Artists explore conflicted views of the oceans

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Join us at RMIT Gallery On Thursday 4 May 6-8 pm when Prof John Finnigan FAA, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and ANU Research School of Biology opens Ocean Imaginaries, a new exhibition that focuses on some of the contradictions and conflicted feelings raised by how the ocean is imagined in an age of environmental risk.

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Jason deCaires Taylor, Inertia, 2011.

The poetics of the ocean have long captured the human imagination. Once a wild and pristine environment and a compelling metaphor for the sacred mysteries of nature, the romantic image of the ocean has been eroded by the global threat of climate change.

RMIT Gallery’s new international exhibition Ocean Imaginaries (5 May – 1 July) features work by by 20 artists responding to various perceptions of global oceans.

Curated by Associate Professor Linda Williams,  Ocean Imaginaries is part of CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 – a festival of exhibitions and events harnessing the creative power of the Arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change.

Ocean Imaginaries – Free Public Programs

Friday 5 May 1-2 pm – Curator’s talk 
In this curator’s talk, Associate Professor Linda Williams will take a guided tour of the exhibition at RMIT Gallery and talk about how Ocean Imaginaries responds to a recent turn to the ocean in the environmental humanities. REGISTER

Thursday 11 May 5.30 – 6.30 pm – Under the dome | Lynette Wallworth
Brisbane based artist Lynette Wallworth’s immersive installations and films reflect connections between people and the natural world. She is at the frontier of the use of digital domes to enable a fully immersive space where art, technology, science and beauty can converge. REGISTER

Coral – Lynette Wallworth: Trailer from Felix Media on Vimeo.

Friday 12 May 1-2 pm – Public talk: Art and environmental risk
Ocean Imaginaries is the fifth major exhibition on themes of environmental concern expressed through the arts that RMIT Gallery and Associate Professor Linda Williams from the RMIT School of Art have cooperatively curated. In this conversation, Linda Williams and artist Lynette Wallworth discuss how artists and curators respond to climate change. REGISTER

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Oceans: new and classic electro-acoustic compositions

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Caption: Portal (RMIT) merged with Seascape, by Finnegan Comte-Harvey, 2017

Join us at RMIT for two nights of new works and classics of the electro-acoustic repertoire inspired by the sounds of oceans.

The free events will be held at RMIT Storey Hall Auditorium, City campus, Level 5, 336-348 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Presented by RMIT Gallery in partnership with SIAL (Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory) Sound Studios, the concerts feature works by established and emerging composers from Australia, Canada, Italy, France, NZ, UK and Norway, including the world premiere of Ocean Deep by Canadian composer Barry Truax, who specializes in real-time implementations of granular synthesis, often of sampled sounds, and soundscapes.

Curation and sound diffusion: Lawrence Harvey.

Tuesday 2 May 6-8 pm – BOOK NOW

Buoy (2011) David Berezan (Canada/UK)

La vie en bleu (2013-2014) Anna Raimondo (Italy)

And then the sea came back (2016) Anja Kanngieser / Polly Stanton (Australia).

Island (2000) Barry Truax (Canada)

Prospero’s Voyage (2004) Barry Truax (Canada)

Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone (2017) Jana Winderen (Norway)

Wednesday 3 May 6-8 pm – BOOK NOW

Tides: Sea Flight (1984) Denis Smalley (NZ/UK)

frostbYte: cHaTter (2012) Daniel Blinkhorn (Australia)

Billy sees inside the sea (2016) Jane Ullman (Australia)

HydroSonics (2016) Leah Barclay (Australia)

Poranui (2011-12) Reuben Derrick (NZ)

Ocean Deep. World Premiere of new version (2017) Barry Truax (Canada)

Women behind the lens at RMIT – celebrating International Women’s Day

Photography was one of the foundation disciplines of the Working Men’s College back in 1887, and women were welcome to enrol in those classes – and not just photography classes but any of the classes that were offered.

On International Women’s Day, Dr Shane Hulbert, curator of Photography 130: Behind the Lens – 130 years of RMIT photography which opens at RMIT Gallery tomorrow night at 6 pm,  looks back at women’s involvement in the RMIT University photographic course over 130 years.

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Photography class, outdoor work 1904. RMIT University Archives Collection Working Men’s College Prospectus 1904, page 87 S0628

Visible presence – Women in photography class, 1904

This is an interesting historical document that reveals women were also photographers and were being trained in all aspects of photography in exactly the same way as men. Here we see multiple women, probably almost a third of the class, involved in outside work using large-format cameras which were very heavy and very technical to operate.

This image was taken in the 19th century, probably in the first decade that RMIT started teaching photography. At the time, you weren’t able to go down the street and buy film, or a camera, these things had to be constructed.

