In-process printing with the team from Spacecraft for Evidence at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney.
Evidence is an immersive installation that draws on the rich and varied MAAS collection to explore the theme of evidence.
In Evidence unexpected and perhaps overlooked objects and materials from the MAAS collection are brought together with specially commissioned artworks, suggesting different ways of interpreting objects and their history. Featured objects include Governor Macquarie’s chair, a ‘black box’ flight recorder, a Maralinga souvenir clock, a Brown Bess musket, a surgical table and colonial breastplates along with 19th century ethnographic photographs.
It sits beneath a hill, hard up against a dramatic sandstone wall. It’s called the Cutaway, and this is the giant, cavernous space reserved for cultural activities inside the Barangaroo development now taking shape on the western edge of the Sydney CBD.
Brook Andrew was one of the artists invited to explore this concrete canvas, and he was struck at once by its power. He describes it as “awe-inspiring”, reminiscent of the Tate Modern experience in London. It seemed as though he was inside the land, or perhaps inside the body of a whale. Like Barangaroo itself, the multi-billion-dollar development soon to be home to James Packer’s casino, the numbers give an idea of the scale: 7500sq m of space, 150m long and 15m high, it sits under 12,000cu m of land and is said to fit 5500 people.
For a Sydney-born artist such as Andrew, who has long burrowed into ideas of historical transition, memory, colonialism and identity, it was an exciting prospect. “It was really inspiring and imaginative,” he says. “It kind of reminds me of just dreaming. You know when you’re a kid you can dream big but when you get older they try to knock it out of you a bit.”
This weekend, the first stirrings of a grand dream will begin at Barangaroo with the unveiling of Andrew’s work at the Cutaway. His four sculptures are called Stone: The Weight of History, The Mark of Time, and they are intended to immerse viewers in a “breathing lung-like imaginative environment” that brings to life the land. “It’s really looking and acknowledging the history of the place and the site,” he says. “They breathe like lungs. They exhale and inhale. It will be like moving through some sort of organ or beast.”
Andrew’s sculptures are the first of three commissions to be shown monthly at the Cutaway in spring, followed by installations focusing on the sea and sky. Spread across 12 weekends, the celebration includes free performances, talks and tours. The program is designed to draw crowds to Barangaroo Reserve, the parkland that opened two weeks ago. But as the bigger picture comes into view — gradually, meticulously, each element carefully considered by an army of advisers after years of consultations and reports — it’s clear it also represents the early stages of a vast cultural project under way in Sydney. “I think it’s a reality check,” Andrew says. “It’s like Australia’s coming of age with this sort of project.”
In July, the Barangaroo Development Authority released a public art and cultural plan, an 84-page blueprint full of grand aspirations. Under the plan, nine main projects would be funded by a development levy of 1 per cent, with the total cost across 15 years expected to exceed $40 million and cost the taxpayer nothing. Proposals range from large permanent installations to artworks integrated into the environment to as-yet undefined cultural hubs.
Barangaroo advisers are being encouraged to think big. One source of inspiration is Millennium Park, the Chicago home of Anish Kapoor’s stainless steel Cloud Gate that attracts huge numbers of visitors and generates significant residential and commercial investment. “That’s the great draw of wonderful places,” says Gabrielle Trainor, chairwoman of the Barangaroo arts and cultural panel. “People want to be around them.”
Trainor talks with enthusiasm about Barangaroo, how she hopes to see a place with a global reputation, and how Sydney’s centre of gravity may shift along the way. It’s all a long way off, beyond 2020, but the road map is slowly being drawn. “Everybody can see the value of arts and culture, not only in a design sense and social sense but in an economic sense as well,” she says. “Really good public art can bring so may benefits to places. They make them distinct, interesting. They draw people and they draw activity.”
The cultural development is overseen by two panels of advisers, one under the banner of Barangaroo and the other Lend Lease. These are a cross-section of the city’s arts sector: among them is curator Hetti Perkins, businessman Simon Mordant, Art Gallery of NSW deputy director Suhanya Raffel, Sydney Festival artistic director Lieven Bertels and artist Alison Page. Former Sydney Opera House boss Richard Evans and curator Barbara Flynn are also key advisers.
Others have been brought in to share their thoughts on individual projects. One of the most high profile will be the “landmark public artwork” set to rise from the water at Nawi Cove: as well as Trainor, the jury consists of former AGNSW director Edmund Capon, Museum of Contemporary Art director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, New York Public Art Fund director Nicholas Baume and company director Lucy Turnbull. A handful of artists, local and international, have been invited to submit ideas for this work, which will sit just off the shore next to Barangaroo Reserve. Some have visited the site already, and the selected work is expected to be announced early next year. At that point, the city will learn whether to expect an iconic sculpture by its 2018 installation date.
