to stay I resolved to do so in a way that was transformative – rather than go back to ‘business as usual’ before the crisis emerged. I was determined to maintain the discourse, and turn my work into an arena that accommodated continued action around the issue. I then proceeded to work in a way that acknowledged and engaged the situation. I did so through three major ways: 1) writing another letter with a larger group of mostly female European artists who had also chosen to keep participating, in a rejoinder to the board’s response; 2) through developing texts in the work; and 3) through curating a forum called Present Politics that was held every Friday in a purpose-built section of the installation.The Indigenous artist Richard Bell had dared the artists to remain in the Biennale and deal with the crisis directly from within. I took this provocation seriously. This was especially the case given that a central drive in my work was the issue of contested place. In this letter co-written with mostly other women, we declared our desire for open engagement from the Biennale, within the structure of the Biennale itself. We requested that they run a forum as well as provide a space in one of the venues where ongoing debate could occur and where we would be able to bring in other voices from the community. We were really concerned about using our position

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and agency to keep this dialogue as open and present as possible. The sense we had was that the Biennale just wanted everything to return to ‘normal’, and was tokenistic in their offer of a forum: they cancelled it the week before opening.That galvanised my decision to run the Present Politics forum within the context of my own work which involved inviting peers and mentors who had been involved in the discussion from the outset – you were one of them – to participate in leading a discussion with me (Figure 6.2). It was really interesting to see that although these forums were scheduled well in advance and I had supplied the Biennale with the requisite information, they chose not to publish the details either in the handbook or on their website. It was quite something to open that handbook and see two blank pages where my work was listed – with all information about the Present Politics forums having been deleted. I was astounded as to how much effort they expended to supress ongoing discussion. I went ahead and published the information through social media networks and on my own website. Attendances fluctuated from 4 to 40, but over nine weeks there were some really rich discussions had with invited guests, specific participants and incidental audiences.

FIGURE 6.2  Bianca Hester, fashioning discontinuities, exhibited within ‘You imagine what you desire’, curated by Juliana Engberg, 19th Biennale of Sydney, 2014. A multipart project distributed across Sydney – involving objects, propositions, interventions, sonic actions, collaborations and an installation on Cockatoo Island. Detail of Present Politics forum held every Friday afternoon from 2pm throughout the duration of the Biennale. This image documents the forum held with Bianca Hester and Lucas Ihlein. Speakers throughout the programme included Terri Bird, Danny Butt, Olivia Barr, Ian Milliss, Lucas Ihlein, Diego Bonetto, Jacqueline Millner, Helen Hughes and Oliver Watts

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In allowing yourself to ‘be in the shit’, what were you exposing yourself to? The artists who sought to hold the Biennale to account, myself included, suffered a severe backlash from certain parts of the art world, including among some academics at the art school where I was working at the time.11 Some people criticised our naivety in campaigning on this issue, others accused us of grandstanding and attention-seeking for personal gain, others suggested our actions risked sacrificing private arts sponsorship in the future! The current form of a biennale like Sydney’s is based upon a particular paradigm of globalised art production, a kind of ‘art industrial complex’. That formation requires a hierarchical organisational structure, exploitative labour relations and funding arrangements to maintain. The viability of this model needs to be questioned (as it has been and continues to be, around the world), but I mean more generally in relationship to questions of sustainability – as challenging as this concept is. The Australian feminist philosopher Claire Colebrook discusses this problematic notion of sustainability in relationship to western societies’ preoccupation with maintaining current forms of life that are fundamentally based upon exploitation and the social and ecological violence connected to resource extraction, which drives anthropocentric ecological destruction12. She argues that these current forms of life known in the West – including our access to all manner of privileges such as cars and warm houses and computers and Biennales and countless international trips to attend the global biennale circuit – are at the exclusion of ‘others’ whose forms of life are structured by radical underdevelopment generated by longstanding colonisation, and whose existences are profoundly precarious and vulnerable. Colebrook critiques the concept of sustainability underpinned by the drive to maintain a privileged status quo. If the critical actions surrounding the Biennale were accused of jeopardising future funding arrangements, and by implication destroying the Biennale as we know it, then perhaps it would be constructive for the Biennale to explore other ways of operating in view of the social and ecological issues of the times. I totally agree with you. How did you feel when you found out that Luca Belgiorno-Nettis13 resigned? I thought it was a tokenistic gesture. When he resigned it seemed like a strategy to dampen future action. It was clear that the Biennale was unwilling to engage in the messy debates that were imminent amongst the remaining cohort of artists. Belgiorno-Nettis resigning seemed to be a kind of panacea to ‘solve’ an intolerable problem. The way the board dealt with this situation revealed a deep conservatism evident in the resistance to having an auto-critical, self-reflexive, messy engagement. The cohort of artists who became entangled in this action made genuine attempts to ‘lean into the situation’, and address some of the problematic relations underpinning part of the culture and our implication in it. During the process, I remember being amazed at how willing the artists were to engage in this difficult labour of attempting to open up new thoughts and responses. The experience affirmed my decision to practice as an artist. Having said that, it was also a very imperfect process, with intense fallout – but it certainly opened things up, didn’t it?

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Can you reflect on the role, if any, that feminist ethics may have played in your response? I think the primary drive, or thread, is working in a way that doesn’t seek a place of resolve that can be objectified. The practice celebrates the partial, the indeterminate and the contingent within moments of embodied experience. There is a relationship to the concept of a ‘queer genealogy’; I take this idea from feminist geo-philosopher Kathryn Yusoff where she discusses such a genealogy as ‘having innumerable sites of origins… [which] introduces a queering to the field of normativity’.14 The practice also strives to hold open a space for multiple perspectives (from the human to the nonhuman) to cohere, clash and intersect. Consistently working with many other people across multiple projects is key, I think, working with multiple energies and perspectives and being willing to be engaged in a p­ erpetual process of negotiation. It aims to open space for something to occur which is unforeseeable in advance, and to then lean into the discomfort that might arise. In many ways, this approach aligns to a process of living. It’s also about laying yourself open, about vulnerability.You take a risk, you put yourself in that position of potential danger but you do it in a very purposeful way, so it’s not a kind of abandon or recklessness where you’re disrespectful of boundaries and rules and regulations. Rather, you’re aware of them but you enter that space in a sober way.You put your body on the line, knowingly. And you’re literally holding the space, allowing yourself to be ‘in process’, often in a very public way without the luxury of being able to resolve your position in private. I think that’s a feminist sort of methodology. And also making a leap into a space of not knowing, ‘putting your body on the line’ as you improvise within a situation.You don’t know what’s going to be produced in advance of process, and you embrace what emerges; you accept it, you work with it, in all its difficulty. For me, that vulnerability and openness and generosity, in particular when things get difficult, are ways of evoking love. Love is not a term that’s used a lot either in art practice or curatorial practice. I referenced bell hooks’ idea of love when discussing CLUBSproject. This idea of love engages with the totality or complexity of a situation that is replete with frustration, unresolvable agonism, joy, new experience and thought alongside growth in consciousness. This is not love positioned as a feeling so much as a practice that engages in the challenges involved in attempting to bring forth something new, and sticking with it no matter what with care and commitment. Throughout my practice I have experimented with many modes of collaboration informed by feminist legacies based in dialogue and a commitment to ongoing negotiation, intergenerational exchange and localised engagement. I’ve experienced the intensification and empowerment of working collectively in ways that overflow the patriarchal tendencies for individualisation, competition and performance. It is through the relationships that have been forged and fostered through these many collaborations that long-reaching and sustainable forms of practice, thought and action has been enabled, at the current time when developing an ethos of care is at its most urgent.

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Notes 1 Ricky Swallow was then a young artist recently graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts. He made realist objects employing highly crafted sculptural techniques. 2 The Open Spatial Workshop collective emerged from the possibilities enabled by the access to space at the CLUBSproject venue. This group comprises Bianca Hester, Terri Bird and Scott Mitchell (Natasha Johns-Messenger was a member between 2003–2005). We have been working together since 2003 producing a broad range of work spanning sculpture, installation, curated events, publications and video production. Our activities are framed by an ongoing interest in physical forces and how the temporalities of these forces are registered with particular attention placed upon the explored connections between materiality, the shaping of territories and the various politics inscribed in place. 3 A major experimental art space with studios and galleries in inner Melbourne. 4 Primavera is an annual curated exhibition of emerging artists, curated by an invited ­curator and held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. It began in 1992. 5 The interviews were with Alex Gawronski,TV Moore, Scott Mitchell, Jacinta Schroeder, Annie Hogan, Carmen Soraya Morano and Michael Graeve. 6 Lisa Murray. 7 University of Sydney academics Professor Stephen Cattle and Dr Damien Field. 8 B. Honig,‘The Politics of Public Things: Neo-Liberalism and the Routine of Privatisation’, Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy and Society, State Library Of NSW, Metcalf Auditorium: University of Western Sydney, 2013. 9 This figure of a 7% contribution was discussed at a meeting in early March 2014 with the CEO of the Biennale, and tabled in minutes from that meeting. Its absolute accuracy is not verified. At the time we were researching, the relationship between all components of the company was as follows: Transfield Holdings had an 11.9% share in Transfield Services, which amounted to 57,849,887 shares. This made it the second largest shareholder in Transfield Services. We also became aware that the Transfield Foundation, a joint venture of both Transfield Services and Transfield Holdings, funded the Biennale. There was no ambiguity about this. Transfield was one of the founding sponsors of the Biennale of Sydney. Franco Belgiorno-Nettis not only began the Transfield construction and engineering firm with business partner Carlo Salteri in 1956, but also instigated the first Sydney Biennale in 1973. The depth of connection between the BelgiornoNettis family and the Biennale is embodied in the bronze bust memorialising Franco’s contribution to the arts, which is situated at the threshold of the Gunnery building in Woolloomooloo, where the Biennial offices resided until 2015. 10 This is documented in minutes from the meeting in early March 2014. 11 Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. 12 Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol.1, Michigan Publishing: Open Humanities Press, 2014. 13 The Transfield executive who was the chair of the Biennale Board, and the son of Franco Belgiorno-Nettis who sponsored the first Biennale of Sydney in 1973. 14 Kathryn Yusoff, ‘Queer Coal: Genealogies in/of the Blood’, philoSOPHIA, Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2015, 205.

7 CURATING GRIEF Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Preface As the clock ticked over, marking the beginning of a new century, I was beset with an overwhelming optimism. The year 2000 was going to be great: I could feel it in my bones. Big career aspirations were in the air. Personal life changes too: I had embarked on what would become a significant relationship, our first date coinciding with the birth of my first niece. This seemed important: as she got older and the juggernaut of time passed by, we counted the years of our relationship against the convenient measure of her age. Looking back, I was probably confusing some notion of zeitgeist for a confluence of events that signpost the passing of chronological time and its repurposing into the dominant narratives worth remembering as personal history. Because then everyone started dying. In 2000, a seemingly relentless tide of family deaths began. First an uncle, then a stepfather, and then my brother Trevor, struck dead by an aneurysm at the age of 20.With his death, everything changed for me in ways that still resonate: personally, but also professionally as an artist and curator.With no knowledge of his impending death, in a passing conversation with our mother,Trevor had expressed a preference for the song he wanted played at his funeral. Amid the shock and grief, however, the song choice was forgotten and we played something else. Sometime after the funeral, I was out with my mother when a pop song came on the radio. She turned to me in tears and said it was Trevor’s funeral song: Moby’s 1999 Porcelain. I made a vow that I would find a way to honour his wishes. I would devise a way to play the song as a tribute to him in a revisionist funeral of my imagination. Three years later, my maternal grandmother died after two decades of a life afflicted by Parkinson’s Disease. A devoted Rod Stewart fan, Nan advised whenever it came on the radio that Sailing was her funeral song. With her characteristic flair

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for melodrama, she threatened to haunt us if the song went unplayed at her funeral. So we played it, twice. Realising I had been exposed to the concept of a ‘funeral song’ by Nan since childhood, it felt more and more pressing to find a way to play tribute to Trevor’s song. He was haunting me. In 2007, I was offered an exhibition at the now-defunct contemporary art gallery MOP Projects in Sydney, a spot that would run alongside a sprawling Christmas themed group exhibition. My vague idea was to deliver my exhibition as a visual mixtape for the Christmas party, hybridising my usually discrete roles of artist and curator. Then it hit me: ‘funeral songs’! I would hire a jukebox and curate a playlist of songs living family, friends and artist peers nominated as songs to be played at their funerals, an opportunity for people to go on record about their chosen funeral music. I collected hundreds of songs, which were burnt onto homemade compilation CDs housed in the jukebox alongside a disc containing Trevor’s Porcelain and Nan’s Sailing. I chose Tina Turner’s 1993 recording of Proud Mary as my song and accompanied the installation with a quick and cheap video portrait where I dance and lip sync to the track. YouTube had only just set up its Australian subsidiary, so when I uploaded the video I had no idea that it would ‘go viral’; it racked up a million views before I felt compelled to delete it. Unwittingly, then, my funeral song became a benchmark for my practice as a video artist, which remixes the cultural archive with personal experience using the conventions of music video. My work reflects how I grew into my own queer and feminist skin as a child of eighties and nineties pop culture excess. In 2012, Funeral Songs made the leap into a museum collection, commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) – a maverick private museum in Tasmania founded a year earlier by wealthy collector David Walsh. I remade Proud Mary in an empty carpark and presented it alongside the 2007 version with a plan to re-stage the performance every five years: I would live out my funeral song over the span of my lifetime like a series of five-year plans.1 Not long after the installation of Funeral Songs at Mona, my friend, the artist Katthy Cavaliere died. That day, Mona played her funeral song, Prince’s When Doves Cry, on repeat. Katthy’s estate had commissioned me to curate a posthumous exhibition of her work, and this link with Mona, forged together with senior curator Nicole Durling, was strong. Durling notes in the preface to Katthy’s monograph that she ‘felt an immediate connection to it and, with the support of David Walsh, Mona committed to an exhibition’.2

Introduction Katthy Cavaliere was an artist who made work about time: women’s time, her time. She melded performance and installation to embody time in spatial terms. Time, memory and commemoration circulate in a feminist body of work cut short by untimely death. Her final work, 11.11.11, endures in the artist’s archive as a proposal for a 12-hour performance that was drafted but never realised due to

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terminal illness. Katthy intended the performance to transpire on her 39th birthday – 11.11.11 – between 11am and 11 pm (eleven o’clock was the time of her birth). The performance was to comprise the setting ablaze of a number of her personal effects, earlier transported to the historic regional town of Hill End in western NSW, where she had previously undertaken a residency. It was to be an attempt to incinerate her past through the cremation of objects oppressed by heavy burdens. But 11.11.11 came and went, and Katthy’s plan remained unrealised. Instead, all her efforts were consumed by the will to survive a cancer diagnosis that she received in July 2011 and which ultimately claimed her life in January 2012. This chapter considers the emotional labour at the heart of certain curatorial practices. By examining the intersection of Katthy’s time with mine, I explore how the burden and anxiety of linear time – the crushing feeling that time is always running out, just as one is trying to unpick time as an idea or concept for creative labour – rubs up against gendered experiences of cyclical time. I reflect on a curatorial methodology informed by grief, underpinned by the experience of friendship and a duty of care.This becomes also a reflection on the limits of authorship, on where Katthy’s work intersected with mine and how, in re-presenting her work through a posthumous retrospective, I felt less like a conventional curator and more like an artist where her installations became readymades for my own art practice. As an artist and curator, I have often struggled with the institutional limitations imposed on these roles and have compartmentalised my creative output accordingly. Working with Katthy’s material radically challenged my professional and personal boundaries, informing and somewhat transforming the way I now work. Acknowledging this project and the friendship underscoring it as a key life moment, this essay offers Katthy’s project as a case study for a curatorial discourse on the care and intimacies of affective labour.

Time To curate a posthumous retrospective is to map an artist’s life work against the passage of time. Looking back on an artist’s oeuvre when engaged in the forwardlooking service of revisionism inevitably positions time as a linear temporality – a relentless singular pathway the individual paves into the future. Reflections on time have pointed out that the very act of theorising time is thwarted by how naturalised and taken-for-granted time is in the fabric of our experience and existence. ‘We are concealed in our thoughtfulness about time, even as we take it for granted,’ writes feminist phenomenologist Christina Schües. ‘Time withdraws and therefore remains in the background; as such, it is continuously unsettling.’3 And yet I cannot shake time off. In telling this story, mine as much as Katthy’s, I am compelled to signpost dates and times which seem important, set a scene, season the narrative with drama and epoch, signalling the end of an era as a new one begins. I titled Katthy’s retrospective Loved after one of her key works, but also as an expression of love for the artist and her work, whose legacy I wanted to protect.

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Among other artists of her generation, I believe Katthy was unique in Australian art of the recent past – her very Italian Arte Povera leanings and stress on the lived experience of embodied installation performances made her work deliberately ephemeral and susceptible to cultural amnesia; if it had not been experienced first hand, it may as well not have existed. Much of her work in the nineties captured the zeitgeist in terms of contemporary installation art. For instance, the same year her work katthy’s room4 appeared at Artspace in Sydney in 1998, Tracey Emin created My Bed – a landmark installation that became famous a year later when it was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London. Creating performative art out of found objects was nothing new, but in Australia at that time, Katthy’s work was ahead of the curve: performance installation is much more widespread among the generation that followed.5 Katthy’s project was my second time curating the retrospective of a deceased Australian artist. In 2010, I curated a two-part survey of the work of Arthur McIntyre (1945–2003) at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Macquarie University Art Gallery.6 I came to know McIntyre’s work after his death – we were not friends. I curated his work as a ‘serious’ institutional curator would, taking care to write him into a recent art history that had largely overlooked his work. But in working on that project I felt a growing intimacy and obsession for the material. This intimacy and obsession grew in the aftermath of the exhibition, when I was charged with managing the artist’s estate. I placed over one hundred works in public collections in Australia and facilitated the donation of the artist’s effects to the National Art Archive at the Art Gallery of NSW. This experience informed my initial approach to Katthy’s material – yet ultimately what set Loved apart was the personal investment that came from a profound sense of loss, a motivation to declare a curatorial position born from love and grief. In writing the life and career spanning monographs published alongside Katthy’s exhibition Loved and McIntyre’s Bad Blood, I realised later how my approach to narrativising history was framed decade-by-decade as a stock standard unit of measurement for understanding and periodising the artists’ life and work. This inclination of thinking through decades endures as a normative way of framing the past in cultural histories as much as it is rampant, though necessarily critiqued, in philosophical and literary contexts.We have seen in Western art history, for instance, how ‘Feminist Art of the Seventies’ vacuum-seals its contents into a period to the exclusion of everything that came before or after. Within this decade-ism is a tendency to neatly compartmentalise an artist’s activity within convenient, linear blocks of time, a grand art historical narrative that attempts to resist the ruptures by untimely events, traumas and, inevitably, death. In declaring this problem with time, I feel compelled again to invoke the millennial moment of optimism I foregrounded earlier. It was an optimism, and decadeism, Katthy shared. As 1999 receded, Katthy had reached an all-time low, describing what occurred as a psychological breakdown. A significant relationship had come to an end – as one, for me, was beginning – echoing the apocalyptic tone of the Y2K threat.Yet, Katthy saw the turn of the millennium as an opportunity for clarity

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and purpose, renewal and change: ‘The year 2000 – I felt that somehow I had to make this significant… I’m searching for the first sentence – I have been since I was a child – today I will start,’ she wrote in her diary in January 2000.7 On the other side of the world, feminist literary critic Naomi Schor was having a similarly depressing turn of the century experience. In her poignant essay ‘Depression in the Nineties’, Schor reflects on the decade-ism characterising feminism of the seventies and eighties to which she belonged, and how she felt she had been plunged into a state of confusion and despair by the time the nineties set in: In the marketplace of ideas there is no time for mourning and melancholia. Mourning is viewed as somehow shameful, not to say retrograde. Furthermore, in the age of postmodernist ‘waning of affect,’ those who wish to bring back affects such as depression are not very good company, unless of course their name happens to be Julia Kristeva … Clearly there is a lot to be depressed about in these twilight days of the bloodiest of centuries, especially when one is, as I am, of a melancholic disposition.8 Reflecting on this essay, literary theorist Emily Apter notes how Schor’s ‘periodizing consciousness… used the nostalgic lever of the “decades” time signature to snap into focus her personal and very melancholic sense of an era’s ending’.9 The very decade-ism that impelled Schor’s scholarship became the burden at the tail end of her life: depressingly enough, she met with her own untimely passing in the early part of the decade that followed. I am interested in how the decade-ism that has marginalised feminism can be challenged by aesthetic practices composed of nonlinear time, such as those at the heart of Katthy’s work. Julia Kristeva’s influential essay from 1979, ‘Le temps des femmes’ (‘Women’s Time’), is a useful guide for understanding how feminist criticism is retrospectively perceived according to generations of thought that correlate to the sociogeographic forces of place – feminism grouped by time as much as nation.Women’s time, for Kristeva, is cyclical and characterised by repetition and routine, maternity and gestation, and embodied in everyday things that are diurnal, habitual and intimate. It is marked by ritual, the body’s processes, and labour that repeats and returns: … there are cycles, gestation, the eternal recurrence of a biological rhythm which conforms to that of nature and imposes a temporality whose stereotyping may shock, but whose regularity and unison with what is experienced as extrasubjective time, cosmic time, occasion vertiginous visions and unnameable jouissance.10 Kristeva also identifies ‘monumental’ time as having been gendered in relation to female subjectivity. Distinct from the domestic rhythms of cyclical time, monumental time relates to eternity, myth and the cosmos, concepts often couched in maternal terms. Orbiting within or outside the dominant teleology of linear time – a scheduled conception of time that dominates knowledge production and the

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chronological writing of history – these distinct generations of feminism and their aesthetic practices come to pass. Kristeva writes: ‘when evoking the name and destiny of women, one thinks more of the space generating and forming the human species than of time, becoming, or history’.11 Katthy’s work enacted a unique form of women’s time in its performance of cyclical domesticity. A facet of her daily routine was keeping a diary, a personal ritual to chronicle life in linear time. In making time to reflect on time, Katthy’s creative process recounted childhood memories to make sense of the present as a space where anachronism could be embodied.The impetus for diaristic self-reflection as a catalyst for art making was the experience of migrating to Australia from Italy with her parents as a young girl in the mid-1970s. It was this grief for the lost country or motherland that informed her feminist art practice. Katthy’s art found form from her steadfast focus on the key familial relationships, both paternal and maternal, that both anchored and set adrift her female identity. Using found objects from her own life, Katthy created performative installations that transformed these banal domestic materials, and the labour they embodied, into poignant environments, charged with meaning pertaining to personal experiences of love and trauma. Isolation and solitude were key themes, symptomatic of the experience of being an only child in a migrant family. Katthy found refuge and agency within the self-constructed and intimate world of the bedroom – an autonomous and domestic space-time where the tropes of identity are fashioned through the material (maternal) effects accumulated there. katthy’s room recreated her childhood bedroom inside an oversized cardboard box: a time capsule of childhood, the artist’s floating world. The inside of the room could only be seen from the top, by climbing several steps onto a viewing platform that revealed the artist going about mundane daily rituals like sleeping, reading, listening to the radio, or writing in her diary.

Home Katthy found enduring inspiration in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1958): ‘For our house is our corner of the world… it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word’.12 For Bachelard, what makes the house a home is its metaphoric structure as a feminised, maternal space. The house cradles the individual – an architectural expansion of the figure of a mother nursing an infant. In katthy’s room, the teen bedroom replaces the figure of the mother as an immersive container where subjectivity is formed by its accumulative, material effects and their territorialisation. In Katthy’s installations, identity and being are arrested (in space) as much as they are in constant formation and becoming (as time). Katthy used the temporality of performance to spatially inhabit her installations. Chronological time was ruptured as she presented an infantilised version of herself to the world. Breaching the cyclical realities of everyday life’s perpetual present as much as she was bound by it, Katthy cast herself in the fragile psychical realm of childhood past. Adulthood playacted through childhood – an inversion of an infant’s desire to emulate adults

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through dress-ups. A child’s bedroom is where the fantasies of a future adult self are projected, entertained and nourished. In returning to a cardboard box simulacrum of her teenage bedroom, a makeshift shelter for vagrants is evoked, suggesting how the risk and anxiety of homelessness always circulates within the fantasy of containment offered by the home. During the late 1990s, Katthy made work exclusively about her bedroom and possessions, investing the materiality of her private universe with mnemonic significance. It is unsurprising that the work to follow katthy’s room should be story of a girl (1999) – an action-based work intended to dispense with objects and their evocations of the past. For this work, Katthy laid out her childhood possessions on the floor at Artspace, sat among the sea of objects and gifted them to viewers with whom she interacted. This work is another reconfiguration of her bedroom, except that she replaced the intimacy of the cardboard walls with the architecture of a conventional gallery. At 26, Katthy was one of the youngest artists to stage a solo exhibition in Artspace’s history up to that point, and the show underscored her obsession with youth. Although a young woman, Katthy still saw herself as a child: infantilised and responding with youthful wonder to the world around her. ‘I forget that I’m a woman – too often – I must learn to see myself as a woman – less as a girl’, she wrote in her diary.13 Katthy’s consciousness of her self-perception as a child underlines the way linear time is both affirmed and broken in her practice. With these installations, Katthy compartmentalised time in a unique way through performance. She would be present for a set period each day the gallery was open: for two hours daily she would be inside the box in katthy’s room; for two hours daily she would be giving away things from the debris of story of a girl. These rituals were scripted to capture a snapshot of time that exists in the routine of domestic life. A two-hour block synthesised the period one might spend in one’s room after school or work and before or after dinner. Within this world of private reverie, time is sliced off as cyclical and based in the labours of ritual on the one hand, and as meandering and dreamlike on the other, a space of imagination and wonder to contemplate sweeping refrains of life and death. Katthy’s consciousness of mortality is evident in her work brown paper (2001). After winning a major travelling fellowship in 2000 – a moment consciously articulated as a breakthrough linked to hopes she had pinned on the year 2000 in contrast to the earlier decade’s angst – Katthy returned to Italy for the first time since childhood. While studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Brera, Katthy was selected with a small group of students to attend a summer school workshop taught by Marina Abramović at the Fondazione Ratti in Como. Katthy was considerably influenced by Abramović and regarded her as a mentor. As part of the course, each of the students performed in Abramović’s Energy Clothes (2001) and developed their own work for the group exhibition Idea Bank at Ex Chiesa di San Francesco. brown paper was Katthy’s contribution. In it Katthy lay naked in a human-sized cardboard box, repetitively inhaling and exhaling into brown paper lunch bags, some of which she placed on her body, and others she cast outside the box. Piles of captured breath surrounded her. brown paper synthesised her conceptual and material investigations

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FIGURE 7.1  Installation detail from Katthy Cavaliere: Loved at Museum of Old and New Art, 2015–16. Cavaliere’s brown paper (2001) is pictured in the foreground. Photo: Rémi Chauvin. Image used courtesy and with permission of the Museum of Old and New Art

into the nature of existence and the home in a poetic and reductive way. It was a work that powerfully signalled a newfound maturity – a growing out of girlhood (Figure 7.1). Describing brown paper as a ‘portrait of the soul’,14 Katthy saw the paper bags as a lung for the universally human function of breathing. In approximately an hour, the accumulation of inflated paper bags came to represent the ‘first and last breath of life and all the ones in between’.15 An ongoing trope in her work, the cardboard box had moved on from being a bedroom and had become a coffin: ‘our bodies live in houses and die in coffins.’16

Loved The song you just heard, ‘Rewind’ by London Elektricity, is the piece of music Chris wanted played at his funeral when the day came. He told me this in December 2011 in anticipation of an art installation I was exhibiting at Mona museum in Hobart in January 2012. My art project was a way of correcting history, and paying tribute to my little brother.Thinking about this now, on the occasion of another brother’s funeral, I’m struck by how I knew this project was just as much about Chris as it was about Trevor.17 In July 2013, a year-and-a-half after Katthy’s death, I was commissioned by her estate to write her monograph and curate a future retrospective. Several boxes of Katthy’s diaries were delivered to my studio as a starting point for the research. The 30 or so diaries to which I was granted access spanned from art school notebooks of the early nineties through to sketchbooks where the artist was developing what became her final works.

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Half way through reading the diaries I was interrupted by another untimely death in the family: another brother, Christopher, dead at 33; another funeral song cued. The eulogy I delivered told his story as much as Trevor’s, punctuated by the music they both loved. loved was the title of Katthy’s 2008 video performance, a work that becomes a kind of funeral song to her mother. In it the artist is depicted as an adult rag doll, discarded on a rubbish heap. The rag doll comes to life and rummages through the detritus, edited to a recording of Katthy’s mother singing Hello Dolly. After this was filmed, Katthy’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Accepting an opportunity to perform at Artspace in November 2008, Katthy re-developed loved into a live work incorporating the video as a projected backdrop, in tribute to her sick mother.The live element commenced with Katthy as the rag doll being carried into the gallery by a workman clad in overalls. Placed down in front of the projection, Katthy performed a tap dance to Hello Dolly. Years earlier when she was studying in Italy, Katthy had asked her mother to record herself singing this song to potentially use in a work, but it did not find its place until loved. In tapping her troubles away, Katthy was referencing how this form of dance had been historically performed ‘to uplift people’s spirit during a time of depression and destruction’.18 As Hello Dolly concluded, the doll flopped to the floor and began knitting an umbilical cord from wool: ‘sewing [her] mother together again’.19 Katthy’s mother died two months after loved was performed. From this point on, a dense fog of sorrow settled over Katthy’s diaries. Heartbroken by the recurring cycle of grief in my own nuclear and extended family, I had to temporarily set aside tending to Katthy’s life and work, and processing my own grief for her. When I returned to the project of writing her story and curating her show, I sought to downplay our personal relationship as a means of self-protection and take on a conventionally detached and objective curatorial methodology – as if objectivity is ultimately ever achievable. Yet, when reading her confessional diaries, I would be carried on the same emotional rollercoaster of Katthy’s interior world. The last sentence of her final diary entry, dated December 8, 2011, stopped me in my tracks: It was my last chemo of the 4 ½ month cycle today. Nerine was with me. I have booked myself in for a CT scan next Monday and Jodie on Tuesday for the results. I checked my letterbox this morning and found Artbank cheque. It has come at a good time and I am very grateful.20 Several months before Katthy died, I purchased her photographic work untitled home (2007) for Artbank, the Australian Commonwealth Government art collection where I have been employed as Head Curator since January 2011. That I had played a role in the backstory of her final diary’s parting words shook me profoundly. I had subconsciously understood there were parallels in Katthy’s story and mine, but suddenly time was coalescing in its own strange and unknowable way. Whether a benign coincidence or numinous omen, I felt like I had heeded a calling, as if Katthy had willed me into her afterlife.

