Adelaide Art Photography: 1970-2000

The next stage in the archive project after The Bowden Archives  is a book with Adam Dutkiewicz entitled Adelaide Photography: from the 1970s –2000 to be published by Moon Arrow Press.  It is a  historical project that is a step to filling in the large  gaps in the history of Australian photography and Adelaide’s late 20th century visual culture.

Tree, South Rd, Adelaide

Adam and I have talked about starting work on the Adelaide photography  book after he has completed  A Visual History of  the Royal South Australian Society of Arts 1856-2016 Volume 2 book.  At this stage the start would be  towards the end of 2017,  or the beginning of 2018.

It is envisioned that the  proposed Adelaide photography  book would consist of  a portfolio of 6-8 images  for a number of  art photographers in Adelaide active in the last quarter of  the 20th century.   The number of photographers is unclear at this stage–maybe 10-12, but I personally  don’t know who was photographically active then nor the body of work that they  produced. However,   the Words and Visions  journal  that was published in the 1980s would provide a starting point for research. Hopefully, the photographers are still living and have retained their negatives.  That is as far as we have got to at this point in time.

I am sure  that Adam will write an art historical essay about photography and the visual arts in Adelaide in this period.  Maybe I could write a brief essay that contests the view that art photography does not matter and that it is just like any other photography by defending the core  assumption of art photography; namely,  aesthetic autonomy at a time when  art is increasingly being appropriated by the culture or entertainment industry and so becomes a commodity to be bought and sold for extra-aesthetic reasons. Though art works become more and more commodities during  this period,  neither their use value nor their value as commodities, constitute them as works of art.

How do you explain this?

The issue here is that when  science de-mythologizes nature and represents nature as a machine regulated by natural law and  capitalism leads to nature being regarded in terms of profit that can be extracted from it, then art, as the product of human freedom,   becomes the placeholder for other ways of seeing nature and human activity. It represents what has been repressed by a limited conception of reason, namely instrumental reason. What is repressed is the immediacy of  the individual’s  particular relationship to the world.

The argument by the early Romantics is that the importance of art  results from the realisation that if collectively warrantable truth is only available in the form of  natural science  based on casual relations and objective observation, then we will be living in a meaningless world. After Kant, aesthetics becomes the philosophical realm where meaning based on more than the sciences is sought.The concern is to preserve a sphere of meaning that cannot be subsumed into the demands of scientific or economic rationality. Hence the idea of aesthetic autonomy that is connected to the search for meaning in a world where the significance of individual existence  (such as the irreducibility of pain or the loss for the individual suffering it) is subordinated to the general; a search in which individual subjectivity  fails to find a truth which would make it at home in the world.

Aesthetic autonomy is linked to individual freedom,  sensuous particularity and language.



6 thoughts on “Adelaide Art Photography: 1970-2000

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