Reminiscent of Nuremberg?

As I surveyed Laura Southwells graphic photos of butchery in action, the man next to me remarked that there was quite a lot of confronting stuff in this years show.

We were at Transit 07, which features the graduating offerings of this years SCU Visual Arts students.

I love these end-of-year shows, because there IS always something confronting.

Or exhilarating. Or inspirational. Or just plain exquisite.

Southwells musings on eating red meat with Art is a battleground and blood is now a magnet for me were positively gentle compared to some of the pieces.

Perhaps the most overtly disturbing was Jane Nicholes installation Spent, where you walk into a small, dark room to see a stream of video images projected onto the wall. Its almost like a music video, except instead of music its the blood-curdling squealing of a pig that forms the soundtrack. Meanwhile, youre watching a gargantuan pink piggybank suspended from the ceiling being brutally beaten by a faceless person wearing a suit, tie and gum boots.

Its actually a piata, which you realise when you notice the papier mache corpse hanging from the ceiling, toys spewing forth from its insides.

Its about consumerism, somebody told me.

Well, the economy did come to mind as I watched, but my reading of the work was a lot darker.

Equally as dark, but in a less visceral way, were the collage portraits of John Howards cabinet by Kirk Watts.

As I looked at Joe and Alex it struck me that both these ministers had been in Lismore recently.

I spotted my neighbour and went over to say hello, tuning into the tail end of his conversation as he explained to someone about Nuremberg where

Hitler had held a massive Nazi rally.

And thats where they chose to try the Nazi war criminals at the end of WWII, he said. Dont these works remind you of Nuremberg?

I had no idea what he meant, so I went back for a closer look.

Then I noticed the detail in the collage, not just the overall shape.It was indeed a searing indictment.

Joe (Hockey, Industrial Relations) consisted of a series of corporate logos and photos from sweat shops. The collage of Alex (Downer, Foreign Affairs) was made from cut out pieces of text with a recurring theme AWB, DFAT, Whether DFAT actually knew.

It was the transcript from the Cole Commission of Enquiry into the biggest corruption scandal in Australian history, linking the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to the $300 million worth of illegal kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein.

For me the most hard-hitting was Phil (Ruddock, formerly Immigration) which won the contemporary painting section of the Coraki Tea Tree Art Prize this year.

Inlaid into the collage were images of overseas refugee camps (somewhere in the Middle East judging from the attire), along with scenes from modern-looking prisons and photos of riot squads.

I later found out from the artist that the prison images were actually from Baxter Detention Centre.

Baxter actually looks like the worse place to be, doesnt it? he remarked.

Watts said he wanted to encourage people to be critical of what was going on at the moment, without telling people what to think.

He also deliberately chose to name the works based on the first names of each minister.

The titles were to give them a harmless quality, he said. To their wife, or their kids or their mother, they are just Joe or Alex. I wanted to challenge people to think: should I separate the man from his actions? They are government ministers who are politically responsible for what they do. But they probably dont personally agree with everything they do and when they go home they are just a dad or a husband.On a lighter note, Victor Dos Santos works were a whimsical delight, and an obvious crowd pleaser judging from the number of sold stickers adorning them.

A particular standout for me was honours student Vanessa Wallaces elegant and almost fetishistic ceramic sculptures of medical, orthopedic apparatus, where she challenges notions of the perfect body. And Kate Holmers artists books were a sensory delight with their textures, shapes and patterns. (And it was such a treat to run your hands all over them without donning a pair gloves).

There was plenty of note. Too much to write here. So youll just have to go see for yourself.

Transit 07 runs until Saturday, November 24, at the Visual Arts block at SCU. See the back page for opening hours.

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