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


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.”


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.

Bijoy Jain – MPavilion 2016 exhibition inauguration on September 28


Bijoy Jain Studio Mumbai: Making MPavilion 2016, installation image, Tobias Titz, RMIT Gallery.

Step inside the creative process of celebrated Indian architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai at RMIT Gallery’s new exhibition that explores the inspirations and processes of making and designing MPavilion 2016.

Bijoy Jain Studio Mumbai: Making MPavilion 2016 (9 September – 22 October) provides a rare insight into the renowned Indian architect’s process.

The exhibition will be inaugurated by opera singer Deborah Cheetham  AO, Artistic Director of the Short Black Opera Company on Wednesday 28 September, 6-8 pm.

We warmly invite you to join us at this event – Bijoy Jain will be flying in from India that morning, and will be attending this event in his honour.

RMIT_MPavilion_FinalEvite_1200pxTo coincide with the public opening of MPavilion 2016, Bijoy Jain will present a highly anticipated public lecture at RMIT Gallery on 5 October 1-2 pm. Jain will elaborate on his design philosophy and the inspirations and challenges in designing this year’s MPavilion.

Bijoy Jain said that the exhibition at RMIT Gallery will provide context and insight into Studio Mumbai’s objective in designing MPavilion 2016.

“This is not just to create a new building, but to capture the spirit of the place by engaging the right materials and by respecting the surrounding nature through close collaboration with local artisans, craftsmen and engineers,” Jain said.


Bijoy Jain, photo courtesy of Nicholas Watt.

Bijoy Jain Studio Mumbai: Making MPavilion 2016 is presented in partnership with RMIT Gallery, Naomi Milgrom Foundation, Confluence: Festival of India in Australia.

 MPavilion 2016, Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne, will be presented free to the public from 5 October 2016 through 5 February 2017.



Radical Actions: Irish artists join us at RMIT Gallery

Jesse Linda & Seamus

Radical Actions curator Linda Shevlin (centre) with artists Jesse Jones and Seamus Nolan, outside RMIT Gallery in Melbourne.

Curator Linda Shevlin and artists Jesse Jones and Seamus Nolan are in Melbourne for the opening of their exhibition Radical Actions on Thursday 8 September 6-8 pm, featuring Teeling Whiskey tastings. Join us!

On Friday 9 September from 1-2.30 pm, our Irish visitors will take audiences through the exhibition, and join Associate Professor Chris Hudson from RMIT’s Communication, Politics and Culture Research Centre to discuss responses to the 1916 Easter Rising 200 years on and the role of artists in imagining and reassessing national identities forged in revolution. Register here for tickets to the Images of Rebellion tour and talk.

Radical Actions (RMIT Gallery: 9 September – 22 October) curated by Linda Shevlin, features new and existing work by Kennedy Browne (Gareth Kennedy & Sarah Browne), Duncan Campbell, Jesse Jones and Seamus Nolan that explores the after effects of Irish independence and self-governance.

“The 1916 Commemoration should not be a time for soft words or a gazing backwards through a green-tinged prism at an idealised past,” said Shevlin.

Join us at RMIT Gallery for both events.


Quiddity & Light moves opens at RMIT Gallery

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Quiddity opening night RMIT Gallery 2016, photo by Vicki Jones Photography

Winter exhibition openings in Melbourne attract a dedicated crowd not afraid to brave the cold, wet weather.

We were charmed by the colorful coats and cheerful smiles worn by our enthusiastic audience who turned out on Thursday evening, 30 June to celebrate the opening of Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art and Quiddity.

Dr Gerard Vaughan AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia, flew down from Canberra to launch the travelling NGA exhibition Light moves, which includes a stunning work by RMIT alumni Christian Thompson.

Christian Thompson opening nighbt vjp-214

HEAT 2010, by Christian Thompson, Three channel digital video, sound, duration 5 minutes 52 seconds, collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Opening night image, Light moves at RMIT Gallery 2016. Photo by Vicki Jones Photography.

Light moves demonstrates NGA’s commitment both to celebrating the work of contemporary Australian artists and also to creating audiences for their work in Australia,” Dr Vaughan said.

“Visitors will be mesmerised by the exhibition’s images of bodies moving through space and also by the diversity of work by Australian artists of the highest calibre.”

RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said the exhibition was a wonderful opportunity for students in particular to explore a diversity of screen-based work and see how artists use the medium to create poetic works that speak to their own personal interests and histories, as well as tell great stories.

Dr Nicole Tse, from The Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne, launched Quiddity, an exhibition she said was close to her heart, displaying as it did “the secret life of collections.”

Quiddity shows how collections come to life in a museum context as seen through the eyes of Arts Management students,” Dr Tse said.

“If we look closely at these works, they can tell us stories about how they have been stored and cared for, and their journey before they even came into a museum. Cracks in the canvas can reveal a history of a work being rolled up under someone’s bed, for instance.

“These secret lives are fascinating and are revealed in Quiddity.”