People had to purchase lenses and tripods (these are surveyor tripods) and then organise the glass plates and coat them with chemicals, make the exposure, and then process those plates and then make those prints. It’s laborious and very skilful and relies on knowledge of optics, mechanics and chemistry.

So it’s a really interesting photograph and historical document of the way that photography started at the University and its democratic process, through which people were able to learn photography.

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RMIT University Archives Collection Photography Class in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Technical College 1947 PH3.5.034:01

Taking control – women commanding the cameras

In this photograph, female students out number the men. That ratio still plays out today in the photographic course. We still have very much an even mix if not probably more than – depending on the year, of course, sometimes it swings a bit but I think right from the beginning it seems to be quite an even balance.

One of the wonderful things about photography, is that because it’s such a new art form it doesn’t have that legacy of the ‘hero artist’, the male, the sculptor, using their strength and dexterity to create art. It’s part of photography’s legacy that right from the start, women could control the cameras themselves, strength wasn’t required, and they could seize control. It’s part of photography’s history, and part of the teaching of photography at RMIT right from the start, 130 years ago. It was very democratic right from the start.

You can see how the progression of photographic equipment helped open the medium up to even more women. We’ve gone from the very cumbersome equipment in the previous outdoor image to being outdoors with cameras you can hold by hand. No strength required.

A couple of fairly significant technological advances allow that to happen, including the miniaturisation of devices that started in the 1940s, and that eventually led to computers and microchips.

The speed of the film meant that you were able to hold a camera by hand and photograph something with the duration of a fraction of a second, rather than multiple seconds. It meant that if you could hold your hand steady enough, which is not difficult, you were able to capture a still image without the use of a support.

In this image, we can see one tripod and an instructor pointing at something, and the class all holding onto their own cameras and photographing it in different ways. It’s interesting because you can see two or three different ways of composing and viewing an image.

The man on the far right is using what looks like a twin lens camera, looking down onto the viewfinder, so his experience of framing is very much about looking into the device rather than through the device, which is what the woman kneeling down next to him is doing.

Then the third woman along is looking through the tripod – that’s another way of composing, and she no longer has that freedom of movement to be able to very quickly change her direction or change her relationship to the subject.

It’s quite a compelling image as it demonstrates the both the progression of photography and the way RMIT was teaching photography at the time.

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Clare Rae, Untitled No 1 from the series Climbing the Stairs and Other Actions, 2009.

Self portrait – exploring feminist theories

This is a very interesting image by Clare Rae. Here we see the photographer inserting herself into the photo as a way of exploring themes and concepts, and it’s obviously a work by someone who has been trained in fine art photography.

Clare is not necessarily showing us how we see something, or telling a story. What’s she’s concerned about is an idea. As an artist, she’s been exploring ideas about femininity, feminist theories, gaze and balance for some time.

In this photograph, Clare herself is climbing the walls out of frustration. It’s an emotional response to things that she’s been reading about.

Clare has solved some of those inquisitive questions by experimenting with different framing devices, motion, and ways of inserting herself into the frame. This image is one of a series, several of which are the Photography 130 exhibition, in which she experiments with different poses and other people in the photographs.

The resulting works emphasise the way that she’s come to a discovery and realisation about what she wants to convey.

Read more about Photography 130 in this interview with Shane Hulbert.

Listen to the podcast

Photography 130: behind the scenes – one week to opening night

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Photography 130 installation: Curator Dr Shane Hulbert with Matthew Sleeth’s 3D photographic printing work ‘Scale Model For Still Life, 2009’.

The RMIT Gallery walls have been carefully repainted pristine white or the deepest black. Photographic works are tightly sealed in bubble wrap ready to be manoeuvred into position. The intense buzz of activity sweeps through the space. It is one week to the exhibition opening and anticipation is high.

RMIT Gallery’s exhibition Photography 130: Behind the Lens – 130 years of photography at RMIT (10 March – 13 April) opens on Thursday 9 March 6-8 pm, with a very appropriate speaker – Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO RMIT Chancellor – who was CEO of  Kodak Australasia during the 1990s. In fact, at the same time the exhibition curator Dr Shane Hulbert was also working at Kodak.

“Our paths never crossed,” muses Dr Hulbert. “But it would have been a nice connection!”

Indeed.  Photography 130 features more than one hundred photographic works by 70 artists and photographers who have trained at RMIT, charting works that reflect the development of photography and its teaching at the University over the past 130 years, in what remains one of the longest running photographic programs in the world.

Dr Hulbert says during that time RMIT’s photographic training has made a significant impact on the way that people have viewed and photographed Melbourne and Australia, and the way that they have worked with photography around the world.