“We like to think in a rather grandiose way that it will be a single work of art that will be something of a destination in its own right,” Capon says. “The challenge here is to create something that responds to the location. The location in all its contemporary presence and its historical presence and its atmosphere, and yet is not determined by that.”
No names are being mentioned but those involved say major figures — “some of the best artists around”, according to Capon — are in the mix. “It’s going through a very long considered process,” Capon says. “What we want is a work of art that speaks about the place but is nonetheless independent of the place. It’s got to stand alone and yet we want it to somehow echo and to feel comfortable in that space.”
Capon points to Kapoor and Jeff Koons — whose enormous Puppy stood outside the MCA two decades ago — as artists who bring the right sort of touch to large-scale works. But he acknowledges the problems. A few weeks ago, Capon visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, admiring work by Anthony Caro, Ai Weiwei, Antony Gormley and Henry Moore, when his friend turned to him and said: “They still look better inside.”
“Outdoor sculpture is a real challenge,” Capon says. “Aesthetic simplicity is one of the secrets to successful works of art in the great outdoors.”
Some of the other projects planned for Barangaroo include a “major Aboriginal artwork”, to be installed on Barangaroo Reserve in 2017; integrated light art along the pedestrian walk known as Scotch Row by 2018; and a “signature piece” at Barangaroo South by 2017.
The first commission has already been revealed: a 22m wall of shells by indigenous artists Esme Timbery and Jonathan Jones to be incorporated into a building design in the southern part of Barangaroo.
The final stage of the development is Central Barangaroo, which is due for completion in 2023. Apart from a requirement for half of it to remain public space, this remains largely undetermined, with more details to be released in the coming months. The public art and culture plan makes reference to an urban theatre at the base of the steps, plus one 5000sq m site “identified for a future cultural space”. It’s too early to say how these will be used but clues are available: the Ambassador Theatre Group, for instance, has registered an interest in building a 1650-seat lyric theatre in Central Barangaroo.
Another idea gathering pace is for a national indigenous cultural centre, itself the subject of a business case and extensive consultations. It makes a certain amount of sense for it to be established at Barangaroo, which is, after all, named for the respected indigenous woman who married the man whose name has been adopted for Bennelong Reserve around the corner. There are more signs that the pieces are coming together: Perkins left the AGNSW in 2011 calling for a stand-alone indigenous institution, a “flagship national cultural institution” — and now, of course, she finds herself engaged as a Barangaroo adviser.
Where could such a centre go? The Cutaway is a logical choice. Trainor says there is potential for a centre that presents a rotating series of art from across Australia, one that wouldn’t necessarily have its own permanent collection but would exist as a vibrant hub of activity. It also could exploit technology, allowing artists, for instance, to collaborate in real time with people in the western desert. Trainor says further consultation is required, plus more discussions about funding.
“Conceptually it’s really exciting because it’s potentially the sort of centre that is unlike anything we’ve seen,” she says. “It would be lovely to see it off the ground in the next few years. But it will take a while to develop.”
As for the project as a whole, Capon adds a note of caution: “There’s a lot of good intentions and high aspirations. But the fact is that Sydney is a very pragmatic place and many of the grand ideas tend to become inevitably diluted in the process.”
Capon is speaking from London, a city where “fabulous breathing spaces” have been protected for the public. The challenge for Sydney, he says, is to resist the urge to fill every open space. “It’s very hard in a city to actually keep space pure,” he says. “I’m a great believer in protecting space. I think there’s been a very strong urge to give Barangaroo some real cultural and artistic vitality. And there’s a dynamic in the program too, there’s no doubt about that. My point is that just because you’ve got space you don’t have to do something with it or in it.”
Images: The Weight of History, The Mark of Time, 2015
Digital render and during installation.
The Stone Giant Picnic on 6 September 2015 is the official unveiling of the first of three major art installations, specially commissioned for Barangaroo’s Welcome Celebration. The Cutaway, Sydney’s newest and biggest cultural space built beneath the headland park, will house a large-scale sculptural installation entitled Stone – The Weight of History, The Mark of Time.
Stone – The Weight of History, The Mark of Time is a new installation of four soft sculptures that immerse the spectator in a breathing lung-like imaginative environment, bringing alive the living land. Made with the artists distinctive pattern inspired by his Wiradjuri tradition, each sculpture comes alive like a living and breathing forest of organs – allowing physical immersion to inspire and create a sense of weightless-ness and timeless-ness. The Cultural Space dedicated to Barangaroo is enhanced by this work through activating the very heart of the land; inside this newly created sandstone magical place representing culture rich in memory with contemporary activity.
