Exhibiting Culture Online

Image of Nevo Zisin taken by Proud Minority. Nevo who has created Nightshades in my Garden as part of Exhibiting Culture Online. Please see Nevo's work below.

Please note: people may find some works challenging or confronting. Please take note of content warnings and use discretion when viewing these artworks.

Exhibiting Culture Online is an initiative of Darebin Council to support artists and audiences during a difficult year. It provided important employment opportunities for local artists and will offer audiences an insight into the experiences of other members of our community.

As part of the Community Recovery and Resilience Package that saw Council inject $11.8 million to support residents in ways as varied as food relief, business support, additional care for the elderly and much more, Exhibiting Culture Online engaged three artists to curate exhibitions that captured the impact on, mood and imagination of local artists during the extended lockdown period. An Expression of Interest was invited through an open application advertised broadly, and an independent panel that included Council and non-Council staff selected the three Curators who best addressed the brief and who’s proposed exhibitions told stories that were “uniquely Darebin, but accessible to all”.

Each Curator took a different approach and the high quality of artists commissioned to contribute works to the telling of each story is undeniable. The subsequent artworks are outstanding and express a range of different perspectives. The views depicted in each artwork are those of the artists and creators, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Council. The range of mediums explored by the artists is also impressive and intriguing. These multi-artform exhibitions have exceeded our expectations. There are works that celebrate the human spirit or expose the inner workings of a human mind under duress of isolation. They provide a window into someone else's lived experience. These works are beautiful, touching, funny, meaningful and honest.

We hope you enjoy these artworks as much as we have enjoyed bringing them to you.

1. Proximities, Curator – Vidya Rajan

In 2020, many of us were further apart, and for longer, than ever before. The digital became our main mode of transfer and connection, though it was often talked of a sort of dead thing – not quite real, just filled with loss. For many artists too, there was a pressure to suddenly pivot to putting work online without the time to pause and consider what it could offer them. With this in mind, in Proximities, artists from different disciplines were given time and space to make work that responded not to a thematic, but to a formal provocation: consider how, in the ‘online’, their work can respond to an audience as an active participant in its creation and existence.  Was digital tactility possible, and how might their existing practices respond to this notion?  The resulting artworks brim with negotiations of distance, and all its related aspects – connection, exchange, ideas of what we owe one another or urgently want another to understand. For the artists, there has also been a fruitful deepening and expansion of their existing practice – a bridging of distances between forms and new, untested ideas in their own work. The variety of responses in the exhibition – some fully in thrall to new interactive tools, and others resistant to the idea of connection outside of intimate, physical space – are in part due to the variety in artists’ disciplines. However, they also reflect the genuine and exciting variety in all our understandings of what it means to be near others, and what kind of transfer we hope for from the world and through our art practices.

This exhibition was curated and completed on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja and the Kulin Nation of the Wurundjeri people. I acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands and pay my respects to elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded. 

About Vidya

Vidya Rajan is a writer, comedian and contemporary performance-maker working mainly across stage and screen. She is interested in work that’s playful, formally adventurous, and probing of our contemporary moment.  As a creative, she has recently worked with The Malthouse Theatre, Artshouse, Metroarts, The Blue Room, ABC Comedy, Red Stitch, SBS, Liminal Magazine, and The Wheeler Centre. She has also recently curated work for Djed Press and the Sangam South Asian Arts Festival. Her practice, both artistic and curatorial, tries to ground projects in inclusive collaboration, knowledge exchange, and a hybridity of influences and outcomes.

2. Sign of the Times, Curator – Olivia Koh

TO BE RELEASED JANUARY 18

Sign of the times
Curatorial statement Olivia Koh

People keep telling me the world is ending, that we have ‘entered the apocalypse’. Despite the daily reporting of contagion and deaths, something nags at me, I think that this can’t be true…[1]

Looking to historical instances of plague, illness, epidemics, persecution and invasion, what can we (as viewers or even benefactors of these histories) learn from communities who have already experienced the end of the world; who are living the post-apocalypse today?

In the West, video has been a tool of artist activism since the late 1960’s and 1970s, in struggles such as the civil and land rights movements and the AIDS epidemic.[2]

This project looks to the moving image (and its components of sound and text) to uncover how video as a practice, tool and technology for womXn, LGBTIQ, people of colour, Indigenous people, and people living with disability, survive crisis as collectives and individuals. These particles of image, sound and text become transmissions of historical interest, solidarity and narratives that re-situate the current moment in a much longer history of survival.


[1]This idea comes from Lawrence Gross’ writing on First Nations communities living in the post-apocalypse, Accessed 7/8/2020

[2] Picturing a pandemic, Art and Activism of Survival on Screens from the Women’s Health, LGBTQIA, Crip and Decolonial Archive Curated by Conal McStravick, LUX and Vtape, April 2020 https://lux.org.uk/writing/picturing-a-pandemic-art-and-activism-of-survival-on-screens-from-the-womens-health-lgbtqia-the-crip-and-decolonial-archive Accessed 7/7/2020

3. Darebin Unsettled, Curator – Sam Elkin

In this online showcase, LGBTIQA+ artists from across the City of Darebin interrogate the experience of lockdown from a myriad of queer and gender non-conforming perspectives and provide a snapshot of our collective experience of isolating our bodies from one another.

This exhibition gives considerable space to a number of trans and gender diverse artists who have chosen to explore their relationship with their body and memory during lockdown, including Brooke Murray’s video essay finding a home in one’s body, Nevo Zisin’s beautiful love poem to Thornbury, Roz Bellamy’s essay about revisiting teenage memories, Yves Rees exploration of the gendered and racialized dimensions of hair and my own essay about return to the local swimming pool post lockdown 2.0.
Tas and Ren shed further light on trans and gender diverse experiences by presenting the first in what will hopefully be many ‘Coffee Chats with Trans Chaps’, which celebrates trans masculine lives with humour, honesty and positivity.

Matto Lucas, a beloved local photographer synonymous with the queer scene in Melbourne has taken time out to create a series of arresting photomontages to memorialize a decade of queer events, while Gemma Cafarella pays tribute to the cooking, humour and strength of her 92-year-old Nonna Connie, who she’s been unable to see during lockdown. Finally, Liv Fay captures fragmentary memories of gardening and clay making at home alone and Brooke Murray provides an intimate visual recollection of the experience of lockdown. Last but not least, Masina Coulter presents a hilarious tribute to sharehouse living in Thornbury during a pandemic.

I hope you enjoy the show.

Sam Elkin, November 2020