This place will always be open
As I write this Australian artist and MADA Fine Art lecturer Emily Floyd has just installed the inaugural sculpture commission in Monash University Museum of Art’s (MUMA) forecourt. It is a painted steel sculpture that spells out, in a snaking and unregulated arrangement, the sentence This place will always be open. The O in the sentence is large enough for the body to walk through while the other letters are uniformly smaller, generally cast at seat height or just above depending on the letter. In colour and form the work recalls the building block modernity of the Bauhaus, in particular the typography of Herbert Bayer. Observed as fragments the individual letters appear as poppy formalist sculptures that remind me of the American artist Richard Artschwager.
In keeping with much of Floyd’s work This place…, operates on a number of levels. In prosaic terms it signals that the sculpture court is always open and accessible and indeed it is a beautiful and finely realised formal object. Most importantly in my view is the way it operates as a type of memorial for an experimental past, in particular a specific moment of radical student politics that germinated inside Monash in 1969, a radicalism that the young Monash University in Clayton forged its reputation on. Indeed the back of the work houses a small library of seminal texts of left wing politics published in this period.
This place…, opens the way for us to consider these historical moments from a fresh perspective and casts light on the type of world we are in now and where we want to take it. At the risk of drawing the bow out longer than intended I think This place.., could well be used to describe something of the more recent sustained regeneration and ambition of the Monash Fine Art Department at Caulfield, and indeed the entire faculty of MADA.
We have a practice led, open studio program no longer differentiated by various disciplines. In recent times, we have bedded down an interdisciplinary course structure in the undergraduate stream that has enabled a fluid and open engagement with a multiplicity of artistic processes and pathways, including greater interdisciplinary exchange across the entire faculty. This is already creating students that are broadly skilled across all the spheres of visual culture and production and are distinctively MADA students.
We have the most outstanding team of artists and theorists on staff in the country, a collection of significant national and international figures and exciting emerging ones, whose skill as researchers and commitment to teaching is truly remarkable. As educators we are always open to improving what we do to make it exciting, relevant, critical and innovative. I would like to thank all the Fine Art staff for their hard work and generosity this year.
The Monash cultural precinct at Caulfield is deeply connected to the national and international art and design communities through our residency program and visiting artist forums, creating a dynamic atmosphere of dialogue and exchange that is constant and stimulating.
Our students are encouraged to take risks, to be open to a myriad of possibilities and processes and to forge a strong community of peers that will extend their further study into higher degrees or into the art world beyond the university. They are the force that drives the spirit of our place and the outstanding work they have produced for the graduate show is only part of the contribution they have made to the culture here at MADA. Their engagement with student life on campus in all its forms has been a pleasure to behold.
We are proud of your achievements and we look forward to watching your careers unfold in the future.
Professor Callum Morton
Head, Department of Fine Arts
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