Centre for the Arts
Hunter Street, Hobart
Bashir Baraki, Dennis Del Favero, Sigi Gabrie, Peter Lyssiotis, George Michelakakis, Milan Milojevic and Dina Tourvas.
Foreword: Paul Zika, Essay: Elizabeth Gertsakis.
8-page catalogue: ISBN 0 85901 387 1
The artists in this exhibition are directly linked to the post second world war migration programme of assimilation. This policy of institutionalised homogeneity arrogantly sought to maintain an anglo-celtic supremacy, destroying the self-esteem and pride of many European migrants. In most cases, it was the parent generation which took the brunt of this socialising process; coming to terms with a new economic, social and political order. In a desperate desire to establish economic stability, issues addressing a reappraisal of cultural identity took a secondary place – they were discussed but not mobilised. For someone from this background undergoing artistic training or trying to establish a reputation in Australia in the fifties and sixties, the only concession was the acceptance of a new “European sensibility” (following the American lead) but this was essentially middle european in mentality and exclusive in character. Conversely, the particular ethnic communities tended to foster a traditional folk art which took no account of the new, drastically different situation. An art practice did not emerge at that time which drew upon the range of cultural dilemmas being experienced, and the strong dominant modernist mainstream within the visual arts tended to discourage it. Multiculturalism in the seventies sought to recognise the cultural differences and break down the concept of a dominant culture. Often this was, and continues to be, merely tokenism, trivialising ethnicity without giving any ground. Within the visual arts, art which reflects particular ethnic traditions has more recently become “flavour of the month”, labelled as “marginal” within the tactical pluralism of the post modern search for diversity. The artists in this exhibition confront the often ignored questions of cultural identity and independence within their practice, rather than romanticising the migration experiences or limiting, their work to photo journalistic documentation or a personal diaristic expressionism. The continued articulation of such a critique is vital, given the depoliticising pageant of the Bicentenary, particularly in its official propaganda of “cocacola happy homogeneity”, and the sustained New Right reactionary attack on multiculturalism and migration. This exhibition, conceived a few years ago, was motivated by similar personal experiences and concerns and as a direct response to Geoffrey Blainey’s calls for a modified immigration policy. What has evolved through research and discussion with a range of interested people, including prospective participants, is a determination to contribute to an ongoing dialogue rather than yet another piece of ethnic tokenism. Paul Zika