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<second> affect

Mel O’Callaghan, Ensemble (still), 2013.

Mel O’Callaghan, Ensemble (still), 2013.

The relationship between power and feeling is a complex and significant aspect of art made and exhibited today. This relationship has many facets including (but not limited to) the:

  • affect produced by the placement of works or elements within a space in relation to proximity, eye height and configuration (hierarchies);

  • curatorial decisions to include or exclude underrepresented artists or socially marginalised individuals or groups in exhibition programming;

  • curatorial decision to or not to perpetuate colonial or other dominate narratives when constructing curatorial frameworks;

  • collective social understanding of the role, function and ‘value’ or art;

  • position of art and artists relative to privilege and class;

  • transparency of the art industry (commercial as well as public institutions).

The entanglement of institutions with external systems of power has also, in recent times, begun to play an important role in the power + feeling (+agency) equation. One such of example of this relationship is the 2018 decision of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to end its contract with Wilson Security. This decision was publicly announced during the staging of protests by artists who questioned to the appropriateness of the gallery’s continued engagement with the security service provider.

The protesting committee drew attention to Wilson Security’s involvement in offshore detection centres on Nauru and Manus Island from 2012 to 2017. According to the Australian Border Death Database, a number of deaths occurred under security service provider’s management of the facilities, including the murder of 24 year of Iranian man Reza Barati who ‘died of head injuries on the way to Lorengau hospital in PNG following protests at the Manus Island Immigration Detention Centre. Violence resulted in the injury of 77 others, 12 seriously. It is understood that at least 2 security guards were involved in the altercation during the riots of 2014, they were later convicted of Barati's murder.’