Natasha Fijn: Between Hope and Despair. Alex Flannery: Eating Wild Weeds. | Elisa deCourcy: Archive Apparitions. PhotoAccess. Until May 21, 2022. photoaccess.org.au.
In this suite of exhibitions, three artists explore the possibilities of cross-cultural and/or intergenerational communication through the photographic medium.
Dr Natasha Fijn is an ethnographic researcher and observational filmmaker. In combination with text, observational films and photo essays form an integral part of her creative research output.
In the aftermath of the 2020 Plumwood Mountain bushfires, Fijn shows her observations of temperate Australian forest recovering alongside her grandfather Jan Reinder Fijn's record of the liberation of Nazi-occupied Maastricht in 1945. Each set of images in Between Hope and Despair documents a place immediately following a time of crisis. So, we see burnt trees and a destroyed shed at Plumwood, and a destroyed bridge at Maastricht.
Both Fijns have employed the art of critical, participant observation in the documentation of their respective landscapes. The two documented times are separated by 75 years, but are connected by an intergenerational sense of urgency, through attention to their environments. The juxtapositions effectively reveal that both the old and recent events were indeed crises.
An Australian of Irish descent, Alex Flannery's aim is to create photos that are both documents of the moment and also of things meaningful to him. Ouyang Yu is a contemporary Chinese-Australian poet and prose writer.
Operating in two languages and closely, caustically interrogating Australia's cultural identity and diversity, Yu's work is seen as matching a strident political voice with a tightly tuned lyrical self.
Eating Wild Weeds is a collaboration between Flannery and Yu. Together, they consider the complexities of cross-cultural understanding. Flannery's images paired with Yu's poetry investigate seeing, knowing and experiencing life in another country, engaging questions of visitation, migration, communication and being part of a multi-national family.
Flannery shows us interesting everyday scenes that he saw in the Chinese cities of Xiangyang and Wuhan during 2019. Yu's displayed poetry needs to be read and considered. The concluding words of his I Love Sleep are: "I love sleep ... correct me if I am wrong ... for in sleep I am equal to anyone ... Without a fight."
Dr Elisa deCourcy is currently an Australian Research Council fellow, working on a project about the first 15 years of photographic practice in the Australian colonies. For Archive Apparitions, she collaborated with historic processes photographer Craig Tuffin and with James Tylor.
In this work, deCourcy reactivates the daguerreotype process, as practised in the 1840s, to tell new stories of migration, environmentalism, family, and photography's role as a container of memory.
In the mid-19th century, both settler-colonists and First Nations people brought objects to the photography studio to narrate their personal biographies and relationships to family, kin and Country outside the frame. The work continues conversations around colonisation, race, femininity, work and mobility, and photographic custodianship that began in the mid-19th-century photography studio.
The visual narratives constructed in this contemporary series gesture to engagements with the past. However, instead of objects, here are portraits of living people who have various personal and professional relationships with historic colonial Australian photography, narrated through historic portrait devices.
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