ACCA presents ‘Defining Moments’ Lectures 6 & 7

The final two podcasts and illustrated videos presenting the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art’s (ACCA) lecture series ‘Defining Moments: Australian Exhibition Histories 1968-1999’, has been released on the Melbourne art institutions website bringing the two-year project to completion. With input from Australian curators, artists, historians and academics this retrospective online project looks back on some of the most important art exhibitions and events from the last 30 years of the 20th century marking them as significant makers of change critical to the way we experience art in Australia today.

Aratjara at Kunstsammlung Düsseldorf. Courtesy Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Lecture 6: Aratjara: art of the first Australians, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf 1993, and Fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson, at Australian Pavilion, Venice, Biennale in 1997

Belonging to the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of northwest Western Australia, Dr Stephen Gilchrist, writer, curator and Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney, delivers a succinct summary of two ground-breaking exhibitions of Aboriginal art, which toured on the international stage in the 1990s.

In 1993-94 the exhibition ‘Aratjara: art of the first Australians’ travelled from Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf to Hayward Gallery in London followed by the Louisiana Museum in Denmark celebrating a display of over 150 works created by more than 100 artists from Aboriginal communities around Australia. In 1997 at the Venice Biennale, curators Hettie Perkins and Brenda L Croft with non-Indigenous exhibition manager Victoria Lynn, presented the exhibition ‘Fluent’ in the Australian Pavilion, which featured a vibrant selection of major works by leading contemporary Aboriginal artists Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Judy Watson alongside spectacular large-scale woven creations by Yvonne Koolmatrie.

With a focus on the Aboriginal curatorial authenticity of these two trailblazing exhibitions, Gilchrist says they are “key examples of Indigenous curation that encode Indigenous philosophies of critical care and value, and assert the importance of representational sovereignty.” Watch the video or listen to Lecture 6 here.

Inaugural exhibition opening, Gallery 4A, Sydney, 1997. Courtesy 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Archive

Lecture 7: Founding of Gallery 4A and the inaugural exhibition in 1997.
Join Mikala Tai, Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Lecture 7 as she reflects on the establishment of Gallery 4A, the political environment at the time, and how the gallery evolved over time and continues to prosper with unwavering vision today.

The 4A Gallery opened in 1997 in Sydney’s Chinatown district with inspiration from the Asian Australian Artists Association Inc (4A), a not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 with the aim to present work by Asian and Asian-Australian artists and to also explore what contemporary Australian culture is.

Tai says the 4A founders were “a group of passionate young artists, curators and theatre-makers who were fuelled by both the socio-political and cultural discourses in Australian in mid-to-late 1990s. Together they wanted to create space for Asian-Australian voices on our stages, galleries and screens and they wanted to challenge collective understandings of ‘Australian culture’.”

Curated by 4A Gallery’s first curator and director Melissa Chiu, the ‘Inaugural Exhibition’ showcased work by Asian-Australian artists Emil Goh, Hou Leong and Lindy Lee. Photographic works by Goh and Leong explored themes of familial lineage and Australian and Asian-Australian identity. Lee’s work titled Birds of Appetite presented the artists early experimentations with the Zen Buddhist practice of flung ink as creative meditations on histories and personal heritage. Watch or listen to to Lecture 7 here.

In its own defining moment ACCA makes a valuable contribution to the documentation of art in Australia with the ‘Defining Moments: Australian Exhibition Histories 1968-99’ series. “As a package, this is an invaluable resource offering new insights and reflections on the ambitious, genre defining and genre-defying art exhibitions and institutions that have shaped and transformed the cultural landscape in Australia,” says ACCA’s Artistic Director and CEO Max Delany. 

Click here to explore the complete 2019/2020 series.