As an artist and as a patron of the Arts, I have often pondered the definition of ART. Is it colour and form, tone and texture, sound and movement – maybe stories and songs, or something more?
- Art draws us in and makes us think. We seek meaning, as we look for patterns and contrasts.
- Art invites questions and conversation; it comments on society – on our values and our lifestyle.
- Art preserves ‘a moment in time’.
- Art can involve many people, from conception and creation, through sponsorship and exhibition; to viewing and reviewing.
With these meanings in mind, I am heralding the final launch of the Babel Project – a multicultural community arts event and touring exhibition, inspired by the story of the unfinished Tower of Babel – available for viewing in the Gross Gallery at the Jewish Museum of Australia from 23 October 2011.
How the Babel Project relates to my Arts Practice
Through my participation in the project, I learnt about series artwork. In our first workshop photographic artist, Georgia Metaxas showed us some of her own photographic series, and shared stories about her adventures in creating them.
She also introduced us to the photographic documentation of
- Patrick Boland, who recorded over 1300 breakfasts he was about to eat – not all at once!
- Andrew Bush, who took photos of fellow commuters in their cars while travelling at 50 – 70 miles an hour, on a Los Angeles highway; and
- Simryn Gill, who knocked on the doors of strangers’ homes and asked to take pictures of their living rooms.
The Babel Project sits comfortably alongside these works – not online but now in the Jewish Museum, where the idea for the project was conceived and developed.
Adriana and Georgia were wonderful to work with; each has a gentle ability to include each of us throughout the process.
Our Tower of Babel brought us together and gave each participant a voice. In the spirit of better understanding, our input was seen, heard and used, in a wonderfully collaborative approach. We shared a sense of achievement and connectedness – with one another and with the project.
I learnt a lot about my community – and about myself. Making the twenty photographs on the list tested my artistic integrity. While a certain amount of artistic design was encouraged, I had to resist the inclination to spring-clean before taking my pictures.
What we were looking for were commonalities within a group of people from different geographic and cultural backgrounds – and these common attributes could only appear through honest photographic documentation.
I’m certain other people also have occasional crumbs on their kitchen floor – or an untidy second drawer with cooking utensils in disarray. Study the photos and you will see.
It’s no surprise that the series of photographs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner show an assortment of different cuisines. Food is possibly the greatest thing people have in common; yet there are many ways it can be selected, prepared and presented. I suspect the dining table is where multiculturalism has been most readily embraced by society.
Today, inclusiveness and multicultural awareness are important aspects of education. When I showed the poster from the Babel Project to my daughter, she saw potential beyond the exhibition. She was so enthusiastic that she took it to work, where her department delivers training in childcare. Her boss and other staff were equally excited by the project.
After speaking with Adriana about their ideas, they now use the poster as a visual aid when teaching students to embrace multiculturalism in the classroom, workplace and community.
As a member of Cardinia Council’s Arts and Culture Reference Group, I feel the Babel Project is an excellent addition to our cultural history. Our shire is growing at a phenomenal rate. When the touring exhibition was at the Cardinia Cultural Centre it was a great way to welcome the myriad newcomers to the area – connecting people locally and also to the broader Melbourne community.
I’d like to thank the sponsors; also the team of people behind the scenes, as well as Adriana Gomberg and Georgia Metaxas. Their collective inspiration, commitment and hard work created the opportunity for us to participate in the Babel Project.
I thank my fellow participants, too. I enjoyed sharing the experience – from compiling the lists at the first workshop, through subsequent get-togethers, to scrutinising the screens in the finished exhibition.
I invite you to view and hear the finished artwork. Find your own commonalities and differences – and celebrate!
The exhibition is free and will be open until 11 March 2012. Please call the Museum prior to your visit for Gross Gallery viewing availability – 8534 3623. Ask for Adriana Gomberg for further enquiries or group and school visits.