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.
‘Sanctuary: Tombs of the outcasts’ now open at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne
Sanctuary: Tombs of the outcasts
The world dramatically changed after the outbreak of WWI: Australia was not excluded. Described as the war to end all wars it would be a mere two decades before Europe was once again plagued by a major conflict. Australia has played its role in both of these wars and many other conflicts since.
Wars leave a lasting impression on those who participate, on those left behind and on future generations who look to them for remembrance, lessons and identity. However, often parts of the narrative become fractured or are simply forgotten. They remain on the periphery wanting to be heard to ensure that our history is inclusive and true.
Likewise, important reactions post war, which seem unrelated and incidental, help shape community and nations. Brook Andrew. 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.
Saturday 18 Apr 2015 to Sunday 9 Aug 2015
The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne
Curator: Dr Vincent Alessi
Floor Talk: Tuesday 19th June, 1 – 1.30pm
Archive and monument: remembering silent histories
Extract of essay by curator Vince Alessi
(for full essay or catalogue please contact the artist or Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne)
In the last few weeks of 1915 on the shores of what is now known as Anzac Cove, soldiers under constant firing and shelling, penned stories and poems and drew sketches of their time on the battlefield. Collated by Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent at the time and creator and flame-keeper of the Anzac legend, these intimate and often humorous insights were published in 1916 as The Anzac Book. Harry McCann, a soldier in the Australian Light Horse Brigade and recipient of the Military Cross penned the above poem for the publication under the title When it’s all over and captured both the longing for a return home and the honesty of war: difficult, murderous and far from glorious. Moreover, he articulated his resentment at being labelled a hero, one as he states “with a halo round his head” by those who had not witnessed or experienced the conflict. In McCann’s words there is nothing to celebrate, no need for soldiers to be placed on a public pedestal.
However, almost 100 years after McCann’s words were scribed Anzac Day has become Australia’s national day, the word Digger a colloquial term for any Australian serviceman in action and the landing and fighting at Gallipoli viewed as the birth of a nation. Politicians attend Dawn Services all around the country, the Prime Minister holds pride of place at Anzac Cove every 25th of April and wreaths are laid at memorials all around the world whenever a parliamentarian is on official duties overseas. The First World War and Australia’s involvement is now depicted as a conflict about defending our freedom and our way of life. Our Defence Forces are sacrosanct and any criticism of their behaviour or operations in which they are employed – such as the turning back of refugee boats – is seen as unpatriotic and even worse, unAustralian.
However, it has not always been like this. Officer Harry McCann, a founding Anzac, particularly hoped that it would not become like this. As Australia prepares to commemorate the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli, and governments and institutions across the country invest resources and time to mark the event, questions of what and how we remember and an acknowledgement of many forgotten stories and unintended consequences of war is both timely and required. This is not to dismiss or denigrate the great service that many men and women have given to their country. Rather it is about ensuring that the Anzac narrative that has been passed down through many generations over the last century remains honest and truthful. That it does not become a time of celebration, or a cornerstone of nation building and patriotism. That people who flock to Anzac Cove annually, do so understanding the history and the facts that saw over 400,000 Australian men leave Australia to fight in the first World War for an Imperial Army. That war has a human element and is not about glory. And that many stories have been lost as the dominant narrative in Australia has centred on the birth of nation.
Brook Andrew’s exhibition Sanctuary: tombs of the outcasts confronts these challenges head on. It creates a space for the audience to bring their own knowledge and experience in order to contemplate, think and interrogate the way we think about Anzac Day and war more generally. It challenges the narrative, which has dominated the public consciousness over the last two and half decades asking us to think about the folly of war as well as the repercussions of conflict both in Australia and internationally. It brings to light parts of the narrative which have been pushed to the recesses, such as the role of Indigenous servicemen and women, and debunks the myth that Australia has never seen war on its own land by drawing attention to the frontier wars. It also celebrates the unintended consequences of conflict, in particular Australia’s role as a sanctuary for those fleeing warzones and establishing themselves and their families in a new homeland. Andrew addresses these questions and issues not didactically, but instead with works and immersive installations where objects as diverse as Renaissance prints and slave registers sit beside and near each other so that stories can unfold and questions be posed in order that the sacrifice made by all those involved in war can be acknowledged, commemorated and where required challenged.
