Unfolding: New Indian Textiles
Indian textile designers are the envy of the rest of the world because they continue to have close, easy contact with all manner of hand production and crafts no longer available elsewhere.
This vibrant new exhibition places contemporary Indian textile designers and artists within the wider context of international art and fashion and examines the reinvention of traditional textiles through the sari, uncut cloth, street wear as well as textiles and fibre as contemporary art.
Unfolding: New Indian Textiles has been developed by independent curator, public art coordinator and artist Maggie Baxter to coincide with her new book on contemporary Indian textiles. Ms Baxter has traveled to India for more than two decades, where she has worked with traditional crafts in the Kutch region of North West India since 1990.
The Indian village remains a constant presence in textile production terms of tradition and subject matter, drawing extensively on the daily life and popular culture of villages and marketplaces.
Indian textiles today include the almost unimaginable plethora of regionally specific skills, techniques and motifs from every state and region in India, far exceeding any other country in the enduring, prolific production of its living material culture.
The surface decoration on Indian textiles is inspiring, exhilarating, and overwhelming. In rural areas clothes can be a riot of competing prints, tie-dye, dense embroidery, mirrors, gota, buttons and tiny bells. Ornate textiles cover furniture, are spread to sit and sleep on, create ceilings and hang auspiciously over doorways. It seems like too much is never enough and while such extreme ornamentation may be toned down in urban centres, pattern is still all pervading.
Yet as much as there is intense decoration in India, there is also restraint. The Minimalist principles of reduction and sparseness, where the simplest and fewest elements are used to create maximum effect are integral to Indian culture where the concept of eliminating all non-essential forms and features is aesthetic and ascetic.
This exhibition explores an overwhelming sense of Indian cultural identity manifested in the beautiful art of contemporary textiles, as well as the production methods using traditional skills that has always made Indian textiles unique.
Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla
In light of Japan’s nuclear past and present, the threat of atomic annihilation has long influenced Japanese artists
This exhibition will focus on the work of artists responding to the events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 and its environmental implications.
The massive radioactive monster Godzilla looms large in popular culture, originating in a series of live action Japanese (tokusatsu) films in the 1950s, where it emerged from the sea to destroy Japanese cities. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fresh in the Japanese consciousness and the character was seen as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when a tsunami tore through the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the potent image of Godzilla and his anti-nuclear subtext again forces people to question nuclear power.
Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla is part of the Art + Climate = Change 2015 festival celebrating and identifying Australian and international artists working with environmental ideas.
Featuring Australian and international artists working with environmental ideas, including:
• Ken and Julia Yonetani, artists with an interesting Australia / Japanese creative partnership, exploring the interaction between humans, nature and science.
• Manabu Ikeda, a Japanese artist who lives and works in Wisconsin, USA, whose massive, intricate drawings are influenced by the natural world and can take up to a year to complete. His recent work focused on the turmoil of the 2011 earthquake that hit Japan.
• Takashi Kuribayashi, a highly acclaimed Japanese artist whose range of environmental artworks offer an immersive experience of imagined ecologies, using the affective qualities of water as a channel to reimagining not only local ecologies, but also their interconnectedness with regional and global space.
• Yutaka Kobayashi, a Japanese environmental artist currently based in Australia on an 18 month residency. The frequently participative outreach component of his art extends his ecological messages into the larger contexts of community. Kobayashi’s installation Absorption Ripple is inspired by the idea of how quickly people forget about great disasters and can get distracted.
Off to the Theatre
The Capitol Theatre
The Capitol Theatre is a single screen cinema located in Melbourne, Australia (opposite the Melbourne Town Hall). The theatre was opened in 1924. On 20 May 1999, it was purchased by Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), and is currently used for both university lectures and cultural events such as film and comedy festivals. Until its reopening in 1999 after being closed after a period of inactivity in the early 1990s, it was one of the few cinemas capable of screening films in standard 35mm format as well as the more cumbersome yet visually superior 70mm format. Today it is still capable of showing 35mm films along with educational 16mm films and documentaries as well as the modern DVD format.
