Fortune

Anne Zahalka, Jacky Redgate, Geoff Kleem, Jeff Gibson, Janet Burchill, Geoff Weary
Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
6 July - 30 July, 1988

Fortune was smart and engaging. Inexplicably, Fortune, at the IMA, was also contained, and produced limited excitation or disturbance. While the validity of holding such expectations might be debated, it may yet be pertinent to ask why Fortune did not impart the chance exhilaration implicit in its title.

The dilemma posed by Fortune is the difficulty of identifying with accuracy the absence within the exhibition. Was the perceived tarnish due, for instance, to the work, to critical absence, bland packaging, overly familiar and unresistant combinations, or lack of curatorial thesis? An optimum sighting of Fortune may lie not in the panoramic view, but in the close-up, for the show was important in terms of its individual works, which were on the whole very significant. Where the show fell down was in regard to its overall presentation and conception. In terms of a theme we were only given "the photographic", and its central role in postmodern discourse, as the key link between the work of Anne Zahalka, Jacky Redgate, Geoff Kleem, Jeff Gibson, Janet Burchill and Geoff Weary.

But the individual artist's particular engagement within the postmodern photographic discourse, and with history, was not defined within the exhibition. Neither was the rationale for artist selection defined. Rather it appears as if by "fortune" that this fortuitous grouping of artists and writers materialized. The two catalogue essays by Adrian Martin and co-authors John Conomos and Mark Jackson speak broadly around postmodern photographic practices and theory, but do not begin to explicate the exhibition. In actuality an artist-run "initiative", Fortune presents a voiceless and authorless whole which can only be accessed by interrogating the coexisting parts.

At the IMA, Fortune appeared as follows: Right, at the lift, the Janet Burchill piece inscribed "Standard Sensitivies· in three galvanized iron panels, the centre panel quoting Warhol's Gold Marilyn, but displacing the glamour of the latter by its use of an industrial support and a less well known actress (Tippi Hedren) looking the worse for wear. Across the room, by the windows, Jeff Gibson's nine images each juxtaposed a series of silkscreened washed-out looking Jasper Johns-like targets above postcard sized found photographs of Baroque interiors creating an implosive interface between two levels of aesthetic banality.

Next, three Geoff Kleem photodocuments of painted point-of-view installations, were quite stunning in their ingenuity and technique. Still on the long wall, seven Jacky Redgate works: large sepia-toned cibachrome photographs, produced from found photographic family portraits. The appropriation of these images created a curious emptying of the feelings normally associated with such family photos, which was intensified by the fact this emptying out was effected by a woman. Geoff Weary's "installation" on the short end wall comprised a portrait photograph of a young male in a tacky gold frame placed on a small shelf, high above  the monitor where a video Anxiety of Influence was run. The video played a game of intersecting film and art quotes (for instance from Blow Up, The Tenant, Max Beckmann's In His Studio and Peter Blake's Self Portrait) with "performance" look-alike insertions by Weary.

Finally, facing Redgate's deconstructions of domestic imagery, Anne Zahalka's Inheritance photographs continued the concerns of her earlier Resemblance series (initially in Fortune). In this series Zahalka depicts Australian contemporary domestic interiors, referencing the Australian cultural tradition in terms of her deconstruction of the European culture in Resemblance. In Resemblance she used photography to deconstruct the false harmony created by traditional art, inserting discordant elements from the contemporary world into her fabrications of seventeenth century Dutch interior scenes. In Inheritance she creates a similar discord between the cultural trappings of our own European inheritance and the everyday life of contemporary Australia.

Such a listing, however, is only a ground plan. How the individual works in Fortune approached history and the canon requires, and deserves, more detailed analysis. Suffice to that, in terms of its overall presentation, Fortune may almost have been the ultimate postmodern enterprise, seemingly authorless and devoid of unifying purpose. The misfortune of Fortune was that its overall presentation was too gentle and bland: in combination and "look" perhaps that bit too close to the bourgeois propriety of an exhibit of art photography.

Geoff Kleem, Untitled, 1988. Cibachrome.