Australian artist and activist Zanny Begg wins inaugural Artbank + ACMI Commission

The Sydney-based artist and filmmaker won the commission for her proposed video installation The Beehive.

Zanny Begg’s The Beehive will explore the murder of Sydney activist Juanita Nielsen, an Australian publisher, activist for urban conservation and community issues, and heiress. 

Zanny Begg. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Zanny Begg. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

The Artbank + ACMI Commission is the first commission of its kind in Australia, and aims to support artists and filmmakers working at the nexus of film and art. For three years, the Artbank + ACMI Commission will provide support for Australian artists and filmmakers to make a new, ambitious and experimental screen-based work, as well as to explore new forms and methodologies in their practice. Each year, one artist or filmmaker will be awarded AUD70,000 and an ACMI X industry membership.

While ACMI is a key institution in the promotion of moving image work and funds various commissions to encourage new experimental work by artists working with the medium, Artbank has two core objectives: to support Australian contemporary artists through the acquisition of their work and to promote the value of Australian contemporary art to the broader public. The Artbank collection is comprised of approximately 10,000 works by over 3500 artists, across media, and includes some of the best examples of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian art produced over the last four decades.

The winner of the inaugural edition of the collaborative commission is Sydney-based artist, filmmaker and activist Zanny Begg, for the proposal of The Beehive, which will examine issues surrouding the life and disappearance of Sydney activist Juanita Nielsen (1937-1975).

ACMI Director and CEO Katrina Sedgwick is quoted in the press release as saying:

Zanny Begg is a thoughtful voice [at] the forefront of a generation of filmmakers examining radical, queer and unruly bodies. Her proposed work The Beehive is not only topical but a sorely needed examination of the consequences of gentrification and the role cities play in our lives. We’re thrilled, together with Artbank, to award Begg the Artbank + ACMI Commission, providing her with the support to pursue and extend her practice. Begg’s probing cinematic artworks defy categorisation, and it’s exactly these types of works that the Artbank + ACMI Commission was designed for.

Zanny Begg. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Zanny Begg. Image courtesy the artist and ACMI.

Who is Zanny Begg?

Zanny Begg has a PhD in Art Theory with a focus on the emergence of Socially Engaged Art Practices between the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organisation Meeting in Seattle and the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. She was the director of Tin Sheds Gallery, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney (2010-2014) and is currently a lecturer at UNSW Art and Design.

In her artistic practice, Begg is interested in exploring the archeology of contested history/ies and the architecture of social change. She works with film, drawing and installation to explore the different ways in which we can live and be in the world. Her explorations have included macro-political themes, such as alte-globalisation protests, and engagements with micro-political worlds, such as with kids in a maximum security prison.

Begg’s work is often collaborative. She has worked with Elise McLeod for her film The City of Ladies, and with Oliver Ressler for The Right of Passage (2013). Other collaborations include Keg de Souza, The Choir of Love, Refugee Art Project and Dmitry Vilensky among others. She is a founding member of the art collective Undrawing the Line.

Other films include The Bullwhip Effect (2017), How to Blow up a Bubble that Won’t Burst, 1001 Nights in Fairfield (2015) and Doing Time (2014).

Begg is the 2016 winner of the Incinerator Art Award: Art for Social Change. Her work is part of important institutional collections, such as the Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, The Neuer Berliner Kunstverein and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Click here to watch an introduction to Zanny Begg’s film ‘The City of Ladies’ on YouTube

The proposal that won her the inaugural Artbank + ACMI Commission, The Beehive, to be exhibited at ACMI in 2018, is based on the unsolved murder of famous Sydney anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen (1937-1975) in 1975.

Tony Stephens, Director of Artbank, said about the winner and her work:

Zanny is at the vanguard of artists working at the intersection of visual arts and filmmaking in Australia and her outstanding application, The Beehive, shows just why she continues to dominate in this arena. Examining themes of gentrification, corruption and forensic architecture, The Beehive will be shot in Kings Cross and prove a timely examination of urban politics past and present.

The Beehive will examine themes of gentrification, corruption, sex-work, feminism and non-conformist lifestyles. It will also be experimental in nature, as it will be created using an algorithm and will be randomly compiled from a reservoir of scripted fictions, documentary interviews and choreographed sequences exploring the implications of this infamous cold case and how they can be applied today. The work will use the tropes of true crime, morphing and evolving with each subsequent viewing, thus creating different glimpses and interpretations of the crime. Begg states about her work:

I hope to work with the legacy of Juanita Nielsen to explore the fate of our inner-city neighbourhoods. The Beehive was chosen as a title to reference Juanita’s distinctive hairdo, but also a poetic disjunction embedded within the ways we think about the city; it is both an industrious, utilitarian, hierarchical hub and a dark sweet cooperative womb.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: Australian artists, political art, art and activism, collaborative art, prizes, awards, film, news

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