Recent Exhibitions

string theory: Focus on contemporary Australian art

15 August – 27 October

Curator: Glenn Barkley

string theory: Focus on contemporary Australian art brings together over 30 Aboriginal artists and artist groups from across the country who work in ways that extend traditional forms of textile and craft-based practices. string theory continues the MCA’s longstanding involvement with these important areas of artistic activity in Australia.

String theory is a scientific principle that posits a theory of everything. In the context of this exhibition, it implies expansion and connection across time and space, a porous and open-ended embracing of diverse approaches to the idea of ‘fibre’ or craft-based disciplines.

Many of the works on display use handmade string produced from plant fibres. This string is the lingua franca, or working language, of the exhibition. It is both a physical material and a conceptual means of connecting. It binds things and so acts as a metaphor for bringing people and ideas together. It can be tangled and it can be tidy, strong and delicate, complex and simple.

string theory deals in the transformation of media no longer considered fixed or discrete. A painting can be a weaving. A photo can be a basket. A text is a container, or a bag is a receptacle of ideas and a way of carrying things.

In string theory, artwork is not only about politics or about community: it is about engaging with real social change and affect. Until recently, many of the artists may not have even have considered themselves artists but, rather, as participants in a wider-reaching dialogue between families, peers and tradition. The exhibition celebrates both the creation of objects and the exchange of knowledge through social, familial and community structures.

— Glenn Barkley, MCA Senior Curator

Artists included in string theory are: Tony Albert, Jean Baptiste Apuatimi , Boolarng Nangamai Aboriginal Art & Culture Studio, Frances Djulibing, Robyn Djunginy, Lola Greeno, Dale Harding, Evelyn McGreen, Lipaki Marlyapa, Dhundhunga 2 Munungurr, Noongar Doll Makers, Laurie Nilsen, Alison Page, Regina Pilawuk Wilson, Jimmy Pike, Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, Tasmanian Shell Necklace Makers, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Vicki West, Warrambool Dreaming – Lighting Ridge, Yirrkala Printmakers

Tjanpi Desert Weavers’ project has been supported by Gandel Philanthropy and the Nelson Meers Foundation.

Noongar Doll Makers’ project has been supported by CANWA.

Wangechi Mutu

23 May – 14 August 2013

Curator: Rachel Kent

Wangechi Mutu is known for her artworks in which she mixes media and appropriates imagery from diverse popular sources. Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1972 and based in New York, Mutu draws on her experience as an African woman and migrant, creating sumptuous, layered works that explore ‘otherness’ and themes of alienation, race and female representation. Spanning the past ten years of her career, this exhibition represents the artist’s first major presentation in Australia. It comprises a series of installations or spatial environments across the MCA’s Level 1 galleries that visitors can walk through and around, encountering objects, videos and collages, as well as constructed and painted elements that have been created especially in the spaces.

Mutu’s collages incorporate image fragments cut from high fashion, hunting and motorcycle magazines as well as ethnographic journals and pornography. Joined together in imaginative human, animal and machine formations, they are augmented by delicate watercolour imagery and embellished with costume jewellery, glitter, fur and dried plant matter. Scale is significant for Mutu’s collages, which range from postcard and A4 scale works on paper through to much larger works on sheets of polyester. Central to the works is a search for the black female body and how it is represented in popular media: in the artist’s words, “where women are psychologically and culturally placed, and how we value or devalue them.”

Principles of accumulation and layering extend beyond Mutu’s collages to encompass her sculptures and mixed media environments. In these works, she combines diverse materials to create meaning: packing tape ‘mountains’ and moons made from sagging fur pelts; ceremonial ‘trees’ fashioned from grey felt blankets, with drooping fruits made from garbage bags and string; elevated, theatrical chairs or ‘black thrones’ adorned with tinsel and feathers; and suspended wine bottles that drip their blood-like contents onto tables or the floor below.

Mutu’s use of humble materials from everyday life, and her embrace of messy splendour, does away with the pristine ‘white cube’ often associated with museums. Her galleries are instead lively, colourful spaces, filled with makeshift forms and tactile surfaces. Walls are pock-marked with red, chiselled gouges that resemble flesh wounds, distressed with hand-painted water stains, or covered by blankets as if to protect or insulate them. There is a sense of gluttonous excess in some works, an idea that is played out through the incorporation of groaning banquet tables that might, alternately, double as biers for corpses.

