Pre­view: Ade­laide Bi­en­nial,

Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - by Ted Snell

WHEN LONG­TIME DIREC­TOR OF The Sam­stag Mu­seum of Art, Er­ica Green, was given the op­por­tu­nity to cu­rate the Ade­laide Bi­en­nial for 2018, her im­me­di­ate re­sponse was to talk with the artists whose work mat­tered to her. “My cu­ra­to­rial method is an­chored in the alchemy that springs from re­spect­ful di­a­logue with in­di­vid­ual artists,” she ex­plains. “The start­ing point for an in­for­mal con­ver­sa­tion with par­tic­i­pat­ing artists was my in­ter­est in the broad no­tion of ‘history’ and – in what now seems a com­mon re­frain in the mi­lieu – of history’s vi­tal in­flu­ence and pres­ence in our cul­tural prac­tice and the de­vel­op­ment of ideas; in ef­fect, a re­minder for us to un­der­stand the her­itage that has formed the present.” For Green, her be­lief in the vis­ual arts as an agent of rad­i­cal change, ev­i­dent in the work of so many artists com­mit­ted to so­cial en­gage­ment as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in re­think­ing and re­shap­ing the world as we know it, laid a foun­da­tion stone on which to build her Ade­laide Bi­en­nial. From those con­ver­sa­tions, a stream of ideas co­a­lesced through dis­cus­sions about the state of the world, hu­man­ity’s re­la­tion­ship to our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and hopes and as­pi­ra­tions for the fu­ture. The zeit­geist of those ex­changes fil­tered through to no­tions around di­ver­sity and dif­fer­ence, as pos­i­tive en­er­gies shap­ing con­tem­po­rary Aus­tralian vis­ual arts prac­tice. With no bud­get to com­mis­sion works, Green en­cour­aged the artists she se­lected to ap­ply for new work grants from the Aus­tralia Coun­cil, and with the sup­port she could muster through the Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia and its widen­ing phil­an­thropic base, she en­cour­aged them to make the works “they had al­ways hoped to make”. Al­though the oft-heard cri­tique of Bi­en­nale art is that it feeds hubris and leads to overblown, vac­u­ous work, for the artists in­vited to this year’s Ade­laide Bi­en­nial it has been a cat­a­lyst that has fed am­bi­tion while avoid­ing con­comi­tant per­ils. For Ta­mara Dean the in­vi­ta­tion was a chance to cre­ate a multi-sen­sory in­stal­la­tion where the ex­quis­ite im­ages she makes are given greater res­o­nance by con­struct­ing

01 Amos Geb­hardt, Evanes­cence, 2018, film still, four­chan­nel video art­work, sound, 34 min­utes, made with the gen­er­ous sup­port of the Aus­tralia Coun­cil, Felix Foun­da­tion and Chunky Move 02 Khai Liew, Chair, 2016, Euro­pean oak, 74.5 x 68 x 62cm, cour­tesy the artist, pho­tog­ra­pher Grant Han­cock 03 Kirsten Coelho, Trans­fig­ured Night, 2017, porce­lain matt glaze, banded iron ox­ide, di­men­sions vari­able, cour­tesy the artist, Philip Ba­con Gal­leries, THIS IS NO FAN­TASY + dianne tanzer gallery and BMGArt, pho­tog­ra­pher Grant Han­cock 04 Lisa Adams, In­qui­si­tion, 2016, oil on can­vas, 54 x 80cm, cour­tesy the artist and Philip Ba­con Gal­leries, pho­tog­ra­pher Jon Link­ins

