Territory Stories

Desert Mob Catalogue : 2014



Desert Mob Catalogue : 2014


Araluen Arts Centre


Desert Mob Catalogue; E-Journals; PublicationNT; Desert Mob Catalogue




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Aboriginal Australians -- Australia, Central -- Art -- Exhibitions -- Catalogs; Art, Australian -- Australia, Central -- Exhibitions -- Catalogs

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Araluen Arts Centre

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Alice Springs


Desert Mob Catalogue



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Araluen Arts Centre



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12 in any case these artists have already staked their bold claim) than with their own imperatives their profound conviction in what they have to say and in summoning the power of art to transmit it. Such conviction has always been the hallmark of standout work at Desert Mob, although the exhibitions democratic nature with each Desart member art centre afforded the same opportunity for exposure dictates more modestly-scaled innovations. Last year Warakurna Artists risked their entire Desert Mob showing on their lightbox installation, ten works by five artists, demanding attention as a brand new take on narrative painting, with both historical and contemporary subject matter. The risk was rewarded, with the work going on to exhibition and notice elsewhere. The low-tech boxes deployed electric light, mostly to shine through piercings in the plywood on which a scene was painted, while in some tiny coloured lights were added to the surface. Using electricity as an expressive medium was in sympathy with artists observations of new technology in their communities mobile phones, television while it also carried metaphoric weight shining a light on the past as well as on more recent socio-political changes. Yarrenyty Arltere Artists from the Larapinta Valley town camp in Alice Springs have carved out a similarly distinctive niche for themselves with their soft sculptures, with showings at Desert Mob over recent years charting the steady refinement of their skills in construction and use of materials. At the Symposium in 2012 they demonstrated how this work could be taken in yet another direction, screening the animation Little Dingi. It featured the soft sculptures in an entertaining, honest and moving story about the hard lessons learned by a punkish little boy, Dingi, and his family. Jointly written by Marlene Rubuntja and Loretta Banks, Little Dingi was a hit. As with the light-boxes, it has gone on to greater exposure, including at String Theory, last years major exhibition of Aboriginal artists working with fibre at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney5. The artists are now seeking funding for a sequel but, it is to a desert audience as much as an art world one that Little Dingi 2 will be directed. Rubuntja hopes to have the sequel dubbed in the major desert languages, as well as English to make sure people understand, do it right for the kids. Forays into new media such as video are likely only to increase as younger artists, adepts of the digital era, come onto the scene. The inaugural Desart Art Worker Photography Prize in 2012 has provided an unexpected stimulus in this direction. The competition was conceived as a skills development initiative to support improved documentation of work being produced in art centres, but it has taken on a life of its own. The prize-winner that first year, Rhonda Unrupa Dick from Tjala Arts, has not looked back. By the next Desert Mob she was an artist in the main exhibition, with an effective photographic diptych, Kangkura muna malanypa, created with her sister Anita Pan, the only photograph in the exhibition. In 2013 she was also awarded the $20,000 Red Ochre Dreaming Award for an emerging artist. With such an auspicious start one might have expected Dick to dominate for a while in this developing sphere (and she has gone on to other triumphs), but in last years Photography Prize another woman, Christine Multa from Ikuntji Artists, came to the fore, with a beautifully observed study, My Grandmother Went Hunting. The interest of the whole field unique in its subject matter and with the appeal of a certain rawness was acknowledged by Beverly Knight at Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne, who presented the Prize as a stand-alone exhibition earlier this year. Its exposure will take another leap forward when it is shown next year in its entirety (2012 to 2014) in Seoul, Korea. Even this short list of examples of artistic vitality as evidenced at Desert Mob in both the main exhibition and through the Symposium captures something of the movements creative resilience in face of changing circumstances. It should not be mentioned without acknowledging the crucial role of art centre managers, the advocacy and developmental work of Desart, government funding and philanthropic support, the interest of audiences, media, collectors and buyers as well as the responsiveness of galleries, public and private, as well as other cultural institutions. Not least of the latter is the 24-year commitment of the Araluen Arts Centre and its now 21-year partnership with Desart that has made Desert Mob what it is today. There is nonetheless some anxiety about the market, most notably the decline in demand for high-priced works of fine art, and the impact that this may have now and in the future on the