Stone Giant Picnic opening weekend:
Sunday 6th September – Free
The Giant Picnic concludes with a party in the Cutaway for all the family from 6pm – 8.30pm.
The installation will be open every weekend from 6 September to 23 September and each month in spring will see a new work presented in the Cutaway.
Gaia Gallery, Istanbul
14 August – 12 September 2015
Curated by Vikki McInnes for Australia in Turkey 2015: Celebrating Contemporary Australian Culture
Supported by Asialink Arts.
Image: Anatomie de la mémoire du corps : au-delà de la Tasmanie, 2013 (detail)
Neverwhere brings together the work of eight contemporary Australian artists to disturb distinctions between our real and imagined selves, between authentic and fantastical scenarios. Works in this exhibition perform and postulate identity however narratives are largely informed by external – often mysterious – forces, both seen and unseen. The characters and identities represented here all seem to have fallen through the cracks of reality and landed somewhere different, into an underside; somewhere that is Neverwhere.
Neverwheremight be read here as Australia, of course, and the works suggestive of how nations, identities and selves are implied, inflected and inferred. At the exhibition’s very outset, Kathy Temins Audition for a pair of Koalas (2004) sets up this proposition, while simultaneously complicating it. While she was undertaking a residency in New York, the artist advertised for American actors to attend auditions and impersonate a pair of koalas mating. Most people that came to her auditions had never seen a koala in the flesh, of course, and brought to the work their own projections and fantasies about how a koala – and, by extension, an Australian – might behave.
Behaviour of marginal characters is highlighted in Captain Thunderbolt’s sisters, a video Mikala Dwyer made with Justene Williams in 2010. The two artists, dressed in striped prison outfits, bushranger helmets and high heels, clamber around a circular bunker on Sydneys Cockatoo Island – the site of a former prison and reform school for errant girls. Either invoking, or possessed by, the dead girls’ spirits, the artists bash violently at the metal fixtures; citing Australia’s colonial history at the same time hammering societal boundaries. Such transgressive female agency is also evident in Miss Universal (2014), Claire Lambes recreation of a 1976 image from Crazy Horse (the infamous Parisian cabaret). In this work, Lambe selects Australian women with real body types, and forces her subjects into clay shoes, impeding their movement but lending an air of absurdity to the scenario. Of course, it can be seen as a powerful statement to turn your back to the audience and these women seem determined to wrestle power back from the viewer.
Power relations are clearly at work in Tony Garifalkis’ Mob Rule (2013) in which the artist has obscured the faces of national leaders and military figures with black spray paint, referencing his interest in forms of censorship as both a political and an aesthetic gesture. As with Lambes work, these images serve to draw attention to the ways in which power (both social and political) is signified and performed through popular culture and in our collective imagination.
The urge to perform, or make things perform, is evident in each of the works in Neverwhere, but perhaps most explicitly in Clare Milledge’s Academic Suspicion: Staging a Hermeneutics of Incommensurability (2015). The artist invites active participants into the shadowy world she has created, which is full of motifs she has borrowed from tribal art, mythology and spiritualism among other sources. However, Milledge’s rituals seem to be invented by and only known to the artist and, as viewers, we are never quite sure what is being celebrated. As in the worlds inferred by Mikala Dwyer, invisible psychic energy abounds.
Play is important here, too; in the works of Milledge and Dwyer, but also in those by Veronica Kent and Lou Hubbard. But these are deeply unsettling forms of play; full of dark imaginings rather than innocent abandonments. Typifying this ambivalence is the figure of the clown; a keenly divisive figure, engendering fear and loathing, as much as it does laughter. This contradiction is tested by Kent in Clown Transfer #1 (2010) but also in Cloak(2011), in which a resting child is watched over by a maternal figure – presumably her mother but, in fact a monstrous one-eyed character. The work conjures a complex relationship between mother and child, but also between subject and object. Performing and seeing are equally important in Hubbards Eye Ops (2013), for which the artist enacts a series of operations on confectionary eyeballs, examining the dysfunctional eyes as an optometrist might, before performing the necessary corrections as a surgeon would. Though performed in deadly earnest, the work ultimately relies on absurdity to render the familiar so strange. As with much in Neverwhere, there is a continually shifting stance between sincerity and satire and a propensity towards darker psychological turns.
