Brown Council

Remembering Barbara Cleveland

16th – 25th August.

Remembering Barbara Cleveland is an interdisciplinary work that that focuses on the legacy of the mythic Australian performance artist Barbara Cleveland. Through a series of tribute performances and acts of remembrance Brown Council will examine the way in which artists are recorded through history and what role cultural narratives play in shaping contemporary art practice. Cleveland was working in Australia from the early 70s up until her untimely death in 1981 and despite her significant output of work she has largely been left out of the canon of performance art internationally. Like many Australian artists, Cleveland travelled to the UK in the 1970s and spent a number of years in Edinburgh, although there is little documentation of the work she made during this time. For the duration of the Forest Fringe, Brown Council will be researching the work of Cleveland during the 1970s as well as actively spreading the Barbara Cleveland message throughout the festival. Through honouring the life and work of Cleveland, Brown Council seek to question who is written in and out of art history, and how narratives are constructed and re-presented.

During the festival Brown Council will conduct a series of video interviews with local artists, curators and art historians who are familiar with Barbara Cleveland, as well as presenting a series of three acts of remembrance:

Remembering Barbara Cleveland: Act 1
HD Video, 10:33 mins
Original text by Barbara Cleveland, 1980
A reenactment of a performance lecture given by Cleveland in which a short text is repeatedly performed in fragments, cutting back and forth between the four members of Brown Council.

Remembering Barbara Cleveland: Act 2
Live performance, 120 mins
A tribute to Cleveland, in which the four members of Brown Council – wearing the same black, shoulder-length wig and costume – ‘remember’ the artist for two hours at a time.

Remembering Barbara Cleveland: Act 3
Limited edition printed cotton t-shirts
The t-shirts (that the performers also wear) are distributed during the performance season, directly involving the audience and inviting them to also ‘remember’ Cleveland.

Brown Council is the collaborative practice of Sydney-based artists Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Kelly Doley and Diana Smith. Since 2007, they have collectively made performance and video works that straddle the contexts of gallery and stage, and draw on the historical lineages of both the visual and performing arts. Their work engages with concepts of spectacle and endurance, as well as the dialogue between ‘liveness’ and the performance document or trace. Starting from simple conceptual provocations devised in group discussions, Brown Council combine elements from high and popular culture with moments from the everyday to create works that critique why and how it is that we perform. Often switching roles amongst members or outsourcing the performance to hired help, Brown Council complicate distinctions between actor and performance artist, performer and self, and the role of the audience as passive observer or active participant.

Brown Council’s live performances and video installations have shown in a range of Australian and international contexts including: Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, Melbourne International Art Fair; Campbelltown Arts Centre and the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney.

Recently, Brown Council have been nominated for the Alice Global Contemporary Art Award, 2012, were invited to be a Museum of Contemporary Art Young Ambassadors, and were awarded the QANTAS Foundation Encouragement of Contemporary Art Award in 2011, and have been supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the National Association for the Visual Arts and the NSW Ministry for the Arts.

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