Gallipoli is now most clearly associated with the maturing of Australia as an independent and important nation on the international stage; claimed by some as the birth of our nation. The Anzacs who fought in Turkey now represent the core values by which we define ourselves: courageous, larrikins, mateship and of course the notion of a fair go. It has also become the reference point for many to argue against immigration and multiculturalism; programs, argued by some, which threaten our very way of life and our Australianness. The events at Cronulla in Sydney in 2005 demonstrate the worst aspects of such selective memory and the hijacking of Australia’s involvement in war to push a mono-cultural view. Scenes of young men and women draped in the Australian flag shouting that they are protecting what their grandfathers had fought for is disgusting, disrespectful and most importantly misguided. Australian troops, along with their New Zealand allies were part of the British Imperial Forces; reinforced by Lieutenant-General Sir W.R. Birdwood who wrote in his introduction to The Anzac Book that the publication served to show ‘to some extent what their fathers have done for the Empire’ and by the British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett who in 1915 constantly referred to the Australians at Gallipoli as ‘colonial troops’ reinforcing the fact that it was the mother country that was being served and defended. The First World War was not about defending liberty, freedom or democracy, and it certainly wasn’t about defending Australia. It was, as Marilyn Lake has stated, ‘to assist our great ally and the world’s greatest autocracy, Russia’ against the Germans and the Ottoman Empire.
So why and how have we reached the point where the inflection on Anzac Day has changed so dramatically? From a period in the mid twentieth century where people held concerns about the disengagement and the possible disappearance of the day we are now at a time where places like Gallipoli and the Kakoda Trail have become both tourist destinations and sites of pilgrimage. This dramatic and monumental change has only happened in the last 25 years, marked by Bob Hawke’s attendance at the Dawn Service at Gallipoli in 1990 with a number of aged World War 1 veterans; the first Australian Prime Minister to attend the service in Turkey. Since then under successive Prime Ministers, in particular John Howard, Anzac Day has become mythical to the point where no Prime Minister would dare miss the memorial at Gallipoli every April. It has become a day where mistruths and distorted realities, such as the reason for the invasion of Turkey, have been pushed aside. The realities of war, in particular the universality of the human experience, the enormous loss of life and the brutality of killing another human being, are replaced by notions of the Anzac spirit and a sense of pride in being Australian. We have moved somewhat uncomfortable from commemoration to celebration: a day where more and more young people drape themselves in Australian flags in acts of patriotism and nationalism at the expense of understanding and even accepting the facts of history.
The ascension of Anzac Day to our National Day is in part a reaction to the 1988 bicentenary celebrations of the arrival of the First Fleet at Botany Bay, which for many, in particular Indigenous Australians, represented invasion. Australia Day could no longer unite and represent all citizens. As Mark McKenna argues:
After a decade of cultural and political division over 26 January, here at last, was a day that could be shaped into a true source of national communion. The blood spilt in the frontier wars, the taking of Aboriginal land without consent or compensation, the physical and cultural decline of Aboriginal communities, and the political demands of Aboriginal activists, none of these need haunt or spoil the commemoration of Anzac Day.