Mutu’s lavish environments are expanded, in some instances, by videos that feature the artist herself in a range of roles associated with women’s work. These modestly staged pieces are the only instances in which Mutu comes to the fore, revealing herself physically yet remaining silent, her body instead speaking volumes about the suffering of women in impoverished or conflict-riven circumstances.

JEFF WALL Photographs

1 May – 28 July 2013

Curator: Gary Dufour (Art Gallery of Western Australia)

MCA Curatorial Liaison: Judith Blackall

Jeff Wall is one of the most renowned photographers working today. His innovative practice has played a key role in establishing photography at the forefront of contemporary art.

The two strands that interweave throughout Wall’s career are represented in the 27 photographs selected for this major exhibition curated for Australia. One aspect is small-scale, thoughtful observations of things such as a clipped branch or washcloth that show Wall’s attentiveness to what he calls the ‘obscure, unswept corners of everyday life’. The second aspect is the more technically complex and constructed images. These pictures, usually enlarged to life scale, are inspired by scenes of modern life, cinematic conventions, artistic genres in painting as well as photography, and literature. Wall’s photographs have a detail and clarity that seem to promise revelation and yet, as the artist notes, his images of the everyday touch on a ‘something undisclosed’ – that is not easy to define.

Jeff Wall was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1946. He studied Fine Art at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from 1964 to 1970, majoring in painting, sculpture, photography and conceptual art. He moved to London in 1970 to attend the Courtauld Institute of Art, and returned to Vancouver in 1973. He did not complete any art works between 1971 and 1977. Travelling in Europe in 1977, Wall encountered again the paintings by Manet, Goya, Velázquez, and others that had always fascinated him and recognised a connection between that work and possibilities he had sensed in photography. He began to make his ‘cinematographic’ photographs as transparencies displayed in light boxes in 1977, and completed his first successful picture, The Destroyed Room, in 1978. Since that time Wall’s work has been the subject of many major exhibitions and publications. He began making traditional black & white prints in 1996, and inkjet prints in 2000.

JEFF WALL Photographs was organised by the Art Gallery of Western Australia in association with the MCA. It was on display at AGWA 26 May – 10 September 2012, then travelled to the National Gallery of Victoria for exhibition 30 December 2012 – 17 March 2013.

South of no North: Laurence Aberhart, William Eggleston, Noel McKenna

8 March – 5 May 2013

Curator: Glenn Barkley

South of no North: Laurence Aberhart, William Eggleston, Noel McKenna presents three artists whose works are connected by an interest in the vernacular, a regional sense of place and a similar visual sensibility.

It is part of an ongoing series of exhibitions at the MCA placing the work of an Australian artist alongside that of an international peer. The exhibitions provide opportunities for Australian artists to be positioned in a broader global dialogue.

Australian artist Noel McKenna has lived and worked in Sydney since moving from Brisbane in 1981. He has chronicled the city and its people whilst travelling extensively, particularly in New Zealand and Europe.

McKenna has chosen to be shown alongside two photographers. The enormously influential American photographer William Eggleston lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee, deep in the American south, and works exclusively with colour photography. New Zealander Laurence Aberhart resides in Russell on the North Island of New Zealand, works predominantly with black and white photography and has photographed environments in NZ and Australia, Hong Kong, France, Antarctica and the USA.

All three artists have a common literary sensibility that captures details of the built environment and human interactions that have their own particular pathos. They tend to work on a small scale and their works provide a window onto the world where you really have to look. You are drawn in rather than overwhelmed, peering into places and moments now past.

Their artworks are akin to short stories where emotions and narratives are condensed into rich and provocative sensations reflecting the everyday world and making manifest the power of art to alert us to the wonder and poetry that is all around us.

- Glenn Barkley, Curator

Anish Kapoor

20 December 2012 – 1 April 2013

Curator: Elizabeth Ann Macgregor

Anish Kapoor has created some of the most memorable works of art of our times. The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia was delighted to present his first major solo exhibition in Australia. Through a career spanning four decades, Anish Kapoor has re-imagined the medium of sculpture, finding new ways to challenge and beguile audiences.

The exhibition began outside the Museum, with Kapoor’s spectacular Sky Mirror (2006) on the front lawn, drawing viewers to the Museum with its play of reflections and light which meld the work into the surrounding landscape. In contrast, in the gallery on level 1, visitors encountered the mesmeric My Red Homeland (2003), where the work was created by the movement of a mechanised arm through viscous red wax.

