2002 Lecture Series
Photo-Synthesis: Explorations into Contemporary Photomedia
Photo-Synthesis: Explorations into Contemporary Photomedia was a series of monthly lectures and panel discussions at CCP between June and October 2002. The series aimed to establish a 'synthesis' between theory and practice, making connections with current developments in photographic and curatorial practice. The series commenced with a panel on the collecting practices of our public institutions, and featured solo lectures by Alasdair Foster (Australian Centre for Photography), Rhana Devenport (Asia-Pacific Triennial) and Charles Green (University of Melbourne), as well as a special panel on digital art practice.
How do photographs come to be in public institutions? Who chooses which images to buy and on what grounds? This forum explored the policies and attitudes that inform the various collecting practices of Melbourne's premier photographic institutions. Isobel Crombie, Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria, spoke about the process of collecting in an art photography department; Michael Galimany, a Curator in the La Trobe Picture Collection, described the way the State Library of Victoria collects photographs; Kelly Gellatly, Curator at Heide Museum of Modern Art and former Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia, drew on her various experiences; and Jane Scott, Director of Monash Gallery of Art, discussed her organisation's large collection of photography. The session was chaired by Clare Williamson, Exhibitions Curator at the State Library of Victoria and CCP Board Member, who has also worked with photography at the Queensland Art Gallery and at ACCA. This session was of interest to artists working with photography, collectors, critics and others with a passion for photography.
Contemporary art from Asia and the Pacific is among the most exciting and dynamic in the world today. In this presentation, Rhana Devenport discussed contemporary photo-based art from the region, with a focus on the (then) forthcoming Asia-Pacific Triennial. APT 2002 featured a group of artists from a rich field in which the photographic and the moving image are considered. This Triennial drew out particular inflections in the practice of a set of important artists, and consciously explored cinematic, performative and spatial concerns through engaging the sensual impulse in highly individuated ways. Shifts in video and filmic languages were registered in this exhibition which includes still photography as both documentation and experimentation as well as actions and gestures captured through static, moving and sequential images.
Rhana Devenport is Senior Project Officer, Asia-Pacific Triennial at Queensland Art Gallery. She has been involved with the Triennial project since its inception in 1993, spanning curatorial participation, publishing, promotion and public programming. She is a frequent contributor to art journals and serves on advisory committees for Asialink (Melbourne), Object (Sydney) and the Asian Art Archive (Hong Kong).
In this provocative presentation, Alasdair Foster explored the use of art and looks to a near future when art may no longer rely upon or privilege the artist-producer. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines including neurophysiology, economics, art history, behavioural science and consilience theory, Foster offered what he calls "a polemic refracted in a crystal ball".
Alasdair Foster is the Director of the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney. With a hybrid education in physics, photography, history and theatre, his career has spanned the film industry, commercial and art photographic practice, curation and writing. Before moving to Australia, he was the founding director of Fotofeis, the award-winning biennial of international photography in Scotland.
What has become of the image in the digital age? How are digital technologies – the metamedia tool of the computer – continuing to influence the practice of image making? What is 'digital art', when a majority of contemporary art and photomedia passes through a digital phase at some point in its production? This panel session considered this theme in relation to contemporary art practice and exhibition. Alessio Cavallaro, Producer/Curator of New Media Projects at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, considered the role of this new institution and its dialogue with contemporary art practice; digital media artist Linda Erceg discussed the trajectory of her art practice from analogue photography to digital installations; Keely Macarow, curator, writer, media arts producer and lecturer in the Media Arts department at RMIT University, discussed her mediating role between contemporary art and digital technologies. The session was chaired by CCP's digital art curator, Daniel Palmer, and was of particular interest to artists working between photography and new media.
Charles Green began this lecture with Terry Smith's question: What has been the fate of the image in modernity? Arguing that a range of influential contemporary theorists respond overwhelmingly with a farewell, in the now familiar vocabulary of simulacra, the return of the real, and the depletion of an image's auratic presence, Green agreed that this 'image crisis' is best observed in photography and on the screen. However, the much-vaunted interdisciplinarity of critical theory turned out to be almost entirely one-way, commencing with the seismic 1980s importation of theory into art practice, art theorists today propose different viewpoints – that artists can produce new knowledge through images, and at the same time that images must not be reduced to writing. Other theorists argue that we are on the verge of a new understanding of visuality propelled by new media. Weighing up approaches to the image and finding them wanting, Green speculated as to how and why recent international art has arrived at a conception of itself that is different from both pre-modern art and postmodernism.