Art Without Borders

Touring exhibitions play a pivotal role in connecting the arts community. They provide access to collections, and permit collaboration between cultural bodies, ensure access to a broader audience and encourage artistic dialogue with our neighbours. So what happens when we batten down the hatches, not only at home but from state to territory? When enforced restrictions disconnect us from physically viewing art, how do we respond?

With touring programs currently on hold as galleries across the country are temporarily closed, we look to new modes of transport; the offline becomes online, and the physical shifts to virtual, proving that accessibility to the arts is boundless. Below is a selection of touring exhibitions, previously published in Art Almanac; to read, view, and explore from the comfort of your home, or to add to your arts calendar.

Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial

Reko Rennie, OA_RR 2017, 3-channel high-definition film, sound, duration 8 mins Photograph: Justin McManus. Courtesy the artist, Blackartprojects, Melbourne and National Gallery of Australia, Australian Capital Territory

‘We defy: By existing; By determining our identity; By asserting our histories; our culture; our language; By telling our stories, our way; By being one of the oldest continuous living cultures in the world,’ states Tina Baum, NGA Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

‘Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial’ brings the works of 30 contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across the country into the national spotlight. “Defying Empire’’, writes Yolande Norris, ‘is fierce, uncompromising and impactful.’ It focuses on the ongoing strength of Australia’s Indigenous people, exploring issues of identity, racism, displacement, country, nuclear testing, sovereignty and the stolen generations, and the power of activism.

On show at the National Gallery of Australia in 2017; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and UQ Art Museum in 2018, followed by Western Plains Cultural Centre and Mildura Arts Centre in 2019, and finally at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney in 2020 (view the museum’s website for exhibition dates).

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John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new


John Mawurndjul, Ancestral spirit beings collecting honey, 1985-1987, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Maningrida Arts & Culture with financial assistance from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council, 1994 © John Mawurndjul. Licensed by Viscopy, 2017

‘John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new’ reunites works of art from national and international collections, made across a 40-year period, to present an alchemy of ‘the old and new’; bark paintings and sculptures that tell the stories of Kuninjku culture and the significant locations surrounding the self-proclaimed ‘chemist man’s’ home in western Arnhem Land.

Co-curated by Clothilde Bullen (MCA), Natasha Bullock (MCA), Nici Cumpston (AGSA) and Lisa Slade (AGSA), ‘John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new’ was developed in close collaboration with the artist.

Since launching at the of Contemporary Art Australia mid-2018, this comprehensive survey of Mawurndjul’s work proceeded to Adelaide, shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia, before (with a reduced version of the 165-work exhibition) returning to New South Wales: Murray Art Museum Albury and Glasshouse; zigzagging across to Queensland and back again: Caboolture Regional Art Gallery, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and Cairns Regional Gallery. Programmed for Charles Darwin University Art Collection & Art Gallery in the Northern Territory, from 17 April to 28 June 2020, the exhibition has been postponed until further notice. We wait patiently for the green light to visit or revisit these works in the flesh, with shows scheduled at Tweed Regional Gallery in New South Wales from 10 July to 13 September 2020 and Bunjil Place Gallery in Victoria from 26 September to 29 November 2020.

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Eugenia Lim: The Ambassador

Eugenia Lim, The People’s Currency, 2017, performance, dimensions variable. This project was commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, supported by the City of Melbourne and part of the inaugural Asia TOPA Triennial of Performing Arts. Photograph: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist and Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Melbourne

Eugenia Lim takes on new roles in uncovering the Australian-Asian narrative, drilling down into racial politics, the social costs of manufacturing and the role of architecture in shaping society. Her Mao-like character balances between truth and fantasy, traversing through time and cultures in ‘The Ambassador’, a 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Museums & Galleries of NSW (M&GNSW) touring project. ‘In the end, to me, art is a way of imagining something different,’ says Lim.

