The University of Sydney
JUNE 2012
Welcome to our second alumni and friends newsletter for 2012.

Since we last wrote we’ve been busy hosting an array of events including our 1 May celebrations held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Power Bequest. Check out our new image gallery to see photographs of the evening attended by Power alumni, friends and family from far and wide. 

This newsletter will also give you a sense of the variety and diversity of our activities in recent months, and profiles one of our alumnae Julia Robinson, making a name for herself in New York City and beyond. We also flag the opening of the competition for the Power Institute Cité des Arts studio residency program and give further information about some exciting new initiatives and upcoming events, including the AAANZ conference in Sydney and several fascinating guest speakers.

We hope you enjoy this instalment of the Power Institute newsletter and we look forward to keeping you updated with further exciting news in our next edition. We always welcome your feedback on what would be most interesting and useful reading for you, our alumni, friends and supporters, so please do pass any comments on accordingly.   


Professor Mark Ledbury | Director, Power Institute
Up close with art: a special event to thank donors and supporters
On 17 April we welcomed donors and supporters of the Power Institute to a special event to acknowledge their support.
The event was hosted particularly to thank those who have followed the stunning example of John Power and supported the Institute's work over its 50-year history through donations, great and small. For the special occasion, our guests were hosted in the wonderful Schaeffer Library, itself a perfect example of how energetic vision and generous support can create something very special. Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence reminded guests of the astonishing generosity of Power’s gift, and the continuing tradition of giving and supporting that enhances our core activities and allows us to successfully plan and deliver future programmes for the University.

Guests were then given the chance to get up close with some rarely seen gems from the University and Power collections, including seventeenth-century drawings and some surprising and delightful oil sketches by John Power. All were displayed in newly created art display spaces on the second floor of the library.

The fact that so many of the compelling and beautiful works we showed were recent gifts to the University only emphasised the importance of the generosity of donors and friends. The event was a very important occasion to thank all those who have helped the Power Institute achieve its special place in the Australian visual arts community and the University. We extend our thanks once again to our supporters and distinguished guests who all contributed to make it such a wonderful night. 
Check out images from the night on the Power image gallery, available soon on our website.
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Celebrating fifty years: the Power alumni reunion
On 1 May we celebrated the beginning of the “Year of Power”, a year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the announcement of the Power Bequest.
For the special event, over 250 alumni and guests from all generations gathered in MacLaurin Hall, whose gothic splendour was adorned for the occasion with the works of John Power (whose witty cubist portraits were cheekily hung next to the worthy academic heads on the walls) and an early and little seen series by the night’s special guest Imants Tillers.

After a moving launch speech by Her Excellency Marie Bashir, Imants Tillers spoke engagingly and frankly about the vital importance of his University of Sydney experiences—in the Architecture Faculty, the Tin Sheds and Power—as transformative of his life, career and outlook. Virginia Spate thanked Imants through a poetic discussion of his work and its importance. Ann Stephen then encouraged all those present to engage with the extraordinary number and range of exhibitions and events that have been planned to celebrate this landmark year. These events will include special exhibitions curated from the Power Collection and a remarkable reconstruction of John Power’s 1934 one man show in Paris. Mark Ledbury concluded the official speeches, setting out a vision for the next fifty years, in which Power will aim to deepen its research excellence and extend its international reach and impact with ever-wider resonance in Australian culture.

The heart of the evening, however, lay not in the more formal aspects of the event, but the opportunity it afforded alumni to reconnect, share memories and anecdotes, and celebrate the very special place Power has forged in the cultural life of Sydney and the University. The Power Institute would like to urge all alumni to keep in touch or get back in touch with us for further fiftieth anniversary celebrations, and we look forward to keeping you up to date with our activities, including further alumni reunions, over the coming years. Sign up here to be kept in touch.

Check out images from the night on the Power image gallery, available soon on our website.
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Power Cité residency applications open for 2013
We are very pleased to announce that applications are now open for the Power Institute Cité des Arts studio residency program in Paris.
Those practising artists and art writers among you, or those studying for PhD degrees at the University, may well be eligible to apply for the Cité residency. Residencies are between 3-6 months, with financial support provided towards travel and living expenses. The deadline for applications is 16 July 2012. For more information, including guidelines and application forms, please visit the Power Institute website.
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Our Cité appeal
We are currently seeking your generous support to more fully fund the Power Institute Cité des Arts residencies.
Some of you will have received a letter from me over the past week or so which asks you to consider donating to our appeal to fully fund the Power Institute Cité des Arts residencies. The studio was purchased in 1968, and has been providing invaluable professional development opportunities to artists, curators and writers since that time. Your generous support would allow the residencies at the Power studio to be accessible to those deserving creative students for whom the costs of living and travel to France might otherwise prohibit them from applying. We hope many of you will consider supporting this key Power activity, and you also may be interested to know that the University Art Museums are planning an exhibition in early 2013 of work by artists whose work and careers these residencies helped to shape. Please contact us here to find out how you can support the initiative further.
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John Clark & Thomas Berghuis to participate in Raden Saleh symposium in Jakarta.
John Clark, Professor of Asian Art History, and Thomas Berghuis, Lecturer in Asian Art History, will participate in an upcoming symposium on the work of Raden Saleh.
The symposium will be held in Jakarta on 9 and 10 June, and will be hosted by the Goethe Institute. Raden Saleh (1811-1880) was the first Asian artist to have his work exhibited at a French Salon, where his work was purchased by the French state in 1847. The symposium accompanies Saleh’s major retrospective exhibition at the Galeri Nasional.

