The University of Sydney
NEWS FOR THE POWER INSTITUTE ALUMNI AND FRIENDS
WEBSITE CONTACT US
SEPTEMBER 2013
FROM THE DIRECTOR

Welcome to our September newsletter.

It’s been an amazing recent few months for Power, with a record attendance at our Michael Fried lecture – one of the great minds of art history – and talks by some of the most influential and energetic of curators, writers and academics from across the globe.

Welcome to our September newsletter. It’s been an amazing recent few months for Power, with a record attendance at our lecture by Michael Fried – one of the great minds of art history – and talks by some of the most influential and energetic of curators, writers and academics from across the globe. Our full range of events has also included a detailed presentation on the art of Turner by a senior conservator at the Tate, an internationally celebrated novelist’s insight into Italian Renaissance Art, and a launch of a new book on fashion theory by one of the department’s very own Honorary Associates.

Looking forward, we focus our attention in this newsletter on several new Power initiatives. This includes our forthcoming international symposium on Asian art titled Tilting the World featuring early career researchers, and the celebration of a new travel scholarship for research students in Art History. You’ll also read more on some of our innovative teaching, and catch up with recent winners of our Cité fellowships for 2014. The common thread among these items is the promotion and support of new researchers, new voices and new scholarship, teaching and thinking – as well as new artistic endeavours. This is a vital mission for Power and of course is part of the University’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of great ideas.  

I would like to thank all those who have made our recent and forthcoming events possible and urge those who would like to support Power, to take advantage of our spring appeal, particularly to help support our new travelling scholarship fund. Similarly, please feel free to get touch with me and I’d be delighted to talk to you about the Power’s mission and the many other ways alumni and friends can get involved.

Yours,

Professor Mark Ledbury | Director, Power Institute
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POWER NEWS
 CITÉ    |  
Cité residencies 2014 – winners announced!
The Power Institute is very pleased to announce the winners of the Cité Internationale des Arts residency program for 2014.

The Power Institute is very pleased to announce the winners of the Cité Internationale des Arts residency program for 2014.

This year saw a large number of very strong applications, and we take this opportunity to congratulate our winners listed below, and thank all applicants for taking the time to submit their application.

The following fellowship recipients will each undertake a three-month residency in the Power studio at the famous Cité Internationale des Arts, starting in January next year:

Gordon Bull (Category B – art writer and historian award)  
Gordon is an art historian and writer who is interested in working in and writing on, in particular, the Musee du Quai Branly. The Power Institute studio residency would allow Gordon to also research other exhibitions of Indigenous art, principally the Magieciens de la Terre exhibition held at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grand Halle at the Parc de la Villette in 1989.

Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Coats (Category A – artist award)
Liz is an artist who is interested how organic qualities in abstract painting relate to material content that has a tangible presence. Liz’s research will look closely at sequences of paintings by Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso (amongst others) who in turn influenced the Russian, Italian, German and Australian avant-garde pioneers of the early 20th century in their own environments.

Emma Hamilton (Category A – artist award)
Emma is an artist who will develop a body of work entitled: The Sculptor’s Photograph. Her project will engage with the photographs taken by the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Emma intends to produce a series of photographs in response to Brancusi’s work, and write a text publication about the practice of sculptors taking photographs of their own work.

Markela Panegyres (Category C – University of Sydney PhD research postgraduate award)
Markela is a PhD candidate at the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Markela’s project Pierrot: the cipher and the self will engage with inconsistencies in nineteenth and early 20th century representations of Pierrot in the creation of a substantial new body of art works.

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 POWER PUBLICATIONS    |  
Power welcomes new staff member
The Power team is very pleased to announce a new staff member, Marni Williams, has joined us in Power Publications.

The Power team is very pleased to announce a new staff member has joined us in Power Publications.

Marni Williams works as a writer and editor in print and online and comes from previous editorial and arts administration roles with Copyright Agency/Viscopy, Murdoch Books and Art & Australia, where she was publication manager/assistant editor for four years. Marni will be taking up the role of Publications Officer while Emma White extends her maternity leave for another year. Marni will be in the office on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and we warmly welcome Marni to the University. 