This repositioning of Anzac Day as a replacement for Australia Day within this context assisted in the perpetuation of the readily accepted narrative that Australian lands have never been sites of conflict. This, of course, is not true. The early frontier wars between Aboriginals and settlers saw the death of thousands of people, including large scale massacres committed against the original inhabitants of these lands. Furthermore, the elevation of Anzac Day to the most important day on the national calendar has also enabled politicians to push certain ideological agendas. For Paul Keating it was to redirect the Australian gaze towards Asia by focussing on Australia’s war efforts in the South Pacific, in particular the brutality experienced by servicemen on the Kakoda trail. For Howard it was an opportunity to realign Australia more closely with Britain and the Commonwealth and later to justify Australia’s involvement in the war against terror by invoking a belief that Australia had since the Great War been a defender of liberty and democracy. While this move towards a conservative, deeply politicised and patriotic dimension of Anzac Day has served politicians well and undoubtedly assisted in creating a now universally accepted national identity it has failed in eliciting the complexity of conflict. Moreover, it has created a monotone narrative, which does not allow for different stories.
Andrew’s exhibition addresses this narrowly defined narrative, including the history of the frontier wars. Dotted throughout the exhibition are references to the colonisation of Australian Aborigines. This is most poetically displayed in the work In the mind of others (2015). A gothic timber and glass structure that looks like a cathedral-inspired sarcophagus encases a brass breastplate: an object bestowed upon Indigenous men and women by their new masters, the expanding settler society. While this work speaks more broadly about those lost in war, it resonates in acknowledging the many thousands of Indigenous lives lost in Australia’s own conflicts, many which took place before the landing at Gallipoli. It also simultaneously recognises the service of Indigenous men and women in Australia’s defence forces, including the thousands who served in both World Wars. Andrew’s memorial and acknowledgement of the Indigenous stories poses the question as to why men would participate in wars for a country that did not accept them as citizens. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that like their forefathers who battled the colonisers they were simply defending their country.
The defending of country within the context of Anzac relates exclusively to the defending of Australia. Andrew asks us to consider a broader notion of defending one’s country by considering all conflicts, regardless of location, time and protagonists so that we may truly begin to understand the universality of war, in particular the human dimension. Senior Australian War Officer and Australian Senator Harold Edward “Pompey” Elliott described the cost of conflict, warning against glorification as a replacement for reality: ‘When anyone speaks to you of the glory of war, picture to yourself a narrow line of trenches two and sometimes three deep with bodies mangled and torn beyond description … Live amongst this for days … This is war and such is glory – whatever the novelists may say.’ A letter received by a mother advising her of her son’s death at Gallipoli likewise highlights the human dimension of war: ‘Dear Mrs Marlow, It is with the greatest regret that I write because it is to offer our deep sympathy in the sad loss of your son. It seems so hard when you have four sons at the front and your anxiety cannot be realised by us who are in it … Accept the sympathy of us all in this sad bereavement. What else can we offer?’ Andrew does not shy away from the reality of mass loss. Not because he wishes to shock but rather because he wishes to offer a poignant reminder that war has a human dimension – one, which should never be forgotten and one that should never be used as a basis for nation building and false acts of patriotism. This solemn reminder permeates throughout the exhibition. Legions of War Widows Face Dire Need in Iraq (2009), which greets visitors as they approach the exhibition, reflects on the costs to families in a modern conflict. The two main sculptural vitrines Harvest (2015) and In the mind of others (2015) act as depositories of past lives. The latter with its empty coffin-like casing draws parallels with the tomb of the unnamed soldier: a symbol of the loss of collective man. Army Field, a small photo from a battlefield shows men preparing graves to bury their fellow servicemen and friends. A print after Peter Paul Rubens depicts a naked forlorn man, head bowed, shoulders slumped and hands bound – an image of the defeat of the human spirit in the face of brutality. The seventeenth century print Death on a battlefield (1646–47) depicting a skeleton riding atop a fleshless horse through battlefields reminds us that there is no glory or victory in war regardless of the monuments and poses, which we embrace and build. More broadly, a room claustrophobically installed with 15 framed prints and photographs, including Andrew’s 2011 work Monument 3, confronts the viewer with images, which challenge the romanticised notion of war. A dugong foetus and the skull of a quoll – the first vulnerable to extinction the second now declared extinct – act as metaphor of the violence humans have the capacity to inflict on each other. Likewise they pay homage to the role and death of endless livestock used in the service of war.
