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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Beth Dean Voyager or voyeur



The Macleay Museum holds over 140 objects in its collection that were personally donated by Beth Dean and her husband Victor Carrel in 1984 during the development of  the exhibition South Pacific Islands.
Beth Deans vocation as a performer and educator of unique dance practices sourced from  diverse parts of the pacific between 1950 – 1970’s is a chronicle of the growth of the knowledge of Indigenous Pacific Island cultural practices in the imagination of modern Australia.

The collection of items donated to the Macleay museum in 1984 spans over 30 years of cultural documentation, performance, authentic costumes and dance practices of Aboriginal, Papua New Guinean and Pacific Island communities.  Some highlights include costume and percussion instruments used by the Cook Island dancers who performed the opening ceremony for the Opera House, a diverse range of musical instruments made with traditional techniques and ceremonial costumes that signify social standing and amazingly skilful fabrication practices of fibres and textiles of the pacific.
The expressive gestural communication that modern dance embraced after the 1950’s echoed movements in the visual arts internationally where abstract expressionism and the influences of primitivism that had came to the visual arts via anthropology and ethnography created new  aestheticisms that reached out into fashion, literature and  popular culture.
In today’s milieu the representation of other cultures without any legitimacy or valid authorization is highly frowned upon and disrespects the living memory of the Indigenous cultures that are meant to be being acknowledged –the most recent case being the  bewilderment expressed by Aboriginal Australians in relation to Russian ice skaters wearing “Indigenous” costumes as part of their Olympic ice skating routine that were based on Aboriginal skin tones and a languid attempt at representing ceremonial body painting. 
Photographer unknown: Beth Dean in the J.C. Williamson production of 'Annie get your gun', 1947
Beth Dean’s first appearance in Australia was in the touring production of “Annie Get Your Gun” ironically playing the character of the expert female sharpshooter who deliberately looses a sharpshooting competition to secure the love of her male rival.  In reality, Dean and her husband and professional Partner Victor Carrel (who was an accomplished opera singer) worked in many productions as senior artistic advisor across Australia and the South Pacific.  One of their greatest accomplishments was their involvement in the inaugural South Pacific arts festival held in 1972.

Australia in the period between 1950 and 1975 produced numerous films, theatrical performances and educational attempts of “exotic” cultural experiences for international and local audiences. The Australian ballet company’s production of “Corroboree” in which Beth Dean was the principal dancer playing the character of a young Aboriginal boy was seriously researched over a number of months by Beth dean who was advised by Sydney Universities A. P. Elkin to visit the communities of Ernabella and Yuendumu.
Conservatism of the western world in the 19th and early 20th century, especially in relation to women’s behaviour and appearance in public was challenged by female performers such as Beth Dean and in an earlier sense Annette Kellerman.  Kellerman  graced the worlds stage as a mermaid in one piece bathing suits that exposed the female body in ways that “offended moral decency”, however from the 1950’s onwards Australian culture was in the process of embracing and creating their own adaptation of “island style” or “surf” culture that was shown in American Gidget and Elvis movies or in the music of the beach boys.  A new youth subculture swept across coastal Australia that was in opposition to the military influenced surf life saving clubs that had existed along the east coast since the popularity of bathing and the internationalisation of the “Australian crawl” – a little acknowledged fact of many early descriptions of Aboriginal people around Sydney Harbour describes their strong swimming abilities.
It is impossible to describe the work of Beth Dean in any single category as her experiences and intentions were as diverse as the cultures that she represented, The collections of Beth Dean are held in numerous institutions in Australia including the Australian National Museum, the NSW Maritime Museum and Screen/Sound Australia.



Trumpet used by Beth Dean during Performances
Macleay Museum

19 comments:

  1. 以簡單的行為愉悅他人的心靈,勝過千人低頭禱告........................................

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  2. Good article Matt. I agree, its problematic viewing these artefacts knowing the context in which they were created. However I think there is much value in what they present as an exhibition in the present day. I read, just tonight in a blog, about how the artefact may remain the same, but the discussion & critique will evolve & change forever (I wish I could remember which blog). Different eyes will perceive Beth Dean & her contemporaries. Those eyes (raced/gendered/etc) will all be different but each will have validity given their specific standpoints and will add to the conversation.

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  3. 一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼.................................................................                           

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  4. 在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」.................................................................

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  5. 向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

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  6. 向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

    ReplyDelete