The Power team now consists of Marni, as well as Vicki Mallet, Event Assistant, who is in the office Thursdays; Mimi Kelly, Communications Assistant working both Tuesday and Thursdays; Executive Assistant Susan Thomas, whose work days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and of course Power Director Mark Ledbury who is here Monday to Friday.

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 POWER PUBLICATIONS    |  
e-Publications on the horizon
Power Publications is thinking digitally, and preparing to capitalise on the opportunities new technologies present.
Power Publications is thinking digitally! Along with many other small publishers, Power Publications is facing the challenges of the digital era. We like, like or fellow forward thinking colleagues however, are not mourning the ‘death of the book’ (news of which has been greatly exaggerated) but instead, are preparing to capitalise on the opportunities new technologies present.

For Power Publications, the possibilities of e-books and print-on-demand technologies offer us new ways of promoting our publications. This includes, making available out of print but still in-demand titles, and also creating new born-digital content. Over the course of the coming two years, we’ll be consulting with experts about how to make the most of the digital revolution. We will be moving towards making available such Power classics as The Illusion of Life and Michael Carter’s great book examining desire and the meaning we imbue in objects, Putting a Face on Things; in addition to commissioning new digital content. So, keep an eye on this space as we move forward with these and other new digital projects.

For those interested in some exciting new forms of digital content in art history, you might like to look at one innovative project, Yale University Press’s app for Josef Albers’s 1971 book Interaction of Color. The possibilities for exciting and meaningful new forms of publishing are vast – and Power hopes to be joining this band of innovators soon.
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 POWER INSTITUTE    |  
Power at RIHA
The Power is now a member of the Research Institutes in the History of Art (RIHA).
The Power is now a member of the Research Institutes in the History of Art (RIHA). RIHA is an organization that is not well known, but is a vital conduit for discussions and decision making among research institutes in art history.

Now that we are members, Power director Mark Ledbury will be going to Zurich in late September along with colleagues from all over the world, to attend RIHA's annual meeting. The agenda will include among other things, the future of research libraries and archives in art history, new scholarships and joint funding bids, and the future of art history in the changed university environments across the world. Already Power’s membership of RIHA is paying dividends. New initiatives with the Getty Research Institute have been discussed, and agreements to give all our students privileged access to the resources of RIHA in Paris are also being explored.

Power looks forward to providing readers with an update on the meeting in our next newsletter. For more information on RIHA, visit their website here, where you can also find information on their RIHA journal, a peer-reviewed publication reflecting the diversity of art historical practice.

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 DEPARTMENT    |  
Michael Carter - recent book launch
On Thursday 15 August, Power hosted the launch of Honorary Associate Michael Carte’s new book, Overdressed: Barthes, Darwin and the Clothes That Talk.
On Thursday 15 August, Power hosted the launch of Honorary Associate Michael Carte’s new book, Overdressed: Barthes, Darwin and the Clothes That Talk. It was an honour to host the launch, as Power’s has a strong association with Michael, both through the department and as publishers of his book Putting a Face on Things, and Roland Barth’s The Language of Fashion that Michael co-edited.

In Overdressed, Michael argues that there is a great deal more to our clothing than the communication of social messages. Starting from a critical examination of Roland Barthes’ ‘social’ and ‘linguistic’ ideas about dress, it moves on to look at what we wear in the light of Charles Darwin’s ideas about natural ‘ornaments’, especially how they fit within the broader frameworks of natural selection and survival. It concludes that human dress is as much about the being of the wearer as it is about the communication of social indicators.

We congratulate Michael on the publication of his latest book, which is available online now through Puncher & Wattmann.
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 DEPARTMENT    |  
Lane to be named in honour of Bernard Smith
In honour of the memory of Bernard Smith, founding director of the Power Institute, the City of Sydney has approved a lane in Glebe to be officially named BERNARD LANE.
In honour of the memory of Bernard Smith, founding director of the Power Institute, the City of Sydney has approved a lane in Glebe to be officially named BERNARD LANE.

The Glebe Society, which Bernard and his wife Kate were founding members of, have helped realise this important commemoration, and invite people to attend the celebration and official naming ceremony on Sunday 22 September from 2-3pm.