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In Katthy’s monograph, the last entry listed in the chronology of her work is a photograph called afterlife (2011). After her mother’s death, Katthy commissioned a glassmaker to customise an hourglass to house her mother’s ashes. Katthy used the hourglass as the subject of a photographic shoot – images that remained unedited and unprinted at the time of her death. Only one of the photos, which portrayed her shadow looming high above the hourglass, was selected for exhibition and printed and framed posthumously.  As part of the process of curating this exhibition, I was called upon to steer the decision making around how her final works – most of which were arguably still in progress – were to be ‘completed’. Like the hourglass in her work, time had run out for Katthy. It became apparent that my duty of care to the artist, to my friend, was to reanimate time as a trace of the artist’s hand. It was important to handle the material and all its intimacies, with delicacy and care – even if it meant the comingling of her breath with mine. For the retrospective at Mona and later at Carriageworks,21 Katthy’s installation brown paper was recreated using all the original materials from the 2001 work. Upon retrieving the work from storage (Katthy’s dank suburban garage), we found the original brown paper lunch bags used in the 2001 performance and its subsequent three ­re-stagings for exhibitions that occurred in 2004–05.22 These bags – each one a unique sculpture of breath, some crumpled, some flat – were a revelation, a gorgeous trace of life beyond death.A crate containing hundreds of unused bags for future performances were also found in storage. It seemed that Katthy had futureproofed brown paper with a plan to perform it in perpetuity. As I installed brown paper in the museum, I breathed into many of these unused bags, augmenting the artist’s effects with curatorial affect. In many ways, re-presenting Katthy’s work insisted on an element of co-authorship as intrinsic to the curatorial methodology that was unfolding. In dealing with the reality that the artist was not present except through the voice of her diaries, the re-presentation of her work could have gone one of two ways. I could have opted to present an objective archival tribute to her work, told through photographic and video documents that emphasised her having-been-there. A classic historical convention for feminist performance art is to recirculate its narrative through the indexicality of its often black and white photographic documentation.Thus, iconic feminist histories are often constructed through photographic evidence of the performance artist at work. I abandoned this approach for an exhibition that emphasised the materiality of Katthy’s installations, imbued with a spectral trace of the artist. I rebuilt katthy’s room in the knowledge that the artist would not be present for two hours daily, as was the routine scripted for the work. In her archive, however, I found video footage that Katthy had filmed of herself sleeping in the actual bedroom that inspired her cardboard reconstruction. The recreation of katthy’s room for her retrospective was faithful to the original as she had left clear instructions for its configuration. However, one key modification I enacted was the insertion of the video of the artist sleeping on a domestic television monitor typical of the period.23 The original two-hour slot that Katthy had allocated for live performances within the work has now been replaced in perpetuity by the televisual simulacrum of the artist (forever) at rest.

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Perhaps the most radical reconstitution of one of her works was the dilemma presented by her installation story of a girl. As this work was a gifting ritual, one might assume that it no longer exists as a body of objects. Katthy perceived story of a girl as a failure because she struggled to observe the terms of her own performance: she could not let go. Found in the remnants of Katthy’s life in storage was a trunk of her treasured childhood possessions – objects she could not surrender back in 1999 when performing the work.The emotional breakdown she experienced at the turn of the century was compounded by this failure. Due to the limitations of allocated exhibition space at Mona, I decided to allude to this work by cramming some of the toys into an exposed cavity located in a disused heritage chimney within the museum’s Roundhouse, adjacent to the library galleries where her retrospective was presented. A small monitor was placed among the rubble showing Super 8 footage of the artist as a child with her family in Italy in 1974, edited to an audio recording of a very young Katthy reciting The Three Little Pigs. When the exhibition travelled to Carriageworks, there was opportunity to restage story of a girl more in keeping with its original 1999 presentation at Artspace (Figure 7.2). During the setup of the exhibition, I requested that story of a girl be installed last. I wanted to lay it out myself, alone in the space, without assistance.  As a private ritual to Katthy, I set about placing the toys as I listened to Prince’s When Doves Cry on repeat on headphones. The next day the exhibition opening occurred in the conventional two-hour period assigned to such events. On its final day a month

FIGURE 7.2  Installation detail of story of a girl (1999) as it was presented in Katthy Cavaliere: Loved at Carriageworks, 2016. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image used courtesy and with permission of Carriageworks

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later, on September 11, 2016, we held a closing event in its final two hours – also a tribute to the two-hour period Katthy would have been present had she been available to perform in the installation. In a symbolic tribute to Katthy, the closing drinks invitation was extended to Katthy’s friends and family to receive a gift in the form of an object from story of a girl. It became apparent that Katthy never concluded the work – a trunk full of things would not have been left behind if she had. With her friends, I would help her finish what she started. Now a memory from my recent past, the labour of love of curating Loved was most explicitly expressed in the decision to reanimate and rescript story of a girl, to complete it when the artist could not – to set Katthy free, and by extension, myself.

Conclusion A large part of this ‘freeing’ was in how Katthy’s project contested the personal and professional boundaries one might normally erect through curatorial labour. In some ways, it was appropriate that the boundaries between private and public realms would be challenged, as the blurring of these tropes is central to the emotive transparency offered by the materials – the belongings – of Katthy’s practice. Operating in a space of friendship, love and acknowledgement of grief impacted on how the outcome was received. In one review, critic Andrew Frost picked up on this: ‘Curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham Loved was a testament not just to a talented artist and her work, but also to their friendship’.24 Similarly, critic John McDonald wrote: ‘Loved is an apt title for an exhibition by an artist who appears to have been surrounded by friends who cared deeply about her and have made huge efforts to keep her memory alive’.25 Loved was a watershed moment in my own practice because it gave me the freedom to inhabit a curatorial role as an artist would, thus breaking down institutional rules that keep these roles separate. Central to the etymology of curatorial discourse, the ‘care’ for art is often at the expense of the maker. For me, they were both important – one could not exist without the other. With Loved, the care for the artist was in many ways a care for the self, a way of working through the miasma of grief that was as much embedded in Katthy’s late works as it had been ever-present in my own life. In her diary, Katthy writes of an evening where she had to go out and be in the world to rupture an extended period of self-imposed solitude following her mother’s death. The destination was the opening of my 2010 solo exhibition: ‘It was great going to MOP last night and see some familiar faces and see Daniel’s work – Daniel has been a great friend – I wanted to support him.’26 With Loved, I reciprocated that support.

Notes 1 In February 2017, I performed for camera the third iteration of the Proud Mary series in an empty swimming pool in New Norfolk, Tasmania. 2 Nicole Durling, foreword to Katthy Cavaliere, by Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Sydney: Brown Paper in association with Hobart: Museum of Old and New Art, 2016, 9.

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3 Christina Schües,‘Introduction:Towards a Feminist Phenomenology of Time’, in Christina Schues et al. (ed.) Time in Feminist Phenomenology, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011, 2. 4 Non-capitalisation of artwork titles is consistent with the artist’s intentions. 5 In February 2015, artist Dara Gill curated Katthy’s work a moment alone (1998) into Taken to Task at Kudos Gallery, a space associated with the art school of the University of New South Wales where Katthy had been a student many years earlier. In examining female performance and video artists whose work engages task-oriented processes, Gill assembled a line-up of artists that linked Katthy to generational peers like The Kingpins, Julie Vulcan and Michaela Gleave with younger artists including Brown Council/Barbara Cleveland, Giselle Stanborough, Claudia Nicholson and Beth Dillon. Gill’s exhibition traced a lineage of female artists (particularly those hailing from the associated art school) who ‘explore duration, labour and performance, often utilising simple actions that connote complex concepts and histories’. Though this area of practice in Australian art is yet to be explored in more ambitious survey-style museum exhibitions, Gill touched on Katthy’s influence and her role in the development of a kind of practice that would become prevalent with the social media-savvy generation that followed. 6 Arthur McIntyre: Bad Blood 1960–2000 was exhibited at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre from 15 May to 27 June 2010 with a companion exhibition presented at Macquarie University Art Gallery from 19 May to 26 June 2010. 7 Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, 16 February 2000. 8 Naomi Schor, ‘Depression in the Nineties’, in Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular, Durham: Duke University Press, 1995, 159. 9 Emily Apter, ‘“Women’s Time” in Theory’, Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 21:1, 2010, 4. 10 Julia Kristeva, ‘Women’s Time’ [1979], trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake, Signs 7:1, 1981, 16. 11 Kristeva, ibid., 15. 12 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space [1958], trans. Maria Jolas, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, 4. 13 Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, 1 June 2000. 14 Katthy Cavaliere, brown paper, artist statement, 2001. 15 Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, July 2001. 16 Katthy Cavaliere, ibid. 17 Extract from eulogy for Christopher Lee Mudie, written and delivered by Daniel Mudie Cunningham at Chatswood, Sydney, 5 September 2013. 18 Katthy Cavaliere, loved, artist statement, 2008. 19 Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, September 2008. 20 Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, 8 December 2011. 21 Katthy Cavaliere: Loved was presented at Carriageworks from 5 August to 11 September 2016. 22 brown paper was included along with katthy’s room and other works in Katthy Cavaliere: Suspended Moment, a survey exhibition initiated by Goulburn Regional Art Gallery in 2004. It toured to Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and Campbelltown Arts Centre in 2005. 23 While the exhibition was on at Mona, the museum’s founder, David Walsh, purchased the installation for the collection, along with sleeping as a ‘video performance’ that was presented by Katthy’s estate as a unique edition. 24 Andrew Frost, ‘Trace, Breath and Touch’, Art Monthly Australasia 293, October 2016, 32. 25 John McDonald, ‘Packing a Punch’, Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum, 27–28 August 2016, 14. 26 Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, 1 October 2010. My solo exhibition Rhymes with Failure was held at MOP Projects in Sydney from 30 September to 17 October 2010.

8 THE INTIMATE MONUMENT Memorialising from a feminist perspective Sylvia Griffin

Introduction The Western tradition of monuments and memorials exudes a stereotypically ­‘masculine’ quality – large scale, hard materiality, heroic celebration. It was the limits of this embedded masculinist ideology that in part prompted the development of an alternative tradition, the anti-memorial, in which artists have been active participants for several decades – particularly since World War II.1 This is the context for my artistic practice, which aims to bring a personal perspective to expressing grief and mourning, to offer a means to work through events and experiences in which language often fails. In questioning the relevance and effectiveness of more traditional modes of memorialising, I believe the personal is political in responding to, and linking, the needs of survivors of historical trauma, their families and the broader culture.This chapter analyses the contribution of feminist-inspired practice to the art of memory and commemoration by exploring my method in the context of other artists working in similar ways.

Feminist anti-monuments: materiality and scale Much of this work purposefully deploys what continues to be dismissed as ‘women’s work’, and more personal expressions of remembrance, often foregrounding the domestic rather than the public sphere. Art theorist Anna Moszynska, writing in 2013, argues that the rise of female voices in contemporary sculpture coincides with the development of anti-memorialisation in public spaces.2 This includes the use of more intimate scale, and personal, as opposed to ‘grand’, narratives. The gendered attributes of scale have, of course, a long history in Western aesthetics, with the strong legacy of the distinctions the likes of Immanuel Kant and Edmund Burke made between the immense ‘masculine’ sublime, and the small ‘feminine’ beautiful.3

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In seeking to ‘feminise’ memorial culture, feminist work at times engages the very strategies it critiques, such as the use of monumental scale and ‘noble’ materials such as stone and bronze, but plays with their conventional associations. Some artists use traditional materials but in intimate, hand-held scale. Others, such as Australian artist Kathy Temin make ‘monumental’ sculptures constructed from ‘frivolous’ materials such as fake fur. In the minimalist tradition, Temin seeks to place the viewer’s body in direct relationship to monumentally-scaled objects. In My Monument: Black Garden (2010–2011), for example, huge ‘forests’ of trees and hedges encroach on our personal space.Yet contrary to minimalist convention, the work engages a range of our senses, including touch, smell and sound, as the viewer pushes through the muffling and ‘comforting landscapes of fur.’4 In more recent works such as The Memorial Project (2015), Temin combines textile components with a variety of sound and other sculptural elements to elicit yet another set of corporeal and sensory interactions. Temin credits among her influences Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois and Carolee Schneemann, artists who helped her re-evaluate ‘the feminised and fetishised object, the haptic and the humanistic’.5 She has acknowledged the influence of Hesse in particular for her means of expressing absence: a key strategy in the anti-memorialising art of memory. Although initially unaware of Hesse’s Holocaust survivor background, Temin understood and appreciated Hesse’s attempts to represent the unrepresentable, particularly with reference to the inner body.6 Temin shares Hesse’s ‘concern for the material qualities and mutability of disparate media, indeterminate outcomes, the evocation of the artists’ hand, and the capacity for art and process to recall the body’s physical states and degrees of emotional intensity’.7 She notes of her choice of materials: Originally, when I began working with textiles, it was because of the emotional content of soft-toy imagery, and the heightened, exaggerated, references that soft-toys elicit… They go from extreme jubilance to pathos. I use it as a material to generate emotional response, or as a reference to history.8 That ability to evoke pathos and loss, while mobilising the joy and purpose that were once historically present, is key to this choice of materials in the art of memory. However, an equally potent strategy is the queering of materials commonly associated with monuments. British artist Tracy Emin, for example, challenged the ‘masculinity’ of monuments with her Baby Things (2008) from the 2008 Folkestone Triennial. Emin stated that she finds public sculpture ‘very big, very macho and dominating and intrusive’, and prefers ‘little things in public’.9 Hence, her response was casting a range of baby items to scale in bronze and scattering them off the beaten track throughout the seaside town. Emin was particularly concerned to mark the presence of members of a group that is largely hidden away as a ‘dirty secret’ in this community, namely teenage mothers. The bronze materiality of these objects, detectable only by touch, balanced vulnerability with defiance.

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Conversely, Colombian artist Doris Salcedo manages to deploy monumentality to address the personal; her work balances the intimacy of human scale with the enormity of trauma. Salcedo attempts to retrieve forgotten histories in order to ‘enrich the surface of the present’.10 Theorist Mieke Bal points to the suspended, low internal brick walls in Salcedo’s Abyss (2005) as a clever device to induce discomfort in the viewer.11 Seemingly built not from the bottom up but from the top down, the installation appears to hover off the ground, inducing what Julie Rodrigues Widholm describes as ‘an empathic physical experience of oppression and near-entombment’.12 Abyss is a fine example of Salcedo’s handling of monumentality – of bringing in time by suspending it – as are Tenebre Noviembre 6 y 7 and Plegaria Muda. These two latter works redefine monumentality, using a quintessentially human scale object, a chair – with its potent evocation of the absent body – in large scale sculptural and installation works. Salcedo thus harnesses the memorialising function of monumentality, with direct references to political occurrences, while retaining human proportions in her choices of materials. In Salcedo’s other works, monumental scale and the ‘weightiness’ of her materials are countered with personal reminders of victims, such as clothes, shoes, or even hair and bones.

The proper name In the process of investigating postmemory discourse (or second-generational trauma) and its relevance to traumatic aspects of my familial history, issues surrounding the erasure, disappearance and gaps of knowledge regarding names – particularly female names – intrigued me.13 In 2012 during my first visit to Hungary – my family’s country of origin – I visited Kozma utca Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Budapest. Particularly notable for its culturally rich graves, the cemetery is also home to the striking Memorial for Jewish Martyrs, commonly known as the Holocaust Memorial. This memorial, commemorating the 600,000 Hungarian victims of the Holocaust, is remarkable for the number of handwritten additions to the several thousand names engraved on its marble slabs. The handwritten additions of loved ones omitted from the official lists demonstrated an intimacy largely lacking from the lengthy lists of names on most memorials. The sheer volume of names added by visitors, and the spontaneity and presence that it captures, distinguishes the Budapest Holocaust memorial from many others. Several of the names, written in pencil, inked or painted onto the marble, are accompanied by curious diagrams or encircled inside a love heart to produce very personal forms of graffiti (Figure 8.1). While graffiti is often regarded as defacement or civil disobedience – particularly by officialdom – the Holocaust Memorial clearly serves as a receptacle for people’s expressions of sorrow, tenderness, and a need for remembrance. Confronted by this very human and engaged memorial, I was moved to add the names of those in my immediate family who were murdered in the Holocaust. As I prepared to do so, I realised to my surprise and dismay that I did not know the full names of either my aunt Stefania or uncle Andor. My parents, grandmothers and

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Sylvia Griffin, Photograph of The Memorial for Jewish Martyrs, Budapest, 2012

surviving aunt and uncle – caught in their own grief – spoke little of these siblings/ children, and hence I did not even know their surnames. The search for their name put me on a path that was to prove influential to my work as a whole. I ascertained the family name from my cousin (orphaned at age six during the Holocaust), and then planned to add their names to the Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project run by Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration.14 Prior to registering, I searched the database of Shoah Victim’s Names and was surprised to find several entries for each of these relatives – albeit with multiple variations of their names, dates of birth, dates of death, and status.The accuracy and level of information about any given victim’s fate is evidently dependent on the information source;Yad Vashem clearly acknowledges this, stating that the database is a work in progress that may contain errors to be corrected in the future.15 The painstaking exercise of searching for my relatives’ names revealed more about the maternal line. I came across many different spellings for ‘Weiss’, Stefania’s maiden name (Weiss, Weist, Weisz, Veis), while my maternal uncle Tibor’s name led me to the discovery of my maternal grandmother’s maiden name of ‘Rottersmann’ (Rottersman, Rottersmann). It also highlighted to me how easily a victim’s identity or fate can be overlooked by something as simple as a misspelling. The video work No,No,No (2016) reflects this process of ongoing error, correction and frustration, both in my initial attempts to add my family’s names to the Holocaust Memorial in Budapest and in the process of sifting through scores of names in the Yad Vashem Names Database. In the video, my hand writes each variation of my mother’s family name as searched in the database – on marble, recalling the experience of writing on the Holocaust memorial – then crosses each out in turn. This gesture of erasure also addresses the unreliability and instability of memory and human error caused by careless misspelling of a name. Even within the immediate family these anomalies persist; for example, while I spell my mother’s

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family name Weiss (as it appears on my birth certificate), my sister spells it Weisz. Of additional concern with such examples is the implied weakening of our maternal lineage. Thus, the title of the video is also indicative of the frustration my siblings and I experience as we struggle to align our remembrances of our parents’ experiences. In No,No,No the gesture of crossing out a name, repeated as it’s looped over and over, speaks not only of erasure and loss, but also of my anger. When I later returned to the cemetery, I recorded myself adding the names of my uncles and aunt to the marble. Writing by hand the names of my missing relatives provided me with a new means of connecting to and being present to the dead; this would not have been possible with the official mode of permanent engraving.

Matrilineage and women’s experience The significance of the matriline has been overlooked in many naming traditions throughout history. Dowry linen, for example, unlike the quilt, has not been a major focus of material culture scholarship. Yet this linen, often embroidered with the female owner’s initials, can be seen as a means of preserving a woman’s identity through maintaining – or in some cases memorialising – her lineage and asserting her right to property.16 Susan Frye argues that it was through verbal and visual texts and objects that early modern woman asserted and explored her identity within a heavily gender-biased system.17 My late mother left me a sizable quantity of her dowry linen. While my interest in this linen is largely based on its affective qualities and its capacity to activate memory, it is also of relevance within the scope of women’s social history. Textiles played a crucial role in the lives of women with regard to marriage, inheritance and property law, having economic and social significance. Anthropologist Annette Weiner’s study of English property law reveals the extent of bias in favour of the patriline. Men inherited ‘real’ property (land and/or house/s), and women only the use of land until death when it reverted to a male heir. Under this law, textiles and dowry linen along with cupboards, chests and various other household items, regarded as ‘personalty’ or ‘moveables’, formed part of the core property that a woman was entitled to. Daughters only received land if there was no personalty to inherit – and this land was always of significantly less value.18 This patriarchal apportioning of ‘real’ property effectively worked towards securing male wealth. Historian Laurel T. Ulrich points out that in such a system women themselves could be seen as moveables, ‘changing their names and presumably their identities as they moved (between) male-headed households’.19 My mother’s dowry linen could be considered as personalty or moveables – with her initials affirming her lineage and independent identity as she entered into married life.These monograms also constitute the clearest and most personal indication of her ownership of these objects, and her identity.20 Featuring her family name, these initials could also suggest a naming ritual linking her family of origin to her future married life.This recalls the English Hadley chests from the 1680s to 1730s that were unusual

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for the manner in which the female owner’s name was emblazoned on the front.21 While most Hadley chests were marked with initials or partial names, in Ulrich’s case study of Hannah Barnard’s cupboard, her full name featured in highly decorative bold letters. Marking a possession in this manner served to make it less portable and less exchangeable, rendering it an inalienable possession and aligning it with female lineage.22 In her concept of ‘keeping while giving’, Annette Weiner refers to gifts that are inscribed with the giver’s identity in some way. Such an exchange of material objects as gifts between women carries ‘symbolic value that verifies relatedness, knowledge, and links between the past and the present’. Ulrich, in describing familial traditions, particularly those focused on cultivating and maintaining associations across generations, refers to eighteenth-century practices involving names in the transmission of ‘inalienable possessions’.23 24 While the purpose of dowry was primarily regarded as preparing for future married life, the monogram retains my mother’s ‘original’ identity and speaks of my matrilineal connections, which in turn strengthen and ensure family connections. The emotional connections to domestic items such as dowry linen also play an important, largely overlooked role in diasporic homemaking. Cultural theorist Ilaria Vanni’s reflections on the Italian diaspora and the importance of personal objects shed light on the role of objects such as dowry linen in the migrant experience. Relevant too are Vanni’s references to anthropologist and historian Ernesto De Martino who theorised that the loss of familiar things, such as practices, words, habits, and objects led to a loss of the ‘common lifeworld’.25 The symbolic attachments to this ‘common lifeworld’ after leaving a homeland can be materialised through the diasporic practices of homemaking. Geographers Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling see homemaking practices as a means to manifest material and imagined transnational geographies of home on a domestic scale. They propose that transnational homes can be viewed as performative spaces in that both personal and cultural connections to previous or imagined homes can be embodied, enacted and reimagined within a new space.26 As an example of this need to feel ‘at home’, Blunt and Dowling refer to Moroccan women bringing those objects which represented ‘home’ to them into their ‘other home’ in Italy. Through these objects or commodities, the women affirm their Muslim and Moroccan identities contextually alongside those that display what they have become.27

Memorialising, postmemory and cloth Many aspects of memorial and monument work involving textiles have inevitable affiliations with sewing and craft. This, in turn, raises questions regarding gendered memory work and ‘gendered care’.The notion of ‘gendered care’ and the agency of women coming together has, in relatively recent times, been expanded to include the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and intersex (LBGTI) communities. This concept is well captured by the adoption of the quilt – the traditional domain of women, particularly in North America – by the gay community via the NAMES Project and AIDS Memorial Quilt project. As has been noted:

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It is not surprising that a quilt motif was adopted by Cleve Jones, a founder of the NAMES Project, as the artistic medium for a monument to commemorate those who have died of AIDS-related illnesses.Throughout history quilts have served as metaphors for community and ‘integration, inclusiveness, [and] the breaking down of barriers’.28 Meanwhile, Paul Connerton proposes that in being underrepresented in most recorded history, women turned to needlework (in this context quilting) to create ‘an art of memory’, in what he terms, in North America, a distinctively ‘female form of historiography’.29 Connerton also considers the historical usage of cloth as a signifier of mourning (a torn piece of cloth symbolising the torn fabric of life in Jewish tradition, or the use of banners during the plague in Europe).30 Similarly, dowry textiles can be considered as ‘inalienable wealth’, special objects and family mementos often commemorating important events. While quilts have been said to bridge the transition between childhood and adult life, dowry linen also enacts a transition for a young woman preparing to leave her family for married life.31 The intergenerational exchange of each of these goods ensures that familial links are also passed on.32 In Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England, Susan Frye notes that while the creation of textiles, including those intended for dowry, has been practised cross-culturally for millennia, they additionally served as a means for women to exchange stories through weaving or embroidering cloth. Paul Connerton, in The Spirit of Mourning: History, Memory and the Body, explains the memorial potential of fabric: [Cloth is] a privileged material because it is yielding, because it is not stone or bronze or steel. When a memorial is made of stone or bronze or steel the rhetoric of the materiality implicitly claims that the memory of the dead recorded there will last forever. Cloth carries no such illusions of enduring witness. It is fragile, it frays, it fades, it needs mending. It remembers the dead by sewing together mere fragments of their lives.33 Two of my major recent works have used textiles made by or belonging to my mother to explore female family legacies and the role of painful emotion and physical labour in processing memory. I made Hand in Hand (Figure 8.2) in response to my mother’s dowry linen and its resonances, while Unknitting/Rewind unravels a childhood cardigan my mother knitted 55 years ago. My mother’s dowry linen is primary material evidence of her European life and a link to unknown family members, but its significance is heightened by the fact that my mother lived through the trauma of the Holocaust. I see this traumatic history embedded within her dowry linen. My mother’s monogram is a marker of her identity, while the linen’s stains – coffee, wax, blood – and the crease marks from years of use and storage are indexical markers that allow us to connect existentially to another person in another time. As Ulrich argues, material goods can ‘create a

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Sylvia Griffin, Hand in Hand, 2013

world of meanings and ultimately transmit (her)history’; they are ‘crucial props in unobserved, intimate rituals’ that bring to mind, for example, the ancient and comforting Jewish custom of laying a stone on a grave.34 I experimented with many approaches to honour my personal relationship with this linen, and to draw out its wider historical references. In an earlier work, I used parts of the actual linen, sealing it in wax in small tableaux. But it seemed imperative to broaden out the work, to explore that balance between intimacy and monumentality, between traditional materials and found domestic items, between family and cultural rituals.The result was a large, floor-based sculpture that took the monogrammed patterns on the linen as its inspiration. The specific idea came from a small pillowcase measuring approximately 50 × 62cms. The cotton fabric, originally pale yellow in colour, bears my mother’s maiden name initials – WE for Weiss Eva (or Eva Weiss) – in open work embroidery. I translated the pillowcase’s embroidered pattern onto the draped floor support using small quartz stones, in a process I likened to a careful ‘reading’ of the original textile. One quartz stone was used for each open-work stitch, so that the monogram and accompanying pattern grew to four times the original size of the textile (200 × 248cms). The ritualistic handling of each stone recalls and connects handiwork, domesticity and mourning rituals. While the quartz stones reference the Jewish tradition of leaving a stone on a grave as a sign of respect and to mark a visitor’s presence, it also engages the individual in a ritual that provides a physical means of expressing emotions and spiritual needs. The title, Hand in Hand, brings to mind female domestic labour and the embodied experience of work, but also the contiguity of past and present. The four-day-long installation process – spent with folded pillowcase in hand, counting each stitch row by row, gathering the required number of stones and placing them in a corresponding grid-like pattern – proved to be painstaking and

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emotionally challenging. While it was at times contemplative, in the physicality of the process – the loss of feeling in the fingertips lasting several days, the challenge of kneeling for hours at a time hunched over the work, and lapses in concentration leading to errors in the ‘reading’ of pattern that I then had to undo and redo – I often found myself in a state of anxiety and anger directed at my mother (who had died many years prior). This feeling, that could be described as ‘unravelling’, resurfaced somewhat unexpectedly in the later work, Unknitting/ Rewind (2016). The video work and installation Unknitting/Rewind continued my investigation of my mother’s possessions that I regard as testimonial objects. The focus of the work was a cardigan that had been knitted by my mother for my older sister some 55 years ago, and later passed down to me, then to my daughter. This cardigan is a treasured testament to our shared matrilineal history and a palpable link to my mother. The decision to unpick this cardigan was made partly from my desire to ‘unravel’ a history but also to reconnect with my mother by literally retracing her creative process, albeit in reverse. Knitting, like sewing, is a female act of identity creation; the embodied engagement I experienced in the unravelling process (and subsequent reknitting) similarly recalls the comfort of a ‘common language’. I was mindful of artist Ann Hamilton’s allusions to labour as a way of ‘knowing’, and how the rhythm of her hands in ‘making’ recalled and reinforced distinct bodily memories reconnecting her to her grandmother.35 It was then somewhat ironic that for me, the experience of unravelling proved to be an apt metaphor for the embodied experience of the action. As is evident in the video of the unravelling performance, this process – which, unedited, lasted a total of five hours – was torturously slow and emotionally challenging. Armed with tissues in preparedness for tears, I instead found myself overcome by frustration and anger. In truth, this accurately reflected the ambivalent relationship I had had with my mother that has also emerged – to varying degrees – in some earlier works. This experience was not entirely negative: in my need to create artwork in mourning for my mother – more than 30 years after her death – this artwork provided me with a haptic link to her and our shared lineage. It connected and resonated for me in a viscerally powerful and cathartic way. In reknitting the cardigan, I mapped and followed the same pattern as my mother’s, deliberately allowing the wool to retain the 55 years of memory and translate into the re-knitted object, which was (beautifully!) lumpen and misshapen by comparison to the original. I regard Unknitting/Rewind as a transitional piece; it is my first artwork that has engaged with an intimate history to create new memories from old, and passed these on to future, female generations. While Hand in Hand paid homage to family connections, Unknitting/Rewind, despite being a work of mourning, looks to the future. Both these artworks demonstrate the powerful and important role intimate works of art made from a feminist perspective can bring to memorial culture.

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Conclusion This chapter has argued for an alternative approach to memorial culture, one informed by feminist perspectives and the contextual reframing of ‘women’s work’ in memorial culture. The recognition of names as a form of identity or as advocating for the dead or missing, as described here and in my work No,No,No, establishes binding links that hope to fill the void left by absence. Similarly, the use of domestic objects – whether historically or in contemporary artworks as demonstrated by Unknitting/Rewind and Hand in Hand – challenge the often-tenuous place of women in male-dominated societies and the role that textiles and other domestic items can play in countering this. The embodied, feminist approaches to remembrance and mourning described here also offer an alternative to the static façade of conventional monumentality, the immersive process of making art becoming a means for engaging with feelings of loss, absence and trauma.

Notes 1 J. E. Young, At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture. New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 2000, 93. 2 A. Moszynska, Sculpture Now. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2013. 3 B. A. Kaplan, Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2007. 4 O. Sophia, ‘Kathy Temin – Black Gardens’, 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2016, from www. roslynoxley9.com.au/news/releases/2013/04/03/229/. 5 J. Smith et al., Kathy Temin. Bulleen,Vic, Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2009. 6 Kathy Temin: three indoor monuments. A. C. f. C. Art. Melbourne, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 1995. 7 Ibid. 8 O. Sophia, ‘Kathy Temin – Black Gardens’, 2013. Retrieved 19 June, 2016, from www. roslynoxley9.com.au/news/releases/2013/04/03/229/. 9 A. Moszynska, Sculpture Now. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2013, 212–3. 10 M.Bal et al., Doris Salcedo: Shibboleth. London: Tate Publishing, 2008, 55. 11 Ibid. 12 M. Grynsztejn et al., Doris Salcedo. M. o. C. A. Chicago. Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2015, 25. 13 Postmemory, a term coined by Marianne Hirsch, describes the relationship that the next generation bears to the personal, collective and cultural trauma of those before them; to experiences they intuit and ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images, and behaviours that they grew up with.These experiences are often so deeply and affectively transmitted to them as to appear to constitute memories in their own right: M. Hirsch, ‘Surviving Images: Holocaust Photographs and the Work of Postmemory’. The Yale Journal of Criticism 14 (1), 2001, 5–37. 14 The Jewish organisation Yad Vashem in Israel has, since 1955, fulfilled its mandate to preserve the memory of Holocaust victims by the collection of names, considering this to be ‘the ultimate representation of a person’s identity’.Yad Vashem considers that in the act of gathering pages of testimony, the memory of Jews murdered in the Holocaust will be preserved and regards these names as a public commemoration of Jewish people and all mankind. As the survivor generation ages and dies,Yad Vashem is concerned that millions of victims remain unidentified and has placed an urgent call to families and communities to assist in the recovery of these names. ‘The Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project: Why Collect Names, www.yadvashem.org.

