Artwrite 53

November 6th, 2013 by clairearmstrong

Issue 53 of Artwrite, produced by undergraduate students in the Writing for Art and Design course at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

Artwrite 52: Art in a changing world

November 5th, 2013 by johnburns

Artwrite 52: Art knowledgements

November 5th, 2013 by johnburns


Artwrite 52 has been the product of many fertile imaginations whose contributions have been so varied and important that each deserve a monument in bronze, marble or at the very least perspex covered in gold leaf.

Unfortunately, so varied the roles, decisive the contributions and many the imaginations that sadly as in so much of life these recognitions will have to go on being unrecognised, except in the memories of our hearts.

As in all exceptions, there is of course an exception. This exception is Joanna Mendelssohn. Joanna has been our teacher, lecturer, mentor and collaborator throughout the Artwrite 52 process.


John Burns/ Denise Raftopoulos

Co-Chief Editors

Ps  A big kiss of thanks to COFA for helping us find our voice and not telling us we were too loud XOX

Artwrite 52: Fresh Contents

November 5th, 2013 by johnburns

The who, what, where,  and why not?


Isaac Yeo



Phoebe Hyles


Subin Heo


Mardi Vassella


Lori Qian


Xuan Li

THE 500


Yuting Chen


Emma Fong Ting Yeung


Miriam Craig


Olivia Gubala


Phoebe Hyles


Daniela Hamman


Lauren Turton


Nikolaus Dolman



Denise Raftopoulos


John Burns


Emily Sullivan


Sarah Davis


Eleanor Murray Yong


Lleah Smith



Ali Condon


Isaac Yeo


Zoe Poulos


Jing Wang



Emily Sullivan


Lleah Smith


Eleanor Murray Yong


Georgia Hobbs


Denise Raftopoulos


Liwei Su


Emma Fong Ting Yeung

Artwrite 52: Editorial

November 5th, 2013 by johnburns


Our world’s landscape is changing and so too are our attitudes and social rituals. Artists have always been inspired by the world around them. Even when the Modernists began to impart their own perspectives, the world’s voice remained ever strong. Art captures the hyperbole and emotions of the world, whether it is through the excited vision of the Sydney Moderns or the mystical and romantic charcoal drawings of Antarctica by Wendy Loefler. It is able to capture the primal nature of human existence as recently seen in Weathersounds at Alaska Projects, and to be reflective and examine the effect of our fast paced environments, changing technologies and media-centric lives. Artists such as Vicki Varvaressos, Alex Seton, Ian Strange, Johnny Romeo, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro all depict varying critiques of the world, some with more venom than others, and they show a view of us from the perspective of the world itself.

Other artists  have explored the complex dialogues and narratives of people from different times and geographies such as Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Alfredo and Isabel Aquizilan, Rosalie Gascoigne and Ah Xian. What does it mean for one culture to coexist with another? How can one be defined by a particular culture? These are some of the questions that these artists ask the audience to consider.

The world of art does not exist in a bubble and is equally susceptible to greater forces as any other entity. Issues of globalisation are ever present within the art market as international art fairs increasingly gain a wider viewership. What does this mean for smaller nations and how they compete on a global scale? What responsibility should nations have for their own artists and culture in a world which values financial success above all. Institutions are similarly not immune from the influences of the world as they face growing pressure to engage new audiences within a changing social paradigm.

Do we embrace change or try to ignore it? Do we block our ears and stamp our feet in defiance? Or do we face change and work with its current?

Isaac Yeo

Artwrite 52 : Sweet and Sour

November 5th, 2013 by johnburns


Rewind to 1976. Pretend you had 175, 218 VHS videos; you pressed play and began to watch them all. A total of 60.1 years would have to pass before you reached the end. Fast forward to somewhere in 2009 and stack each video up and you get Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s megalithic sculpture Life Span. Towering over visitors at the 2009 Venice Biennale, the work serves as an ominous reminder of how quickly our latest technology becomes obsolete. The connection? 175, 218 VHS tapes with a running time of 60.1 years, equals the average human life span in 1976, the same year the now out-dated VHS was released.

