Melbourne Brisbane: punk, art and after

Melbourne><Brisbane: punk, art and after will trace the extraordinary interaction of the alternative music and art scenes between Melbourne and Brisbane during the punk and post-punk years, 1975–85. The exhibition reveals the entwined artistic and musical histories of the two cities through music, film, ephemeral publications, photographs and paintings.

Art Exhibition previously on at Ian Potter Museum of Art in Australia.
From Tuesday 23 February 2010 to Sunday 16 May 2010

Portrait of Howard Arkley, Brisbane, July 1981 image

Published by Ian Potter Museum of Art on Friday 18 December 2009.
Contact the publisher.

Artists include Howard Arkley, Tony Clark, Brett Colquhuon, Peter Cripps, John Nixon, Peter Tyndall and Jenny Watson, and bands such as Anti-music, the Saints, the Go-Betweens, Nick Cave, the Birthday Party, Ed Kuepper, and the Laughing Clowns.

Guest curator David Pestorius, a Brisbane-based arts activist, says Melbourne><Brisbane explores the development of artists‟ practice as a social and strategic experience.

“The exhibition highlights a period when the repressive political regime at the time in Queensland drove the Brisbane avant-guard to a muscially hungry Melbourne scene, with results that were often creatively explosive. And Melbourne artists happily took up the challenge to confront the prevailing Brisbane sensitivities.

“Crossing boundaries between art and music, gallery and gig, the exhibition reveals important strategies in the formation of a postmodern avant-garde, joining clusters of artists united by location, friendship, shared experience and interests.

“In Australia, punk music offered artists new strategies for collaboration (with artists forming as „bands‟), new models for presentation (promoting and staging exhibitions as „gigs‟), new channels of communication (the cassette, the record, the „zine). Above all, punk musicians established new definitions of independent practice. The do-it-yourself mentality that drove punk music was transferred to the art scene, propelling the independent
art spaces and magazines that were the foundation of vanguard practices in the 1980s.

Director of the Potter Museum, Dr Chris McAuliffe, says Melbourne><Brisbane is an opportunity to declare the historical significance of art and punk music in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“The exhibition will connect audiences with contemporary art through issues and ideas strongly connected with everyday life and popular music.

“We retrace a time when Australian punk music led the genre (pre-Sex Pistols) and the creative vibe between Melbourne and Brisbane echoed the Paris/Moscow artistic frisson celebrated in the famous Beaubourg exhibition in Paris in 1979”, Dr McAuliffe said.

Melbourne><Brisbane traverses painting, photography, installation, video, film, music and writing. It features rarely seen archival and documentary material, including extensive private archives of audio tapes documenting performances by artists’ bands; Howard Arkley’s personal photographs of his Melbourne ‘Art tram’ and Brisbane ‘Muzak mural’ projects (Brisbane, 1981); Tony Clark’s early DIY operas under the Anti-Music banner; and Brett Colquhuon’s personal dialogue with the late Grant McLennan.

Melbourne><Brisbane also looks at a number of artist-driven projects that have called attention to this history, not only through its critical re-telling, but also via collaborations which demonstrate that the associations forged during the ‘historical period’ continue to resonate strongly into the present. Beginning with an important series of
exhibitions organised by Peter Cripps at Brisbane’s IMA in 1985-86, Melbourne><Brisbane will also highlight more recent art/music projects involving Tony Clark, Robert Forster, and Ed Kuepper.

The subject of a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2009, American artist Dan Graham presented a public screening of his film, Rock my religion, an exploration of threads linking non-conformist religion, counterculture and punk rock.

“It was a very dead period and the Saints, who were a Brisbane group, came to Melbourne and really shook things up considerably. They were a strange group. It seemed to me they had arrived at this particular sound entirely independently. They lived in Brisbane, which is in Queensland, probably the most conservative state in Australia, and when they used to play their concerts would frequently be stopped by the police. I would say they inspired a movement in general.”

Nick Cave, radio interview, 1983 (quoted in Ian Johnston, Bad seed: the biography of Nick Cave, Little, Brown and Company, London, 1995, p. 41).