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15 Ibid. 16 This is analogous to Susan Frye’s discussion regarding a 1557 painting, Alice Barnham and her Sons Martin and Steven (artist unknown). Describing it as a memorialisation of a transition in life, Frye comments on the appearance of a first-person text in the painting denoting the subject’s changed status to wife and mother. This inscription reads: ‘I was borne the 30 September / On a Sunday 1523. Tornid / fro that I was unto that / ye se A. Dni 1557.’ Frye paraphrases the latter part as: ‘Turned from what I was into what you see in this picture in 1557’, which emphasises personal change, particularly in the first person use of ‘I’. Frye suggests that the painting is directed to the subject’s own family in the desire to memorialise the transition and preserve and recall her former state. I see my mother’s monogrammed dowry linen as performing the same function. S. Frye, Pens and Needles:Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 17 Ibid., 9, 11. 18 L. T. Ulrich, ‘Hannah Barnard’s Cupboard: Female Property and Identity in EighteenthCentury New England’. Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early America, eds. R. Hoffman, M. Sobel and F. J.Teute.Williamsburg,Virginia:The University of North Carolina Press, 1997, 238–273, 252–3. 19 Ibid. 20 My mother, born Eva Weiss, was the youngest of four children in an upper-middleclass Hungarian Jewish family living in urban Budapest. Her monogram ‘WE’ (Weiss Eva) adorns almost every piece of her dowry linen in the form of either separate or intertwined initials, decorated or undecorated, in drawn thread work or other forms of embroidery. 21 L. T. Ulrich, ‘Hannah Barnard’s Cupboard: Female Property and Identity in EighteenthCentury New England’. Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early America, eds. R. Hoffman, M. Sobel and F. J.Teute.Williamsburg,Virginia:The University of North Carolina Press, 1997, 238–273, 244–5. 22 Ibid., 255. 23 ‘Inalienable possessions’, as described by Annette Weiner in Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992, are those that are imbued with affective qualities tying them to the one family group or particular set of owners through time. In the act of naming, these objects are less likely to be of value to anyone outside the family or descent group thus ensuring historical continuity within. 24 L. T. Ulrich, ‘Hannah Barnard’s Cupboard: Female Property and Identity in EighteenthCentury New England’. Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early America, eds. R. Hoffman, M. Sobel and F. J.Teute.Williamsburg,Virginia:The University of North Carolina Press, 1997, 238–273, 263–4. 25 I. Vanni, ‘Oggetti Spaesati, Unhomely Belongings: Objects, Migrations and Cultural Apocolypses.’ Cultural Studies Review 19(2), 2013, 150–174. 26 A. Blunt and Robyn Dowling, Home. London: Routledge, 2006, 48. 27 Ibid., 199–205. 28 J. Lewis and M. R. Fraser, ‘Patches of Grief and Rage:Visitor Responses to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt’. Qualitative Sociology 19(4), 1996, 433–4. 29 P. Connerton, The Spirit of Mourning: History, memory and the Body. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 15. 30 Ibid. 31 E. Higgs and P. F. Radosh, ‘Quilts: Moral Economics and Matrilineages’. Journal of Family History 38(55), 2013, 55–77. 32 Ibid. 33 P. Connerton, The Spirit of Mourning: History, Memory and the Body. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 14–15. 34 L. T. Ulrich, ‘Hannah Barnard’s Cupboard: Female Property and Identity in EighteenthCentury New England’. Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early

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America, eds. R. Hoffman, M. Sobel and F.  J. Teute.Williamsburg, Virginia: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997, pp.238–273. 35 A. Wallach, ‘A Conversation with Ann Hamilton in Ohio.’ American Art 22(1), 2008, 51–77.

Further reading J. E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993.

9 FLORINA PREFECTURE: WOMEN IN THE SHADOW OF ‘THE MAGNIFICENT EMPIRE’ 1900–1922 AND 2017 A feminist interpretation of Greek-Australian identity as explored in contemporary art Elizabeth Gertsakis Introduction: looking for something Girls in our Town: FLORINA PREFECTURE & REGION, MACEDONIA, GREECE Women in the Shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ 1900–1918 and 20171 is an Australian-Balkan home-grown, photography project. It is a critical gesture in a global moment of anxiety and renewed xenophobia, when orientalist fear is fanned by media images of violence and is an abetted Pandora’s Box2 of ‘neo-terrorism’. FLORINA PREFECTURE is also a feminist investigative photography project,3 long emotionally deferred, that excavates my family history about which I knew very little. In 2011 I commenced an extended period of research4 about Florina, my place of birth, located in the southern Balkans of north western Greece, Macedonia, on the border of FYROM5, close to Albania, with Bulgaria to the north-east. My view of multicultural Australia in the 1980s was that of an Australianeducated, assimilated child of migrant parents. My visual practice commenced in the 1980s and was preoccupied with asking questions related to origins (mythical, as much as historical and chronological), prior to and post diaspora, making observations using photographic media to confront my own aporias. In previous visual assemblages, my works made symbolic photographic comparisons with popular Western culture but also focused on private psychic pains dealing with the suffering of war and my own protests against chauvinism (political, sexist, cultural and community). I wasn’t blind to the power of patriarchy within my own conflicted ethnic and linguistic experience and memory. My past critical visual efforts of assemblage were built then, as they are today, on the residual bodies of private and public photographic archives. The pursuit of a real but absent photographic body in the picture was a primary aesthetic motivator, although text (and later, the use of other materials) was never far behind. The photographic image was textual in promise; it was ‘Tantalus’6 in its detail, even if the photographic detail was duplicitous or unspeaking.When looking

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at a photograph, was it possible to see the nature of present and absent visual truths? I have never claimed to function as visual ethnographer or genealogist. Rather, the visual construction of research becomes a subjective ordering and fulfils the desire for re-visualisation as longing and deferred fulfilment. I now know a little more about where I come from, about who lived in that place and at what time, about the multiple originary and nomadic/diasporic relationships that kept advancing and retreating like waves over the centuries, and continue into the twenty-first century.Who left that place, who came to re-place them, who was removed, and why? How did the physical geography shape the isolation and seasonal life? What were the demographic changes that impacted on rural and town life? How did the communities differ in religion and language? What external influences forced changes to individual and collective identity or religion? How did this impact on cultural difference and beliefs between the diverse groups that cohabited the region? Who were the tax collectors? Who was the ‘stand-over man’? Who was hungrier, who was more frightened? In short, how did the unstable politics of this region under Ottoman rule affect the everyday lives of the rural peasant in small villages and towns that made up the various communities living throughout the Balkans? Some of these questions are referred to in this chapter in a condensed recounting of the historical struggles of ethnic minorities in the Balkans in the face of oppressive Ottoman rule. The facts and questions mattered and still matter; they are a reflection of the degrees of exploitation of peasant life and the inciting of hapless courage in small Christian and non-Christian populations within the Macedonian region from 19037 on to confront local forms of oppression under Ottoman rule in the twentieth century.8 These uprisings became the tinderbox for grander kinds of global – external and internal – political confrontations. FLORINA PREFECTURE focuses on the photography of diverse ethnicities of women who, if they survived, carried the load of displaced memory and the inheritance of cultural responsibility for identity and origins of place.

Macedonia, the fiery furnace of the Balkans The insurrections of 1903–5 encouraged Christian partisanship amongst diverse ethnic groups, strengthening opposition against Muslim Turkish rule.The Ottoman Empire appeared to be crumbling and the major imperial empires, Britain and France in particular, held major investment for almost a century in controlling who would claim political occupancy if and when the Turkomans were finally driven out of Europe and Greece9. In that process of dismantling Ottoman rule, regional ethnic interests also saw their own opportunities.The Great Powers stood by closely watching the intensification of clashing political and territorial claims between the Serbians, Bulgarians, Greeks and Albanians – the body in the middle of those claims was the region of Macedonia. All groups called for territorial independence, revolutionary freedom and desire for ‘return’ of ancestral lands. Territorial and ethnic claims and clashes became the violent preamble to destruction across Europe during the First World War (1914–18). The first 20 years of the

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twentieth century in the Balkans formalised a pattern of continuous ­disruptive population displacement, which by 1922–23, would become a systematised practice of ethnic cleansing by two of the major belligerents (Greece and Turkey). The short but rapid escalations of violence within the ethnic and religious communities of the Balkans converted into the statistics of the Great War – a conflagration of 38 million casualties and the death of 18 million people.10

A history of massacres and atrocities: the perpetuation and creation of inherited loss The total figures given for atrocities and ethnic cleansing on both sides are staggering. From 1900–1923 various Turkish regimes are said to have killed from 3,500,000 to over 4,300,000 Armenians, Greeks, Nestorians and other Christians. Reportage of these events was extraordinary. Some 200 to 300 journalists, photographers and political commentators attended both World War One and the Greco Turkish war. These were distinct from the military photographers who also acted as journalists and accompanied each army. Contemporary reportage and commentary in world newspapers was akin to what we understand today as 24/7 continuous news reporting in the television, radio and internet. A later writer, Rudolph J Rummel,11 estimates that 440,000 Armenian civilians were killed and 264,000 Greek civilians were killed by Turkish forces during the Turkish War of Independence (1919–22). The Turkish governor of the Sivas province, E H Tapeyran, noted that in 1919 the massacres were so horrible that he could not bear to report them. He referred to the atrocities committed against Greeks in the Black Sea region; according to an official tally 11,181 Greeks were murdered in 1921 by the Central Army under the command of Nurettin Pasha. The latter had suggested that he wanted to kill all the remaining Greek and Armenian population in Anatolia.12 Western newspaper articles reported the atrocities committed by Turkish forces against Christian populations living in Anatolia, mainly Greek and Armenian civilians. The Atlanta Observer reported that ‘the smell of the burning bodies of women and of what is children in Pontus come as a warning awaiting the Christian in Asia Minor after the withdrawal of the Hellenic army’. In the first few months of 1922, 10,000 Greeks were killed by advancing Kemalist forces13 and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reported ‘Turks continued the practice of slavery, seizing women and children for their harems and raping numerous women’. The losses from the destruction of Smyrna from the Greek side alone suggest that some 50,000 to 100,000 Greeks and Armenians were killed in the fire and accompanying massacres.14 The retreating Greek army were equally capable of atrocities. Sources describe it as carrying out a ‘scorched-earth’ policy while fleeing from Anatolia during the final phase of the 1919–22 war.15 James Loder Park, the U.S. Vice-Consul in Constantinople at the time, toured the devastated area after the Greek evacuation and described the situation in the surrounding cities and towns of Izmir (Smyrna):

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Manisa… almost completely wiped out by fire… 10,300 houses, 15 mosques, 2 baths, 2,278 shops, 19 hotels, 26 villas ... [destroyed]. Cassaba was a town of 40,000 souls, 3,000 of whom were non Muslims. Of these 37,000 Turks, only 6,000 could be accounted for among the living, while 1,000 Turks were known to have been shot or burned to death. Of the 2,000 buildings that constituted the city, only 200 remained standing… the city was systematically destroyed by Greek soldiers, assisted by a number of Greek and Armenian civilians.16 In the face of unceasing war and civil catastrophe from 1903 to 1923, and high numbers of dead and displaced, including the erasure of hundreds of village and town settlements and structures, one is compelled to ask what was the aftermath. What new human product was created? Were there major historical results aside of the unimaginable horrors that were endured for the sake of the birthing of a series of new independent national states?17 Within that space of time we describe as the ‘modernity’ of the twentieth century, there was clearly a new human product: a human entity that still carries the data of their history within their hard drive but that has had their software erased. Without both the data and the programme, there is a vacuum, where home, place or self-recognition no longer effectively compute in a meaningful way. Balkan society, being agrarian, conservative and very traditional, relied on women to carry the cultural narratives and rituals of belonging. Once the connections were broken, how did those women practice cultural and material restitution? The men who fought the Ottoman and other wars of the Balkans, the Greek peninsula, the Caucasus and Asia Minor supplied two decades of continued demand for increasing numbers to fight, win or die.18 This commenced in the early years of the twentieth century with the mobilisation of small bands of brigands, klephts,19 shepherds, peasant farmers, mercenary soldiers and then volunteers, disbanded irregulars, conscripts, trained official army soldiers and others. They were called up by both new and old leaderships, ministers of state, royal sovereigns, Ottoman pashas and imperial generals. It didn’t matter if the men came to fight out of hunger, fear, idealism, futuristic hope or just hatred of another’s religion and culture based on their own poverty and long history of suffering violent injustice. In that apocalyptic slice of social and cultural destruction, be it a local uprising or a global war, whether they were partisans in the mountains or huge divisions of trained fighting men on the plains, the results were the same. It simply came down to chance for the individual and to the logistics of maintaining resources, supplies, equipment and the knowledge of territory and topographies – and always in the face of death. The lack of reliable supply chains over time, distance and often-inaccessible mountain terrain meant that soldiers were continuously in between being fed and going hungry, between being well armed and suddenly lacking arms.20 I found the question of subsequent collective memory very confronting when I began to focus on asking what it meant for any individual man, woman and child of my grandparents’ and parents’ generation to survive those events, with or without struggle.

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From the individual participants’ point of view, it was chance beyond any capacity for ­endurance. I then started to think in term of generations. What would be the long-term consequence in the Balkans, Greece and Asia Minor on the civil populations and their subsequent children and grandchildren? Losing so many people who were not soldiers, who were peaceful carriers of cultural meaning and identity, would have cut into the idea of connected memory and replaced it with disconnection and absence. Has this sense of absence lasted into the twenty-first century?

Survivor memory/refugee memory/migrant memory/ my memory What did survival and trying to live again in peace mean for those who didn’t die? How would they adapt their past sense of collective or individual identity and place of belonging, including the territorial space of the bodies of the dead? In a sense, the dead and the living were both symbolically and morally ‘exterminated’ through the eradication of their private histories. These were bound for centuries in the organic material knowledge of a physical location, a house and a village. How did that sense of absence become internally and psychically compressed and incrementally compounded as a direct outcome of having outlived death, torture and oppression? I use as an example the forced death marches in Anatolia that were not just a singular occurrence but a well-documented method on both Greek and Turkish sides. This literally meant marching people hundreds of miles into the wilderness so that they would die in the open. Refugee numbers were vast and the Red Cross and other welfare organisations had very little success in making an intervention. Charities were deliberately blocked out of areas, particularly in Turkish Anatolia, so assistance could not be given. It is important to relate these details of war to what happens to refugees who, if they survive, are metaphorically and physically forced to keep moving, to keep walking. In perpetual transition, they are violently projected, physically and psychologically, into a place that is not their own. They are condemned to a mute place, the silence of their own historical past. What happens to the self and family identification when they find themselves placed inside the strictures of a new and foreign national boundary and border? How is this further intensified in the probable compromise of language, faith and ethnicity? The diverse communities of Macedonia that lived across the southern Balkans and into northern Greece had faced demands for ethnic and religious alignment and realignment for a long time.Their accumulated war losses by the end of the GrecoTurkish war would have brought a numbing insecurity and anxious caution as the 1920s war reached its zenith. By the time settlement had taken place, World War Two and subsequently the Greek Civil War (1946–49)21 continued the epic impoverishment, social and human destruction, and displacement that had commenced in the beginnings of the twentieth century. Displaced people became the next wave of diaspora looking for new beginnings. Their transitional experience places in doubt their sense of origin, not just

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legally. No matter where they are placed as survivors, the issue remains political and cultural, and concerns the inner life, the living psyche. Diaspora stories in film, literature and references to food and music are often sustained by the admonition, ‘Don’t ever forget where you come from’. Even though it is a common phrase that links to social ‘rites of passage’, its linguistic genealogy in culture must derive from the recognition that those who leave by force or loss do indeed forget where they came from. Restitution through ritual mimicry and imitation is never a substitution for the original place of home. In diaspora, ‘the present’ is always somewhere else, and yet remains the place of default. Survivors become carrier ‘historians’ of their own lack.

Fitting the memory fragments together: intergenerational diaspora in a child’s psyche If there is genetic memory, how can it be recognised and what does it feel like? My own searching begins with a cluster of awareness or consciousness within me as the immigrant or refugee child. It is sensed but exists with a very tentative grasp of language, lacking definition and confirmation; in early childhood it cannot be recognised as coherently as memory. This internal awareness is learned subconsciously, partly-consciously and subjectively from those most close. It was something I came to recognise and articulate only in maturity as a set of cultural and historical realities that fitted and clarified the shape of my inchoate, childish anxiety concerning the past. It was that point when uncertainty, despite dislocation, transformed into recognisable political, regional and historical oppositional cleavages22 of language, belief, gender socialisation. All these elements of belonging relate to land and power in and outside of my original cultural place of belonging. This was for me ‘Macedonia’, conceived as a problem. Why was this historically different for me as someone coming from the Macedonian region? More specifically, why did it take so long for me to know it as a historic consequence that needed to be defined and embraced? The question of my identity as an individual and as an artist – whether I had remained in the north west of Greece in Florina after 1954, or the immigrant who has lived a lifetime in Australia – was not to find a past collective identity as a means of proof or re-invocation. It was the realisation that I was finally able to know, understand and accept an inchoate shape of once hidden meaning and feeling, as having been a way of being and living.This involved acknowledging that the deepest, least understood sense of self has a logical process of thought and action that emulates and demarcates a legitimate and explicable history of family experience. It is a consciousness that was once lived through ritual tied to seasons, agriculture and nature, tied to a narrow locality and not primarily embodied in broad nationalist affinities or centralised identifications (Figure 9.1). All of the commercial postcards and other collected archival photographic images I have used in the FLORINA PREFECTURE project relate to Florina (or surrounds) in the northern Balkan Ottoman part of Greece from 1900–1917.

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FIGURE 9.1  Elizabeth Gertsakis, Noli me tangere. 2017. Digital print on metallic-silver paper. Courtesy William Mora galleries, 2017. Source: postcards of Muslim women, Florina, Macedonia, Greece 1916–18. Photographic Section, French Army, Campaign d’Orient 1916–18. Ministre de la Culture et Communication, France

Florina was a major Ottoman-Christian town of this Balkan region, and in the early decades of the twentieth century it was still under Ottoman Turkic rule.23 The Ottoman Empire lasted in Europe from c. 1299 to 1922, and its cultural influence is still apparent in language, food and music. It was called by European contemporaries ‘Turkey in Europe’24 after its principal ethnic group. At its zenith from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries it controlled Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia and North Africa. Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It housed many ethnic groups and religions, including Christian Greeks, Jews, Slavs,

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Vlachs, Serbs, Bulgarians, Montenegrins and Albanians.They s­ ometimes occupied separate villages, and though often residing in different quarters in larger towns, Christians, Muslims and Jews lived and worked alongside each other. There were substantial Jewish communities throughout the Balkans, including in Florina,25 where in the 1930s the community consisted of approximately 450–500 persons.26 Muslim Turk communities had also established themselves in significant numbers in Florina, which like other Balkans cities experienced many changes in its demographic makeup and its townscape. With Muslim laws that prohibited Christian buildings from being higher than Islamic ones, the skylines in photographs and postcards were dominated by minarets (Florina apparently had seven minarets in 1918). However, it seems that no specific ethnic or religious group could really claim an absolute majority of the population.27 Moreover the Ottoman census system assigned ethnicity only according to religion, and so all Sunni Muslims were categorised as Turks, although many of them were Albanians, and all members of the Greek Orthodox Church, as Greeks, although their numbers included a vast majority of Aromanians, South Albanians and Macedonian Slavs. The rest were divided between Bulgarian and Serb Orthodox churches.28 Besides the colonisation of the region by foreign elements, there was also an early assimilation of Macedonians into the Islamic fold, as a fair number of the old nobility converted to Islam in the hope of protecting and increasing their landholdings. Gradually greater proportions of the population were converted, sometimes whole villages and districts. Although many became Turks, a great majority retained their mother tongue and continued to speak it, practicing their traditions and religious customs. The Ottoman sultans tolerated Christianity but made sure that the Christian patriarchs who serviced their communities were functionaries of the Empire. Under Ottoman rule the Christian patriarchy became a business susceptible to corruption, having less to do with faith and justice and more to do with making money and administrating order in the community for the Sultanate. Religion was still important in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, marked by urgent despatches of teachers (Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian), establishing competing schools that linked territorial ambitions with education, correlating language, ethnicity and religion as flags for political autonomy as well as dominance.29 Educating illiterate people, whether it is seen as repressive or progressive, still provides a means for imposing linguistic and cultural homogeneity and propaganda. In the towns and villages of the Macedonian region, Bulgarian, Greek, Jewish and Muslim schools co-existed as did their diverse churches, mosques and synagogues. When conflicts between beliefs and ethnicities reached critical levels, it was the schools, churches and mosques that were burnt down.

Florina – an Oriental town A French soldier stationed in Florina in 1918,30 writing on the back of a postcard to his family in France, says:

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The shops are open in Florina but there is not much to buy. It has all the movement and the disorder of the East; there are a large number of soldiers on all sides, and just as many are still quartered in the city itself… I finished my walk with a purchase of grilled chestnuts, they sell them along the street. Apart from a few good buildings, none of the shops on the streets are properly sealed.The mosques here are not much better than those in the villages.31 Postcards also write of the Turkish influence: We found Florina one of the most interesting cities in the Balkans. Being under the Turks for a very long period, it was endowed with a lively oriental colour, which makes it fascinating and pleasant. During these battles the city itself has suffered little or not at all.32 Or, The sky of the Orient, the variety of sites and the picturesque regions crossed, quickly give back to the men all their enthusiasm.33 Or, The majority of the Muslim population of the city lived in the Turkish quarter, the district was divided by the river and the southern part by the base of the mountain. The designation of gypsy quarter is due to the fact that in the eastern part lived Muslims, probably of Albanian origin, their occupations did not have the status of the muleteer, a cattle-dealer, a horseman, a blacksmith; so the Christians understood them to be gypsies.34

Girls in our Town: source photographs and photographers The images in FLORINA PREFECTURE were carefully selected and visually ­re-conceived and constructed from a vast body of available photographs – tens of thousands.These were created by variously motivated political agencies with agendas in the Balkans. Some photographs were intended for European and worldwide sales as examples of attractive or exotic ethnic oriental types.35 These included carefully organised and arranged studio photographs (focusing on a more affluent female ethnic beauty wearing refined traditional costume) as well as images taken of unknown women and girls walking or playing in the streets. Gypsy women were a common subject of the street photographer.36 The ‘street’ meant photographing ordinary women outside a house or doorway (wearing well-worn peasant clothing or costume), mostly unremarkable in appearance;37 peasant women working in primitive conditions in the fields; or women and their children standing outside their brush and Turkish roofed clay houses in rural villages and remote mountain hillsides.38 Photography was also used for strategic and competing ethnic propaganda aimed at instilling local national feeling sufficient to arouse and sustain ethnic sentiment and revolutionary struggle.39 The Manaki brothers, Yanaki and Milton, regional

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photographers, accumulated a substantial photographic archive40 and travelled over many hundreds of miles in a horse and carriage, providing photographs for differing religious groups and ethnicities, across non-existent borders without concern for their personal safety or the various political and military differences that were growing.41 They took film and photographs in what today is the Republic of Greece, Macedonia in the north, Serbia, Romania and for the Ottoman sultan. They and the photographer Leonidas Papazoglou (1872–1918) who photographed in Kastoria42 and vicinities were of significance in the 1905–13 period for documenting the terrible personal effects of the wars on both participants and civilians. The Manaki brothers in particular had access to diverse social strata, political groups and religious communities. They were also much in demand to go into the mountains and forests to photograph warring bands. Their rarity as photographers in a vast and difficult rural landscape, and their enthusiasm for various political purposes, guaranteed them safety, at least in the early years. They were able to act as go-betweens, perhaps providing (or hiding) illegal arms and carrying information. Such activity made the photographer privy to ‘intelligence’, and hence provided opportunities for spying and duplicity. Sometimes a secret visit at night from a few of the brigand fighters to the studio to be photographed before going back into the mountains actually meant they were collecting hidden stores, clothing and guns. The French army during World War One produced the largest body of extant photographic material, including of this region. The army photographers had been given lists of themes and subjects they were expected to photograph. As such, they serve as war documents but also social anthropology photography in the midst of war. This of course included all the types of men and women who were encountered by the French army in the Balkans and northern Greece.43 The Photographic Section of the French Army of the Eastern Campaign (Campaign d’Orient 1916– 18) was formed in 1915 by the French Ministry of War, Public Order and the Arts, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The photographers were all professional members of the Syndicate of Photographers.44 Because they had heavy equipment and were travelling over very rough terrain, they often had to use horses and carts in areas where it was impossible to take trucks. Cameras and fragile glass plates were also susceptible to damage. It was difficult to photograph moving action, given slow exposures, and there was little use of colour photography.45 The directions of the Ministry of War were to photograph all army movements as well as monuments, buildings and structures, roads, rivers, villages and towns. They were also required to photograph all aspects of daily social and domestic life, which included everything from women washing clothes, to burials amongst the various religious and ethnic communities, commercial life and work, festivities, music, dancing and major occasions. Many of the original French Army images of Florina in Girls in our Town project were printed there by the Photographic Unit and then made into postcards for French soldiers to buy cheaply and send messages home. The copious availability of these postcards was also a response to wartime censorship of all the participant armies, as the use of any private cameras by soldiers or others was completely prohibited, and punishment was serious.

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Gender identification with FLORINA PREFECTURE My creative use of certain types of photographic images of women from the Florina region in the early twentieth century allowed me to model the distinguishing characteristics behind ethnic differentiation in terms of both the photographer’s and my own visualisation. Photographic perception of female gender entailed more than the obvious recognition of typologies of costume. The photographs invite me in to historical materiality and foreground very specific and shared communal histories, histories with many problematic cultural, political and historical consequences.The photographic combinations I have created both pose and answer questions. How does the photographic appearance of women in these photographs connect to their social roles and responsibilities that we know about, in culture and community? How did these women become the subject of photographic use and exploitation by others in the production of images as a mass commercial product, and as information as power? The use of photography as a commercial technology at the time played an immeasurable role in the changing global definitions of identity that resulted directly from the death and the reallocation of human populations. The photograph both caught and confirmed change as a final act. Caught in the middle of this are the body, and the symbolic role of gender. This was clear from the first time I saw Balkan photography. I knew minority issues, then as now, relate to the representation of diasporic females in crisis and trauma, and how to distinguish human reality from political and ethnic stereotype. In photographs in Girls in our Town: FLORINA PREFECTURE, Muslim women of Florina remain covered; even today these images still avoid the invasive gaze with determination and everyday pragmatism. In the photographs these women still walk, congregate, sell their goods at the market and do their handiwork in public with collective strength. But the visual ‘contract’ of the gypsy girls in the photographs is less clear. As gypsy women out in the open, bare breasted and feeding their babies, they can be defiant, confronting, submissive and pliable. But in the gypsy tradition, the negotiations are much clearer if money is exchanged. The gypsy offers herself as a different kind of fixed object to the alien gaze. It is hard to know how much experience these women had of being observed and photographed; perhaps their traditional livelihood had in part depended upon being observed, begging for alms and receiving money. The Christian peasant women stand outside with all their children to be photographed as a ‘family’ (perhaps again by request with payment), holding distaffs or with hands crossed over their bellies as they wait, in front of their clay houses with their traditional clothes on top of their more worn ones, heavy in presentation, but with all their children barefoot. The studio beauties are different. Lips are coloured and slightly pursed, smiling, hands manicured and resting on an apron that is a carpet of embroidery. Other photographs show proud girls in full Greek costume, their hands resting on Grecian urns, with a distant gaze of Hellenic defiance. Bulgarian girls are carefully posed in real and painted forests, an image fit for the foundation of an emergent politic; their gaze is not for compromise or romance, but sturdy, naive and serious.The Jewish women and girls pose in a secure

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FIGURE 9.2  Elizabeth Gertsakis, Their eyes will tell you, everything and nothing, 2017. Digital print on metallic-silver paper, detail. Courtesy William Mora Galleries. Sources: various, unknown photographers

studio, distinctly costumed and formal, although not especially decorative, with scarves and caps strapped beneath the chin. Minimal jewellery, but what is there – maybe a string of pearls – is very valuable, as are the jackets with fur trim. Their gazes are statuesque and remote; for them, the photograph is a document of something beyond themselves.The Florinian girls are at their best when in a large group, dancing in step, measured, practised, each one minding the pace of the other, keeping the circle going. Many smile but others look into the distance, the expression still and resilient, letting their feet do all the work (in their lives as in their pleasure). In the markets the Albanian women stand, talking at a distance to each other, leaning on staffs, dark colours, hands to their faces, pulling up their shawls, standing for long hours like immoveable stones, waiting. In the fields, Florinian peasant women work and work. They could as easily be Egyptians threshing wheat on the banks of the Nile, but here on the flat plains they stand in the centre, holding a long stick with rope attached, turning and guiding the small horses around and around, threshing the wheat, all day, in the hot sun. Children wait in the distance to rake and clear the chaff. Only horizon in the distance and the slight rise of a hill. No questions, no complaint, they work like beasts. In my photographic panorama of just 12 faces, the eyes either tell you everything or tell you nothing. The scarf is always their protection and occlusion, or the ornament of dowry or clan or ethnic exclusion. All different, living together in a place that will soon come asunder but remain forever within photographic memory as the missing history of homelessness (Figure 9.2).

Yesterday was just a hundred years ago I never thought that living in Australia might give rise to a situation where the ethnic diversity of the immigrant population would again wonder about its status in human and cultural rights in the face of race or religious fear or hatred46. My hope was that Girls in our Town: FLORINA PREFECTURE would visually and emotionally suggest that it was and is possible to sustain multiple narratives without the need for violence, retaining the recognition of justice for minorities as well as the pursuit of peace. It seems timely and important to create a body of work that provides an authentic (without meaning ‘pure’) visual context for images of women within Australian multiculturalism. It is important for the conversations about broad social justice issues in contemporary Australian

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art. It is important as a gesture of recognition not only of the diversity of this multicultural history, but also of the diversity of contemporary audiences. In my own case, Girls in our Town: FLORINA PREFECTURE marked the moment when visual language accepted the bequest of its historically difficult position as being the actual reality of its identity.

Notes 1 Girls in our Town: FLORINA PREFECTURE & REGION, MACEDONIA, GREECE Women in the Shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ 1900–1918 and 2017, exhibited 13–29 June 2017, William Mora Galleries, Richmond,Victoria, Australia. 2 Pandora’s Box (Greek Mythology): ‘A process that once begun generates many complicated problems.’ 3 To me, to be feminist in this context means to recognise that gender is fundamentally significant to the social and cultural history of women in this period. This consciousness extends to the photographic use of women’s appearances for commercial and political reasons. In my project, it is clear that the greater burden of survival in the face of cultural catastrophe was shouldered by women. 4 In 2012, I commenced a Doctorate in the Department of History and Philosophy, University of Melbourne, The political uses of photography in the Southern Balkans and Northern Greece 1903–1918. 5 FYROM is Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. 6 Tan·ta·lus (Greek Mythology): ‘A king who was condemned in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink, and with fruit above him that receded when he reached for it’. 7 Illinden Uprising, August 1903. The Bitola region was a stronghold of the Ilinden Uprising. The uprising was started in Thessaloniki by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO). 8 The rebellion in the region of Macedonia affected most of the central and southwestern parts of the Monastir Vilayet receiving the support mainly of the local Bulgarian peasants and to some extent of the Aromanian population (Vlachs) of the region. By the time the rebellion had started, many of its leaders had already been arrested or killed by the Ottomans, and the effort was quashed within a couple of months. The survivors managed to maintain a guerrilla campaign against the Turks for the next few years, but its greater effect was that it persuaded the European powers to attempt to convince the Ottoman sultan that he take a more conciliatory attitude toward his Christian subjects in Europe. 9 Fearing Russian encroachment through the Balkans. 10 The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War One was more than 38 million: there were over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ World_War_I_casualties, accessed 30 May 2017. 11 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Turkish_War_(1919%E2%80%931922), accessed 30 May 2017. 12 Ibid. 13 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_during_the_Greco-Turkish_War_ (1919%E2%80%9322). 14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_during_the_Greco-Turkish_War_ (1919%E2%80%9322). 15 ‘The Greek army in retreat pursued a burned-earth policy and committed every known outrage against defenseless Turkish villagers in its path’ - Sydney Nettleton Fisher. Quoted in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Turkish_War_(1919%E2%80%931922).