an ex­pe­ri­ence around her pho­to­graphic works. The in­vi­ta­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the Bi­en­nial was a chance to fo­cus for a year on de­vel­op­ing a new body of work and a mode of pre­sen­ta­tion that was fully im­mer­sive, one that en­cour­ages the au­di­ence to ex­am­ine our com­plex re­la­tion­ship to na­ture and to pro­vide pos­i­tive sce­nar­ios for our fu­ture. Em­bed­ded in the lush and ex­tra­or­di­nary land­scapes she has dis­cov­ered in the Botanic Gar­dens of South Aus­tralia, these pho­to­graphs doc­u­ment the in­ter­ac­tions of peo­ple ex­plor­ing, en­gag­ing and com­muning with the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Kris­tian Bur­ford took the in­vi­ta­tion as an op­por­tu­nity to take his work in new di­rec­tions. His con­fronting in­stal­la­tions in which life-size fig­ures linger in weirdly de-hu­man­ised en­vi­ron­ments, frozen un­der harsh flu­o­res­cent lighting, speak elo­quently about the alien­ation of con­tem­po­rary life and our sense of an­guish at the po­ten­tial for this dream­like ex­pe­ri­ence to be­come our per­ma­nent night­mare: awake, in pub­lic, com­pletely naked, and vul­ner­a­ble. This feel­ing of be­ing trapped is fur­ther en­hanced by the ar­chi­tec­tural mir­rored spa­ces he con­structs as stages for these con­fronta­tions. Green’s cu­ra­to­rial prac­tice is broad and eclec­tic, em­brac­ing the “dif­fer­ence and di­ver­sity” that un­der­pins her cu­ra­to­rial the­sis for the Bi­en­nial that will be pre­sented across sev­eral venues in Ade­laide, in­clud­ing the Sam­stag Mu­seum of Art. Not sur­pris­ingly then, she is drawn to artists who push the bound­aries of vis­ual arts prac­tice and find their voice within the ca­coph­ony of its ever-ex­pand­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. Sev­eral of the artists se­lected are re­draw­ing the bound­aries be­tween tra­di­tion­ally de­fined dis­ci­plines such as fine art, craft and de­sign to re­veal the pres­sure points within those prac­tices to ar­tic­u­late press­ing con­cerns for hu­man­ity. Ti­mothy Horn was stim­u­lated by his in­vi­ta­tion to pur­sue his in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ter­sec­tions be­tween the nat­u­ral world and ob­jects fab­ri­cated by ar­ti­sans and artists. Play­ing off the or­ganic with the ar­ti­fi­cial, he al­ludes to the po­ten­tial for hu­man­ity to trans­form our en­vi­ron­ment, of­ten with bizarre and dis­as­trous ef­fect. The poet­ics of disaster – trees at Fukushima and Ch­er­nobyl don’t de­cay; corals are given new ex­tra­or­di­nary forms through in­ter­ac­tion with nu­clear fall­out – is brought into align­ment with the artist’s fas­ci­na­tion for the ex­trav­a­gant in­ven­tive­ness of Baroque crafts­men. These ideas are then en­cap­su­lated in his exquisitely crafted ob­jects in which the fab­u­lous and the mon­strous co­a­lesce. Amos Geb­hardt’s film Evanes­cence is a po­etic play on the idea of hu­man­ity and the nar­ra­tives we build around life and death, the grad­u­ally fad­ing from sight or mem­ory, the tem­po­ral­ity of ex­is­tence. In­ter­ested in the mal­leabil­ity of bound­aries in all as­pects of life, Geb­hardt com­bines dance and mu­sic and vis­ual art to blur those per­ceived lines of de­mar­ca­tion be­tween one art form, one per­son, one gen­der and the next, to pro­pose a more fluid and open en­gage­ment across per­ceived bound­aries. For the Bi­en­nial Geb­hardt is ex­plor­ing the fu­sion of film and in­stal­la­tion in a new work that finds its space in the world to en­gage with its au­di­ence. Khai Liew has also in­ter­ro­gated per­ceived bound­aries, cre­at­ing ob­jects that ex­plore the pos­si­bil­i­ties that lie be­tween util­ity and less ex­plicit func­tion­al­ity. Renowned as a mas­ter crafts­man of fine furniture who bridges cul­tures and prac­tices of mak­ing, his work is a dis­til­la­tion of what is valu­able from wher­ever it is found – the East or the West, past or present, lo­cal or in­ter­na­tional – brought into har­mo­nious ac­com­mo­da­tion to cre­ate some­thing new, fresh, el­e­gant and, above all, sim­ple. For Green, it was vi­tal that her Bi­en­nial was a na­tional sur­vey, in name and in prac­tice. Based in Ade­laide and hence aware of South Aus­tralia’s marginal­ity to con­tem­po­rary prac­tice along the east­ern and south­ern se­aboard cap­i­tals, her se­lec­tion in­cludes artists from across the coun­try; though clearly with a sharp eye on the home front as well. As a re­sult, Ade­laide-born (al­though now based in Cooroy, Queens­land) Lisa Adams’ re­mark­able paint­ings are pre­sented along­side Perth-based Tanya Schultz’s ex­trav­a­gant en­vi­ron­ments, which co­habit with Mel­bourne-based Angelica Me­siti’s ma­jor new two-chan­nel video in­stal­la­tion and Syd­ney-based Khaled Sab­sabi’s com­plete 99 hand-painted pho­to­graphs of the dev­as­ta­tion war has brought to Le­banon. They are all part of the spec­tac­u­lar vi­sion Green has con­jured up in what she calls her “al­le­gor­i­cal prism”, the lens through which she has con­structed her 2018 Ade­laide Bi­en­nial. “This sub­stan­tial pan­theon of in­trigu­ing artists speaks var­i­ously to the drama of the cos­mos and evo­lu­tion, on beauty and the en­vi­ron­ment, and re­flect­ing on hu­man life and so­ci­ety, the di­as­pora – and the past, and the fu­ture.”

EX­HI­BI­TION Ade­laide Bi­en­nial, Di­vided Worlds 3 March – 3 June, 2018, at four venues: The Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia; the Anne & Gor­don Sam­stag Mu­seum of Art, Uni­ver­sity of South Aus­tralia; Jam Factory; and the Ade­laide Botanic Gar­den ade­laide­bi­en­nial.com.au

05 Ta­mara Dean, Ele­phant ear ( Alo­casiaodora) in

Au­tumn, from the se­ries ‘In our na­ture’, 2017, Ade­laide Botanic Gar­den, pure pig­ment print on cot­ton rag, 150 x 200cm, cour­tesy the artist and Martin Browne Con­tem­po­rary 06 Angelica Me­siti, Mother Tongue, 2017, two-chan­nel HD colour video and sur­round sound, 17 min­utes, cour­tesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, com­mis­sioned by Aarhus Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture in as­so­ci­a­tion with the 2018 Ade­laide Bi­en­nial, pho­tog­ra­pher Bon­nie El­liott 07 Khaled Sab­sabi, Guer­rilla (de­tail), 2007-17, three sets of 33 works, hand-painted syn­thetic poly­mer paint on pho­to­graphic pa­per, each 9 x 14cm (im­age), Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial Col­lec­tion, Can­berra, cour­tesy the artist and Mi­lani Gallery, pho­tog­ra­pher Carl Warner. 08 Ti­mothy Horn, Gor­gonia 12 (Strange Love), 2016, nickel-plated bronze, mir­rored blown glass, 213 x 335 x 17cm, cour­tesy the artist and PPOW Gallery, pho­tog­ra­pher Ethan Bond-Watts

My cu­ra­to­rial method is an­chored in the alchemy that springs from re­spect­ful di­a­logue with artists.

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