HOW LOCAL ART MADE AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL CAPITAL
If you were ever wondering How Local Art made Australia’s National Capital we had all the answers last Friday afternoon during a Q&A conversation with author, Dr. Anni Doyle Wawrzyńczak and Deborah Clark, moderated by Alex Sloan. Anni’s book which started out as a Ph.D thesis has been published by and is now available through ANU Press. It focuses on the development of contemporary art in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) from the 1920s to the present day. At the centre of this compelling story is the Bitumen River Gallery (BRG), on the current site of CCAS Manuka, which would later become known as Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS). While Anni’s book has the capacity to generate waves of nostalgia for local players the story is presented in the context of the emergence of contemporary art spaces across Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s when artists made their own spaces to show their work. Canberra was in the unique position of being a national cultural centre with a growing local scene that reflected reflected the politics of artists and arts establishments within over riding environment of federal politics. Anni’s evocative account brings together the characters of the past, artists, curators, activists, movers&shakers, public servants, teachers, politicians and larrikins weaving a fascinating tapestry of local colour with incisive analysis. Emeritus Professor Helen Ennis, ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory, delivered a riveting launch speech that outlined the value of Anni’s research project to the Canberra community which many people consider to be legendary, if somewhat neglected by the rest of Australia. How Local Art made Australia’s National Capital bursts the Canberra bubble with tales of local, national and international intrigue that the rest of the country has no doubt missed. And what a great privilege to be able to launch this book at a time when CCAS has just entered a new era at East Space on the way towards Kingston Arts Precinct.