What’s Going On!
What’s Going On! was a groundbreaking exhibition presenting contemporary indigenous artists from the Murray Darling basin.
Taking Mildura as the centre, at the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers, the exhibition ranges from Menindee, Wilcannia and Broken Hill to the north and north east, Berri in the south west and Swan Hill to the east, dissolving State boundaries that fragment this distinct region. Uniting the artists in the exhibition are extended family networks and connections to country.
There is a much-loved story told by Aboriginal people on the Murray, that when you open out the swim bladder of a Murray cod, the tree-like forms of its skin reveal the place where the fish was born. Aboriginal children are sometimes told that this is the very same tree under which they were born. These various skin stories reveal the connection of people to the Murray Darling river system, where ‘everyone has a place under the tree’.
The Palais Theatre
It’s impossible for Melburnians to think about the St Kilda Esplanade without visualising the Palais Theatre standing majestically against Port Phillip Bay. Its grand Art Deco façade is as iconic to St Kilda as the Pavilion on the nearby pier, Acland Street or the theatre’s "just for fun" neighbour, Luna Park.
It’s surprising to discover, then, that the Palais wasn’t always regarded with such affection. When the original building – a dance hall called the Palais de Danse – was being constructed in 1913, over 800 locals attended a public meeting to protest it being given a license. They voiced fears that it would lower the tone of St Kilda, “have a demoralising effect on young people", and be "common with a big C”. The battle was won by the building owners, the three Phillips brothers (American immigrants who also built Luna Park), and an entertainment venue has stood on the site ever since.
The Palais Theatre is a magical place for Melburnians. It’s where generations of us have danced cheek to cheek, watched movies in the darkness, screamed lustily at the Rolling Stones, thrown roses at the feet of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, and given standing ovations to Dame Joan Hammond’s awe-inspiring soprano. Your grandparents probably had their first date there. Ask them about the Palais and watch them smile.
The theatre is underwent restoration in 2016-17, which preserved the heritage value of the site and ensured the Palais remains a live performance venue and cultural icon in St Kilda for many generations to come. The restoration was funded by the State Government of Victoria and the City of Port Phillip.
Images of Melbourne
Explore Melbourne through selected works from the National Gallery of Victoria.
These artworks capture phases of the city's development, and offer a portrait of the people, places and streetscapes that define it.
Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country
The following story presents a selection of works from the book Meerreeng-an Here is My Country: The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art
Meerreeng-an Here is My Country: The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art tells the story of the Aboriginal people of Victoria through our artworks and our voices.
Our story has no beginning and no end. Meerreeng-an Here is My Country follows a cultural, circular story cycle with themes flowing from one to the other, reflecting our belief in all things being connected and related.
Our voices tell our story. Artists describe their own artworks, and stories and quotes from Elders and other community members provide cultural and historical context. In these ways Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country is cultural both in its content and in the way our story is told.
The past policies and practices of European colonisers created an historic veil of invisibility for Aboriginal communities and culture in Victoria, yet our culture and our spirit live on. Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country lifts this veil, revealing our living cultural knowledge and practices and strengthening our identity.
The story cycle of Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country is presented in nine themes.
We enter the story cycle by focusing on the core cultural concepts of Creation, Country, culture, knowledge and family in the themes 'Here Is My Country' and 'Laws for Living'.
The cycle continues through ceremony, music, dance, cloaks, clothing and jewellery in 'Remember Those Ceremonies' and 'Wrap Culture Around You'. Land management, foods, fishing, hunting, weapons and tools follow in 'The Earth is Kind' and 'A Strong Arm and A Good Eye'.
Invasion, conflict and resilience are explored in 'Our Hearts Are Breaking'. The last two themes, 'Our Past Is Our Strength' and 'My Spirit Belongs Here', complete the cycle, reconnecting and returning the reader to the entry point by focusing on culture, identity, Country and kin.
Visit the Koorie Heritage Trust website for more information on Meerreeng-an Here Is My Country
In the Spirit of George Rose
Australian photographer William Yang and South Korean photographer Koo Bohnchang have created new images inspired by the Clunes-born photographer George Rose.
George Rose used a stereograph camera. This creates two images that are nearly the same. When you view them through the eyepiece, they become a 3D image.
George Rose went to Korea in 1904. His images of the streets of Seoul, and surrounding villages, are highly valued. They are almost the only images of street life in Seoul from the turn of the 20th century.
They capture a time when the Japanese were colonising Korea. The Japanese wear darker clothes in the images, the Koreans are in white. Notice how, in one of the images, a Korean climbs the city wall to gain access without going through the guarded gates. Some of the other images show the Japanese quarter, with their different style of housing and shops. Many of the images show the new electrical and telegraph wires, which had been installed by the Japanese.
George Rose’s guide was Japanese, and that influence can be seen in the way he describes the Koreans. Japanese people, at that time, considered Koreans to be a lesser culture than their own.
George Rose’s guide can be seen in one of the photos, dressed in western clothes, with a child, standing in front of a village.