“Photography was one of the foundation disciplines of the Working Men’s College back in 1887, and women were welcome to enrol in those classes and not just photography classes but any of the classes that were offered,” Dr Hulbert said.

“In the 19th century the entire process of photography was laborious and skillful, and relied on knowledge of optics, mechanics and chemistry. People weren’t able to go down the street and buy film, or buy a camera, those things had to be constructed.

“People had to purchase lenses and tripods (often using surveyor tripods) and then organise the glass plates and coat them with chemicals, make the exposure, and then process those plates and then make those prints.”

According to Dr Hulbert, the exhibition is not prescriptive in capturing every staff member or every student who did photography at RMIT. It doesn’t even attempt to capture every decade, rather it reflects on certain key moments, certain clusters and periods that have shaped the future of photography at the University.

“One of the things that we talk about in photography is the way that we see and frame the world. What’s also sitting behind the lens is the person who takes the photograph, and how they compose and frame the world that they see.

“The idea behind someone who’s trained in photography is that they have a sense of the language and the understanding of the way that the photographic medium is capable of telling these stories, and are capable of highlighting particular elements of a frame or composing a particular narrative through that single frame.

“The skilled training RMIT is known for is about taking photography to a level that engages with the language and understanding of the medium, in order to create compelling and interesting photographs of not just what’s in front of the frame, but of the way the photographer sees the world.”

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Research Assistant Dr Sarah Edwards with Dr Shane Hulbert, positioning one of the large photographs into place.

Opening night – Photography 130: Behind the Lens / 130 years of photography at RMIT

Thursday 8 March 6-8 pm

Join the exhibiting artists and photographers at the opening night of RMIT Gallery’s ‘Photography 130: Behind the Lens – 130 years of photography at RMIT’.

Opening speaker: Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO, RMIT Chancellor.

Photography 130 public programs

Photography 130 – Behind the Lens: curator’s talk

Friday 10 March 1:00-2:00 pm
Photography 130 curator Shane Hulbert, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of School, Higher Education, School of Art, RMIT University, offers an expanded view of the role and contribution of RMIT University to the photographic imaging of Melbourne and Australia.

130 years of Photography at RMIT

Thursday 16 March 5:30 – 6.30 pm
Panel with Shane Hulbert (chair), and photographers Pauline Anastasiou, John Billan Gale Spring, and Alex Syndikas.

Photography Predictions & Premonitions

Thursday 23 March 1:00 – 2:00 pm
Panel with Shane Hulbert (chair), and photographers Bronek Kozka, Kate Robertson, and Murray McKeich.

Guided tours of Photography 130 exhibition

Suitable for school and university groups, VCE Studio Arts, and special interest groups.

Photography 130: Behind the Lens – 130 years of photography at RMIT

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Join us at RMIT Gallery on Thursday 9 March, 6-8 pm to celebrate the opening of  Photography 130: Behind the Lens – 130 years of photography at RMIT. 

The exhibition celebrates RMIT’s long and rich history of providing photography education, which is as old as the institution itself.

Photography 130 – Behind the lens: 130 years of RMIT photography (10 March – 13 April) brings together a collection of over 100 images from 59 photographers, revealing the significant contribution made by RMIT University’s (RMIT) photography programs to the culture and society of Melbourne.

When RMIT first began operations as the Working Men’s College in 1887, photography was one of the foundation disciplines, making it the oldest existing photography course in the world.

Sourced from RMIT archives, The National Gallery of Victoria, Monash Gallery of Art, the State Library of Victoria, private collections, photographers and artists, the exhibition features work created by RMIT staff and alumni between 1887 and 2017, in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, commerce, science and discovery.

Much has changed in photography over the past 130 years, not least the technology. But the skills involved in composition, in challenging the limits of the camera or in capturing that special moment are as valuable today as they were 130 years ago.

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Harry Nankin, The Burning Bush, 1991, Dye transfer fibre paper print. 470 x 560 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Join us for the free public programs which offer a ‘behind the lens’ view of the exhibition. Bookings required.

Photography 130 public programs

Photography 130 – Behind the Lens: curator’s talk

Friday 10 March 1:00-2:00 pm
Photography 130 curator Shane Hulbert, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of School, Higher Education, School of Art, RMIT University, offers an expanded view of the role and contribution of RMIT University to the photographic imaging of Melbourne and Australia.

130 years of Photography at RMIT

Thursday 16 March 5:30 – 6.30 pm
Panel with Shane Hulbert (chair), and photographers Pauline Anastasiou, John Billan Gale Spring, and Alex Syndikas.

