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Regional Selfies: Communities and Self-Documentation

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Through documentary photography and social media Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart have explored connections with Place in urban and regional communities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The purpose of these Nocturne Projects is to capture everyday scenes of each community in nocturnal light, dusk and dawn. These images are then posted on a Nocturne project Facebook page to evoke stories, memories and shared experiences from the community.

In each project Spowart and Cooper found different ways to include community participation. In 2014, they were invited to work in Miles, a major town of the Western Downs Region of Queensland. The Nocturne Miles Community Documentary project sought to engage with the broader public to undertake self-documentation projects and skill development in nocturne photography. Both local and temporary residents who enjoy taking photos, as well as those more skilled in photography were all invited to participate. After an initial workshop, Spowart and Cooper mentored the 18 participants to create images for the project including self-portraits and daily assignments and produce Facebook reports and a zine.

 

Vicky and Ashleigh Campbell in a pre-event planning meeting

Vicky and Ashleigh Campbell in a pre-event planning meeting

To begin the project consultations were undertaken with staff from the Western Downs Regional Council’s Cultural Development team Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam at Dogwood Crossing to refine the project to match the needs of their community. Then centre staff sought out members of the community who could be interested in the project. Possible candidates then completed an Expressions of Interest form to provide some information on their experience and the photography tools they had access to e.g. DSLR camera, point and shoot camera, mobile phone or tablet cameras. Another important consideration was that the applicants were going to be in the region during the project to participate in briefings, workshops and shootouts as well as the final day’s zine making activity.

 

Project Flyer – Nocturne Miles

Project Flyer – Nocturne Miles

 

While numbers were limited there was a desire by the artists and Dogwood Crossing that the project accessible to as many participants and be as inclusive as possible. The one proviso was that project participants needed to live and/or work in or near Miles including the smaller surrounding towns or on properties/work camps in the Miles district.

The participants engaged with the project in a variety of different ways including:

  • An initial introduction to the project and skill development workshop;
  • Guided evening photography shoot-outs in the main Street of Miles as well as at the Miles Historic Village;
  • Daily photo tasks over the week of the project assigned through a project Facebook group;
  • Optional mentoring sessions, where required, to enable images to be prepared and uploaded for the project;
  • Display of participants photos to a digital screen at Dogwood Crossing; and
  • A practical ‘zine’ making workshop.

 

Doug doing a briefing

Doug doing a briefing

The project began on Sunday November 30 with an introductory workshop, briefing and a shootout. Progressively images were collated and uploaded to the Nocturne Miles Community Facebook page. Each day a new topic was presented a challenge and their interpretation formed into a photocollage. Communication with the participants was made through a private Facebook group page that enabled hear 24hour contact with participants and Cooper+Spowart. Some participants came into Dogwood Crossing with their photos or with requests for support in making and/or optimising better photographs. On Wednesday evening special access was provided to the Miles Historical Village for group to experiment with ‘painting with light’ and ‘projection’ techniques.

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The Nocturne Miles participants at Miles Historical Village

 

Facebook page

Facebook page

 

Cooper and Spowart added their images to the Facebook page as well and some visitors to the page posted stories about the places pictured. By the project’s end the page had 241 Page Likes, 60 Posts and the Total Reach was 17,771. Both the group page and the community page are still active.

Vicky and Doug in the Dogwood Crossing foyer

Vicky and Doug in the Dogwood Crossing foyer

 

Some of the photocollages that formed the 8 page Zines that were made using the Dogwood Crossing’s A3 colour photocopier. These were cut and folded into zines that were inserted into a red and yellow special edition of the Centre for Regional Arts Practice’s Artists Survey Books.

 

Nocturne Miles Zine making workshop

Nocturne Miles Zine making workshop

 

Some of the Photocollages

Breakfast – Nocturne Miles

Breakfast – Nocturne Miles

Water – Nocturne Miles

Water – Nocturne Miles

Miles Historical VilliageSelfies – Nocturne Miles

Miles Historical Villiage – Nocturne Miles

 

The photocollages presented here are examples of the image sets created by the participants. It is interesting to note that the original images may have emanated from all camera formats fro iPhone, simple digital point-n-shoot to sophisticated DSLRs.

