Aboriginal New Media Artists have been building on exhibition momentum over the past 15 years, but now brought to a stand still having been excluded from ISEA Sydney. ISEA which is an acronym for International Symposium of Electronic Arts has been running since 1988 in the Netherlands, and it tours to different host countries every year or so. The last time it was hosted in Australia was 21 years ago in Sydney, 1992. ISEA Sydney 2013 has been organised by an Australian-based committee with very little Aboriginal New Media Arts input, despite a face to face meeting between artists and ISEA Sydney interests in 2011.
Instead, the Sydney ISEA Curatorium have blocked Aboriginal New Media Arts entities such as the Blackout Collective, which is a group of Aboriginal creators from all over Australia who communicate fluidly and contribute towards screen-based culture in new ways.
Jenny Fraser says “even if we didn’t have a name, such as blackout, we would still be a collective, because we work in a minority artform, in the minority Aboriginal art industry and we all struggle to represent as new media artists, with very little support or inclusion in Australia”.
While the collective may be small in number, and spread across the country, many of the artists have represented at international electronic arts events such as ISEA, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica in Austria and the InteractivA Biennale in Mexico. This includes Aroha Groves (NSW) who was in ISEA Istanbul in 2011, r e a (NSW) in SIGGRAPH San Diego 2007, Genevieve Grieves (NSW) and Jenny Fraser (QLD) in ISEA/Zero1 San Jose 2006, and Jason Davidson (NT) in ISEA Helsinki in 2004.
ISEA opened on Friday the 9th June with an Aboriginal welcome to country and performances for International and interstate guests at carriageworks in Redfern. “The Australian ISEA organisers consider the welcome performance as the be all and end all of an Aboriginal presence at ISEA Sydney, but really a welcome and performance are just a normal part of Aboriginal culture, which should occur at every significant gathering in our country, aside from that there’s a small exhibition of painters works that have a new life with animation, but where are the Aboriginal New Media Artists for ISEA in Sydney? Is this cultural apartheid?” said Jenny Fraser.
“Not only have the Australian ISEA organisers excluded us from exhibiting at an international electronic arts event in our own country, but they have failed to manage the situation professionally. We jumped through their hoops and proposed new projects a year ago, and have been on the short list since December with significant budgets being offered, only to find out final rejection notification the day before ISEA started in Sydney. It’s been a huge waste of money upfront and good energy in trying to meet the deadline with little useful communication from the organisers” said Jenny Fraser.
However, International guests are interested in Aboriginal New Media Arts and on Thursday June 13, some Aboriginal artists were provide with an opportunity to speak publicly at the ISEA conference as part of the Latin American forum panel titled ‘Re:imag(in)ing Indigenous Media Art Histories’ alongside Columbian practitioners. The discussion focused on histories of Indigenous Australian artists working with new media, and in particular the inroads and dialogues established in international networks. More broadly the session addressed issues of identity, representation and visuality in the so-called ‘Global South’.
The panel was organised in a partnership between the Latin American Forum and an ARC Linkage project undertaken at the National Institute of Experimental Arts in Australia. Acknowledging that international publications and online archives dedicated to the study of media art are often dominated by white European and North American exemplars, and to further the discussion by drawing attention to the multiple trajectories that have sprouted from outside of the usual centres and dominant paradigms.
Later in the year, the blackout collective will also present their new online art project ‘Superhighway across the sky’ at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada. The artists selected to make new experimental work are Christine Peacock, Jason Davidson and Michelle Blakeney who will travel with artist/curator Jenny Fraser to Toronto to speak at the annual festival, and also travel on to London to present at the inaugural indigeneity.net conference in the UK.
The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is an international festival in Toronto that celebrates the latest works by Indigenous peoples on the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio, and new media. Each year, the festival presents a selection of the most compelling and distinctive Indigenous works from around the globe. The festival's screenings, panel discussions, and cultural events attract and connect filmmakers, media artists, programmers, buyers, and industry professionals. The works accepted reflect the diversity of the world's Indigenous nations and illustrate the vitality and excellence of our art and culture in contemporary media.
‘Superhighway across the sky' will be featured with cyberTribe, an online gallery focused on nurturing digital art. cyberTribe has been at the forefront of exhibiting cutting edge and politically important artworks from Indigenous Artists internationally, both in its online gallery and other gallery spaces across the world. Over the past decade cyberTribe has brought together Indigenous artists from places across Australia, the Pacific, the Americas and elsewhere to participate in exhibitions of international standing.
An important milestone for cyberTribe over the years includes winning the ABC Radio National Indigenous Cultural Centre/Keeping Place Award in 2009, for creating a unique place for Indigenous artists to create and exhibit new media work as well as more traditional forms. Museums Australia Director, Bernice Murphy, commented in the ABC RN announcement: “The award to cyberTribe reminds us all that Indigenous creativity needs to be supported in the most up-to-date forms – even in ‘regional cyberspace’ – as well as out back where communities are keeping fires of tradition and continuity burning strong.”
a previous article discussing cultural apartheid in Australia:
'The Digital Dreamtime: A Shining Light in the Culture War'
cyberTribe on facebook
ISEA Latin American Forum #3
ISEA Sydney 2013 http://www.isea2013.org
Past ISEA http://www.isea-web.org/symposia/past-isea-symposia
ISEA Sydney 2013 on facebook https://www.facebook.com/ISEA2013?fref=ts