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‘Art activism’ provokes a world of questions


Adelaide photographer Greg Ackland has created a series of still-life images highlighting anxieties surrounding environmental destruction and our uncertain future for a new exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre of SA.

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The only South Australian artist represented in the Planning for Tomorrow show, Ackland created all his photos in Adelaide, although they focus on issues affecting the world.

The works seek to contrast conservation with destruction, noting humans’ seeming inability to act on the need for change.

“I’m really worried about the way we behave in the world these days,” says Ackland, studio Head of Photography and Digital Media with Adelaide College of the Arts.

“Globally, we treat all of our resources like they will last forever, but they won’t. The anxiety surrounds the fact that we don’t seem to be changing our behavior.”

He wants people to make up their own minds about the nature of the messages within his works, saying the collection offers multiple shifting possibilities, as opposed to a single straight answer. For example, the image of a nose-diving jumbo jet may be seen to represent the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in 2014, just as it could be any other recent aerial tragedy.

“There are so many images circulating in the world, so which ones are triggered in the viewing of this picture and what meaning can be drawn from or imagined for this?

“I wanted to create images that could be read in a variety of ways.”

Ackland is one of five nationally and internationally recognised artists exhibiting works in the CACSA exhibition, which explores issues arising in the modern world through globalism and the collapse of ideological and political systems.

A work by Planning for Tomorrow exhibiting artist Keg DeSouza.

A work by Planning for Tomorrow exhibiting artist Keg de Souza.

Curator Logan McDonald says the collection – spanning the mediums of video, sculpture, textiles and photography – could be described as “art activism”.

“What sets this exhibition apart is it looks at the way art can reflect on the world, change it and also make sincere gestures to understand it,” he says.

“It’s not so much about revolution itself, but the artists all offer up revolutionary perspectives.”

The exhibition will feature design by self-proclaimed “anarchitect” Keg de Souza, who has previously worked with mediums such as inflatable art and food to explore the politics of space, and Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, who has travelled the world constructing giant letters from materials of local importance to spell the word “KAPITALISM”.

The other exhibiting artists are Australians Damiano Bertoli and Deborah Kelly.

Art by Santiago Sierra.

Art by Santiago Sierra.

McDonald says he hopes Planning for Tomorrow will provoke questions and discussion, prompting audiences to consider the current state of the world in a realistic light, yet one that’s not devoid of optimism.

“It’s the sense of having the world peeled back for you, but you also pick up glimmers of hope and change,” he says.

Planning for Tomorrow opened at the Contemporary Art Centre of SA at Parkside on Friday and continues until May 27.

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