Saturday, October 16, 2010

John Davis: Presence, NGV Australia

I’ve been an admirer of John Davis’ sculptures since I came across a dusty black and white book in my first year of art school, and until his survey show, Presence, at the National Gallery Victoria, my enthusiasm had been based on mostly black and white photographic documentation of his delicate works.  John Davis’ sculptures are surely a museum conservator’s nightmare – constructions of twigs, paper, cotton, tied loosely together or bonded with bitumen – which is probably the reason why I’d never seen more than one of his works in person before this show.

Evolution of a Fish: Traveller (1990)
Repetition and an emphasis on material and process are consistent themes across the exhibition.  With the dramatic exception of the few sculptures from the late 1960s, which are surprisingly hard-edged and made from metal and fibreglass, his works indicate an element of play in their careful construction. His later forms are made from predominantly organic materials, and embrace an earthy and limited colour scheme – a reflection of Davis’ consistent exploration of environmental themes that started in the early 1970s.  Most of the works are wall or floor-based, and the white walls of the gallery provide an interesting contrast to the crooked grid lines that occur in numerous works.  This tension between the imperfections of the natural materials and the enforced construction of geometry is what makes Davis’ works so engrossing, and is perhaps also illustrative of the contradictory way in which humans perceive and interact with the natural environment.

Serendipitously, I visited the exhibition just after viewing the Tim Burton show at ACMI, and as a result Davis’ fish sculptures, which I’ve always considered quite serious pieces, started to look quite comical and animated with a monstrous streak.  While I doubt Davis had similar intentions to Burton when creating his fish characters, I enjoy ‘seeing’ this very different side to the Evolution of the Fish series. 

Tree Piece (1973), Sculpturscape

The show is set out chronologically, although I enter at the ‘wrong’ end because the start is strangely accessed through another exhibition, not the foyer.  Nevertheless, like a resume, sometimes it’s better to start with more recent activity - such as Davis’ ubiquitous fish sculptures - and work back.  My personal interest in Davis’ sculptures is in this early period of his career when he participated in the Mildura Sculpture Triennials, making site-related environmental works in the scrubby floodplains surrounding the Mildura Gallery.  Unfortunately, the significance and influence of the site and events, in particular the 1973 ‘Sculpturscape’ exhibition, are not even mentioned in the exhibition’s didactic texts.  The photographic documentation of Tree Piece (1973), where Davis wrapped a number of gum trees with various materials, is not attributed to any specific exhibition, despite Sculpturscape’s influence on not only Davis’ practice but also on the early development of Australian environmental sculpture, Installation and Site-specific Art in general.  Nevertheless, Presence, is an excellent and inclusive survey of Davis’ three-decade practice, and a welcome opportunity to view such fragile works in person; and the colour catalogue that accompanies the exhibition will also be a welcome addition to the existing, predominantly black and white illustrated publications on his work.

John Davis: Presence is at the NGV Australia, 6 August - 26 October 2010

image sources: 

Catalano, Gary. An Intimate Australia: the landscape and recent Australian art. Sydney: Hale and Ironmonger, 1985

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Serendipitous Istanbul

Commercial Art Gallery, Istanbul

The Travertines, Pemukkale
My last post described the rather generic experience of the Cer Modern in Ankara, Turkey.  Following Ankara, I spent a week in Istanbul, a vastly different city to the rest of the country. I was hard pressed to find contemporary art galleries in the other Turkish cities I visited on the trip: Iznik (famous historical ceramic centre), Bursa (car broke down), Bergama (the living city next to the ancient city of Pergamom), Cesme (Genovese Castle), Ephesus (ancient city), Pemukkale (ancient city and unlikely travertine landscape, pictured left), Olympos (ancient city, more Genovese ruins, and the Chimnea), and Göreme (historic monastery carved into the bizarre rock formations, the town of Goreme pictured below).  However, in Istanbul it was hard to avoid contemporary art.
Göreme, Cappadocia
My friends and I dutifully headed off to the Istanbul Modern on our first day in the city.  Like many contemporary art galleries, it’s housed in an ex-industrial building; in this case, an old shipping warehouse.  They’ve retained part of the industrial aesthetic (which I affectionately term ‘rust fetish’), while fitting out the gallery with the obligatory white walls. 

