graffiti in Bowden

The graffiti in Bowden during the 1980s was  often quite blunt and direct with no ambiguity in the message:

grafitti, Bowden
graffiti, Bowden

I interpreted  it as the signs of the increasing emphasis  on law and order as a response to the local residents /industry politics,  and to the repression directed at  those who were  thrown on the industrial scrapheap with little hope of finding a job. Continue reading

towards another photographic history

In his essay ‘Australian Made’ in Each Wild Idea: Writing , Photography, History  (2000) Geoffrey Batchen  contests the view that  Australian photography after 1945  was a dependent shadow of trends in the United States. He says that  this assumption underpins the histories of Australian photography written by Gael Newton in  Shades of Light: Photography and Australia, 1839–1988,  Anne-Marie Willis’s Picturing Australia: A History of Photography and Helen Ennis in the  exhibition catalogue, Australian Photography: The 1980s.

If this dependency was especially the case  for the Australian art photographers of the 1970s, then according to these texts, the 1980s signalled the beginning of  a new era of photographic art practice. Batchen’s main point is that  art photography was only one small aspect of developments in Australian photography during the 1980s,  and that there is no particular reason to concentrate a historical account of Australian photography in this period exclusively on art production. He says:

There were in fact a number of important debates and incidents specific to Australia during that decade in which photography was a central concern, and yet inexplicably they received little or no coverage in any of the above [historical surveys of art photography] books. Another history of Australian photography in the 1980s remains to be written, one concerned with the medium’s social as well as its aesthetic impact. The aim of this other history would be quite specific: to make visible the local configurations of power and resistance within which photography in Australia operated, then as now.

Batchen  then asks:  What would be in such a history?

For the sake of argument, he offers some fragments, along the lines of those who  managed to stage  effective interventions within the very grain of an established circulation of photographic images. He mentions  photography by indigenous Australians and the wilderness photography of  Peter Elliston and  Peter Dombrovskis. Another fragment in the 1980s that Batchen  mentions was  the work of B.U.G.A. U.P or Billboard Using Graffitists Against Unhealthy Products:

Marlboro, Bowden
Marlboro, Bowden

Batchen says during the 1980s this  group  “regularly terrorized Sydney’s advertising billboards, particularly those devoted to the promotion of cigarettes and beer. Ubiquitous urban billboard images were transformed through a judicious and witty application of spray paint such that their naturalized messages of desire and pleasure were made strange, sometimes on a spectacularly grand scale.” Continue reading

The Bowden Archives and other Marginalia

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 turning point
The turning point

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.

Continue reading