At the event, Smith family members will speak about Bernard and Kate, and Glebe historian Max Solling will also speak about their activism in the area. The exact location of the lane is along the back of 80-85 Brougton St, off St Johns Road. All are invited.
 DEPARTMENT    |  
Frank McDonald prize – scholarship for travel
We are delighted to announce a generous gift to Power, to kick start a new travel scholarship for research students in Art History.
We are delighted to announce a generous gift to Power, to kick start a new travel scholarship for research students in Art History.

The scholarship is to be named The Frank McDonald Prize in honour of the influential art dealer and long-standing member of the Power Foundation Council, Frank McDonald. The prize will be awarded to an outstanding student and enable research travel overseas. Frank McDonald was passionate about the opportunity to encounter art in situ, and the transformative experience of engaging in primary, first-hand research.

In relation to this, some of you may receive a letter from the University of Sydney this spring, asking you to help support the travel fund. We encourage those who are passionate about enabling such opportunities, to consider assisting us in making this decisive experience available to more of our outstanding students.
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UPCOMING SYMPOSIUM
 SYMPOSIUM    |  
Tilting the World
Over Friday 29 and Saturday 30 November, the Power Institute with the Art Gallery of NSW will host an international symposium honouring the recent retirement of Professor John Clark.
Over Friday 29 and Saturday 30 November, the Power Institute with the Art Gallery of NSW will host an international symposium honouring the recent retirement of Professor John Clark.

Tilting the World: Histories of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art is being convened by Olivier Krischer and presented in honour of Emeritus Professor John Clark, who officially retires as the beginning of October. It is John’s extraordinary work as a researcher and as a mentor to an entire new generation of scholars, which will particularly be celebrated in the Symposium’s themes and voices.

All the information about the free symposium can be found on the official Power Symposiums page here, including list of speakers, abstracts and program. Registration can be made for the two day symposium by following the links on the symposiums page. We look forward to seeing you at this important event.
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PEOPLE IN FOCUS
John Clark
As we look forward to Tilting the World, we caught up with John to ask him a few questions in relation to the event, and why it’s important for students, young academics and those interested in Asian art to attend.
We’re delighted to be presenting in partnership with the Art Gallery of NSW, this major international symposium over 29 and 30 November that will foreground the work of early career scholars across Australia, Asia and Europe.

The symposium will also be an important event to attend for students, and those interested in Asian art and culture in general. With this in mind, this short Q&A with John provides a little more insight into his views on Asian art studies, the importance of symposiums such as Tilting the World for students, and what retirement holds in store.

We take this opportunity to thank John for his detailed answers to our interview questions, as well as for his contribution to, and inspiration for, Tilting the World. We encourage you to register for the free symposium via the Power website symposiums page here

Symposiums such as Tilting the World are an excellent platform to facilitate dialog on divers topics concerning Asian art. For students in particular, why are symposiums important to attend, and linking to this, how can students further capitalise on the opportunity to engage with some of the highly knowledgeable speakers that will be presenting at Tilting the World?

The field is empirically rich, culturally diverse, and methodologically complex. No doubt some of the issues which link these three aspects will only achieve clarity and resolution after some years, and the passing of earlier contributors. The speakers are all very well chosen by the organizers and indicate how the field is shaped now. Listening to each of their papers, not just those which are in a narrow cultural or methodological domain, should open up understanding. I hope the email addresses of participants will be available to all for future contacts.

How do you see the future of Asian art and cultural studies developing here in Australia, and what are some of key areas you think are of particular interest or relevance for the curriculum, as we move further into the 21st Century?

There is a wider cultural and a smaller discipline problem here. Australia goes through cycles of indolence and viciousness in regard to its internal and external frontiers, and that leads to ignoring or bracketing out of mainstream cultural perception the geographical situation of Australia and the cultural background of its indigenous citizens and now around one quarter of its Asia-related citizens in major cities.

In academia, many art history and cultural studies approaches make mutually simplified understandings of each other’s practice and think they can borrow willy-nilly from each other. The curriculum needs to broaden art history and methodologically enrich it, but application needs to be made in depth and not as an exercise in high cultural popism – radical chic in new conceptual clothes. Determination needs to be applied, funded, and carried through on the cultures and their languages in which art is the subject of study. This kind of linguistic and cultural base is increasingly degraded in the academic world.

For art history and theory students in general, what is the significance in developing a greater understanding of modern and contemporary Asian art cultures and/or modes of production, particularly as we head into what is being styled 'the Asian Century'?

