Ausglass Conference Canberra 2008: last Thursday…


Ausglass Canberra 2008 officially kicked off with a formal launch at the ANU School of Art on Thursday evening – though it’s a miracle that any of the conference faithful who were unfamiliar with the location/venue were able to even find it, judging by the signage above(…!?!)

The Gang swung by the SoA Gallery to check out the Ausglass Members show – which had been lumped with the unfortunate title of Open Slather. Though, of course, given the open invitation/unselected nature of the beast, there is always the danger it’ll be a bit of a dog’s breakfast (not unlike the Ranomok). But this year a good number of established artists stepped up to the plate and consequently the show had plenty to commend it.

We took a few photos of some stand-outs before being engulfed by the hail-fellow-well-met-social-component of the occasion, so please note that any work not represented in our happy snap parade isn’t necessarily indicative of our critical appraisal. (Actually, we’d really only managed to make one fairly perfunctory circuit of the room before the darling Brigitte turned up (straight off the bus from the coast) and the two of us immediately made a bee-line for the bar…as you do.) And then there was another hour or so of back-slapping/huggy greetings, punctuated by the formal speeches – during which Klaus was presented with Honorary Life Membership, and the conference was declared officially open.

By now most everyone had arrived: Scotto, who’d just flown in direct from Berlin; the rest of the Adelaide mob (except the Leader of the Free Glass World, Debster Jones, whose plane had been delayed an hour or so); various lovely bods with whom the Gang had become acquainted over the several Summer and Winter School courses we used to co-ordinate at the Glass Workshop; Roger Parramore, who was teaching at the ‘Chuck both times the Gang went over; Wazza on crutches (with a matching comedic line or two thrown in); Danilo, who always supplies that element of delicious confusion; and lots, lots more besides…

We didn’t stay for the official opening party – apart from having already caught up with nearly everyone we wanted to, we had serious glass biz elsewhere…with the Beam boys. It was to be our second session with those intrepid projectionists (see previous post, Spunks in the City) but for those of you not in the know, we should perhaps bring you…


             A Potted History of the Beam Story…

Beam began early in the new millennium when Canberra artists Peter Jordan and John Pratt experimented with projections at the ANU School of Art – displaying predominantly Russian constructivist slides around the walls and facades on campus. It was, recalls John, primitive but rather interesting – and it encouraged them to push the concept further. Their prime motivation was a desire to make images that moved beyond the conventional gallery space and scene (with its stagnant, repetitive audience), out into the realm of chance encounter; the wider public domain. The aim was to make provocative, political work on an ephemeral basis, but they wanted to elevate it beyond the scarring semi-permanency of graffiti.

They applied for, and were successful in gaining, a small grant from ArtsACT and Beam was born – a Printmedia Workshop initiative that brought together a shifting bunch of like-minded practitioners that included Rose Montebello, Frankie Sparks, Penny Cain, Joe Broad and, later, Ivo Lovric and Patsy Payne. The grant enabled them to stage 3 projection events: Beam 1, City Walk Civic (the old boulevard opposite the original Electric Shadows) in 2003; Beam 2, City Walk (in the large, empty ex-Medicare space) in 2004; and Beam 3, on the ANU School of Art facade (during the Print Symposium) also in 2004. Of the three events the last was the least concerned with socio-political issues, sourcing instead images with content that specifically played off the architecture of the building; heraldic school mottos juxtaposing fragmented figures and text, and images (such as Rose Montebello’s smoke plumed Mt Helena) that served to dissolve the certainty of the edifice.

During this time (in 2003), in the lead up to the 2004 Federal Election, they also projected an arts and human rights event, Discrepant, on the Garema Place screen in Civic and the Canberra Theatre facade, addressing innumerable socio-political issues concerning the Howard government’s nationalism, values, ethics….the shameless list goes on.

In 2005 they followed up with the 24/7 Projection Works at the High Court of Australia – with a work that explored questions of security and surveillance and the insidious government agency intrusion into privacy and personal space.

In 2006 they participated in Domain – a temporary public art event held annually in Alinga St, where they projected an eclectic range of material onto the Post Office Clock tower to make odd, formal commentaries apropos the clock-face itself.

In 2007 they did their thing at the National Library with Beam: 4 Story High Art during the Festival of Contemporary Art. And throughout all this time, juggled between the more formalised events, they continually facilitated countless experimental student projects (like Ben Forster’s amazing ‘computer drawn’ work.)

