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Arts + Industry Gallery

A gallery of contemporary design, operated by Arts + Industry and directed by Valerie Austin. At 51 Little Latrobe Street, Melbourne; opened November 18, 1995.

Review by Suzie Attiwill

A length of Little Latrobe Street in Melbourne has been transformed into a conduit for design. Arts + Industry, a Melbourne-based organisation dedicated to the promotion of Australian designers, has leased two adjacent retail outlets with the purpose of exhibiting design. The glazed street frontage reads as a transparent channel, exposing design productions and investigations, day and night, to a diverse audience.

You may be familiar, through Architecture Australia’s Radar Review, of other gallery spaces recently opened in Melbourne, namely Curve and Detail. While the A+I Gallery responds to similar impulses to locate design culturally within the sphere of the arts, its agenda pursues a different path.

A+I’s cultural premise is to exhibit different disciplines under the light of design. Exhibitions of interior architecture, fashion, industrial design, scientific equipment, medical furniture, graphic design, visual art, technical drawings and students’ work illuminated in this space will stimulate conversations regarding the nature of design. A catalogue will accompany each exhibition as both a document and a marketing tool.

Melbourne's new arts gallery


Melbourne’s new Arts + Industry Gallery. Peter Clarke

In the past, Arts + Industry was called Artists and Industry. An annual exhibition showcased individual products, mainly furniture, as mass production prototypes. The establishment of the gallery space, the incorporation of different disciplines and an emphasis on exhibiting design to propagate both a design culture and a market manifests a seismic shift. The impetus to take the arts to industry is now counterpoised by an incentive to take industry to the arts.

The concept for the gallery came from the Aedes Gallery in Berlin. The A+I Gallery, near Museum station and RMIT, is visually accessible 24 hours a day and will include a café, bar and bookshop. Further offshoots are in the pipeline for other Australian cities.

Collusion Collision—Spark, the gallery’s opening exhibition, was evidence of the potential fruit of this shift. Selected designers and artists from around Australia exhibited products, objects and installations which kindled ideas about design. A Robert Morwood Wall Chair cheekily hung on the wall like a framed art canvas while another was unfolded, offering a site to recline. Pebble Tools by Ari Athans inverted the design dictum form follows function, suggesting the invention of new uses through the conjunction of hand and form. Brett Jones and Sarah Stubbs explored relations between graphic design and visual art in Media Images.

Collusions and collisions between the arts and industry kindle enticing conversations, questions and answers. The A+I Gallery is a conduit for the fluidity of such expressions. By making these visible to a diverse audience, the perceived cultural void existing between the arts and industry may well disappear and the formula A+I in the production of design be set alight.

Suzie Attiwill is an exhibition designer and writer who teaches part-time in the Department of Interior Design at RMIT.



The Big Sky—Landscape on the Pacific Edge

Third national landscape architecture conference, hosted by students at the University of New South Wales, September 27-30, 1995.

Review by Karl Kullmann

Picking up the threads of the RMIT Edge conference in 1992, this symposium sought to expand the viewing frame beyond the well-worn Melbourne/Sydney axis to create a platform for discussion on a regional or oceanic scale. Headlining the list of speakers were George Hargreaves (USA), Cristina Felsenhardt (Chile), Kazuyo Sejima (Japan) and Richard Goodwin (Australia). Under a program of morning lectures at the ABC Centre in Ultimo and various afternoon workshops at Strickland House in Vaucluse, it was intended that thought and discussion revolve around the chartered themes relating to Australia’s landscape architectural position and type within the region. In reality, most speakers took the safe course and gave either a picture-book presentation of their built work, a grand tour of their country or a general university-style lecture. When compounded with a rigid timetable which invoked censorship, a formal atmosphere and a passive audience, there was little discussion and certainly no discourse or `tangible outcomes’.

But not all acts deserved to sink to the bottom of the harbour. Richard Goodwin was devastatingly relevant in his presentation of `Freedom from the Sewer’, which dug into the very real social design issues of Sydney. Like most speakers, Richard talked through his work, but it was his connection with the host city which formed the basis of an uncanny engagement with the Big Sky themes. Sam Marshall struck a fine chord when he promulgated a theory on the cultural centre point of Australia. He argued that the piece of water immediately to the east of the Harbour Bridge was a fulcrum for the opposing forces of high culture in the Opera House and low culture in Luna Park, with the bridge acting not as a union but as a bypass. This production, provocation and perception are prerequisites for any discourse.

Such moments of brilliance via relevance indicate another direction that the conference probably should have taken: an examination of the host’s ground before reaching out for the sky. This is not to deny the value of being outward-looking, but in this case, the many vast, and unfortunately hollow, parts simply didn’t tessellate to form a whole.

The Big Sky conference tentatively approached the edge. Maybe the next parley, which is to be hosted by the University of Western Australia in 1997, will take us over the edge and truly into the abyss of discursive possibilities in landscape architecture. For now, it would seem that the big sky is as cloudy as ever.

Karl Kullmann attended the conference as a 4th year student of landscape architecture at the University of Western Australia.