The first exhibition of Anish Kapoor’s work in Australia was curated specifically in response to the MCA’s galleries. It was developed in close consultation with the artist and his studio team, a conversation which began when the Museum first closed for renovation. The exhibition of these extraordinary works, which would not have been possible in the old gallery spaces, was a fitting way to celebrate the end of the first year of the new MCA.

The exhibition presented key bodies of works from the artist’s career since the early 1980s. Kapoor’s continual experimentation with materials and forms was seen across the exhibition in works which challenge conventional ideas of art and engagement, including the early vibrant pigment pieces and the void sculptures which explore negative space – openings and cavities – distorting viewers’ perceptions of space, highlighting the gap between what is known and what is seen. This challenge to sensory perception was found in a different form in Kapoor’s more recent work Memory (2009), the enormous Cor-ten steel work that dominated one of the large gallery spaces. The uncanny mirror works which punctuated the space, sometimes described as ‘non objects’, dissolved into the architecture, creating highly disorientating experiences for viewers. The most recent concrete works were the result of a machine made process which is instigated but not controlled by the artist.

Kapoor’s ability to transform material into astonishing and often perplexing works of art which raise philosophical questions about the world and our position within it, have led to comparisons with alchemy, the ancient magical power to transform an ordinary substance into something of great value.

The exhibition was accompanied by the MCA’s first e-publication, a “living catalogue” which includes video and audio content, exclusive behind the scenes material, and in depth essays exploring the themes in Kapoor’s extraordinary works.


19 December 2012 – 24 February 2013

Guest Curator: Brook Andrew

TABOO was an exhibition and program of talks, performances and film screenings by guest curator Brook Andrew. Brook is an artist and cultural commentator of Wiradjuri and Scottish descent, who has a keen interest in hidden histories and ethnography.

TABOO built upon the ground-breaking blakatak series of talks and performances that Brook curated for the MCA in 2005. The concept of blakatak was to give space within the Museum for lively debate surrounding issues of concern to Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, thinkers and activists. It touched on sometimes controversial topics, providing a forum for these ideas to be expressed and accommodated often highly divergent points of view.

TABOO brought together Australian and international artists who respond to ideas around race, ethnicity, politics and religion. Newly commissioned and existing works sat alongside personal archives, postcards, press photography and works from the MCA Collection. TABOO attempted to represent fragments of history, narrative and memory through art works and contextual materials that, when juxtaposed, can create a powerful and emotional effect.

TABOO took on issues that may be hidden or distorted in the mainstream media; ideas that transgress what is considered to be ‘correct behaviour’; and the question of who can represent whom. Brook Andrew said, ‘Taboos are similar to social and religious rules of engagement, but their principal task is to separate one space from another. They mark off a person, place or thing as sacred and untouchable: as distinct from the ordinary, mundane, and by implication, the polluted, unclean, or infidel. One of the intentions of the exhibition is that artists should feel free to relate their own versions of taboos, or play with a taboo and trigger the possibility of a different story. This story might reveal new ways of seeing a history or subject that would otherwise be shut down as too upsetting or controversial.’

Experiencing TABOO was often confronting. How were we to respond to the naked image of a girl from Eritrea, attributed to Italian colonial photographer Luigi Naretti (active 1885–1900), or Jimmie Durham’s potent image The Meat of Jesus (2012) where he recreated from memory a photo he saw as a young man? Archival materials and press photographs depicted genocide and colonial histories as a messy reality, but this is no more or less messy than what might be reported in our newspapers today.

The exhibition included images dealing with deceased people, nudity, religious beliefs and historical material that reflected different social times when issues like racism were not so widely debated. It may have breached some Indigenous peoples’ personal views on protocol and representation. The aim of TABOO, after all, was to create a space to try out new ways of seeing our world through different juxtapositions.

TABOO was expanded by public programs through January-February that included talks, performances and film screenings. A publication is available in the MCA Store.

This project was assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Primavera 2012: Young Australian Artists

4 October – 2 December 2012

Curator: Anna Davis

No matter how close you get to another person, their inner life will always remain something of a mystery. Art is one of the ways we can catch glimpses of these invisible worlds.

Primavera 2012 features seven contemporary artists whose works create portals into imaginary territories, spiritual landscapes and private interior realms. Bringing together the work of Dion Beasley, Benjamin Forster, Anastasia Klose, Todd McMillan, Kate Mitchell, Teho Ropeyarn and Justine Varga, the exhibition covers a wide range of artistic approaches. It includes artists from remote areas of Australia alongside those from urban centres and spans media from drawing, print-making, film, video, performance and installation to digital media and photography.

