Editorial: Translating the Art and Australia Landscape

| Chloe Ho

Editorial: Translating the Art and Australia Landscape

Editorial: Translating The Art And Australia Landscape | Chloe Ho

'Translating the Art and Australia Landscape' is a project that responds to the Art and Australia archive (1963-present). It is a research project that happens live and on the web over 2023-24. The project will include essays about alternative ways of seeing and speaking about art, and publish textual and non-textual translations of archival material demonstrating these proposals. In their responses, the contributors and collaborators of this project are re-reading or speaking back to the Art and Australia archive. Together, we are translating the landscape of Art and Australia into languages that we know, use, and believe in today.  

This project was prompted by my ongoing work organising the archive for general art and art historical research, and my musings on why the Art and Australia magazine is not very well-read outside of Australia. For one, the magazine was publishing full colour plates of key artworks in public and private collections from Australia and across the world at a time before the internet. The publication would have been a fantastic resource for anyone interested in art in Australia and beyond.  

While the reasons for its limited reach seem obvious—alleged provincialism, remote geography, and lack of outreach to our neighbours—these stereotypes do not hold up to any form of research. When Art in Australia (1916-1942) was rebooted in 1963 as Art and Australia by the publisher Sam Ure-Smith, a descendent of the original owner Sydney Ure-Smith, under the editorial helm of Mervyn Horton, the advisory board was geographically dispersed across several continents.1 Regular reports from Asia, Europe and North America were being published in Art and Australia. Furthermore, essays were often penned by curators in state galleries and art historians in well-respected universities. In 1993, Art and Australia initiated what is now known as the ArtAsiaPacific journal, ‘the leading English-language periodical covering contemporary art and culture from Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.’2 In this expansion, Art and Australia (based in Sydney at the time) was publishing alongside Australian initiatives such as Asialink Arts in Melbourne and Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane. Whether it was in its pages, in its reach, or in its time, Art and Australia had always worked internationally, interstate and with an eye to the world.  

The contributors to ‘Translating the Art and Australia Landscape’ are beginning with an alternative provocation: that Art and Australia was speaking a different language. ‘Different language’, in this case, may refer to the use of the English Language. Until very recent history, English was not spoken in many parts of the world. While it is much more widespread today, this increasing hegemony is also balanced by postcolonial efforts to improve art critical scholarship outside of the Anglophone, Francophone or Germanophone worlds. ‘Different language’ may also refer to the use of academic, technical, language. As a trade magazine for art in Australia, the contributors of Art and Australia may use words more familiar to art historians, critics, and dealers, or refer to artworks that were only visible on the continent. This is a familiar problem for other publications worldwide, where deeply localised content was simultaneously its strength for local punters and its greatest weakness for international and interdisciplinary reach. Finally, we understand ‘different language’ as a call for indigenous authority. Indigenous cultures the world over know that knowledge is transmitted through speech, song, dance, sound, land, and ways other than the printed word.  

We know of the very real violence wrought upon peoples everywhere by cultural imperialism. Australian art history specifically is fraught with contestations of land and Country, with deep impacts upon our psyche continuing more than a century later. ‘Translating the Art and Australia Landscape’ is an attempt to take ‘different languages’ seriously, by imagining what art critical scholarship might look like when written text is not a priority but a simple touchstone toward knowledge production and transmission. Over the next year, this project will be publishing new and old essays about knowledge, point toward and re-read relevant articles in the archive, and enact these proposals as live events on and off the Australian continent. Each capsule should provide a provisional snapshot of an alternative Australian landscape, seen from distinct positions in place. None form an authoritative voice for art or Australia, this platform’s name. However, each provide valid positions for understanding and translating art, Australia, and the Art + Australia magazine.  

 +  Vol. 50 No. 4, (June 2013). Licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

 +  Vol. 50 No. 4, (June 2013). Licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

 +  Vol. 50 No. 4, (June 2013). Licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

 +  Vol. 50 No. 4, (June 2013). Licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