Distance

An exhibition in Japan of installations by Australian sculptors Richard Goodwin, Simeon Nelson, Ari Purhonen and Laurens Tan. Curated by Annette Larkin (Australia) and Michael Guest (Japan). At Shizukoa Prefectuary Museum, Tokyo and Sowaka Gallery, Kyoto, August-September, 1995.

Review by Michael Hedger

The title Distance relates to the desired overlapping of architecture, sculpture and urban planning as explored by all four of these sculptors. Their understanding of the special needs and purposes of public sculpture gave this exhibition sensitivity, relevance and empathetic authority. The works demonstrate each artist’s ideas of the purposes of public sculpture, whether it be to blend, to dominate, to mark or to comment upon the environment.

Simeon Nelson’s perspex and aluminium wall-mounted reliefs rework the designs of De Stijl and Pop painting and update the corporate `badges’ that were affixed to office buildings in the 1960s. They use the most fundamental architectural and urban form, the grid, and provide the viewer with playful optical illusions that transfer aerial views or sectional drawings into 2D/3D works.

Laurens Tan’s mixed-media works of crematorium hoppers, computer drawings of sewage treatment water-testing bottles and microfiche cards of sewage maps make specialised industrial artefacts mysterious and seductive. They comment upon methods of waste disposal but are not satirical since Tan is reminding us of mundane problems faced by city planners. That he can make attractive art from such objects says much about his artist’s vision.

Ari Purhonen’s Hollow Men prisms define architectural spaces and defuse their scale and potential impersonality. Like the aliens of T.S. Eliot’s poem, they stand guard upon space, both to threaten our presence and to help guide us through. These minimalist metal columns illustrate how architectural features can speak to us. They are hollow and have slots or `eyes’ so that we can see through them. Emphasising relationships between the individual and the group, they need each other and the view to be whole.

InJapan
In Japan: wallworks by Simeon Nelson (left) and Laurens Tan (rear); floorworks by Ari Purhonen (pillars) and Richard Goodwin.

Richard Goodwin’s Parasite/Follicle III is the most organic of the works and dominates the space by its size and confronting nature. The helicopter or animal on man-made legs is one of Goodwin’s `hybrid forms’ that challenges our notions of architectural sculpture. His 3D works based on exoskeleton structures have physical reminders of collective memories and are, like Purhonen’s works, both threatening and endearing. They threaten to expand or even to leave the space and set up debates between the passive and the active, the man-made and organic, whether the space is public or private, whether it is meant to be an interior or an exterior and, most profoundly, whether the architect or the sculptor is in control of the space.

Michael Hedger is arts officer with the British Council in Sydney and author of Public Sculpture in Australia

The Eighth Wonder

Opera about building the Sydney Opera House, performed by the Australian Opera at the Opera House, October 14-November 4, 1995.

Review by Ken Woolley

Reviewing an opera about an architect in Architecture Australia is like doing Peter Grimes in a fishing magazine. Opera is about music, not architecture, fishing or 18th century history. But The Eighth Wonder is a special challenge of belief, because this is the era of the subject and the very building in which it is performed. This could have been fatal for its musical and dramatic quality and may have contributed to it falling short of recent serious, but difficult, works like the Sitsky/Kosky Golem, or this century’s masterworks like Lulu, Bluebeard’s Castle or the above-mentioned Peter Grimes.

In avoiding a real historical account, there remains the expectation of some kind of belief, but it is not possible to marry history with art without distorting one or the other. We are unlikely to set Hansard to music. But although the characters are given titles—The Architect, The Minister, The Engineer, etc, rather than names—we cannot avoid who they are and either knowing it was not so, or believing it must have been.

Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro dealt with social revolution using imaginary but normal people, and is no more true than Amadeus, which gives the illusion of biography. For King Leopold’s coronation, Mozart avoided direct representation by using a Classical Roman allegory, La Clemenza di Tito. Could we have had Michelangelo struggling with the Pope? Such a device would have been more welcome than yet another semi-nude sacrifice on Opera/Aztec steps.

In short, by necessity, The Eighth Wonder is untrue, but not obviously so, which is a pity. Musically, the idiom was attractive, meeting with some relief and enthusiasm from the audience, but failed to deliver a high moment despite numerous build-ups. The best dramatic scene is when The Architect is inspired to create the spherical geometry of the shells, true to the real euphoria of achievement.

It was like Siegfried putting together the sword. Otherwise The Architect was as lofty and silly as that hero.

Overall, this story is typical of opera; A Star Is Bornmeets The Phantom Opera House, but it was certainly a cut above Cats, but too tame for Tosca. At least Judy Garland, sorry, Miriam Gormley, didn’t become Brünnhilde and have an affair with our hero.

Production, design and performance were excellent but lacked the adventurousness we architects would expect for such a building’s own drama. Peter Corrigan might have been a good choice to design this one instead of Nabucco, where he was booed for being avant-garde. The Architect with a monkey on his shoulder and The Minister covered in scorpions seems just right.

Ken Woolley is the principal of Ancher Mortlock Woolley, Sydney.



Raft

Installation by Ruark Lewis and Paul Carter at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, September 28-October 29, 1995.