Donut II has recently been installed in the atrium space of the Ambassador’s Residence in Paris.
Donut II is a floating sculpture representing the optical patterned matrix of Wiradjuri design. Used in other works such as The Cell and Jumping Castle War Memorial, the hardedge black and white matrix acts as a metaphor for seeing differently. The traditional Wiradjuri design and the contemporary optical experience reference how and what we see as an historical influence on our contemporary lives.
The spherical shape references ancient European and Indigenous depictions of time travel and healing. The Israeli physicist, Amos Ori designed a time machine in this shape and similarly the form comes from a story that speaks of Aboriginal magic trees that form circle shapes in their branches and are in fact time-travelling objects.
The Gun-metal grey series makes use of 19th Century photographs drawn from ethnographic museums and collections of orphaned (unidentified) Australian Aboriginal subjects. Directly linked to the artists own family connections through his mothers Wiradjuri country, this work intends to make note the often difficult and traumatic histories inherited by Aboriginal communities from the effects of genocide through often expedient colonial techniques to document the British frontier in Australia. The photographic remnants of documenting Aboriginal people as a ‘dying race’ further highlights the often cruel and disastrous encounters now shown here in this Gun metal grey series, but in this case Brook Andrew’s series subverts the initial photographic medium to recreate and resurrect the story to full history-painting status and size; intended also as memorials, the works increased scale re-stage representation and make history visible as a testimony to the lack of these narratives in the public international consciousness and discourse. Instigating discussion we can here re-visit these histories that clearly link and draw similarities to well documented and confronting histories internationally.
The Australian Print Workshop (APW) is embarking on a major international project titled ANTIPODES: The Expedition. The Expression. The Exhibition.
Lead by APW Director Anne Virgo OAM and her fellow curator Dr Nicholas Thomas, Director, University of Cambridge Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Brook Andrew, Tom Nicholson and Caroline Rothwell will research important materials relating to Australia and the Pacific. It’s expedition of discovery; with an emphasis on the interplay of natural history, the history of science, empire, art and anthropology.
Hosted by Cambridge University, the group will have privileged behind-the-scenes access to rarely seen and highly significant collections and will meet with leading scholars and curators in Cambridge and London.
On return to Australia, each artist has been commissioned to produce a new body of work in the print medium that will form a series of solo exhibitions at Australian Print Workshop Gallery.
Here is a review as cited in the Sydney Morning Herald.
2015 marks the 50th year of independence for Singapore. Catching Breath, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is exhibited at the the Australian High Commissioner’s Residence to celebrate Singapore’s bilateral relationship with Australia.
Catching Breath, invokes questions about the meaning of identity, culture and social values.
Bhakti Puvanenthiran’s review published in The Age is accessible here.
Catching Breath is a veiled portrait of a seemingly unknown subject. The act and presence of the veil is well known to conceal or represent faith, culture and social values. In Catching Breath the veiled subject peers through the veil with eyes clearly focused on the outside. This eye communication catches our attention, our breath as we decided whether or not to lift the subjects’ veil, to reveal the unknown.
The original portrait is from the artist Brook Andrew’s archive of rare books, postcards and paraphernalia. This archive is an active medium that is massaged into the artist museum installations and exhibitions. In this case Catching Breath is well hidden below the veil of time, though one can lift it if they dare, dare to reveal the past, the curiosity, the known and unknown, the mystery.
This design will be woven in two parts – on the left loom the tapestry will be woven, and the veil on the right loom. Both these parts will be woven with the same palette, however the veil will be a thinner shaped piece, woven with a even weave (warp and weft visible in even amounts) and in a technique similar to cloth weaving. The veil will be woven with a visible black warp specially dyed at the Workshop and silver Lurex thread will be used.
Proudly supported by the Tapestry Foundation of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this project will be the latest addition to our Embassy Tapestry Program and will be going on loan to the Australian High Commission in Singapore.
Brook Andrew and Chris Cochius gave a talk about the making of Catching Breath on the 25th of August 2014, to watch the talk click here.