'look up!' Istanbul Modern ceilings
I revisited the gallery when it hosted the Inclusive Museum Conference dinner a couple of nights later.  Someone from the conference asked me what the gallery was like earlier in the day, to which I replied “oh it’s a generic white cube gallery with a bit of rust fetish thrown in, but it’s got an emphasis on Turkish art which is great for international visitors”.  Interestingly, on the guided conference tour before the dinner, the director proudly told us that the Istanbul Modern is “not your usual white cube gallery,” referring to the fact that it’s in an ex-industrial building and it wasn’t in the shape of a cube.  She’d taken the notion of the ‘white cube’ very literally.  It was a strange moment, simply because I’d confidently described the gallery as such only a few hours earlier.  Rust fetish has become institutionalised; it’s the new ‘white cube’.

I took a couple of images of the library installation, which was pretty impressive: books suspended from the ceiling on the lower level, with a seamless transition from outside the glassed in library area to the inside.  The reading was of varying quality:

Book installation outside the library, Istanbul Modern

The staircase was also pretty memorable.  At first, I thought it was an artwork: bullet strewn glass walls, heavy chain casing, galvanised iron steps… it didn’t really encourage you to walk downstairs. 

The work that stood out for me at the gallery was Sener Ozmen and Erkan Ozgen’s video Tate Modern Yolu (Road to Tate Modern), 2003.  It’s an ironic and very amusing reference to Don Quixote’s novel of Cervantes, with the two besuited artists, one on a horse and one ridiculously perched upon a small tireless donkey, setting off from the mountains of Diyarbakir to the Tate Modern, London.  I watched a couple of loops of the video on my first visit, which is a rarity for me with video.  

The next day I came across a co-op art workshop, where practitioners were trying to maintain traditional Turkish arts and crafts, such as ceramics, marbling and miniature painting.  They had for sale a couple of handpainted copies of an historical painting of a man with an oversized turban sitting on a relatively fragile looking donkey (pictured left), and I bought it, simply because it reminded me of the video.  On my return visit to the Istanbul Modern, I was no less impressed with the video, with its over-the-top dialogue and mock seriousness.

I should point out that I returned to the Istanbul Modern a third time, but not for the art, it was for the food.  The conference dinner wasn’t that impressive, but the gallery restaurant's position on the waterfront, with a balcony looking over the Bosphorus to the Topkapi Palace and Eastern Shore, was the main reason why we opted to return on our last night.  At the conference dinner, there was a bloody cruise boat blocking the view (bringing back memories of my one and only visit to Quay, in Sydney), but on this last visit, not only was there an undisturbed view (left), but the food was really very good and relatively reasonable for the level service.

Warehouse art installation, Istanbul

Near the Istanbul Modern (but stupidly not signposted) was a warehouse full of a number of art exhibitions initiated as part of the city’s 2010 European Capital of Culture status.  It was the first time that the warehouse had been used for this purpose. Upstairs were a number of smaller exhibitions, all of which worth seeing, although I really only remember a couple of works clearly.  Downstairs was a topical exhibition about money, with a humorous work which invited concerned viewers to press the 'magic button', which would supposedly 'cure' the financial crisis.

We also stumbled across an interesting work in the Taksim square train station.  Two anthropomorphic orange machines with drumsticks attached to their hands were playing percussion instruments, dictated by monitors in the Bosphorus.  Not speaking Turkish, I wasn’t sure if it was measuring the pollution or waves, but it was an engaging work and exhibition location.  We’d actually gatecrashed the opening night, and I was interested to see that Turkish art openings (if this was representative) don’t serve alcohol (maybe not surprising in a predominantly Muslim nation).

I left Istanbul happy that at least one Turkish city had fulfilled my enjoyment of serendipitous exhibition encounters.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Turkish Gallery experience?

I’ve just returned from a 3 week conference/ art research trip to Turkey, a country of ancient ruins, enthusiastic touts, lots of eggplant and meat, amazing fresh fruit and vegies, and a very cool city: Istanbul.  I travelled around with two other girls in a hire car for two weeks before hiring an apartment in Istanbul for a week near the ever-awake Taksim Square.  The conference I attended (and presented at) on the last five days was the International Conference on the Inclusive Museum, which was a topical end to my visit as I was quite unhappy with the (lack of) educational and money-grabbing approach of most of Turkey’s museums (more on that in a future post)

 The curious Seraphim figure with an 'uncovered' face, Aya Sofya, Istanbul

From my extensive prior research and experience, the contemporary art (in a Western Art sense) in Turkey seems confined to Istanbul, and to a lesser extent, Ankara.  It appeared strange to me coming from a country such as Australia, where every town above, approximately 3000 people, seems to have a contemporary art gallery (of varying quality and criticality, mind you).

Ankara’s Cer Modern was our first contemporary art gallery stop after two weeks of ancient ruins, traditional arts and crafts, Ottoman architecture and grimy interiors.  I was shocked at the relief and the ‘I’m home’ familiar feeling I experienced when entering the building, which could easily be an art institution anywhere in the world.  I truly understood what O’Doherty meant by his description of the modern ‘white cube’ art gallery:

A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church.  The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off.  Walls are painted white.  The ceiling becomes the source of light.  The wooden floor is polished so that you click along clinically, or carpeted so that you pad soundlessly, resting the feet while the eyes have at the wall.  The art is free, as the saying used to go, “to take on its own life.”(Inside the White Cube: The ideology of the Gallery Space, p.15)

 Entrance Couryard, Cer Modern, Ankara

True, the gallery was showcasing the art of a Turkish art collector, the majority of it by Turkish artists, but it still could have been a travelling show anywhere in the world.  The gallery shop displayed the ubiquitous acrylic laser-cut ‘birds on a wire’ brooches and branded pencils, the floors were polished concrete, the bathrooms sported the latest shiny European taps, and the building embraced the popular museum ‘rust fetish’ aesthetic by showing the old train tracks beneath an acrylic section of the floor, revealing the structure’s previous use as a train shed.  Perhaps the most ‘Turkish’ part of the gallery was its café.  I ordered a hamburger, and it came deliciously spiced like the kofta (meatballs) we’d eaten for the previous two weeks. 

Gallery Cafe, Cer Modern

The exhibition in the Cer Modern was interesting, even if painting dominated the exhibition  (there was only one new media work and only a handful of sculptures and photographs).  The premise of +Infinity: A selection from the Ebru Özdemir Collection, was, as the title suggests, a particular art collector’s collection.  However, the short blurb on the exhibition went a bit further and suggests that we can ‘read the history of art’ through the collections of people like Ebru Özdemir.  I thought the blurb, which you can read here, was interesting because in many art schools, the art market is often ignored or underplayed when teaching art history and/or theory, despite its significant role in shaping, or to a lesser extent (in my opinion), reflecting art history.

There were a lot of fairly banal works, but the ones that grabbed my attention were the surreal landscapes by painter Alaettin Aksoy, the tracing paper collage by Elvan Alpay, and the humorous Please Clear the Dance Floor by Gözde Iklin, which seemingly depicted the wedding from hell mixed in with some Devil Facial Tumour-esque forms.  I also enjoyed Inci Eviner’s Leg Animal, where the artist had created a half-man half-squirrel type creature by dripping paint on unstretched canvas, a figure that appealed particularly as one of our many car games - ‘hypotheticals’ - involved a similar proposal: ‘would you rather have a squirrel for a foot, or a shark for a hand?’  The digital photographs by Kezban Arca Batibeki, collectively titled the Burnt Palaces Series (2006), depicted ruined interiors, ironically framed in ornate gilt frames.  At the same time, the value adding effect of the frames was somewhat undermined by the ‘sameness’ of the frames – all of them the same size and dimensions – and the cluster-style hanging.

The show was an interesting introduction to a wide range of Modern and contemporary Turkish artists, some of which I recognised in our later visit to the Istanbul Modern.  As this post is blowing out, I’ll write about the galleries of Istanbul in my next post.

The Cer Modern can be found at Altinsoy Caddesi No.3, Sihhiye, Ankara. +Infinity: A selection from the Ebru Özdemir Collection  is on from the 2 April to the 5 July 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

get Online at the Plimsoll Gallery

The third in the ‘on a…’ series, is showing at the Plimsoll Gallery.  Online follows the inaugural Onaroll, and last year’s Onalog, with all the exhibitions based on a particular material – fishing line, toilet paper, and logs, respectively.  The series, curated by John Vella, seems to be maturing somewhat, both in terms of a move away from what I saw as toilet humour, and in relation to the use of materials.  While the toilet paper and logs were used in a quite literal, descriptive manner; in Online, the works have somewhat transcended the material.  The standout work is Anne Mestitz’ intensely coloured installation, where she’s stretched a concentrated mass of polychromed fishing line between the ceiling and floor in the middle of her ‘booth’.  I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that work would be to install.

Anne Mestitz, All that I am.  Courtesy of the artist.

I should disclose that I’m a committee member of the Plimsoll Gallery, and this is not intended to be an independent review of the exhibition.  I just believe that Online is the best in the series so far, and I hope that people will make the effort to go and see the exhibition.

Online showcases the work of Di Allison, Lynne Eastaway, Lou Hubbard, Anne Mestitz, and Terroir. Curated by John Vella.  Catch the exhibition at the Plimsoll Gallery, Centre for the Arts, Hunter St, Hobart.  Friday 21 May 2010 -  Friday 18 June 2010.  You can also join the Plimsoll Gallery Facebook group for ongoing exhibition updates.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 2010 Biennale of Sydney: precarious beauty

It’s upon us again: [drum roll…] “The 17th Biennale of Sydney: The Beauty of Distance, Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age.”  Does it promise to be bigger and better?  No, thank goodness.  However, the Biennale PR team are out with their twitter feeds, Facebook fan pages and other social media platforms still drumming up the hype; and the theme is definitely dramatic enough (‘survival in a precarious age.’).

To be honest, I love large exhibitions.  Until last year, when I was lucky enough to be given a grant to visit the Venice Biennale, I’d really only been to the relatively largish Australian Perspecta (which is unfortunately not running anymore), Asia Pacific Triennial and the Sydney Biennale; however I’ve always been aware of the special art exhibiting conditions created by these major projects.  It’s become obvious to me over the last couple of years, researching site-specific art in Australia’s Public Museums, that the availability of unusual sites even within regular exhibiting spaces (and subsequent funding and media coverage of the included works) is in fact widened during these events.  By ‘unusual sites’, I don’t just mean the highly spruiked Cockatoo Island – I’m also thinking of interventions into the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ entrance vestibule, for instance.  There was no vestibule-responsive work in this year’s Biennale, however, Cockatoo Island was well-populated with both site-specific and site-oblivious works, as well as a few special Biennale sites: Pier 2/3, the Botanic Gardens and the Opera House.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the vernissage (maybe it’s just the Aussie cultural cringe, but I wonder why they can’t just call it a preview?), and took advantage of the low crowds to ferry across to Cockatoo Island.  After the last Biennale [link to 2008 Biennale Catalogue on Amazon], I was eager to see the extent of the site-responsive work.  Two years ago, I wrote on this blog about the way in which the Biennale catalogue boasted of the 'over thirty' site-specific artworks, yet in reality only about seven works had a meaningful relationship with the site.

Again, I was disappointed.  I don’t understand how artists can be given such amazing spaces and then rather than make work in dialogue with the site, they make work that competes with the surrounding space, making the rusted sinks, archaic machinery, painted symbols, drawers, signs and cranes look decidedly more interesting in comparison.  A few works, such as the Mieskuoro Huutajat (Shouting Men’s Choir) video installation were subtly onto it (see left).  Roger Ballen’s eerie photographs also sat well within the crumbling building on the top of the island.  As a testament to the strength of a few of the works from the last Biennale, the spectre of Mike Parr’s installation MIRROR/ARSE still lingered as we passed the (this year unused) ex-Navy building, as did TV Moore’s work in the Dogleg Tunnel.  
Roger Ballen, Cockatoo Island

 Part of Aleks Danko's SOME CULTURAL MEDITATIONS, Cockatoo Island

Also on Cockatoo Island, was one of my favourite works from last year’s Venice Biennale, The Feast of Trimalchio by the Russian collective AES+F.  The massive work in projected onto three large screens which surround the viewer.  To a dramatic soundtrack, scenes of the ultimate holiday resort (a small tropical island with a ski resort at its peak), where guests are overly pampered to a creepy degree and stereotypes are threatened.

Serge Spitzer, Molecular (SYDNEY), the guard house, Cockatoo Island

We had a bit of a regressive bounce on the jumping castle, an artwork by Brook Andrew.  It was only later, when I read the artist statement for Jumping Castle War Memorial in the free booklet, that I realised that the meaning of the work was far removed from what I’d imagined jumping up and down on the pattered blow-up.

Cai Guo Qiang’s Inopportune: Stage One, which seems to be the showcase work for this year’s Biennale, wasn’t working (left).  Disappointed, I went next door and took a photo of the performance art next door, but they told me to go away.  Apparently, they were not actors hired to drink coffee, smoke and handle drills for 2 months; rather, the work was still being set up and the ‘actors’ were in fact installers.  This awkward moment was to be repeated throughout the day’s visit: we’d walk into rooms and there’d be a couple of people hanging from the ceiling, sweating, swearing and telling us that the projector wasn’t working but ‘come back tomorrow’. 

The following evening I visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where they were hosting artist talks.  I’m a massive proponent of the gallery’s after hours program, which occurs every Wednesday, and features things like artist talks, films and live music.  I dutifully trotted down to the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes and paid to see some of the most underwhelming art I’ve seen in a long time.  The Biennale art at the AGNSW was not that much more engrossing unfortunately.  I headed to Chinatown instead.
My Friday afternoon involved traipsing thought the Botanical Gardens in search of the elusive Fiona Hall, Janet Lawrence and Choi Jeong Hwa works.  Fiona Hall’s Barbarians at the Gate was similar to the Breeding Ground, exhibited in the Port Arthur Project in 2007.  Hall’s usual themes of trade, colonialism and botany are well-suited to the gardens, yet the actual site chosen within the gardens was a little strange.  Painted army figures hung from the tree above a number of architectural beehives, painted with camouflage patterns.  

 Janet Lawrence, WAITING -A Medicinal Garden for Ailing Plants (detail)

Janet Lawrence’s work was equally as detailed, and while the tent structure that encloses the work initially struck me as quite strange and somewhat detracting, it did give the whole work the feel of a temporary pseudo-scientific experiment.  Choi’s giant inflatable lotus seemed to breathe, inflating and deflating every few minutes.  It was sweet but not all that poignant.  Finding the works in the bot gardens is almost as enjoyable as seeing them, as the Sydney botanical gardens are amazing, with views across the harbour and hundreds of bats hanging like small parcels from the trees.

 ....and deflated. Choi Jeon Hwa, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

As the sun went down, I made like a merdog to the opera house, where a second work by Choi is nestled between the ‘sails’ of the building (left).  I lingered until Jennifer Wen Ma’s performance New Adventures of Havoc in Heaven III started on the Opera House steps after sunset.  Shadows were projected onto smoke, an elusive substance which preferred to be bossed around by the wind rather than the twirling dancer distributing the smoke below.  To be honest though, I’m not sure that the performance would be as exciting if we could see the projection most of the time.  Those occasional glimpses gave it meaning.

The best of the Biennale was saved until last.  The MCA’s four floors have been turned over to the Biennale director yet again, and they contain a number of excellent works, including a collection of the Chapman brothers’ cardboard sculptures, subtly titled Shitrospective.  Despite their rawness, the figures created out of the seemingly rough and haphazard shaping and painting of recycled cardboard, are surprisingly animated.  You can’t help but feel for the figures in wheelchairs, eyes bulging; and the cardboard miniature version of their The Chapman Family Collection work was very clever (Hint: walk around the plinths, otherwise you’ll miss the person peeing on a dinosaur’s leg).

I’m withholding final judgement on the Biennale before I see the works at the top of Cockatoo Island and Artspace in July.  However, I have a few issues with the exhibition.  While I enjoyed a number of the individual works in the Biennale, I’ve really struggled to see the thematic link between them all.  Secondly, I believe that, like the previous Biennale, the really loaded sites such as Cockatoo Island, the Botanical Gardens and Pier 2/3 are not being used to their full potential, although maybe that’s not unexpected for someone with an interest in site-specific art.

 Building interior, Cockatoo Island

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The 6th Asia-Pacific Triennial, Brisbane

I finally made it up to the Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane.  It was my second Triennial, and I wouldn’t have made the effort ($400 flights return from Hobart just for a weekend) if I hadn’t enjoyed the previous Triennial in 2006-07 so much.  Granted, my 2006 visit immediately followed the most banal and disappointing Sydney Biennale of all time, but it wasn’t just the comparison that made the APT so great. 

This year’s APT was not quite as engaging as the previous one, but it was still an excellent exhibition.  I was excited to see that the water mall in the Queensland Art Gallery (yes, a massive pond in a building that requires strict climate and humidity controls) held another site-specific artwork by Ayaz Jokhio, and consisted of a six-meter tall octagonal room in the middle of the water, with a ‘bridge’ which allowed viewers to enter the work.  Described as ‘conceptual architecture’ on the curator’s podcast (which you could easily transfer onto your iPod or iPhone using the gallery’s wireless network), the work referenced Islam and traditional Eastern design and architectural form.  The structure sat easily in the space, and like the other site-specific works produced previously for this space, the pond acted both as an inspiration as well as a ‘frame’ around the contemplative work.