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 LECTURE    |  
Deborah Silverman: Art of Darkness: Art Nouveau, “Style Congo,” and The Tervuren Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, 1897-2011
Wednesday 27 June | 6.00pm to 7.30pm
The Power Institute is pleased to announce an upcoming lecture by Professor Deborah Silverman, presented in partnership with USSC and Sydney Ideas. Read more
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All our Relations: 18th Sydney Biennale Symposium
Thursday 28 – Friday 29 June
The Power Institute and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are once again partners in the Biennale Symposium, which takes place in June. Read More
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The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand annual conference
Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 July
The Power Institute is delighted to be part of the team that is hosting and funding the conference of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ). Read More
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 LECTURE    |  
Patricia Simons: Wit and Materiality: Meaning in the Making of Renaissance Art
Monday 13 August | 6.00pm
The Power Institute is pleased to announce an engaging lecture by art historian Patricia Simons, co-presented with Sydney Ideas. Read More
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The Legacies of Bernard Smith
Melbourne: Friday 20 and Saturday 21 September | Sydney: Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November
Traversing a diverse array of perspectives on Smith’s work, the symposium will be an excellent opportunity to hear some of the most insightful of local and international scholars, curators and artists discuss the highly significant work of Australia’s most influential art historian. The symposium is proudly presented by the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, with the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Read More
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Julia Robinson interview
The Power Institute caught up with alumna Julia Robinson, now Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at New York University in this insightful interview.
Julia has kindly taken a moment out of her busy schedule to provide some reflections on her time as a student in the Department of Art History and Film Studies, outlining her research area of interest (the Fluxus movement) and offering some insights into the challenges facing museum curators today.

What are your strongest recollections of being a student here in the Department?

My strongest memories of my time at the Power Institute are Rex Butler’s courses. What has particularly stayed with me all these years is his film studies course: vivid images from a brilliant and careful selection of radical twentieth century films, and the rich conversations that mapped them onto the larger field of contemporaneous artistic production. Almost as importantly, I was struck by the theoretical ambition of Butler’s own scholarship (he was working on a Derrida translation at the time), which not only inspired me but seemed to reduce the feeling of distantness; it made me feel I could have been studying at any one of the great universities of the world (and of course I was). That level of prodigious theoretical engagement was also the deepest impression I retained from Mick Carter’s presence and his lectures at the time as well. (In my first years in New York I met Susan Sontag, and was grateful to be familiar with her work from my time at Sydney. Some year later I found myself in a course with Rosalind Krauss in which Derrida loomed large. In that rather terrifying, high-pressure situation, I remember feeling relieved not to be coming to all of this “cold.”) At the Power I also took a course in Aboriginal art with Terry Smith at an important moment in the historiography of that “new” field in contemporary art, and this gave me special respect for the work and a knowledge base that was obviously quite unique in the American context. My honours thesis was on Imants Tillers and his strategic use of so-called “Provincialism,” and I feel the basis of my approach came strongly from both Terry Smith’s work and Rex Butler’s (in regard to appropriation). Rex was also incredibly supportive as I plucked up the courage, at a relatively tender age, to do my first artist interview while at Sydney. Meeting and working with Imants Tillers was an incredible thrill for me. With the inspiration of Tillers and Butler’s guidance I was able to focus that project in a very specific way, which was important for my work in the years following. All of this led to my first major curatorial project in the US, a contemporary Australian exhibition at the Guggenheim (Antipodean Current: Ten Contemporary Artists from Australia (1995), and indeed my intellectual investment in contemporary art, to which I have now returned.

How did your interest in Fluxus and the art of the 1960s first emerge?

Ironically enough, Imants Tillers was quite aware of Fluxus, and had thought through its aims and its impact in the context of his own project, but as I had no knowledge of it then it virtually washed over me. As fate would have it, in my first full-time museum job (at the Newark Museum, New Jersey) I was given the opportunity to work on an exhibition involving the Fluxus and Happenings artists—working very closely with Allan Kaprow and Robert Whitman—and this was a tremendous inspiration for me. At this time, I discovered the enigmatic, and very little known (proto-conceptual) oeuvre of George Brecht, who had studied “Experimental Composition” with John Cage and imported Cage’s indeterminate score model into the context of visual art with his “event scores.” Brecht used the radical experimental score to animate the experience of everyday objects, framing them temporally; as George Maciunas put it: he added time to the readymade.

