Taking ‘The Plague’ as a starting point, this discussion explores how might we constitute contemporary art in an era of geo-political instability. With Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump’s twitter warfare, threatening to pre-empt thermonuclear war, can we not see art swept up in this accelerating global vector? Is not our current, contemporary and exemplary art form the performative staging of an ongoing free-market apocalypse, from which none will survive?
Su Baker is an artist, academic and currently in the role of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) at the University of Melbourne and Director of the Centre of Visual Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. She has more than twenty-five years’ experience in teaching, research and senior management accrued at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, and most recently, Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) where she was ten years, Head of the School of Art, and seven years, Director of the VCA. She is President of the Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts, and previously has been Chair of the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (2004–08). Su is Editor in Chief of Art + Australia, the journal having been recently donated to the VCA by Eleonora Triguboff.
Su Baker is a leading arts academic and artist, who is called upon for expert advice and has written on the shifting needs of arts education and the role of the Art School in the 21st Century, including “Art School 2.0 : Art Schools in the Information Age or Reciprocal Relations and the Art of the Possible”, in Rethinking the Contemporary Art School, The Artist, the PhD and the Academy, NSCAD Press, 2009. She has been Chair of the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (2004-2008). Through this role she played an active role in the recognition of the research in the Creative Arts advising the ARC in the development of the RQF and the recent ERA process. Her work in these roles has led to the establishment of the new Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts, to which she was elected President in February 2013, Su Baker has exhibited nationally over the last 20+ years in public and commercial galleries, including numerous solo and selected group exhibitions and national survey shows including in a number of curated exhibitions at State Galleries and significant contemporary art venues. These include Perspecta ’89 at the Art Gallery of NSW and Dissonance, at Artspace in Sydney 1991. First solo exhibition in 1983 at Galerie Dusseldorf, Perth, and has exhibited regularly in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. In Melbourne, Su is represented by Nicholas Thompson Gallery.
Edward Colless is a Senior Lecturer in Critical and Theoretical Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Aside from education, he has in the past also worked in theatre, film, broadcasting and architecture, been a curator, occasionally worked as a travel writer, and dabbled in fiction—but mainly he writes art criticism. In this field he has been an arts reviewer for The Age and The Australian, and associate editor and features writer for Art Collector. He is currently editor of the journal Art+Australia, with its associated publishing program. He also shamelessly uses any opportunity to write on arcane topics, the more obscure the better: heretical theology, art historical marginalia, crypto-zoology, dark tourism
Tessa Laird is a writer and artist lecturing in Critical and Theoretical Studies at VCA School of Art. In the late 1990s she co-founded and edited two important New Zealand art magazines: Monica Reviews Art and LOG Illustrated. Since then she has been a critic for various publications including the New Zealand Listener, Art New Zealand, and Art and Australia. She has written countless catalogue essays and chapters in artists’ monographs. Her speculative enquiry into colour A Rainbow Reader was published by Clouds in 2013. She is currently working on a book about bats for Reaktion’s Animal series. Tessa is editor of Art + Australia Online.
Jessica Laraine Williams is a researcher and PhD candidate at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), Melbourne University. Jess is undertaking her doctoral research into the aesthetic agents and agencies of transdisciplinary digital art. In parallel, she conducts research with academics outside her home faculty and institution. Her current projects include intersections between art and the fields of health, biophilic design, and ecology. Jess continues to practice in her allied health profession as an aged care physiotherapist part-time.
John Warwicker born 1955, London, founder (1991), and still active member, of the internationally acclaimed art + design collective, Tomato. Enterprise Professor of Design, VCA and visiting Professor at Zokei University/Kuwasawa Design School, Tokyo. Twice winner of the prestigious Special Prize at the Tokyo Type Directors Club and well as many other international design awards and first foreign member of the Tokyo Type Directors Club. He has authored six books, including the award-winning monograph ‘The Floating World’, as well as numerous magazine articles worldwide. His work has featured in many design publications including The History of Graphic Design by Philip K. Meggs (Viking) and Graphic Design, A Concise History by Richard Hollis (Thames & Hudson). John is Design Editor of Art+Australia.