We hear a lot about documentary photographers and student photographers travelling out into the country to create documents of life outside of the metropolis. Once on the ground these photographers seek out subjects to pursue and photograph. In this way significant documents are created of these outlying communities. However, the subject of the of the photographer’s gaze, and what is photographed, is based on the view of ‘outsiders’. The photographs they make may match preconceived ideas, and mythologised opinions, that they bring with them rather than how the people who inhabit these places feel about how and where they live.

What the Nocturne Miles project shows is perhaps that in an age where everyone can be a photographer what is important is the photograph itself. What then stands out the most is the link between the photograph and it’s authenticity. With this in mind these photographs are actual fragments of the lives of local people, whether they are from the farm, or people engaged in extractive industries, or those who work in administration roles or students at school, their voice in this conversation adds another view we can have of our regional communities.

 

The project was undertaken between November 21 and December 7 2014 and was overseen by Western Downs Regional Council’s Cultural Development Coordinator Ashleigh Campbell and Cultural Development Officer Anne Keam. The success of the project was also made possible by the enthusiastic support of the WDRC team at Dogwood Crossing.

 

What follows are more photocollages and individual images from the project

More images are on the Surat Basin.com.au website HERE

Murlilla Street  – Nocturne Miles

Murlilla Street – Nocturne Miles

The front gate – Nocturne Miles

The front gate – Nocturne Miles

Selfies – Nocturne Miles

Selfies – Nocturne Miles

Footwear – Nocturne Miles

Footwear – Nocturne Miles

 

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Text and photos unless otherwise accredited are Copyright ©2014 Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart

 

 

 

HABITAT OUT WEST: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs Exhibition

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Curated by Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam.

 

When, how, and why did the locality Darling Downs come to be known as the Surat Basin? This question informed the exhibition curators Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam and with it came the recognition that such a shift was deeply important to the region’s connections and perceptions of their place.

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Habitat is a word that accommodates the presence of life beyond the human shaped and perceived landscape. In any given habitat the living and the nonliving interact to the rhythms of the earth and the cosmos. As both observers and inhabitants, artists and scientists help shape human perceptions of and relations with the broader global environment. This includes the economy of the earth’s resources that supports humanity.

Campbell and Keam researched a broad range of influences including the natural and human habitat of the Darling Downs from colonial history to present. Through the eyes and minds of the region’s colonial and post-colonial artists, along with some scientific documentation and social artifacts, they sought to reflect on shift and its implications on the regions environment.

 

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John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery entry – Dogwood Crossing, Miles.

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John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery interior

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This exhibition brought together a diverse collection of works including: prehistoric fossils and other historical artifacts, references and narratives of the pastoralists struggle with the invasion of prickly pear cactus and other pests, floods and droughts. The artists represented in the show came from many disciplines. Paintings representing this landscape covered a range of movements and styles from romantic colonial pastoral period to impressionism, abstraction and modernism. Well known artists names: Kenneth Macqueen, Sam Fullbrook and Joe Furlonger are representative of the depth of creative work in this exhibition.

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Furlonger

Joseph Furlonger Round Up Ready Field, near Dalby 2012 Acrylic bound pigment 91 x 122 cm Courtesy of The Hughes Gallery, Sydney

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Some artists reflected on living with the natural environment as found in small corners of Patricia Hinz’s back yard in the work, Sanctuary (2014). Palpable in the drawing of Allan Bruce’s Stanthorpe, Late Winter (2008) is the feeling of being in the grand sun-soaked landscape of the Downs, and the relationship of small towns with the surrounding country. Bruce observes: “Stanthorpe is one of those towns where the natural and built environment coalesces almost seamlessly.”[1] The inventiveness and creativity that pervades every farmer’s shed and bushman’s camp is embodied in the sculptural work of Dion Cross’ Grass Harvester (2014), that highlights the competition for pasture between man and animal during periods of drought. The fine drawings of flowers and fungi by botanical artists and illustrators through scientific documentation reveal a deep understanding and investigation of the natural life forms found in this region.

