Issue Zero



Edward Colless

Here is our challenge—and predicament. Art. Australia. Can either of these monumental words today be considered unproblematic or uncontested? Both words, as we have to use them now, are unfixed or besieged: their 20th-century cultural delineations detonated and diffused throughout the globalised circuitry of financial and cultural markets; their perimeters corroding or complicating into fractal dimensions; their core characteristics in dispute when not in disrepute. It’s either a shamefully inane commodification or else sounds pugnaciously reactionary to conjoin these words in a pacified, summative, synoptic and unembarrassed cultural banner or brand. ‘Australian Art’: whether as metadata, export tag, biennale label, auction-house category, museum signage, funding priority, school curriculum heading or electoral slogan, does this not all sound grossly conformist, economically expedient, a laughably fossilised anthropological tariff and ideologically hollow? Yet coupling these words hasn’t always been quite as awkward as we feel it to be in 2016. Exactly 100 years ago Sydney Ure Smith launched Art in Australia, which ran till 1942.

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