Pitches, Witches and Bitches: Feminist Arts and Policy Activism in Australia, Historical Contexts, Recent Developments

9 December 2021, 5:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Professor Tony Bennett, University of Western Sydney
Professor Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh

Session Moderators

Professor Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh

Session Speakers

Tamara Winikoff OAM, Chair of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee of Inner West Council
Deborah Kelly, artist
Julie Ewington, writer, curator and broadcaster

The Australian Art Field: Practices, Policies, Institutions contains several chapters written from feminist perspectives, including many by feminist artists, art historians, and arts policy theorists and activists. In this panel, three of the contributors build on what they shared in that book. Long-time NAVA director Tamara Winikoff discusses the impact of cuts in arts support since the 2013 Brandis intervention, erratic government responses during the pandemic, and the most recent tactics adopted by arts activists. One of the artists interviewed by Tamara in The Australian Art Field, Deborah Kelly, presents her current work CREATION, a queer, insurrectionary, science fiction, climate change religion, which she is in the process of founding. Art historian and critic Julie Ewington explores recent developments in women’s art in Australia, including its future potential, as suggested in responses to exhibitions such as Know My Name at the National Gallery of Australia.

PAPER #1
Cruelling the Arts Pitch

PRESENTER
Tamara Winikoff OAM, Chair of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee of Inner West Council

The election of a Coalition national government in 2013 brought with it a tumultuous time for the Australian arts sector. The Arts Minister, George Brandis first sought greater decision making control over the Australia Council, but failing that, cut its resources and created ‘Catalyst’, a competing government funding program. This compromised the Council’s principles, authority and resources. The government’s intervention deeply troubled the arts sector, and triggered an intense lobbying campaign which secured a Senate Enquiry, a change of Arts Minister and eventually the closing down of the Catalyst program. However, these actions continue to have long term consequences. Arts advocates were exhausted by the demands of the campaign. Artspeak (the confederation of national and state arts advocacy organisations) is now gone, and many arts service organisations have been crippled by funding cuts. In 2019, the arts ministry was absorbed into a mega department with the Arts becoming invisible in its title. Then in 2020, Covid 19 hit, leaving arts (like other gig economy) workers ineligible for bailout programs like Job Keeper. In this paper, I will discuss the efficacy of the recent tactics currently adopted by the Australian arts sector, and how policy and decision-making power is shifting.

PAPER #2
Disorganised Religion

PRESENTER
Deborah Kelly, artist

I will trace the history of my artistic entanglement with the church of my heritage over the course of this short century. From modest public service announcement dossiers to distributing 40,000 stickers, to projections onto clouds over Sydney Harbour, through to my current ardent attempt to found a queer insurrectionary science fiction climate change religion. This presentation will encompass imagery, song, dance steps, animation and new sacred literature: The Liturgy of the Saprophyte, written by SJ Norman and commissioned as the heart of the faith called CREATION. I will show these idle hands, and the work the devil has found for them.

PAPER #3
After Effects: Feminist Art in 2021

PRESENTER
Julie Ewington, writer, curator and broadcaster

‘Feminist Effects: Australian Visual Artists Past, Present, Future’ was written for The Australian Art Field in late 2019 in a different universe, a far more optimistic one. I essayed then a kind of balance sheet for women’s presence in the Australian visual arts, looking at presentations at the Venice Biennale and in recent museum shows, and considering the just-released Countess Report (late 2019), as well as foreshadowing National Gallery of Australia’s nascent Know My Name project and its Gender Parity Action Plan. Many landmarks, practices and processes in the Australia cultural landscape have since changed, with the onset of the Covid pandemic. This paper revisits the precariously optimistic account of 2019 by reviewing the climate of enthusiasm, in Australia and internationally, for both historical and contemporary art by women; considers the two iterations of Know My Name in 2020 and 2021, and their effects on the reception in this country of work by women; and poses questions about the current (and future) climate for feminist achievement, particularly in the light of Anne Marsh’s of Know My Name review (April 2021), with its call for acknowledgement of the transformative power of recent women’s art. In short, what effects matter most now?

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Biographies

Professor Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh

Terry Smith is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art, and Critical Thought, European Graduate School, and Lecturer at Large, Curatorial Studies Program, School of Visual Arts, New York. Books include What is Contemporary Art? (2009), Contemporary Art: World Currents (2011), Thinking Contemporary Curating (2012), Talking Contemporary Curating (2015), The Contemporary Composition (2016), One and Five Ideas: On Conceptual Art and Conceptualism (2107), and Art to come: Histories of Contemporary Art (2019). See www.terryesmith.net/web/about


Professor Tony Bennett, University of Western Sydney

Tony Bennett is an Emeritus Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, and Honorary Professor in the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and of the Academy of the Social Sciences (UK), his research spans the fields of cultural studies, cultural sociology, and museum studies. Recent publications include Making Culture, Changing Society (2013), Collecting, Organising, Governing: Anthropology, Museums and Liberal Government (co-author, 2017), Museums, Power, Knowledge (2018), Fields, Capitals, Habitus: Australian Culture, Social Divisions and Inequalities (co-editor), and The Australian Art Field: Practices, Policies, Institutions (co-editor).


Tamara Winikoff OAM,  Chair of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee of Inner West Council

Tamara Winikoff OAM has been an arts advocate, cultural commentator and senior arts manager for forty years, speaking and publishing extensively about cultural and design issues. Until recently she was Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) and co-convenor of Artspeak. Currently she is Chair of the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee of Inner West Council and Treasurer of the Inner West Creative Network. She also has worked as an academic in Sydney and Oxford UK and been a chief investigator in three major research projects, analysing the art industry and making recommendations for change.


Deborah Kelly, artist

Deborah Kelly has exhibited extensively around Australia, and in the Biennales of Singapore, Sydney, Thessaloniki, TarraWarra, Cementa, and Venice. Recent solo exhibitions include The Gods of Tiny Things at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (2021); Life in the Ruins (2018) Fabian & Claude Walter Galerie, Zurich, and Venus Envy (2017) at the Kvindemuseet, Denmark. In December 2019 she won first prize in the Fotogenia Festival, Mexico City and was International Artist in Residence, Wellcome Trust, London. Her multidisciplinary religious work CREATION was included in The National, 2021 (MCA) and will evolve, recruit and publish as it travels:  http://www.creationtheproject.com


Julie Ewington, writer, curator and broadcaster 

Julie Ewington is based in Sydney. An authority on contemporary Australian art, she has held both academic and curatorial positions. At Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2001-14) key achievements included Contemporary Australia: Women  (2012) and contributing to six Asia-Pacific Triennials. In 2014 Julie received the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Award; in 2017 she was a curatorium member for Unfinished Business: Perspectives on art and feminism ACCA, Melbourne, and in 2019 curated The Housing Question: Helen Grace, Narelle Jubelin, Sherre Delys, Penrith Regional Gallery. Julie is Chair of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney.