The annual Adelaide Festival strengthened its visual arts focus in 2019 with the launch of the Adelaide//International initiative. It is designed to offer a platform for invited artists, local and international, to address critical issues of the day always with an eye to the past, present, and future.
This year, the gaze has been turned squarely on the future and our complicity, individually and collectively, in shaping that future. But, of course, we are all a product of our past, and our cultural histories are very much a part of these narratives.
‘The Adelaide//International initiative is designed to offer a platform for invited artists, local and international, to address critical issues of the day always with an eye to the past, present, and future.’
The four exhibiting artists – Taloi Havini, Jesse Jones, James Tylor, and Fayen d’Evie – address this notion with very individual approaches and using a range of art mediums. Together they present the future, perhaps optimistically, as an unmade shared space. Is the future really ours for the making?
As in the previous years, Adelaide//International is housed at the city campus of the University of South Australia, in the South Australian School of Art (SASA) Gallery and Galleries 1-3 of the adjoining Samstag Museum of Art.
Tsomi wan-bel (win-win) by Taloi Havini is a video-tryptic that examines acknowledgement and reconciliation using actual footage taken during a traditional mediation process in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. This customary approach to reconciliation and restorative justice brings victims and offenders together and is practised alongside common law in Bougainville and other Pacific nations. Havini shows that this is process about healing and moving forward rather than punishment or retribution. Tsomi wan-bel is on display in the SASA Gallery.
A major multi-media installation work by Irish artist Jesse Jones fills Samstag Gallery 1. Tremble, Tremble was originally commissioned for the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017 where it filled the Irish Pavilion. The work has been redesigned for subsequent installations, including most recently at the famed Guggenheim in Bilbao, and is now enjoying its Australian premiere here in Adelaide.
Drawing on the history and mythology of witches and female power, Jones uses video imagery of a giantess – a feminist phantasm brought to life on the screen by Irish actor Olwen Fouéré – to proclaim a new social order from a female perspective. Accompanied by artefacts and sculptural forms, with an enveloping scrim that embraces the viewer, this is a whole-of-gallery experience that poses intellectual and emotional questions about ways of knowing.
James Tylor looks to the past and the future in his exhibition The Darkness of Enlightenment in Samstag Gallery 2. These works consider the mistakes, mistranslations and loss of knowledge inherent in European attempts to document Kaurna culture. As a Kaurna man, Tylor says he practises ‘culture not art’ in his work. Comprising a series of photographs taken on Kaurna land alongside a collection of Kaurna artifacts, made by Tylor according to historical records, and two accompanying sound works, this is a resonant body of work.
‘Taken together, these four exhibitions offer a small survey of contemporary art praxis and an insight into the myriad ways artists can interrogate the issues of our time.’
Language in all its forms is the focus of multidisciplinary artist Fayen d’Evie in Endnote: The Ethical Handling of Empty Spaces on display in Samstag Gallery 3. These sculptural and screen-printed pieces are described as acts of speculative publishing, searching for accessible codes in which to safe-keep our stories over time, and asking how we might write language for post-human audiences.
Taken together, these four exhibitions offer a small survey of contemporary art praxis and an insight into the myriad ways artists can interrogate the issues of our time. Individually, each artist poses a series of apposite intellectual questions that ask the viewer to engage, to critique, and, hopefully, to respond.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 ★★★★
At Samstag and SASA, North Terrace, Adelaide
Curated by Gillian Brown, curator at Samstag Museum of Art
Adelaide Festival 2021
26 February – 14 March 2021