In 2019, the exhibition toured South Australia before making its way to New South Wales; scheduled for Bega Valley Regional Gallery from 8 May to 19 June 2020; before moving across the state to Goulburn Regional Art Gallery from 10 July to 15 August 2020, Griffith Regional Art Gallery from 12 September to 18 October 2020, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery from 20 November 2020 to 16 January 2021, and finally Orange Regional Gallery from 30 January 2020 to 28 March 2021.

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Craftivism. Dissident Objects and Subversive Forms

Kate Just, Feminist Fan #1 (PUSSY: Casey at the Melbourne Pussy Riot Protest, 2012), 2015, hand-knitted wool and acrylic yarns, canvas and timber, 38.1 x 50.8cm. Photograph: Simon Strong. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria

Curated by Anna Briers and Rebecca Coates, ‘Craftivism. Dissident Objects and Subversive Forms’ features the work of 18 contemporary Australian artists and artist collectives who utilise craft-based materialities with political intent. With each stitch our understanding of craft-making traditions is broadened; with every pull of the thread, artists subvert and extend these forms into the realm of activism and social change, reflecting on the world in which we live.

‘For much of the relative softness of the materials used in crafting techniques: yarn, fabrics, wool and felt, craft itself has a hard edge – it is uncompromising and political,’ writes Kathleen Linn.

‘This strong lineage of subversion and lasting entwinement with protest and social change has seen the emergence of craft’s own form of critique or means through which to explore the power dynamics operating in society. More recently, this has expanded and morphed with other contemporary practices and mediums as contemporary artists reach for craft-based materials and use them in new and more experimental ways,’ she continues.

While some respond directly to artistic or political movements, others encourage social connection between community members or require participatory activation through collective processes.

‘Craftivism’ also addresses issues with land, environmental politics and climate change, while others are concerned about contested borders, immigration and democracy; inviting viewers to rethink craft in a new light.

‘Craftivism’ is a Shepparton Art Museum curated exhibition, touring nationally through NETS Victoria at Shepparton Art Museum, Warnambool Art Gallery and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery in Victoria in 2019, followed by Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra. The exhibition enters 2020 at Bega Valley Regional Gallery in New South Wales from 30 April to 21 June 2020, and Queensland’s Warwick Art Gallery from 2 July to 29 August 2020 and University of the Sunshine Coast Art Gallery, from 12 September to 31 October 2020.

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Mary Tonkin: Ramble

Mary Tonkin, Ramble, Kalorama (detail), 2017-19, oil on linen, 180 x 1890cm. Photograph: Matthew Stanton. Courtesy the artist and Australian Galleries, Melbourne & Sydney

While we’re all stuck indoors, Mary Tonkin offers an opportunity to escape into the wild with her work, Ramble, Kalorama (2017-19) composed of 21 panels and stretching almost 19 metres. ‘I’ve been playing with this idea of making a very long work for about ten years now; a piece that reflects time spent moving through a place, being with it,’ says Tonkin. For this body of work – which includes drawings, ceramics and smaller paintings – the artist returned to her family farm at Kalorama in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne; ‘sowed with cultivated flowers, rare bulbs and perennials, and surrounded by national parkland,’ notes Pesa. ‘It enfolds me,’ says the artist of what she affectionately terms as ‘her gully’, where she has been working amidst the open landscape and in her studio.

‘Ramble’ was on show at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, in 2019 before travelling across the city to Whitehorse Artspace in 2020. While it is uncertain whether the exhibition will continue, works can be viewed on the gallery websites.

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Additional touring exhibitions include: ‘FEM-aFFINITY’, ‘Violent Salt’, ‘Anne Wallace: Strange Ways’, ‘Jess Johnson and Simon Ward: Terminus’, ‘Arlo Mountford: Deep Revolt’, and ‘Void’, to name a few. JamFactory Icon shows: ‘Catherine Truman: no surface holds’, ‘Angela Valamanesh: about being here’ and ‘Clare Belfrage: A Measure of Time’ will also continue the rounds when gallery doors reopen. More information is available via Art Almanac’s online platforms.

Happy (virtual) travels!