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16 Ibid. 17 Australia as a colonial extension of England and Europe had been nation-building since Federation in 1901 and the rhetoric of Nationhood by blood, death and sacrifice as part of the social and psychological was also applied to the Australian myth of ‘birth of a nation’. 18 And subsequently, two more decades of fighting wars in the Balkans, 1939–45, and the Greek Civil War of 1946–49. 19 Klephts or brigands had been a major part of rural existence for hundreds of years under the severe Ottoman millet system in regard to the extraction of produce and money from peasants who could barely feed themselves, let alone keep paying out under unregulated and idiosyncratic means of extortion. The Klephts often had an ambivalent place within the social disorder; villagers would cooperate with some groups in order to protect themselves from others, but were in turn subject to extortion from those who claimed to protect them. 20 Turks were supplied with arms and money by the Russian Bolsheviks, and the French had turned away from the Greek government. 21 The Greek Civil War was fought in Greece from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army (backed by the United Kingdom and the United States), and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Yugoslavia and Albania as well as by Bulgaria. The fighting resulted in the defeat of the Communist insurgents by the government forces. Founded by the Communist Party of Greece and funded by Communist nations such as Yugoslavia. The Democratic Army of Greece included many personnel who had fought as partisans against German and Italian occupation forces during World War Two, 1939–45. 22 Splits, discontinuous and asymmetrical multiple and fragmented entities of recognition, non-recognition and rejection based on a serious of oppositions around difference. 23 The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim empire that lasted from c. 1299 to 1922. It was also known by its European contemporaries as the Turkish Empire or Turkey after the principal ethnic group. At its zenith from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, it controlled Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia and North Africa. 24 The Ottoman Empire was also referred to as ‘Turkey in Europe’. 25 www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Florina1/FlO001.html. The Encyclopaedia Judaica mentions that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there were Jews already living in Florina. Most of them came from Spain following their expulsion in 1492. The modern Jewish community was established in 1912 with several hundred Jews who came from the nearby Yugoslavian town of Monastir, now known as Bitola. They came in search of a better life. Most of these Jews engaged in the sale of fabrics, clothing and shoes, including the ‘charuji’, typical shoes worn by farmers in the Greek mountains. Others were artisans, carpenters, day workers, etc. There is no record of Jewish farmers, or beggars. 26 Jews and Gentiles generally got along well in Florina. The Jewish community of Florina lasted until April 30, 1943, when ten days after the end of Passover the Germans rounded up the Jewish inhabitants in the two schoolyards from where they were taken to the trains which carried them to their death. Some of those who realised what was about to happen to them fled to the mountains.Twenty-two Jewish Florina families of 295 people died in the concentration camps. 27 In 1896 French diplomat and traveller Victor Bérard visited Florina and describes the settlement as containing 1500 houses of Albanians and ‘converted Slavs’, around 100 Turkish families, and 500 Christian families. According to Bérard the ‘Slavs’ considered themselves Greeks and spoke Greek. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florina. 28 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitola#Ottoman_rule. 29 Richard Clogg, Minorities in Greece: Aspects of a Plural Society, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002, 123–124; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florina. 30 French Army Campaign d’Orient 1916–18 headquarters during World War One for Western Macedonia were in Florina.

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31 No 166 Rue Triandrie, Florina. Ministry of Culture and Communication (France). All quotations from the Florina postcards used by French soldiers to write home are reproduced and quoted in P. Golia and S. Kassidou, Un Caress de Florina, Campagne d’Orient. Florina: Elementary Schools of Florina, 2011. 32 No 134 Un Rue de la Ville, Florina. Photographic Culture Club of Florina. 33 No 133 Rue de la Alexandre le Grand, Florina. Photographic Culture Club of Florina. 34 No 183 Gypsies, Florina. Photographic Culture Club of Florina. 35 Publishers and printers that appear on reverse of postcards in this period – Edition Papeterie parisienne, Grafika, Edition Librairie Francaise, Editeur G. Bader, Salonique; Hellas Postcard – Editeur J. Theodosiou, Florina. 36 http://culture.gour.fr. 37 On the reverse of one such postcard, a soldier writing from Florina to his family in France describes the peasant women as ‘ugly’. 38 A result of the uprisings against the Turks, including the 1912–13 war, World War One and then the 1919–22 Greco-Turk war, the Balkan region had been kept closely observed by foreign officials and representatives of many consulates, both in Bitola (Monastir), Florina and Thessaloniki. Other Balkan territories, both friendly and unfriendly, were under Serbian and Bulgarian rule. This foreign presence had commenced in the nineteenth century but expanded dramatically in the early twentieth. It included diplomats, consuls, military officials, journalists, charities, welfare organisations and human rights commissions including the Red Cross; there was no shortage of people who passed through the Balkans who were wealthy enough to have cameras and would have taken photographs of people in the streets as well the topography, structures, towns and villages as they passed through. 39 La Macedoins Illustres. Sofia: Publis par le comts pour l’etude des Terres Bulgares, 1919. 40 Janaki (1878–1954) and Milton Manaki (1880–1964), born in Avdela, a Vlach village near Grevena in the north of Greece. Janaki opened ‘Atelier for Artistic Photography’ in 1905 in Bitola (Monastir). In the same year Janaki travelled to London and bought a ‘Bioscope 300’ manufactured by Charles Urban Trading Co., which marked the beginning of filmmaking in the Macedonia regions. The Manaki brothers were appointed the official photographers of the Royal Romanian Family and later in 1911 became the official photographers of the Turkish sultan Mehmed Rashid V and in 1929, of the Serbian king, Aleksandar Kargjorgjevic. They witnessed key historic events: the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, the amnesty of the Macedonian prisoners from the Ilinden Uprising, the Balkan Wars (1912–13), World War One. 41 The Ottomans under the rule of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II also became fascinated with the invention of the camera and photography. It was not seen as a contradiction of their views of representation but instead as a technology that could document in detail the breadth of their empire and everything in it. Abdul-Hamid II commissioned the photographers Abdullah Fréres and Sebah & Joaillier to undertake the project. The resulting 51 albums were taken from 1880–1893. During the nineteenth century the Sultans regularly invited photographers into the royal palace to document their families. 42 K. Antoniadis, G. Golobias, Leonidas Papazoglou. Photographic Portraits from Kastoria at the time of the Macedonian Struggle. Collection of George Colobias. Thessaloniki: Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, 2004. 43 P. Golia, and S. Kassidou, Un Caress de Florina, 2011. 44 This unit was actually advised and instructed by Albert Kahn (3 March 1860–14 November 1940). He was a French banker and philanthropist, known for initiating The Archives of the Planet, a vast, global photographical project. He was driven by the view that the people of the earth had to be documented as he feared that their demise was imminent. Spanning 22 years, it resulted in a collection of 72,000 color photographs and 183,000 meters of film. He appointed Jean Brunhes as his project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images using the first practical medium for colour photography, Autochrome plates, and early cinematography. A

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large number of colour autochromes of major regions of the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Asia Minor were produced. At the commencement of World War One, Albert Kahn and his team were photographing French peasant communities in the south of France. Kahn was called back to Paris by Georges Clemenceau (1941–1929), the Prime Minister of France, to begin to organise the Photographic Section of the French Army. 45 The few photographers responsible for the more controlled conditions required for colour autochromes were Paul Castelnau, Fernand Cuville, Paul Queste and Albert Samama-chickli. 46 I write that in the context of the efforts of Multiculturalism during the 1980s at government policy level to permit and encourage immigrant minority ethnic communities to be heard, represented and recognised within their local culture; and to invite their participation into mainstream life. My comments regarding race and human rights in Australia are made knowing the fact that Australian government policy has consistently failed to address the everyday lives and wellbeing of indigenous Australians. Recognising Aboriginal art and culture in the same period (1980s) of expansive tolerance of difference was still a significant advance, visible on a significant scale at home and abroad, but the basic issues of Aboriginal people living at ease with the past, present and their future needs is still yet to be realised.

10 FEELING SEEING Image, sound and touch in the video installations of Angelica Mesiti Jacqueline Millner

Introduction Critiques of the privileging of the visual sense have a long lineage in feminist ­philosophy, with vision associated with dominant – read patriarchal – Western ways of knowing. In certain debates, feminist critiques have been cast as anti-visual.1 So where does this leave the contemporary feminist visual artist? Since the second wave, many artists who identify as feminist have experimented with a variety of aesthetic strategies to dethrone the visual sense, such as engaging the other senses – including hearing and the so-called lower senses of touch and smell – and even obliterating the image altogether (particularly representations of the female body). But the visual has a way of prevailing, embedded, as it is, so deep in the Western imaginary. The question is not then how does one create a work that challenges the predominance of vision and the ideological assumptions and power hierarchies that come with it. Rather, the question becomes, how does one rewire habitual ways of seeing? While this is not a new question, the idea of crafting ways of ‘feeling seeing’ has found renewed significance in recent practice, often that affiliated with the moving image and with new sonic technologies.2 This practice coincides in some part with the higher profile that feminist art, both contemporary and historical, has enjoyed over the last decade or so. This chapter considers the recent work of Angelica Mesiti (b. 1976, Australia) that attempts to disarticulate the process of meaning-making through vision, by rewiring it via the senses of hearing and touch. Her video installations/performances do not simply invert the pyramid of the senses. They diversify vision, exploring different relationships between sight, sound and touch, so as to de-habitualise, critically enhance and develop a consciously embodied seeing. Such reconfiguration serves to momentarily sever the link between what we see and what we think, and offers a moment of hesitance that can open out first into doubt, and then into potentially new perspectives.

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Feminist perspectives on vision and sense perception The disembodying, abstracting and domineering qualities of vision have encountered particularly salient critiques from phenomenological perspectives, and have long preoccupied feminist thinkers. A common position is that ‘distance and contemplation’ characterise the modern Western subject, who is shaped according to the principle that ‘sight is power’, so that ‘[t]he place from which the world opens itself to the domineering gaze lies outside the world’.3 As vision empowers knowledge, it ‘impoverishes sensory diversity and makes reality feel less real: the visual… loses contact with the environment, the world threatens to become an abstraction and, along with it, one’s own body’.4 The way to re-establish that contact with the world, the argument goes, is to ‘rehabilitate’ the other senses. As art theorist Hilary Robinson argues in respect of Luce Irigaray, the feminist critique of vision has often been reductively considered to amount to a rejection of visuality as such.5 However, Irigaray was not anti-visual, but rather critical of the over-valuation of certain structures of vision that are integral to phallocentrism, structures that serve to remove the subject from the complex abundance of full embodiment. Her argument, posits Robinson, is that the visual can be ‘structured differently’.6 Irigaray suggests one approach might be to develop a structure of discourse based on ‘intersubjectivity’ and ‘reciprocal listening’, rather than on ‘hierarchical’, ‘transmitted dependency’.7 This practice of listening ‘ceases to privilege meaning, the well formed, the visible’ and is ‘underwritten by touch’, moving from the ‘dominant scopic economy’ towards ‘an economy of flow’.8 As Irigaray evokes, I am listening to you: I perceive what you are saying, I am attentive to it, I am attempting to understand and hear your intention.Which does not mean: I comprehend you, I know you… I am listening to you not on the basis of what I know, I feel, I already am, nor in terms of what the world and language already are… I am listening to you rather as the revelation of a truth that has yet to manifest itself… I give you a silence in which your future… may emerge and lay its foundation… This silence is the condition for a possible respect for myself and for the other within our respective limits…9 At its most developed and intimate level, the intersubjectivity Irigaray dreams of is a practice both of ethics and aesthetics, and hence the integral role of art: art can mediate between attentive subjects, provide a means to link visual contemplation with intersubjective listening and serve as a model of a ‘working of the spirit and flesh together’.10 Irigaray’s call for a different discourse of seeing still resonates strongly among feminist philosophers, such as Kelly Oliver and Linda Martin Alcoff, who assert that ‘we need to see better’ and that ‘an ethical vision is possible’.11 Feminist phenomenologist Al Saji has recently argued that this different vision requires changing the ‘objectifying habits of vision’ that we have naturalised as ‘features of the

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world’.12 She proposes what she calls ‘critical ethical vision’ – an extension of French ­phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s painter’s vision based on hesitancy – one that ‘inscribes the thickness of the instituted past, the materiality of life and the complex dimensionality of the social’; in other words, a ‘concrete, dynamic and affective seeing’.13 Al Saji elaborates the concept of a critical ethical vision thus: Critically, it sees the conditions that make visibility and objectification possible—conditions that are diacritical, social, historical and material. Ethically, it changes its habits of seeing—not in order to see through the other’s eyes, nor to simply see the other, but… in order to see according to, or with, the other.14 That is, such vision de-naturalises what we see by overlaying it with a sensitivity to what we cannot see, such as the temporality and contingency of lived bodies. In developing his concept of ‘the painter’s vision’, Merleau-Ponty argues that in habitual seeing we do not see either ‘the material and historical genesis of vision’, nor ‘the diacritical or formal conditions of the appearance of objects in the present’.15 His alternative manifests as ‘a kind of hesitancy’, ‘attention that seeks to remain within the proximity of seeing and seen, and tries to decenter, to question, this relation from within’.16 This hesitancy stems from ‘the affective force of dimensions and the felt weight of historicity and habits that sustain vision while remaining invisible’: ‘to glimpse these dimensions is to witness the virtual multiplication of other ways of seeing and acting’.17 To hesitate is to make an effort to open out to an affective field that is unrecognisable to the objectifying gaze. It does not mean that we attempt to see the other in all their complex multiplicity; rather it is to see ‘according to, or with, others’.18 To attain such a vision is to practise a ‘seeing that listens, checks and questions’, a form of ‘feeling–seeing’, for ‘to feel is to no longer repeat the past automatically, but to imagine and remember it’.19 This makes change possible. As Al Saji argues: The productive power of hesitation stems from affect and leads to memory. I believe that this critical memory serves three purposes in the context of habit. First, it is the memory of habituation; it serves to contextualize and historicize our habits, to show them as habits. Secondly, the memory itself is already a destabilization of habit; it replaces the performance of habit. And, thirdly, memory connects habit to its dynamic temporal and affective ground, to the duration that makes habit possible, even while it is being continually reconfigured by habits acquired.20 Hesitance interrupts the affective closure of objectifying vision. As the process of meaning making through vision is rewired for an instant, the link between what we see and what we think is momentarily broken, and different ways of seeing suddenly become available. When our seeing is decentred, our memory for how things could be otherwise is heightened through affect. The challenge might be to

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make that hesitancy last longer. And – as Irigaray suggests – this is where particular aesthetic strategies can play a significant part.

Getting back into the world Developing ‘feeling–seeing’, or ‘critical ethical vision’, might be a way to get back into the world, from which ‘the domineering gaze’ had banished us. This search for a way back into the world through ‘feeling–seeing’ resonates with other topical debates in philosophy and contemporary art. One key figure in these debates is Jean-Luc Nancy, who has argued that globalisation ‘un-worlds’ us, that it exhausts the world of meaning by subsuming it into the Western logic and thereby induces a profound nihilism: ‘everything takes place as if the world affected and permeated itself with a death drive that soon would have nothing else to destroy than the world itself ’.21 And yet, argues Nancy, getting to this degree zero is necessary for us to reconsider the meaning of the world. It is thanks to the phenomenon of globalisation that the being of the world appears, that the status of the world is transformed from an object of thought that we can have a meaning about, to the place of being and a totality of meaning. Right now, Nancy urges, ‘we must ask anew what the world wants of us, and what we want of it, everywhere, in all senses, urbi et orbi, all over the world and for the whole world, without (the) capital of the world but with the richness of the world’.22 ‘To think [the world]’, Nancy adds, ‘is to think this factuality, which implies not referring it to a meaning capable of appropriating it, but to placing in it, in its truth as a fact, all possible meaning’.23 So, if the world, essentially, is not the representation of a universe (cosmos) nor that of a here below (a humiliated word, if not condemned by Christianity), but the excess – beyond any representation of an ethos or of a habitus – of a stance by which the world stands by itself, configures itself, and exposes itself in itself, relates to itself without referring to any given principle or to any determined end, then one must address the principle of such an absence of principle directly.24 To do this demands not that we signify the world, or assign it a proper sense, but that we involve ourselves completely with the world: ‘it is the extremely concrete and determined task – a task that can only be a struggle – of posing the following question to each gesture, each conduct, each habitus and each ethos: How do you engage the world?’25 Nancy calls on us to ‘make worlds’, non-totalising and immanent, through our everyday being in the world.26 There are strong parallels here with the diversification of vision feminist phenomenologists argue for. As Al Saji proposes, ‘visibility takes on a particular organization that corresponds to our habits of seeing; certain differences, and hence meanings, become salient while other dimensions of difference are invisible’.27 The insertion of the full human sensorium into our vision of the world, to counter the habit of abstracting ourselves from it through a totalising gaze, is a strategy in which aesthetics plays a key role.

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Jacques Rancière’s ideas about the role of aesthetics give us some clue about how this ‘making worlds’ – or ‘getting back into the world’ – might be practised. Rancière maintains that artworks help shape the social world, that ‘the way we create art is intimately bound up with fundamental forms of intelligibility, with material signs and images which describe ways of being, seeing and doing. Art, then, plays a key role in articulating the distribution of the sensible which governs any given social order’. 28 To underline the importance of aesthetics to politics, Rancière famously said that ‘The real must be fictionalised in order to be thought’.29 That ‘fictionalisation’ might be seen as an opportunity to rewire our meaning-making process, which overly relies on the visual, which in turn is tied to habits that serve to reinforce prevailing ideologies and hierarchies of value and keep us from imagining our social realities otherwise.

Angelica Mesiti The big questions that concern Nancy and Rancière are at the heart of Australian artist Angelica Mesiti’s work. With a background in video and performance, Mesiti has developed a refined and profoundly emotive audio-visual language. To begin with, that language is grounded largely in the lived experience of actual individuals rather than based on representations; Mesiti renders the presence of different intelligences palpable without ever over-determining or appropriating them, nor remaining a mere chronicler. In her recent work, Mesiti has foregrounded the experiences of those in various states of ‘marginalisation’, including those rendered ‘different’ by virtue of being displaced, aged, or hearing or sight impaired. In an attempt to honour that difference, Mesiti has created a unique storytelling style that relies less on words than on sound and rhythm, less on image than on texture and movement, one that locates political agency less in the professional artist than in everyday creativity. Her work disarticulates habitual patterns of looking and meaning-making, and rewires the act of seeing through the suspension and insertion of other senses, in particular hearing and touch. It gently teases apart our various sense perceptions and the cognitive assumptions that inhere within them, before bringing them back together in new configurations. The Begin-Again (2010) marked a significant turn in Mesiti’s practice; this was a joint project between the artist and the community of the ethnically diverse southern Sydney suburb of Hurstville, auspiced by the local council and coordinated by the flagship institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Mesiti worked for several months with local residents, spending time with and eventually filming them as they partook of various community-based recreational activities, such as ballroom dancing, singing and car pimping. The final cuts – four videos and one kinetic installation – were then installed over two evenings in open spaces in Hurstville’s central shopping strip, from bus depot to civic plaza to rooftop car park. The public, a combination of art crowd and locals, including the protagonists featured in the various works, attended in droves: the Hurstville mall was abuzz not with shoppers, but with community. At one level, the work could be said to have many authors,

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everyday people performing their sometimes-extraordinary talents. But at another level, Mesiti’s artistic agency, her formal manipulation of the readymade material that she observes in the real world, is never in doubt: the high production cinematic aesthetics – she works with professional cinematographers and producers30 – is now a hallmark of her practice. Such an approach facilitates a particular kind of cultural citizenship: participation together with self-styling and cultural value.31 In The Begin-Again we can see the origins of the four channel video installation Citizens Band (2012), an award-winning work that has been selected for several exhibitions nationally and internationally.32 The title clearly signals the artist’s concern with the politics of community; it also tips its hat to a peer communication technology that emerged in the 1970s and became a symbol of counter-cultural people power, namely CB (Citizen’s Band) radio.The installation features four street musicians. Mesiti has captured each individual performance in full, using minimal camerawork and editing in respectful deference to the music and musician. Lois Geraldine Zongo slaps the surface of the water in a Parisian public pool, finding an astounding range of tones and pitches in a virtuosic percussive display that she has transported from the rivers of her native Cameroon. As she slips back into the water, the image fades and the next screen lights up with the melancholy song of Algerian Mohammed Lamourie, accompanied by his much-mended Casio keyboard inside a carriage of the Paris metro. As passengers board and alight, Lamourie observes only his own private rhythm, the music piercing this everyday ritual with loss and longing. The next image takes us half way across the globe to the inner Sydney suburb of Newtown and the sounds of Mongolian throat singer Bukhchuluun Ganburged vibrating outside the 7/11, while on the final screen we see a solitary Brisbane taxi driver, Sudan-born Asim Goreshi, eyes closed, head swaying gently as his crystallike whistling cuts through the night (Figure 10.1). Each performance radiates as pure being. Old worlds, ancient traditions that pass from mouth to ear, from hand to hand, are woven into new realities, and both are rendered accessible to us, the viewers, by the artist’s gentle touch. In part, our

Angelica Mesiti, Citizens Band (still). Four-channel High Definition video installation, 16:9, colour, sound, 21 minutes 25 seconds, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

FIGURE 10.1 

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intense attention is harnessed through the high production values – rich tones and excellent sound quality – the simplicity of the mise en scène, and the musicians’ combination of musical artistry and humility. The work’s structure also serves this purpose: each video is a complete performance, granting us the rare chance to listen uninterrupted to the sounds of exceptional street musicians. But it is Mesiti’s storytelling style – that begins to unhinge our habits of seeing through its emphasis on sound, rhythm and gesture – that renders this work so aesthetically refreshing. It is this stimulus of touch and sound, the creation of an experience of ‘feeling seeing’, that renders the work so memorable and distinct. Citizens Band is deeply moving and enlivens us to worlds beyond the immediacy of our own, everyday subjectivity. Rather than feel exhausted, the world feels abundant. The subtle rewiring of vision returns us to the world, opens us to different ways of knowing by experiencing the visual through our other senses. Mesiti’s interest in experimenting with how to stimulate different ways of seeing through her video installations is captured by the title of The Colour of Saying (2015) with its unambiguous reference to synaesthesia. This work arose out of a commission from the Lilith Performance Studio,33 based in the Swedish city of Malmo, to create a live performance that explored how people convey meaning with their hands. The Colour of Saying comprised of three performances: a silent choir signing Serenade to Music; a pair of elderly classical ballet dancers marking the choreography of Swan Lake’s pas de deux with hand gestures; and an improvisation between two body percussionists.34 The edited film of those performances then became a threechannel video installation. The Colour of Saying draws our attention to gesture and touch through its exploration of non-verbal communication. The video is largely silent, but its mise en scène compels us to imagine the sounds the participants can hear, the rhythms they can feel, the inner sensations they are expressing in their bodily movements. With graceful synchronised gestures, the sign singers perform their song; for those not literate in sign language, the underlying beat driving their motion and their facial expressions become the focus. In silence, remaining seated, the two dancers mark out the drama of the dance with remarkable intensity. Being denied the aural sense and the ‘full’ visual dimension changes how we see: our seeing becomes more embodied, less abstracted; a space of hesitance is created, potentially for a diversity of meaning to emerge. This diversification of vision is helped along by the set that Mesiti has designed for the staging of the performance, and later, for the viewing of the videos: the audience is encouraged to sit or lean on a series of minimal white bleachers spread out in the space, and to move from one performance to the next.This staging, in both performance and video installation, serves to enhance the physical aspect of seeing, and to emphatically implicate viewers in the aesthetic forms that surround them. In Relay League (2017), her most recent work, Mesiti continues her exploration of the relations between hearing, vision, touch and embodied perception. One of Mesiti’s key strengths as an artist is her ability to harness seemingly simple and accessible aesthetic forms, to then, with utmost subtlety, reorient perception to deliver powerful insights (Figure 10.2).

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Angelica Mesiti, Relay League (still). Three-channel High Definition video, 16:9, colour, sound, 9 minutes 11 seconds, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

FIGURE 10.2 

Relay League is a large installation that occupies the entire gallery floor, designed in part like an architectural maze. The artist has constructed translucent, curved walls that guide, and demand, our movement; they lead to and separate the other components. This strategy is vital: movement, as phenomenology suggests, is integral to loosening habitual thinking. But so is the strategic masking of our senses: on account of the walls around us, we cannot scope the scene in totality and hence must rely on senses other than vision to navigate the space.The work first calls upon our aural sense. We are drawn by the sounds of drumming; following the walls we reach a large video projection that reveals the source as a solo percussionist on a city rooftop, improvising on an augmented drum kit. The scene is shot fairly straight, if with very high production values: as with Citizens Band, Mesiti’s approach is to let the music and the musician, not the filmmaker, be the focus. Nonetheless, the mise en scène is striking and beautiful: the musician’s intense concentration and joyful abandon transport us as we imagine the music freely flowing over the city. The walls lead us towards another large screen, enclosed in a more intimate space that stimulates a complex mix of sensory perceptions: we see, hear and feel two seated dancers as they engage in an energetic dialogue of whispers and touch, their open faces luminous with energy. We are witnessing a private language that communicates choreography between sighted and sight-impaired dancer: looking out to a point of reference we cannot see, one dancer interprets the moves through hand and body gesture and passes them on to her companion by touch and intimate murmurings. Recalling The Colour of Saying, the result is beautiful, a compelling dance of its own accord in which touch is accentuated above sight and sound. The last screen, obscured behind another wall, reveals the choreographer, the sender of the message, dancing solo in a studio whose open window is allowing the sounds

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of the improvised percussion to float in – the message that he in turn is responding to. The communicative – and creative – loop is thus completed. The final component of the installation divulges one significant inspiration for this piece: it is a large, chandelier-like sculpture rendered in gold-plated dots and dashes, silent but throwing quivering shadows all around.The reference is to Morse Code, that pioneering communication technology based on taps or pulses that was a paragon of simple design: all that was needed was a key – or spring-loaded switch – a sounder that received the clicks and a single wire to link them. Morse became the global standard for sending messages, first along wires and then over airwaves. It was the protocol for the telegraph network that hooked up the world in the latter 19th century and the precursor of the internet. Mesiti’s sculpture materially renders in dots and dashes the message that signalled, in 1997, the end of the use of Morse code for distress calls in French waters (it was replaced by a satellite-based system). The message quoted scientist and theologian Blaise Pascal: ‘Calling all, this is our final cry before our eternal silence’.  This reference to a redundant, analogue technology that literally transformed touch into sound, into meaning, and demanded enhanced listening, serves to underline the work’s emphasis on embodied perception. Mesiti’s approach is a welcome riposte to those who purport that digital technologies are ‘disembodied’ or ‘immaterial’, and that in a post-human world the body itself will be obsolete. Bringing us back to our bodies by decentring us and activating our more intimate senses, the work promotes ‘ethical critical vision’. As Al Saji elaborates, Rather than appearing as an instantaneous and naturalized perception, this vision… remembers its debt to invisibility, to historicity, sociality, and otherness. It is this concrete, dynamic and affective seeing that, I believe, is forgotten when vision falls into habits of objectification. And it is this seeing that must be learned or recuperated for vision to become an opening to otherness.35

Conclusion When thinking about the powerful physical resonance of Mesiti’s recent video installations and their ability to rewire vision, one renowned artist comes to mind: Canadian Janet Cardiff (who works regularly in collaboration with George Bures Miller).36 Cardiff ’s work has been described as ‘physical cinema’, a term the artist has embraced.37 ‘Physical cinema’ captures how Cardiff ’s work ‘disorients and displaces temporalities and, so, notions of fixed place and body. Bodies become out of time, wrested from familiar spaces, sounds, and movement’.38 Cardiff ’s works ‘make what is often hidden, apparent – not only through the eyes, but through a fully embodied understanding that makes apparent the potential interconnection through the controlled movements of performer/spectator’.39 Activating the senses in unique ways – compelling us to walk, to touch, and to listen while we are looking – Cardiff ’s artwork disentangles vision from the habits of spectatorship and foregrounds the physical experience of seeing. Mesiti’s video installations have a comparable effect:

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diversifying vision, they provoke bodily-felt and unexpected relations between sight, sound and touch, momentarily breaking the link between what we see and what we know and allowing different perspectives a palpable presence.

Notes 1 For example, Martin Jay’s description of Luce Irigaray in his influential analysis of the anti-ocular traditions in French thought, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought, Oakland: University of California Press, 1993. 2 In her recent masterclass at the Toronto Film Festival (2016) entitled ‘The Female Gaze’, American filmmaker Jill Soloway (somewhat tongue in cheek, admittedly!) identified the female gaze in contemporary film according to three approaches, including what she called ‘A way of feeling–seeing… a subjective camera’ created when the director, the cinematographer, the actors and the other artist–technicians on set ‘prioritize their bodies over tools, over equipment, over time’. Such a female gaze is ‘Being in feeling rather than looking at’, as when the cinematographer, for example, ‘plays the action of oozing, melting, allowing, while holding the camera’: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBvppooD9I, last accessed 20 August 2017. 3 Mădălina Diaconu,‘Reflections on an Aesthetics of Touch, Smell and Taste’, Contemporary Aesthetics,Vol. 4, 2006, n.p. 4 Ibid. 5 Hilary Robinson, Reading Art, Reading Irigaray: The Politics of Art by Women, London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006, 52. 6 Ibid., 63. 7 Ibid., 76. 8 Ibid., 77. 9 Luce Irigaray, I Love to You: Sketch for a Felicity within History (original French published in 1992) trans. Alison Martin, London: Athlone Press, 1996, cited in ibid., 83–84. 10 Ibid., 84–88. 11 Alia Al Saji, ‘A Phenomenology of Critical Ethical Vision: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the Question of Seeing Differently’, Chiasmi International,Vol. 11, 2009, Thinking without Dualisms Today, 375–398, 376. 12 Ibid., 378. 13 Ibid., 376. 14 Ibid., 377. 15 Ibid., 380. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid., 382. 18 Ibid., 385. 19 Ibid., 386–391. 20 Ibid., 386. 21 Jean-Luc Nancy, The Creation of the World or Globalization, trans. Francois Raffoul and David Pettigrew, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007, 34. 22 Ibid., 35. 23 Ibid., 45. 24 Ibid., 47. 25 Ibid., 53. 26 The 2009 Venice Biennale curated by Daniel Birnbaum was subtitled ‘Making Worlds’. 27 Al Saji, op. cit., 377. 28 Ian James, The New French Philosophy, London: Polity Press, 2012, 131. 29 Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics, London and New York: Continuum, 2006, 38. 30 In the case of The Begin-Again and Citizens Band, this has been Bonnie Elliott and Bridget Ikin.

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31 See Rimi Khan, Reconstructing Community-based Arts: Cultural Value and the Neoliberal Citizen. PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, 2011, for an interesting discussion of different manifestations of community arts in contemporary Australia. 32 This work won a major national Australian art prize, The Anne Landa Award, in 2013. 33 Lilith Performance Studio is an independent arena for practical artistic research, focusing on visual art performance. As a production space for visual art performance it is the first of its kind in the world. The Colour of Saying was a co-production with the Cullberg Ballet. The video was shot by Petter Pettersson and edited by Elin Lundgren (both for Lilith Performance Studio). 34 The participants in The Colour of Saying included the dancers Rolf Hepp and Jette Neuman; the percussionists Viktor Feuk and Tomas Erlandsson; The Sign Language Choir from Önnestad folk high school conducted by Ingegerd Nyborg. 35 Al Saji, 376. 36 Notable recent works include the ‘video walks’ that entail the viewer walking through a specific place while holding a mobile device which screens the same place as previously filmed by the artists, guided in their movements by the instructions of the artist whispering in their ear in binaural sound. These include the Alter Bahnhof Video Walk in documenta 13, Kassel, 2012. 37 Tina Rigby Hanssen, ‘The Whispering Voice: Materiality, Aural Qualities and the Reconstruction of Memories in the Works of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’, Music, Sound and the Moving Image,Vol. 4, Issue 1, Spring 2010, 39–54. 38 Glen McGillivray, ‘Globing the Globe: September 11 and Theatrical Metaphor’, Theory and Event: An Online Journal of Political Theory,Vol. 11, Issue 4, 1–6. 39 Kirsty Robertson, ‘Try to Walk with the Sounds of My Footsteps: The Surveillant Body in Contemporary Art’, The Communication Review,Vol. 11, Issue 1. 2008, 24–41.