Primavera 2012 considers the roles that contemplation, reflection and introspection play in contemporary art. It explores the way art can take us to places that exist outside of the everyday. The works in Primavera 2012 invite us to enter alternate planes of reality, offering time and space to re-imagine the world from a different perspective.

- Anna Davis

Primavera 2012 is the 21st edition of the MCA’s annual exhibition of Australian artists aged 35 years and under. The Primavera exhibition series was founded in 1991 through the generous benefaction of Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM and their family in memory of their daughter and sister Belinda.

Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro

4 October – 2 December 2012

Curator: Anna Davis

Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro are Australian artists who transform the residue of consumer society, re-imagining the forms and systems that surround us. Their work is characterised by a playful reinvention of prefabricated structures and the assemblage of everyday objects into extraordinary sculptures and installations.

This exhibition, the artists’ first museum survey, draws on the MCA Collection and private loans to bring together a selection of key works and a new commission, Stasis (2012), on the MCA front lawn. Demonstrating the depth and diversity of their practice, it comprises both monumental and intimate pieces in a variety of media including sculpture, installation and photography.

Working as a collaborative duo for over a decade, Healy and Cordeiro have spent much of their artistic careers travelling and this nomadic lifestyle plays a central role in their art. Works in the exhibition explore ideas of movement and transportation, the practicalities and emotional upheavals of storing and shipping possessions, and the complex infrastructures that enable global mobility in the contemporary era. Travelling often brings about powerful memories of home and the question of what constitutes home today is a major theme in the artists’ practice. A number of works look at domestic space examining its symbolism, functionality, affordability, construction and decay. Other projects raise questions about what will define humanity in years to come and the destruction that often accompanies human progress.

With a distinctive humour and aesthetic, Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s work invites us to look at how we live, drawing attention to the gaps between our grand aspirations and everyday reality.

- Anna Davis

Ken Whisson: as if

28 September – 25 November 2012

Curators: Glenn Barkley (MCA) and Lesley Harding (Heide Museum of Modern Art)

In a career spanning over sixty years, Ken Whisson has been making thoughtful and uncompromising artworks which hold a unique place in Australian art. Whisson’s reputation has been built around his tenacious dedication to the acts of painting and drawing, and has a persistent fascination with the delicate operations of both his inner reality and the world at large.

Ken Whisson was born in 1927 in Lilydale, outside Melbourne. He studied under Russian émigré artist Danila Vassilieff (1897–1958) in the 1940s, and emerged out of the influential school of figurative expressionism. Whisson’s imagery has since evolved to combine the tendencies of his formative years with an increasingly linear and graphic abstraction. Following his relocation to the Italian city of Perugia in the late 1970s, the ideas and experiences of displacement and memory have helped elaborate his enduring engagements with landscape, identity and politics. He has forged an unconventional and highly personal aesthetic which sees topographical and single-point perspectives coalesce, and imagery that often suggests a heightened, sometimes hallucinogenic reality.

The artist’s title for this retrospective derives from Immanuel Kant’s dictum: ‘May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law’, and the Paris surrealists’ declaration: ‘Let us live as if the world really exists’. The exhibition traces the evolution of Whisson’s major themes and series, from his powerful portrayals of human relations to those which consider the relationships people and animals have with the natural, built and cultural environments.

Ken Whisson: As If is produced in partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.

18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations

27 June – 16 September 2012

Artistic Directors: Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster

As one of the four major venues hosting the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is exhibiting 26 international artists and 48 works in a show subtitled Possible Composition.

The title, Possible Composition, stems from and echoes the composite nature of the artworks on display at the MCA in the Level 1 and 3 Galleries. Many of the artists have made works by bringing together disparate elements, or reassembling disjointed parts to create a new heterogeneous whole from what was broken and scattered. Where there has been separation and fragmentation in all aspects of life, there is now a profound desire for composing and recomposing together—an aesthetic co-composition paralleling the need for collaborative and meaningful solutions in today’s world. The participatory Mending Project (2009) of New York-based Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei is telling in this respect in that it brings people together in communal encounters, as he invites visitors to bring their old clothes in to be repaired by him in a space equipped with a long table, two chairs and a wall of colourful cone-shaped spools of thread. Lee Mingwei initiates not only the mending of the wear and tear of their garments, but, by implication, of the social fabric itself. During the course of the biennale, the mended clothes accumulate, becoming the material remnants of shared thoughts and memories in fleeting conversations and stories. The clothes remain until the end of the exhibition, when visitors can retrieve their items.

