TTS News & Almanac

16 February 1997

This newletter is written as an update on the progress of the Turn the Soil exhibition for artists and fellow travellers. It will be produced regularly to coincide with each opening.


The First & Last Supper

Logo talks

You’ll note that the logo has been recently touched up. We now have the phrase ‘turn the soil’ in all the languages represented in the exhibition. It is still planned to put wall texts in those languages around the gallery. The Semitic languages present a major problem not only in finding fonts but also printing the words in reverse.

Catalogue in order

The catalogue is about to go to the printers. The designer Ian Robertson has followed the passport format suggested by the mug shots. The inclusion of two borders on each page provides a useful visual key for the dual psychology of the second-generation experience.

Originally, the idea was to reverse the order of the pages. In the meantime, there has been so much happening in the catalogue design that it seemed too much of an added complication. Nevertheless, the order of sections is reversed, with artists’ pages preceding essays.

Exhibition in a spin

The display construction is soon to hit overdrive. The current plan is to include a wheel at the entrance that can be spun so that one of a range of countries might be selected. Visitors are hopefully reminded both of the chance factors that lead many to migrate here rather than another country, and the historical contingency behind the British colonisation.

Canberra opens

H nh Ngô’s graduating exhibition opens at the Canberra School of Art on Tuesday 18th February. It features the full number of rank badges, nine of which have been selected for the Turn the Soil exhibition. Elsewhere, Szuszy Timar is about to fly to Budapest and take up a residency. Elizabeth Fotiadis is away in Milan.

Workshop on track

The ‘Off the Beaten Track’ workshop will be held on Saturday 22nd March, 2-5pm at RMIT. The Workshop requires 15 people of varied skills, including writing, design, music and imagination to construct together a picture of what Australia would have been like if colonised by the Phoenicians. Sydney historian Ross Gibson has assisted in formulating the workshop. Those interested in this unique experience should contact Kevin Murray (9380 4326).

Opening speaker

We are very pleased that Julie Copeland (Arts Talk, Radio National) has agreed to open the exhibition. Her intelligent and concerned arts voice provides a beacon that helps TTS find its place in the world.

Forum exposed

NETS Victoria are organising a forum on Tuesday 25th March, RMIT at 6pm. The forum will provide an opportunity ‘to discuss issues raised by the exhibition’. The curator was hoping to avoid this scrutiny by organising a dinner, but he and a few representatives from the exhibition will be exposed to public interrogation. John Kean from the Museum of Victoria is chairing the session.

A dinner to inspire da Vinci

The extravaganza of the Melbourne opening is ‘The First & Last Supper’ for 200 people planned for Maundy Thursday (27th March) at RMIT’s Storey Hall. Historian/actor Michael Cathcart (Australia Centre, Melbourne Uni) will act as toastmaster and there will be a live broadcast of the TTS site with a musical interlude. The two Lebanese chefs who will be cooking up a meza storm are Greg Malouf (O’Connell’s) and Michael Bacash (Toofey’s). The organisation of the supper is in the capable hands of Craft Victoria’s new artistic director, Suzie Attiwill.

The entire venture is a risky one. We are hoping that enough people will have the sense of adventure to invest in such a unique event. The nail biting will reach a pitch a week before the dinner when we need at least 80 bookings to be able to proceed. The cost of $65 might seem expensive for an art event, but to most people in the food world the night represents great value.

Please urge as many people as you can to come along to the evening. You might try the line, ‘You’ve seen the Assyrian show at the NGV, now taste the Phoenicians at RMIT’.

For those unable to afford a ticket, it is still possible to witness the spectacle from the balcony of Storey Hall. The presentations should begin from around 9pm.

By the end, we hope people will have experienced an unforgetable night, learnt more about the exhibition, and launched ‘Turn the Soil’ on its Burke & Wills style journey around the continent.

Itinerary grows

The exhibition tour gets bigger and bigger. The latest addition to the list of venues is Broken Hill. With Alice Springs still a possibility you should start getting extra binder reinforcement to house these news sheets.

Alevi sample

Web site takes flight

The TTS web site has now moved up in the world. It is currently in the Craft Victoria web site: One of the upcoming highlights is an image from a local magazine published by ‘Alevi’ Turks that Philip Morrissey references in his catalogue essay. There’s a glimpse of it in this bulletin. A little later, we should have a recording of the Vietnames classic ‘Tale of Kieu’ that features in H nh Ngô’s work.

Eric Rolls suggests

Among the large collection of quotes about the significance of Phoenician culture to the Western imagination, this excerpt from Eric Roll’s book on Chinese migration to Australia is closest to home:

"[Phoenicians] carried grain and linen cloth from Egypt, the surface tin collected by the Celts in Cornwall and the Sicily Isles. What language did they speak to the gruff, taciturn Celts? Master shipbuilders, they built for themselves and for sale to other countries. With a knowledge of navigation and astronomy that could not be laughed at today, they were rounding the Cape of Good Hope by 600BC and trading with India for things marvellous and beautiful: gold, silver, jewels, incense, ivory, apes, peacocks. It is possible, and even more than likely, that Phoenician barques were caught in westerly storms and driven as far as Australia's west coast."

Eric Rolls Sojourners 1992, p. 2

In a few weeks time we’ll be able to see more clearly what that alternative history might have amounted to.

Alternative title

In what may well be an ongoing thought during TTS tour, a Melbourne painter came up with an alternative title for the exhibition. He referred to it as ‘that sod-buster show’. It doesn’t quite have the respectability of Turn the Soil, but it might go down well in bush.