Phoebe Hyles

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Artwrite 52: What disturbs my dreaming

November 5th, 2013 by johnburns


Denise Raftopoulos

Once again the issue of the problematic Resale Royalty has reared its ugly head, seeking revision three years since its implementation. With good intentions it was heralded as the balancing scale that was to bring economic ease to Indigenous artists and their families and added income to all practising artists. Despite some revisions to the scheme it has yet to find a structure that is beneficial to all involved. In June this year, through the Office for Best Practice Regulation, the Resale Royalty Act began the process of a post-implementation review that allowed all stakeholders the chance to comment on the scheme and suggest further ways of achieving its objectives. Many have had their say. Some offer comprehensive arguments and others brief dismissals. What remains consistent is the consensus that the system in operation is in dire need of change.

In late November 2008, finally delivering on an election promise, the then Federal Minister for the Arts Peter Garrett, announced the introduction of the Australian Resale Royalty Scheme to begin in July 2009. Its reception was mixed. Artists and Indigenous groups generally embraced it but galleries and auction houses were dubious. Sotheby’s predicted a less than beneficial impact fearing there would be difficulty in the administration and regulation of such a scheme and cautioned it would hinder both the primary and secondary markets. This view was shared by most of the commercially driven sectors of the art world. Although some were in favour of the scheme they feared that in its proposed state the potential benefits would be outweighed by the negative impact.

Gallantly the Resale Royalty Act marched hand in hand with the revisions to private superannuation funds, the GFC and the inflated dollar and like toddlers left to their own devices, managed to upset the buoyant art market leaving it sitting slumped and depressed in the corner. Driving all the confidence out of the market it would be hard to single out any one aspect that forced such a damaging impact but the poor timing could not have been beneficial.

The submissions to the review of the scheme have been telling of the aspects that have caused such distaste. Despite some requesting total abolition of the Resale Royalty Scheme, most have offered suggestions that would result in a more viable version of what already exists. The submissions evidence the great divide of the needs of the artists and the agents that are in place to support them. There also exists a major difference in the needs of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists that does not appear to have been factored into the initial form of the scheme. Education is key in allowing the Government to assist the artists it was intended to benefit.

The main beneficiaries for the Resale Royalty to date have been the widows and estates of already successful artists. Some in the Indigenous community have seen small gains but these have been offset by a greater loss of income and loss of confidence that some would argue has come as a result of the legislation. In the first three years of its existence the scheme generated $1.5 million for 650 artists of whom 68% were Indigenous and who received 51% of the royalties paid. The reporting of such figures hides behind the true amounts received given as percentages not true dollar figures. It appears that many have profited however most have only received nominal sums, the larger royalties paid to a smaller percentage of already successful non-Indigenous artists. The problems extend to the administration of the scheme that initially was intended to be self-supporting but that has in the last three years cost the government $2.2million and will cost an additional $47,000 a year to just break even.

Amidst the negatives there have been advantages to the scheme. The process has made way for the creation of an extensive database that allows for provenance and authenticity. In turn this has forced a regulation of sorts within the visual art industry with more transparency of commercial practice.

The submissions bring to light the impact of the scheme on the different aspects of the art world. The artists are divided in its support dependent on its relevance to their own practice. Ben Quilty voiced his opposition to a scheme that only provided substantial benefits to the wealthiest of artists. Some are suspicious of the way the royalty is policed and monitored claiming to have knowledge of personal resales that have yet to return any benefits. While others are excited about the potential to earn money on their hard work down the track, seeing it as an insurance policy of sorts.

The government agencies such as Viscopy and Copyright Agency , the collecting agency for the Resale Royalty appear to take a positive slant to their submissions. The glass is definitely half full from their perspective as enforcers of the Act. They believe the scheme, while still in its infancy has provided artists with recognition of rights and additional income, achieving its main objectives. The suggestions for change become a little sinister when the need to have greater ‘power’ to gain information on commercial sales, upending all sorts of privacy laws is taken into consideration. The need for this is reconciled with the case for greater transparency in the art market. The other issue is the ‘opt out’ clause in which an artist is allowed to opt out of the collecting agency obtaining money on their behalf. They propose that artists only be allowed to forego the payment and not be allowed to collect the money themselves. This decision is based primarily on the fact that the agency relies on the commissions of these payments to continue to financially support and sustain itself.

