Rebellious Acts: The Impact of Arts Protest

10 December 2021, 12:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr Louise Rollman, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Session Moderators

Dr Louise Rollman, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Session Speakers

Dr Louise Rollman, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Yvette Dal Pozzo, National Gallery of Australia (NGA)
Christian Rizzalli, University of Queensland (UQ)
Ellie Buttrose, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

This session examines the impact of art and protest, and by extension, the role that artists and artsworkers have played in instances of social, economic, and cultural unrest. With strife on the rise, there are increasing incidents of communities rejecting art, calling for its censorship, and there are examples of art raising social issues, applying political pressure and prompting community action. From censorship to artist boycotts to ideologically-driven funding cuts, the arts and cultural sector is evermore beleaguered by its political and economic precarity. This session explores how the arts and cultural sector rebels against overbearing situations to question: How effective is art as a form of protest? It explores subtle, subversive and overt situations where art is the subject of protest, as well as revealing examples of arts protest that influence and reshape the processes of art and exhibition-making for artists of today and of the past. In this way, the session cultivates a discussion of the ways arts protest can influence radical and profoundly transformative change.

PAPER #1
The Impact and Experience of Censorship

PRESENTER
Dr Louise Rollman, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Even in a politically and economically stable country such as Australia, censorship appears to be on the rise. In such a context, the censorship of art and culture can be perceived as so banal that its traumas and fissures can be misread as inconsequential. However, such dismissives deny how deeply traumatic these events can be to the artists and administrators entangled in these events. Such events have in fact contributed to reshaping the arts sector in affirmative and disquieting ways. From artists Juan Davila to Bill Henson, this paper examines the patterns and experience of censorship. With a particular interest in the impact upon the public sphere, it focuses on the gallery-museum as a democratic space that struggles to sustain conflicting ideas and, consequentially, the political autonomy of art. As the arts sector and media response to these incidents continues to evolve, these issues have proven to be significant, not only because they can determine how contemporary art is displayed, but because they undermine financial security and are replete with threats of violence.

PAPER #2
The Fabric of Feminism

PRESENTER
Yvette Dal Pozzo, National Gallery of Australia (NGA)

Australian feminist artists have continually used textiles in their practice as a form of material activism and protest. The use of textiles as a feminist activist statement was first embraced by Second Wave feminist artists and continues today. Feminist textile art has been criticised as it embraces an artistic tradition often practiced by women in the domestic sphere and is interpreted as the byproduct of patriarchal oppression. Professor Janis Jeffries argues that feminist textile art directly challenges these histories, embracing an artistic tradition championed and developed by women which ‘provides a strategy for mobilising textiles as a weapon of resistance against an inculcated ‘feminine’ ideal’. This paper will trace the artistic lineages which exist between early pioneering and contemporary feminist textile artists through a series of works including: Frances (Budden) Phoenix’s political embroideries and Kate Just’s knitting project ‘Anonymous was a woman’ (2019-present); Narelle Jubelin’s 1980s political petit points and Sera Waters’ environmental embroideries and installations; alongside ‘The D’Oyley Show’ (1980-82) by the Women’s Domestic Needlework Group and Nell’s community work, the ‘NELL ANNE Quilt Project’ (2020-present). Together these cross-generational feminist projects demonstrate the enduring pertinence of textile art as a political and activist medium.

PAPER #3
Vinicio Paladini: An Enigmatic Case Study in the Challenges of Political Art

PRESENTER
Christian Rizzalli, University of Queensland (UQ)

Vinicio Paladini (1902-71) was an enigmatic figure in the Italian interwar avant-garde. He was ostracised by the power players of Italy’s major avant-garde movements due to his staunch left-wing politics and, likewise, by the orthodox socialist Left due to his disproportionate focus upon questions of culture. Throughout the 1920s, he wrote prolifically on the topic of art and politics, drawing upon Soviet models to develop radical politico-cultural theories that could rival the work of the famed Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci. However, Paladini never managed to convert his revolutionary postulations into an impactful political artistic practice. Across a range of media — painting, photomontage, architecture — his artistic practice remained confined to the realm of obscure and arcane avant-garde experimentation. This paper offers a close study of the disconnection between Paladini’s politico-cultural ambitions and the reality of his artistic practice, focusing in particular on his experiments with photomontage. I take Paladini’s experience as a case study to consider the implications for artists of today who hope to break through the insularity of the art world, and bring their work into the realm of real political impact.

PAPER #4
Living and Abstracting

PRESENTER
Ellie Buttrose, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Bombarded by images that are unbearable to witness and stuck within a moment in which hyper-visibility and transparency are frequently privileged while also used to control identities, artists are harnessing anti-representational strategies to make new and renewed meanings. This paper addresses recent work by Australian contemporary artists, who use abstraction as both a formal and a conceptual device. These practices advocate that abstract art can assist us in realigning our relationship with representation. Furthermore, that this readjustment can in turn enable us to reimagine our relationships to one another and the world around us. Drawing on the writing of artists and art historians, such as Darby English’s rereading of 1970s colour painting and sculpture by African American artists and Gordon Hall’s rethinking of minimalist sculpture, this paper celebrates artists who use abstraction as a way to think through our fraught political moment and linger with ideas that are not readily understandable. Such practices use art to foster political transformation and conjure new visions of the future – it’s just not immediately obvious with only a superficial glance.

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Biographies

Dr Louise Rollman, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Dr Louise Rollman is an independent curator and currently a visiting fellow with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). As a curator specializing in commissioning contemporary art for the public realm, her research interests encompass the politics, management and impact of arts and urban development practices. Notable past projects have included 'my own private neon oasis' (2011) (cat.) — which in recognition of its innovations, influence and reach, was awarded the 2012 Gallery and Museum Achievement Award (GAMAA) by M&GSQ, an AbaF QLD Community Award, a best practice recognition, and an AIA Regional Commendation for Art & Architecture.


Yvette Dal Pozzo, National Gallery of Australia (NGA)

Yvette is currently the Assistant Curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia. She assisted co-curators Deborah Hart and Elspeth Pitt on the major exhibition ‘Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now’ and was the editorial assistant and contributor for the corresponding publication ‘Know My Name’. Yvette was also the coordinating editor for Roger Butler’s publication ‘Printed: images by Australian artists 1942-2020’. In 2019, Yvette was selected to facilitate the Australia Pavilion as part of the 58th Venice Biennale. Yvette holds a Master of Art History and Curatorial Studies degree from the Australian National University.


Christian Rizzalli, University of Queensland (UQ)

Christian Rizzalli is based at the University of Queensland, where he is undertaking a PhD in the field of Art History. Christian’s research looks at the history of political photomontage in Italy, and is focused particularly upon the ways in which avant-garde photographic techniques traversed the boundary between the radical political Left and Right.


Ellie Buttrose, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Ellie Buttrose is Curator, Contemporary Australian Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. Where she is a contributing curator to ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial’ (2021), curated ‘Work, Work, Work’ (2019), ‘Limitless Horizon: Vertical Perspective' (2017), and was managing curator for ‘Cindy Sherman’ (2016) touring to City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand. Ellie was a guest curator for the 2020, 2019, 2018 ‘Brisbane International Film Festival’; curated ‘Material Place: Reconsidering Australian Landscapes’ (2019), University of New South Wales Galleries, Sydney; and served on the curatorium for ‘Cosmopolis #1: Collective Intelligence’ (with K. Weir, 2017), Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.