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On the lack of independent art criticism

The third and last collaborative Mallee Routes exhibition is now showing at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery throughout December and early January. What is so noticeably missing in action is the local review of this body of work. With no catalogue essay the exhibition becomes situated in a critical art vacuum, and it gives rise to a sense of cultural loneliness and isolation–the distance between art’s production and its reception. 

Consequently, the photography in the exhibition has a lack of an existence beyond the temporality of the exhibition given the lack of archive building. There is no funding for the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery to write their own history; even though there ought be; partly out of necessity as no one else is going to do so, and secondly the ethos of self-determination entitles them to carve a historical space in our culture.

The limitations of established art criticism is very marked in Adelaide. The exhibition will not be reviewed by either Artlink or the Adelaide Review, which are the only two art magazines based in Adelaide.

With the demise of the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia (CACSA) and the Australian Experimental Art Foundation (AEAF), there is no other independent art magazine. ACE Open, which is the amalgam of these two art institutions, stopped publishing the Broadsheet Journal in 2017, and it currently does not review local work. None of the three universities in Adelaide provide financial or in kind support for a magazine of independent art criticism–presumably because the academic value of publishing is clearly weighted in favour of refereed journals.

photobook: its dual character

This limited edition photobook, which was printed by Momento Pro in Sydney, arrived via TNT courier at the studio in Encounter Bay late Tuesday afternoon. This is one form of self-publishing in the age of post-digital publishing. There is a long history to photography coming into books.

The book has been designed to supplement my prints in the forthcoming 2019 Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery. It has a hard, white cover, the paper stock is Lustre 190gsm and 6 colour printing was used. Though this meant that it was more expensive to produce than the earlier Mallee Routes book, it does look classy and the images do look pretty good.

Like the exhibition itself the book is divided into 3 sections: absent history, space/place and unknown futures. The text has been downplayed as the book has been designed to place the emphasis on the photos. As part of the exhibition it is another way of presenting my photos to the conventional model of framed or unframed prints on a gallery wall.

Mallee Routes exhibition 2019

As mentioned in this previous blog post the last collaborative exhibition of the 3 year Mallee Routes project will be held at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery. It involves the 3 original photographers– Eric Algra, Gilbert Roe and myself— plus two extra photographers— Stuart Murdoch and Lars Heldmann. I will have a limited edition photobook in the exhibition which supplements my prints.

The exhibition opens on December 8th 2019 and it closes on January 13th 2020. The opening speech will be given by Melinda Rankin, the ex-director of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, and now Director of Fabrik Arts & Heritage at Lobethal. Fulvia Mantelli, the current director of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, will take the artists through their work from 1-2pm.

Balranald, NSW Mallee

The exhibition uses the 3 gallery spaces of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery–the Jean Simms Gallery, the main gallery and the Sculpture Court gallery. The work in these spaces is organised along the lines Absent History, Space/place and Unknown Futures.

2019 Mallee Routes photo-book

I have finally put together a pdf of a new limited edition Mallee Routes photobook in collaboration with Paul Atkins from Atkins Lab. Paul’s knowledge and help with the book design and the editing of the images was crucial the production of the pdf. The pdf has been sent to Sydney to be printed by Momento Pro and a quote has been received and accepted.

Entitled Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2019, the book consists of a series of scoping images made with small, handheld cameras. It is designed to supplement my framed prints in the upcoming collaborative exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in December. It is similar in style to the earlier 2018 book, but unlike that one, it is divided into three sections–‘absent history’, ‘space/place’ and ‘unknown futures’. These are the sections in the exhibition and they correspond to the 3 galleries.

This picture of a door of a deserted house on the Mallee Highway in Victoria is an out-take from the central space/place section of the book:

door, Cowangie, Victoria, 2019

The limited edition Mallee Routes: Photographing the Mallee 2019 is a concertina style book with minimal text about the Mallee country. The quality has been improved: the book has a hard cover, better paper and improved colour. It is more of a traditional photobook–a book of photos– than an artist book, as the latter is basically an art object in the form of a book.

at Murtoa

Surprisingly, the Wimmera Mallee trip turned out to be an addition to the Mt Arapiles photo-session with the Melbourne-based Friends of Photography Group, rather than the reverse. The reverse was what I’d mapped out prior to going on the photo trip.

My time and energy was taken up grappling with the nature photography at Mt Arapiles, rather than actually spending lots of time photographing in the Wimmera Mallee. The latter is what I’d initially set out to do.

One of the Wimmera images that I wanted to rephotograph in the late afternoon light for the space /place section in the forthcoming exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery was this old flour mill in Murtoa:

Murtoa, Wimmera, Victoria

I wanted to represent the boundedness or enclosing around of place, rather than understanding place in terms of a nodal point that gathers various spatial trajectories and flows. Boundedness–or rather, a bounded openness– is what is primary in the concept of place.

The weather was against me staying any longer in the Wimmera Mallee after my overnight stay at Lake Marma at Murtoa. The weather quickly became bright and sunny after the wet, windy weather that I experienced over the weekend camp at Mt Arapiles.

returning to the Wimmera Mallee

I am planning to make a quick return to the Jung and Murtoa region in the Wimmera Mallee whilst Suzanne is walking in Lord Howe Island. I am piggybacking on spending a weekend (6th-8th September) with the Friends of Photography Group (FOPG) at Mt Arapiles in Victoria’s Wimmera plains.

FOPG are a Melbourne-based large format film landscape photography group who make a number of day excursions together during the year as well as a couple of weekend ones. They also have frequent print viewings and a yearly exhibition. The FOPG group was formed in 2015, and it is led/facilitated by David Tatnall, who also writes the very impressive View Camera Australia blog.

water tower, Jung, Wimmera

Sadly, there is no such volunteer group in Adelaide. Adelaide’s photographic culture is currently dominated by the South Australian branch of the commercially orientated AIPP photographers.

Hence my interest in linking up with those large format photographers in Melbourne who are working outside the photographic industry; even though I am on the margins of the FOGP group, as I am not a wilderness orientated landscape photographer and I don’t print my negatives in a wet darkroom.

At Tanunda: space/place

I have taken the opportunity kindly offered by a group of people who are walking the Lavender Trail to join them for a 5 day camp at Tanunda in the Barossa Valley this weekend (22nd-27th August). My designation is a non-walking member of the group, which means that instead of walking the different parts of the Lavender Trail each day like the others, I will be out photographing in the Murray Mallee.

The plan is to travel each day from the Lavender camp at Tanunda over the Mt Lofty Ranges, across the agricultural plains (via Kyneton and Sedan) to Swan Reach on the River Murray. I then drive into the country on the eastern side of the river to photograph within the western region of the Murray Mallee.

Murray Mallee landscape

Initially, I will be endeavouring to complete the work which I was unable to do on the earlier trip to Galga and Copeville. I will photograph some landscapes to construct a Murray Mallee suite to be included in the Mallee Spaces/Places section in the main gallery of Murray Bridge Regional Gallery for the 2019 December exhibition.

Some might say that this photography is journeying through space to undertake some mapping. But it is more a writing, or a photographing, of place; or at least an attempt to adopt a topological approach.

Copeville and Galga

I mentioned in an update on the Claypan post that I needed to make another trip to the Copeville and Galga area of the South Australian Murray Mallee to pick up where I’d have left off. As I mentioned, the previous trip had been cut short, as I’d neglected to take my sleeping bag; and it was too cold to continue sleeping in my clothes in the swag in the early winter month of June.

am, limestone quarry, Copeville, South Australian mallee

I plan to start the Copeville/Galga trip within a week so— definitely after the current high winds and stormy weather. I will initially return to stay at the limestone quarry at Copeville, as there are not many public spaces in this part of the Murray Mallee— just unsealed roads between fields. The quarry is a sheltered space away from the roads, and it is preferable to swagging within the sparse roadside vegetation on an unsealed road.

phototrip to Claypans

I leave for a short photo trip to Claypans in the Murray Mallee in South Australia tomorrow morning (Saturday 15th, June). It’s only for a couple of days, to allow me to do some black and white photographs of some of the scenes that I’d scoped when returning to Adelaide from the Wentworth trip. I will also explore around the nearby Copeville and Galga region.

The images are for the Absent History section (in a side gallery) of the upcoming Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in December 2019. The other sections of the exhibition are Mallee Spaces (the main gallery) and Unknown Futures in another side gallery. The side galleries are a supplement to the core exhibition in the main gallery.

This sandstone church at Claypans is one of the scenes that I want to rephotograph with the 5×4 Sinar f1 and the Cambo 8×10. The digital colour version of the church, which can be seen here, is not suitable for the Absent History exhibition.

Claypans, SA Mallee

I am the only one in the group who is substantively interested in creating a body of photos from an absent history perspectives. This is a different perspective to that of photographing what currently exists in the various regions of the Mallee, since it explores a history that has been lost and forgotten in the present.

a Yarriambiack suite?

Prior to the Wentworth photocamp on the Darling River I spent some time in the Victorian Wimmera thinking about, and scoping for, a series of images that I planned to call the Yarriambiack suite. Would this be a goer?

The trip involved a lot of travelling. I went to Wentworth via the Dukes Highway and the Victorian Wimmera (Murtoa, Donald, Lake Boga and Swan Hill) and I returned to Encounter Bay via the Goyder Highway, Morgan and the South Australia Mallee.

I set up the tent for the 4 days I camped at Wentworth, and swagged the rest of the time that I was on the road. The stopovers at Murtoa, Donald, and Swan Reach were only over-night stays.

Yarriambiack Creek, Henty Highway, Victoria

Whilst I was driving around the Victorian Wimmera I thought that a Yarriambiack suite would work for the Mallee Spaces on a back wall in the central gallery of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery for the upcoming exhibition in December. The suite would be a series of photos of the Yarriambiack region –say a series of 4-5 images — that would represent different aspects of the different aspects of the spatial dimension of the Victorian Wimmera.

So I spent a day or so driving around the Wimmera and I ended up concentrating on scoping the ephemeral Yarriambiack Creek. I was looking for places where there was no water in the creek, as I already had some photos of water in the creek near Jung from a previous trip.