11 MATERIALISING THE INTERVAL Relationality as a feminist art practice Caroline Phillips

Introduction This chapter considers feminism as constituted through relations between different subjects and identities, to challenge longstanding perceptions of the masculine/feminine binary as oppositional and hierarchical. It affirms the binary of sexual difference as a productive framework for feminist discourse. Emerging from the experience of an Australian artist’s practice-based research in sculpture, the artworks are situated within a discourse of feminist theory, politics and practice.1 Artworks explore the interval of sexual difference as a generative space and place of relations. The chapter begins by summarising Luce Irigaray’s concepts of sexual difference and the interval, and then considers three artworks that explore the potential of the interval as a framework for relational feminist art. Using handmade and craft-related processes, colour, materiality and minimalist form, I explore relationality via repetition, intensity and interaction. Feminist art history is multivalent and diverse, yet draws on unifying ethical principles of how to be recognised in the world. Feminist activism (necessarily) constitutes a large part of this process through actions and practices that ‘push back’ against social and political structures of oppression. This chapter asks if feminist art practice can generate different strategies that are not entirely dependent on these formats, but rather emerge from a reconfiguration of the feminine/masculine binary through material and affective processes. The art objects created within this framework explore the potential of the minimalist object as feminist and discursive. With a focus on the interval, the artwork experiments with the relational art object to explore alternative approaches to feminist art.

Sexual difference, what is it good for? In 1949 Simone de Beauvoir stated that ‘enough ink has flowed over the quarrel about feminism’, yet as we know the debates have kept raging.2 De Beauvoir’s

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groundbreaking The Second Sex articulated a clear distinction between the natural, biological functions of woman and the political and social conditions that define her relation with the world (of men). Following the Marxist social and political agenda that characterised the 1970s Women’s Movement and the turn to psychoanalytic theory of the late 1970s and 1980s, the topology of feminist discourse became both expanded and fractured, with a persistent fear of essentialism that sought to exclude the specificity of sex and nature.3 Some key theorists are now challenging this oppositional paradigm. The biologist and theorist Anne FaustoSterling argues that our sexual assignation at birth is not fixed and can develop and change over time across a biological spectrum between female and male, as part of a dynamic systems theory that links biology and the social.4 Philosopher Elizabeth Grosz similarly looks to the material reality of nature and the necessity of differentiation to the formation of our sexed bodies.5 New Materialism, articulated by theorists such as Rosi Braidotti and Karen Barad, considers multiple feminist differings that take into account the forces of nature, time and the non-human to open up new possibilities outside of a negatively framed binary difference.6 Irigaray proposes a ‘sharing of the world’ where sexual difference is at the forefront of how we go about living in the world, enabling a non-hierarchical division of sex and gender roles that frame an ethical society.7 Moving beyond a purely biological determination, Irigaray speaks of sexual difference as: Constituting the horizon of worlds more fecund than any known to date… and without reducing fecundity to the reproduction of bodies and flesh. For loving partners this would be a fecundity of birth and regeneration, but also the production of a new age of thought, art, poetry, and language: the creation of a new poetics.8 Crucially, for Irigaray, sexual difference encapsulates a life and world of ‘at least two’,9 and ‘a two containing in turn secondary differences’.10 Not always a discussion of feminine and masculine, she insists the relation between the ‘two’ can include relations between women, between a mother and daughter, and between one and ‘the other’.11 The foundation of Irigaray’s concept of sexual difference is the constitution of our bodies as living subjects in the world, that is, our ‘natural’ condition as it is elaborated through our subjectivity. Regardless of race, class or gender, we all are here because of the (sexual) differentiation that exists in nature as a prerequisite for the human race. Our individual identity and subjectivity is then informed, and formed, through our sexed positions that began with feminine and masculine. As Irigaray explains: To affirm that man and woman are really two different subjects does not amount for all that to sending them back to a biological destiny, to a simple natural belonging. Man and woman are culturally different. And it is good that it is so: this corresponds to a different construction of their subjectivity.

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The subjectivity of man and that of woman are structured starting from a relational identity specific to each one, a relational identity that is held between nature and culture, and that assures a bridge starting from which it is possible to pass from one to the other while respecting them both.12 In the world, our sexual difference is embodied and lived through differences such as race, gender and other factors such as age or family background. Irigaray’s framework arguably exceeds the distinction between sex and gender, providing a model of thinking that can shift preconceived and fixed binaries, allowing for difference and multiplicity across multiple categories. Grosz also argues for the important distinction between sex as a biological ‘reality’ and other categories that affect lived bodies such as race, class, gender and sexuality. She writes: Sexual difference functions differently than all the other forms of social oppression and discrimination; it is the condition by which all other bodily differences are produced because it regulates the operations of reproduction and always accompanies all other socially significant differences.13 This is not to say that these other significant differences are never biological or that they are not as important as sexual difference. It is exactly the importance of this variation and multiplicity of difference that is at stake in the situational framework of a relational feminism. However, as Grosz argues, it is sexual difference that ‘makes possible and accompanies all other social differences’.14

Irigaray’s interval as a conceptual framework for artmaking Irigaray’s work develops the discourse on sexual difference by opening up the space of the interval as a space of ethical relations and a place of possibilities for practice. In an early text on the interval, How to Conceive (of) a Girl, Irigaray explores ideas of the unrealised potential of the formlessness of woman as a space between the gaps of beings.15 In Place, Interval: A Reading of Aristotle, Physics IV, a later text,16 the interval is developed as a space between two, and also as the site of desire.17 Irigaray conceives the interval as a space and place for creativity and knowledge, and her thinking has informed women’s art practice across a number of fronts. First, artists who interrogate the de-construction of patriarchal language through psychoanalytic theory and philosophy have been inspired and informed by Irigaray’s early work, in strategies of textual, mimetic, (re)presentation or genealogical models, for example Janet Burchill and Alex Martinis Roe (Australia). These practices appear from the mid 1980s when Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman and This Sex Which Is Not One were first translated into English. Second, artists have investigated the possibilities of a symbolic or imaginary feminine in keeping with Irigaray’s insistence on women developing their own poetic language, for example Elizabeth Presa (Australia) and Utako Shindo Kanai ( Japan).

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FIGURE 11.1  Caroline Phillips, Density. Recycled foam rubber, stainless steel pins, velcro, 50 × 40 × 40cm, 2013. Installation view, Materialising Feminism (2016), Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne. Photograph by Clare Rae

Third, a productive relationship between Irigaray’s thinking and New Materialism has emerged largely through Grosz’s sustained engagement with Irigaray’s thinking alongside the ‘natural’ forces of matter. This has been useful for a number of contemporary artists, for example Bianca Hester (whose work is discussed at length elsewhere in this book), who has used Irigaray’s conception of air as matter to problematise conventional considerations of matter as solid and fixed.18 Most recently, Irigaray’s work is opening up collaborative group projects in the Australian feminist context that highlight participatory and ‘grassroots’ practices, such as Courtney Coombs’ 2016 project Conversing about the Other19 and Anne Marsh’s forthcoming Doing Feminism/Sharing the World collaborative feminist residency programme in Melbourne (2017–8).20 Irigaray’s wide range of affirmations of the interval as expansive, generative, subjective, metaphoric, cosmic and material are also useful for artists in their capacity as visual and spatial metaphors such as skin and mucous,21 the bridge,22 clearing and air,23 the angel,24 the lips,25 topologies of colour,26 containers and boundaries.27 This practice seeks to move beyond a purely metaphorical reading of the interval, towards a manifestation of the interval as a material–discursive or relational practice that encompasses feminist politics within situated conditions (Figure 11.1). For Irigaray, the interval requires approaching the other in an open way, creating a clearing for difference to emerge. As Irigaray suggests in Sharing the World: It is no longer a question of moving in a space arranged by the words of only one subject, but of taking the risk to open one’s own world in order to move forward to meet with another world. Which constrains us, at each moment, to a double listening: to the language in which we already dwell, but also to the saying that the other addresses to us. Our coming into presence with one

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another can only happen through the intertwining of this double listening. Only this prepares a place in which we can approach one another.28 Irigaray’s mode of double listening is developed in the work Density (2013),29 a pile of circular components that explores the potential of repetitive folding, creating co-relational spaces between paired and grouped forms. Irregular modules of cool white foam rubber are assembled from multiple identical components that twist and fold over onto themselves. Each single component, then, becomes two, creating multiple spaces of proximity and connection. This pairing is held fast by long and sharp stainless steel T pins, whilst multiple velcro connections aggregate the units, yet these connections are temporary and can be easily dissembled. At each iteration, homogenous yet irregular groupings sit together on the floor, emphasising the gallery space and encouraging movement around their collective form. Found in a recycling depot, these soft and alluring nodules come together to create a topological landscape that appears inanimate, perhaps like a rock or a snowcovered mountain.Yet a closer inspection reveals an intricacy of spatial connection more in keeping with the hive of a living or technological species, such as an ant colony or a factory of tiny robots. The work invites the viewer to bend down and ‘peer in’ to what could be intricate networks and communities. These conglomerating materials recall the collaborative intertwining evoked by Irigaray’s ‘double listening’.

The interval as the object Minimalist art, traditionally, has aimed for a certain neutrality. Familiar accounts of minimalist sculpture frame the minimalist object (of the 1960s) as divested of meaning, existing for its own material sake and suppressing the subjectivity of expression. Another key characteristic of Minimalism is its relationship to space. Its reliance on expansive space within and around the work creates conditions of encounter between the material object and the viewer. A transfer of experience and meaning can take place in the minimal space, in ways that did not exist before the art of the 1960s. For Michael Fried, a key theorist of Minimalism at its emergence, the audience is asked to respond to the object’s physicality, in a relationship of complicity that ‘extorts from the beholder’.30 The idea that the abstract physicality of a minimalist sculpture, combined with its relationship to the body, elicits this ‘situation’, is a valuable space to draw out issues of relationality in minimalist sculpture that have not been highlighted in existing writing about Minimalism. As Swedish curator and theorist Maria Lind articulates, ‘by confronting us with our own presence, Minimalism obliges us to think about where and who we are, and how we came to arrive there.’31 Emerging in the space of the interval, the formality and praxical encounter of the minimalist object might serve to render the interval as an encounter in a feminist space, within which hierarchical and fixed binaries are contested and reconfigured. Australian theorist Susan Best argues the

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link between Minimalism and feminism by considering the work of Eva Hesse, Ana Mendieta, Lygia Clark and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. In Visualising Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-garde,32 Best’s analysis restores subjectivity to the narrative of Minimalism and foregrounds ‘the feminine’ in the canon of the avant-garde.Yet it is important to note that, unlike Best, the way this chapter conceives of the link between Minimalism and feminism is not by way of individual subjectivity and feeling. Rather the focus is on the relational potential of the interval between subjects as an ontology beyond subjectivity. The work Mirror, Mirror (2016)33 is a large open circle rendered in pink. As a minimalist object, this circular form sets up the space for a meeting, a relation between two potential subjects, or two imagined viewers. Yet unlike traditional minimalist sculpture, its fluorescent pink covering heightens the intensity of possible encounter. The trampoline frame evokes ideas of bouncing and childhood play. Tiny black rubber arches hold up the large circle – airy, mutable elements that render material the idea of the interval as spacious, uncluttered and tinged with a sense of encounter. Multiple small grey nodules that repeat at regular intervals around the circle suggest the fluidity of a continuous circuit of relation. For Irigaray, clearing the space of the interval entails a conscious exposure of the incalculable division between the one and the other. This incalculability speaks to the irreducibility of the self and the other, each in our own particularity (specificity), yet foregrounding the possible relationship with the other that is enabled through that space. In The Way of Love, Irigaray talks about this division as a nihilistic space: The practice of the negative here is insurmountable in an absolute subjectivity or an absolute objectivity. It is what safeguards the unappropriable [sic] site of difference – the fact that the other will never be I, nor me, nor mine.34 In the sculpture Mirror, Mirror, a central void enacts this open space of possibilities as both a barrier and a threshold to the other. The title invites a potential introspection, a mindfulness of sorts, to consider the implications of the space between two. Conceived as an invitation to approach, the fixed frame of the object and its implied surface membrane provoke a shared separation of difference and connection (Figure 11.2). The work Social Sphere (2016)35 considers multiplicity and intersectionality through an entanglement of form and colour. Squishy tubes of fabric-covered foam are intermingled and entwined in a heap on the floor.The interval here is perceived as a dynamic and vibrant environment in which to mediate the fractious complexities of multiple categories of feminism. The colours of the stretch satin reveal an enticing spectrum from blue to pink, shiny and alluring forms that appear similar, yet vary in length and diameter, as well as colour. As a way to negotiate this terrain of multiplicity, this work raises the question: can the interval of sexual difference operate as a generative space that mediates difference and multiplicity, not in opposition to it? As Amelia Jones argues:

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A presentation of bodily forms, whether abstracted or explicit, might shift larger political structures and assumptions about gendered experience, enacting them in ways that can be experienced as non-binary… these enactments... might be seen to put in play a temporal and embodied relationality.36 Jones draws on Rosi Braidotti’s ‘radical relations’, an interactive field of positive forces where ethical implications are foregrounded by relations.37 Braidotti outlines a concept of inter-relationality whose subjects ‘are nomadic, not unitary; multi-­ relational, not phallo-centric; connective, not dialectical…’38 Jones credits Braidotti’s ideas for helping her to rethink feminist art in tandem with queer materiality and the politics of identity, which she theorises as a ‘queer feminist durationality’.39 Can Social Sphere be seen through a lens of queering feminism? Certainly the materiality and form of the work enacted a slippage and collapse of meaning during its construction. What looks to be a smooth and seductive arrangement required strong force and perseverance to achieve. Stuffing the foam into tightly sewn cylinders taxed the endurance and determination of two, at times three, people with hours of clawing, pulling, and forcing the foam stuffing material into the covering. Assembling the final form and tying off the slinky tubes became equally frustrating as they slipped and slithered of their own accord, thwarting each attempt at closure and stability. The forces of matter held on to their own agency, and the objective of wholeness proved illusory. Does this illusion come from a situated position of white feminism and its blind spots? As the artist and feminist Senam Okutzeto observes, one of the problems of contemporary feminism is that ‘categories of difference are cited but assimilated

FIGURE 11.2  Caroline Phillips, Social Sphere (left). Stretch satin, cotton, recycled foam rubber, 140 ¥ 150 ¥ 150cm, 2016. Mirror, Mirror (right). Recycled trampoline frame, duct tape, 340 ¥ 340 ¥ 14cm. Installation view, Materialising Feminism, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne, 2016. Photograph by Clare Rae

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into a larger project that is really about sameness’.40 The artworks discussed here attempt to recognise and shift this ground and get working on alternate structures that acknowledge prejudice, respect difference and enable ethical relations between a range of identities and their situated conditions. These art objects are stand-ins for bodies, they elicit bodies and they enact bodily discourses, yet in their nonrepresentational presence they do not speak for others. In so doing, the relational interactivity between the materials, forms and processes is proposed as a way to materialise ‘different forms of difference’41 through the interval, without flattening or universalising the experiences of others.

Relationships between matter and form Irigaray proposes that the interval of sexual difference is a dynamic and generative ontological framework that is the condition of the relation between two and at times becomes the condition of difference itself. In The Way of Love she writes: Now the masculine and the feminine are in no case the inverse or the opposite of each other. They are different. This difference that holds between is perhaps the most unthinkable of differences – difference itself.42 For me, this resonates with Braidotti’s conception of ‘radical relationality’. To Braidotti, the materiality and vitality of concrete conditions enable relationality through their capacity to transform and create change through relationships with others.43 Her framework calls for the necessity to enter into ethical relations with multiple others to create affirmative ‘possible worlds’,44 a goal shared with Irigaray. For Braidotti and Irigaray, subjects are separate, but their specificity is differentiated through their relation. Grosz suggests a focus on matter by feminist artists might operate as a way to ‘speak’ to others beyond single categories.45 Using the minimalist object, strategies of repetition, seriality and abstracted form can invoke the intensity of bodily formations outside of preconceived categories. Whereas the original use of seriality and repetition as a feature of Minimalism produced an indeterminate multiplicity, here it is deployed to demarcate the specificity and multiplicity of difference, within a communal and relational space of the interval. In this way, sexual difference is not a fixed category and is beyond the binary of ‘two’, continually open to its material formation and the proliferation of multiple ‘others’. The differentiating and active quality of matter opens up the space of the interval as an expansive site of discourse, materialising the interval as place-in-relation. The idea of matter as vital and dynamic has been well established by Jane Bennett in her study Vibrant Matter.46 Sarah Ahmed is closer to Irigaray’s humanist, relational approach, arguing that ‘action involves the intimate co-dwelling of bodies and objects’.47 In her work on the invisible meanings of the (sexed) body in its orientation amongst space and things, Ahmed develops a concept reminiscent of Irigaray’s interval. Ahmed deploys the spatial and temporal qualities of ‘orientation’ – the capacity to

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turn towards or against – to account for differences and connections between specific bodies and things. Communicating with the other in the threshold of the interval requires a conscious turning to, and paying attention to what that turning reveals. For Ahmed, ‘the question of action is how we inhabit space.’48

Participatory relations The work of making art involves interacting with materials, concepts, people and places. Reconfiguring the object beyond a representation (through abstraction, assemblage and material properties) produces differences and complexity in a relational framework of interactivity. These sculptures have been made in tandem with curatorial and writing projects as a way to work through the material and conceptual problems and interrogate questions raised.49 Over time the relationship between making objects in the studio and the feminist curatorial and writing engagement emerged as a methodology of relatedness that both moulds and informs the practice. The turn to a material, relational feminism shifts the focus of relational art practices from the dominant social and participatory modes of the last 20 years. These modes, primarily stemming from the 1990s, have been defined as participatory through their conscription of non-artist communities, that is, ‘the public’, in the development and presentation of the work or political action. As a ‘substantial subject for institutional and curatorial attention’,50 feminism is conspicuously absent from the predominant European discourse of the last two decades surrounding participatory art and social practice.The influential positions argued by major theorists such as Nicolas Bourriaud (relational aesthetics)51 and Claire Bishop (participatory art)52 do not address the specificity of feminist practices and the legacy of feminist art history. In the USA, work by feminist artists in the field of social practice has had somewhat more visibility over that same period, but is largely segregated as the subset ‘public art’.53 However, the ongoing interrelationship and continuity between social practice and feminist art since the 1970s is now being increasingly recovered by curators, historians and theorists.54 The art practice discussed in this chapter engages with the political and social discourse of feminism as a way of ‘generating relations with the world’, yet it conceives of ‘the social’ very differently to the way Relational Aesthetics has defined it. This art practice becomes relational and social not through a focus on project-based emancipatory social outcomes (although these might occur). Rather, the relational objects here bring together matter, form and processes of making that materialise a contemporary feminist framework and practice. As Elyse Mallouk argues, in her study of relational art practices: What counts as social investigation in art must be re-examined in order to make room for the varied practices that have developed since Relational Aesthetics, many of which don’t look Relational at all but still pose potent questions about what it means to be individual subjects, bound up with one another.55

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Mallouk presents aesthetics as a ‘mode of thinking’ and production that ‘creates a discourse’56 and maintains an open space of changeable possibilities.57 Harnessing the sexuate possibilities of a feminist practice, the material–discursive relations at play here hold open a space and place (the interval) of difference as a way to work through questions and to share ‘the work of feminism’.

Conclusion The practice discussed in this chapter proposes a relational paradigm to undertake a feminist interpretation of the minimalist object. By using the framework of the interval and affirming the binary of sexual difference, this practice seeks to think about and make feminist art in ways other than based on identity and subjectivity. This shift opens up a space for thinking about how identities and things are connected, how we are the same yet different, and what might be revealed by thinking through relations as an interactive, material framework. This position practises a feminism that is not stifled by oppositional and hierarchical thinking that has adversely affected feminist theory and practice in recent years.58 The hope is to activate new outcomes that reframe feminist practice as a dynamic, relational field of difference (or differentiation) and a site of ethical interaction, connection and exchange. In so doing, feminist art may offer a site where the material conditions of multiple bodies and communities, as well as matter itself, are encountered. In this encounter may flourish relationships, objects and effects that reconfigure systems of authority and power relations, and move towards a nonhierarchical sharing of the world.

Notes 1 I use the term ‘situated’ akin to Donna Haraway’s concept, whereby a body’s agency is constituted in their specific time and place, including cultural, political and social relations. In ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’ Haraway writes: ‘I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people’s lives. I am arguing for the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring, and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity.’ Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’ in Feminist Studies 14(3), 1988, p. 589. 2 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. Constance Borde and Sheila MalovanyChevallier, New York:Vintage Books, 2011, p. 23. 3 Tina Chanter, The Ethics of Eros; Irigaray’s Re-writing of the Philosophers (NewYork: Routledge, 1995); see Chapter 1, ‘Tracking Essentialism with the Help of a Sex/Gender Map’. 4 Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World (New York: Routledge, 2012). 5 Elizabeth Grosz, Becoming Undone, Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics and Art (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2011). 6 Rosi Braidotti developed a theory of the nomadic subject in the influential text Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory (Cambridge: Columbia University Press, 1994), whilst Barad’s key major text Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007) brought together quantum physics and issues of gender and subjectivity.

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7 Luce Irigaray, Sharing the World (London and New York: Continuum, 2008). 8 Luce Irigaray, I Love toYou: Sketch of a Possible Felicity in History, trans. Alison Martin (New York and London: Routledge, 1996), 30. 9 Irigaray, I Love to You, 35. 10 Irigaray, I Love to You, 35. 11 Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985) and An Ethics of Sexual Difference. 12 Luce Irigaray, ‘Approaching the Other as Other’ in Key Writings, ed. Luce Irigaray (London and New York: Continuum, 2004), 26–7. 13 The Editors of Interstitial Journal, ‘Significant Differences, an interview with Elizabeth Grosz’, Interstitial Journal 4, March 2013: https://interstitialjournal.files.wordpress. com/2013/03/grosz-interview1.pdf, pp. 4–5. 14 The Editors of Interstitial Journal, ‘Significant Differences’, p. 2. 15 Luce Irigaray,‘How to Conceive (of) a Girl’, In Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), 160–7. 16 Luce Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), Part 1, 34–58. 17 Irigaray, An Ethics, 35, 37, 48. 18 Bianca Hester, ‘Material Adventures, Spatial Productions: Manoeuvring Sculpture Towards a Proliferating Event’, Melbourne: RMIT University PhD thesis, 2007, p. 44. 19 Courtney Coombs, Conversing About the Other, Metro Arts, Brisbane, 2016. 20 Prof. Anne Marsh, Doing Feminism/Sharing the World curated programme of collaborative and participatory feminist practice (December 2017 – February 2018), Norma Redpath House, Melbourne. 21 Luce Irigaray, Elemental Passions (New York: Routledge, 1992), 27. 22 Luce Irigaray, The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1999), 27, 30. 23 Irigaray, The Forgetting of Air, 8, 9, 40, 41. 24 Irigaray, An Ethics, 15. 25 Luce Irigaray, ‘When Our Lips Speak Together’, Signs, Vol. 6, No. 1, Women, Sex and Sexuality, Part 2, Autumn 1980, 69–79. 26 Luce Irigaray, ‘Flesh Colours’, In Luce Irigaray: Key Writings, 112–122. 27 Irigaray, An Ethics, 34–44. 28 Irigaray, Sharing the World, 11. 29 First exhibited at Founders Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts (2013), then in Topologies of Sexual Difference, George Paton Gallery, Melbourne (2014), and Materialising Feminism¸ Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne (2016). 30 Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, 1967. Online version, UC Berkeley Art, Technology and Culture series: http://atc.berkeley.edu/201/readings/FriedObjcthd.pdf, 4. 31 Brian Kuan Wood (ed.), Selected Maria Lind Writing (New York: Sternberg Press, 2010), 49. 32 Susan Best, Visualising Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-garde (New York: I.B. Taurus, 2011). 33 A site-specific work for Materialising Feminism, Margaret Lawrence Gallery (2016). It is an upright repurposed round trampoline frame. 34 Irigaray, The Way of Love, 168. 35 Exhibited in Materialising Feminism, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne, 2016. 36 Amelia Jones, Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts (New York: Routledge, 2012), 183. 37 See chapter 5 in Jones, Seeing Differently. 38 Rosi Braidotti, ‘In Spite of the Times, the Post-Secular Turn in Feminism’, Theory, Culture & Society 25, No. 6, 2008, 12. 39 See chapter 5 in Jones, Seeing Differently, 171. 40 Rosalyn, Deutsche et al., ‘Feminist Time: A Conversation’, Grey Room 31, Spring 2008, pp. 32–67, 46.

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41 ‘Different forms of difference’ is theorised by Nira Yuval-Davis in order to carefully work through the original signification of intersectionality by women of colour and expand understanding into other areas such as age, cultural difference or sexuality. Nira Yuval-Davis, ‘Intersectionality and Feminist Politics’, European Journal of Women’s Studies 13(3), 2006, 193–209, 199–200. 42 Irigaray, The Way of Love, 106. 43 Braidotti, ‘In Spite of the Times’, 16. 44 Bolette Blaagard and Iris van der Yuin (eds.), The Subject of Rosi Braidotti, Politics and Concepts (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 246. 45 Katve-Kaisa Kontturi and Milla Tianen, ‘Feminism, Art, Deleuze, and Darwin: An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz’, NORA-Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies 15, no. 4, November 2007, 248. 46 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter, A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2010). 47 Sarah Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology, Orientations, Objects, Others (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2006), introduction. 48 Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology, 52. 49 Selected projects include: A Dinner Party: Setting the Table (co-curated with Victoria Duckett), West Space, Melbourne, 2012; Regional Feminist Art Forum, Bendigo, 2013; The Technopia Tours Feminist Art Bus (co-curated with Kim Donaldson), Melbourne touring workshop, 2014; The f Word, Contemporary Feminist Art in Australia, Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale and Ararat Regional Art Gallery, Ararat, 2014; AS IF: Echoes of the Women’s Art Register (co-curated with Dr. Juliette Peers, Stephanie Leigh, Kalinda Vary, Emily Castle and Danielle Hakim), West Space, Melbourne, 2015; f generation: feminism, art, projections (co-curated with Dr. Juliette Peers and Veronica Caven Aldous), George Paton Gallery, Melbourne, 2015. These projects were developed over three years of PhD research, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. 50 Angela Dimitrakaki and Lara Perry, Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures and Curatorial Transgressions (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013), 2. 51 Nicolas Bourriard, Relational Aesthetics, trans. Simon Pleasance (Dijon: Les presses du reel, 2002). 52 Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells, Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (London and New York: Verso, 2012). 53 Some examples can be found in the following texts, amongst others: Suzanne Lacy (ed.), Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1994); Malcolm Miles, Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures (New York: Routledge, 1997); Nato Thompson (ed.), Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011 (New York: Creative Time, 2012); Tom Finkelpearl and Vito Acconci, Dialogues in Public Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001). 54 In the Australian context see Anne Marsh’s Performance, Ritual, Document (Melbourne: Macmillan Australia, 2014) and Catriona Moore’s ‘Feminist Curating:The First Hundred Years’, in Curating Feminism (Sydney: Sydney College of the Arts/University of Sydney, 2014) and with Jo Holder in this anthology. For a European perspective see Angela Dimitrakaki and Lara Perry’s Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures and Curatorial Transgressions (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013). All of these texts directly highlight the exclusion of feminist discourse from prevailing accounts of relational art. Maria Lind’s essay ‘Models of Criticality’ in Brian Kuan Wood’s (ed.), Selected Maria Lind Writing (New York: Sternberg Press, 2010) considers the legacy of feminism in performative models of collaborative practice. See also The Longest Revolution: Feminist Social Practice, a forthcoming exhibition project (USA, 2017) curated by Neysa PageLieberman and Melissa Hilliard Potter. Further information: http://feminist-social-practice.tumblr.com/. 55 Elyse Mallouk, The Generous Object: The Relational and the Aesthetic in Contemporary Art (Oakland, CA: California College of the Arts Thesis: 2010). Online version:http://viscrit.cca.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/mallouk.pdf.

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56 Mallouk, The Generous Object, 58. 57 Mallouk, The Generous Object, 65. 58 The ‘tyranny’ of second wave theoretical positioning is argued well by Clare Hemmings in ‘Generational Dilemma, A Response to Iris van der Tuin’s “Jumping Generations”’: On Second and Third Wave Feminist Epistemology’, Australian Feminist Studies 24, March 2009, 33–37.

Further reading Karen Barad, ‘Posthumanist Performativity:Toward an Understanding of how Matter Comes to Matter’, in Material Feminism, Stacy Alaimo & Susan Hekman (eds.), Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008.

12 HEAVE, HO, HA Disgust, humour and failure in contemporary feminist art Jane Polkinghorne

Introduction Most accounts historicise Abject Art as a moment in the early 1990s that quickly outlived its usefulness by remaining confined to representations of abjection. The works functioned through referential interpretations of snot, piss, shit, menstrual blood and vomit, descriptors from Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection,1 rather than inhabiting the unassailable nature of the abject itself. Abject Art was said to have reiterated and reinforced the status of the abject rather than explore abjection as an affect and cogent force within creative practices.2 This chapter proposes, however, that the stain and waft of abjection, and the artistic impulses once curatorially packaged (and then dismissed) as Abject Art, linger on. In particular, they can be found at the intersection of humour, disgust and failure in certain feminist contemporary art practices. The historical package ‘Abject Art’ has come to be associated with ‘didactic’ works and artists from the early 1990s, a period when artists were responding to the AIDS crisis, identity politics and the so-called Culture Wars. Art world fashions moved on from such concerns in the following decades – for example, to privilege participatory art – and many of the explicit discourses surrounding abjection, such as feminism, identity politics and body art, were sidelined. However, with the surge of interest in feminist art, both current and historical, so have some of the issues once dismissed as being ‘of their time’ re-emerged, if in different guises. There has been, for example, a ­re-evaluation of the way disgust is deployed as a cultural weapon. In the creative works I consider in this chapter, humour, disgust and failure operate on the threshold of pleasure, revulsion and fiasco. Such an intersection has the potential to produce surprisingly profound aesthetic experiences fusing cognitive and emotional responses, momentarily disrupting the artifice in art and representation. Contemporary creative investigations of abjection are framed less around the

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abject referent that was so over-used in the 1990s. Instead the works reflect on experiences of the abject. Rather than a reiteration and agreement that, yes, shit and menstrual blood are disgusting, contemporary practitioners explore the ambivalent fascination of abjection through examining the processes wherein subjectivity is cast as abject. The complex and confusing interplay between humour, disgust and failure creates possibilities for an expansion into a space of critical pleasure: a foaming of sensation that barely holds its weight before collapsing or spilling into a more determined experience of failure or disgust. In creative practices the tension between the three sensations triggers a kind of apprehension, a suspended cloud, in which we wonder will it fail, will it revolt or will it amuse? But there is no ‘it’, for these sensations must be triggered by embodied experience and cannot be situated in the improbable Kantian mode of disinterested, disembodied aesthetic apprehension. Representation itself lies at the core of this peculiar conjunction.Whoever heard of disgusting and/or funny abstract art?3 Failure too is primarily associated with the derailing of actions and agency, connected with the feeling of shame and inadequacy. However, failure is a significant undercurrent in humour and art throughout the modern and post-modern eras. Without the risk of failure, art and comedy lose acuity, becoming formulaic and confined to aesthetic limits. Of course, we are familiar with how alt-right politicians and commentators abject particular social groupings – for instance refugees and Muslims – in the chase for socially conservative votes. By contrast, the contemporary artists considered here, as well as aspects of my own creative practice, explore how the abject in visual culture is both complicit with and challenges the socio-political realm. Instead of using it as a means of exclusion, as a way of demarcating the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’, artists explore the uncertain border of abjection – a place of in-distinction rather than demarcation. This allows artists and their audiences an ethical framework in which to apprehend the generative ambivalence and discomfort of disgust.

