I’ve been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time in Brisbane this year, working with the fabulous and clever team at Metro Arts, the adventurous Brisbane Powerhouse and the dedicated Under the Radar (aka Brisbane Festival). We also curated 4 Brisbane-based groups into Next Wave’s 2011 Kickstart program; and what a lovely bunch they are. Young Brisbane artists are quick to tell you about the trials of a small independent community; while I am sympathetic, I do wish they’d shake off this doubt, as their ideas are expansive, they’re hungry for knowledge and context, and they have reason to be confident.
All this time in Brisbane has also meant two things. 1) I am oddly informed about midrange accommodation in Brisbane. Edward Lodge: good, intimate but don’t check in late, and some rooms are much nicer than others, Charlotte Oaks: impersonal but great location and no fuss, Medina: odd location and a freeway vibe, definitely ask for a room facing the river. And 2) I’ve been able to see both of GOMA’s 2011 blockbuster exhibitions: 21st Century: Art in the First Decade, and Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams.
I enjoyed 21st Century vastly more that Surrealism; to me, the latter felt like a dry text-book account, and the cross-medium nature of the exhibition meant that the lighting for both video, sculpture and photography suffered.
21st Century, on the other hand, was important. For a person with a largely performing arts background, it was an amazing survey of anyone and everyone who my visual artists at Next Wave might find influential. It encapsulated dozens of recent thematic and curatorial threads: a prevalent celebratory quality in artistic practice; the impact of relational aesthetics; the importance of humour; the shifts in which countries and cultures are ‘hot’ in global art market trends; the pros and cons of ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions; some new possibilities for art in audience participation and engagement… and on. Some of the more stuffy Australian critics dismissed the show’s depth and intellectual engagement. This week I looked at a photo of a quote contained within the exhibition, and the extraordinary prescience of Professor John Keane in articulating this week’s events in London does make such off-hand dismissal of the curatorial intent seem quite foolish…