In August 2022 Art + Australia published Issue_57.2: The Pivot. At the time the term 'pivot' had become a part of everyday vernacular, used to chart the repeated shifts of focus and direction that everyone made during the upheavals of 2020 and 2021. In that issue we documented the impacts of the previous two years on Australian art, artists and galleries, and signalled the pivot of Art + Australia to a new digital publishing platform. Now that we have pivoted, we find ourselves in this location, in the aftermath (albeit ongoing) conditions of the pandemic, peering from a viewpoint dramatically changed by what has come before.
Looking out across this view, we see an artworld reawakening, as previously stalled biennales and festivals returned with full force. Crowds once again flurried from various parts of the globe to familiar art centres, breaching the digital divide to experience art in-person.
In this Issue we chart the desire to reconnect through a range of discussions between artists, curators, architects and art historians. Here we preview conversations between Yuki Kihara and Natalie King, alongside Art + Australia led conversations with all(zone) director Rachaporn Choochuey, the curatorial collective behind the 2022/2023 MPavilion, and curator of the 2003 The Gay Museum Jo Darbyshire. This outward looking view to international art events and projects is also charted in conversations between Suzanne Fraser and Cecilia Alemani, the curator of Venice’s The Milk of Dreams.
The Milk of Dreams challenged the hierarchies of global European exhibition making. In an unprecedented and powerful curatorial move, Alemani shifted the scales of representation, presenting an exhibition comprised of 90% women and non-binary artists.
The ecological cultural and social critiques at the forefront of this post-pandemic reawakening pervade this issue. Artist Yuki Kihara and curator Natalie King discuss Kihara's multifaceted project Paradise Camp presented in the New Zealand/Aotearoa Pavilion in the 59th Venice Biennale. As the first Pacific artist to be presented in the New Zealand Pavilion, Kihara confronts art historical assumptions, ongoing effects of colonisation, ecological concerns, while celebrating her faʻafafine community from Sāmoa. Kihara's project shows that the legacy of contact between European Empires and the Pacific needs further critical attention to better understand their impacts on the here and now.
Kihara's project is a part of an ongoing process of decolonisation that unpicks the patriarchal and Eurocentric purview that continues to oppress First Nations people. An early precedent in this cultural unpicking (that we continue to undertake sixty years on) is Bernhard Smith's pioneering 1960 publication European Vision and the South Pacific. Republished this year by Art + Australia and Miegunyah Press, we mark its republication as editor Sheridan Palmer and art historian Ian McLean reflect on the necessity of Smith's book as key to disentangling the complex relations and inequities pervading both European and Australian art historical assumptions.
The View is filled with many perspectives, as Jo Darbyshire and Jeremy Eaton discuss Darbyshire's highly influential project The Gay Museum shown at the Western Australian Museum in 2003. The impact of The Gay Museum on queer exhibitions and museological studies continues to be felt. Kalkatungu artist Ricky Emmerton explores a combined method of historical and oral research with a local Elder, Uncle Jimmy, to explore his artistic heritage. As you explore The View you will discover responses and criticisms of exhibitions by leading Australian artists, Marco Fusinato, Shelley Lasica, Susan Jacobs and Paul Yore amongst many others.
From The Milk of Dreams, Paradise Camp, European Vision, The Gay Museum and the other voices expressed in this issue we see the need to look to the past anew. The gaze of history is pervaded by bias and silence so to look again, as these artists, curators and historians show, is fundamental to unpicking the social inequities that continue to course through our present. In this post-pandemic context we look out on a view that is shifting and multiple as we constantly reconfigure how we look and understand where we are now.
Notes on the cover of Issue 58.1: The View
The cover for this edition of Art + Australia is a virtual environment accessible through Internet browsers on a computer, mobile device, or for a completely immersive experience, a VR headset, such as the Oculus (Meta) Quest.
Click anywhere to enter the virtual space, then, if you’re using a computer, use the W, A, S, and D keys on the keyboard to move around, or, if you’re using a mobile device, simply touch the screen in the direction you’d like to move. To leave the space and return to reading Art+australia, click ‘Esc’ on the keyboard or scroll down using the banner on mobile.
As artists, we are constantly seeking new ways to engage with and challenge dominant narratives which act as forces of normalisation. With this in mind, we created a virtual reality (VR) stage environment for the cover of this edition of Art + Australia that explores post-colonial themes through an AI generated landscape.
Our VR stage features AI (DALL-E) generated images that respond to the prompt "oil-painted Australian landscape" as flats in a constantly changing set design for an imaginary play.
The VR stage environment serves as a metaphor for the complexities and contradictions of representing the world as a virtual experience in an age of post-colonialism. The VR stage environment carries the potential to consider emerging and alternative narratives that move beyond the legacy of colonialism, and imagine the roles we will play in our shared futures.
—Karen ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato