|Incompatible Elements (video still), Josephine Starrs & Leon Cmielewski|
courtesy the artists
Since the early 1990s Australian artists have been highly visible in this arena and have made a vital contribution to the growth of international media arts practice. With the continued vitality and expansion of the sector evident in events such as Ars Electronica in Austria, Transmediale in Germany and the nomadic International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA, scheduled for Sydney in 2013), the media arts scene has proved itself a resilient and relevant forum for audiences to experience media arts practice.
Not only are Australian artists prominent in these exhibitions but their excellence in the field is acknowledged, especially through the series of prizes awarded by Ars Electronica. In 2010 Melbourne-based Stelarc was awarded the highest prize at Ars Electronica, the Golden Nica (for Hybrid Art) and Perth-based SymbioticA won the same prize when it was first awarded in 2007. Awards of Distinction at Ars Electronica have also been presented in 2005 to Brisbane based Keith Armstrong, Sydney based Joyce Hinterding & David Haines in 2009 and Josephine Starrs & Leon Cmielewski in 2007. Melbourne Oribotics artist Matthew Gardiner was an Artist in Residence at Ars Electronica Futurelab in 2010 with the support of Novamedia and the Australia Council for the Arts, and returns there this year.
This Australian presence on the media art scene has developed over 20 years, the outcome of hard work from artists, support and profile building by the Australia Council along with Australian curators and agencies. Individuals such as Linda Wallace in the 1990s through her company Machine Hunger took the work of Australian artists to Asia and Europe and Antoaneta Ivanova with Novamedia established an international network for exhibiting media art in the 2000s. Experimenta has curated several exhibitions that have toured internationally and ANAT has supported artists to present work through its (now defunct) Conference and Workshop Fund. Kim Machan through MAAP (Multimedia Art Asia Pacific) has also built significant collaborative exhibition opportunities in Asia and presented major exhibitions in Singapore and Beijing.
Entrepreneurial Australian curators continue to create opportunities for Australian media artists overseas and in 2010 Dream Worlds: Australian Moving Image, curated by Melinda Rackham and produced by Michael Yuen (see p10) showed eight artworks on a 27-metre public screen in Beijing’s Sanlitun Village. This large screen was apparently very hard to miss and caught the eye of the local press: “Few in China are aware that as well as strange animals and a Mandarin-speaking former Prime Minister, Australia sports a thriving new media art scene comprising some of the world’s most innovative artists” (www.thebeijinger.com).
This concerted effort has enabled artists to build networks and relationships (particularly in Asia and Europe) that continue to yield invitations to exhibit and participate in other opportunities such as conferences and residencies. While organisations like MAAP and Novamedia are not as active in the current climate, their efforts have paid off through a continued presence of Australian artists in the international spotlight.
For established artists such as Josephine Starrs and Leon Cmielewski, exhibiting overseas “is important to us because of the opportunity it gives to engage with a wider audience, and from our experience, unexpected opportunities often arise from participating in an international exhibition or art festival.” Starrs and Cmielewski’s work is well regarded. They have shown at the 2008 Guangzhou Triennial and in 2011 present at the Sydney/San Francisco Biennale and the Auckland Arts Festival. They have also secured opportunities for R&D through residencies and in 2009 were the first Australian artists in residence at the Ars Electronica Future Lab.
|Elegy for Young Lovers, Young Vic and English National Opera|
image Lynette Wallworth
Wallworth says that these opportunities “offer a way of developing a different relationship with audience and I am interested in that. The importance for me is in staying fluid enough to go where the space is opening up...Right now for me that is definitely film festivals as they make space for moving image work and for artist film makers.”
|Wade Marynowsky, Bricolage Disco, 2010, ST PAUL St Gallery, Auckland, New Zeland|
photo courtesy the artist
All the artists mentioned here have significant international profiles or are starting to embark on international careers, but they are not the only media artists regularly exhibiting overseas. Jon McCormack, Christian Thompson, Alex Davies, Nigel Helyer, Daniel Crooks, Kate Richards, Mari Velonaki, Craig Walsh and Troy Innocent all enjoy success and continue to build their profiles through international connections.
These artists have spearheaded the forward guard of Australian artists on the international stage. They demonstrate that despite distance, limited resources and a certain European snobbery directed at the ‘antipodes’ that Australian art can thrive beyond our shores. There are certainly more opportunities to be explored, but in the meantime the forging of networks and opportunities by innovative practitioners might possibly provide inspiration for the Australian visual arts sector to embark on new directions into new places to reach new audiences.
Julianne Pierce is based in Brighton, England working as Executive Producer with Blast Theory.
RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011 pg. 32
© Julianne Pierce; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org