Feeling funny Humour, disgust and failure are corporeal experiences that operate as disruptive modes able to generate new ways of thinking and making. Their interaction generates complex insights and potent affects which momentarily allow me (you) to ‘enjoy’ a sense of dissolution, to acknowledge my corporeality and aesthetic senses as unified and yet overflowing and intermingled with the world. When this occurs, the ridiculousness of gender stereotypes and the codified representational conventions in fashion and behaviours can be revealed. The body is foregrounded in this mingled experience through how I feel the sensation, and when the body is foregrounded, so is gendered difference, so that gender is always in play at the intersection of humour, disgust and failure. However, the limits of feminist critique are reached if the feminine continues to function as abjected other at the same time as being aestheticised fetish in representation. This

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pitfall might be averted by the artist’s deployment of their subjectivity as the object of their work, together with humour. Australian artist Hannah Raisin has created works combining humour and disgust where her own self is the object, to ridicule and explore the female body as a site of idealisation.The title of her 2007 short video work My Cunt Smoking Without Me speaks for itself. The video shows a person, visible from the waist to the knees, sitting on a toilet wearing underpants that are unable to contain a sprouting mass of pubic hair. A cigarette hangs out of a cunt-like slit in the underwear; a hand lights up the cigarette, and we watch as the cunt ‘smokes’, the cigarette quivering as smoke rises from its tip. The genitals are concealed, but a deep pink gash painted around a slit in the crotch masks the real cunt with a garish simulation. The site of the work, a toilet, also oscillates between revealing and concealing. Toilets are designed to be private places for urination, defecation or menstruation, but they are also often the sites for illicit activity, such as smoking a sneaky cigarette. Here, Raisin’s cunt has snuck off for a ciggie without her.The lips of the labia stand in for (like a joke) the lips of the mouth, the vagina and uterus for the lungs. The work is ridiculous, funny and a little gross. Low-fi in its aesthetic, it is on one level flippant, and yet it compels through its all too ‘realness’. My Cunt Smoking Without Me through the displacement of the cunt as not the person, toys with subject/ object, with fake/real. The displacement/doubling of the lips of the mouth to the labia is a classic double entendre manoeuvre. With cunt still considered one of the best (or worst) swear words,4 the work takes the crudity of slang and grants Raisin’s sex the power of agency, the power to smoke (how disgusting!). My Cunt Smoking Without Me points to our experience of ourselves, our bodies, as necessarily fragmented and partial: the face we pull when we look into a mirror, what we see when we look down at ourselves, the strange bulges, and tufts of hair, scars and skin blemishes known only privately, those parts of ourselves only visible through aids (the second wave feminist consciousness raising call for women to use a mirror to see their sex comes to mind).We are often forced to acknowledge a lack, or a gap, between how we feel and how we look or present to the world. This gap, or failure, is easily filled with self-loathing/self-improvement (though also its opposite – self-confidence, self-love) as we recognise that we do not match the polish and perfection of popular representations. Art theorist Hal Foster, in the 1996 book The Return of The Real, calls this the ‘gap of (mis)recognition’.5 The particularity of ‘selfness’ is repressed as we endeavour to force ourselves into that which aligns with popularised forms in a television show, film, magazine, newspaper, music videos or even contemporary performance art. This gap/chasm/failure is not strictly a negation, but a hole of potentiality where pleasures are to be found – the pleasures of creativity, of messing up and slipping, of being not quite right, muddying the forms and possibilities of representation. Disgust here seeps into pleasure and revels in wrongness and difference. Failure is generative, forcing us to acknowledge, if only briefly, our ineptitude, our not-the-sameness, while laughter and humour, as Freud noted,6 help us cope with ever-imminent failure.

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Artists ‘do’ this all the time. I do this all the time, but not as matter of self-­ examination or personal growth. In making creative works I use myself as the material to explore that space of ‘(mis)recognition’.To ask someone else to stand in, to do the things I want done, is unethical, and could appear objectifying, mocking, tormenting and teasing. In earlier works made in collaboration with my brother Anthony Polkinghorne, this was our modus operandi. As Polk-A-Polk Productions, our short films relied on a cast of usually willing and compliant friends putting up with a range of inflicted torments. Our cast spent days either naked or covered in mud, custard, or chocolate sauce while we exploited their personal idiosyncrasies – from huge breasts to diminutive physical stature, from gender ambiguity to poor acting – in films that were part horror, part farce. The bad faith I felt in asking others to do what I was not either capable or willing to do eventually drove me to focus on using myself in creative work, frequently in creative partnership with Polk-A-Polk cast member Helen Hyatt-Johnston. Together we became The Twilight Girls (TG). Since the 1990s TG has developed personas from our shared interest in bad cinema, trashy magazines and C-grade television. We use ourselves in the works as a means of messing with representation and through a desire to participate in representation. If the project is a little narcissistic, the works themselves are never flattering: rather, we enhance the image at the expense of our appearance. In the 2013 photographic work The Twilight Girl, for example, we become one, merged together where our individual images overlapped when overlayed. Life-sized and looking directly at the viewer, the image was meant to reflect on the process of giving up identity in creative collaborations. But, the image of grotesquely conjoined, hairy, saggy-breasted, make-up-free middleaged women, appears instead like a scientific documentation of a ‘sideshow freak’ (Figure 12.1). This work is so horrible it has only been exhibited once and nobody, apart from me, ever mentions it. It’s both too much and too real, with little of the campy humour we usually elicit. It is genuinely awful, but its awfulness is its power, capturing the TG’s project of investigating cultural revulsion of and with the feminine. The Twilight Girl is grotesque and disgusting (in its lack of idealising) but not especially funny. Instead pathos and shame prevail. As Michelle Meagher wrote about British painter Jenny Saville: [….] the immediate response of disgust reveals something about how an individual has been habituated to the abstract organizational systems that structure his or her culture. […] Put another way, it offers the opportunity to think about what it means for women to live in a perpetual struggle with the abject female body.7

Discussing disgust Disgust is evoked in both high art and mass entertainment; it is used powerfully in conjunction with a range of other emotions and affects, from pathos and tragedy

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FIGURE 12.1 

The Twilight Girls, The Twilight Girl. Inkjet on photo paper, 1.2 ¥ 1.8m,


to comedy and satire, from eroticism to horror, from mild discomfort to revulsion.8 US feminist philosopher Professor Carolyn Korsmeyer in her 2011 book, Savouring Disgust: The Foul and Fair in Aesthetics, argues that disgust often operates ‘as a means to further another aesthetic emotion’.9 Disgust thus becomes a delivery mechanism intensifying the apprehension of other emotions. Rather than comprising ‘just’ a

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biological reflex as most commonly considered, disgust complicates meaning and experience through its heterogeneous nature. Korsmeyer notes how in food and art the ‘paradox of aversion’10 has acted as a provocation to philosophers and is central to our contemporary understanding of the sublime. The ‘paradox of aversion’ connects with Aristotle’s writing on the paradox of tragedy in Poetics and Immanuel Kant’s notion of the sublime, demonstrating the human desire for aversive and overwhelming experiences and emotions: The object of disgust is prone to be connected with something which is concealed, secretive, multilayered, uncanny, sinister, as well as with something which is shameless, obtrusive, and alluring; that is, in sum, to be something which is taunting. Everything that is disgusting has in it something which is at one and the same time both striking and veiled, as is, say, a poisonous red berry or a garishly made-up face.11 Like Kristeva, Korsmeyer connects our fascination with the disgusting to death and its aftermath – the putrefying and rotting corpse, the waste products of our bodies and the animals, bacteria and processes associated with them, from worms and maggots to shit-eating animals and behaviours. After the death of a subject the corpse teems with other life forms (as do our many of other wastes: faeces, blood, and snot). In this way disgust brings us closer to contemplating the disintegration of our subjective selves into the stateless energy of the universe. Korsmeyer mentions Nietzsche’s ‘Dionysian impulse’ in relation to the blurring of self as it merges into ‘orgiastic flux’,12 and the similar knowledge disgust embodies. Disgust reminds us of our own end and dissolution, but is intensified by the ambiguity of decay as both ‘life-generating and death-dealing’.13 The complexity of the experience goes beyond the ability to easily describe it with language, but disgust still has a cognitive aspect: ‘An aesthetic idea leads the mind towards the ineffable.’14 Korsmeyer uses the term ‘sublate’ to describe the process of attaining aesthetic insight ‘in a bodily, visceral response’.15 While comparable to the sublime in this sense, the sublate is not necessarily overwhelming. Its trigger might be miniscule or banal, like a worm in a piece of fruit, Kristeva’s skin across the top of a cup of hot milk16, or a skid mark in underpants. Disgust is visceral, but also cognitively forces us to take stock. It shares some properties with laughter, in releasing tension and entailing an action of expelling when confronted with alterity, and like laughter is not ‘simply’ or only overwhelming. As Korsmeyer argues, ‘The experience gives rise to an apprehension, a grasp of an idea that is so imbedded in affective response to the work that provokes it as to be virtually inseparable.’17 According to German professor of aesthetics Winfried Menninghaus:18 The ‘vital sensation’ of disgust might well be considered a property no less characteristic of humanity than the capacity to laugh – a property, in fact, that represents the negative complement of laughter. The sudden discharge of tension achieved in laughter, as in vomiting, an overcoming of disgust,

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a contact with the ‘abject’ that does not lead to a lasting contamination or defilement. On the other hand, laughing at something, as an act of expulsion, resembles in itself the act of rejecting, of vomiting in disgust. Disgust, which undergoes a countercathexis (or a sublimation), and laughter, are complementary ways of admitting an alterity that otherwise would overpower our system of perception and consciousness.19 In other words, disgust and laughter are not simply overpowering, but may allow us to ‘admit’ alternative thoughts, to cognise difference. Another way we might approach the aesthetic complexity of disgust is through certain artworks, including Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional (2010). Delvoye’s series of cloacas are machines that manufacture shit by replicating the human digestive tract from mouth to anus.20 A visit to Cloaca Professional at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Australia, reveals a little of the aesthetic appeal of disgust. Apparently the most hated work at MONA,21 Cloaca Professional always has plenty of visitors at feeding and shitting times. Many soon leave, unable to withstand the stench. Smell is one of the more difficult aspects of disgust – it is invisible yet pervasive. We can close our eyes to block out a horrific scene, but without breathing, we die. Cloaca Professional’s shit has a peculiar edge, more akin to the smells that waft through hospitals: an organic undertone all the more disturbing for being poorly masked by sterility. The machine is shiny and laboratory-like with a series of glass ‘stomachs’ containing variously coloured decaying material and enzymes, bacteria and acids being forced through the constructed digestive system. Like a giant baby, the machine must be fed and toileted. Cloaca Professional could be understood as a critique of capitalism’s ability to monetise and mechanise everything: it is a machine that does a much less efficient, much more expensive job of shitting than the human body.22 By mechanically automating and externalising the process of digestion, Cloaca Professional ‘makes strange’ a function common to all humans (and animals), inducing an uncanny valley-ish23 experience. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these machines is that they are literally shit factories: that is the full extent of their functionality. Here, excretion is not a process that subtends the metabolism of a living being, but the whole deal. As such, Delvoye’s project is more concerned with representation than Georges Bataille’s concept of ‘base materialism’24 as it is a copy or mimesis of the omnivorous human digestive process.25 Beyond the biological function it plays in many species to stop the ingestion of pathogens, disgust in its other forms (moral, cultural, social) is apparently felt only by humans.26 Disgust is associated with taste in all of its forms. As Pierre Bourdieu taught us in his 1984 book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, the consideration of a person’s taste is a judgement on social class and status, aesthetics, knowledge and power. Disgust is one of the means through which distinctions are acknowledged, perceived and demonstrated.27 The physical sensation of taste, and its associated sense smell, is essential to the formation of disgust. Repugnance and food, as Kristeva argued,28 are inherently connected. Kristeva used the example of the ‘skin of the milk’ to exemplify how something harmless can be experienced as

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revolting. The complex of operations that trigger the sensation simply on apprehending that which disgusts includes memory, taste (in all senses of flavour/smell and aesthetics), associations, empathy and mimesis. Delvoye’s Cloacas fuse taste’s various meanings – who would visit an art museum to see and smell shit but those who have a highly refined sense of taste? The preoccupation of the broader culture with disgust suggests that it is as significant to the experience of spectatorship as desire. Think of the popularity of YouTube videos with titles such as ‘The 20 Disgusting Foods That People Actually Eat’ and ‘10 Disgusting Medical Treatments That Could Save Your Life’, ‘Hilarious Diarrhea Compilation’ and websites that host lists of the 10 most disgusting videos replete with maggots, pus and snot, a list that Kristeva and Mary Douglas both could relate to! This contemporary (yet perennially) popular interest in disgust is tinged with humour.The provocation to laugh and vomit are concurrent sensations generated in these examples of popular culture, and in gross-out comedy more broadly, demonstrating how humour is used to cope with threats, and to acknowledge and surmount limits. One way to understand the relationship between disgust and humour is through the concept of the carnivalesque, coined by Russian cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin in his influential book on the medieval era Rabelais and His World.29 Bakhtin’s ideas help us understand how the more grotesque aspects of humour operate through: the blurring of social hierarchies by focusing on ‘disgusting’ bodily functions; the inversion, if only temporarily, of social and cultural norms relating to gender, class, race and sexuality; and the potential of humour to show to us where power resides and how we might undermine it. Grotesque, overblown and ridiculous, the carnivalesque resides in the materiality of the body, its orifices and their functions: shitting, fucking, eating, birthing. The carnivalesque effects a return to the body away from the abstraction of spoken and unspoken rules and regulations that the state and culture imposes from above and outside the subject. It demonstrates that debasement has its pleasures, that being disgusting and wallowing and revelling in grotesquery is not necessarily a Kristevean experience of abjection but can be a profound gesture of freedom. Its essence might be captured by Trough Man, a legendary figure in Sydney’s gay party scene in the 1980s, who, rather than being out on the dance floor all night, spent his time lying in the urinals being pissed on and loving it.30 As with humour and disgust, the carnivalesque requires social hierarchy and the associated rules and codes of behaviour to counter. Ex-comedian, now communication and media professor Joanna R. Gilbert makes this point in considering the efficacy of comedy as social critique and change in the work of comics from marginalised communities: ‘Although the disruption, dislocation, and subversive potential of marginal humour make it a likely candidate for postmodern critique, humour requires a hierarchy in order to subvert a hierarchy.’31 Gilbert explains comedy’s peculiar position wherein a performer is permitted to say vicious, and outrageous things that in any other context would be deemed too offensive for a public audience:

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Humor is itself paradoxical. Because it functions as an ‘anti-rhetoric’, always disavowing its own subversive potential, humor provides the performer with a unique guarantee – the opportunity to critique with impunity. Ironically, it is precisely this feature of humor that ensures the ‘safety’ of the status quo; humor, no matter how subversive, will never be taken seriously.32 Humour further undermines its own subversion through its association with entertainment. I am particularly interested in this space in art, between humour, entertainment and aesthetics, and have explored it in a number of artworks. The video sculpture Big Head references and reimagines René Magritte’s 1945 painting Le Viol (The Rape) as ironic inspiration. I used localised video of segments of my body to stand in for the ‘face’ of Le Viol and constructed a totemic tower of televisions, with each screen a piece of the body-as-face. Periodically a real mouth would emerge from amongst the pubic hair smiling and sniggering, as the breasts/eyes wobbled and the navel/nose shifted at the end of the elongated hairy neck (one of my legs). Standing over three metres in height, constructed from bulky discarded flat-screen tube televisions, Big Head is more a totem: it had considerable physical presence, a vertical video sculpture. Rather than the screen acting as an invisible portal into the cinematic, in this work the screen/object functioned as the skin or body of the art object. Magritte’s painting can be analysed as a reflection on the violent erotics of an implied masculine vision as theorised by British feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey in her classic 1975 essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’.33 Big Head is intended to deflect the gaze back at the viewer and give agency to the much mediated, sexualised and represented form of the female body. In problematising the desire to be a spectacle, rather than simply condemning the politics of spectatorship, Big Head suggests it has a certain interiority and personality as it giggles and sniggers. It parodies Magritte’s violent and objectifying gaze, as the bushy sniggering mouth/vagina reminds us. It laughs at the supposed passivity of being ‘objectified’ as it asserts agency. Its formal fragmentation – in contrast to the coherence of Magritte’s painting – works against the idea of a dominant (read masculine and heterosexual) spectatorial position.

Such sweet vile relief The relationship between disgust and pleasure, where one is constructed through and in response to the other, reveals more of the complex nature of disgust. Disgust operates at the centre of cultural creation, delineating differences, marking out social practices, indicating hierarchy, power and social stratification. But as a marker of limits, disgust is on a continuum with other, positive effects, hence often a matter of degrees of intensity. As William Ian Miller noted in his 1997 book, The Anatomy of Disgust, sweetness can readily shift from pleasant to cloying, and may indicate the onset of putrefaction.34 Similarly Korsmeyer writes how ‘delicious’ can shift to ‘disgusting’, and that ‘disgusting’, counter-intuitively, can shift to the heights of

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cuisine, such as with ripe cheeses and ripe meats.35 This fine line is often invoked in experiences of disgust, and underlines the relationship of the visceral experience of tasting with the cultural phenomenon of taste. As Menninghaus points out: It [Ekel]36 stands with almost equal prerogatives, side by side with that other sphere of the disgusting that is rude, obscene, and sexually ‘perverse’, and hence an offense to ‘good taste’ – which, however, it still presupposes in the very act of transgressing it.37 As Korsmeyer argues, disgust does not operate outside contemplation and reflection: in fact, it relies on imagination. Disgust in the arts is rendered almost always as representation, and therefore is apprehended through those senses most closely associated with aesthetics – vision and hearing. Most artworks are not able to function in any ongoing manner with the senses we most closely associate with disgust: smell and tasting. Therefore, artworks that generate disgust must function through stimulating the imagination. The ‘paradox of aversion’38 Korsmeyer discusses is active in many forms of spectatorship and popular culture, such as para-cinema,‘mondo’ films and mythical snuff and scat films. Through aesthetic distancing we see the transformation of aversion into pleasure, or if not strictly ‘pleasure’ then surely a satisfaction of a desire. On a rollercoaster, this is the transformation of terror and fear into exhilaration, and in the apprehension of something that is repellent39 (most obviously the rotting corpse), the horror and revulsion might transform into contemplation and knowledge. US cultural theorist and feminist academic Sianne Ngai in her 2005 book, Ugly Feelings, considers disgust and its relationship to desire in contemporary critical theory. Similarly to Korsmeyer, Ngai argues that disgust is the ‘true Kantian sublime’, that in its irresistibility, disgust makes ‘outrageous claims for desirability’.40 Ngai makes the point that disgust is never vague, unlike desire, which can be amorphous and eccentric. ‘Disgust is urgent and specific; desire can be ambivalent and vague’.41 Similarly, through the French term jouissance US media studies academic Eugenia Brinkema rethinks the sensation of vomiting, not necessarily as an experience or bodily function in the negative, but for the relief it brings: ‘This is the particular perversion of disgust: in giving far too much enjoyment, it eats the conditions for the possibility of pleasure – in other words, […] disgust makes one desire to vomit.’42 Such sweet, revolting relief. In evoking disgust in creative works there is great potential for failure. The disruption of experience caused by revulsion might be too overwhelming. In the early 1990s I attended a screening in Sydney of Pier Paulo Pasolini’s 1975 film, Salò, which had for decades been banned in Australia. Many audience members were so repulsed, particularly by the shit eating scenes, they walked out or put coats over their heads: it was too much (though the shit looked very chocolaty!). Another shit eating cinema experience is of course Pink Flamingos, directed by US filmmaker John Waters in 1972. Unlike Pasolini’s film’s serious ideological intent, Pink Flamingos is absurd, high farce, camp. Its ‘moment of truth’ consists of the camera

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tracking a dog until it shits, and then capturing in the same take Divine scooping up the shit and eating it to prove herself ‘the filthiest person alive’. Unlike the fairly obvious ‘chocolate’ shit in Salò, Divine’s coprophagy is the real deal. These films prompt the question: why make creative works that sit on the cusp between revulsion and self-conscious badness and stupidity (Pink Flamingos), or between revulsion and ideology (Salò), with an undercurrent of humour (or its failure, the unfunny)? What kind of aesthetic space is opened up walking this tightrope between humour, disgust and failure? In the artwork Foam Rainbow, 2016, I parodied painting and performance in dialogue with Hans Namuth’s iconic film and photographs of Jackson Pollock’s ‘action’ painting.43 Foam Rainbow is a video sculpture made up of five large CRT televisions configured into an arc, or rainbow. Each screen features close-ups of my mouth spitting out coloured foam that then begins to form patterns on glass. In chewing Alka Selzer tablets until they foamed, then adding a few drops of food colouring before spitting it out onto a glass sheet, I was using a B-grade cinematic technique for making someone foam from the mouth.44 At first, the focus is on the act of spitting, with associated retching sounds. But gradually the focus shifts to what has been excreted, as the froth dissolves into a beautiful painting (Figure 12.2). Foam Rainbow brings together the high art (and tasteful!) motifs of action painting, the disgusting acts of foaming from the mouth and spitting, the kitsch of the rainbow, and the politics of the freedom flag. As the five videos loop on the screens, the images are difficult to read; it is only by watching a loop from start to finish that the image making process is discernible. The act of spitting is turned from a revolting public act into a method of painting, connecting the work back to action painting. Despite it being conceived as an exploration of disgust – spitting, retching and foaming at the mouth – humour – a lampooning of action painting – and failure – the crappy production values and the ‘failed female abstractionist’ – the work

FIGURE 12.2  Jane Polkinghorne, Foam Rainbow, Version 3. Video sculpture incorporat­ ing five CRT televisions, five videos, 2016

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is surprisingly beautiful. Foam Rainbow developed into an unexpectedly effective fusion of humour, disgust and failure in not being over-determined materially or formally. It is visceral and sculptural, pretty and revolting, and evocative of the aesthetic experiences analysed in this chapter. Foam Rainbow is alluring in its vibrant colours, yet the sound of spitting (at one point I vomited on to the glass when foam expanded rapidly in my mouth) corrupts its appealing visual aesthetic. Similarly to Big Head, the bare metal stand sits in counterpart to the floating videos, and the clunkiness of the large CRT televisions suspended in the stand. Foam Rainbow is situated at an unlikely intersection of aesthetic disjuncture – not cleverly constructed, low-tech in every aspect – yet it compels, repels and occasionally delights the audience.

Feeling failing British theatre and performance studies academic Sara Jane Bailes explores the generative and disruptive processes of failure particularly through slapstick in film. Using the term ‘Alogic’ she understands slapstick in its concrete effects and in its lack of intellectualisation, symbolism and allusion.45 The ‘gag’ in slapstick evolved from vaudeville, but has played a major role in the development of narrative cinema. In cinema, the gag allows narrative to re-set and restructure through interruption and subversion of order and hierarchy: ‘The economy of the gag, […] is emblematic of the thwarted attempt and functions as a mode of disruptive continuity wherein excess and uncertainty prevail over a cohesive outcome.’46 This is reminiscent of art writer Jörg Heiser’s argument that slapstick has been a primary mode for creative practices since the rise of modernism: slapstick is the method that saves art from becoming frozen in dogma and schools, including the dogma and schools of slapstick itself; the slapstick method addresses the fantasy of an automated, flexible, and accelerated life by making it halt and stumble.47 The sudden alteration in direction or meaning, the halting of one meaning and the insertion or beginning of another, or its utter dissolution, evidence the important functions of failure in cultural narratives. US artist and writer David Robbins views failure as a critique of contemporary Western culture’s ‘mania’ for the unassailability of success.48 For Robbins the fool’s role is to fail. According to Robbins, we have a sneaking suspicion of success; we sense the ‘ideology of success’ as a diminishment of our selves; deep down we understand that ideology is always a narrowing of possibilities, or the ‘forced march’49 of the zealot. Robbins claims we are sceptical of the boosterism of success, and that comedy allows us to acknowledge this without having to necessarily ­experience failure for ourselves. Robbins posits the body itself as central to this, as the body retains, despite our attempts to disguise it, fallibility and a lack of concern with success, what he calls ‘unselfconscious animality’. This is played out through

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the comedian’s ‘self-conscious animality […] a failed version of animality’,50 where the body is acknowledged both for its animality freed from the self-consciousness of being human and for its failure to be fully animal: Based to a significant degree on human folly, on getting things wrong, or at least ‘not right,’ comedy is very much about incorporating the potential for failure into one’s plans and actions.51 Using Robbins’ ideas, we can see that comedy, failure, and wrongness – including when embedded in a cultural artefact – are able to generate alternate ways of thinking. Failure, in other words, is generative. It disrupts and breaks the smooth progression of assumption, altering the future unexpectedly. Accidents will happen, and sometimes that’s pretty funny. When humour and disgust are activated by and within creative works, their seemingly contradictory operations (humour as overtly pleasurable, disgust usually… disgusting) generate a particularly potent experience. Humour utilises condensation of meaning, it disrupts a trajectory or narrative or expected outcome in ways that surprise us pleasurably. Disgust meanwhile can be horribly disruptive, and yet powerfully compelling. The confluences of disgust, humour and failure generate strangely pleasurable experiences. Working against the Kantian model of aesthetics as disinterested, disembodied and purely intellectual, I argue for the particularity of embodied aesthetics, and for the ways in which humour and disgust function through aesthetic modes. Rippling through our subjectivity, the sensations are felt as much as they are thought. As William Miller pointed out, transgression delights so much that even contemplating transgression (for example in jokes) is energising.52 Disgust brings particular acuity to aesthetic distinctions. British philosopher Colin McGinn suggested it is crucial in the formation of culture in his 2011 book The Meaning of Disgust.53 Used throughout modernity to distinguish art movements from one another, disgust via taste and style is peculiarly fixated on and through creative endeavours. However, its outright acknowledgement is rare in the aesthetic realm. Perhaps it is because, as Carolyn Korsmeyer reminds us: ‘Disgust profoundly recognizes – intimately and personally – that it is our mortal nature to die and to rot.’54 Keeping the discomfort of disgust at a remove allows us to continue in the face of our own dissolution and decay. Similarly to disgust, humour operates through transgressions, breaks and ruptures but in forms that deliver amusement rather than the nausea of disgust. Humour, like disgust, can be used to discriminate and to exclude. When humour is used to laugh at rather than with, its normalising social function is laid bare. However, in considering the relationship of Bakhtin’s carnivalesque to contemporary inversions, the impulse for returning to the materiality of life is not simply a sign of immaturity. Instead, I would argue that the denial of our material baseness has fused with high-end capitalism to forge a world in which we can buy a product marketed at women to stop their shit smelling called ‘You Go Girl’55 and a device,

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the ‘Freedom Wand’, to hold toilet paper so as to avoid the possibility of touching shit when wiping.56 Art is the space, place and experience in which consideration of any subject is possible. A long-standing understanding, as described most obviously by Kant, was that disgust was outside the aesthetic realm. However, contemporary writers such as Carolyn Korsmeyer, Winfried Menninghaus and Ian William Miller show the peculiarly rich dimensions of disgust. Siane Ngai writes on disgust as a sensation at the very limits of aesthetic consideration. She sees the complex interplay of those lesser emotions and sensations, her ‘ugly feelings’, as allowing a state of discomfit and bewilderment that, rather than being meaningless, instead foregrounds a space of indeterminacy that forces contemplation: ‘noncathartic feelings… could be said to give rise to a noncathartic aesthetic experience: art produces and foregrounds a failure of emotional release (another form of “suspended action”) and does so as a kind of politics’.57 Humour, disgust and failure are disruptive forces. When operating together in art they generate particular and compelling aesthetic experiences. Working with humour, disgust and failure unfolds multiplicity and disrupts the limits and clichés of gendered representations. The intertwining of these sensations cracks open the ambivalence of subjectivity in representation. Confronting and toying with embodiment, flailing around the murky borders of acceptable behaviour and actions, and transgressing because it is pleasurable, are vital and ridiculous functions of art. Contemporary art continues to be a fairly open arena within which the fluctuations of humour, disgust and failure can be investigated and briefly illuminated. There on the threshold of dissolution into laughter or revulsion we might catch a glimpse of the ambiguity of contemporary human life.

Notes 1 Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror an Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez, European Perspectives: A Series of the Columbia University Press (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982). 2 Joseph Henry provides a good analysis of the decomposition of Abject Art. Joseph Henry, ‘The Suffering Body of 1993:Whatever Happened to the “Abject” (Part I)’, Momus, 2015. 3 In 2014 an experiment was conducted in order to find if people distinguished between photographs framed as documentation of disgusting things and disgusting images framed as art. It concluded with ‘[…] framing effects are among the factors that might offer a psychological explanation of why aesthetic enjoyment and negative emotions do not exclude each other.’ V. Wagner, W. Menninghaus, J. Hanich, and T. Jacobsen, ‘Art Schema Effects on Affective Experience: The Case of Disgusting Images’, Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts 8, no. 2, 2014. 4 Germaine Greer explored the power of cunt in the BBC Two Series Balderdash & Piffle, 2006.Watch it here, from 25:19–35:23 min, www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMckJrxxY6I. A more recent short essay by Lindsay Zoladz in Bitch Magazine discusses the use of cunt in contemporary pop music. Lindsay Zoladz, ‘Never Said Nothing: A Brief History of “Cunt” in Pop Music’, Bitch Magazine, 23 February 2016. Available at: www.bitchmedia. org/article/never-said-nothing-0. 5 Hal Foster, The Return of the Real :The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996, 159.

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6 Sigmund Freud, ‘Humour’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud,Volume Xxi (1927–1931):The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Other Works, edited by James Strachey, London: Hogarth Press and Institute of PsychoAnalysis, 1961. 7 Michelle Meagher, ‘Jenny Saville and a Feminist Aesthetics of Disgust’, Hypatia 18, no. 4, Women, Art, and Aesthetics, 2003, 38. 8 Carolyn Korsmeyer, Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 90–91. 9 Ibid., 112. 10 Ibid., 72. 11 Ibid., 122. Aurel Kolnai quoted in Savouring Disgust, quoted from On Disgust, edited by Barry Smith and Carolyn Korsmeyer (Chicago: Open Court, 2004), 47. 12 Ibid., 123. 13 Ibid., 128. 14 Ibid., 126. 15 Ibid., 131. 16 Kristeva, 2. 17 Korsmeyer, 134. 18 Winfried Menninghaus, Disgust: The Theory and History of a Strong Sensation, Intersections (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003). 19 Ibid., 10–11. 20 By late 2015 Delvoye had produced 10 versions of the cloaca, ranging from ‘Mini’ to ‘Super’ in size, each with an associated logo based on well-known corporate identities such as Ford, Coca Cola, Chanel No.5 and Durex. 21 Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, ‘Australia’s Temple of Weird’ Slade (2015), www.slate. com/articles/news_and_politics/roads/2015/02/mona_tasmania_s_biggest_tourist_draw_is_a_controversial_museum_featuring.html. Accessed 6 November 2015. 22 On a visit to Cloaca Professional one of the invigilators said MONA was entitled to freeze-dry a few stools a year to sell as editions. Generally, the faeces were flushed down the toilet. In 2010 Christies auctioned a freeze-dried Cloaca Faeces for €7,500. www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/wim-delvoye-cloaca-5326539-details.aspx. 23 ‘Uncanny Valley’ is the sensation humans experience when encountering lifelike objects such as puppets and robots that mimic human appearance. It was first described by Japanese robotics engineer and designer Masahiro Mori as on a scale somewhere between revulsion and delight. James R. Hamilton, ‘The “Uncanny Valley” and Spectating Animated Objects’, Performance Research 20, no. 2, 2015, 60–61. 24 For an in-depth analysis of Bataille’s concept of base materialism read Benjamin Noys, ‘Georges Bataille’s Base Materialism,’ Cultural Values 2.4, 2011. 25 George Bataille was famously called an ‘excrement philosopher’ by Surrealist Andre Breton. For an in-depth analysis of Delvoye’s Cloaca series, read Chapter 10 of Isabelle Loring Wallace and Jennie Hirsh, Contemporary Art and Classical Myth (Farnham, Surrey; Burlington,VT: Ashgate, 2011). 26 Silvan Tomkins considered disgust, dissmell (smelling something that evokes disgust) and nausea as ‘signals and motives to others, as well as to the self, of feelings of rejection […] responses appropriate to a hierarchically ordered society’. Silvan S. Tomkins and E. Virginia Demos, Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan S. Tomkins, Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press; Paris: Editions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1995), 399–400. 27 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). 28 Kristeva. 29 M. M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984).