The galleries, dealers and auction houses have specifically responded to the effect the Act has had on their business. The submissions from the commercial art industry are comprehensive in their criticisms. They also include suggestions to improve the operation of the Act, from those who support the principle but have seen the consequences of poor implementation. With the support and lobbying for the auction houses by Liberal powerbroker, Michael Kroger, the likelihood of the Act being repealed is increasingly likely. The royalty is viewed as cumbersome and time consuming for what most regard as small to medium sized businesses. There is issue with the $1000 threshold being too low to garner any substantial return worth administering suggesting it be lifted to $5000. Some see the Copyright Agency as a ‘distributing’ agency not one that collects, leaving the responsibility in the hands of the dealers who receive no financial benefit for the extensive administration involved, they believe that financial compensation is warranted if they are to be party to a deal. They also consider that the lack of clarity for who is responsible for paying the royalty has caused many a confusing situation. There are problems with issues of privacy and view that paying the royalty after GST as paying tax twice. All of these concerns seem to echo in most of the submissions from this sector.

The Indigenous art industry goes further to suggest that the lack of consultation with the private sector of the Indigenous fine arts industry has resulted in a lack of understanding and adaption of the scheme to the unique wholesale and dealer framework that exists. Some of the art centres have reported benefits for the artists they represent but feel that they have been uneven in their distribution. A major issue for the Indigenous artists has been the methods of payment. In the Nicolas Rothwell article in The Australian, Royalties Scheme Shines Stark Light on a Divided Landscape he highlights the bins in Todd Mall, Alice Spring as the main benefactors of the Resale Royalty cheques, miniscule amounts discarded mistaken for fines or penalty notices or merely not worth cashing in. Many artists unable to cash cheques at their local community store often lose them or throw them away. Some cheques attached to the bottom of letters go unrecognised and are discarded. Suggestions have been made to provide annual statements for the benefit of taxation or other financial management purposes. Other solutions offered are the linking of the payments to bank accounts as is done with social security payments, eliminating any confusion and the need to travel to access the money. Better education is necessary on behalf of both the government in understanding the dynamic of the Indigenous art industry and the art centres in educating their artists about the payments. Central to this however the Indigenous community believes in and strongly supports the underlying notion that all artists should benefit from the resale of their artworks.

The Resale Royalty Act was conceived as being of maximum benefit to the artist. Yet much of the changes offered in the submissions are reflective of the separate areas of the arts sector and ways of protecting their own interests. Auction houses are worried about privacy laws, the collecting agency worried about the ‘opt out’ clause and the dealers concerned over who should pay the 5% royalty claiming no monetary benefit is afforded them should they be party to a deal. It is apparent the scheme has been bulky in administration and vague in the clarity of who pays however the central focus, the artist seems lost in the final result.

In a strange twist of events, the review of the scheme and legislation coincides with a change of Government. When quizzed about Arts Policy in the lead up to the recent election, the Liberal Party had no comment. It is no surprise therefore that in one of the early attempts to have a Resale Royalty Act passed back in May 2006 under a Coalition government it was decided that a royalty scheme for artists would not provide a meaningful source of income for most Australian artists and voted against it.

So it raises the question where to from here? How will the submissions and change of government impact on the iteration of the Resale Royalty Act to come or is it a possibility that it may cease to exist? Will the shortsighted version of the past be intuitive enough to understand the nature of art production in the digital age and take into true consideration the nature of the Indigenous fine arts industry? The thing that appears to be the most problematic is the large divide between the hardworking practicing artists, be they Indigenous or non-Indigenous and the government bodies that represent them. Until now much has been lost in translation in a bid to appear to be extending a hand to the Arts. The toddlers need to be tamed, the Resale Royalty disciplined and a version implemented that is kinder to the depressed Art Market, or it may just be banished to the naughty corner forever!