The Capitol Theatre was commissioned by a group of Melbourne businessmen, including the Greek Consul-General Anthony JJ Lucas, and was designed by the renowned US architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin and today is considered the finest interior design work by this talented couple. Lucas had worked previously with Burley Griffin on the development of both the Vienna Cafe as well as his own property Yamala in Frankston. The official plans for the Capitol were submitted for approval on 21 November 1921, and after being approved on 9 February 1923 construction began and was completed in 1924. It was officially opened on 7 November 1924. The theatre itself and ten-storey office block above it, are registered with the Australian Heritage Commission, the National Trust and Heritage Victoria. The building belongs to the interwar period and the architectural style is Chicagoesque. It was described by the leading architect and academic Robin Boyd as "the best cinema that was ever built or is ever likely to be built". Originally seating 2137 (stalls 1306, balcony 633, loges and boxes 198). During the 1930s, the seating capacity was reduced to 2115 people. The theatre was considered an architectural masterpiece, and has continued to receive critical acclaim ever since its first opening.
The theatre is notable for a number of pioneering concepts such as early use of reinforced concrete, stained glass details and a highly complex three-dimensional spatial arrangement. Its greatest feature is the geometric plaster ceiling. This was based on organic design principles of natural orders and are composed in a way which is both evocative and modern. The ceiling was indirectly lit and the lighting was used in conjunction with the original orchestral scores in the early silent film era to add drama for the spectator. Thousands of coloured lamps producing light that changed through all the various coloured hues in the spectral range were hidden amongst the plaster panels creating a crystalline cave effect.
The Capitol was also the home of the first large Wurlitzer Organ to come to Australia. The Wurlitzer was originally used to provide music and sound effects for the films. After "sound" films took over it was used for musical entertainment in between shows. It was frequently broadcast on the ABC and remained in regular use until the mid 1950s. After the advent of television in the late 1950s, audience numbers dwindled dramatically and in the early 1960s Hoyts Theatres let their lease expire. The result was that the theatre had to close. Almost immediately there was a campaign waged to 'save the Capitol' by the National Trust and a group of prominent, yet committed architects including Robin Boyd. A compromise was soon reached: After closing for extensive renovations on 17 November 1963, the interior foyer was remodelled to make way for the Capitol Arcade, although the theatre and ceiling was rightly retained. The two-level auditorium was converted to a single-level cinema seating 600. The upper balcony became the existing auditorium with a new raised floor which was raked down to a newly inserted stage. The Wurlitzer was removed and relocated to the Dendy Cinema in Brighton. The theatre reopened on 16 December 1965 under the control of Village Cinemas who held the lease until 1987.
The opening film after the renovation was The Great Race, which had a run of two years. Other long running engagements over the years included the films Ryan's Daughter (1970), The Towering Inferno (1974), A Star Is Born (1976) and Superman: The Movie in 1978. The present shopping arcade is where the stalls seating used to be. The old staircases leading to the dress circle foyer were blocked off and a new marble staircase from street level was built to a simplified new foyer upstairs.
In 1998 Melbourne city council hired Melbourne architecture firm 'Six degrees’ to undertake a study that would explore the possibility for the theatre to be used as a festival and arts based centre. In 1999, when Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) purchased the theatre for use as lecture halls and function space for the university as well as Melbourne’s public, they elected to keep ‘Six Degrees’ as the project architects, due to their founded knowledge in the site, but the study itself was not furthered on. The 1960s renovation was deemed as inappropriate as it enclosed many open spaces of the theatre and detracted from the original spatial qualities. The renovation plans were accordingly altered to accommodate the original spatial qualities, namely interlocking foyer areas, ceiling details as well as giving the building an overall safety upgrade, masterplanning and disabled access. The budget for this demolition and renovation work was $2,200,000 and not only saw restoration work but many new additions to the theatres original design. The new additions to the theatre included audio visual installations and theatre lighting systems, re-lamped ceilings and new lift and disabled access corridor. These new additions to the theatre were made up of soft and natural materials to complement the original design.
