Sep 5, 2015

A new Australian Flag - September 1995 revisited

click for full size

click for full size - nice words from Betty Churcher, Director of the National Gallery of Australia

Chance had it that I wondered what I was doing 20 years ago, September 1995. No I wasn't designing new Australian flags as the items above may suggest, it was a fortuitous accident. Let me explain - one day back then Rodney Scherer, the director of the Latrobe Regional Gallery, showed me the abandoned theatre in the Old Morwell Town Hall (now the main gallery in the LRG) he was enthusiastic about someone using it for a sculpture installation and that sparked my own imagination and the general concept of the Temple of the Southern Cross  popped into being.

It developed very quickly and was based on the the idea that if Australia had been a different kind of culture we may have imagined that our Gods lived in the stars of the Southern Cross, and, each star contained deities responsible for different aspects of life. The space could be made to look as if devotees of this religious practice had, for some reason or other, abandoned everything in quite a hurry.

But, and there's always a but or two, Rodney Scherer, practical as ever, suddenly realised that we had a small but major problem. How would anyone find the entrance to this place or know that something was going in inside? He suggested that we put something outside on the street, it could have been any old sign but somehow I didn't like that and ferreted about in my mind for something a little more authentic. The idea of a relocatable flag pole and an instantly recognisable flag based on our fantastic night sky was born, of course it had to be called "Night Sky".

There are no good pictures of the flag flying in Morwell but here it is outside the Boisedale Public Hall which makes a nice segue into another historic moment related to the Temple and Night Sky. My memory may not be completely accurate here but I seem to remember Rod Scherer and I were showing the director of the Gippsland Gallery, Michael Young, the abandoned theatre, when he explained that his "new" public gallery was opening in September 1995 and he was on the hunt for suitable art events to use in his opening program. The conversation got around to the idea that nearly every little town has a public hall which could be used for a contemporary installation. Young's favourite was this one and the Temple of the Southern Cross became one of the special events associated with opening of his new gallery. In effect the two regional gallery directors had devised a touring show for me using public halls and abandoned spaces.

Interior of the Boisedale Public Hall hosting the Temple of the Southern Cross

This was opened by the outstanding artist and enthusiastic raconteur, John Wolseley, on 16 September 1995. His highly animated speech contained some very interesting observations concerning the expanded notions of space that he saw in this work. They have influenced me ever since. 

click for full size, image of The Temple of the Southern Cross in the Old Morwell Town Hall

This touring exhibition/installation went on to four more venues, The Nicholson Street Gallery in Bairnsdale, The Cowwarr Art Space and then in September 1997 to the RMIT Gallery and Charles Nodrum Gallery, both in Melbourne.

Night Sky - flying outside the RMIT Gallery, Swanston Street Melbourne

Interior view of the "Temple" RMIT 1997

No comments:

Post a Comment