Under the Skin, Space, Place and Gender in Queensland Photography 1999
Contemporary Art Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, U.K..
Dr Nick Zurbrugg offered me an exhibition opportunity at The Centre for Contemporary Art, De Montfort
University, Leicester, U.K.  where I curated Under the Skin, Space, Place and Gender in Queensland
Photography. The nine Queensland based artist photographers included: Angela Blakeley, Maree Cunnington,
Feona Doherty, Jill Giles, Annie Hogan, Gia Mitchell, and Natalie Paton alongside my own.  Following is an
excerpt of the short essay written for the exhibition publication:
Beautiful One Day Perfect the Next
As this exhibition of seven photographers focuses its vision within the context of Queensland, Australia it seems
only fair to give some background to the place itself for those who have not made the journey to the Antipodes.
Queensland has a vast sense of space being 7 times the size of the U.K. and is sparsely populated with only
1/19 of its population. Queensland’s tourism slogan Beautiful One Day Perfect the Next sets the ironic scene that
is home to one of the seven natural wonders, The Great Barrier Reef as well as a history of political corruption.
Sunny beaches, forming the more densely populated coastline on the north east of Queensland, wrap around its
rural central expanse – its heartland – on the fringe of Australia’s central desert country.
Conservatism and Corruption
Queensland’s wealth is historically based in rural primary produce including minerals, sugar, wheat, sheep and
cattle with a burgeoning tourist trade seeking a glimpse of its fleshy tropical paradise. Historically the population
has been less educated where the conservative wealthy lived on the land creating an absence of ‘citified’
bourgeois cultural sophistication (Szulakowska:1998). Politically Queensland is only now emerging from an
image of corrupt/moralistic/intellectually backward politicians voted in through the infamous gerrymander system
where a rural vote was worth more than a city vote.  The chanting voices of street marchers calling for “one vote
one value” still ring in my ears.  Joh Bjelke Petersen, the Premier of the state at that time, prohibited public
gatherings and free speech and Queensland was known internationally as a police state.  The corruption was
supposedly ended at the close of the 80’s with the Fitzgerald Inquiry which imprisoned Sir Terry Lewis, the then
Minister for Police.  More recently the racist politician Pauline Hansen, the suburban fish n’ chips shop owner and
the leader of ONE NATION epitomizes the Queensland electorate’s at times ignorant racist opinions.
In response to this repressive political agenda, 80’s artistic practice incorporated a raw politicised dada,
situationism, and a performance art bias. Bodily abjection and a larrikinish sense of humour were strong currents
within the conceptual tone of the Brisbane art scene. Throughout the initial stages of the creation of Brisbane arts
infrastructure in the 80s, questions of regional identity were raised in response to calls for ‘Queenslandness” in
Queensland art practice, incorporating primitive expressionism, tropical imagery, and indeed a ‘rusticness’ that
relates Queensland art practice to the physicality of Queensland.
Specifically, Max Dupain, the father of Australian photography, had reviewed Occlusion, the first exhibition of
Queensland contemporary photography at the Australian Centre of Photography in 1986 and infuriated and
amused with his call for reality in Queensland Photography in his review in The Sydney Morning Herald:
My recollections of Queensland are of bright, wide open flats of land, studded with cattle and horses,
homogeneous people, hot sun, sweat and a rush of organic energy; human contact delightfully at a
minimum level.
Most of these pictures don’t relate to Queensland….
They dwell on universal states of mind, the intangibles of life and are expressed by way of photographic
metaphysicals. Strange that such contents should emerge from a people so close to the earth.  (M.