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<nettime> ::contagion:: Australian Media Art {AT} The Centenary of Federat
linda wallace on Sun, 14 Oct 2001 22:07:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> ::contagion:: Australian Media Art {AT} The Centenary of Federation, 2001

Australian Media Art  {AT}  The Centenary of Federation, 2001

New Zealand Film Archive, Wellington
Oct 11th    to  Nov 18    2001

 ::contagion::, formulated by artist and curator Linda Wallace, brings
together a selection of new video and computer artworks from Australia. The
exhibition, featuring the work of over 25 artists, will exist both in
ëhardí space in the premises of the New Zealand Film Archive in Wellington,
New Zealand, and in net space, with a number of net.works linked from the
website as an integral part of the exhibition.

for exhibition essay and artists bios, info and images from all works,
please visit:


the following is the exhibition essay, also on the website:

Australian new media art {AT} the centenerary of federation

In the year of the Centenary of Federation, 2001, ::contagion:: presents
a multiplicity of tendencies within current Australian image practice.

The works are often quite raw, but energetic ? somehow mobile, fluid and
quixotic, with a do-it-yourself edge. More akin to mobile research lines
of investigation, the works chart the way-points of an experimental
trajectory. They are neither monumental nor the end point of this

Over half the artists in ::contagion:: are under thirty. Several works
come from students at masters or Ph.D. level whilst others continue to
work within institutions as teachers. This seems to reflect a trend
amongst Australian new media artists in 2001; joining an institution or
post-graduate program offers access to the equipment and facilities
necessary to produce the work. Indeed, only a few, e.g.: Patricia
Piccinini, (recently awarded an Australia Council New Media Arts
Fellowship) and Tracey Moffatt, are able to work full time as artists
outside of the institution.

It would be impossible to present a show in the year of the Centenary of
Federation without addressing the unresolved question of reconciliation.
In searching for video work by Aboriginal artists I was, however,
surprised to find there was very little being produced ? a situation
backed up other curators of aboriginal art. Most Koori artists working
in the digital realm seem to be concentrating on print and 2D. Tracey
Moffatt, however, remains an exception. Other works in the show, notably
Michael Schiavelloís What Kind of Country and the personal and rather
eccentric internet work of Gary Foley (which tells the Koori history in
pictures) further the discussion.

Due to my own personal aesthetic concerns, I was attracted to the poetic
and abstract tendencies, the almost technical formalism or ëmachinic
aestheticsí seen in the work of Emil Goh, Andrew Gadow, Gary Zebington
and Ian Andrews, also seen in the internet works of Mez, seo and Melinda
Rackham. There is a variety of narrative structures and performative
gestures in the works from Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewskiís AKA,
Kuba Dorabialskiís Interview for Foreign Television and Eliza
Hutchisonís work Voila!.

Narrative and story-telling is present in the machinic assemblage that
is Britney Love. Recorded by artist Kate Murphy in Glasgow when there
for an artists residency in 1999, we watch eleven year old Brittaney
Love ëbecomeí the global media fiction that is Britney Spears ? from the
way she speaks and sings, the way she dances to what she wears.
Brittaney Love has in a way been possessed by her icon ? her media

So what does it mean to make media art in Australia in the year 2001?

There is now very little space for public dialogue in Australia outside
of established media channels. The general commercial media diet is
bland and uninspiring, promoting a view of Australia as a generous group
of cheery souls. The recent Tampa debacle has done much to undermine
this image globally. The antimedia site addresses this issue, as does
(indirectly) the work of Komninos Zervos.  This contemporary situation
also finds its historic resonance in Vivienne Dadourís Realm.

The Howard Government has increased the amount of dollars spent on
political advertising to reinforce the "relaxed and comfortable" vision
of the Australian nation. This propaganda culminates in the Centenary of
Federation television advertisements, which Michael Schiavello blows
apart in his work, What Kind of Country. Emile Zile also tackles that
comfortable view by literally ëcarving intoí the media fabric, into the
daily news soap opera to create a new texture - one in which the smooth
outlines become frayed.

Many of the works in ::contagion:: strategically re-use other media.
Richard Grantís MAJU, my own work eurovision, and Tracey Moffatt and
Gary Hillbergís witty pastiche of artists in Hollywood movies, all take
image fragments from an assortment of sources and feed them into the
machine for reprocessing, to then output new forms. These new
constructions offer varying levels of critique and exploration of the
assumptions within the original media fragments.  I am interested to
read this as an extension of Duchampís tradition of the "assisted

In this pre-dominantly English speaking Australia we have grown used to
seeing imported cultural cinema product subtitled. Such a strategy has
also appeared in two recent advertisements; one spoken in Italian,
another Russian; both subtitled in English. In fact, in a radical move,
a newly released Australian feature film, La Spagnola, is spoken in
Spanish with English subtitles. Both Kuba Dorabialskiís Interview, (in
which he claims to have invented the language of the piece) works with
subtitles, as does eurovision.

Several of the artists in ::contagion:: work with audio production. Ian
Andrews, Andrew Gadow, and Emile Zile work with music, DJing and VJing
at events across the country. Richard Grant works with musicians, and
here we see the clip for the band called 'MAJU'.  Of the net projects,
seo, 'Laudenum' (Zina Kaye, mr snow and Caleb K), and the alias
frequencies collective combine audio and graphic experiments.

I am becoming a little dubious about the current trend towards the
ëmuseumificationí of new media. In this climate only a select few get to
make these huge works and exhibit them. Certainly, nothing is better for
an artist than to have the money to fully research and realise a major
project over a long period of time. However, it seems that this
privilege appears to reach fewer and fewer artists, who, once they get
such commissions, seem to be the recipients again and again (on the
basis of their last ëepicí work). ::contagion::  presents a different
view. It aims to show the diversity of contemporary practice for a range
of artists, many of whom are a bit off-the-map in terms of the
'museumification' of new media.

Why call it ::contagion:: ? From a belief that what you see, however
subtly, alters you. As a viewer you donít know where your particular
infection will come from ? which work will resonate with you, and after
viewing these in ëhardí space, be certain to view the CD-ROMs and take a
look at the net projects.

Art is nothing but a time machine, a machine for making thought travel.
The new ways these Australian artists are imagining their circumstances
will certainly bear strange fruit in the century to come.Ö.

Linda Wallace
September 2001

Acknowledgements: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the New
Zealand Film Archive for inviting me to conceptualise and curate what
has become ::contagion:: and in particular to thank Mark Williams for
his professionalism, efficiency and good humour.

linda wallace
curator ::contagion::

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