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Australian Embassy

Marie Antoinette 2005 © Alexia Sinclair
Marie Antoinette 2005 © Alexia Sinclair


Magdalena Bors, Mark Kimber, Andrew Mamo, Alexia Sinclair, Simon Strong

From 22/09/09 to 18/12/09
Curator: Alasdair Foster, Director of the Australian Centre for Photography

For centuries, European map-makers were convinced of the existence of a vast, unknown continent in the southern hemisphere, to balance out the land masses of the north. They showed it as an area inhabited by strange creatures and
covered with a unique kind of vegetation, the opposite of the forms of life present in Europe. This vision was not contradicted in the slightest when the first explorers brought back specimens to Europe such as the duck-bill platypus,
the kangaroo or southern plants. The feeling of strangeness remained. In the 1950's, low-budget science-fiction film makers often used Australian plants to give the feeling of an extra-terrestrial environment. Half a century later, the
works presented in this exhibition offer a refreshing and innovative interpretation of this fantasy, seen through the imagination of five contemporary artists, originating from Australia.

The term 'fantasy' comes from the Greek word 'phantasia'» even though its meaning has evolved. The concept of « phantasia » was developed in Antiquity by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, to describe the way in which the human mind creates images from elements which he does not have in front of him. They may be memories of real events, projections of things which happen out of his sight, or pure imagination. Introduced at a time when art was not considered as an act of creation, but as a strict putting into practice of techniques learnt, the word 'fantasy' suggests both that the all that is artistic comes from the very activity of creating, and that memory and imagination are two aspects of the same process. The life of the mind is a world of images, whose power is not limited by their rooting in experience to date or by human imagination.

Alive, complex and magical, the works presented at this exhibition free themselves from the real world, which often reigns supreme in photography, to evoke fantastical images. The result of extremely skilful and meticulous mounting, these enchanting scenes are sometimes created like theatre sets and then photographed, sometimes like a montage of hundreds of photographic fragments.

Phantasia is an exhibition by Alasdair Foster, Director of the Australian Centre for Photography, presented at the Australian Embassy in Paris as part of the Biennial event PHOTOQUAI 2009.

Australian Embassy website