It de-centers Euramerica, finds other historical experiences with which to model understanding of modernity, and generates greater respect for and enjoyment of art. Art making can be sociologically conceived as a mode of production with benefit to art history; if the culturally embeddedness of the art is lost sight of, art becomes a just another culturally elaborated thing not part of its own discourse. Beethoven is not understandable in the same domain as supermarket musack.

Your input into the field of modern and contemporary Asian art has been substantial. With your retirement, are there still some projects you will be working on, areas of research you will be continuing – or will you be just focusing on taking a well-earned rest!?

I tend to get enough rest going to sleep in committee meetings, but not when I am listening to Bach or nanguan. Sometimes the very facts of artist’s work and their art discursive construction are unknown, or vague and prejudiced to narrow positions within cultural or ideological constraints. I am trying polylogically to step out of this by looking at The Asian Modern horizontally across cultures in generational bandings of artists rather than vertically within one culture, or one monological view of what is modern and international. Probably one book draft will be finished this year and the second next year. I will try to get to see the sea, the mountain, and the sky in between.

I am grateful for all the support from colleagues here and abroad which has enabled me to do my work.
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Sarah Dunant
In late August, best-selling author Sarah Dunant presented a Power lecture on her research and work as a novelist with specific interest in the Italian Renaissance.
In late August, best-selling author Sarah Dunant presented a Power lecture on her research and work as a novelist with specific interest in the Italian Renaissance. Author of several best-selling books, including her most recent Blood and Beauty, Dunant’s talk was both exhilarating and refreshing.

Dunant’s research focuses particularly on the lives of Italian Renaissance women. In her writing, the author takes her readers behind the ‘pretty pictures’ that are the primary depiction of women of time, formulating female characters of complexity, depth and intelligence. Dunant’s talk provided an excellent account of the way in which she researches and develops these powerful characters.

Attending the talk was our most recent Power intern Emma Holland. After the talk, Emma kindly stayed back to interview Dunant in order to provide our newsletter readers with a little more insight into Blood and Beauty, and Dunant’s work as a writer. Read on for Emma’s interview with Dunant. We thank both Emma and Sarah Dunant for their time with the interview.

Getting under their skins: art, history and fiction - Sarah’s Dunant’s Lecture, by Emma Holland, Power Intern
 
On Thursday 29 August, the best-selling author Sarah Dunant gave a lecture hosted by The Power Institute and Sydney Ideas. The event was held at the law school foyer at Sydney University, which was packed with many members of the audience holding newly purchased copies of her novels.

Sarah’s fascinating talk and anecdotes kept the audience rapt, with frequent bursts of laughter sounding out across the large room. A particularly amusing storing included Sarah’s frustration at her then 13 year old daughter during their visit to Florence, stubbornly declaring “Mum, I don’t do culture at this age…only shopping!”

Sarah’s talk focused on her four Renaissance novels, and the art of bringing history to life through fiction. Sarah spoke with great energy and passion, providing insights into the contradicting elements of beauty and corruption, which were so much part of the Renaissance. She particularly elaborated on the relationship between visual art and writing, claiming that words are like the brush on canvas, but it is through the imagination of the audience that the images are formed.

Many of Sarah’s books explore varying portrayals of women, and so her research of Renaissance women ranged from Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ to convent nuns to courtesans. Her latest book, Blood and Beauty depicts the notorious Borgia family (inclusive of its women) in a new light, as she felt that many historical ‘facts’ surrounding them have been based on slanderous gossip. Sarah’s work is grounded in research, but realised through a more comprehensive deconstruction of the psyche of her characters (getting under their skin so to speak!). She hilariously mused that her visioning of Pope Alexander VI’s face in his mistress’ breasts, was decidedly “part of her job as a writer to imagine such things!”

Sarah’s vibrant personality and insights were an enjoyable addition to the Power Lecture series. After her talk, Sarah answered several questions, providing interesting insights into her work:

So clearly you’ve always been enchanted by, and interested in history. What drew you to Italian Renaissance history in particular?

I think the fact that I had never studied the Renaissance. So I understood the technique of studying history because I had done it academically but this was a completely new period so there was a real sense of discovery in it, so I can get excited again about learning.”

How do you feel about the tension between the facts/truth and the imagination as a historical fiction writer?

