Ballarat International Foto Biennale Day 1

Two years ago when I first visited Ballarat for the biennale, it was a cold rainy day. Because it was my first trip, I didn’t actually know where to go for exhibition, I just followed the rest walking non-stop around the city centre area. If I remember correctly, it was a Sunday, because parking was easy and almost free. This year, I went up on a Saturday, driving around from exhibition to exhibition cost me a few gold coins, I should have just drove up on a Sunday.

Anyway, the drive from Melbourne was good, slightly less than 90 minutes on a clear day.  

Initially, I was planning for just a day trip, visiting 7 exhibition venues along the way, I ended up missing the most important one (story at the end). I did some planning online looking through BIFB’s website and selecting those exhibitions that I will be viewing. The core events are mostly located at the centre of the city while fringe events are scattered all around town. I must admit the map on the BIFB’s website wasn’t helping much with the map split into two pages. But with a smart phone, it isn’t that difficult to move around right?

So the first place I visited was BackSpace Gallery at 15 Camp Street.  It’s situated directly behind the Art Gallery of Ballarat, walk through the alley between the Art Gallery of Ballarat and Mining Exchange, you will see it on the left, very hard to miss it! Silvi Glattauer, my teacher/mentor at Melbourne Polytechnic, is having her solo exhibition, Organic Balance which feature her photogravure imagery work.  

The next section of the gallery space is a joint exhibition by Michelle Williams and Silvi Glattauer, titled Altiplano. If you love landscape photography, DO NOT miss this show! 

“These South Amercian, Altiplanic landscapes are topographical storyboards that read like textural braille. The hyper-reality that is often associated with contemporary landscape photography is replaced here with an abstract and elusive aesthetic, that narrates Greek Mythologies of Fire, Water, Earth and Air.”

The next 3 fringe events I went was Ollie Cool’s ’Winter Mind’ at Yellow Espresso (13 Sturt Street), Effie Vouyoukas’ two exhibitions, ‘Not For Tourist’ at Such ‘N’ Such (811 Sturt Street) and ‘Life Is A Stage’ at City Oval Hotel. These 3 venues will probably be good to visit on a weekday non-peak hour, because you will have more space and time to look at the work. On a Saturday, I hate to say this but the last thing you want was to position your groin in front of cafe patrons while you look at the exhibiting work and them having their meal.

At the City Oval Hotel, the owner kept asking me if I want something to eat or drink which I declined because I just want to look at the work and move on. He looks a little disappointed so I ended up with a Carlton draught. Reckon he is hoping the exhibition will bring more customers for his business, which is situated quite far from the city centre.

Time for lunch with Maurizio but he was nowhere to be seen at the Mining Exchange, volunteering is hard work! So I spent the time roaming in Mining Exchange, which is also one of the main core event’s venue. There are six core exhibitions in Mining Exchange and it’s open from 10am to 5pm daily.

Alejandro Chaskielberg, Argentina - ‘La Creciente’. Using the moon as the light source, Chaskielberg captures a variety of subjects from hunters to loggers who work along the Paraná River. 

Angela Bacon Kidwell, USA - ‘Home by Nightfall’. Read her bio before looking at her work, it helps a lot. But lovely black and white imagery, very emotional work.

Belinda Mason, NSW Australia - ‘Silent Tears’. A must-see exhibition, great documentary of women with disability and survivors of gender violence.

Darrin Zammit Lupi, Malta - ‘Islelanders’. My favourite exhibition so far in Mining Exchange, it’s situated at the far end of the hall (on the left), so don’t miss this one. Documentary of the plight and tragedy of the boat people trying to reach European shores from Africa.

David A Williams, Canada - ‘Masterworks’. Not my kind of photography but if you love retouching work, you might love this. 

Richard Millott, VIC Australia - ‘Phillip Island: A Visual Memory’. Landscape and more landscape! Not the usual Phillip Island imagery you would see, that’s why its a tribute show.

I still didn’t had my lunch and by the time Maurizio appeared, we have to set off for the opening of MAP Group’s Beyond Borders at MADE (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) 102 Stawell Street South, Ballarat. Through photographs and multimedia, this show documents the unique experiences of asylum seekers and refugees seeking a safer life under exceptionally challenging circumstances. This is also a MUST-SEE show if you are at the biennale. It’s a little too far to walk from the city centre so drive there, plenty of parking available.

By the time we left MADE, I still didn’t had lunch but I did grab a piece of muffin at the cafe in MADE. It was 4:30pm and I realise the exhibition I really wanted to see had closed! The Anterior Exhibition by Melbourne Polytechnic Photoimaging is showcasing the work from past and present students, I had two prints in this fringe event together with works from many great photographers graduated from the Photoimaging program. Feeling disappointed not able to see my works on the wall, I decided to make another trip the next day. Yes, it means I will drive back to Melbourne and return the next day, another 240km!

I attended the Biennale Opening at Mining Exchange at 6pm, still no lunch and dinner. The table for the free pizza was crowded with people more well-dressed and hungrier than me, so I will just have some red wine instead. While I was doing some photography of people walking past exhibition wall, someone walk up to me and asked, “Are you Thomas? Thomas Lim? Thomas Lim Photography?” He is someone I “met” on Instagram but never got a chance to meet in person, Andrew Robert Morgan, a Canberra-based freelance photographer from Rockhampton. We had a long chat, so long that a lady told us off to move away as it was affecting her listening to the opening speech. I just wonder if she would tell the other group of well-dressed ladies the same thing but I reckon the photography chat with Andrew was more interesting that I didn’t give a damn of her presence. After all, I always love to meet people from the Instagram community, especially someone from Rocky! They will understand how difficult it is to photograph the street there!

Anyway, I still didn’t had my meal, but I’m not going to wait for Maurizio, he had free pizza anyway! I met Chris Hillard, another of my teacher from Melbourne Polytechnic at the opening, so we went across the street for some Vietnamese food before I start the 123km drive back to Melbourne. By the time I reach home, it was 11pm. Hopefully I’m not going to miss the Anterior show the next day!

Day 2 to be continued on next blog post. 

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