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.

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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

 

 

 

Last days: current RMIT Gallery exhibitions close on 30 May

RMIT Gallery Unfolding: New Indian Textiles, RMIT Gallery, 20 MAR 2015 - 30 MAY 2015 - photo by Mark Ashkanasy.

RMIT Gallery Unfolding: New Indian Textiles, RMIT Gallery, 20 MAR 2015 – 30 MAY 2015 – photo by Mark Ashkanasy.

The current exhibitions at RMIT Gallery – Unfolding: New Indian Textiles, Backs of Banaras by Terry Burrows and Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla close at 5 pm on Saturday 30 May. Don’t miss seeing these visually compelling shows. Here is what others are saying about them:

“Loving these brilliant colors!” That’s a typical comment from audiences who come to Unfolding: New Indian Textiles, which celebrates the handmade and strong tradition craftsmanship in Indian villages, and the innovative designers who meld the old and the new to reach out to a global audience.

“This is an outstanding exhibition of color and texture, that has opened our eyes to an India of which we were unaware,” is a comment in our visitor’s book.

This is echoed by other comments – “Indian textiles – wool stitching is incredible – excellent exhibition!”; “Visually and technically magnificent!”; “An amazing, inspiring, surprising, beautiful exhibition…a truly memorable and very beautiful experience to behold.”

RMIT Gallery: Unfolding: New Indian Textiles, 20 MAR 2015 - 30 MAY 2015 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. Photo by Mark Ashkanasy, 2015

RMIT Gallery: Unfolding: New Indian Textiles, 20 MAR 2015 – 30 MAY 2015
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. Photo by Mark Ashkanasy, 2015

The complementary exhibition Backs of Banaras, by Terry Burrows, presents a display of large photographic prints that lines up many torsos along the ghats of the Ganges at Varanasi (Banaras). Banaras is known as the city of Shiva, one of India’s most revered sites of Hindu ritual, and the exhibition invites viewers to explore another side of India.

The exhibition provides a visual contrast with Unfolding: New Indian Textiles and this dichotomy between high fashion and the textiles worn by villagers in rural India is a deliberate choice by RMIT Gallery Director and Chief Curator Suzanne Davies.

RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies with artist Terry Burrows at his RMIT Gallery exhibition Baccks of Banaras, a curated selection of works from his book which they are holding. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies with artist Terry Burrows at his RMIT Gallery exhibition Baccks of Banaras, a curated selection of works from his book which they are holding. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

“The aim of the exhibitions is to showcase the 21 st century application of Indian craftsmanship to an international audience, and to reveal also the everyday, ordinary textiles worn in rural areas,” Ms Davies said.

“We wanted people to have a meditative experience when they viewed Backs of Banaras, and pause to enjoy a sense of calm.”

And it worked – in the visitor’s book, someone notes; “Terry Burrows photos were outstanding. An intriguing set that kept revealing more and more on many levels; aesthetic, social, patterns, texture, shapes – wonderful. Thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and it opened my eyes to new ways of seeing.”

RMIT Gallery 20 Mar 2015 - 30 May 2015 Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla: photo by Mark Ashkanasy, 2015

RMIT Gallery
20 Mar 2015 – 30 May 2015
Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla: photo by Mark Ashkanasy, 2015

One of the great strengths of a university public art gallery is its ability to explore often provocative ideas and challenge viewers, showcasing how artists have responded to certain events or ideas. This is the case in the third exhibition at RMIT Gallery, shown alongside Unfolding: New Indian Textiles and Backs of Banaras.

The exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla is curated by Associate Professor Linda Williams, RMIT School of Art, and draws inspiration from two major events in Japan that led to radioactive contamination: the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the 2011 tsunami. Art After Fukushima questions the benign effects of the use of nuclear power, as explored through the work of six Japanese artists.

One visitor commented; “An excellent showing of three very different exhibitions. The Indian materials are stunning. The Japanese exhibition is so powerful and hauntingly beautiful in its vulnerability. The Backs of Banaras captures each moment in time with exquisite human stories. Thank you!”

Here at RMIT Gallery we work with a passion for the arts and are firm believers in the power of cultural diplomacy and the ability of the arts to move and affect people. Perhaps it is too big a task to ask any artform to be able to change people’s perspectives, but we do believe that well curated exhibitions have an impact on people, even if it is just an opportunity to take a moment to think – and view – things differently.

RMIT Gallery 20 Mar 2015 - 30 May 2015 Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla:  close up of new commissioned work by Yutaka Kobayashi - ‘Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away’ 2015, made from  Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media.  Installation photo by Mark Ashkanasy, 2015.

RMIT Gallery
20 Mar 2015 – 30 May 2015
Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla: close up of new commissioned work by Yutaka Kobayashi – ‘Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away’ 2015, made from
Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media. Installation photo by Mark Ashkanasy, 2015.

We are always attentive to the comments in our visitor book, and are often very moved by what people choose to spend time to write and tell us about their experience. Here are some more highlights:

“As a disability support pensioner with acquired brain injury, it was wonderful to attend an exhibition free of charge…thank you very much for what I saw and this wonderful opportunity.”

“Positive – positive – positive! A challenge to deadly uranium. Keep it in the ground. This art is revolutionary!”

Farewell Experimenta – behind the scenes of the ‘bump out’

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This week we bid farewell to Experimenta Recharge the media art exhibition that has attracted large crowds to its interactive exhibits since November, and delighted audiences on its final viewing at White Night Melbourne on Saturday 21 February.

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What a contrast RMIT Gallery is on the first days after the exhibition has ended, and we de-install the artworks. The images of the bustling gallery full of people and artwork are already are fading into memory. The main photo (above, top) is what remains of Khaled Sabsabi’s work 70,000 Veils – a massive piece utilising television screens projecting images to be viewed through 3D glasses (above, with the audience, at RMIT Gallery’s White Night Melbourne event on 21 February).

