COFA Professors Jill Bennett and Anna Munster have co-curated an exhibition of new media art that examines aesthetic responses to modern-day disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, war and environmental catastrophes.
The exhibition, REAL Emergency, is the Australian premiere of documentary, film and video art by renowned international and national artists, including contemporary Chinese artist Yang Shaobin.
Bennett, the Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics (CCAP), said the exhibition aims to "pick apart" the media's capacity to reveal the truth and its ability to elicit certain emotional responses from the public.
"Art may not report on the emergency as it happens but it offers a vital means of tracking the thoughts, forces and intensities that shape the unfolding of public events," she said.
CCAP hosted an inter-disciplinary symposium, INFECTIOUS: crisis, contagion and communication aesthetics, in conjunction with the exhibition. It included speakers from public health, media, cultural theory and psychology.
Bennett pointed to COFA graduate Zoe Butt's talk as the highlight of the symposium.
Now the director of Beijing-based artistic collective, The Long March Project, Butt discussed the project's four-year collaboration with artist Yang Shaobin documenting the reality of the coal-mining industry in north eastern China.
The REAL Emergency exhibition is the result of an Australia Research Council (ARC) funded project that Bennett conducted on art, crisis and redevelopment in South East Asia with input from Munster's current ARC project on innovative forms of new media in art and society.
"It was a happy coincidence that I had the pleasure of working with some of these artists as part of my research and they agreed to take part in the exhibition," she said.
Alongside Yang Shaobin's art, the exhibition features work from Hito Steyerl (Germany), Liza Johnson (USA), Sharon Daniel (USA), Michele Barker and Anna Munster (Aus) and Atanas Djonov (Bulgaria/Aus).
REAL Emergency runs until September 19 at Ivan Dougherty Gallery, COFA.
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