Also in the older Queensland Art Gallery was a massive pile of recycled materials - fabric, plastic bottles, egg cartons, paper, paddle pop sticks and thread – and an open invitation to build aeroplanes that would then be hung from the gallery ceiling.  The project was called In Flight, and was by artists Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan who moved to Australia from the Philippines in 2006.  Judging from the hundreds already suspended above me, I felt a wee bit intimidated, yet I pulled up a kid’s size stool and got to work.  The result was a bit wonky; yet, it was great to make something, channel all that creative energy in me, after viewing two galleries filled with inspirational art.

 my rather wonky contribution

Most of the APT is held in the newer Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) which is only a few hundred meters from the Queensland Art Gallery.  Unfortunately, in the three years since my last visit the coffee shop below the state library that separates the two galleries has turned into a coffee-molesting, self-serve kids-fest so it made the walk between the two galleries quite a bit quicker (I managed to find a good coffee in the not-so-nearby Barracks complex off Petrie terrace, however).  The cavernous spaces of GOMA were utilised by Wit Pimkanchanapong with his descriptively titled Cloud, made up of pieces of paper strung to long cords with paperclips.  The cords were strung across the length of the entrance hallway above the heads of visitors as they walked into the building.  It was an effective, albeit underwhelming work.
Cloud - as viewed from the 2nd floor

This year’s promotional artwork – Zhu Weibing and Ji Wenyu’s People Holding Flowers - was surprisingly small (in fact I was amazed at how familiar the image of the work was – the APT certainly advertises well).  From the various magazine and billboard advertisements, I thought the tiny, besuited, pink-faced men holding similarly coloured lotus leaves were life-size, yet they didn’t reach my knee.  In a way, it was kind of disappointing.

One of my favourite works (and apparently amongst my friends I’m alone in this affection) was the kitsch work by Indian artists: Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra.  They had mocked up a gaudy living room with pigeon wallpaper, mirrors, photographs, and a tipping table.  I wasn’t really convinced by the table and thought it detracted from the carefully staged scene, yet I enjoyed the atmosphere of the installation and the meticulous details.

Opposite was another ‘poster child’ of the APT – Kohei Nawa’s PixCell-Elk#2 (2009).  The taxidermied stag looked like it had a bejewelled version of the poor Tasmanian Devils’ facial tumour disease.  Various sized glass balls were glued to the stuffed animal, the balls magnifying, distorting and mirroring each other, the viewers, and the stag underneath.  The work’s aura was no doubt assisted by its location in a glowing white cube, but it was an overwhelming and enjoyable work, and one that was very popular with fellow visitors.

Another favourite was one of Tracey Moffatt’s videos.  I’ve seen other videos in this series (I think at the previous Sydney Biennale?) and they never fail to entertain me.  This particular video was called OTHER and explored themes of ‘other-ness’ and the exotic in popular culture through short clips of popular movies.  As works that critique social prejudices and assumptions, I believe they’re very successful because of the combination of humour, references to popular culture and distanced commentary.

A surprise inclusion was the revolutionary art, or chosunhua, from North Korea.  I quite enjoyed it, although a friend of mine was mildly furious about the appropriateness of having such ‘uncritical’ art in a contemporary art exhibition.  While much of the art in this year’s APT was conceptually rigorous, I don’t know if I could single out the work from North Korea as being the most shallow or lacking in criticality (I’m thinking that award goes to the one-liner works by Rudi Mantofani).  From a social and cultural point of view, I thought it was a nice comparison to the work from China - a country that not long ago churned out similar revolutionary art.

 Revolutionary Mosaic

The education and children’s programs associated with the APT are really amazing.  I didn’t have the excuse of an accompanying child, but like in the previous APT this mere detail didn’t stop me from sitting down at the low tables in the ‘kid’s APT’ area and making a thaumatrope – participating artist Runa Islam’s kid’s APT project.  The podcast mentioned earlier, was an informal and illuminating discussion between the exhibition’s organisers and a nice addition to the unusually well written didactic wall texts.  Unfortunately, I missed the APT films that were screening over the weekend of my visit.  Regardless, I still spent my two days in Brisbane totally absorbed by the APT.

The 6th Asia-Pacific Triennial runs from the 5th December 2009 – 5th April 2010 at the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.