I want to get the real history across to a large number of people, so what I do is I do a huge amount of research to get all my facts right. So while I know that every time I put in a fact – and sometimes in this book [Blood and Beauty] there are actually sentences from letters or things that we know they said – I just slide the into the text as if they were part of fiction. But yes, there are conversations I make up. Certainly I wasn’t in the room with them. So it’s about the balance…I try and breathe some imaginative life into it so people will learn the history by reading a compulsive story.

In your novels, often the themes that you explore (such as corruption vs. beauty) are culturally relevant to the present day. Is that something you consider important to your writing?

There is always something about the past that throws up parallels with the present, so for instance when I was writing Blood and Beauty, at exactly the same moment…there was a papal election…I think in many ways I see the church as having changed very little in 500 years…Power always corrupts, when Machiavelli writes about modern politics – modern for his moment – he’s also describing politics now.

Why did you choose to write about the Borgia family in a way that contrasts with their portrayal in popular history? Did you feel a sense of duty to ‘rewrite’ their history?

Yes I did. I thought that although some historians have done quite a lot of work in order to rehabilitate the Borgias, the popular vision of them is still the same. That they were outrageous, and that Lucrezia was a whore, and that there was incest in the family…So I did want to try and set the record straight.
 
How are the plansfor the second part of Blood and Beauty coming along?

What I have to do is stop talking about this book and shut up and go back into the library and start writing! It’s impossible to do the two things at the same time though. When you’re publicising a book, as you can imagine, you are very focussed on doing so…So I can’t write while I’m doing this. But sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night here in Sydney with jetlag, I’m certainly thinking of particular elements or beginning to work on the characters.
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Harriet Fesq
Within both the department and Power Institute, Indigenous art is a subject we are strongly committed to. Here, we provide a brief profile on one of our teachers of Indigenous art, Harriet Fesq.
Within both the department and Power Institute, Indigenous art is a subject we are strongly committed to. Power’s publication How Aborigines Invented the idea of Contemporary Art edited by Ian McLean was a landmark book on the subject, and ‘Contemporary Indigenous Art’ has been a flagship course in our curriculum. This year the course has been taught by recent graduate Harriet Fesq in conjunction with Stephen Gilchrist, an indigenous curator recently returned from the United States. To provide our readers with a little more information about our teachers of this course, in this newsletter we asked Harriet to share with us a bit about her background, and in the next newsletter we will bring Stephen's reflections on teaching the course for the first time. Read on to hear more about Harriet:

I started my PhD in 2009, after working with the Aboriginal community art centre Durrmu Arts at Peppimenarti, NT, for two years. After initiating some research projects with the Ngan’gikurunggurr artists in the course of my work, I decided that a dissertation would be a great way to contribute to the field of contemporary Indigenous Australian art, particularly fibre art.

The PhD, submitted in August 2013, is titled Wupun / Warrgadi: Ngan’gi weaving and the art of Peppimenarti and endeavours to answer the question: ‘How does Ngan’gi weaving design and pattern construction reconceptualise cultural significance?’ The research traces a ‘traffic’ of historical and contemporary Ngan’gi objects, and the succession of significances they have held for colonial and/or Indigenous makers, collectors and audiences. The dissertation also investigates cognate practices within Indigenous Australian textile and fibre art, illuminating the processes behind the construction of designs and the cultural, social and historical meanings they communicate.

As coordinator for the Contemporary Indigenous Art course, I work alongside guest lecturer Stephen Gilchrist. We’ve developed the unit to reflect the diversity and dynamism of contemporary Indigenous art history and current practice, including inviting a range of Indigenous artists to lecture. It’s been a privilege to work with Stephen, and with our tutor Chloe Watson.
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CONTENTS
From the Director
Power news
Upcoming symposium
People in focus
About the Power Institute
Connect with Power
Calendar
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ABOUT THE POWER INSTITUTE
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CALENDAR
Friday 29 November, 2013 | 9.00 – 5.30pm, University of Sydney
DAY ONE: Tilting the World: histories of modern and contemporary Asian art
Saturday 30 November, 2013 | 9.00 – 5.30pm, Morning: Old Law School Assembly Hall Sydney CBD, Afternoon: Art Gallery of NSW
DAY TWO: Tilting the World: histories of modern and contemporary Asian art
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