Human Rabbits take on the city

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Human Rabbits were seen basking in the sun just outside of the State Library of Victoria on Friday, 28 July 2017. Fifty Human Rabbits were unleashed onto the streets of Melbourne as part of mmmm… collective’s public art performance. PHOTO: Ariani Adam

Fifty masked rabbits don’t go unnoticed. When volunteers with rabbit cardboard-heads on their shoulders marched down the busy Swanston Street last Friday, they instantly turned heads at the first pedestrian crossing.

Organised by the Spanish art collective mmmm… the Human Rabbit Action saw the human rabbits march the streets of Melbourne on 28th July 2017. The big action that went on for two hours from noon, started at the RMIT Gallery itself.

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Alberto Alarcón (middle) of mmmm… collective briefing marshals regarding the safety of the volunteers on the event day. Alarcón makes up mmmm… collective together with brother Emilio Alarcón, and siblings Eva Salmerón and Ciro Márquez. PHOTO: Ariani Adam

As with any major art action, preparation was essential. The members of mmmm… had been briefing and actively talking to the volunteers prior to the event day, getting everyone excited for what was to come.

When the big day arrived, volunteers of all ages who were part of the action came together at the gallery as early as 11am to put their rabbit cardboard-heads together with the help of the artists themselves. Without a doubt, their hard work paid off when the rabbits scattered on the streets and engaged the public audience.

One of the volunteers said, “I thought it was great to see the city in a different perspective, although a restricted one, it was cool to see how everyone reacted to the rabbits”.

The Consul General of Spain in Melbourne also took part in the street action performance. Mr. Juan Carlos Gafo Acevedo said, “It was amazing to interact with people and to be thought provoking because that was the whole purpose of it. It was great to be out in the streets, it was fantastic”

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Two bunnies were given carrots by strangers while walking down the streets. Their witty Starbucks barista even wrote down “Bugs Bunny” on their coffees to join in the fun. PHOTO: Ariani Adam

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Melburnians and tourists mostly responded to the action by grabbing their phones while some confused passers-by took it upon themselves to clarify the cause of action with the volunteers. Some even wanted to buy the rabbit heads, inquiring as to where they could purchase the “cute” novelty. Amidst the amusing comments that were floating around the streets, some people, however, were a little fearful of the action.

Gloria Tanuseputra, a 21-year-old undergraduate student said: “I was a little scared. I thought it looked like a public stunt for an upcoming horror film”.

During the busy lunch break, more phones were brought out, with many people even going out of their way to send it to several media outlets, asking for some explanation to the madness. The Herald Sun picked it up right away, giving the public an insight into the on-going action with an on-the-spot interview by Reece Hooker with mmmm… collective’s Ciro Márquez.

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mmmm… collective posing for a photo with the Consul General of Spain in Melbourne (Left to right: Ciro Márquez, Eva Salmerón, Mr. Juan Carlos Gafo Acevedo, Alberto Alarcón and Emilio Alarcón with the rabbit cardboard head). By the end of the Human Rabbit Action, mmmm… collective was happy with the public response. PHOTO: Ariani Adam

Márquez said: “Rabbits are viewed negatively as invasive animals that destroy the local ecosystem, but universally rabbits are seen as cute and cuddly animals, and are considered pets in many countries. These contradictory associations, negative and positive, urge us to openly consider, not without a touch of humour, the concepts of immigration, invasion, group and identity.”

On the topic of group and identity, Eva Salmerón said that it was interesting to see how volunteers in Melbourne have come together. Compared to Spain, where big actions were mainly undertaken by mutual friends or acquaintances, the Melbourne action recruited volunteers from RMIT and social media.

Member of mmmm… collective Emilio Alarcón was very pleased with the outcome of the performance. He said, “I’m very happy especially for the volunteers because they have committed themselves into being rabbits and every one was completely different. I’m happy with the experience and the support from RMIT and the volunteers, it has been amazing”.

With that thought, it would be interesting to note the sense community that we have built in Melbourne, especially in the things we take part in – from art, to music, to even discussions. People from all walks of life are always welcomed to the different interests that we have in common for one sole purpose: the harmony of coming together.

If you’d like to find out more about mmmm… collective’s artwork, come down to RMIT Gallery for their exhibition happening now until the 9th September 2017.

Ariani Adam is a third-year Bachelor’s of Communication (Media) student at RMIT University, currently doing an internship with the RMIT Gallery. 

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 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.

Photography & particle accelerators: Harry Nankin & Chris Henschke at RMIT Gallery

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Harry Nankin installing his work Syzgy at RMIT Gallery as part of the exhibition Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts (until 18 February 2017)

In the final of our public programs for the exhibition Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts at RMIT Gallery (17 November – 18 February 2016) join us at RMIT Gallery on Tuesday 13 December from 12.30-1.30 pm when photographer Harry Nankin and artist Chris Henschke talk about their work.

