Superstar culture occupies – and even dominates – contemporary engagement with art. As we queue to see the latest ‘blockbuster’ exhibit, or compete for the most highly valued works at auction, we become participants in a self-perpetuating adoration of the few. This phenomenon is often regarded as a symptom of the modern age. However, the photography and writing of Jo-Anne Duggan reveal that art’s superstar culture holds much earlier, and more complex, origins. Before the Museum (2000-2002), Impossible Gaze (2002-2005), and Wondrous Possessions (2010) reorient the contemporary gaze away from the hero works that so often absorb our viewing experience in Italy’s palazzi. In these photographs, we see the work of lost masters; the impact of time on their physicality; and in a manifestation of self-reflection, our own attitudes in the museum environment. Before the Museum (2000-2002), Impossible Gaze (2002-2005), and Wondrous Possessions (2010) highlight the interplay of theory, heritage, and market that has defined artistic identity as one “of universal icons” since antiquity. This paper reveals that Duggan’s oeuvre enacts an immersive laying bare of early modern Italian art, both as it existed in the past and its perpetuation into the present.
Laelie Greenwood (Monash): Private Memory, Public Spaces: An Examination of Memory and Monument within Italian Immigrant Experience in Carlton. (Highly commended)
Italian migrants left a lasting mark on the areas in which they established their communities in Australia, particularly during the 1960s-1970s. With a focus on Melbourne’s Carlton area and drawing from Jo-Anne Duggan and Enza Gandolfo’s (2011) article, ‘Other Spaces: migration, objects and archives’, this paper explores how Italian-Australians developed a distinctive architectural style in their home renovations, which acted to produce, and maintain, links with their ‘home’ country. Duggan and Gandolfo’s argument about Italian migrant possessions within the home interior informs a discussion about the alterations and additions of six of Carlton’s Italian-Australian urban façades. Such façades simultaneously reflect a private and public space. Indeed, the memorialisation of ‘private’ memory was inevitably transformed into a highly public projection of cultural identity and difference. This suggests how material transnationalism, the modern elements of which are apparent within these renovations, reflect the ‘host’ society in which Carlton’s Italians settled. The paper further examines the conscious expression of transnationalism in the Piazza Italia project as a form of public collaborative production, enabling new generations of Italian-Australians to experience a tangible sense of Italian culture.
The essay takes us through a profound analysis of the way images and words intersect historically through Andrea Urbani’s decorative ‘Room of the Gardens’ in the Villa Vendramin Calergi, Noventa Padovana, as part of an exploration of a neglected approach to the study of Veneto villa decoration. Engaging with Jo-Anne Duggan’s notion of “a peculiar act of doubling” and W. J. T. Mitchell’s theoretical writings on how the visual and the verbal interrelate, Grant offers an interpretation of how the eighteenth-century visitor experienced Urbani’s artwork upon entering the room. This essay draws together both contemporary and modern images and words to support a detailed study of the significance of the room’s playfulness and power to convey meanings over time.
Crystal Filep (Otago): Creative work and exegesis ‘Intersection Unbounded’. (Highly commended)
Crystal Filep’s original watercolour, Intersection Unbounded, and exegesis on Michelangelo’s Porta Pia and the Dioscuri represent a reflection on how the personal and the cultural, the historic and the contemporary, intersect within the context of a changing urban setting. Filep breaks with convention to explore her subject matter through imagination, focusing in particular on the ‘spaces in-between’. As such, her approach engages with what she calls ‘the mediative role of architecture’, aligned with Jo-Anne Duggan’s approach of “a slower, more considered engagement with art”. Filep shows how her creative practice conjures both meanings and questions as she teases out the interplay between imagination and stories from often overlooked spaces.
Kyra Giorgi (La Trobe): ‘La speranza: Spaces of hoping, waiting and dreaming in Italian migration. (Highly commended)
Kyra Giorgi conceptualises the experience of Italian migration to Australia in the post-war era as one that involves ‘negotiating spaces of absence and emptiness’ as opposed to a simplistic linear view. Her discussion finds resonance with Jo-Anne Duggan’s Sites of Convergence exhibition, wherein several public spaces evoke structures of expectation, engagement and even ‘chaos’. Giorgi takes Duggan’s insights further by contemplating ‘those more temporal sites of convergence’ inherent in the processes of migrancy. Citing oral migrant accounts, she considers circumstances of ‘not-knowing’ by evoking traditionally forgotten moments in ‘cabins and holding bays’, ‘hostels, processing and reception centres, and the countless queues’ – spaces of waiting and hoping, in which dreams and reality may converge.