What: Quiddity and Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art

When: 1 July – 20 August 2016

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Quiddity public programs:

Quiddity: Wednesday Lunchtime Guided Tours

In Conversation: Curators + Conservators

Quiddity Reading Group

Quiddity: Curator floor talk

Wrapping it Up – Quiddity Panel Discussion




Upcoming exhibitions: Quiddity & Light moves

Upcoming exhibitions at RMIT Gallery – Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art and Quiddity, a behind-the-scenes look at the RMIT Art Collection.

1 JULY – 20 AUGUST 2016
OPENING NIGHT | Thursday 30 JUNE, 6pm – 8pm   ALL WELCOME



Quiddity (Latin meaning ‘the essence of a thing) unpacks the RMIT Art Collection, and features artists including: Stephen Benwell, Chris Bond, Peter Ellis, Helga Groves, Clare Humphries, Wanyubi Marika, Greg Moncrieff, Hisaharu Motoda, Nick Mourtzakis, Anthony Pryor, Klaus Rinke, Ah Xian, Ken & Julia Yonetani, and Paul Zika.


Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art

Contemporary Australian artists present projected and screen-based works exploring the body and the possibilities of movement. Featuring Daniel Crooks, Hayden Fowler, Shaun Gladwell, Gabriella and Silvana Mangano, David Rosetzky, Julie Rrap and Christian Thompson. On tour from the National Gallery of Australia.


March exhibitions opening at RMIT Gallery

Please join us Thursday 10 March 6-8 pm to celebrate the opening of three exhibitions by leading Australian artists Richard Bell and Elizabeth Gower, internationally acclaimed artist Mithu Sen and emerging film maker Pushpa Rawat.

Richard Bell | Imagining Victory 

Opening Night: Thursday 10 March | 6-8pm  – All welcome
Exhibition Dates: 11 March – 23 April

Opening Speaker | Professor Paul Gough, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice President, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic and Vice-President, RMIT University

About the exhibition
Curator: Alexie Glass-Kantor | Artist: Richard Bell
Drawing heavily upon the mechanisms of activism, this significant solo exhibition by leading Australian artist Richard Bell is centred on a trilogy of recent video projects that attempts to dig beneath the veneer of cultural integration to expose how racism can be deeply embedded and passed on to future generations.
An Artspace exhibition toured by Museums & Galleries of NSW.

Richard Bell has just been announced as the recipient of a prestigious Australia Council Visual Arts Award.

The 2016 Australia Council awards honour eight distinguished Australian artists who have made an exceptional contribution to the arts over many years.   These prestigious national awards combine long-standing lifetime and outstanding achievement awards in music, literature, community arts and cultural development, visual arts, theatre, dance, and emerging and experimental arts.

Now in its second year, the Australia Council Awards ceremony will be held in Sydney on Thursday, 10 March, so unfortunately Richard Bell will be unable to attend the RMIT Gallery opening of his exhibition.

Richard Bell has held a number of solo exhibitions since 1990 and works across a variety of media, including painting, installation, performance and video. His work explores the complex artistic and political problems of Western, colonial and Indigenous art production. He is represented in major collections in Australia and New Zealand and has had significant solo exhibitions internationally, including at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam this year. His work Embassy will feature in the 20th Biennale of Sydney in March. He received the Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award in 2003. Richard is part of the Proppa Now Collective in Brisbane, which mentors young Indigenous artists.

RMIT Gallery Elizabeth Gower evite

Elizabeth Gower | he loves me, he loves me not  

Elizabeth Gower | he loves me, he loves me not  
Opening Night: Thursday 10 March | 6-8pm   – All welcome
Exhibition Dates: 11 March – 23 April
Opening SpeakerDr Leslie Cannold Ethicist, researcher, author
About the exhibition

Curator: Suzanne Davies | Artist: Elizabeth Gower

Women in all cultures are encouraged to seek validation at an early age, by conforming to prescribed behaviours, sanctioned body image, fashion, career and lifestyle choices. In the handwritten phrase he loves me, he loves me not RMIT Alumnus Elizabeth Gower poses the question 21,319 times symbolically representing a lifetime of re-evaluation and wavering, resilience and resolve.



Mithu Sen and Pushpa Rawat | Quiet Voices

Opening Night: Thursday 10 March | 6-8pm  – All welcome
Exhibition Dates: 11 March – 23 April

Opening Speaker | Ms Sushi Das Opinion Editor, The Age, author

The works by Mithu Sen and Pushpa Rawat poetically address issues women face with obligation,patriarchy and the inter-generational dynamic.

For her multi-media installation I have only one language; it is not mine renowned Delhi-based artist Mithu Sen spent time at a Kerala orphanage to experience firsthand what life was like for these marginalised young girls. Nirnay (Decision) the debut film of director Pushpa Rawat explores Pushpa’s journey and that of her young, educated women friends on the outskirts of Delhi who feel powerlessly obligated when it comes to taking any major decision regarding their future.