Matters of the art at Fisher

ARTBOX visual display in Fisher Library

If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit Fisher Library in person these days, you might notice a colourful new display in the Level 3 and 4 corridors.

ARTBOX is a student exhibition space that showcases an ongoing rotation of artworks in Fisher Library. It is an initiative created by Verge Gallery and hosted by the University of Sydney Library.

Currently on display in the Level 3 corridor is the exhibit pause.play by student curator Anthia Balis. This exhibit aims to connect the University of Sydney community through the retelling of personal experiences to do with their physical absence from campus, home isolation, re-entering public spaces and uni life.

Balis curates the artworks of the University of Sydney Calligraphy Society in a text-based exhibition which uses conversations with the University of Sydney community as the foundation of the artworks.

The Level 4 corridor features a work by student artist Yu Zhao entitled Lockdown in a room of one’s own.

Through the media of printmaking, photography, new technology and installation, Zhao explores ideas about identity and social interaction under the impact of social media, with an emphasis on COVID-19.

Zhao sees the pandemic creating copious information but lacking the physical dimension of touch and therefore emotional connection. The work is interactive and through a QR code, invites the viewer into the artist’s virtual space.

The exhibitions form part of Verge Gallery’s ongoing investigation of a developing global situation and are the first of a schedule of exhibits for the ARTBOX project within Fisher Library.

Photographs: Sarah Lorien

Digital Placemaking Project

interior Fisher Library foyer

When you visit our library sites do you ever think of the story of these places, the culture of millennia integrally connected to the land we are on?

The Library has an exciting new project announcement! We’re commissioning digital artwork by First Nations artists to inform and celebrate cultural and historical context for our physical library sites and incorporate an Acknowledgement of Country. These artworks will be displayed on screens throughout library sites and on our huge ThinkSpace video wall.

This opportunity to highlight the story of the culture of the region is part of the University of Sydney 2020 program focussing on diversity and inclusion through a Wingara Mura grant from the Deputy Vice Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services.

Visit our web page for more details and to access the link to the ‘Expressions of Interest’ document which contains the full artwork scope and specifications, key elements, timelines and terms and conditions.

Submission close 31 July 2020

Collecting your COVID-19 University Experience

section of quilt designed and made during COVID-19

We want to collect your stories describing your experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Library is creating a collection that documents the university experience of staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to collect your videos, personal reflections, artworks, photographs, stories, poetry and other expressions of your own experience to help us record this essential part of University history for generations to come. This collection will be made publicly available to be used in research, teaching and for public interest.

Not sure where to start? Consider writing a message to the future:

Imagine you’re sending a message to someone in the future. This may be your future self, your descendants, your community or even someone opening a time capsule from today in a future century. What would you like them to know about the pandemic as experienced through your daily life, your hopes, your fears, what you’ve observed or learnt, unexpected surprises and joys? Your message may take in any form – written, illustrated, composed, sound-based, video, a zine, 3D, or something else entirely. You can give it to us as a digital file(s), or a physical item.

Visit the Collecting COVID-19 website to find out how to share your story. All submissions will be reviewed in line with scope of this collection. Unfortunately, this means we won’t be able to accept everything for the final collection.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a particularly tough time for many people, please remember that there are ways for you to get support:

Support through the University of Sydney (for staff and students)

Other sources of support in Australia

Here are some of our submissions to inspire you!

Eight Million Gods in Nihon: the Practice of Shintō and the Japanese Culture

tower gate of Katori Shrine

Drawing on the Japanese pre-war postcards collection from the Library’s East Asian Collection, Rare Books & Special Collections student intern Jiawen (Chloe) Li (Master of Museum and Heritage Studies) introduces the practice of Shintō and explores its place in the Japanese culture today.


Shintō (神道) has been at the heart of Japanese culture since the country has named itself Nihon (日本), “the sun’s origin”. It originated in the relationship between ancient Japanese and the power they found in nature . Through centuries of recorded history, Shintō continues to take part in the framing of Japan both to the outside world and to the Japanese themselves. Shintō is a way of life and a way of thinking. Drawing on the Japanese postcard collection from the University Library’s East Asian Collection, this online exhibition is about to walk you through the spiritual Shintō world.

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Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition

There has long been a thirst for cheap, mass produced depictions of violence and crime narratives in popular culture from eighteenth century crime ‘broadsides’ sold at public executions and nineteenth century ‘penny dreadfuls’. Rare Books and Special Collections holds an extensive collection of Detective Fiction encompassing twentieth century crime novels as well as pulp fiction series.

A selection of detective fiction on display at the Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition


Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction showcases these books and their cover designs. For instance, the mid-century, green-saturated period of Penguin crime literature paperbacks demonstrates the ‘Marber Grid’, with two-thirds of the layout allowing for striking modernist illustration and bold graphic design. There is power in the simplicity of these designs with their limited colour palette, elements of photomontage, collage, drawing and geometric pattern, and use of sans serif font.

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A selection of detective fiction on display at the Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition

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At the other extreme of the literary spectrum, there are the garish, titillating and often misogynistic designs that adorn pulp fiction covers. The racy titles and compositional elements of femme fatales and wanton dames, gangsters and gumshoes, and occasional homoerotic imagery, were designed to catch the eyes of disposable sleaze readers (and latter day criminologists).