Chinese artist Liu Zhuoquan composes with the past and present. His installation at the MCA, entitled Where are you? You know more secrets! (2012), is made up of hundreds of glass bottles of varying shapes and sizes, each painted with a segment of a large black snake’s body. Zhuoquan uses the traditional neihua painting technique to render the reptiles to the interior of the bottles. The vessels are displayed at different levels, enhancing the impression that multiple snakes are writhing, twisting and curling around themselves and each other.

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu’s Light Painting (2011), is an animated series originating from a set of 110 drawings in white pen on clear acetates, uploaded to a customised computer program and projected in a very slow, almost imperceptible dissolve. Created in Australia’s North-East Arnhem Land, Yunupingu’s work is a gracious expression of spontaneity and texture and, in the context of the Biennale, another fine example of Possible Composition.

Occupying the entire ceiling of the MCA’s monumental Level 1 North Gallery is Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak’s Anything Can Break (2011). Origami cubes and clouds shaped like breasts hang expectantly from the ceiling. Some of the clouds are lit with fibre-optics and lined with motion sensors that generate sound in response to the audience’s movement. The sheer mass of suspended elements infuses a lifegiving force into the space.

A more subtle representation of composition are two works on paper by South-African artist Nicholas Hlobo. Tyaphaka (2011) and Amaqabaza (2012) combine disparate materials and techniques to explore a blend of issues.

The Biennale’s main title, all our relations, reflects the curatorial premise for Artistic Directors Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster. Their curatorial conversation and working method is informed by the notion of relation and shapes the idea of interconnectedness in the exhibition. One example of collaborative artwork at the MCA, The Moon Jar Project, combines Park Young-Sook’s Moon Jar (2012) and Yeesookyung’s Translated Vase-the moon (2012). The project begins in Korea, where both artists are from, with the destruction of Park Young-Sook’s imperfect moon jars. Yeesookyung then rearranges the broken ceramic fragments into a new form according to her own aesthetic.

Visitors to the MCA for the 18th Biennale of Sydney will see many other variations on the theme of possible composition and relation — relation as connecting and as telling — and can continue this exploration at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Pier 2/3 and Cockatoo Island. Also, and for the first time, Carriageworks is a presenting partner for the Biennale of Sydney and as such will premiere two Australian performances by the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her dance ensemble Rosas (11-15 September) and also a site-specific visual art installation by Ann Veronica Janssens throughout the 12 weeks.

- Kelly Stone

Marking Time

29 March – 3 June 2012

Curator: Rachel Kent

Marking Time explored the ways in which artists visualise time and its passing, across diverse media – drawing and watercolour, sculpture and installation, sound and light. An international exhibition selected by MCA Senior Curator Rachel Kent, Marking Time presented major works by eleven artists from Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and the United States in the Museum’s spacious new top floor galleries. Some works were realised during the course of the exhibition, others required viewer participation, and several spilled into public spaces beyond the gallery.

In the exhibition, time was extended, made circular, wound backwards, and articulated through performative, durational acts. Some works came to life only at night, illuminating the front lawn and building façade. Others materialised slowly during the course of the exhibition, revealed through the footsteps of visitors passing through the Museum atrium and stairwells.

From the collision of past and present in Edgar Arceneaux’s ambitious wall-scale drawings, to concepts of ‘deep’ or universal time in Tatsuo Miyajima’s LED installations and Lindy Lee’s weather paintings harnessing fire and water, to Rivane Neuenschwander’s poetic flip-clocks and calendars, time became elastic and open ended. Elisa Sighicelli literally rewinded time through the medium of film: exploded fireworks contracted to pin-points against the night sky, as ends returned to beginnings. Katie Paterson and Gulumbu Yunupingu turned our gazes upwards, depicting ancient cosmic phenomena and celestial formations through confetti, moonlight and upon bark panels and hollowed memorial (Larrakitj) poles. The relationship between real time and digital artifice was explored in John Gerrard’s epic, slow moving animations of American mid-western scenes; while Jim Campbell used computer-programmed light to create flickering, ever-changing scenes inspired by family albums and events. Finally, Tom Nicholson’s vast wall drawing related geo-political dates throughout history, while Daniel Crooks’ mesmeric videos stretched and reconfigured time into abstract bands of colour.

