Over twelve months ago, from the depths of a Melbourne lockdown Art + Australia called out to friends, colleagues and our extended artistic community to see how everyone was coping. This inherently local approach was, at the time, a particular characteristic of lockdowns. Our usual points of connection and exchange had been severed, which meant casual conversations taken for granted needed to be supplemented in other ways. And while we were constrained in real life, we were (for better or worse) free to roam in the virtual world. We could connect, work across time zones and engage with one another through our devices, all with the click of a keystroke.
While we roamed through this immaterial terrain, we were also grounded in this place, "Australia", on the unceded lands of the oldest continuous culture in the world. Our new virtual condition along with being sited on this ancient continent gave Art + Australia a new way forward. We, as the title of this issue and in-line with the new vernacular that had entered everyday speech, decided to pivot to a new digital publishing enterprise. This new iteration of Art + Australia (the country's oldest art publication) is intended to be of this place and, also, connected with rest of the world in the most human of all impulses—art.
'Art' and 'Australia' are two contested terms that we seek to interrogate, celebrate and challenge. Once again chronicling and providing context for art made here and abroad. We hope you will join us.
Issue 57.2 The Pivot follows on the tail of Multinaturalism Issue 57.1, that was, as editor Tessa Laird outlines,
..born out of forest fires and deforestation.. of extraction and despoliation, which ravage landscapes and people, including unique and irreplaceable lifeways, languages and cultures. This issue (Multinaturalism) is born out of anger and despair for irretrievable losses, including plant and animal relations we will never see again. This issue is dedicated to the three billion animals that lost their lives on this continent in the summer of 2019–20, losses subsequently eclipsed by a virus spiralling out of control in the anthroposphere. But this issue is also born out of fierce love and an undying spirit of joy, as we celebrate the indescribable beauty that still lives on this planet, and fight for its ‘ongoingness’, its ‘survivance’.
From here, in April 2022 Laird curated Baroquetopus at Gertrude Contemporary, further charting the deep embodied and ecological entanglements between humans, animals and environments.
Now, a year on from the eco-human devastation captured by Laird, we add the unfolding catastrophic war in Ukraine and the war’s ongoing local and global consequences. Many displaced Ukrainians are now, as curator Sergei Sviatchenko and Faye Dowling articulate, ‘wandering the roads of Europe in order to find new places to settle—for the time being, or maybe for many years to come’, and on the 29th of January their exhibition Unfolding Landscapes—presenting major art works by 42 Ukrainian artists—opened at KunstCentret Silkeborg Bad, Silkeborg, Denmark. It is now a refugee exhibition, unable to go home.
So, from this vantage point, and after one of the longest lockdowns in the world, here in Melbourne, and on the ground in all states, The Pivot is designed to take stock and see where this global pandemic shock has left us and what tomorrow might look like for Australia, as Richard Frankland challenges us to see Tomorrow's Australia.
What has the past two years taught us, what have they shown us and have we learnt anything? Perhaps one thing is clear that a united global effort alongside great scientific work, allows us to imagine how other global problems could find solutions. During the period of lockdowns and the immobility they entailed, Art + Australia heard from artists, curators, galleries and writers, to chart the various ways we have all coped (or not) and adapted. By managing exhibitions that were cancelled and unseen, to new modes of working across geographies, many have found ways to connect to audiences and each other that were unprecedented prior to this time. We asked contributors how was 2020 and what are the lingering effects, two years on?
Art + Australia has also taken stock, adapted, and ‘pivoted’ to accommodate this new condition, one that opens-up access to readers, indeed new audiences, and allows for multiple modes of discourse and artistic praxis to be experienced. The technological pivot of the last two years has had a remarkable and rapid impact on art education at all levels, and the art market at home and internationally. In many places schools and universities closed their grounds, almost overnight, and in some cases for almost two years. We are yet to fathom what effect this will have, on both individual artists and the business of art itself.
The new Art + Australia platform, developed to be multimodal and a new expression of community, designed by Karen Ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato, will both mark this time and open up new possibilities for interaction and connection. Donnachie and Simionato have brought their deep technological and ethical knowledge of web-based publication and design to the project. Elements of which are inherent to a range of their artistic and independent publishing projects featured in this issue.
The reflections, thoughts and insights provided by artists, galleries, curators and writers here is a gift to you, the readers, the beginning of our new ambitions for the Art + Australia project. From here on we will build a publishing enterprise that can have a number of entry points for contributors and readers alike, adopting the diverse formats now at our disposal to disseminate art and its discourses to you, the reader.
You can join us in this new endeavour by signing up to receive news and regular texts from the archive, subscribe to the Art + Australia Archive or by purchasing our products from The Bookshop.
Su Baker and the Art + Australia team