Brook Andrew turns the gaze firmly back on Australia with Anatomie de la mémoire du corps : au-delà de la Tasmanie (2013). Interested in uncovering the often-invisible histories of colonial societies, the artist’s work is deeply informed by his own mixed cultural background. Andrew offers a wunderkammer filled with human bones alongside rare books, objects and ephemera relating to the legacy of colonisation fraught with strange juxtapositions that problematise any straight reading of the work. These new combinations, however, become a personal exploration with new possibilities, stories, histories and implications.
Such merging of facts, fictions and fantasies runs rampant throughout the exhibition. Works challenge given cultural and social perceptions and draw attention to the unseen and to our own personal relationships with memory and ritual. We are left suspended in a time and space of uncertainty and contemplation: somewhere and anytime. Neverwhere.
 Neverwhere, the exhibition, takes its title from an urban fantasy novel and television series set in London Below, a magical realm that coexists with the familiar city of London (referred to as London Above). London Below is a dark mysterious place, where talking rats and violent assassins run wild, and magic is slippery and capricious. The series was pronounced in The Guardian as ‘a creepy, funny and deeply odd gem’. (Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere, HarperCollins, 1996).
The exhibition catalogue is available to download here.
The Asialink Visual Arts Touring Exhibition Program is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Asialink Arts is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its principal arts funding body, and by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.
Partner: Faculty of VCA & MCM
RMIT Design Hub
Pavilion 1, Level 10
Until 29 May, open daily
SMUDGE is a new collaboration between Phillip Adams BalletLab and Brook Andrew, in partnership with RMIT Design Hub. Phillip Adams and Brook Andrew have embarked upon a radical collaboration through which they surrender their usual artistic expression to swap cultural identities and artistic responsibilities. In SMUDGE, the choreographer becomes the artist, and the artist the choreographer.
The project includes four performers: Anna Kuroda, Gregory Lorenzutti, Anna Seymour and Lilian Steiner, who will be directed by Andrew in a set created by Adams. Adams and Andrew will activate SMUDGE by taking turns in placing objects into the creative and performative space.
The development phase of Phillip Adams BalletLab’s SMUDGE at RMIT Design Hub is supported by Besen Family Foundation and City of Melbourne. Images: Brook Andrew, The Cell. Photo: Roger D’Souza. Commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney 2010 | Phillip Adams BalletLab, Tomorrrow. Photo: Jeff Busby.
Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll in conversation with Brook Andrew
Thursday 14 May, 6.00 – 7.00pm
William Macmahon Ball Theatre, Room 107 | Old Arts Building University of Melbourne
In this lecture Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll presents her method of writing the history of Australian art in the time of (post)colony as one of perpetual anachronism. Through a history of anachronic exhibitions of colonial material in Melbourne by contemporary artists the argument traces shifts between alienation in the museum vitrine and irreverent vitrinizations. The evening’s discussion also marks the launch of the book ‘Art in the Time of Colony’ by focusing on how anachronistic artists engage in a process of disalienation. Brook Andrew will moderate a debate about the taboo and critical import of working with Aboriginal archives.
The Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne
Until Sunday 9 August
In conversation: Brook Andrew & Dr Vincent Alessi
Tuesday 19 May, 1.00- 2.00pm
Free. No booking required.
Special viewing and panel discussion with Professor Marcia Langton, Dr Vincent Alessi, Brook Andrew, and Maxine McKew
Wednesday 27 May, 5.00- 6.15pm
Free. Book here.
** Exhibition catalogue available soon **
Sanctuary: Tombs of the outcasts seeks to give voice to aspects of history which have become silent and reveals Australia as a place of sanctuary. It aims to ask questions about what we remember, personal and collective, and how we commemorate.
Image: In the mind of others, 2015. Victorian redgum, carbonised redgum, glass, brass, brass breastplate. Photograph: Christian Capurro.
John Wardle Architects & Spacecraft Studio
Wednesday 20th May
On Top of the World invites local & visiting, artists, architects & thinkers to contribute to contemporary debates through an informal series of talks on the top floor of Rokeby Street.
Register interest to attend via email here.
Image: Time, 2012. Installation view: The Floating Eye, Sydney Pavilion at the Shanghai Biennale.
The Australian Print Workshop
Brook Andrew, Tom Nicholson & Caroline Rothwell.
Lead by APW Director Anne Virgo OAM, with fellow curator Dr Nicholas Thomas, from the University of Cambridge Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.
The group have recently returned from a research trip in Cambridge and London.
Article by Stephanie Bunbury in The Age.
Image: The Age. Supplied.