World News – UA – National Gallery of Victoria announces massive free art and design exhibition after lockdown


Visitors to NGV International this summer will be greeted by a giant digital display worthy of Blade Runner, as vividly colored slices of pixels couple on a massive, constantly moving digital display

Quantum Memories, by Turkish artist Refik Anadol, is the result of a unique collaboration between artist and machine

Anadol talks about seeing Blade Runner on VHS at age 8 and getting his first computer that same year, as two training moments

Nowadays, it uses datasets and artificial intelligence (AI) to create compelling moving images – on single screens and in immersive installations throughout the room

Quantum Memories is his largest and most ambitious single-screen work to date: a 10-meter by 10-meter digital display

This is one of 34 major new works making their world premiere in Melbourne as part of the NGV Triennial, opening December 19

To create Quantum Memories, Anadol uses a dataset of publicly available images of nature – from skies to rivers to flowers and more. – and images of the Earth from the telescope of the International Space Station (He predicts he will work with around 200 million images)

These images are then fed into a quantum computer which, as it processes them into smaller data sets, begins to « compose » – finding different ways to construct an image using that data

« Refik is trying to demonstrate what a lot of people in computer science are starting to say: once you give a super smart computer all the information in the world, what is it going to do with it? » says Simone LeAmon, curator of contemporary design and architecture at the National Gallery of Victoria

Scientists (including Stephen Hawking) have warned of the potential of AI and quantum computing, and Hollywood has turned emerging technology into terrifying fiction But LeAmon says Anadol is optimistic

« He tries to thwart all the dystopian narratives about artificial intelligence and quantum computing and says, ‘Hey, it doesn’t have to be all dark for the future of humanity' »

Taking place from December to April and taking over NGV International, the triennial will present 86 projects by more than 100 artists, designers and collectives from more than 30 countries

Superstars like Jeff Koons and Julian Opie and figures like American conceptual artist Adrian Piper (presenting his installation The Humming Room) will rub shoulders with emerging artists like Natasha Matila-Smith from New Zealand Science, fashion, architecture and art will mingle; questions about contemporary problems will turn into interim solutions

The NGV curatorial team began the process of creating the Triennale with a long list of contemporary artists, designers and projects that interested them the most

The Triennale effectively amplifies the concerns of the creators they choose – which in this edition means a lot of work on the environment, identity, race and representation, inequality and power

The exhibit has grown over the past 3-4 years – but concerns about COVID-19 have crept in: Young British designer Alice Potts changed her original three-year project to focus on equipment for biodegradable personal protection

Potts made 20 personal protective equipment (PPE) masks for an « imaginary post-COVID dance party » – using food-waste bioplastic she cooked in her London kitchen, dyed with plants she gathered on precious lock-out walks

Potts created the series to highlight the rise in single-use plastic in the wake of COVID-19, after his brother, a hospital worker, said his PPE was so rare it he was carrying garbage bags

Conservation and environmental concerns are at the forefront of the agenda – especially at the end of spectrum design

Iranian artist Talin Hazbar harnesses the natural work of shellfish to « grow » light shades in the ocean

Melbourne-based designer, researcher and scuba diving instructor Pirjo Haikola has 3D printed coral structures made from sea urchins – which are overabundant in Victoria’s coastal waters and threaten marine ecology

Italian graphic designer duo Carnovsky (Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla) created a ‘light activated’ wallpaper for the British and European NGV galleries, featuring extinct and endangered species So as the gallery lights alternate between red, green and blue, the viewer passes between panoramas of extinct species, endangered species and endangered species

Erez Nevi Pana, a proponent of “vegan design”, presents the culmination of his research on salt-based architecture: an installation in which the different modes of “salt as material” are demonstrated: salt as coating, salt as a building block and salt as a surface

Pana, who came to vegan design after adopting a vegan diet, has spent eight years trying to solve a monumental environmental problem in her home country, Israel: the roughly 20 million tonnes of salt that accumulates every year a by-product of mineral extraction from the Dead Sea

« These projects are outliers that indicate the concerns of designers and the things they are grappling with – and through that, you can see where the industry will progressively evolve, in the future, » says Ewan McEoin, senior curator of contemporary design and architecture