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Dion Cross Grass Harvester 2014 Steel sculpture 150 x 60 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist Image: Spowart + Cooper

Dion Cross Grass Harvester 2014 Steel sculpture 150 x 60 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist Image: Spowart + Cooper

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Phil Bazzo’s painting, Miles: At the Crossroads (Triptych, 2008) presented two concepts: the physical nature of the intersections of roads in Miles including the dynamics of heavy road vehicles and the metaphor of crossroads to infer change and concerns for the future. Both found natural and manmade objects and materials were also utilized as the visual language of protest. This was evident in the mixed media works of Jennifer Wright (Summers): Searching for Life in the Anthropocene 1 (2014), using tea bags, feathers, fabric pen & ink, watercolour and Anthropocene Nest (2014), that was made from plastic bags and pelican bone. Nicki Laws’ Habitat Gone (2014) collaged and embroidered the materials found in the fluoro safety barriers widely used in the industries found in the region.

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Scott

Gillian Scott Grevillea x ‘Robyn Gordon’ 1993 Watercolour on paper 25 x 35 cm Courtesy of the artist

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The solastalgic plea for a balance with man and the land was also deeply felt when viewing the work of Barbara Hancock’s Brigalow Landscape (2014). Working with the land, technology and energy needs was also strongly referenced in the work of Sylvia Secomb (Mann), Synergism – Towards Regeneration I (2010), but also reflects on the question “What will we be leaving for those who come after?”[2]

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Sylvia Secomb (Mann) Synergism - Towards Regeneration I 2010 Acrylic and medium on canvas 91 x 213 cm Courtesy of the artist

Sylvia Secomb (Mann) Synergism – Towards Regeneration I 2010 Acrylic and medium on canvas 91 x 213 cm Courtesy of the artist

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For the city viewer who ventures out into the region to connect with this show, there is a unique experience: to be in the space and place of the exhibition, Dogwood Crossing, Miles, within the Habitat it references. This site-specific exhibition presents rare opportunity to engage with the historical and contemporary issues of living with the land through the creative energy and perception of those who chose to live and work in this region. The curators have also published an extensive and informative online catalogue to accompany the exhibition: Habitat_Catalogue or online at http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1

Beyond the facts and information, the presence of a growing connection and love of the Australian environment pervaded strongly throughout this extraordinary show. Through visual story telling and lived experience, the artists and the curators have constructed a layered topology of the Darling Downs. A telling image of how the effects of a changing human condition: technology, energy and food production can be identified and chronicled through the artist’s vision.

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Victoria Cooper

 

I am also privileged to have my work, 7 Gates (two forms: artists’ book, 2009; digital media presentation 2014), included in Habitat.

 

[1] Page 11, ibid.
[2] Page 21, Habitat: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs, 2014. The online catalogue for the show of the same name. See http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1

 

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Anne Keam and Ashleigh Campbell at the opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROAD RAGE ART: 6 Artists from out of Nowhere

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The Road: The veiw from the driver's seat Poster

The Road: The veiw from the driver’s seat Poster

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THE ROAD: Our view from the driver’s seat

Dogwood Crossing Gallery, Miles, March 1 – April 8, 2014

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“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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Roads are places where the past is viewed in the rear vision mirror and the future viewed through the windscreen. But what is that future? And how far can we see into it? An exhibition at the Dogwood Crossing Gallery presents a view from ‘the driver’s seat’ of the Warrego Highway in southern Queensland and it seems like a pretty hopeless place looking either from the windscreen or the rear-view mirror for that matter.

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Created by the activist art group 6 Artists From out of Nowhere the place specific artwork snakes and curves its way along the gallery wall with sections of the painting that vary much like the way road surfaces change from shire to shire or road contractor to road contractor. For readers who are not conversant with the nature of Queensland roads: the Warrego Highway passes through the Darling Downs, was once an artery of transportation between the city and the country. Now it has become a congested, clogged and rubbish-strewn vein due to the expansion of the Surat Basin’s extractive mining projects. Everyday masses of material, pipes, personnel and machines use this highway.

Massive flooding that occurred over recent years and the abuse of heavy transport has meant many sections of the road are under constant start-stop traffic controls systems while being patched, repaired and upgraded.

The 6 Artists from out of Nowhere are country people connected to the land. Their lives and livelihoods are being challenged, by the demands of mining to access and transform land use and also transform the once familiar and reliable road systems. The artists are not happy with this situation. They state: ‘the highway has become so busy and so dangerous that we felt compelled to comment in paint.’ The exhibition is simultaneously a report and a shout for an improvement to the circumstances of those who no other option than to use this thoroughfare.