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The day after an exhibition ends it is always a surprise to walk into the main gallery and the magic has gone, and the space transformed. Where there were artworks and an audience, now it is just an empty space quickly filled with boxes, pieces of wood, material being recycled and everything packed up to be freighted to the next location. Above is the crowd arriving for White Night Melbourne and pouring through the gallery reception – below is the same view, two days later, filled with the massive stack of television monitor boxes that were used for Sabsabi’s work.

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The two week period of ‘bumping out’ the current exhibition and ‘bumping in’ the new one, means that RMIT Gallery is transformed in that time to something of a building site, with teams of technicians working under the direction of RMIT Gallery registrar Peter Wilson, to take down the current exhibition,  and then prepare the walls and perhaps new partitions for the next exhibition layout.

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Down comes Ei Wada’s Towering Records, the installation piece that transfixed audiences with its storytelling and visual magic.

Ei Wada (Japan)

Ei Wada (Japan)

Once all the artwork has been packed away to be freighted back to different locations, all that remains are holes on the walls to be painstakingly patched, and paint colors to be taken back to the blank canvas of the White Cube.  It takes a large team and an enormous amount of work to keep the gallery walls looking immaculate, ready for the presentation of the new exhibitions.Why do we go to this effort?

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RMIT Gallery Director and Chief Curator Suzanne Davies said “we want to intensify people’s experience and we can do that by making sure that the environment supports a pleasurable visual experience for the viewer and reflects the respect with which we hold for the artwork and the artist’s vision.”

WHAT’S NEXT????

In the next few blogs, we will explore the installation of our three new upcoming exhibitions, and behind the scenes details of the genesis of their ideas and curatorial rationale. These exhibitions are:

RMIT Gallery India Exhibition Consultant Helen Rayment's behind the scenes images in India of 'Unfolding: New Indian Textiles'.

RMIT Gallery India Exhibition Consultant Helen Rayment’s behind the scenes images in India of ‘Unfolding: New Indian Textiles’.

Unfolding: New Indian Textiles

20 March – 30 May 2015

Contemporary Indian textile designers and artists examine the reinvention of traditional textiles within the wider context of international art and fashion.

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla

20 March – 30 May 2015

Japanese artists respond to the events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 and its environmental implications.

Backs of Banaras

20 March – 30 May 2015

Photographer Terry Burrows visual essay in the textiles of the everyday that conveys much of the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India.

 

 

 

 

 

Still Modern: Ulm Design Exhibition Opening Night

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Trays of fresh baked bretzels were carried into RMIT Gallery for the opening night of the Ulm School of Design Exhibition on Thursday 31 July…and by the end of the night, the crowds had snaffled up every last one. Not a bretzel crumb in sight.

The international touring exhibition was opened by Michael R Pearce SC, Honorary Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Melbourne (pictured below left, with Ulm exhibition curator Dr Martin Mäntele, Director of the HfG Archive), who merrily tucked into a fresh bretzel as soon as he arrived. 

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A large crowd braved the stormy weather to view the exhibition of the renowned Ulm School of Design. Regarded as being second only to the Bauhaus, the Ulm School of Design reflected the spirit of change in Germany in the post-war years, and revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production.

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The audience loved the iconic Ulm designs – from the revolutionary Braun SK4 ‘Snow White’s Coffin’ radio and record player to Lufthansa’s corporate branding and the ubiquitous stackable white tableware.

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RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said in her opening remarks that the relationship between RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut, and Ifa, was finely matched and mutually rewarding.

“RMIT Gallery has introduced many leading European artists to Melbourne and facilitated workshops and skill exchange with photographers, designers, architects, town planners, musicians and gold and silversmiths over the past 30 years,” Ms Davies said.

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Among the audience at the opening were designers and design students who had come to see products and rigorous design exercises produced by the famed ‘Ulm Method’. As Dr. Martin Mäntele explained in his opening speech, in rejecting design as an artistic activity, and focusing instead on inter-disciplinary work, social responsibility and objective design analysis, designers trained at the Ulm School of Design produced work that resulted in iconic mid-twentieth century designs that remain utterly modern and practical.

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Dr Malte Wagenfeld, Head of Industrial Design at RMIT (pictured above, left), will explore the social focus, thinking and impact of the Ulm School and German design in the 60 – to early 80s in a public program talk at RMIT Gallery on 12 August from 12.30 – 1.30 pm.

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The audience were invited to try out the Ulm Model designs themselves by sitting on the Ulm Stool as they watched films from the Ulm Archive and documentaries about the School. Designed in 1955 (and still in production), the Ulm Stool’s construction is simple and inexpensive, with three spruce boards connected by mechanical dovetailing; a strip of beech completes the edging. With postwar austerity and a lack of funds, the stool worked hard as a multi-purpose piece of equipment – it was a chair that could be carried to classes; upside down it could be used to transport books and equipment. One stool placed on a table formed a lectern. it also served as an occasional table or a shelf unit. Bonus!

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After an international tour that has taken the Ulm Model to many countries across the globe, Melbourne is the finale for the exhibition. Melbourne, which did not suffer bombing during the second world war, is a long way from the large photograph of postwar Ulm in ruins (above). But the design philosophy that emerged from the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung or HfG) from 1953 until it closed in 1968, resonated around the world. And on July 31, on a cold and wet Melbourne night, a large crowd gathered to gain a deeper insight into one of the world’s most important contemporary design academies.

The Ulm School of Design Exhibition is at RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne, from 1 to 30 August 2014.