Local Produce: Some “Transnational” Currents in Materiality, Art and Economy

By Michael Chapman and Richard Kelly Tipping.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

While the history of art is dominated by aesthetic attitudes relating to materiality, the theme of transnationalism provides the opportunity to reflect upon the increasingly “global” nature of materials and their broader role in the political, spatial and environmental economies of the industrialised world. Materials, viewed as resources, are increasingly “embodied” with values relating to the environmental cost of their extraction, the energy required in the manufacturing process and their relative availability to a commercial market.

Newcastle, a mid sized industrial city on the east coast of Australia, has, amongst its achievements, the distinction of being one of the largest coal exporting ports in the Southern Hemisphere. It also exports over 50 000 tonnes of aluminium per annum. The residual effects of this industry are everywhere, from the gigantic tankers that enter and exit the harbour on an hourly basis, to the intricate traces of infrastructure and industry that extend like ribbons into the rich natural resources of the Hunter Valley immediately to the north.

This paper will look at a series of art installations which directly engage themes relating to materials, place and export. The projects deal with aluminium, as a locally produced resource which, as well as requiring vast amounts of energy to manufacture, is in a constant state of transit as it moves between global economies all across the planet. Central to the local economy of Newcastle but consumed across the planet, the paper will look at the way that aluminium opens up new territories for thinking about materiality in art, its “embodied” environmental energies and the economic and transnational contexts which implicate and distribute it.

Keywords: Aluminium, Materials, Newcastle, Export, Ready Made

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.135-148. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.010MB).

Dr. Michael Chapman

Lecturer in Architecture, School of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Michael Chapman is a lecturer at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment in Newcastle, Australia. He is currently completing his PhD relating to surrealism and architectural practice. Together with Michael Ostwald and Chris Tucker he is the author of Residue: Architecture as a Condition of Loss published by the RMIT press in 2007. He has been involved in number of collaborative art projects and his work has been widely exhibited, including the State Library of NSW, the Museum of Melbourne and the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Architectural Biennale, 2008.

Dr. Richard Kelly Tipping

Lecturer in Media Arts, School of Design Communication and Information Technology, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Richard Tipping currently lives in Newcastle, Australia. He did undergraduate study in humanities at Flinders University in Adelaide and completed both a masters degree and doctorate at the University of Technology, Sydney. He worked freelance as a researcher, writer and director in the film industry from 1975 to1988 and has been lecturing in media arts at the University of Newcastle since 1989. He has authored four books of poems, a book of photographs and published many limited edition books, print folios and sculptural multiples. Since 1996, he has held solo exhibitions in cities including Sydney, Adelaide, London, New York, Cologne and Munich, and has major commissioned sculptures installed in several Australian cities. His photographs, prints and sculptures are in many public collections in Australia, including all state galleries and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. His most recent book is Subvert I Sing, published by Redfox Press in Ireland.


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