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The 'Road' installation in the Dogwood Crossing Gallery

The ‘Road’ installation in the Dogwood Crossing Gallery

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On a plinth in the middle of the gallery floor the sculptural forms of two trucks by Wally Peart pass each other on a highway. One carries pipes for the coal seam gas corporations, the other carries products on the land – their paths cross only millimetres from each other and yet the narrative of each is something that is shared only by the presence of the road.

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Wally Peart

Wally Peart’s sculpture

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As the gallery visitor travels along the highway artwork, familiar symbols, signs and fleeting glances of things that flit past one’s eyes when travelling at 100 kilometres per hour emerge.  The artist Barbara Hancock has painted an endless line of lollypop stop-go men and women who demand your courtesy waive or salute ‘thanks’ as you allowed to proceed. Traffic lights enable a quick drink, or a check of phone text messages, or just time to contemplate the journey. While in the rear-view mirror a shimmering chrome grille and bull-bar of the huge road train rumbles behind you in the queue. Orange-capped witches hats sit comfortably along the edge of the road, in this case the canvas, and a police car decked out in harlequin waits and waits … Stop, DETOUR, STOP!

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Barbara Hancock (Detail)

Barbara Hancock (Detail)

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A transition to the next road section by artist Anne Cameron presents a line of colourful truck silhouettes traversing a landscape of contour-ploughed primary producing farmland that is paired with a crop-like grid of dongas – accommodation boxes for the weary miners. An occasional car or tuck slips off the road, an old farmhouse and a lonely fisherman by a stream appear oblivious to the processionary caterpillar grub road activity.

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Anne Cameron (Detail)

Anne Cameron (Detail)

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Elizabeth Corfe introduces her section with road signs of all kinds errected for the safety of all road travellers. The classic Australian house name ‘Emoh Ruo’ (our home) is being subjected to a clearing sale and the spirit-like form of a dead kangaroo hangs from a forked tree branch.

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Elizabeth Corfe (Detail)

Elizabeth Corfe (Detail)

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The road goes on to artist Sandra Allen’s section. Amongst the black bitumen and red dirt of the road wrecking and making machinery are blood red splashes of road kill and the white chalk outlines of police markings around human road fatalities. Messages cite the author’s claim that: ‘city engineers build country roads … disaster’ and, ‘city drivers in the country cause accidents by tailgating’. The text ‘your next’ accompanies an arrow pointing menacingly at an anthropomorphised kangaroo with joey in her pouch, and the vehicle names of Toyota, Avis and Kawasaki are the perpetrators.

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Sandra Allen (Detail)

Sandra Allen (Detail)

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The road goes on to artist Sandra Allen’s section. Amongst the black bitumen and red dirt of the road wrecking and making machinery are blood red splashes of road kill and the white chalk outlines of police markings around human road fatalities. Messages cite the author’s claim that: ‘city engineers build country roads … disaster’ and, ‘city drivers in the country cause accidents by tailgating’. The text ‘your next’ accompanies an arrow pointing menacingly at an anthropomorphised kangaroo with joey in her pouch, and the vehicle names of Toyota, Avis and Kawasaki are the perpetrators.

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Helen Peart (3 panels)

Helen Peart (3 panels)

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Allen’s bold and provocative canvas road ends at Helen Peart’s simple high key painting of a road view. The limited yellow and grey palette contrast the black and red of the last section – the speed sign says 60kpm and a sunset in the west viewed from the rear-view mirror ends the day. The dark night follows where the bright light chimera of a truck’s of lights zooms past. We are nearly at the end of the road and the reflected lights of the big city, entitled BRISVEGAS, seem almost placid in comparison with what has been experienced in the gallery journey. Is the big city aware of the struggle and the price paid … would they care?

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Helen Peart (Detail)

Helen Peart (Detail)

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The lights maybe bright and welcoming and the 6 artists have got us safely to the city –––– but what about the return to our beloved Darling Downs? Can we ever go back … that may be another story? Perhaps as Kerouac comments in On the Road ‘There’s nothing behind, everything is ahead …’

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Doug Spowart 

12 March 2014

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SEE the previous exhibition by the 6 Artists from out of Nowhere: https://wotwedid.com/2012/07/30/shooting-straight-regional-artists-as-provocateurs/

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The artists retain all copyright in their artworks. Text and installation photographs © 2014 Doug Spowart

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