You expect artists to attack authority – and galleries and museums, as institutions of power that shape our cultural narratives and support certain versions of history and society, are targets ready

For the Triennale, two New York artists will disrupt a « prestigious » site within the NGV: The Banquet of Cleopatra by the 18th century Venetian painter Giambattista Tiepolo – one of the most popular and famous works from the collection

Like many Venetian paintings from this period, the presence of African servants or slaves, waiting for the guests in this case, is a marker of the wealth and status of white subjects

Daniel Arsham made human-sized replicas of Cleopatra and one of the waiters, wrapped in white fabric – a provocation on race and representation in European art

Fred Wilson’s gesture is more oblique, but no less monumental: a solid glass chandelier in the Venetian Baroque style, with a gradient going from black at the bottom to light at the top

Wilson is best known for wreaking havoc on museums: his flagship installation from 1992 Mining the Museum juxtaposed objects from the Maryland Historical Society’s collection with a disturbing effect: chains of slaves next to a silver table service, under the label « METAL WORK »; old chairs grouped around a whipping pole

In Australia in 1998, for an exhibit at the Ian Potter Museum, he set a cleaning cart on a pedestal and arranged for the cleaner – « being the only dark-skinned person I have ever seen at the museum « , he told me – to take it apart during the day and walk through the exhibition space, clean up

His chandelier, titled Dying on a Kiss from one of Shakespeare’s last lines of Othello, speaks softly to these works

Wilson made his first glass chandelier for the American pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale, in an exhibition called Speak of Me As I Am (another line from Othello); it was a show that questioned the contemporary and historical presence of Africans in Venice, and his love for Shakespeare’s play

« From there I used it [the glass] as a vehicle to express the feelings I had, as well as things about the world, » he says

Dying on a kiss is very personal: at the time, he was thinking of Othello and the meaning of that line in the play; but his father had recently died, and later he realized that he had transmuted this experience into his work – « his essence goes down, his spirit goes up »

I wish Wilson had hurt the Triennale a little more, but he says, « I really like using beauty »

« Beautiful things have great power we can see a lot of thoughts and ideas through beauty, it attracts you »

One of the major stories of the triennale is the ancestry of artist Yolŋgu Dhambit Munuŋgurr

Munuŋgurr’s large-scale blue bark paintings were a key talking point at the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) – where NGV took over the land, then commissioned a massive installation for the triennale

The resulting sequel of 15 large bark paintings and nine larrakitj (or hollow grave markers), titled Can We All Have a Happy Life, is likely to be dramatic and joyful – and a highlight of the exhibition

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« There is something like a cathedral in the space [in which they will be exhibited], » says Myles Russell-Cook, curator of Indigenous art

Until NATSIAA, no one had seen works like the bark paintings of Munuŋgurr, as Yolŋgu artists are generally not allowed to make art with anything that is not from the earth

But the artist received special dispensation from community elders to use acrylic paints, after a serious car accident in 2005 left him with injuries that made working with ochres difficult.

When I ask her why she switched to painting almost entirely in blue tones, she says it is « the color of the ocean »

One of Munuŋgurr’s paintings, titled Bees at Gängän, is based on a story told to her by her father’s mother’s brother when she was 14, about a place wild honey

The Yolŋgu live under a complex system of connectivity called gurrutu, which covers all things – from the land to the cosmos

Will Stubbs, longtime coordinator of the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Center in Yirrkala (Northern Territory), where Munuŋgurr paints, says that each painting is « another little piece of mosaic or the tapestry of his identity »

The title of her installation NGV is taken from a speech she gave to Darwin and is meant to be a proposition and not a question When I ask her how to lead a « happy life » she suggests « being free as a bird « 

Stubbs suggests spending more time with Munuŋgurr and artists like her In the meantime, we can enjoy her happy works

The NGV Triennial will take place from December 19 to April 18 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne Free admission

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and BBC World Service which is copyrighted and may not be reproduced

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

National Gallery of Victoria, NGV Triennial, Jeff Koons, Melbourne

World News – UA – National Gallery of Victoria announces massive free art and design exhibition after locking


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