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30 A recent story on ABC Radio uncovered the man behind the legend.Viewed 20 May 2017. www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-09/in-search-of-trough-man-an-icon-of-sydneys1980s-gay-scene/8496200. 31 Joanne R. Gilbert, Performing Marginality: Humor, Gender, and Cultural Critique, Humor in Life and Letters Series (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2004),178. 32 Ibid., 177. 33 Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures, 2nd ed., Language, Discourse, Society (Basingstoke, England; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). 34 William Ian Miller, The Anatomy of Disgust (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 87. 35 Korsmeyer, 68. 36 ‘Ekel’ is the German word for disgust. 37 Menninghaus, 5. 38 Korsmeyer, 72. 39 So often we read news where a person is forced to witness the defilement of a loved one. Knowledge of the act is not enough; the witness must suffer the experience as well as the victim. 40 Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 334–335. 41 Ibid., 337. 42 Eugenie Brinkema, The Forms of the Affects (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2014), 128. Brinkema quotes Jacques Derrida, translated by R. Klein, Diacritics,Vol. 11, no. 2, ‘The Ghost of Theology: Readings of Kant and Hegel’, Summer 1981, 23. 43 Kent Mintum, ‘Digitally-Enhanced Evidence: Moma’s Reconfiguration of Namuth’s Pollock,’ Visual Resources, 17, no. 1, 2001. 44 I had used this same mouth-foaming technique in Headless, 1997, a Polk-a-Polk zombie film made with my brother. 45 Sara Jane Bailes, Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure: Forced Entertainment, Goat Island, Elevator Repair Service, Routledge Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies (London: Routledge, 2011), 40. 46 Ibid., 49. 47 Jörg Heiser, All of a Sudden:Things That Matter in Contemporary Art (New York: Sternberg Press, 2008), 273. 48 David Robbins, Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (Denmark: Author and Pork Salad Press, 2011), 291. 49 Ibid., 292. 50 Ibid., 294. 51 Ibid., 291. 52 Miller, 117–118. 53 Colin McGinn, The Meaning of Disgust (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 54 Korsmeyer, 178. 55 Originally a gender-neutral product, it was soon apparent to the manufacturer that overwhelmingly women were buying it. http://getyougogirl.com/. 56 Freedom Wand. www.activeforever.com/freedomwand-toilet-tissue-aid. 57 Ngai, 11.

13 SLIM EVIDENCE OF FAT FORTUNES Towards a gendered history of fat acceptance Robert Nelson

Introduction In a disquieting artist’s book called The Watchers, the American photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero walks in public places, applying sunscreen at the beach, talking on the phone in the street or consulting a map; we see her standing in a piazza with a board advertising ‘large sandwich + draught beer’; and sometimes she is eating something.1 Wherever she goes, she is a spectacle. Her assistant tails her, photographing the reactions of the passersby. In every image, she is scrutinized, judged, scorned, ridiculed. The reason for their derision is Morris-Cafiero’s figure. She is physically large and would commonly be described as obese. The book itself has extra layers of padding, with a spongy interlay between the hard covers and the skin, imitating subcutaneous fat. Interspersing the pictures are texts taken from social media, where members of the public have commented on Morris-Cafiero’s performances. For each expression of disgust, there is a statement of admiration for the artistic defiance of popular moral judgement. On one page we read, ‘Her body looks like a pillow case full of door knobs’; and on the other page, ‘You gave me a little bit of faith in me again’. Against ‘Personally I hate seeing fat people about, it’s vile’, we read: ‘I am so glad that your voice is part of the conversation about weight.’ The insults are aggressive and cruel: ‘Fat lump of lard. Stay off the donuts and go running. Makes me ill just looking at her.’ The apologias facing them are sometimes also uncomfortable but express insight with the sympathy: ‘You are brilliant and amazing and courageous and I wholeheartedly understand the intent of this project.’ Even describing Morris-Cafiero’s work as a project is empowering. Following the great catch-cry of Susie Orbach’s book from 1979, Fat is a Feminist Issue, her project is political. She uses her aesthetically transgressive body as resistance against globalized conformity. Fat – that is, the very fabric of our bodies – is moralized and triggering.2 ­Morris-Cafiero draws attention not just to the way that her corporal presence

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FIGURE 13.1 

Jodie Whalen, Positive/Negative. Positive/Negative. SD Video dual channel,


horrifies her spectators, but by quoting the contrasting posts, she identifies the unpleasant division within contemporary culture over fat. Social media are awash with polemic, on the one hand championing the fat-acceptance movement and, on the other hand, indignantly identifying obesity with rising public health costs, and blaming the indulgence of tubby people for the financial burden. There is apparently endless discussion about a rise in obesity, which is sometimes imputed to the variety or volume of foodstuffs or lack of exercise. These speculations and diatribes have milder counterparts throughout daily life, where foods are described on supermarket shelves by their implications for weight gain or loss. Moralizing body shape is not new and lies at the heart of nationalist aesthetic conceits, eugenics and beach culture3 and has special application to the self-image of women. It is difficult to be indifferent to the squeeze, because overweight is held to be bad for your health in a way that challenges resistance. As philosopher Talia Welsh puts it, ‘one can decide to refuse to wear high heels as an empowering act, but can one refuse to pursue good-health?’4 So the aesthetic intersects with medical claims, where fitness is equated both with virtue and beauty, making contemporary standards of beauty seem absolute, as if valorized by clinical evidence. If you are fat, you are considered a risk, if not actually sick. This chapter is agnostic over both clinical relations between weight and health and also how good looks align with either slimness or ampleness. Instead, it refers the pressure around body image to historical precedents. It seems difficult to imagine baroque men and women gawking at Rubens’ models in the same way that they scorn Morris-Cafiero. Certainly, there are matters of degree, which we will never sort out with accuracy; but perceptions of fat – even if clinical judgements can be absolute – are cultural, relative and gendered (Figure 13.1).

Fat and feminism Feminist theorists have long explained that concerns over fat are experienced more acutely among women than men. Beginning in earnest with Orbach’s call to arms Fat Is a Feminist Issue, the greater pressure on women to curate their bodies has been analyzed in detail, most notably by Susan Bordo in her monumental study Unbearable Weight from 1993,5 who also sums up past writings on the topic: ‘It has

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been amply documented that women in our culture are more tyrannized by the contemporary slenderness ideal than men are, as they typically have been by beauty standards in general.’6 Feminist approaches to fat could be categorized in five domains. First, there is a simple but powerful equity discourse. Women are punished more for their excess weight than men are.7 Second, there is resentment over the way that fat is medicalized, seen as a disorder without appeal to any physiological absolute but referred to a neurosis, a weakness of will, a psychological deficit, also implicitly more prevalent among women who are more concerned about their weight and appearance than men and therefore more vulnerable to unsustainable and ineffectual weight reduction programmes; so they are victims of both clinical judgement and aesthetic snake oil.8 Third, there is a question of the aesthetic basis of a target thinness. Are women encouraged to aspire to a male ideal – characterized by meaner subcutaneous layers that better reveal muscular articulation as well as physical capacity for strain – and therefore denying a naturally female body? Through slimness, women can take ‘on the accoutrements of the white, male world’.9 Fourth, fat is highly intersectional across class, race, age and genders; so what method helps us take cultural factors into account to avoid perpetuating mainstream white ideology?10 And fifth, writers have defended women’s determination to be thin wherever it is felt: the zeal, no matter how fitful or unsustainable or white or bourgeois, should not automatically be pathologized, as if exercise regimes are unnatural torture that force women into conformity with patriarchal standards. This case has been nicely constructed by the Australian scholar and aerobics enthusiast Tara Brabazon, who provides vivid imagery about the female solidarity in her favourite sport that is uniquely associated neither with balls nor men.11 Artists have increasingly explored these perspectives, from the candid self-portraiture of Jen Davis – using her bulky body to deconstruct the fake introspective archetype of beautiful model – to the critique of exercise regimes in the work of Jodie Whalen. Whalen’s performances and videos move between eating and pummelling her body at a gallery-as-gym, with repeated movements, either hectic or enervated, inducing fatigue in the viewer. In one video,Whalen performs her exercises to orders barked out by a militant coach, perhaps her personal trainer. This brawny greyhound of a man gets her to do apparently demeaning cardio drill; for example, at the end of a tether, like a clumsy toddler, she has to tug him across the floor. She is always lower, compromised and oppressed in these scenes, defeated, valiantly trying to surpass the last breathless effort but exhausted and dispirited beneath the strain (Figure 13.2). Whalen herself is not obese but of generous proportions; she would fit into a Rubens painting but not a contemporary fashion magazine. Up to a point, carrying extra kilos is not a health risk because, as Talia Welsh has pointed out, the definition of health must include the psychological dimensions of wellbeing, which may be served by sanguine eating rather than the punishment of ineffectual cardio and unpleasant diets that commit you to dissatisfaction and cause resentment over your own body. If you are alienated from your own body and ‘make the body an enemy to be conquered’,12 you are, in one sense, unhealthy, irrespective of a boastful BMI. Thus, while medical discourses seem to indicate an absolute, a standard of weight that equates with lower health risks, there is no absolute as to what constitutes

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FIGURE 13.2 

Jodie Whalen, When the Going Gets Tough. HD video single channel,

83 min, 2011

health for a given individual; and the jury has not returned a compelling clinical verdict over anyone with Whalen’s liberal figure. If the link between slimness and health is not scientifically absolute, it leaves the judgement of fat to cultural perceptions, which, however, would also allow us to go looking for absolutes. Through the anthropological record, we unconsciously strive to know what is natural. In Australia, especially, we look with awe upon the photographic evidence of wiry Indigenous physiques before the destructive effects of colonization; and this sense of an aesthetic benchmark of countless millennia hangs uncomfortably in the air. Even if the anthropological record identifies leanness with paleo-nature, the monitory ideal of a physiological golden age, with the authority of the primal, has unpalatable connotations of the noble savage. We therefore look to European preindustrial history for exemplars. Scholars have often noted that aesthetic standards have changed over time. Courbet’s beautiful picture The Bathers from 1853 gives ample historical approval of plump women with large buttocks.13 The standing figure is very wide by today’s standards; and, with theatrical gestures, she seems to connect with large women of the baroque tradition. Judging by her droopy clothes and scandalously dirty feet, Courbet’s bather is no aristocrat; she is nubile, however, with her youth revealed by dark hair and narrow waist. The sanguine Courbet seems to extol her body type, which, at a pinch, could be considered an exaggerated hourglass figure. If fat were more accepted in Courbet’s time, did it depend upon baroque precedent? How was it gendered in the past and what are its intersections with other fields of difference? How do we measure the prestige of fat?

How fat becomes a weighty art-historical question Baroque women, according to many painters, were buxom and ample of limb. Compared to the stereotypical standards of today’s ideal models, baroque convention supported a happy and inclusive body image which we might envy in our

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physiologically straitened age.The history of fat has engaged scholars for some time, though critical archaeological attention is far from exhaustive;14 and even though the theme of fat enjoys obvious relevance in literature from the popular to the scientific to cultural history,15 it seems somehow awkward and impenetrable in relation to art.The embarrassments extend to method. Do we admire the more relaxed BMI of renaissance and baroque models – as Kenneth Clark did in The Nude16 – or do we scorn it as an expression of aristocratic ostentation? We are reluctant to praise those more corpulent physiques, largely along ideological lines, with a suspicion over class and power relations in the ancien régime. How can it be that in an age of backward ideology, such commendable latitude prevailed? Since John Berger’s critique in Ways of Seeing from 1972, we would be more inclined to damn the old body aesthetics as further evidence of class difference and pride in plenty.The body that sports more flesh is seen as more boastfully well nourished but also more like property, the bigger the better; the more expansive, the richer is the owner. It belongs to art-historical folklore to say: Rubens painted big women because the abundance of flesh was a sign of wealth, comfort and privilege, with the assumption that food was scarce and only the rich had the opportunity to become tubby, whereupon they flaunted their cellulite as the incarnation of class swagger.17 The happy corpulence symbolizes wealth and standing, and it would be deluded to regard it as progressive.

Four reasons against received wisdom Contrary to the received wisdom, it can be shown that, first, fat people in literature tend not to be the most privileged but occupy either a middle or mediocre social rank, as in Shakespeare’s ‘my maid’s aunt, the fat woman of Brentford’.18 Second, overeating has consistently been stigmatized, along with greed.19 Third, the prowess of agile bodies has been extolled aesthetically since Greece, while dysfunctionally fat bodies have been deprecated, and not just in men whose physique should align with military fitness, hence Shakespeare’s disapproval of Falstaff ’s fat along the lines of capability: ‘Why, you are so fat, Sir John, that you must needs be out of all compass’.20 Fourth, however – and this is the rub – fat itself is an inscrutable tissue in the scheme of values. Fat outside the body is generally valued. It was sustaining and a sign of providence, that very boon which in biblical times the Pharaoh offers Joseph : ‘ye shall eat the fat of the land’.21 In ancient Greek, there is a bewildering variety of words describing fat. It was a large part of the economy, both dietary and sacredly symbolic (as with ἄλειφαρ, an unguent, anointing oil, oil or fat; cf. ἄλειμμα) in a way that Joseph Beuys still echoed in the later twentieth century. To separate fat outside the body from fat inside the body was historically assumed to be necessary. It belongs to the period of modernism to believe that there is a direct equation of the two. During the anti-fat campaign 1960–2015, it was assumed that eating fat will make you fat, as if the fat, once being ingested, penetrates the membranes of the gut and installs itself in unwanted locations. But earlier vocabularies reveal that there was little confusion of the two kinds of fat, anticipating, in an uncanny way, the contemporary challenge to

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modernist cardiac wisdom that fat is fundamentally pernicious, when we are more inclined to believe today that eating fat (which is satiating) is likely to cause you less harm – and to contribute to the waistline less – than eating sugar.

The swelling vocabulary of fat in ancient Greece Ancient Greek conceptions are sometimes technical but often generic or metaphoric, as in the Septuagint, where the word (μυελον) refers to very soft marrow for uses such as ‘the fat of the land’; though the same word can turn up to describe a bottom, meaning soft and plump. It belonged to husbandry to fatten animals (κατα πιαίνω, χορτάζω) so that the beast is fatted or ‘grassed’, for which there are at least three ancient words of unrelated derivation (βοσκάδιος, λαρινός, κονάριχον).22 Fat itself goes by such wonderful names (δημός, πῖαρ) as well as specific animal terms (the one with the greatest afterlife being λίπος – continued in chemical names and liposuction – meaning animal fat, lard or tallow; or στέαρ, hard fat or suet; or πιμελή, soft fat, perhaps lard at the harder end) which do not equate with oil. There is even a word for the steam-borne grease and odour of fat (κνῖσα), from which one arrives at fat-hunter (κνισοδιώκτης) or a lover or licker of fat (κνισο λοιχός). There are physiological words, like having a portly tummy or pot-belly (γάστρων; cf. ὀνόγαστρις, having a fat paunch, or προγάστωρ, having a distended belly) or fat about the kidneys (περίνεφρος). Using prepositions, there are fine degrees of describing corpulence: one can be exceedingly fat (ὑπέρπαχυς or super thick like the German dick = thick but also fat), somewhat fat (ὑπόπαχυς), rather fat (ὑπολίπαρος) or again somewhat fat but with a different root (ὑποπίμελος), though these adjectives tend to apply to food rather than people.23 Greek aesthetics, as so many marbles from the archaic period to early Hellenistic times testify, is about moderation. Even Herakles, before the period of the Farnese Hercules in Rome,24 is depicted not as a muscle-bound hulk but a lithe athlete of excellent proportions. There are no fat people in sculpture until the period of the Drunken Silenos in the Louvre (c. second century BC); and this wobbly chap is telling because, with his breasts and booze, he is happily comic.25 Wherever fat appears in Greek vase painting, it belongs to the comic stage, because comic theatre loves ‘characters’, people with a distinctive gait on account of some imperfection. Being fat means having a fat persona.

Fat inside the body and outside the body The rich vocabulary of ancient Greek should not be read as evidence of obsession but rather fine degrees of perception and function. The discourse is not necessarily moralized but factual; and, insofar as agonies attend, they are logical. It is bad to be greedy, but it is understandable to be hungry, and for appetite to exceed necessity. In relation to fat as a substance outside the body, it is correctly seen as food that feeds us: it facilitates life. However, when we grow fat, the burden may also retard us and so expresses a less-than-optimal efficiency, perhaps suggesting complacency

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or, contrariwise, embodying a neurotic management of desire, where great luxury – though sought by instinct – makes for unwanted softness and reduces the virility that was admired throughout antiquity. While every shade of covetousness is expressed in antiquity with a stigma to measure – escalating in the times of the New Testament26 – the bewildering lexicon of deviance in appetite testifies to much curiosity over the struggle of consumption. Fat itself oscillates in European estimation, which was later cemented by the fact that modern languages collapsed fat in the kitchen (lard, cream, oil) with fat in humans (corpulence, tubbiness), as in our own word ‘fat’, German Fett and romance words like grasso. In former ages, as people were used to preparing meat from carcasses, the awareness that tubby bodies are themselves enlarged with fat would have been strong. The link explains how, in a gruesome and melancholy story, the fourteenth-century Boccaccio saw the basil growing from the pot with extra vigour, because the soil was fat with Lorenzo’s decomposing head inside it, which made the basil become beautiful and odoriferous.27 So the fat goes in a cycle: Lisabetta – Lorenzo’s lover before he was murdered – can eat the basil that the brains and skin of Lorenzo nourish, anticipating the fatalistic pessimism of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who says that ‘we fat ourselves for maggots’28 and observes that ‘Fat Falstaff sweats to death, / And lards the lean earth as he walks along’, as if the fat oozes out of him through engorged sweat glands to reverse the way it entered him through the stomach.29 Falstaff himself describes a transition of shifting fat from inside the body to outside the body: ‘they would melt me out of my fat, drop by drop’30 and Shakespeare also describes ‘you fat and greasy citizens’,31 meaning both fat inside and outside the body.

Neurotic signs of fat as unstable This ambiguity – fat as a characteristic of humans and fat as a vital foodstuff – reinforced the archaic ambivalence over fat as something both good and bad; it is an expression of bounty and plenty, like the cream on the milk, a luxury;32 but luxuries in excess can also be morally rotten, whence they attract disapproval.33 Fat was also identified with laziness, which is echoed in neo-Stoic writers like Montaigne, who describes topographies that induce idleness if they are fat and fertile.34 It even occurs to him to denounce Cicero who had a debonair nature, as fat people often do (comme sont volontiers les hommes gras), but he was soft and vain.35 Fat was never a sumptuary privilege – as with certain colours, textiles and design of clothing – which was reserved for nobility.You cannot be flogged for being fat. But you can exceed your station by being greedy. In a chilling narrative by Bandello of the sixteenth century, we hear of four men who are punished for being great gluttons, whatever that means: in all events, they are given four strokes of the rope for their healthy appetite.36

Fat as immoral Religious institutions might possibly have entertained special sensitivity over fat, as already appears in the fourteenth-century Boccaccio. The spectacle of fat priests

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was persistently seen as shameless, infamy of the wasted world (vitupero del guasto mondo). They are not ashamed to appear fat, flushed in the face, sweaty under their garments, their cells swollen with precious condiments, perfumes and wines. They have gout.37 These judgements are echoed in other writers of the fuller renaissance, like Alberti in the fifteenth century, who produces an invective against indulgent priests in Della Famiglia. Certain priests are extremely avid (cupidissimi) and vie with one another not on proper virtues or reading but who can outdo the others (soprastare) in pomp and ostentation. They want the largest number of plump and liveried cavalcades; they want to go out in public with a great army of parasites; and together they cultivate desires by too much idleness (per troppo ozio) that are lascivious, audacious and rash. They are without boundaries (incontinentissimi) and, with neither saving nor accumulation (risparmio o masserizia), they only care about satisfying their stimulated appetites (incitati apetiti), later described as filthy (sporcissimi). To feed their lust and vice they burn with a marvellous malice and have perpetual competition and division in the house. In their obscene and dishonest life, besieged by wasters and wicked sycophants (perditissimi e sceleratissimi assentatori), the expenses are greater than the income. Thus, it seems befitting to them to be rapacious elsewhere; but when it comes to decent spending for the assistance of the family or friends and to bring relatives to a fair and honourable state, they are inhuman, tight (tenacissimi), late and miserly.38 The tradition of satirizing fat priests continues with the renaissance poet Boiardo, whose Ranaldo recalls a frate who preached the goodness of abstinence in light words where meanwhile he was so pudgy and fat (sì panzuto e tanto grasso) that he could hardly lift his own steps.39 This big oaf of a priest (fratacchione) praises fasting with an engorged body and only has devotion in his eyes.40 In a later canto, one observes that fat is somewhat unbecoming and the object of female disapproval.41 But in clergy, it seems especially ridiculous, as with the comic Abbot who is also the almoner and chaplain of Charlemagne: his mule was fat but he was fatter, so paralyzed by the fear of dying that he stood still and could not even flee.42

Fat as charm and joviality But for Bandello, the sixteenth-century Milanese novelliere who was also a priest, the fatness of a cleric is seen as somewhat endearing. He describes the Pope’s discretion to appoint one frate Michele Carcano, a Milanese gentleman in the Franciscan order: he was so fat and rotund (cosí grasso e corpulento) that by one consent he was no longer called fra Michele but frate Michelaccio (hulking father Mick).43 And in Shakespeare, too, one can swear ‘by the bare scalp of Robin Hood’s fat friar’, as if a byword in happy independence and integrity.44 Fat is condemned only if it is linked to some vice, like laziness. Alberti deplores people who are empty of exercise, inert and idle, affirming that idleness is the wet nurse of the vices (l’ozio si è balia de’ vizii), waiting to get fat (ingrassare), where it would be better to fatten a pig45 which would at least yield something useful. Alberti also links fat with laziness in women, saying that women are best when neither too skinny nor too burdened with fat (troppo incarco di grassezza), which makes

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them sluggish (pigre) to conceive. To be just right and not too thin (svelte) but very ample in all the members appears to be the ideal.46 Insofar as there is an aesthetic dimension to the correct prescription for fat, the formula follows the Aristotelian mean – neither too much nor too little – but it is notable that the happiest condition which is imagined to be in the centre is nevertheless ‘very ample’ (molto ampia). It seems that painters from Raphael onward would concur, as in his Veiled Lady in the Pitti, which shows a woman without visible clavicle.47 If you are quick-witted, you will get away with your fat. The condition can be funny, benignly the butt of jokes. An example celebrated by Castiglione as a sign of uncanny wit is an obese man (corpulento), Galeotto da Narni, who visits Siena, where he is insulted by someone on the street: hey, most people wear their knapsack on their back; you’re wearing yours in front (meaning a beer-belly). Not short of a comeback, da Narni replies: ‘that’s what you do in a region full of thieves’.48 Castiglione believed that women need to apply themselves to beauty more than men and if they are a bit too fat or a bit too skinny (un poco più grassa o più magra del ragionevole), they should maximize whatever advantages with clothing (aiutarsi con gli abiti) to compensate; however, he adds that this should be done as dissimulatingly as possible, never showing any signs of study or diligence.49

Fat and gender inverted In renaissance poetic allegory, like those that pepper Ariosto’s epic, fat was associated with slowness50 and idleness and sloth to the point of not being able to hold a course on foot.51 Perhaps that is because the expectation in the epic was built around fighting men, where excess kilograms might, at a certain point, compromise martial agility. Men need weight to fight but the weight needs to consist of muscle, to indicate capability and indeed to provide force in a sustained effort. By ancient convention, and as acknowledged by Susan Bordo, beauty is gendered and a certain amount of it bypasses men. But the figure, as opposed to face, was more a concern among men than women, whose fashions in any case allowed for brutal squeezing into the requisite shape. According to Plato in a liberal interpretation by Montaigne, physical beauty in men consists only in their figure. In women, it is a big deal to have regular white teeth, small ears and mouth, a high and round forehead, a medium-sized nose and the right tint in the face; not even the size and proportion of the body can make a man beautiful – only a strong and bunched figure (la taille forte et ramassée), and the face should not be fat but full (non pas gras, mais plein).52 Men have to be rugged but not ripped.To cultivate this figure, Plato must do physical work, and when asked why he labours thus, he replies that he is paying the price for his ugliness. The thought sounds more early modern than antique. We observe throughout the Shakespearean corpus that fat is made light of but is associated with neither virtue nor high class. The great antihero of tubber, ‘Fat Falstaff ’, that pharaoh of fat, is forever ‘the poor unvirtuous fat knight’, ‘this old fat fellow’, who totters between disgrace and endearment, ‘the fat knight with the great belly doublet. He was full of jests, and gipes, and knaveries, and mocks’.53 He is perhaps the

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male literary equivalent of Quinten Massys’ Old Woman (The Ugly Duchess) in the London National Gallery. Alas, the physiognomy is indefensible – ‘you fat fool! I scorn you’ – and Falstaff in the end is doomed. His companions discredit ‘ye fat paunch’;54 his Prince despises ‘the likeness of an old fat man, – a tun of man is thy companion… that trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend Vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years? Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it?’55 Still, it is hard not to extend sympathies to Falstaff, because he reflects humanity in its intimate inclusiveness: ‘banish plump Jack, and banish all the world’; even if ‘he hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his’.56 In women, fat may also be grotesque: ‘There’s an old woman, a fat woman, gone up into his chamber’; ‘Ha! a fat woman? The knight may be robbed.’ And then: ‘Ask Marian Hacket, the fat ale-wife of Wincot, if she know me not’.57 A fat ale-wife: the phrase alone suggests perhaps that the rolls and dimples in the flesh are not a sign of prestige. The ale-wife might still be admirable and lovely and the poet does not discredit her physique. It is just that she is clearly not an aristocrat. Shakespeare must have recognized that hunger makes for a hunting disposition, much exercise and therefore lean bodies; and meanwhile the pen or stall makes you ‘As fat as tame things’.58 There is no admirable vigour in being a writer. In general, Shakespeare is not impressed with gluttony, and associates ‘the devil Luxury, with his fat rump and potato finger’ with lechery.59 Although fat is sometimes associated with the plenty with which nobility can avail themselves, there is a tone of disdain in indulgence, even with majesty and even when metaphoric: it was a mistake that Julius Caesar ‘grew fat’ with ‘your fine Egyptian cookery’.60 But although Shakespeare mentions fat in relation to aristocracy – ‘your fat king and your lean beggar’61 (which can also be metaphorical) – he never valorizes it along class lines and is more likely to associate it chauvinistically with the working class. The poor, indeed, may end up with fat smeared over body and clothing through working in the scullery, as with the degree zero of prestige in the kitchen-wench, and all grease; and I know not what use to put her to, but to make a lamp of her and run from her by her own light. I warrant, her rags, and the tallow in them will burn a Poland winter: if she lives till doomsday, she’ll burn week longer than the whole world.62 With racist as well as classist overtones, this woman is ‘Swart, like my shoe; but her face nothing like so clean kept: for why? she sweats, a man may go over shoes in the grime of it’.63

Fat from seduction to reason As a lubricant, fat could be used for male masturbation, where it features in a comic novella of Bandello as the engorged member is larded (quella di grasso ungeva) in

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order to return the swelling part to a floppy condition; though this treatment is rated as inferior to the effect of a willing vagina.64 There are other lubricious suggestions in the image of fat, a voluptuous substance, as insinuated in Shakespeare’s obscure line: ‘and yet is she a wondrous fat marriage’, which possibly means good in bed. Antipholus has to ask directly : ‘How dost thou mean? – a fat marriage?’65 but he does not get a straight answer. In fat, there is always a suggestion of hedonistic indulgence, as in the typically pudgy figure of Dionysus, whose paunch might be described as fat as much as his liquor which distils it: ‘Come, thou monarch of the vine, / Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne! / In thy fats our cares be drown’d’,66 where tellingly, there is overlap between the corpulence of the god and the alcohol that arguably causes it, a prescient connexion given that the two are related as kindred suspect hydrocarbons. But the equivalence is not flattering beyond the irony. The mere fact that Shakespeare speaks of ‘Fat paunches’ is unedifying:67 they go with ‘lean pates’, meaning, I imagine, the baldness associated with middle age in men. There is no class basis that redeems them, unless they are charming in any circumstance. Fat remained the subject of gentle criticism in the eighteenth century, where it was only judged harshly if it was felt to be a sign of indulgence. Even for Goldoni, whose antipathy to waste and profligacy inspired so many satirical plays, fat was no big deal. For him, beauty was relative. What one calls beautiful is sometimes a pale face, sometimes a brown one; eyes can be esteemed beautiful because coloured or deepest dark, sometimes because sparkling and sometimes because pathetic... some enjoy fat and others want skinny.68 True to this philosophy, one of his male protagonists affirms that too much fat disgusts me (el troppo grasso me stomega) in a list of desirable qualities; but Goldoni subtly denounces the view with a female character who replies that it would be difficult to find all of these advantages united in one person.69 The tone is rational but the argument accepts that reactions to fat are a matter of the affections. Most of the men, but none of the women, in baroque painting would be accepted in a contemporary fashion magazine. The dramatic characters in history painting, the lords and ladies in portraits and the holy protagonists of sacred pictures cover a variety of physiques, from muscular to elegant to corpulent. Women are never thin, and least of all in the belly. Putting the pictures together with the literature, we could conclude with a strong contrast to our own epoch: renaissance and baroque standards were much more liberal, much more accepting of fat and more relaxed about justifying it. In art history we make theories that flatter our own epoch and especially the progressive element within it. So, it is unappealing to observe that baroque attitudes to fat – fashioned in such an aristocratic aesthetic regime – were healthier than ours.We have an incentive to denigrate the reason for chubby bodies of the period, even though they reveal greater liberality than our epoch can celebrate. Admittedly, fat in the baroque, as in most ages, could be seen as ludicrous if it gets in the way; but even this disparagement at the extreme suggests a light-hearted and happy basis, as if fat is no big deal, even if greed is anxiously controlled.

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The pictorial virtue of fat in composition In explaining the baroque aesthetic, it makes sense to refer to the aesthetic proper, rather than confining the inquiry to moral attitudes to fat. There are also pictorial values that might be clinched with larger expanses of flesh, where the greater linearity of slim bodies might not have fitted so well with the technique and compositional emphasis of the artist. One has only to think of Picasso’s bodies in the 1920s: the pictorial clout of his pictures is partly owing to the corporal bulk of his models. These intuitions are difficult to prove by visual analysis but that does not mean that they are not necessary and reflect pervasive aesthetic habits in our chosen periods of inquiry. Just as baroque painters relished folds, awkwardly celebrated by Gilles Deleuze,70 they loved large swelling or volumetric shapes, nothing too graphic or circumscribed by line but nicely padded and bouncy. Bigger bodies go with boofy landscape, billowing clouds, rich hair, silver and gold goblets, things of substance caught in a low light that flatters their bulk: such was the pictorial language of the age. A figure which seems somewhat to transgress his or her lineaments is ideal in an atmospheric sense, as if with a translucent adipose layer that entertains the surrounding air with a slightly fluffy softness. The richness of the surface enhanced by the softness of the padding may give some credence to Kenneth Clark’s admiration for Rubens’ bodies as ‘plump and pearly’.71 They are clever words. The baroque bodies are not just big but luminous, nacreous, light-holding. To paint generously proportioned bodies is potentially more challenging but rewarding, not because the thicker limbs are harder to draw but that the outer layer invites a brushy sympathy with the spongier looser texture. The curiosity for more ample proportions, especially in women, served the purpose admirably, enhancing the monumentality of soft and sensual forms but also drawing out their sympathies with the light that strikes them and the very brush that created them. These formal, process-oriented considerations ultimately carry more weight than commonly accepted theories about class and wealth.

