Graham Harwood Australian Tour

During 1995 ANAT coordinate an extensive Australian tour for UK multimedia artist Graham Harwood whose new CD-ROM Rehearsal of Memory disturbs assumptions of normality whilst confronting with a clean comfortable machine filled with filth, the forbidden and demented.

ANAT was funded via a quick response grant from the International Visitors to Australia Program of the Visual Arts/Craft Board of the Australia Council to coordinate an extensive national tour for Harwood spanning five cities. Hosting the tour were ArtSpace (Sydney, 30 September), Tasmanian School of Art (Hobart, 3 October), Experimental Art Foundation (Adelaide, 4 October), Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (Melbourne, 7 October) and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (Perth, 9 October). An estimated 500 people attended Harwood’s presentation, with the most well attended event being his lecture at PICA, where over 200 artists and industry representatives were in attendance.

Harwood presented lectures on his extensive body of work, including illustrated computer-generated comic books, product relabeling, underground newspapers and books, and his prototype CD-ROM. In addition to lectures, he ran a full-day workshop in Hobart, and conducted meetings with a number of cultural organisations and artists in each city. In Sydney, meetings were scheduled with the VACB, Hybrid and CCDU staff of the Australia Council, where initial ideas for a residency program for Australian artists at ARTEC in London were discussed enthusiastically.

Media interest in Harwood’s work was high, generating press, radio and television interviews. Coverage included Capital Q, RealTime, BroadSheet, The Advertiser, The West Australian, Triple J Radio, ABC Radio National (Radio Eye feature), SBS Radio (World View feature), ABC Arts National and SBS TV (Imagine feature).

This tour was the first installment of ANAT’s Virogenesis project, described as ‘a viral collision of the most exciting UK, European and Australian new media practitioners, curators, publishers and theorists’. The Virogenesis project was the initiative of Francesca da Rimini, who is committed to the idea of ensuring that Australian artists and the broader community have access to some of the most innovate and exciting artists’ work in the art and technology field, with a particular focus on politic and content.

For local artists the benefits of cultural exchange are two-fold: exposure to innovative and subversive electronic art, and the chance to promote their own work to key nodes in the international new media scene. While the exponential growth of the Internet does break down tyrannies of distance in the transmission of new ideas, much new work is about immanence and immersion in streams of hypermedia and at some point there is no escaping the flesh, and ‘flesh meets’.

Digitised flesh forms the core of Harwood’s Rehearsal of Memory. In collaboration with residents of Ashworth Maximum Security Mental Hospital, he created an interactive program embodying the life experience of those involved. By scanning the skin of the group the physical marks of a live lived around notions of insanity then form an interface through which the user can make close contact with significant events in those lives. The computer personality takes the form of an anonymous individual made up of the collective experience. Its hygienic procedures contaminated with the effluent of excluded human relations. For a long time we have assigned machines our dirty laundry whilst maintaining the image of their enamelled white veneers. This artwork is about recording the lives of the patient/staff group that acts as a mirror to ourselves (“normal society”) and our amnesia when confronted with the excesses of society. This forgetting is a dark shadow cast by plenty, a nightmare for some that constructs misinformation and fear about insanity.

In a time of confusion about how technology sits within society, whether we are creating dystopias or technotopias, info elites or techno orphans, the role of the artist is to provoke, challenge and unnerve becomes increasingly critical.

As Harwood says ‘Now is the time for filth’.


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