Built for video

Richard Billingham: People, Places, Animals, installation view, ACCA, 2007. Courtesy ACCA Archive

By Lauren Dornau

In 2002 ACCA moved to the new Wood Marsh-designed building on Sturt Street, Southbank.  In comparison to ACCAs old home in Dallas Brooks Drive, which had low ceilings and small modestly proportioned rooms, the new ACCA’s design, with its expansive spaces, high ceilings and multiple rooms delivered a version of the European kunsthalle or ‘exhibition hall’ which was ideal for exhibiting contemporary art.

Coinciding with ACCA’s change of space and status, video art emerged as a force in contemporary visual arts.  ACCA’s new accommodations were poised to receive moving image work as it asserted its prominence as a media. The new ACCA was ideal for moving image and video works; large expanses of wall uninterrupted by window or door openings or decorative trimmings created a blank canvas for projected media.

Since its origins in the early 1960s, from works using small television sets to large digital projections, experimental to documentary, single channel to interactive installations video art has come a long way. ACCA has been the lead gallery in Melbourne to embrace and nurture video art as a contemporary art medium.

Over the past 12 years ACCA’s main exhibition gallery has been used for both solo and group shows and its proportions have proved perfect for large video works such as Shirin Neshat’s dual screen ‘Turbulent’ (2004), and Callum Morton, Marco Fusinato and Mutlu Cerkez’s collaborative work Avalon for the group exhibition ‘The Unquiet World’ (2006).  The stark, enclosed architecture of the interior spaces has suited shows like Richard Billingham’s ‘People, Places and Animals’ which dealt with issues of hostility, discomfort and captivity.  The combination of smaller and larger gallery spaces has worked well for major surveys of artist’s works where often a new commission is supported by several older key video works, for example; Pipilotti Rist’s ‘I Packed the Postcard In My Suitcase’, as well as group exhibitions such as ‘Cinema Paradiso’ (2007) and ‘Gestures and Procedures’ (2010) which showcased multiple film and photographic works.

In addition to this a larger gallery space has provided an opportunity for the projected work to be positioned in different locations; adjacent or on walls so the audience can sit, relax and soak in the work or as a sculptural object of it’s own that can be experienced physically and/or physiologically.  In David Rosetzky’s ‘How to Feel’ bean bags were set up in front of the screen and invited the viewer to become part of the studio-based therapy/exercise workshop featured in the work. Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ was projected onto a monolith or ‘mountain’ of a wall mimicking the mountains depicted in the film. Douglas Gordon’s island of TV monitors as part of ‘The only way out is the only way in’ (2014) resembled a floating island of electronic refuse. In ‘Gestures and Procedures’ many of the artists’ works were installed in separate rooms that invited the audience to participate in their personal experiences and interpretations

Lauren Dornau completed a Bachelor of Architecture from RMIT University and currently interns at ACCA.