…and then the poor buggers came up against the Gang and were inveigled into a spot of (faintly) lascivious glass-centric subversion (with an empathetic willingness and generosity of spirit and time, for which we will remain profoundly grateful.) Hunks of Glass: beamed graced the wall of the building opposite the Legislative Assembly over the two nights leading up to its namesake exhibition opening, held at ANCA in Dickson on the Friday night of the Ausglass Conference Canberra 2008. It was truly luscious to behold.

For the mug parade of the evening, go to…  

Craft ACT’s ‘Gather’ exhibition first off the blocks in the 2008 Canberra glass stakes…


Craft ACT has kicked off the glass brouhaha a week early, stealing the march on the Ausglass conference with a show that’s cool, edgy and (in the main) totally out there.

Curator Jas Hugonnet invited Craft ACT members to ‘examine the possibilities of combining glass with other materials in a constructed approach after the annealing process’, and the resultant exhibition is refreshingly diverse and (perhaps more importantly) intelligently progressive.

One of the most striking aspects is the preponderance of (totally unsolicited) socio-political commentary – which of course lifts the Gang’s skirt no end. We do like to be engaged on a level a little loftier than ‘gee, how did he/she make that’ and ‘that’d look nice in my loungeroom’. (Or worse, ‘how can I rip that off and make it my own’…)

So the show is a bewdy (though this is probably hardly surprising given the cast of contributors) and, sitting as it does at the contemporary art end of craft-biz, it sets a quite gratifying intellectual benchmark; which is always to be applauded.

Some of our absolute faves are Alex Asch’s another beautiful day at the factory, Diedre Feeney’s out of time, Mariana del Castillo’s momento mori series (Mariana’s work is always so wonderfully intriguing) and Elizabeth Kelly’s AT YOUR OWN RISK. (This latter being a commentary on the ‘no care, even less responsibility’ policy and culture of the new not-to-be-named-you-know-what. We’d tell ya but we had to sign a confidentiality clause with Liz…er, not! Clue #1: it’s a shark’s nest.)

Luna Ryan’s 1-2-3 Bears (from the Transformative Toy series) is simply darling – and a complete break-away from the Mamana Mamanta work showing in Gallery 2. After some two years of working tirelessly on the Tiwi project with Jock, she’s swapped the weighty responsibility of the pukumani poles for some light-hearted R&R and studio playtime. The resultant ‘honey bears’ are irresistibly charming, and herald a completely new direction in Luna’s ongoing practice.

But back to the political…Itzell Tazziman’s Citizen of the World  is a classic reflection on the Howard era (and indeed the piece was made back in 2005, at a time when we were all most despairing of Little Johnny’s insidious social and political agenda.) Megan (Megsie) Bottari’s НАСЛЕДИЕ ГОВАРДА (Howard’s Legacy), on the other hand, is a direct response to Howard’s recent agreement with Putin (signed at the Sydney APEC fiasco last year) to flog our uranium to the Russians. (No deep and angst-riven meaningfuls here – the foreboding message is alarmingly simple: our shit will be radioactive. Period.) Even Blanchie came up with a military thematic in her eloquently elegant Perpetual bandolier. And Simon Mayberley’s signature Perception Series (silver blue) lends a certain sense of mummery and manipulation…

For those of you who remain faint/feint hearted, never fear; there’s plenty of serious craftmanship for the crotchety old purists. And the exhibition’s not entirely spiky and confronting (Amy Schleif Mohr’s Duality is characteristically Classic-School-of-Bullseye, for instance, and Rozlyn de Bussey’s Aerated Form 2 is completely innocuous…)

Meanwhile the techno stakes are represented by the work of aforementioned Diedre Feeney (glass and video projection) and Denise Higgins (a fascinating light/glass/kinetic piece), both of which need to be seen in the flesh to be properly appreciated. Suffice to say they’re worth the trip.

Gather will be showing in Gallery 1 at Craft ACT from 14th Jan – 27th January, with an opening night at 7pm on Friday 25th. Mamana Mamanta runs concurrently in Gallery 2.

For snaps from the exhibition go to…

Sincere apologies to Deidre, Denise and Rozlyn for not showing images of their work. In the case of the former two, the light component of each is integral to the piece and we simply couldn’t get a shot that did the work justice. In the case of Roslyn, the camera spat the dummy. We’ll endeavour to sort it out…