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