Photography Predictions & Premonitions

Thursday 23 March 1:00 – 2:00 pm
Panel with Shane Hulbert (chair), and photographers Bronek Kozka, Kate Robertson, and Murray McKeich.

Guided tours of Photography 130 exhibition

Suitable for school and university groups, VCE Studio Arts, and special interest groups.

RMIT Gallery’s White Night – the artists’ perspective

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Did you love White Night? The Age’s Deputy Arts editor Hannah Francis selected RMIT Gallery as one of her top Northside tips: “Morbis Artis – diseases of the arts. RMIT Gallery. This was a cracking group exhibition where art met science and wonderful things happened. The oozy projections out front made your hair curl. The lines were long and when I finally got in, there was another 40-minute wait for one of the exhibits.”

But what went on behind the scenes? Did the artists love the result as much? What about the process?

RMIT lecturer Dr Joshua Batty (of MindBuffer) was part of the team (along with digital artist Andy Thomas) who put on Ectoplasm, the audio reactive light display that enthralled the long – long long – queues outside RMIT Gallery on White Night.

“We had a great time putting together and delivering the show for this years white night,” said Josh. “It was the culmination of a four month collaboration with Andy Thomas and us (MindBufer) to really exploit the architectural features of the facade.

“We felt the piece was amplified this year with the inclusion of the sonic element (by RMIT Alumnus Mitchell Nordine) which really created a nice space for people to experience the projections.img_5402

“Overall we learned a lot, received great feedback from the public and the organisers of white night, and definitely see more projects in the future collaborating with Andy.

“We are looking forward to cutting the footage we got of the night so we can share the experience with those that couldn’t make it both locally and overseas. Thanks RMIT Gallery for the amazing opportunity!”img_5329

Next door to RMIT Gallery, the RMIT Storey Hall annex lit up with a compelling animation of Jazmina Cininas’ Girlie Werewolf Project. While MindBuffer were perched on the roof opposite Storey hall to project their light show, Dr Cininas, artist and RMIT printmaking lecturer, had the warmth and comfort of the table of the fast food outlet opposite, where the projector was set up.

Jazmina continues the story.

“My involvement in White Night took me into all sorts of unexpected and previously unexplored territories, not least of which was the first floor of Hungry Jacks, where the projector for What Big Teeth You Have was located.

The floor was closed to the public for the night making it a surreal, solitary oasis of calm (notwithstanding the ubiquitous MTV soundtrack from the mounted televisions) from which to witness the immediate projections and the heaving crowds below.

“The first (and only) projection test for my work had taken place a mere two weeks earlier, before the final form of the work could be determined, so I only had a rough idea of what to expect.control-booth2

“I can’t deny the thrill of witnessing my girlie werewolves emerging larger-than-life from the Storey Hall annex façade as the sun went down, and the enormous sense of relief in seeing that it was, indeed, working.

“There was also a delight in the annex’s unexpectedly ‘collaborative’ role in the work. Neither the projections nor the façade dominated the other, the two instead working together to create something entirely new.img_5325“The real magic for me began, however, when I saw a young girl standing on the wooden bench in front of the façade, posing for a photograph. She was the first of a number of members of the public – predominantly women – who made use of this photo opportunity.

“For me, it was touching to witness women (and occasional male) of all ages and all creeds physically embedding themselves within these images of female empowerment.

“The atmosphere — and lasting impression — was one of celebration, heightened by the carnivalesque hues of the annex façade.”

RMIT Gallery’s White Night Story – come on in!

The White Night is still young – it might be midnight, but RMIT Gallery is open for another 7 hours of White Night light projection and interactive bioart. Come on in!

From Girlie Werewolves to dazzling audio reactive light displays – from the time the doors opened at 7 pm, RMIT Gallery attracted a crowd to the far end of the Swanston Street White Night precinct – and made an bold impact.

Crowds were gathered before the doors opened and filled the last night of the Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts exhibition – queuing for up to 45 minutes to get into ((20hz))’s red/blue ‘nauseating’ sound-light artwork.

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Outside, the Storey Hall annex dazzled with printmaker Jazmina Cininas’ towering Girlie Werewolves offering a perfect photo opportunity as audiences jumped up on a bench and posed in the red-yellow-orange glow of the light projection.

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Crowds also patiently waited their turn to get inside RMIT Gallery, listening to Mitchell Nordine’s SciFi-organic sounds which ignited Andy Thomas’ digital forms that exploded over the austere Storey Hall facade.

Around the corner, Viral Screens, by Morbis Artis curators Sean Redmond and Darrin Verhagen, intrigued. There is plenty of time to enjoy the artworks – come and see us!