December 2023 

To speak in a multilingual world is to make a choice: which world(s) do we choose to engage with? For the bakla/bading/beki/agi/bayot/baccla, local genderqueer peoples of present-day Philippines, Tagalog and the “national” language Filipino may bring about ambivalence. In 'Swardspeak: What Queering Language and Form Means to Me' Austere Rex Gamao reflects upon the tongues with which he has the most affinity: Hiligaynon and Swardspeak. Filipino may be the national language, but his mother tongue is Hiligaynon, the language spoken in his province of origin, Negros Occidental, located in the Visayas. For the Negrense, Gamao is an agi.3 Swardspeak is an ever-evolving language across the Philippine archipelago for the genderfluid peoples who construct their own form of communication. In Tagalog, Gamao should be bakla. However, he prefers to say it in Swardspeak: baccla, 'with the two soft Cs replacing the hard K. You have to say it with more flourish.'4 First published in English an extended form by Erika Carreon for Cordite Poetry Review, I invited Gamao to translate his text for this project. Crucially, while Swardspeak is shared by the entire beki community, Hiligaynon, Tagalog and English is not. Gamao’s translation includes all four languages, simultaneously calling in and excluding bekis and non-bekis alike. His world(s) queered ideas of fixed and singular communities.  

Alongside this work, Ian Rafael Ramirez was invited to respond to the Art and Australia archive. Siya has chosen to look at ‘Primitive Art Collection’ (10:1, 1972) by Deputy Director, AGNSW and Curator of Primitive Art, J.A. Tuckson (better known as Tony Tuckson, b. 1921-d. 1973). This article was part of a special issue produced on the occasion of Art Gallery of New South Wales’s (AGNW) new Captain Cook wing. ‘Primitive Art Collection’ was a position statement on whose artwork would be collected ('Australia, islands of the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to New Guinea and some parts of Indonesia, Negro Africa south of the Sahara, North America and particular areas of Asia') and why ('many of the objects are made with skill and feeling, that they should be seen in art museums as well as museums of ethnology').5 Ian, alongside their many other bekis selves, respond to Tuckson with contemporary sentiment. They highlight the 'makapa-insulto nga meaning', or insult, implied by the term ‘primitive’. They also discuss the role of Dr Stuart Scougall, especially his financial contribution to Pukumani grave posts (1958), 17 grave posts (tutini) by the Timi people of Melville Island. Hetti Perkins, in a 2007 interview with Mrs. Margaret Tuckson (b. 1921-d.2014), will call this commission as having 'changed the future of the gallery's presentation and opened up an ongoing dialogue between the institution and Indigenous artists and their work.'6 The bekis have never read ART and Australia, and view Tuckson’s work with fresh eyes. They talk back and demand more of Tuckson who, while pivotal, continued to betray 1972 biases in his choice of words.  

 + A privileged moment Hetti Perkins and Margaret Tuckson Vol. 47 No. 1, p (2009). Licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

In February 2024, the Mga Baklang Kanal, a group of 12 bakla performers, will be further translating this text in a live performance held in Manila, the Philippines. This event is organised in collaboration with the University of Philippines Diliman Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts, UP History Department, and De La Salle University. 


1. Sydney: James Gleeson, Robert Haines, Leonard Hessing, John Olsen; Melbourne: John Brack, Ursula Hoff; Brisbane: Laurie Thomas; Adelaide: Kym Bonython; Perth: T. H. Gibbons, Guy Grey-Smith, Rose Skinner; New Zealand: Yuji Abe, K. Okamoto, Chisaburch F. Yamada; USA: Fred Martin, Henry A. Stroud; Europe: Ronald Millen. From mid-1964, there were also two advisory members for New Zealand: Paul Beadle, Hamish Keith. 

2. https://artasiapacific.com/about 

3. For genderqueer peoples in present-day Philippines, their identities often remain elusive. In reviewing this text, Erika Carreon remarked: “Bakla is tricky/too slippery to be easily classified or reduced as a "third gender" the way Western gender discourse usually defines it, because it contains both gender and sexuality. There are many baklas who do not regard themselves as different from cisgender men, for example, and simply define kabaklaan as homosexeuality. There are baklas who identify themselves with the label as a marker of gender expression. Straight folks also use it derogatorily to mean effeminate, regardless of whether or not the person being insulted regards themselves as differently gendered or not, so there's also that dimension to it.” See also Jaya Jacobo. “The bakla, the agi: our genders which are not one,” Journal Periferas, https://revistaperiferias.org/en/materia/the-bakla-the-agi-our-genders-which-are-not-one/.  

4. See Austere’s article in this collection.

5. J.A. Tuckson, “Primitive Art Collection,” ART and Australia, June 1972, p. 77. By the time of the article, Tuckson was already gravely ill and was not able to visit the new gallery. He will pass from cancer a year later, in November 1973.  

6. Hetti Perkins, “A Privileged Moment: Retracing Tony Tuckson’s Pioneering Journey North,” art & Australia, September 2009, p. 110. 

