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Meet ACCA’s new curator

11 Oct 2017

Meet ACCA’s new curator Image

Southbank’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) announced the appointment of new curator Hannah Presley last month, as part of the exciting new six-year Indigenous arts initiative Yalingwa.

Announced on September 12 at ACCA by Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins, Yalingwa has been developed in partnership with the State Government, ACCA and the TarraWarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Valley.

An Indigenous advisory group that includes elders, curators and key members of the national Indigenous arts community will oversee the program, which is designed to deliver significant outcomes for First Nations artists.

One of those outcomes is the provision of three new curatorial positions over six years to work with ACCA and TarraWarra to develop major exhibitions and within leading contemporary arts institutions.

As Yalingwa’s inaugural curator, Ms Presley said she was pleased to see a long-term commitment being made towards fostering the development of Indigenous art in a mainstream context.

“The Yalingwa program is really exciting,” she said. “I’ve been getting some amazing feedback from artists and curators from across the board that are just really excited to see that level of commitment from the government.”

“In the past we’re (indigenous artists) put into these institutions, working on these focused shows and then you’re out again looking for something else.”

“I think it’s good to see what’s happening in the mainstream as well so it can be fed back to the Aboriginal arts community so that they’re always aware of what’s happening and able to compete on the same level.”

Other outcomes to be delivered by the program include three one-year fellowships of $60,000 for senior South East Australian First Nations artists, as well as three major exhibitions to be held in 2018, 2020 and 2022 alternating between ACCA and TarraWarra.

Having grown up and honed her creative talents in Central Australia, Hannah has more than 15 years of experience working in aboriginal arts centres, galleries and community projects.

She most recently co-curated with Debbie Pryor the current West Space exhibition Every Second Feels like a Century, and was also curatorial assistant for iconic indigenous artist Tracey Moffatt’s My Horizon exhibition at the 57th Venice Biennale.

As she starts to prepare for the first Yalingwa exhibition for July 2018, she said the chance to work on exhibitions across ACCA’s annual program and with the ACCA team was invaluable.

“I’ve been keen to rack everyone else’s brains about what else is happening in contemporary art and internationally as well I think that is very exciting,” she said.

“Having access to that wealth of knowledge can’t be beaten. That’s definitely inspiring me and pushing my practice further.”

She said the opportunity Yalingwa gave to young up-and-coming Indigenous artists to celebrate Indigenous culture was one of the things that excited her most about the program.

And when it came to defining contemporary arts both in Australia and internationally, she said ACCA had its “finger on the pulse” and its support of Yalingwa was a reflection that the conversations about Indigenous art were changing.

“We’re not having to have those conversations as much about ‘yes it’s not a dot painting’ and I think everyone is getting a little bit more sophisticated in their understanding and catching up,” she said.

“Unfortunately there is always going to be stereotypes to break down but I think we’re doing a lot better than we were. Maybe we can celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal culture a bit more now.”

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