Christian Marclay: The Clock

29 March – 3 June 2012

Curator: Rachel Kent

The Clock is a 24-hour video by artist Christian Marclay. The work was shown in its entirety on the MCA’s opening day, then played continuously during regular museum opening hours. Every subsequent Thursday the MCA presented a special 24-hour screening of The Clock in the MCA’s level 1 gallery in the new wing.

The Clock comprises several thousand short extracts from cinema history, each suggesting a particular time of day or referencing a specific moment, often through the appearance of a watch or clock-face. They are edited together to form a continuous visual sequence synchronised with the real time of visitors in the gallery who watch the film; and they suggest countless interlocking narratives despite the constant changes in genres, eras, locations and plotlines.

The Clock highlights the centrality of time within conventional cinematic narratives – the way it binds stories together and leads us through their events. Yet by the same token, cinema traditionally immerses viewers within an illusory sense of time, suspending momentarily the real time of the world outside. The Clock creates an uncanny correspondence between cinematic and real time, drawing viewers into a parallel awareness of what they watch on screen and experience beyond it.

Christian Marclay was born in California in 1955 and grew up in Switzerland. He now lives between London and New York. He is an internationally acclaimed artist who has employed the concept of collage since the 1970s across diverse media including film and video, photography, installation, sound and music.

Local Positioning Systems

29 March – 3 June 2012

Curated by Jeff Khan and Bec Dean, Performance Space

For the opening season, the MCA invited Performance Space to present a season of performative and socially engaged artworks around the new MCA building. Local Positioning Systems was a program that ran alongside the MCA’s inaugural season of exhibitions and public programs, drawing on Performance Space’s 25-year history of presenting interdisciplinary performance works in site-specific contexts.

Local Positioning Systems sought to engage visitors in unexpected encounters, as well as the surrounding population of tourists, passers-by, business people, commuters and the various communities of The Rocks.

The artists who performed across the season were: Jason Maling, Lara Thoms, Latai Taumoepeau, Julie-Anne Long, Stuart Ringholt, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich, and Bennett Miller.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Recorders

16 December 2011 – 12 February 2012

Curator: Judith Blackall

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Recorders was Australia’s first solo exhibition by Mexican-Canadian electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The artworks in Recorders saw, heard and felt the actions of people around them, using technology to create a playful yet ominous experience. The exhibition featured 12 pieces by the artist, including the world premieres of two new installations commissioned especially for Sydney, Tape Recorders and Voice Array (both 2011).

Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks depend on the participation of visitors to exist; visitors are encouraged to become performers and leave traces of themselves, whether it is objects from their pockets, typed questions, their heartbeat, fingerprint, voice or image. Trained in physical chemistry, Lozano-Hemmer uses advanced surveillance and biometric technologies together with robotics, projections, heart rate sensors, face-recognition software and other technology to create critical and poetic platforms. In the process, the viewers become the viewed.

Born in Mexico City in 1967 and based in Montréal, Canada, Lozano-Hemmer is renowned for his ambitious, playful, interactive artworks that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. He has presented his large-scale public art installations across Europe, Asia and America. They include what may be the world’s largest interactive artwork, Vectorial Elevation (1999), commissioned as part of the Millennium celebrations in Mexico, in which over a million online participants directed searchlights to create dynamic sculptures in light above Mexico City.

Primavera 2011: Young Australian Artists

8 September – 13 November 2011

Curator: Anna Davis

In 2011, for the first time in the exhibition’s 20 year history, Primavera 2011 was presented entirely outside the MCA in various sites around The Rocks – the historic precinct surrounding the Museum. Curator Anna Davis took the temporary closure of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s public galleries – due to the major extension and redevelopment of the building – as an opportunity to curate a different kind of Primavera, including a selection of artists, whose practices stretch beyond the white cube, provoking and mobilising different levels of participation and social engagement.

The exhibition introduced five individual artists and three artist groups: Rebecca Baumann, Eric Bridgeman, Brown Council (Kelly Doley, Frances Barrett, Diana Smith, Kate Blackmore), Tom O’Hern, Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with the Parachutes for Ladies, Keg de Souza, Hiromi Tango and Tessa Zettel & Karl Khoe – whose diverse practices can be linked by a critical approach to making work in and for the public realm.

