I have been going through my 35mm archives looking through images from the 1980s to include in a possible artist book for the Mallee Routes project. This would be a book that is associated with the initial Mallee Routes exhibition at the Atkins Photo Lab in 2017. I just left a pile of small prints on a table for people to look at. It wasn’t a very successful mode of presentation.
I came across this image of an agricultural landscape in the Mt Lofty Ranges amongst a number of other images of the Mallee and the Riverland.
From memory, this picture would have been made with a Leicaflex SLR whilst I was on a day trip around the Mt Lofty Ranges in the VW Kombi.
The next step for me is to follow Adam’s advice and do a dummy book using BookWright, Blurb’s free desktop software, in order to see what the draft with images and text looks like as a book— as opposed to an idea in my head, or Stuart’s step— rough prints on sheets of folded up paper to have an tactile object in my hand as opposed to images on a computer screen. Continue reading →
After talking to a prospective publisher, the title of the manuscript has been changed from Bowden Archives and other Marginalia to The Bowden Archives. This cut down means that the book will be about Bowden as the non-Bowden images–eg., the coastal beaches, Port Adelaide, Adelaide hills etc– have now been pruned from the draft manuscript. They have been shifted to the historical section of the proposed Adelaide book.
I have been going through and scanning the 35mm negatives in the archive. The picture below is from the Kelly Dance–an evening of jigs and reels — that was put on by The Bush Dance Theatre:
This evening was sometimes in the 1980s. Unfortunately, I cannot recall where the musical evening was held or when. Continue reading →
One way the boredom and dissatisfactions from living in Adelaide could be relieved was through gestures of rebellion and revolt. Another was through hanging out in the shopping precincts, arcades and going shopping in Rundle Mall. Leisure time, freedom, and choice was increasingly expressed through consumption. Everyday life was becoming a realm of bland consumption.
My experience of drifting (dérive with its flow of acts and encounters) through these spaces of consumption was that the mall or arcade cuts us off from one another by encouraging the individual pursuit of stuff as well as cutting us off from the world. The street in contrast is about connecting people with one another and that is what turns space into place.
There were very few spaces in Adelaide the 1980s that became gathering places. Placemaking was not part of the urban designers at the Adelaide City Council. So the arcade becomes a consumer bubble, a way where people waste time doing little but watching each other. Or being lost in their own thoughts and emotions. Frozen moments in everyday life. Continue reading →
There are now millions of photographers and billions of photographs around the globe, and the accumulation of photographic images in the institutional and online archives is staggering, if not astounding. The aggressive and voracious appetite of the photographic eye accelerates apace in our consumption-based society, or what the Situationists called the society of the spectacle.
We now live in a society dominated by pictorial images and visual simulations. Our visual experience is one of a pictorial turn taking place and the emergence of the image text as a composite art form. The consumer mixed media images in everyday life goes so far as to constitute a “common culture” that is an international corporate culture) that values achievement, image, popularity and financial success. The world of images in a consumer society becomes more real than than reality itself.
This common, corporate culture of the global market, which now defines our popular visual culture, is very liquid, with its fast circulating seductive images of the mass media, advertising, and the publicity industries. All the flux and flow melts away what was once solid and stable in our culture. We become uncertain of the solidity of the ground beneath our feet.
The Situationists held that the society of the spectacle perpetuates itself by compensating those denied the opportunity to make history with more and more commodities, all of which are fundamentally unsatisfying because the ideology of survival remains coded within them. Capitalism has created “pseudo-needs” to increase consumption. The society of the spectacle implies that a spectacle can only be watched and enjoyed at a distance. It appears glamorous and desirable.
The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia is constructed from my unruly 1980s photographic archives, and it primarily consists of photos that I made in Adelaide during the 1980s; a decade that saw the melting away of all that was once solid and stable and the emergence of flux and flow in Australia’s culture. These archives provide a space for exploring the liquidity of culture without become lost in its fast-moving currents, and the book is a form of memory work that adopts an interpretive and reconstructive approach to the everyday of the past through a process of weaving together the public and private.
I had left Melbourne for the historically conservative city of Adelaide because I wanted to establish a critical distance from the American fine art print tradition and formalist modernism that were then circulating through the various public and private photographic galleries in Melbourne. At that stage I wasn’t aware of postmodernism’s critique of the frozen assumptions of US style American modernist formalism and its deconstruction of of the legacy of modernist photography as a fine art.
I still held firmly to the Enlightenment understanding of progress. This assumes the possibility that the future will be fundamentally different from the past, because new ways of understanding the world create future possibilities that are conceived as new in a way that cannot be entirely derived from previous experience. In the 1970s Dunstan’s Labor government, was leading the way in Australia with social reform, debating Aboriginal rights, challenging the White Australia Policy and legislating to decriminalise homosexuality.
The progressive thinking and sense of fun were trademarks of the “Dunstan era’s” conception of the darkness and light of Australian modernity and photography appeared to be onside with the progressive thinking of the 1970s.
I had a studio in Bowden and worked part time at Conroys Smallgoods factory in Bowden to finance the photography. These black and white pictures are fragments of the suburb of Bowden inAdelaide, Adelaide’s CBD, and, after I purchased a Kombi, the city’s beaches and the countryside.
Currently there is a dearth of books in print on the most obvious topics. Huge amounts of work needs to be done in standard publishing of historical and contemporary research of a sustained nature.
The Bowden Archives and Other Marginalia is situated in that empty space–a silence of history in that the art photography or photo art in Adelaide has been consistently overlooked by the art historians. The current book, in building on an earlier one, Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice by Gary Sauer-Thompson and Adam Dutkiewicz, is a contribution to a critical history of photography in Australia. Continue reading →
The Bowden Archives and other Marginalia is the current working title of the book of my archival photographs from the 1980s that I have recently started to work on.
What unfolds in the book is a collage of images and writings. The collage-like writings and accompanying images stand at the margins of being systematically and/or instinctively ordered. Academic convention demands the former but in this case the memories of the past are vague, diffuse or unspecific, slippery, emotional, ephemeral, elusive or indistinct. The remembered changes are like a kaleidoscope in that the memories don’t really have a pattern at all.
The narrative in the book is reinvented, combined in weird assemblages in that the pieces of the past are being superimposed in some new sense.
The reason for this approach is that I don’t have a clear memory of my photographic past, cannot recall my thinking about my photography of that period, ands have no awareness of how I was assessing the material on photography that I was reading. So I have to reconstruct or reassemble my experiences from various materials. The result is that different pieces of things that are gathered into a single context.
The past survives however much one tries to drive it down and away from one’s consciousness. It rears up provoked by something overheard or a scene, a place, an object, a tune, a scent even. It is inescapable. Place and landscape are always centred on the person(al) and articulated differently in each case in a series of connections through remembered/forgotten place-times.