Caged Photomedia Art Exhibition


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The following images were created by Jennifer Phillips for an exhibition of photo media works by MultiFocus Photomedia Artists, Inc
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What should be caged?   Socialisation Cage   On every green hill far and near we build our city walls

4 - 15 February 2008
Belconnen Art Gallery
Opening Tuesday 5 February at 6pm
Guest Speaker: Mary Porter (MLA Labour for Ginninderra)

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MultiFocus was formed by a number of Canberra-based photographers and PhotoAccess members in 1998. Although there have been some changes since then, the current members share with their predecessors diverse cultural backgrounds and an interest in the big themes central to Australia and Australian life—including migration, resettlement and gender. Since its inception, MultiFocus has presented 10 exhibitions, including Starting Again, Echoes from the Past, Continuance, For those who’ve come across the Sea, Refuge?, Separate Realities and The History of Migrants throughout the Canberra region and in Melbourne.

MultiFocus presented images inspired by the concept "Caged". The artists focused on various aspects of caged in a physical sense, in a cultural sense, and in an emotional or spiritual sense, raising the question of what should be caged and why. Cages can be either protective or confining. They can operate in domestic situations, social environments or under overtly hostile and alien conditions. The artists invited the viewers to consider the nature of a society that incarcerates people who lend phonecards to relatives, creates walled communities to keep the poor out, and the implications of fitting the mold for the survival of cultural traditions.

My Statement

We cage many things to protect them from the kind of behaviour that should be caged. We cage trees, reserves, art works, our homes and our land. We even cage our children for large periods of their youth. We have legalized the schooling cage even though it labels and places people and subjects in boxes that are too small.

The schooling cage often produces gifted underachievers, and low self esteem. It produces the measuring of worth against grades achieved in a limited range of subjects and against what others do. We call this cage �education�. But because it is compulsory, it takes it out of the realm of what philosophy teaches us is the freedom implied and necessary for something to be considered �education�. School is the cage where our children learn the values and cultures of others often resulting in the rejection of family values for those of peer and �others�. In this cage the importance of group cohesiveness is valued more than individual integrity; conformity is valued more than uniqueness; blind obedience and trust rather than questioning authority figures and theories, which are sometimes portrayed as truisms, thus necessitating revisions of our science books. The value of achieving similar learning and being ranked is valued more than finding, nurturing and honouring the skills, abilities and potential of each person. Academic study is given more status than what we call �technological� skills. It is valued more than socializing and enjoying each others company with a range of ages. Our values are reflected in the time we give to each subject or classroom management. We reward written skills more than oral and the presentation of ideas rather than the important contribution of the idea itself. We are often too busy to do anything but worry about the discrepancies between what we think we value and what our actions show we value.

We insist on Secularism because some believe that knowledge can be taught outside a value system, as if some learnings are value free, truths that are outside of the cultural, gender and language constructs that make it subjective. �Secular� schooling is no more free of religion than �Religious� education. It has consequences for political, social, religious and every other area of life. Do we think that without knowledge of our religious heritage (and we do have one!), we can study our past? Art History, Culture and the other subjects we view as of 'educational' value need religious literacy. This cage could be called the propaganda cage because it involves knowing the world through other peoples world view and seeks to communicate only one world view � what is thought to be a non religious one.

We build our �city walls� everywhere, caging the land and limiting access even to public places in order to protect them from the feral behaviour of animals and people. Our fences enclose smaller and smaller spaces and our ignorance and greed builds houses end to end. It initiates wars and genocides in order to protect one way of living � our own. The denser the population, the greater the need for controls, which grow in number and complexity along with the building of administrative monitoring monsters�more and more rules and the pace of life increases adding it�s burdens of stress. The coast and the country are rapidly being snapped up by city dwellers wanting weekends and sometimes lives away from the �rat race� that gave them the resources to purchase their relaxation environments.

What should we cage? Should we cage behaviour that is aggressive and assaultive? We give criminal records for a one off slap, ruining someone�s employability for life: a costly impulsive act set in concrete, but protect assaulting magpies. We prefer to cage smaller more docile birds. We have caged outspoken female voices with cultural wires and continue to slash the soul of would be tall poppies. We die for peace in more ways than one, preferring comfort to confrontation. We die slowly from fear because our cages have conformed us like the roads we build driving the traffic. With only one life to live, and that very short, what should we cage?

© J. K. Phillips     Disclaimer
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