Participating artists were invited to respond to the circumstances of Primavera 2011 through the creation of a new project, along with the opportunity to present existing works in a variety of unusual locations. In moving the institution’s activities outside of the gallery, the exhibition was shaped by the varied strategies and processes the artists employed when creating work for the public domain. The exhibited works aimed to provoke a range of responses in the audience by reframing people’s daily activities and disrupting their habitual relationships with time, place and space, as well as re-imagining histories, stories and myths connected to particular sites and contexts.

Primavera is an annual exhibition for Australian artists aged 35 years and under. It was initiated in 1992 by Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM and their family in memory of their daughter and sister Belinda, a talented jeweller who died at the age of 29. The exhibition commemorates Belinda Jackson by celebrating the creative achievements of talented young artists who are in the early stages of their careers. It is one of the highlights of the MCA’s annual program of exhibitions.

Tell Me Tell Me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011

17 June – 24 August 2011

Co-Curators: Glenn Barkley (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) and Inhye Kim (National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul)

This exhibition was a first-time collaboration between the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul – a two-part cultural exchange of art and ideas. Selected by MCA Curator Glenn Barkley and NMOCA curator Inhye Kim, the project highlighted the historical and ongoing connections between Australian and Korean contemporary art and included significant works from the collections of both museums.

Tell Me Tell Me takes the year 1976 as an important historical starting point for this dialogue: the year of the second Biennale of Sydney, which brought the work of important Korean artists to Sydney for the first time, and of Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman’s visit to Sydney, organised by Kaldor Art Projects. The curators investigated the trajectory from 1976 into the present, exploring the ideas being discussed at that time, many of which were concerned with the very nature of art making, and examining art historical, conceptual and cultural overlaps between the two countries.

“Rethinking, remaking, reconsidering the past isn’t always an easy thing to do or to do clearly. What was once easy to understand is now difficult, what was impossible to fit within the context of the museum is now easy, although made more palatable, less radical, in the process. Tell Me Tell Me is a kind of exchange. An exchange where ideas, people, objects and places are cut adrift from their geographical and historical contexts for just a moment. It allows us to consider a concept of what art has been, what its different meanings might be and how the actions of the present can re-contextualise the past.” – Glenn Barkley

The exhibition was presented in Sydney at the National Art School Gallery, as the MCA was closed from June 2011 whilst construction took place to expand and renovate the Museum. This was the MCA’s first major offsite exhibition and was an important collaboration with the National Art School, one of Australia’s leading teaching institutions with a rich history and tradition. After Sydney, the exhibition was presented at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (NMOCA), Seoul from 8 November 2011 to 19 February 2012.

Michael Stevenson

6 April – 19 June 2011

Curator: Glenn Barkley

Michael Stevenson, a New Zealand artist based in Berlin, has been described as an ‘anthropologist of the avant-garde’. His work re-tells recent histories using allegory, a story which is told symbolically, in and amongst historical fact. His works — paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations and film — utilise narrative forms that transform truth and fable. It engages with absurdities that arise when universal ideas — relating often to culture or economics — take hold in insular, or regional, situations and seem to be both radical and perplexing. Stevenson’s practice constantly reveals the fascinating and complex relationship between notions of the specific, or the personal, and the universal.

This exhibition, the first major survey of his work in Australia, was an opportunity to review a broad selection of the artist’s works drawn from his diverse practice, and included ambitious projects realised in the last 10 years such as major screen-based works and installations. It also provided an opportunity to see his recent activities in relation to earlier drawings, paintings and objects; works produced in the 80s and 90s in Australia and New Zealand.

In planning his MCA exhibition, Stevenson considered the installation as a new artwork articulated across two levels of galleries. At times challenging and confusing, the walls were altered in parts to reveal the inner workings and skeleton of the MCA. Hidden entryways were utilised to reveal works coexisting in unlikely and symbolic arrangement.

MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context

10 December 2010 – 19 June 2011

Curator: Anna Davis

MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context 2010 was the final installment of the New Acquisitions exhibition series, which since 2005 has provided audiences with the opportunity to experience a dynamic cross-section of Australian contemporary art recently acquired through purchase and donation. Like the first exhibition in this series, New Acquisitions in Context 2010 brought together some of the Museum’s latest acquisitions alongside selections from the existing JW Power and MCA Collections. By doing so, it celebrated the strength and diversity of contemporary art practice, while also connecting the Museum to its past and offering insights into how the Collection is being developed today.

Spanning a range of media from sculpture and drawing to installation and video, the exhibition included work by both established artists and those in the early stages of their careers, many of whom have participated in exhibitions at the MCA previously. Like earlier exhibitions in this series, New Acquisitions in Context 2010 was not built around a single thematic premise; instead it focused on individual artistic achievements and brought together a diverse range of work exploring multiple concerns. There were however, connections and groupings that emerged throughout the exhibition. Several light and kinetic works were featured reflecting this important area of strength within the MCA Collection, while a number of other works engaged with ‘lo-fi’ and everyday materials. Issues such as time, obsolescence and the obsessive nature of art practice could also be observed.

Significantly, MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context 2010 was the final Collection exhibition to be held in the MCA’s old Level 4 Galleries. The newly refurbished building now features a floor designed to permanently house exhibits from the MCA Collection.

New Acquisitions in Context included work by 23 artists: James Angus, Hany Armanious, John Barbour, Sophie Coombs, Juan Davila, Hayden Fowler, Simryn Gill, Matthew Griffin, Mary Gubriawuy, Patrick Hartigan, Matthew Jones, Peter Kennedy, Laith McGregor, James Morrison, Arlo Mountford, Dorota Mytych, Robert Rauschenberg, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Tim Silver, Ken Thaiday Snr, Imants Tillers, Günter Weseler and Simon Yates.

Bardayal 'Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO

10 December 2010 – 20 March 2011

Curator: Keith Munro

“He was generous in sharing knowledge of his artwork and country with other families and friends. By looking after his country, he also influenced other Bininj to return, live and manage their country. He helped these people and now they are sharing their knowledge with their children and other families living on their own land. Our dad was also generous in sharing his extensive knowledge with people from all over Australia and throughout the world.”

- Nadjamerrek family, from the exhibition catalogue

This exhibition presented the art and life of Bardayal 'Lofty’ Nadjamerrek , a highly respected senior artist, ceremony man and traditional knowledge-holder who lived and worked in the escarpment country of Western Arnhem Land, in Australia’s far north.

Born around 1926 in Kukkurlumurl, near the Mann River, Bardayal Nadjamerrek first encountered balanda (white people) as a teenager when he worked in a tin mine at Maranboy. He was a labourer for the Australian Army during World War II and undertook various jobs including timber cutting and road work until the late 1960s.

Bardayal first began painting for the western art audience in 1969 at Gunbalanya with the encouragement of missionary Peter Carroll. His artwork on bark, paper and in print media documents a contemporary art practice and its close connection to older living traditions. He painted as part of ceremony with natural ochres throughout his life. His repertoire quickly evolved from single figure artworks to more complex narratives of ceremonies he had participated in, as well as painting at important rock art sites connected to his Mok clan estate. His characteristic x-ray painting style uses blocks of colour and fine parallel hatching or line work that at times shimmer in effect.

Bardayal‘s professional practice was inspired by the longest continuous art tradition in the world and one of the oldest forms of human expression―rock art painting. He was the last of his generation of master painters to create artworks on the gallery walls of the escarpment country of the Arnhem Land plateau.

Bardayal passed away at Kabulwarnamyo in October 2009. Throughout his life he inspired others and passed his knowledge on to his children and grand children. The exhibition includes a wall painting especially commissioned and painted by members of the artist’s immediate family.

An online micro-site developed to accompany the exhibition was the recipient of The People’s Choice Art Category for the Pixel Awards, an international competition for website design. The site and design team, Canvas Group, were also highly commended at the National Create Design Awards in September.

The MCA worked closely with the Nadjamerrek family who have given permission to use his proper name for the purpose of the exhibition, publication and online micro site.

Images: Marking Time, all images installation views, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2012, images courtesy and © the artists, Photography: Alex Davies; Christian Marclay: The Clock, Image courtesy and © the artist; Local Positioning Systems curated by Performance Space and presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2012, all images performance views, Images courtesy and © the artists, Photography: Heidrun Lohr; Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Recorders, all images installation views, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011, Images courtesy and © the artist, Photography: Alex Davies; Primavera 2011, all images installation and performance views, MCA Offsite, The Rocks, 2011, Images courtesy and © the artists, Photography: Alex Davies; Tell Me Tell Me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011, all images installation views, National Art School Gallery, Darlinghurst (NAS Gallery), or National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea (NMOCA) as indicated, Images courtesy and © the artists, Photography: Park Jung Hoon (NMOCA); Michael Stevenson, all images installation views, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011, Images courtesy and © the artist; MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context, for full captions please see MCA Collection Online, all images courtesy and © the artists; Bardayal 'Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO, installation views, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010, Images courtesy and © the Nadjamerrek estate