When I left the University of Sydney I was eager to be in the “real” world for a while before returning to undertake a PhD. I figured this would be such a serious commitment that I should wait till I had a great subject to propel me through it. It was the discovery of Brecht’s work, and the admiration that other artists, such as Kaprow, had for it – and the realisation that there was almost nothing written on him, that gave me my topic. So I left Newark in 2000 and went to Princeton to write my George Brecht dissertation. In that process, Kasper König, Director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, invited me to curate the first Brecht retrospective in decades (Brecht was living in Cologne at that point).

When I embarked upon the doctorate, I imagined it was a means to better qualify me as a curator. I thought I would take the piece of paper and run straight back to museum work. As it has happened, I have kept both going, and this still seems like an ideal mix for me. After Brecht, the logic of my work led me to John Cage, who I gradually understood to have changed most about the art of the 1960s—well, the art that most interested me—than almost any other figure, save, perhaps, for Warhol. In 2007 I began work on a Cage retrospective (specifically directed toward his impact on the art of the 1960s – on Fluxus, of course, on Nam June Paik, and Warhol as well) for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA), which opened in 2009. This led to my editing a volume of Cage writings for the October Files series (2011). In 2010 I curated an exhibition on the turning point after Pollock, the crux of the end of modernism/ beginning of post-modernism moment, called New Realisms 1957-63: Object Strategies Between Readymade and Spectacle at the Reina Sofia in Madrid.

I came to the Department of Art History at NYU in 2010 to teach contemporary art. My current work uses the foundation of the 1960s to think through subsequent developments in late twentieth to early twenty-first century art, indeed to historicise them. As I’ve gathered through my engagements with Cage, Fluxus, and more recently, Warhol, that in all of its radical innovations, interdisciplinary and intermedia experiments, and its spatio-temporal expansion, the 1960s may be the first twentieth century decade to share real conceptual ground with the art of the twenty-first century, up to that being made today.

What are the major challenges facing art museum curators today?

My work very consciously involves a straddling of academic and curatorial worlds. Sometimes difficult to occupy, it is a position that I find crucial. The challenge for everyone is time, of course, and I feel that academia is a rare place still that allows for sustained research and writing time, which full-time museum work necessarily curtails, or makes exceptionally difficult. When I get deep into research on a subject, I tend to want to see it as an exhibition, and I think that in-depth work should be shared in this way. While from a pedagogical point of view, I feel that lectures and seminars in art history can acquire a rich, additional dimension through discussion of the “translation,” and the very different kinds of interpretation that the art undergoes on the ground, so to speak, in the context of exhibition preparation.
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Graduate success
We are immensely proud of the record of the Department of Art History and Film Studies in training a whole generation of excellent scholars, and the newest minted PhD students are a highly talented bunch.
Molly Duggins has been awarded a one month fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, to pursue a fascinating project on seaweed and visual culture in nineteenth-century Britain.

Meanwhile, Kate Davidson has secured a very prestigious CP Snow Memorial Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Humanities Center at the University of Texas, Austin, for her project on the visual culture of natural history. We congratulate Kate and Molly on securing these sought-after and fiercely competitive fellowships.
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Connecting Art Histories: The Power Institute in Singapore
On 12 and 13 May, the planning process for a very exciting and ambitious project funded by the Getty Foundation began: ‘The Histories of Modern and Contemporary Art in South-East Asia.’
Over two days at the offices of the new National Art Gallery, Singapore, Mark Ledbury and Thomas Berghuis from the Department of Art History and Film Studies, and Adrian Vickers from Asian Studies, met with nine colleagues from all over South-East Asia to discuss the project. The initiative aims to link expertise in Sydney with scholars throughout the region, and provide academic mobility, new research projects and opportunities and a deepening of cultural relationships between Sydney and South-East Asia.
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Terry Smith and Liz Ann Macgregor in conversation
We were recently delighted to welcome Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, onto campus to talk about her vision for contemporary art in Australia and the exciting developments at the MCA. Her interlocutor was Terry Smith, former Power Professor and a keen supporter of the Power Institute.
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Visit the Power Institute website.
Wed 27 June | 6.00 – 7.30pm
LECTURE: Deborah Silverman, co-presented with USSC and Sydney Ideas
Thurs 28 – Fri 29 June
SYMPOSIUM: All our Relations: 18th Sydney Biennale Symposium
Wed 11 – Sat 14 July
CONFERENCE: The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand annual conference
Mon 13 August | 6.00pm
LECTURE: Patricia Simons: Wit and Materiality: Meaning in the Making of
Melbourne 20-21 September and Sydney 9-10 November
SYMPOSIUM: The Legacies of Bernard Smith
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