Review by John Macarthur

Raft is a grid of 28 timber palettes lettered with Le Corbusier No. 4 stencils in pencil. Assembled by Ruark Lewis, it filled a street-level gallery, its surface of lettering level with the pavement and road. The rear of the room was curtained in silk and concealed a sound system playing a tape of Paul Carter reading aloud while walking in central Australia. The room became still, full and static; the new `floor’ transformed a banal volume into a felt space. Outside, the roar of traffic off the Storey Bridge made one aware of Carter’s representation of the noises of history.

Raft’s ambitions are very great, as this is a kind of modern history painting which aims to explore the possibilities of monumentalizing stories; but certain stories which are at the edge of cultures rather than at their centres. Raft’s story is that of Carl Strehlow, a Lutheran missionary at Hermannsburg in Central Australia who, in 1922, became critically ill and died while being carried to medical assistance on what was described as a `van’ or `raft’. Strehlow was a linguist and translator of scriptures, and Lewis’ Raft is stencilled with the story of St. Paul’s shipwreck on Malta. The Pauline story (Acts 27 & 28) is in six languages: New Testament Greek, Latin, German, King James English, Dieri and Aranda. Carter’s sound installation records his footsteps as he followed Strehlow’s route along the basin of the Finke River, reading aloud from the hexaglot text he had prepared for Raft, and from Ted Strehlow’s prose poem which tells the story of his father’s death and makes the parallel with the passage from Paul.

Raft is, then, a sort of tragedy. It tells of the achievements and hubris of the human intellect, of personal courage and ways of meeting death. But mostly it tells of stories, of their repetition and strangely limited structural possibilities.

raft

Raft, installed in Brisbane by Ruark Lewis and Paul Carter.

Lewis addresses Raft partly to architects by dedicating it to Bill Lucas and referring in the catalogue to the minimalism of modern Sydney. Its three-layered construction refers not only to the Christian trinity but also to bearers and joists. In Lewis’ first design, the raft was in hardwood of a length which he could reuse as studs in a building project. When this became impossible, he began to think of how his raft would `float’ around the gallery system and he became interested instead in the highly evolved modularity of the trucking palette. This objet type resonates with Le Corbusier’s appropriation of the stencils of rural produce merchants.

Raft is charged with a purpose, which is not a token occasion for the display of art but one in which art is required for us to understand that some of these stories of the threshold between cultures need to be stated precisely, because they are all the culture that Australia has.

John Macarthur is a lecturer in architecture at Queensland University.



L`Atelier Alessi 1921-1991

Lecture by Dr Alberto Alessi at the University of NSW, Sydney, November 14, 1995, and an exhibition of Alessi’s "eight decades of innovative and experimental design" at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery, November 15, 1995-February 4, 1996. Presented by the School of Design Studies, University of NSW and Ventura Design.

Review by Ed Lippmann

Dr Alberto Alessi is proud of his family’s company, which, 75 years on, is synonymous with style. Since 1911, imported talent has supplemented in-house staff to achieve high standards of innovative design. A further commitment to exploring advanced mass production techniques has ensured Alessi’s place as leading suppliers of contemporary kitchen and tableware.

Dr Alessi speaks of society, not the market. Alessi products, he says, respond to people’s dreams and desires rather than merely utilitarian needs. And this is the basis for their "global value". Although Alessi embraces advanced production methods, the result is "art and poetry". The Alessi range under Alberto is generated by cultural and intellectual values rather than commercial pragmatism. If that is the case, Alessi’s commercial success is astonishing.

The search for form through the pursuit of art on one hand and craft and technology on the other, has historic parallels. The German Werkbund, the Bauhaus, as well as the post-war arts and craft movement in Finland, followed the same approach. Alessi acknowledges, even encourages, these parallels.

Since the establishment of the Alessi "design factory" in 1921, developments in nickel-silver, brass, chrome and cast aluminium eventually gave way to an almost exclusive range of stainless steel artefacts by the 1950s.

Icons of Alessi’s output include its citrus basket, 1952, Luigi Massoni’s cocktail shaker, 1957, Ettore Sottsass’ condiment sets and trays, 1978, 1981-83, and Aldo Rossi’s coffee infusers of 1986. These pieces display an elegance of form and suitability for production which ensures their timelessness. There are other great pieces by Sapper, Castiglioni and Mendini which are still in production. These are classics of 20th century design, comparable with those of Braun, Porsche or Citröen.

In the 1990s, Graves, Venturi and Starck joined the factory, as did phallic toothbrushes and some quite functionless "utilities". Despite the novelty value, I doubt that these pieces will ever approach iconic status. This recent crop displays a preoccupation with dreams and desires (as the dottore told us), but perhaps also (as he didn’t tell us) a striving to be over the top.

For my money, Alessi reached its zenith in the 1980s. Since then, new design superstars have brought their signatures to the factory—which has turned out to be smart marketing but also a drop in standard.

Ed Lippmann is the principal of Lippmann Associates, Sydney.

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Published online: 1 Jan 1996

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Architecture Australia, January 1996

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