In Harry Nankin’s work (pictured above) nine, multi-panel palimpsests are displayed on light boxes, and lake Tyrell in the semi-arid Mallee region of Victoria becomes semi-arid land as the impact of the contemporary ecological crisis finds its root and branch in starlight and shadowgram as live invertebrates mourn the age of the anthropocene.

The work ‘photo-poetically’ memorializes this erasure, resurrecting the dry lakebed into a focal plane upon which primal starlight is used to imprint photographic films on moonless nights. The environmental disease at the heart of this work is human-made: as we lay waste to our planet, the stars are slowly going out.

The prepared images include rare astronomical glass plate negatives from the telescopes at Mount Palomar (USA) and Siding Spring (Australia) and camera-less photographs of live native anthropods gathered from the lake’s shore.

Harry Nankin’s work honours the lost sacrament and acts as a metaphor for our global ecological predicament.

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About Harry Nankin: Harry Nankin is an Australian photo media artist and educator. In 1993 Nankin put aside the camera altogether and he has been creating ‘photograms’ (and occasionally ‘chemograms’) in the studio and on location in forest, desert, atop mountains and under the sea.

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Chris Henschke with his work Song of the Phenomena, opening night, Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts at RMIT Gallery. Photo by Vicki Jones.

Chris Henschke’s work explores anti-matter as we bare witness to how radiation is released by organic matter. Using an actual particle accelerator, the work shows how the humble banana emits antimatter on a regular basis. In an age where we fear the way antimatter impacts upon the nature of everyday life and the workings of the cosmos, we see how the organic itself brings potential dissolution to the human world.

About Chris Henschke

Chris Henschke is an artist and researcher who works with digital and analogue media and high-energy physics. He has exhibited around Australia and internationally, and has undertaken art residencies at the Australian Synchrotron, supported by an Arts Victoria Arts Innovation grant (2008), and the Australia Council for the Arts Synapse program (2010). He has developed and lectured courses in time based and interactive media at RMIT University, Monash University, and the ‘Art vs Science’ seminar series at the University of Melbourne Victorian College of the Arts. Currently, he is undertaking a Doctorate of Philosophy at Monash University, which includes on-site work at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Switzerland, as part of the ‘art@CMS’ collaboration.

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What: Hanny Nankin and Chris Henschke artist talk

When: Tuesday 13 December 12.30-1.30 pm

Where: RMIT Gallery 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Free: register for tickets

Touch me: Alison Bennett speaks about ‘expanded photography’ on 6 December 1-2 pm

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Bruise, 2015, by Alison Bennett. Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts Installation image by Mark Ashkanasy, RMIT Gallery, 2016.

Artist Alison Bennett works in ‘expanded photography’ where the boundaries of photography have shifted in the transition to digital media and become diffused into ubiquitous computing.

Her work has generated international viral media attention more than once and features in the current RMIT Gallery exhibition Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts at RMIT Gallery (17 November – 18 February 2016)an interactive bio-art exhibition that uses actual and metaphoric communicative diseases to explore the fractured relationship between human and non-human life.

Alison Bennett will be speaking about her work and ‘expanded photography’ at RMIT Gallery on Tuesday 6 December from 1-2 pm.

Her interactive piece Bruise is a touch-based screen work that presents the viewer with a high-resolution scan of bruised skin. Invited to touch the soft and damaged tissue before them, their eyes become organs of touch, and their fingers work as sensory digits that feel as they move over what becomes a damaged but delicate bio-art surface.

Bennett’s recent projects explored the creative potentials of augmented reality, stereophotogrammetry, 3D scanning, and virtual reality as encompassed by the medium and practice of photography.

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Artist Alison Bennett with her interactive work Bruise at RMIT Gallery.

As a neuroqueer trans-media artist, Bennett’s work has explored the performance and technology of gender identity and considered the convergence of biological and digital skin as virtual prosthesis.

What: Alison Bennett artist talk on ‘expanded photography’

When: Tuesday 6 December, 1-2 pm

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Bookings: register

Artist talk: Jodi Sita: the creative relationship between art and science practice

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Seeing the future: Jodi Sita’s image of her own eye revealed the early stages of glaucoma, a largely an invisible eye disease.

Jodi Sita is an academic and researcher in the areas of neuroscience and anatomy, and with a leading interest in the creative relationship between art and science practice.

She will be speaking about her work in Morbis Artis: Diseases of the Arts at RMIT Gallery, along with Alison Bennett on Tuesday 6 December 1-2 pm at RMIT Gallery.

Jodi’s fascination for understanding how anatomical systems work and her strong visual tendencies have seen her research, teach and create artwork around the ecology of the human body.

“The Macular collection shows one normal and four degenerated eyeballs allowing us to glimpse the heinous beauty of this pathological and debilitating condition,” Jodi said.

“The Retina collection allows a look into the dark spaces of the eye…and My Eye are images of my own eye, showing a normal healthy eyeball structure – except for an image (pictured above) in which it was discovered I was in the early stages of glaucoma.