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A selection of detective fiction on display at the Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction Exhibition

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Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction reveals and revels in a sense of each genre’s distinctive design, whether highbrow or lowbrow, and the visual impact of these compact, accessible and affordable publications.

This exhibition has been curated by Dr Carolyn McKay. Dr Carolyn McKay is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Law School where she teaches Criminal Law, Civil & Criminal Procedure and Digital Criminology. She is co-Deputy Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology. Carolyn is recognised for her research into technologies in justice, specifically her empirical research into prisoners’ experiences of accessing justice from a custodial situation by audio visual links. Her qualitative study based on one-to-one interviews with prisoners provided evidence for her PhD thesis as well as her recently published research monograph,The Pixelated Prisoner: Prison video links, court ‘appearance’ and the justice matrix (2018) Routledge. Carolyn has published and presented in relation to other technologies and served on the 2019 NSW Law Society Legal Technologies Committee. She has been appointed to the 2019-2020 NSW Bar Association Innovation & Technology Committee. Carolyn has been a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford 2019 and for 3 months at the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Spain 2013-14. Carolyn has previously consulted on anti-dumping trade disputes and indirect taxation, working in both Sydney and Tokyo, and she also has a digital media/visual arts practice.

Visit Lurid: Crime Paperbacks and Pulp Fiction from 24th February- 20 June 2020 , level 3 Fisher Library & SciTech Library

Fritz Schonbach: Exhibition

Fritz Schonbach was 18 when Nazi forces invaded Austria in 1938 and he was forced to flee. While his parents went to Argentina, Schonbach escaped to London where despite being a Jewish refugee he was eventually declared an enemy agent.

Collection of sketches 1 (Hay Internment Camp, 1940)
Schonbach, Fritz Pencil on paper

On the 10th of July 1940 Schonbach, along with 2,000 other German speaking Jewish men, became passenger aboard the infamous HMT Dunera and bound for Australia. The conditions and treatment aboard the Dunera were horrific, but Schonbach was content as long as he was creating his art.

Schonbach, Fritz Pencil and Watercolour on Paper

With only a stub of pencil, he recorded the journey and conditions on the Dunera, his arrival in Sydney, and his time at the Hay Internment Camp through a series of beautiful drawings, satirical cartoons, and later watercolor paintings. During his time in the Hay camp, Schonbach and two other young men created a bi-weekly newspaper that was remembered fondly by the other internees for years to come. At such a young age, despite the often-depressing conditions and the prohibiting aspects of camp life, Schonbach managed to view this time in his life as an adventure where he was free to follow his artistic passion.

Schonbach, Fritz Pencil and Watercolour on Paper

After his internment, Schonbach became a member of the 8th Employment Company of the Australian Army under the command of Captain. E. R. Broughton. He was released from duty by 1946, a demoralizing entire year after the end of the war, at which time he moved to Sydney and began a painting and drawing degree at what is now the National Art School. During his three years of study Schonbach became engaged to local photographer Beverley June Heydon. They were married in 1950 and travelled for several years before eventually settling in Buenos Ares, where Schonbach worked as an artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, and he and June had two children.

“He Say He Wants to Travel by Liner – Not by Mistake” (Hay Internment Camp, 1941)
Schonbach, Fritz Pencil and Watercolour on Paper

His paintings from this time are vibrant and evocative. Never completely content in the politically and socially unstable Argentina, Schonbach eventually moved with his family to the US, and then later to Canada where he lived until his death in 2011. Throughout his life, art continued to be a central theme and driving force.

This exhibition celebrates Schonbach’s work from very difficult to exciting times of his life.

The Archive of Australian Judaica has been operating since the 4th of July 1983 within Rare Books and Special Collections at Fisher Library, The University of Sydney. The Archive of Australian Judaica houses over 32 partial or complete collections of both prominent and lesser known Jewish community organisation, some of which are now non-operational. It also houses over 80 individual collections of prominent Jewish people that have impacted life in the Australian Jewish Community and Australia. You may also wish to visit our collaborative repository for Australian Jewish records, the Archives of the Australian Jewish Historical Society

This Exhibition has be curated by Laura Kevan. Laura is a current Master of Museum and Heritage Studies student at the University of Sydney. Previous she completed a Bachelors of Art Theory with first class Honours and the University Medal from UNSW: Art and Design, with a focus on contemporary war memorials and commemoration. Having been volunteering and interning with art organisations across Sydney for the last few years, Laura has applied this knowledge and experience to her current internship with Australian Archive of Judaica (AAJ) studying the artworks and life of Fritz Schonbach, developing an exhibition, and writing his bio for the AAJ website. A lifelong lover of 20th century art, Laura has visited numerous art galleries worldwide and has spent years on its study. As such, the chance to handle and engage with Schonbach’s work has been an exciting opportunity. His life is truly a wonderful untold story, and the artworks, firsthand accounts, and period newspapers from the Dunera and Hay Internment Camp available in the AAJ are impressive and interesting.

See the Fritz Schonbach on display at Level 4, Fisher Library, 15th November 2019 – 3rd April 2020, or visit the online exhibition.