Conclusion Considering the weight of evidence, where male bodies in the museum are so much more acceptable to contemporary taste than historical female bodies, this chapter has argued that the greater inclusiveness of renaissance and baroque ideal bodies cannot be explained by fat as a sign of wealth and privilege.Wider or heavier bodies were not regarded as a sign of prosperity; if anything, they were seen as compromised, albeit in an endearing way. Fat is seldom related to affluence or standing and could, at times, be associated with lack of restraint, waste and selfishness. The relative sympathy to fat in baroque visual culture should not be dismissed along ideological lines, as if artists were simply celebrating aristocratic privilege. Plumper bodies were valued by painters for their pictorial properties, which belong to a whole generosity of stylistic attributes that characterize the flamboyancy and richness of baroque visual rhetoric. These historical approaches are instructive for contemporary representations of fat and its feminist critiques.

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Notes 1 Haley Morris-Cafiero, The Watchers, The Magenta Foundation, Toronto, 2015 (with essays by Michaela Cornell and Doug Wallace). 2 From various perspectives, including the clinical, e.g. A Jutel, ‘Weighing Health: The Moral Burden of Obesity’, Social Semiotics, vol. 15, issue 2, 2005, pp. 113–125 (Special Issue: Thinking fat); P Campos et al. ‘The Epidemiology of Overweight and Obesity: Public Health Crisis or Moral Panic?’, International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 35, issue 1, 2006, pp. 55–60; K Daneski, P Higgs and M Morgan, ‘From Gluttony to Obesity: Moral Discourses on Apoplexy and Stroke’, Sociology of Health & Illness, vol. 32, issue 5, pp. 730–744, July 2010. 3 According to one journalist of the 1930s, young women may become ‘bronze Venuses, with ozone in their nostrils, and vitality in their constitutions… to be the robust mothers of the vigorous race which is to hold white Australia against all comers’, quoted in Wendy Garden, On the Beach, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington, 2015. 4 Talia Welsh,‘Unfit Women: Freedom and Constraint in the Pursuit of Health’, Janus Head, vol. 13, issue 1, Spring 2014, p. 58. 5 Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993. 6 Ibid., p. 204. 7 Joan C. Chrisler, ‘“Why Can’t You Control Yourself?” Fat Should Be a Feminist Issue’, Sex Roles, vol. 66, issue 9, May 2012, pp. 608–616. 8 Abigail Saguy, ‘Why Fat is a Feminist Issue’, Sex Roles, vol. 66, issue 9, May 2012, pp. 600–607. 9 Bordo, op. cit. p. 209. 10 Janna L. Fikkan and Esther D. Rothblum, ‘Is Fat a Feminist Issue? Exploring the Gendered Nature of Weight Bias’, Sex Roles, vol. 66, issue 9, May 2012, pp. 575–592. 11 Tara Brabazon, ‘Fitness is a Feminist Issue’, Australian Feminist Studies, vol 21, issue 49, 2006, pp. 65–83. 12 Talia Welsh, ‘Unfit Women: Freedom and Constraint in the Pursuit of Health’, Janus Head, volume 13, issue 1/ Spring 2014, p. 59. 13 Musée Fabre, Montpellier. 14 Mark Bradley, ‘Obesity, Corpulence and Emaciation in Roman Art’, Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 79, November 2011, pp. 1–41, who surveys material from the Hellenistic period to the late empire and argues that the theme ‘remains almost completely unexplored’, despite its topical character in sociology, anthropology and medical science. 15 Such as A. S. Beller, Fat and Thin. A Natural History of Obesity, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1977; Hillel Schwartz, Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat, New York: Free Press, 1986; Peter N. Stearns, Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West, New York: NYU Press, 2002; Sander L. Gilman, Fat: A Cultural History of Obesity, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2008. 16 See Richard Klein’s evocative analysis in Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBescop, eds. Bodies out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001, p. 32. 17 For example, Hugo Grinebiter: ‘It was all about conspicuous consumption; and so were the feminine waistlines. Women were not painted as corpulent because the men of that period found fat broads sexy; they were painted that way because the bourgeoisie wanted to show off how much they could afford to eat – how far they had come from their starveling ancestors in what was after all a rather challenging physical environment (cold and waterlogged). Just like today in poor African cultures, being fat was a statement of wealth.The men gained status by having fat wives, and the women gained status by being fat wives.’ However, Grinebiter does concede: ‘Such display is only interesting coming from the nouveaux riches, for the aristocracy would not consider being able to eat well a fact worth remarking on; and in the late middle ages, when the artistic patrons were royals and nobles, the ideal female figure was indeed slim, small-breasted and elegant.’ 18 Merry Wives of Windsor 4.2.

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19 e.g. lumped with avarice (un avaro o vero un goloso), Matteo Bandello, Novelle 1.2 or every vice together and worse than Jews: ‘usurari, adulteri, concubinarii, invidiosi, iracondi, golosi, seminatori di risse e di discordie, nodritori di guerre civili, nemici del ben publico, parziali, omicidiari e peggio che giudei’, ibid. 1.29. 20 1 King Henry IV 3.3. 21 Genesis 45.18, ‘μυελον της γης’ in the Septuagint, literally soft marrow. Most cultures have prized fat lands and make it their business to colonize them, as in Boiardo’s epic which takes us to the fat planes of rich France, Orlando Inamorato 6.50.1–4; cf. Ariosto, Orlando Furioso 17.4.7–8, 40.31.1–4. 22 All Greek words have been taken from Liddell Scott Jones, A Greek Lexicon, where definitions and places are given s.v. 23 LSJ svv. Alongside this collection, one could assemble an equally impressive vocabulary of gluttony (ἀδηφαγία, βρογχοπαράταξις, which is competitive gluttony, γαστριμαργία, κατοψοφαγία, which is a ruinous gluttony, λαφυγμός, λαιμαργία, λείν, λιχνεία, which separately amount to a kind of luxuriousness in eating, μαργοσύνη and τενθεία) as opposed to conceptions around greed in general or covetousness for anything that can be possessed (ἁρπαλέος, ἀπληστία, which is insatiate greediness, αἰσχροκερδής, which is sordidly greedy for gain, δωρολήπτης, κερδαλεόφρων, κερδία, λαίμαργος, ὀξύπεινος, περιδαρδάπτω, πλεονεξία, φιλοκέρδεια, φιλοκτέανος), though there is a whole further category describing over-eager oral consumption (ἐγκάπτω, which is gulping down greedily, ἐμφόρησις, λαφύσσω, ῥοφέω).There is even a word for having the mouth open for the purpose (χανδόν). 24 Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. 25 As with the drunken Silenus on a Roman sarcophagus in the Antalya Archaeological Museum. 26 Ephesians 4.19. 27 ‘sì per la grassezza della terra procedente dalla testa corrotta’, Decameron 4.5. 28 Hamlet 4.3; cf. the round-about anthropophagy: ‘a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar’, loc. cit. 29 1 King Henry IV 2.2. 30 1 King Henry IV 1.3. 31 As You Like It 2.1. 32 ‘fat and plenteous’, Isaiah 30.23. 33 ‘I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment’, Ezekiel 34.16. 34 ‘Comme nous voyons des terres oysives, si elles sont grasses et fertilles’, Essais 1.8; he also describes how Cyrus did not want the Persians to abandon their harsh lands to adopt a fatter lusher terrain, because it would make them soft: fertile lands make infertile spirits (les terres grasses et molles font les hommes mols, et les fertiles les esprits infertiles), Essais 2.12. He admires Pliny for counselling Cornelius Rufus to give up his fulsome and fat retreat and get to work with some hard study (pleine et grasse retraicte), Essais 1.39. 35 Essais 2.10. In relation to our bodies, fat is unstable flesh, attractive up to a point but a little disgusting to some, like Job, ‘Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks’ (Job 15.27). On the one hand, it is good to be ‘fat and flourishing’ (Psalms 92.14); but to be ‘inclosed in their own fat’ (Psalms 17.10) is associated with ungodly pride. At an extreme, one describes how Eglon was so fat (Judges 3.17) that when Ehud plunged the dagger into his belly, ‘the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly’ (3.22). 36 Novelle 3.41. 37 Decameron 7.3. 38 Della Famiglia 4. 39 Orlando Inamorato 9.33.7. 40 Orlando Inamorato 9.34. 41 ‘Egli è ben grasso’, Boiardo, Orlando Inamorato 18.39. 42 Orlando Inamorato 24.33. 43 Bandello, Novelle 3.28.

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44 Two Gentlemen of Verona 4.1. 45 Alberti, Della Famiglia 1, towards end. 46 Alberti, Della Famiglia 2. 47 Donna Velata, 1513–1514, Palazzo Pitti, Florence. 48 Cortegiano 2.60. 49 Cortegiano 3.8. 50 Orlando furioso 6.63. 51 ‘l’Ozio da un canto corpulento e grasso, / da l’altro la Pigrizia in terra siede, / che non può andare, e mal reggersi in piede’, Ariosto, Orlando Furioso 14.93. 52 Essais 2.17. 53 King Henry V 4.7. 54 1 King Henry IV 2.4. 55 1 King Henry IV 2.4. 56 2 King Henry IV 2.1. 57 Merry Wives of Windsor 4.5. 58 The Winter’s Tale 1.2. 59 Troilus and Cressida 5.2. 60 Antony and Cleopatra 2.6. 61 Hamlet 4.3. 62 The Comedy of Errors 3.2. 63 The Comedy of Errors 3.2. 64 Novelle 2.59. 65 The Comedy of Errors 3.2. 66 Antony and Cleopatra 2.7. 67 Love’s Labour’s Lost 1.1. 68 Whether women are more admirable for beauty or grace: Ottave e canzonette di Tonino. 69 Il Poeta Fanatico 3.11. 70 See my critique of Le pli, ‘Semiotic History of the Fold (Deleuzions of Grandeur)’, Agenda Contemporary Art Magazine, Issue 33, September 1993, Supplement Dossier on Gilles Deleuze, pp. 27–30. 71 Richard Klein in Jana Evans Braziel, Kathleen LeBescop, eds. Bodies out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001, p. 32.

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abject in art 5, 157–8, 160 Aboriginal art see Indigenous art Aboriginal Australia (1981) 38 Aboriginal Memorial,The (1987–1988) 43–4 Abramović, Marina 98 Abyss (Salcedo) 107 activism 9, 12, 17–18, 19, 87–9 Adams, Jude 11 aesthetics: of body shape 184; disgust as 157–8, 161–3, 165, 166, 167–8, 169–70; Greek 178; relational 152–3; in sensing the world 136–7 affirmative actions 9, 15, 16, 18–19 afterlife (Cavaliere) 101 Ahmed, Sarah 151–2 AIDS Memorial Quilt project 110–11 Alberti, Leon Battista 180 Alcoff, Linda Martin 134 Al Saji, Alia 134–5, 136, 141 Anangua artists 48, 49 ANKA 19 anti-monuments 105–7 appetite 178–9 appropriations 11, 28–9, 50–1 Apter, Emily 96 art centres: coordinators at 43–5, 47–51; curatorial practices 40–1, 45–7 art coordinators 43–51 art institutions: as advocacy platform 18, 87–9; transformation 9, 10, 16, 19; university art museums 35–6; women and Indigenous artists in 1, 3, 5, 11–12, 15–16, 39, 45, 49, 52 art production: social engagement in 79–80 art scholarship 2–4, 8, 16

Artbank 100 Australian Centre for Photography 26, 35 Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work (1907) 10–11 Australian Indigenous policies 12, 58 Australian multiculturalism 128–9 autoethnographies 70–1, 72 Avoca civic gardens 33–4 Baby Things (Temin) 106 Bachelard, Gaston 97 Bailes, Sara Jane 168 Bakhtin, Mikhail 164, 169 Bal, Mieke 107 Balkan wars 118–19, 120–1 Bandello, Matteo 180, 182–3 Barad, Karen 145 Bardon, Geoffrey 43 Baroque art figures 174, 176–7, 183, 184 Bathers,The (Courbet) 176 batik painting 14, 42, 43 Battarbee, Rex 43 beauty standards 174, 181, 183 Begin-Again,The (Mesiti) 137–8 Belgiorno-Nettis, Luca 89 Bell, Diane 39 Bell, Richard 87 Bennet, Jane 151 Bessie (mother of Joseph Croft) 73, 74 Best, Susan 148–9 Biennales 6, 45, 84–9 Big Head (Polkinghorne) 165 Big Yam Dreaming/Anwerlarr Anganenty (Kngwarreye) 41–2 Bindle, Nora 14

190  Index

Binns,Vivienne 14 Bird, Terri 80 Birth and Death (Lee) 29 Black Arts Movement 13 Black White & Restive (2016) 47 Blind Spots We Sometimes See,The (2001) 81–2 Blunt, Alison 110 Bocaccio on fat bodies 179, 180 bodies as foreground 2, 5, 7, 80, 158–60 body shape 8, 173–4, 176–84 Bordo, Susan 174, 181 Bourdieu, Pierre 163 Box of Birds (Ferran) 26, 27, 31 Brabazon, Tara 175 Braidotti, Rosi 145, 150, 151 Brinkema, Eugenia 166 brown paper (Cavaliere) 98–9, 101 Bryce, Suzie 14 Bubhi and Me (Lee) 29 Buddhism in art 29 Bukhchuluun Ganburged 138 Bunda, Tracy 71 Burchill, Janet 146 Burney, Linda 6, 60 Butler, Rex 29 CAF see Contemporary Art and Feminism (CAF) Carbado, Devon W. 40 Cardiff, Janet 141 Carnal Knowledge (Ferran) 25, 31 Castiglione, Baldassare 181 Cavaliere, Katthy 93–6, 97–9, 100–3 children and childhood: grieved 27–8, 32–3, 64; incarcerated 26, 73; memories and possessions 29, 97–8, 102, 111, 122; Stolen Generations 13, 58, 74 Chinese community projects 33–5 Circuitt, Edwina 48, 49–50 Citizens Band (Mesiti) 138–9 Cloaca Professional (Delvoye) 163, 164 cloak-making 57 cloth and clothing: as art subject 26, 31; dowry linen 7, 109–10, 111–13; quilts 110–11 CLUBSproject Inc. 80, 82–3, 90 Colebrook, Claire 89 collaborations: cross-cultural 5–6, 14–15, 50–1, 52; with dancers 31, 32 colonial history as art subject 25–6 colonisation practices 39, 63, 76, 83; see also Stolen Generations Colour of Saying,The (Mesiti) 139 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony (2006) 57

Connerton, Paul 111 contemporary art: feminist influence in 13–14, 15–19, 30; power structures in 9; research and scholarship 2–4; see also art institutions; Indigenous art Contemporary Art and Feminism (CAF) 2 Contemporary Australia:Women (2012) 18 Conversing about the Other (Coombes) 147 Cosmos – A Life of Fire (Lee) 29 Courbet, Gustave 176 Couzens,Vicki 57 crafts 10, 13, 14, 42, 110 Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams 40 critical ethical vision 134–6, 141 Croft, Brenda L.: chapter by 69–78; comments 6, 13, 39 Croft, Joseph (Joe) 73–4 Cunningham, Daniel Mudie 7, 92–104 curatorial practices 5, 94, 95, 103; see also feminist curation; Indigenous art curation dance and dancers: collaboration with 31, 32; performances 100, 139–41 Davis, Jen 175 Dayman, Karen 45, 46 De Beauvoir, Simone 144–5 De Duve, Thierry 26 De Martino, Ernesto 110 de Zegher, Catherine 28 death and disgust 162 decade-ism 3–4, 95–6 decolonial art 4, 15, 16, 19 Delvoye, Wim 163 Density (Phillips) 147, 148 Dent, Amanda 48–9, 50–1 Desart Inc. 19 desire and disgust 166 Desire (Wright) 24, 26–7, 28, 32 Destination (Wright) 28 diaspora 71, 110, 118, 121–2 digestion 163–4 dilly bags (Croft) 71 Dimitrakaki, Angela 16 disgust 7, 157–64, 165–8, 169–70 displaced populations 121–2 Doing Feminism/Sharing the World (program) 147 domestic: in exhibitions 10–11, 14, 109–13; as institutional critique 12 double listening 147–8 Dowling, Robyn 110 dowry linen 7, 109–10, 111–13 Druett, Anny 58, 59, 61 Durling, Nicole 93

Index  191

Eager, Wayne 45, 47 Edwards, Coral 73, 76 11.11.11 (Cavaliere) 93–4 Energy Clothes (2001) 98 Engberg, Juliana 85 Ernabella Arts 49 ethics: in art 47, 160; of care 6–7, 85; critical ethical vision 134–6, 141; feminist 90; relational 145, 146, 150–1, 153; in research 72 Ewington, Julie: chapter by 24–37; comments 5, 18 Example of an Exhibition, An (Hester) 81 exercise 175 exhibitions: early feminist and Indigenous 10–11, 12–13, 14–15, 16; social engagement in 79–81; see also specific exhibitions failure 157–8, 159, 166–8, 168–9 Falstaff 177, 179, 181–2 Fame (exhibition) 81 fashioning discontinuities (Hester) 83–4, 88 fat: bodies 8, 173–7, 178, 179–84; substance 177–8, 179 Fausto-Sterling, Anne 145 feeling-seeing 133, 135–6 femi-busters 18 feminism: and Aboriginal art movement 38–9; in art 1–5; and race 39–40; see also Women’s Liberation movement feminist art practices 6–7, 17, 79, 82–3, 90, 152 feminist curation: current 3, 9, 16–19, 152; early exhibitions 10–12, 13; and Indigenous collaboration 5–6, 14–15; university art museums 35–6; see also specific exhibitions feminist perspectives: on body 8, 80, 174–5; on memorial culture 106–7; on senses 133, 134; on sexual difference 144–5, 150–1, 153; on time 96–7 Ferran, Anne 24–6, 31–2, 36 FFA see Future Feminist Archive (FFA) FLORINA PREFECTURE:Women in the shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ (Gertsakis) 117–18, 122, 123, 125–9 Foam Rainbow (Polkinghorne) 167–8 Folkestone Triennial (2008) 106 Foster, Hal 50, 159 Fragments from the Garden of Good and Evil (Wright) 33 Fried, Michael 148 Frost, Andrew 103 Frye, Susan 109, 111

Funeral Songs (Cunningham) 92–3 Future Feminist Archive (FFA) 57–8, 60 Gambanyi Cloak (Riley) 57–8, 59, 60–6 Garage Graphix 14 Garden of Fire and Water,The (Lee) 34 Garden of Good and Evil,The (Wright) 33 gender differences: and art coordinators 42, 44–5, 46–7; attributes of scale 105; and body fat 174–6, 181–2, 183–4; foregrounded 145, 150, 158; hierarchies and inequities 5, 10–11, 39, 40, 49; theorisations 1, 2, 7; see also Girls in our Town (Gertsakis) gendered care 110–11 Gertsakis, Elizabeth: chapter by 117–32; comments 7 Gibbs, Pearl (Gambanyi) 58, 60–2, 63–5 Gilbert, Joanna R. 164 Girls in our Town (Gertsakis) 125–9 Goldoni, Carlo 183 Gooch, Rodney 42 Goodall, Heather 60 Goreshi, Asim 138 graffiti 107 Greco-Turkish War 119–20 Greek Civil War 121 Greek terms for fat 177–8 Green, Jenny 42 grief and loss 27–8, 32–3, 64, 97; see also Loved (Cunningham); memorialisations Griffin, Sylvia: chapter by 105–16; comments 7 Grosz, Elizabeth 80, 145, 146, 151 Gurindji location, experience and visuality (Croft) 13, 69–77 Haasts Bluff art centre 45–6 habit and senses 135–6 Hadley chests 109–10 Hallet, Brian 48 Hamilton, Ann 113 Hand in Hand (Griffin) 111–13, 114 health and fat 174, 175–6 Heiser, Jörg 168 Helmrich, Michele 35 hesitancy and seeing 135–6 Hesse, Eva 106 Hester, Bianca: comments 6, 147; interview with 79–90 Holder, Jo: chapters by 9–23, 57–68; comments 2, 5–6 Holocaust Memorial (Budapest) 107 home: loss of 119–22; as performative space 97–8, 110; return to 73–7

192  Index

hooks, bell 90 humour: and disgust 157–60, 164–5, 166–8, 169; and fat 8, 180–2, 183 Hurstville art projects 137–8 Hyatt-Johnson, Helen 160 Hyde Park (Sydney) 83–4 I Am the Rehearsal Master (Ferran) 32 identity: cultural 34, 57, 97; and diaspora 118, 121, 122, 127; feminist 39, 52; memorialisations of 63, 108, 114; in objects 109–10, 111, 113; searches for 69–70 Ikuntji art centre 46 incarcerations 26, 31, 73 Indigenous art: contemporary development 11–13, 38, 40–2, 42–3; cross-cultural collaborations 5–6, 14–15, 50–1, 52; early exhibitions 10; see also specific artists Indigenous art curation 3, 9–10, 12–13, 19, 39, 40–1, 43–7 Indigenous art market 11, 40, 41–2, 45, 46–7, 48–50 Indigenous causes and rights 5, 58, 60 Indigenous women 4, 6, 39; see also specific women Indulkana Arts Association 14 Insula: Books 1–4 (Ferran) 26, 31 intersectionality 4, 40, 149 interval of sexual difference 7, 144–6, 146–7, 149–52, 153 Irigaray, Luce 134, 144, 145–8, 151 Irrunytju Arts 48 It was about opening the very notion that there was a particular perspective (Martinis Roe) 17 It was an unusual way of doing politics (Martinis Roe) 17 Jackson, Beth 17–18 Johnson,Vivien 43 Jones, Amelia 149–50 Journey, A (Wright) 28 Kahlin Compound 74–5 Kangaroo Cloak (Riley) kangaroo skin cloaks 6, 58–9; see also Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kantor, Tadeusz 28 Katthy’s room (Cavaliere) 95, 97–8, 101 Kerr, Joan 10, 11, 16 Kngwarreye, Emily Kame 14, 15, 41–2 knitting 113–14 Knitting Nannas 18 Korsmeyer, Carolyn 161–2, 165, 166, 169, 170

Krauss, Rosalind 51 Kristeva, Julia 85, 96–7, 157, 163–4 Lake, Marilyn 60 Lamourie, Mohammed 138 land: ownership and rights 12, 14–15, 18, 109, 118, 124; walking the 75–6 Langton, Marcia 50 Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery 24, 35 Lee, Lindy 24–5, 28–9, 33–5, 36 Le Viol (Magritte) 165 LEVEL (collective) 17 Lewis, Peter 48 Life of Form: One Billion Worlds,The (Lee) 29 Life of Stars,The (Lee) 30, 33 Life of Stars – The Tenderness of Rain (Lee) 33 Lind, Maria 148 Lindy Lee:The Dark of Absolute Freedom (Lee) 29 Lines of Confluence (Wright) 33 Lippard, Lucy 9 loss see grief and loss Lost to Worlds 2008 (Ferran) 26 love 90, 94, 97, 103 loved (Cavaliere) 100 Loved (Cunningham) 94, 95, 99–103 Lovely Motherhood Show,The (1981) 12 McDonald, John 103 Macedonian wars 118–21 McFarlane, Kyla 31 McGinn, Colin 169 McIntyre, Arthur retrospective 95 Magicians of the Earth (1989) 40 Mahood, Kim 44 Mallouk, Elyse 152–3 Manaki,Yanaki 125–6 Mangkaha Arts Resource Agency 46 Maningrida Art Centre 47 Marawili, Djambawa 15 marginalisation and humour 164–5 Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia (2016–2019) 38, 52 Martinis Roe, Alex 17, 146 material culture 7, 14 maturity as art subject 32 Meagher, Michelle 160 Memorial for Jewish Martyrs (Budapest) 107, 108 Memorial Project,The (Temin) 106 memorialisations 4, 7, 105–6, 107–14 memory and habit 135–6 Menninghaus, Winfried 162, 166, 170 men’s bodies 177–8, 179–83, 184

Index  193

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 135 Mesiti, Angelica 7, 133, 137–42 Miller, William Ian 165, 169, 170 Millner, Jacqueline: chapters by 1–8, 79–91, 133–43; comments 7 Milton 125–6 Minimalism 148–9, 151 Minyma Tjukurrpa painting project 46 Mirror, Mirror (Phillips) 149, 150 mixed heritage, reflections on 69, 71–3 Mona see Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) monograms 109–10 Montaigne, Michel de, on physique 179, 181 monuments and monumentality 105–9, 114 Moon, Diane 47 Moore, Catrina: chapters by 1–8, 9–23, 57–68 moralisations 81–2, 173–4, 179–80, 184 Morris-Cafiero, Haley 173–4 Morse Code 141 Moszynska, Anna 105 mothers and motherhood: as art subject 29, 97, 100, 101, 106; connections to 13, 64, 108–13, 145; experiences of 33, 58 Mothers Memories, Others Memories (MMOM) 14 multiculturalism: Australian 117, 128–9; in curation 4, 13; Florina communities 124, 127 Mulvey, Laura 165 Mundine, Djon 43 Mungatopi, Maryanne 51, 52 Murray, Julia 42, 50 Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) 93, 102–3, 163 My Bed (Emin) 95 My Cunt Smoking Without Me (Raisin) 159 My Monument: Black Garden (Temin) 106 Myers, Fred 44, 47 Nakamarra, Narrabri 47 Namatjira, Albert 43 names: memorialisation of 107–9; on objects 109–10, 111 NAMES Project 110–11 Namija, Leah Leaman 76 Nancy, Jean-Luc 136 Napaltjarri, Wintjiya 47 Napurrurla Fencer, Lorna 51–2 National Women’s Art Exhibition (NWAE) 16 Native Title Act (1993) 46, 58 Neale, Margo 39, 50

Nelson, Robert: chapter by 173–87; comments 8 New Century Garden,The (Lee) 34 New Materialism 3–4, 145, 147 Ngaanyatjarra History Painting project 50 Ngai, Sianne 166, 170 Ngurrara I and II projects 46 Nicholls, Christine 51–2 1967 Referendum 58 19th Biennale of Sydney 6, 84–9 No Boundaries: Aboriginal Australian Contemporary Abstract Painting (2015– 2016) 38 No, No, No (Griffin) 108–9, 114 Noli me tangere (Gertsakis) 123 Nothwell, Nicolas 44 NWAE see National Women’s Art Exhibition (NWAE) Okudzeto, Senam 150 Oliver, Kelly 134 One Dances (Wright) 28 Orbach, Susie 173 orientalism photographed 125, 127–8 Ottoman Empire 118, 123–4 Paint Up Big:Walpiri Women’s Art of Lajamanu (1986) 51 Papazoglou, Leonidas 126 Papunya Tula 43–4, 45–6, 47 Park, James Loder 119–20 Pearl Gibbs ‘Gambanyi’ Kangaroo Cloak (Riley) 57–8, 59, 60–6 Peckham, Ray 62 Perkins, Hetti 39, 52 ‘personal is political’ 5–6, 10, 12, 19, 69, 74, 105 Perspecta (1981) 45 Phillips, Caroline: chapter by 144–56; comments 7 Philosophy of the Parvenu (Lee) 29 photography 25–6, 117–18, 125–6, 127; see also postcards Pink Flamingos (Waters) 166 Pintupi women painters 46 pleasure and disgust 165–6 Plegaria Muda (Salcedo) 107 Polk-A-Polk Productions 160 Polkinghorne, Jane: chapter by 157–72; comments 7 postcards 14, 124–5, 126 Presa, Elizabeth 146 Present Politics (Hester) 87–8 Proctor, Thea 11

194  Index

property rights: assertions of 109–10; see also land public space projects 34–5, 83–4 Queensland Gallery of Modern Art 18 Queensland University of Technology Art Museum 24, 35 quilts 110–11 Raisin, Hannah 159 Ranaldo (Boiardo character) 180 Rancière, Jacques 137 RBG see Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) REA (artist) 13 Reilly, Maura 9 relationality in art 7, 150–1, 152–3 Relay League (Mesiti) 139–41 Rey, Una: chapter by 38–56; comments 6, 14 Riley, Christine 61 Riley, Lynette: chapter by 57–68; comments 6 Riley-Naboe, Diane 58, 61 Roads Cross: Contemporary Directions in Australian Art (2012) 47 Robbins, David 168–9 Robinson, Hilary 134 Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) 83–4 Ruddick, Daisy 74–5 Rummel, Rudolph J. 119 Ryan, Judith 38, 39 Rydalmere Vertical (Ferran) 31 Salcedo, Doris 107 Salmon, Fiona 47 Salò (Pasolini) 166 Salvation Army 86 SCA see Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) Scenes on the Death of Nature (Ferran) 25, 31 Scholl, Debra 38 Scholl, Dennis 38 Schor, Naomi 96 Schües, Christina 94 sexual differences 2, 144–6, 150–1; see also interval of sexual difference Shadow Land (Ferran) 24 Shakespearean on fat 177–8, 179, 181–2 Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project 108 Significant Others (Wright) 33 Sirén, Ervi 32 Skerritt, Henry F. 52 slapstick 168 Slender Throated Warbler (Ferran) 27 social class 164, 177, 179, 182

social engagement in art 79–82 social practice 9, 13, 152 Social Sphere (Phillips) 149, 150–1 Sprague, Quentin 42 Stager,The (Wright) 28 Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality (Croft) 13, 69–77 Stolen Generations 13, 58, 74 story of a girl (Cavaliere) 98, 102–3 Strocchi, Marina 45–6, 47 Swallow, Ricky 80 Sydney Biennales 6, 45, 84–9 Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) 24, 25 Sydney public art projects 34–5, 83–4 talismans 76–7 Tapeyran, E. H. 119 taste 163–4 Taylor, Sandy 12 Temin, Kathy 106 Tenebre Noviembre 6 y 7 (Salcedo) 107 textiles 106, 109, 110–14; see also cloth and clothing TG see Twilight Girls, The (TG) Their eyes will tell you, everything and nothing (Gertsakis) 128 Thomas Street Plaza (Sydney) art 34 Three Views of Emptiness (2001) 29 time 92, 94, 95–7, 98 Tjitjiti (West) 41 tjukurrpa 49, 50–1 totems 60, 61, 63, 165 tourism art market 49 Transfield Foundation 84–5, 89 Trough Man 164 True Ch’ien (Lee) 29 True Colours (1995) 15 Turkish War of Independence 119–20 Twilight Girls, The (TG) 160, 161 Tyerabowbarwarryaou – I Shall Never Become a Whiteman 15 Ulrich, Laurel T. 109, 110, 111 university art museums 35–6 Unknitting/Rewind (Griffin) 111, 113–14 untitled home (Cavaliere) 100 Utako Shinko Kanai 146 Utopia: A Summer Project (1989) 42 Utopia Women’s Batik Group 14, 42 Vad Yashem Names Database 108 Vanni, Ilaria 110 Veiled Lady (Raphael) 181 visual sense diversified 7, 133, 134, 141–2 Volatile Bodies (Grosz) 80

Index  195

Wadrill,Violet Nanaku 76 Wake, A (Wright) 28 walking country 73, 75–6 WAMs see Women’s Art Movements (WAMs) Warakurna Artists 49–50 Watchers,The (Morris-Cafiero) 173 Watson, Judy 13 Watson, Tjunmutja Myra 12 Wave Hill community 73, 74 Wave Hill Walk-off Track 74, 75, 77 wealth and body fat 177, 183, 184 Weiner, Annette 109, 110 Welsh, Talia 174, 175 West, Margie 46 Whalen, Jodie 174, 175–6 Whitney Museum exhibitors 11 Who’s Afraid of Colour (2016–2017) 38, 41–2 Why, How and for Whom? (collective) 16 Widholm, Julie Rodrigues 107 Williams, Daphne 46, 47

Williams River Valley Artist Group 18 Williams,Yipati 14 Wiradjuri traditions 57, 60, 63 women artists: Indigenous 39, 45, 46, 49, 51–2; inequities 3, 5, 15; influence by Irigaray 146–7; see also specific artists and collectives Women Artists of Australia (1934) 11 Women at the Edge of Town 14 Women’s Art Movements (WAMs) 11, 12, 14 Women’s bodies 159–60, 174–7, 181–2, 183–4 Women’s Liberation movement 1, 3, 4, 13, 16, 145 Women’s Show,The (1977) 12 World War One 118–19 Wright, Judith 24–5, 26–8, 32–3, 36 Yusoff, Kathryn 90 Zongo, Lois Geraldine 138

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