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Artwrite 52 : Letters home….

November 2nd, 2013 by jmendelssohn


Photo by Caroline Voagen Nelson

I’d like to thank the MoMA for challenging one of the last strongholds of artistic aristocracy, for embracing technology as an enduring tool and for basically, backing the nerds.  MoMA has entered fourteen video games into its collection, creating controversy.

In the wake of modernity, a multitude of “ism’s” challenged the imperialism of culture. Critics legitimised blue squares, and blank spaces, and watching a man defecate on a gallery floor; yet the final frontier of cultural classism remained – Art is cool. Nerds are not. Despite conceptual clout and visual mastery, video game artists remained more likely shoved into lockers than the Louvre.

The exhibit ‘Applied Design’ celebrates and validates games in all (plat)forms. From the heavily pixelated ‘Pacman’ to the dramatic and cinematic ‘Another World’, MoMA accepts technology as an art form as new possibilities for practice emerge.  So, whilst the progressive begin to explore virtual spaces, three dimensional processing and ideals of shared authorship, we should also acknowledge the birthplace of this medium and enjoy MoMA’s head nod to the original pop programmers, the nerds.

Ali Condon

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Artwrite 52: Kinder land

November 1st, 2013 by johnburns

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Artwrite 52: The 500

October 28th, 2013 by johnburns


Yuting Chen

Chinese art aficionado and former director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Edmund Capon, has curated the summer exhibition Serve the People, at Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery. The title of the exhibition comes from a popular slogan used in the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution to promote socialist ideals, and harks back to an era in which the cultural production of a nation was controlled by the state. The exhibition explores three key themes, fear anarchy and hope, which Capon feels has not only affected the lives of Chinese people but is a significant aspect of Chinese society both past and present.

Today Chinese artists prefer to communicate with the audiences by sharing ideas, exposing anxieties and expressing confusion within the visual art form: the complete antithesis to their role as a cultural weapon producer during the Maoist years. Capon has said that the artist’s job is to liberate peoples’ minds and inspire them. In keeping with these new ideals of freedom of expression Capon has focused on showcasing a carefully selected overview of art from the 21st century Chinese Cultural Revolution, involving prestigious artists such as Wang Zhi Yuan, Shen Shaomin, Su Meng Huang and Shi Jinsong.

In the West, there has persisted a stereotype of contemporary Chinese art as developing very slowly or remaining stagnant. Capon’s selection breaks with this stereotype, demonstrating his belief that young Chinese artists are very dynamic, full of ambition and passion, and completely different from his first visit to China in 1974. Serve the people reflects this radical development of Chinese contemporary art. From Sun Furong’s installation piece ‘Nibbling Up Tomb Figures’ to Jin Feng’s ‘A History of China’s Modernization Volume 1 and 2,’ Serve the People inspires a discussion of art and its role in society.

A stand out amongst the abundance of potent artworks on show is Red Star Motel. It is a work centered on a series of melodramas directed by artist Chili (Chi Lei). The large-scale work reflects the possible scenarios of a deviant modern society played out within the confines of a single motel room. It is at once hilarious in its frankness and bizarre in its surreal atmosphere. Under Chili’s camera the motel room is a magic place, where joy, sorrow, stimulation or indulgences have all been infinitely magnified. The characters are dubious and from what Chili identifies as the lower rungs of Chinese society, their value system rests on the combination of a desire to survive, money, and enjoyment. However, with out Chili’s prying camera uncovering the debauchery happening in this single motel room who would know about this and who would really care? Maybe such things happen everyday in this motel. Art comes from real life, but this is above real life. Chili perfectly captures his belief that ‘whenever we are peeping in on others, we are peeping in on ourselves as well.’ This is a mature performance of Chinese art, where the artist’s critical realism becomes a mirror to reveal the true nature possible in modern Chinese society.

Serve The People ran from 30 August 2013- 2 February 2014 at the White Rabbit Gallery,Chippendale.

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