Translating The Art And Australia Landscape: Events

Translating the Art and Australia Landscape: Events

Translating the Art and Australia Landscape: Events

Baks Paki-translate! Conversations on Queering Translation

Register for Baks Paki-translate! Conversations on Queering Translation
Where: Teatro Hermogenes Ylagan (THY), Pavilion 3, College of Arts and Letters, University of Philippines Diliman  
When: 16 February 2024, 6pm
Panel Discussion: Austere Rex Gamao, Erika Carreon, Ian Rafael Ramirez, Chloe Ho
Performance: “Ambot sa Essay Kwoah” by Ang Mga Baklang Kanal

Join us on the 16 February 2024 for a panel discussion between Austere Rex Gamao, Erika Carreon, Ian Rafael Ramirez and Chloe Ho followed by a performance of “Ambot sa Essay Kwoah” by Ang Mga Baklang Kanal at Teatro Hermogenes Ylagan, Pavilion 3, University of the Philippines Diliman.

To speak in a multilingual world is to make a choice: which world(s) do we choose to engage with? This event follows Austere Rex Gamao’s ruminations as a baccla at the 2023 Pride March, which was first published in Cordite by Erika Carreon, and subsequently translated from English to Sward for Art+ Australia. Ang Mga Baklang Kanal, led by Ian Rafael Ramirez has further interpreted Austere’s writing in performance. These Swardspeak presentations are part of ‘Translating the Art and Australia landscape’, an Art + Australia Study Centre project led by Chloe Ho.

In this event, Austere, Erika, Ian, and Chloe will be in conversation. Chloe will provide broader context for ‘Translating the Art and Australia landscape’, a practice-led research enquiry across worlds on non-Anglophone ways to talk about art, and chairing a conversation between Austere, Erika, and Ian. The speakers will discuss what it means to speak beyond English or Tagalog, how to do so visibly, and the critical principles employed when translating Austere’s article.

The conversation will be followed by a performance by the Ang Mga Baklang Kanal. This is the debut presentation of ‘Ambot sa Essay Kwoah’ written by Austere Rex Gamao in performance by Ang Mga Baklang Kanal.

About the Presenters and Performers

Austere Rex Gamao is from Sagay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. His work has appeared in Cordite Poetry Review, tractions: experiments in art writing, Queer Southeast Asia: A Literary Journal of Transgressive Art, Underblong, TLDTD, Ilahas Journal, and forthcoming in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature. His first book, With Decade, is also forthcoming from Grana Books in 2024. He obtained an MFA in Creative Writing at De La Salle University. As of writing, he teaches at Far Eastern University.

Erika M Carreon co-founded the independent journal Plural Online Prose Journal and published hybrid art and prose projects under Occult’s Razor together with Neobie Gonzalez. Her poems, short stories and translation work have appeared in High Chair, Kritika Kultura, TAYO Literary Magazine, Philippines Free Press, Katitikan, Anomaly Journal, Kalliope X and in Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines. She is currently in the final stages of her PhD in creative writing at the University of Melbourne with a special interest in eco-fiction.

Ian Ramirez works across dramaturgy, curation, and performance-making, and they have done projects both in the Philippines and in Australia. Their recent projects include Regine: The Fairy Gay Mother (Virgin Lab Fest 18 Hitik), Baklang Kanal! (Performance Space, and PACT Centre for Emerging Artists), and 'it would be a nice place' (presented by Environmental Film Festival Australia, Seventh Gallery, and Australian Environments on Screen). They are currently a Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies at the University of Melbourne with an interest in the worldmaking practices of the baklang kanal.

Chloe Ho is a doctoral candidate in Art History at the University of Melbourne and Digital Archive Researcher with Art and Australia. Her PhD project looks at performance and installation art and other artistic, social, and political events in, from, or about Singapore from the late 1980s to the present in relation to the writing of global art history. Her broader research interests include performance art forms in the Asian context and artistic migration, particularly in relation to performance art and artists.

Ang Mga Baklang Kanal ay isang queer solidarity collective na binubuo ng iba’t ibang mga creatives at cultural workers na may layuning mag-ambag sa diskurso ng pakikibaka’t pakikibeki ng LGBTQIA+ sa lansangan, iba’t ibang larangan at lunan.

This event is organised by Art + Australia in collaboration with Cordite Poetry Review, University of Philippines Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts, and Ang Mga Baklang Kanal.

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