Diana Baker Smith, curated by Bree Richards
Tasks yet to be composed for the occasion is a series of encounters between Diana Baker Smith and the Australian dancer, choreographer and artist Philippa Cullen (1950-1975).
During her brief career, Cullen forged new connections between movement, sound and technology. She is remembered by her peers as a brilliant, genre spanning artist, who profoundly shaped Sydney’s early experimental art scene. When Baker Smith began researching Cullen in 2015, she found two boxes of archival material listed in the National Library of Australia, one of which had gone missing. The second contained the records of one of Cullen’s most expansive projects, 24 Hour Concert, 1974; a collaborative, durational performance event, staged in multiple locations across Sydney, involving more than thirty participants.
Like many ephemeral works from the 1970s, 24 Hour Concert lives on only as traces – degraded video, blurry photographs, handwritten notes – and in the memories of those who were present at the time. In conversation with one of Cullen’s collaborators, composer Greg Schiemer, Baker Smith learned that 24 Hour Concert took place on the day when clocks are put forward for daylight savings, meaning it ran for only 23 hours. A second, hour long concert was planned for the following year, but Cullen died before it could take place.
The story of this ‘lost hour’, together with the documents, fragments and other anecdotes surrounding 24 Hour Concert, became the starting point for a series of new works by Baker Smith. In keeping with the collaborative spirit of 24 Hour Concert, she has worked with curator Bree Richards, dancer Brooke Stamp, artists Ella Sutherland and Samuel Hodge, and musicians Bree van Reyk and Miles Brown, to produce Tasks yet to be composed for the occasion: a multivocal dialogue across time and place, and between bodies. These collaborative works suggest that, while traces can disappear from view, they might also be embodied and performed in multiple ways through strategies of intergenerational care, rewriting and reimagining. With a commitment to speculative reinvention – as a way to carry the past into the present – Tasks yet to be composed for the occasion embraces and tests the generative capacities of Philippa Cullen’s archive.
Diana Baker Smith is a Sydney based artist and writer primarily working across performance and moving image. Her current projects combine archival research and feminist methods of speculation to explore marginal histories of individual artists, art institutions, and art histories. Most recently, Baker Smith presented the video essay, Opening Night (The Order of Arrangements), 2020, with art historian Verónica Tello, at the National Gallery of Australia and the Sydney Opera House. She is currently working on a new project exploring the histories of Sydney’s built environment through the work of Australian-American sculptor Margel Hinder (1906-1995). Baker Smith is a founding member of art collective Barbara Cleveland. Their works are held in the collections of Artbank, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Monash University Museum of Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of NSW. In 2020 Barbara Cleveland’s survey exhibition, Thinking Business launched at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, and will tour nationally with Museums & Galleries NSW in 2021. Diana is Lecturer in Fine Arts at UNSW Art & Design where she teaches moving image and performance art.
Bree Richards is an independent curator and writer. Most recently, with Melissa Ratliff, she facilitated When we cannot touch, art is the object that passes between us, 2020, an art and correspondence project shared via the postal network. Previously, Bree organised the expanded performance exhibition Philipp Gehmacher: my shapes, your words, their grey, 2017, at Griffith University Art Museum, and in that same year undertook a French Ministry of Culture placement with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, contributing to the inaugural edition of Move, a festival of dance, performance and film. She was the 2015-16 Curatorial Fellow for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, working on artist projects, publications, and with primary responsibility for performance across the exhibition. Prior to that, she was Associate Curator, Contemporary Australian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, organising exhibitions such as Trace: Performance and its Documents, 2014, Everyday Magic, 2013; and Embodied Acts, a program of performative works for Contemporary Australia: Women, 2012. As a writer, Bree has contributed texts to exhibition catalogues, magazines and artists’ projects, and in 2013 was a Writing Live fellow with Performa Biennial, New York.
With special thanks to Artspace, Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Miles Brown, Graeme W. Browne, Fiona Cullen, Fernando do Campo, Aleks Danko, Zoë De Luca, Kelly Doley, Julie Ewington, Samuel Hodge, Stephen Jones, P. Johnson and Jay Maxwell, Melissa Ratliff, Brooke Stamp, Ella Sutherland, Verónica Tello, Greg Schiemer, Bree van Reyk, Ianto Ware and the National Library of Australia.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; by the NSW Government through Create NSW; and UNSW Art and Design.