In the exhibition, Koo Bohnchang used images he took in Clunes, and William Yang used images he took in Korea. Both artists reveal the gaze of the foreigner, they show what someone from outside the culture sees. This is similar to when Australian George Rose visited Korea in 1904, he too was an outsider, looking at another culture.
The curator Catherine Croll, worked closely with the photographers, travelling with them to Victoria and Korea. Below, you can see some of the images she took of the photographers at work. She was the modern-day equivalent of the ‘guide’.
Clunes has a strong relationship to Paju Book City near Seoul, they are both international Booktowns. This exhibition grew out of that relationship.
Their exhibition launched at Clunes Booktown on May 2, 2015, before it travelled around the world.
To learn more about Clunes booktown, visit www.clunesbooktown.com.au
Possum Skin Cloaks
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users are warned that this material may contain images and voices of deceased persons, and images of places that could cause sorrow.
Continuing the practice of making and wearing possum skin cloaks has strengthened cultural identity and spiritual healing in Aboriginal communities across Victoria.
Embodying 5,000 years of tradition, cultural knowledge and ritual, wearing a possum skin cloak can be an emotional experience. Standing on the barren escarpment of Thunder Point with a Djargurd Wurrong cloak around his shoulders, Elder Ivan Couzens felt an enormous sense of pride in what it means to be Aboriginal.
In this story, eight Victorian Elders are pictured on Country and at home in cloaks that they either made or wore at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
In a series of videos, the Elders talk about the significance of the cloaks in their lives, explain the meanings of some of the designs and motifs, and reflect on how the cloaks reinforce cultural identity and empower upcoming generations.
Uncle Ivan’s daughter, Vicki Couzens, worked with Lee Darroch, Treahna Hamm and Maree Clarke on the cloak project for the Games. In the essay, Vicki describes the importance of cloaks for spiritual healing in Aboriginal communities and in ceremony in mainstream society.
Traditionally, cloaks were made in South-eastern Australia (from northern NSW down to Tasmania and across to the southern areas of South Australia and West Australia), where there was a cool climate and abundance of possums. From the 1820s, when Indigenous people started living on missions, they were no longer able to hunt and were given blankets for warmth. The blankets, however, did not provide the same level of waterproof protection as the cloaks.
Due to the fragility of the cloaks, and because Aboriginal people were often buried with them, there are few original cloaks remaining. A Gunditjmara cloak from Lake Condah and a Yorta Yorta cloak from Maiden's Punt, Echuca, are held in Museum Victoria's collection. Reproductions of these cloaks are held at the National Museum of Australia.
A number of international institutions also hold original cloaks, including: the Smithsonian Institute (Washington DC), the Museum of Ethnology (Berlin), the British Museum (London) and the Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography (Rome).
Cloak-making workshops are held across Victoria, NSW and South Australia to facilitate spiritual healing and the continuation of this traditional practice.
I dreamt about weaving a net. So I did just that. I wove a net! When I started weaving my net my mind wandered back in time and I thought about how it must have been for my ancestors who lived along the mighty Murray River.
GLENDA NICHOLLS Waddi Waddi/Yorta Yorta/Ngarrinjeri
Glenda Nicholls entered her Ochre Net into the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards in 2012 and was the winner of the Koorie Heritage Trust Acquisition Award.
When Glenda’s Ochre Net came into the Trust’s care, it inspired this exhibition of artworks and stories relating to waterways and their significance to Koorie people. Powerful spiritual connections to waterways, lakes and the sea are central to Koorie life and culture.
The works shown in Ganagan Deep Water come from the Trust’s collections and represent many Koorie cultural groups from south-eastern Australia.
The Ganagan Deep Water exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust was sponsored by Melbourne Water.
This online component of the Ganagan exhibition is sponsored by the Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme, supported by the Australian Government through the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Ganagan means ‘deep water’ in the Taungurung language.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users of this website are warned that this story contains images of deceased persons and places that could cause sorrow.
Athol Shmith's career as a portrait, fashion and advertising photographer, spanning over 60 years, made him both a documenter and shaper of Melbourne style.
When Athol Shmith moved to a studio in Collins Street's 'Paris End' in 1939 to begin his career in fashion photography, his main problem was the lack of professional models.
Very few models existed in 1930s Melbourne due to the connotations associated with the profession. In order to make his mark, Shmith became inventive, recruiting suitable young women from Melbourne's most prominent families. By drawing on high society, he gave fashion photography an air of respectability, and by the 1940s, the model and photographer professions were firmly established.
As Melbourne's leading fashion photographer, Shmith spearheaded the introduction of the 'modern look' to local fashion, using clean and bold lines and arrangements combined with Hollywood Glamour.
Sound in Space
Music always interacts with the architecture in which it is heard.
Melbourne has some wonderful acoustic environments. Often, these spaces were built for other purposes – for example the splendid public and ecclesiastical buildings from the first 100 years of the city’s history, and more recent industrial constructions.
Exploiting ‘non-customized’ spaces for musical performance celebrates and explores our architectural heritage.
For 30 years, the concerts of Astra Chamber Music Society have ranged around Melbourne’s architectural environment. Each concert has had a site-specific design that takes advantage of the marvellous visual qualities, spatial possibilities, and acoustic personality of each building.
