Uncategorized Apr 07, 2005 No Comments

The latest issue of Photofile (Winter 2005) has hit the stands and features a list purporting to be the Top Ten Australian Video Artists. According to guest editor Brendan Lee, the magazine surveyed over two thousand people to nominate three names each of people they considered to be the most significant moving image artists in Australia’s entire art history. The question was an interesting one – the “moving image” doesn’t mean video alone and could just as well be referring to film, television or antique zoetropes – and there was also no definition of what constituted “influential” – it was up to each respondent top decide on what basis an artist was the most influential, ever.

The top ten illustrious artists are:

1. Shaun Gladwell
2. Tracey Moffatt
3. Guy Benfield
4. Philip Brophy
5. David Rosetzky
6. Stelarc
7. Patricia Piccinini
8. Susan Norrie
9. Mike Parr
10. TV Moore

What’s interesting about this list is not so much the inclusion of people who just shouldn’t on it, but rather what it means as a snapshot of the way 2,000 Australian taste makers view the history of Australian film and video practice. Putting the individual qualities of each of the artists to one side, it becomes pretty obvious that the art world has a cultural memory that doesn’t stretch beyond the last decade. Of the 10 artists, only four are over 40 years old, and the omissions are startling. Any credible list of moving image artists would have to include people like Arthur and Corrine Cantrill, Peter Callas, Jill Scott, Mark Titmarsh, Paul Winkler, Ian Andrews and Bill Mousoulis. But this is not a list that’s put together to show who is really groundbreaking, influential or important, but the most well known.

Perhaps sensing that the top ten was a poor showing at best – and as we reported here a couple of weeks ago – Lee published an additional list of the 11-20 nominations. The final list being:

11. Brendan Lee
12. A Constructed World
13. The Kingpins
14. Laresa Kosloff
15. Emil Goh
16. Daniel Von Sturmer
17. David Noonan & Simon Trevaks
18. John Gillies
19. Jeffrey Shaw
20. Lyndal Jones

It speaks volumes for the career opportunities of video artists that the demographic here is so narrow. You can choose from one of two options: you can be either in your mid to late 30s with major gallery representation with a budding international profile, or you can be a 40 plus artist/film/videomaker with tenure at an art school in either Sydney or Melbourne. Only Tracey Moffatt breaks the mold with her unique stature as a international photographer/artist with a sideline in video art.

The top ten is bursting with people who are obviously there because the respondents had either had no idea who they were voting for or, more likely, there were so many stray single votes that anyone with more than half a dozen votes got straight into the top ten.The second grouping is a far more credible list of artists doing interesting things with moving image technology but all seem to lack the impetus needed to propel them into the first category of career advancement, or are slowly fading away into tenured obscurity.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the list is the possibility that a lot of people will take it seriously. Like the people who use Australian Art Collector’s 50 Most Collectable Artists issue as a buying guide, there are undoubtedly curators who will be extremely happy the hard work has been done for them.

The Art Life

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