“In the Pupils collection (below), the colours and palates of the iris have been enhanced to create images that evoke landscapes, lightning strikes, planets and flowers – all scenes we scan with our irises. Hidden only to vision scientists and specialists, are the amazing landscapes found at the back of the eyeball; the retina, the macular and the fovea.”

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Jodi Sita with her work in Morbis Artis: the colours and palates of the iris have been enhanced to create images that evoke landscapes, lightning strikes, planets and flowers.

Jodi Sita is currently editing an anthology on Eye Tracking The Moving Image with Bloomsbury Press.

What: Jodi Sita artist talk on the creative relationship between art and science practice

When: Tuesday 6 December, 1-2 pm

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Bookings: register

Contemporary Australian Video Art – Curator floor talk

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Anne O’Hehir, Curator of Photography, National Gallery of Australia with works from the NGA touring exhibition Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art, at RMIT Gallery.

What’s behind the re-emergence and success of video in contemporary art in Australia over the last fifteen years?

The exhibition Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art  at RMIT Gallery (1 July – 20 August) features work made between 2009 and 2014 by some of Australia’s most internationally significant video artists; Daniel Crooks, Hayden Fowler, Shaun Gladwell, Gabriella and Silvana Mangano, David Rosetzky, Julie Rrap and Christian Thompson.

Join us at RMIT Gallery on Friday 1 July from 1-2 pm when curator Anne O’Hehir will talk about the history of video and the important holdings of early video art held by the National Gallery of Australia.

“There is no doubt that the medium has enormous relevance and appeal for contemporary audiences. Certainly the works in Light moves engage with areas of concern for many, around notions of identity or our relationship with nature, for example,” said O’Hehir.

Many of the works in Light moves have a quiet, meditative feel with individuals in some way retreating from the world, and O’Hehir will also look at this aspect of the exhibition, which is on tour from the National Gallery of Australia, and reflect on why this might be.

What: Curator floor talk – Light moves: Contemporary Australian Video Art

When: Friday 1 July 2016

Time: 1-2 pm

With: Anne O’Hehir, Curator of Photography, National Gallery of Australia.

Bookings: Free – please book here

Venue: RMIT Gallery

Location: 344 Swanston Street Melbourne

More information: RMIT Gallery (03) 9925 1717

 

 

Inspired by India – two new exhibitions to open at RMIT Gallery

Photographer Terry Burrows will be giving an artist talk on Friday 20 March 2015, 12.30-1.30 pm at RMIT Gallery.

Photographer Terry Burrows will be giving an artist talk on Friday 20 March, 12.30-1.30 pm at RMIT Gallery.

RMIT Gallery throws open its doors to the public with two new exhibitions inspired by India with the official opening on Thursday 26 march from 6-8 pm. The exhibitions – Backs of Banaras and Unfolding: New Indian Textiles will run until 30 May, and be officially opened from 6-8 pm on Thursday 26 March with an address by Ms Manika Jain, Acting High Commissioner of India.

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Backs of Banaras

Banaras is known as the city of Shiva, one of India’s most revered sites of Hindu ritual. In this exhibition, Sydney based photographer Terry Burrows captures the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India. Selected from the complete series of 1008 photographs (an auspicious number for Hindus) that feature in his The Banaras Back Book, this parade of backs, mostly male and strangely impersonal, conveys much of the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India.

The subjects are draped in their personal cloth and form a visual essay in the textiles of the everyday. These photographs were taken during a five-month residency that Burrows completed in Varanasi in 2010/11. The contrast of traditional religious ritual amidst contemporary street life is intriguing and Burrows argues it is portrayed particularly prominently with Hinduism.

Terry Burrows will be giving a talk about his photographic practice and on photographing in India on Friday 20 March from 12.30-1.30 pm. Bookings RMIT Gallery (03) 9925 1717.

Who should be photographed – how and why? Terry will explore the politics of photographing a subject ‘by stealth’. Should an artist get permission – or not? Is photographing someone’s back the same as their face? Is it different in a country like India – especially if you are a Western photographer? A fascinating insight into a complex issue about rights and responsibilities of an artist to coincide with his exhibition.

Unfolding: New Indian Textiles

Image courtesy of Play Clan

Image courtesy of Play Clan

Indian textile designers are the envy of the rest of the world because they continue to have close, easy contact with all manner of hand production and crafts no longer available elsewhere.

This vibrant new exhibition places contemporary Indian textile designers and artists within the wider context of international art and fashion and examines the reinvention of traditional textiles through the sari, uncut cloth, street wear as well as textiles and fibre as contemporary art.

Unfolding: New Indian Textiles has been developed by independent curator, public art coordinator and artist Maggie Baxter to coincide with her new book on contemporary Indian textiles. Ms Baxter has travelled to India for more than two decades, where she has worked with traditional crafts in the Kutch region of North West India since 1990. The Indian village remains a constant presence in textile production terms of tradition and subject matter, drawing extensively on the daily life and popular culture of villages and marketplaces.

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