In 2005, RMIT announced that the theatre would get a A$190,000 upgrade, including major painting and some repairs to the Alhambra-inspired ornamental ceiling.
Free public tours were held on the third Thursday of every month from March to November commencing in 2000. These ended in 2010 due to dwindling participants. At this stage RMIT Property Services says that spells the end of the tours for the foreseeable future.
Walking the City
Out and About
The Former Melbourne Magistrates Court (325-343 Russell Street And Latrobe Street Melbourne, Melbourne City, Victoria, Australia)
This proud building’s Romanesque style intends to reflect ancient British legal traditions. It’s the site of many famous trials and also where an ancient fossil was discovered.
The Magistrates' Court and city watch-house have been acknowledged as architecturally and historically significant by the Heritage Council, the National Trust of Australia and the Melbourne Planning Scheme of Melbourne City Council. The Magistrates' Court is on the National Estate Register.
The building straddles the Russell and La Trobe streets corner. Gangster Leslie 'Squizzy' Taylor was tried here in 1924 for killing a pedestrian while driving. Bushranger Ned Kelly was convicted of murder in 1880, when it was the Supreme Court, and hanged at the adjoining Old Melbourne Gaol.
The former Magistrates Court was built by Swanson Brothers between 1911 and 1913 to the design of Public Work?s Department architect George BH Austin. The two storey court sits on a massive plinth of rock-faced Batesford limestone. Dressed limestone faces the brick, Gippsland marble and iron construction with interior joinery of blackwood. Roof materials are variously slate, corrugated iron or steel. Built on the site of the earlier Supreme Court, the building retains fittings from the earlier court including the Gothic canopy that judge Sir Redmond Barry sat under during the trial of Ned Kelly in 1880.
The architectural style is Norman, otherwise known as the French Romanesque. The facade is a composition of gables, towers, turrets and arches. The main entrance sits on the prominent corner site of Russell Street and Latrobe Street and is an intricate symmetrical essay in the Norman style rising as a tower. It consists of copper clad turrets and grouped semi-circular headed windows over an entrance of five nested jamb shafts on squat Romanesque columns. The spreading staircase is of a basalt stone. The main entry vestibule rises to a drum over the marble staircases. The three principal court rooms have hammer beam roofs and consistent Norman detailing to the wall panels, the docks and benches. Within the internal fabric is a late version of the patented Tobin tube ventilation system.
The former Magistrates Court is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The former Magistrate?s Court is architecturally significant for the adoption of the Norman or French Romanesque style. The style was considered appropriate for a court of law. The revival of the pure Norman style of Romanesque had associations to the underlying ancient heritage of English law and contrasted strongly to the American Romanesque developed in the late nineteenth century by the American architect HH Richardson, a style which itself had found a strong resonance in Victoria.
The former Magistrate?s Court is historically significant for its long and continuous association as a site of law court buildings, from the erection of the old Supreme Court in 1843 to the closure of the current building in 1994. The retention of furniture and fittings from the old Supreme Court contributes to the understanding of a continuous legal process. The site has been the setting of many historically significant trials, including at the old Supreme Court the Eureka rebels in 1855 and Ned Kelly in 1880, and in the former Magistrates Court several cases against Leslie ?Squizzy? Taylor in the 1920s.
Features of interest
The then Premier of Victoria, Hon. Thomas Bent, had promised the Council of the Working Men's College (now RMIT University) that this new court would blend in with their main administrative building, which was next door at 124 La Trobe Street. Opinion was divided as to whether this aim was achieved.
The cedar canopy in the Second Court, which was moved from the old Supreme Court on the site. This is said to be the canopy under which Justice Sir Redmond Barry sat at the trial of Ned Kelly.
Unique seven-sided polygonal stair vestibule in the entrance foyer.
L-shaped peristyle courtyard, popularly known as the 'bull-ring'. Defendants and witnesses used to gather here before being called to the bench, resulting in some explosive and tense encounters.