Curated by Dr Felicity Fenner, UNSW Galleries exhibition People Like Us continues to wow, challenge and intrigue Sydney audiences. The exhibition draws together a diverse selection of outstanding new international and Australian media works and projects, ranging from Luxembourg-based artist Su-Mei Tse's Sound for Insomniacs (2007), a soothing installation of five cat portraits accompanied by an MP3 playlist of each cat purring through to UNSW's Dr George Poonkhin Khut's interactive Brighthearts iPad app, which transforms each user’s bio-data into an audio-visual display.
When the exhibition wraps up at UNSW Galleries on 7 November 2015 it is only the beginning of a new chapter for this ambitious project. Thanks to National Exhibitions Touring Support (NETS) Australia People Like Us then commences a national tour incorporating 15 galleries and arts centres in seven states and territories across Australia from 2016 to 2019. The tour is part of the National Touring Initiative, a four-year project funded by the Visual Arts Craft Strategy to deliver cutting-edge contemporary digital media art to regional and remote audiences across the country.
The NETS Australia network comprises Artback NT, Art on the Move WA, Contemporary Art Tasmania, Country Arts SA, Museums & Galleries of NSW, Museums & Galleries QLD, and NETS Victoria, and is supported by the Australia Council and state and territory funding bodies. To give you an idea of the impact touring exhibitions have on the cultural landscape of Australia, NETS Australia exhibitions have been seen viewed by more than 1.77 million people over the last 3 years, toured to more than 400 predominantly regional, rural and remote venues and have featured the work of more than 2000 artists, designers and media makers.
Touring an exhibition of this technical complexity is no mean feat. For starters, staff from the venue galleries as far flung as Western Australia and Tasmania travelled to UNSW Galleries for a workshop to get acquainted with the range of interactive and 3D Virtual Reality technology, and to get a handle on the physical equipment in the show, including a deceptively simple looking bicycle.
To assist each host gallery with planning the exhibition, NETS Australia teamed up with exhibition software specialists Ortelia Curator to launch a new and improved 3D exhibition modeling program, offering curators and exhibition designers the opportunity to create a virtual exhibition space, complete with new media works, lighting systems, the bleed of natural light, wall colours, and interpretation.
With all this technology it’s possible to forget the very real human experience underpinning the exhibition awaiting regional audiences. British composer Michael Nyman has produced a symphony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium collapse disaster. The names movingly sung in Memorial composition are not those of celebrity players, but those of 96 everyday sports fans who tragically lost their lives attending a Saturday afternoon football match.
There's also a dose of fun delivered with the exhibition's intricacies of theme and technology. John McGhee’s digital animations invite visitors to take the wheel on a wild ride through human blood vessels; while Volker Kuchelmeister and Laura Fisher’s Veloscape allows participants’ to race through the city streets as they take a virtual bicycle tour of Sydney from inside the gallery space.
UNSW Art & Design alumnus Michael Rolfe, CEO of M&G NSW and Chair of NETS Australia is unequivocal about the value of touring a show of People Like Us’ quality to regional cities and communities across Australia:
“Not only does this exhibition allow audiences to jump on art’s fast train immersion in new media and technology, importantly it also provides training and skill development opportunities for professional gallery staff in the installation and use of hardware and software involved“
NETS Australia and UNSW Art & Design’s relationship doesn’t end there. Last week a new solo show of two bodies of work by Master of Fine Arts student Deborah Kelly titled No Human Being is Illegal (in all our glory) and Venus Variations were launched at the recently opened Murray Art Museum in Albury (MAMA). With thanks to a grant from NSW NETS representative, Museums & Galleries of NSW, Kelly is also the first artist in residence at this exciting new venue.
No Human Being is Illegal (in all our glory) was created for the 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014) and the work comprises 20 life-sized photographic portraits that were produced through ongoing discussion, exchange and art making between the artist, the subjects and public participants.
Thanks again to NETS Australia and M&G NSW, Kelly’s portraits will travel around the country, introducing more people to the collaborative exploration of her subjects. The exhibition will also evolve as it tours as venues have the opportunity to undertake a series of on-site artist-led workshops with their local communities. Through this ongoing process of collage and exchange, the portraits will accumulatively draw from the personal and collective stories of each host community.
People Like Us closes on 7 November. If you live in Sydney, now is the opportunity to see this stand out show along with Streets of Papunya and the Freedman Travelling Scholarship Exhibition 2015 at UNSW Galleries.