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Indepth Arts News:

"Circles About the Body"
1999-12-07 until 2000-02-19
Monash University Gallery
Melbourne, , AU Australia

From a Western cultural perspective, personal adornment is a powerful strategy in projecting identity. Likewise, in Indigenous cultures, adornment carries potent 'messages', not only about perceptions of self and social obligations but also stories to do with cultural memory. Consequently body adornment (jewelleryNULL) proclaims cultural and personal identity yet at the same time carries stories and memories.

The discourse in the contemporary visual arts in Australia has paid relatively little attention to adornment, its rituals and ceremonies or its function in either Indigenous or non-Indigenous cultures. Rather, it has tended to be focused upon 'the object'. Is this because there is not enough room to do otherwise we would need to tramp all over sacred groundNULL

Objects of adornment provide instinctive vantage points from which to investigate perceptions of individuality and identity. Objects of adornment can also give us the space within which to disentangle difference and individuality - them and us (meNULL), in the context of the cultural reality.

Why do we adorn ourselvesNULL It has been said that once we satisfy our need to survive and procreate the next urge is to proclaim our identity: to adorn oneself. When difference is highly contested the body becomes a contentious site for the proclamation of self, beliefs, alliances, power, love, sorrow and joy. Far from being frivolous, the impetus to adorn is a powerful primordial urge shaped by cultural memory, rooted in the awareness of self and place, and triggered by the compulsion to grapple with our identity(ies).

The impetus to adorn precedes 'the making' process. The making process in itself, rather than being self sufficient, simply provides us with a means to proclaim identity and the opportunity to tell our stories. The making, and the materiality, of the 'object' is filled with richness and meaning yet it is simultaneously connected to and separated from the impetus to adorn.

Paradoxically, 'the body' is that place where all at once we find difference and sameness. The meaningfulness of objects of adornment suggests that they may provide yet another toe-hold in a more inclusive critical discourse which is pertinent to developing new understandings of the dynamics of difference in cultural identity.

This exhibition ask: Are there linkages between objects of adornment and material cultural production that work across cultural production that work across cultural demarcation pointsNULL If there are, is there a definable interfaceNULL Are there cultural confluences that are expressed through the impetus to adornNULL What is the significance of the linkages, or the lack of themNULL Are there 'hidden' (private/personal) cultural imperatives which are silent except through objects of adornmentsNULL if son, when and hidden from whom, they inevitably encircle the body.

Doreen Mellor and Ray Norman, Curators.

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