Around the international art world in fourteen days

Written by: Anna Ward
Photos by: Tracey Moffatt’s work by John Gollings; Bonita Ely’s work by Liz Eve
Every decade many Australian artists, curators, collectors and art tourists swing around Europe between April and November when the Venice Biennale, Documenta and the Skulptur Projekte Münster.
Australian artists in the 57th Biennale di Venezia, VIVA ARTE VIVA, that runs until 26 November 2017 include Tracey Moffat ‘MY HORIZON’ in the Australian Pavilion and Adam Nankervis of the Mondrian Fan Club (Medalla, Nankervis) in The Pavilion of Artists and Books curated by Christine Macel.
Candice Breitz’ ‘Love Story’ 2016 in the South African Pavilion was co-commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria with the assistance of Anna Schwartz. You can see it at the inaugural NGV Triennial 2017 from 15 December 2017 to 15 April 2018.
documenta 14 included Bonita Ely, Gordon Hookey and Dale Harding.
Bonita Ely, Honorary Associate Professor at UNSW, Faculty of Art and Design, who showed work in Athens and Kassel shared her experience of being curated into a major international event with us.
It began in January 2016 when she received a call from her dealer, Josh Milani in Brisbane, telling her she’d been selected into documenta 14. Artistic Director, Adam Szymczyk briefed her along with fellow artists, ‘… to create a work for each city, Athens and Kassel, their content and form contingent upon the conditions in these cities under the working title “Learning from Athens”.’
Curator, Hendrik Folkerts, chose the Australian artists to participate documenta14. Bonita observed,
Hendrik also chose two Indigenous Australian artists, Gordon Hookey and Dale Harding. I was very happy as I had taught Gordon at COFA, and he had mentored Dale, so it seemed there was a generational relationship between us, apart from their strength as artists.’
He selected my work ‘because of, as he wrote, “the rigour of my practice” and its socio- political content. He was interested because of my forensic deployment of field research, investigating, witnessing on the ground evidence of the conceptual premises of my work” and (I was)…exploring it from every different direction in the creative process’.
Shown in Athens and now available online ‘Plastikus’ focusses on environmental issues, specifically its titled subject matter ‘plastic’ that Ely says ‘has become a nightmare … (it has) turned into this massive ecological problem. I wanted to explore that and also communicate what a dire problem it is. In the future it could be as dire a problem as global warming’.
View the touch screen created for Plastikus Progressus at
Entering the Palais Bellevue, Ely’s installation Memento Mori, 2013 – 2017 was displayed in a large muted room on the ground floor which gave the eighteenth century palace the look and feel of a museum appropriate for the sombre work. Three separate yet related sculptures, including Interior Decoration 2013 which the artist notes,
‘explores the inter-generational effects of post-traumatic stress disorder as an outcome of war. The installation is informed by my own experience as a child raised by a veteran of WW2’
were all framed by a new work created in 2017 from the perspective of her commission for Kassel. A photographic dado with all images attributed circled the room at waist height ‘composed of the names of Kassel’s murdered Jewish people deported from the KulturBahnhof … with a stream of consciousness narrative of diverse photos of people, places and monuments relating to war and trauma’.
Ingeniously fabricated out of early to mid twentieth century domestic materials, Ely’s work interwove her own childhood memories with the most significant memories of our time – the horrors of war and the displacement of many people, especially during WWII and its aftermath.
In her sculptures Ely forges the connection between the armaments of war and domestic life, successfully drawing her subject matter together: the trauma of war that is often associated with the trauma of people who suffer domestic violence.


Bonita Ely kindly gave Lowensteins permission to use her notes and documentation about her participation in documenta 14, including conversations with Lisa Roberts, UTS School of Life Sciences at; 03-Bonita Ely: Plastikus at and Tessa Laird, VCA.