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Art & Culture

Exhibition shows Canberra’s first response to pandemic

Michael Weaver
Registered nurse at the Canberra Hospital Anju Mamachan.

A registered nurse at the Canberra Hospital Anju Mamachan is part of the exhibition at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Photos: Martin Ollman.

From photographs of Canberra’s frontline health workers to an interpretive dance that explores the restraints of self-isolation, an exhibition at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre will showcase the artistic aspects of Canberra’s first response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conceived and developed during isolation, the exhibition from 25 July to 19 September will mark the reopening of the arts centre that its CEO Rauny Worm says captures the uncertainty that has marked the past three months in Canberra.

The First Response exhibition presents new works by Canberra artists Martin Ollman, Marissa McDowell, Anna Georgia and Shannon Hanrahan.

Ms Worm said the project features a variety of disciplines that have been commissioned by the Tuggeranong Arts Centre that, along with photographs and solo dance performance, include a short documentary film and a video featuring notes on the Canberra lockdown.

Nigel and Beth of Canberra music venue Smith's Alternative during the pandemic.

Nigel and Beth of Canberra music venue Smith’s Alternative during the pandemic.

“Somehow there was no escape from the many questions this pandemic was confronting us with, so we decided to explore what it was doing to us, to our community and how we as a place are dealing with it,” Ms Worm said.

She said the works also highlight Canberra’s unique role as the epicentre of the crisis, as well as showing the profound and personal effects the pandemic response is having on individuals and communities in the ACT.

Having started his career as a photojournalist, Canberra photographer Martin Ollman has been promoting Canberra through various initiatives with the ACT Government.

His part in First Response is titled Plagued, which is a solo exhibition of his works during the pandemic.

During the initial stages of Canberra’s response, Ollman was granted unique access to Canberra’s frontline health services, political figures and major institutions, including the Senate inquiry into the COVID-19 response.

Mr Ollman’s images include portraits of individuals who played key roles in the COVID-19 response such as Senator Katy Gallagher and ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith, as well as frontline health workers and members of the arts and tertiary education communities.

Independent filmmaker, producer, photographer and writer Marissa McDowell is a Wiradjuri woman with Irish and English ancestry. She is an independent creative producer of Black and White Films and has worked with Indigenous communities telling their stories through documentary film making, photography, and writing.

Ms McDowell has put together a short documentary called Isolation which explores the COVID-19 experience of Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including their unique fears and hopes for the future.

The film features personal accounts from a broad range of community members including Elders Aunty Matilda House and Uncle Warren Daley, and artists Brenda Croft and Dale Huddleston.

Indigenous local school students also offer insights into how they felt about the new and unfamiliar circumstances of the pandemic, how it has affected their families, businesses and education, and their thoughts about the future.

Rasha Al Yassen at the COVID Testing Centre at the Canberra hospital.

Rasha Al Yassen at the COVID Testing Centre at the Canberra hospital.

In the video Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue), Anna Georgia draws on her training in filming peoples and cultures with their customs, habits and mutual differences.

Her video investigates the everyday activities, digital engagement, circumstances, states of mind and material spaces of individuals during the period of COVID-19 restrictions and economic downturn.

The fourth piece of the First Response exhibition is a solo dance performance (and video recording) by independent Sydney-based choreographer and dancer Shannon Hanrahan, who forged her career with Tuggeranong Arts Centre’s Fresh Funk urban dance program.

Choreographed by Ms Hanrahan, the piece titled Fix Me explores the contradiction of the freedom of movement against the physical restraints of self-isolation at home. Ms Hanrahan also interprets how the physical space transfers into the online space and how dancers and dance artists work and are inspired by spatial limitations.

First Response has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

First Response runs from 25 July to 19 September at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, 137 Reed Street, Greenway.

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on The RiotACT.

This entry was posted in Art & Culture, Community and tagged Anna Georgia, COVID-19, First Response, Marissa McDowell, martin ollman, Rauny Worm, Shannon Hanrahan, tuggeranong arts centre.

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