The music, in turn, contributes a new quality to the perception of the buildings, now experienced by audiences as a sounding space - an area where cultural issues from music’s history are traversed, and new ideas in Australian composition are explored.
In this story take a tour of some of Melbourne’s intimate, hidden spaces and listen to the music that has filled their walls.
For further information about Astra Chamber Music Society click here.
Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize
Bendigo Art Gallery's Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize is the richest open painting prize in the country, attracting some of Australia’s finest contemporary artists. The inaugural exhibition was held in 2003, and is biennial.
The Prize was initiated by Mr Allen Guy C.B.E in honour of his late brother Arthur Guy, with equal assistance provided by the R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund.
Arthur Guy was born in Melbourne on 24 November 1914 and was educated at Camp Hill State School in Bendigo and then at Ballarat Grammar School. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in a signals unit and served in New Guinea. On 14 February 1945, aged 30, he was on a biscuit bomber mission when his plane was shot down near Lae. He is buried in the Lae War Memorial Cemetery.
The Last Yarn
The Last Yarn, a digitisation project, has supported the photography of key nineteenth-century works in the NGV’s Australian fashion and textiles collection for access through our online collection database.
Giving the garments a life beyond the archive, the project acknowledged the appeal of recent exhibitions such as Australian Made (2010) and Fashion Detective (2014) which investigated aspects of historical dress.
Now over 50 additional works have been catalogued, given new underpinnings, photographed and uploaded so that audiences elsewhere in the world can discover the local dressmakers, tailors and retailers who defined early Australian style.
Contemporary Artists Honour Barak
During the 1860s, at the time of the NGV’s founding, William Barak (1863–1903) was a Wurundjeri leader and artist of great renown, working for his people at Coranderrk, near Healesville. In honour of the NGV’s 150th anniversary, the Felton Bequest commissioned three contemporary artists to create installations that honour Barak’s art and life.
Vernon Ah Kee’s Ideas of Barak, consists of three parts in different media. Jonathan Jones’s untitled (muyan) is an installation of five light boxes that pulse with LED geometric designs. Brook Andrew’s Marks and witness is a dizzying wall drawing of Wiradjuri designs of zigzag and diamond that reference Barak’s possum skin cloak designs.
These works are on display in the multimedia room of the Indigenous Galleries, above the escalator and in the stairwell of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square.
In this story, Vernon Ah Kee and Jonathan Jones talk about their creative process and Auntie Joy Murphy-Wandin talks about Barak, and the artists’ engagement with him, and about Barak’s work at Coranderrk.
CULTURAL WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users of this website are warned that this story contains images of deceased persons and places that could cause sorrow.
Dimitri Katsoulis, Greek Puppet Master
Traditional Greek shadow puppet theatre evolved from the Turkish model, which dates back to at least the 16th century.
The central figure is the character Karaghiozis, who relies on his wit and cunning to extricate himself from precarious situations. He and other characters are involved in humorous and satirical moral tales that comment on social and political life.
Dimitri Katsoulis immigrated to Melbourne in 1974 to escape the Junta regime that repressed Greek artists. He had trained in Greece with theatre and film companies as an actor and technician, as well as in shadow puppetry with masters of the art form. While earning a living in a Melbourne metal factory, he co-founded the Children's Theatre of Melbourne. Dimitri performed Greek shadow puppetry until 1991, exploring contemporary and controversial issues such as women's equality, and the isolation of migrant women and children.
A Snappy, Collapsible Hat
On the outside it appears to be an ordinary top hat, but hidden on the inside is a technological innovation at least forty years in the making...
State Film Centre
Designed to collect and maintain a film library for general public consumption, the State Film Centre was established in 1946.
It became a leading cultural institution for not only the archiving of Australian and international cinematic works but in supporting the Victorian production industry, providing regional lending services and broadening audience reach through the use of mobile projection units.
With technological change, the Centre adapted to new media platforms and broadened its collections focus to include emerging filmmakers and student works. It evolved from a collection-based institution to a hub for screening and advocacy and increased its role as an invaluable education resource.
Into the 1990s work commenced on plans to establish the Australian Centre for the Moving Image as part of the Federation Square project and on January 1, 2002, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was officially established by the Film Act 2001 (Victoria).
Making Sense: Art and Mental Health
The Cunningham Dax Collection was established in 1987 with a series of works in the possession of psychiatrist Dr Eric Cunningham Dax.
Produced by patients of Victorian mental institutions between the 1950s and 1980s, these works assisted psychiatrists and medical teams with diagnosis.
Today, the Dax Collection also encompasses the work of many contemporary artists with an experience of mental illness and psychological trauma, and advocates the potential of arts practices in the management of mental health and wellbeing.
Many individuals now practice informal and formal forms of art therapy. Whilst some produce works in settings with a practicing art therapist, for others, creative art practices have become a form of self-expression, empowerment or reflection of one’s internal world.
As the union of art and therapy continues to evolve, it is clear that art making and these creative processes have the potential to enhance our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, to connect with a deeper part of ourselves and to integrate the human experience.