Tag Archives: Australian Tapestry Workshop

Paul Yore Trial Day One

Today opposite the Melbourne Magistrates Court, there was a demonstration out the front of the County Court drawing attention to the first day of the Melbourne hearings into Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse. In court room 20 of the Magistrates Court, in front of Magistrate Amanda Chambers, there was the first day of an anticipated three day trial of Paul Yore.

The court decided that the best place to start was by viewing a video of Paul Yore’s installation, Everything is Fucked. This was the defence video because the police admitted that it was better than the one that they made. Alleged child pornography being shown in a public court, the magistrate felt that some kind of warning had to be made before the video was shown to the public, no one left. For about six minutes the magistrate attentively watched the psychedelic rainbows of colour, the ultra violet lighting, the collage of objects and images. The court also heard a pod-cast interview with Paul Yore describing the sickly sweet surface with more symbolic ideas beneath the surface of the spectacle of mass consumerism.

The police case consisted of Exhibit #10, seven pieces of cardboard, paper and tin foil that Detective Senior Constable Samantha Johnson of St. Kilda Police Station had cut out with a Stanley knife from Paul Yore’s installation. These bits were described as photos of children’s heads with or without Pokemon stickers over them, stuck onto the naked bodies of adults, again with or without Pokemon stickers on them.

There was a large members of the bar in court, not just Yore’s defence team but separate representation for members of the staff and board of directors of the Linden Centre who had all been called as prosecution witnesses. They were conceded about exposure to allegations of procession of child pornography arising from their testimony and were given certificate from the court that their evidence would not be used against them.

One of the crucial pieces of the defence argument came in the Linden’s Gallery Director, Melinda Martin’s testimony where it emerged that the documentation in the application to the Australian Classification Board consisted of images of Paul Yore’s installation before the police removed any images. Although the application did lack detail it appears that one of the parts removed by the police may be seen in the application for classification. The Australian Classification Board classified Yore’s work Classification 1, Restricted, suitable for people over the age of 18.

Yore’s defence team of Neil Clelland and Rowena Orr was focused on the statutory definition of child pornography. They were not contesting the police time line of events nor any of the police evidence. They wanted to know how the concept of production of child pornography was being proven.

The defence case consisted of expert witnesses, or “witnesses with specialist knowledge” in the current legal speak. Jason Smith, director of the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Antonia Syme, the director of the Australian Tapestry Workshop, and Max Delany, senior curator at the NGV. The defence of artistic merit was clearly made to which the prosecution was trying various arguments, the best of which the magistrate returned to putting the questions directly to Antonia Syme; what if Leonardo da Vinci made child porn does it follow that because he is an artist the work has artistic merit? To which Ms Syme replied: “Putti. Leonardo did lots of naked children.” Max Delany will give his evidence tomorrow morning.


Australian Tapestry Workshop

Catherine and I went to see the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Catherine is more interested in textile arts than I am; textile arts still dominated by women and most of the people working on the workshop floor are women.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop was formerly the Victorian Tapestry Workshop; the name changed in 2010 and the V logo of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop has been turned upside down to form an A. It is still located in the same 19th century building in South Melbourne that once held a knitting mill. The large work floor has become the tapestry workshop. Lace ironwork pillars support a saw tooth roof over the main floor. South Melbourne once had many textiles works and carpet factories; it now has restaurants, boutiques and media companies.

An observation deck allows visitors to watch the tapestries being made on the four large looms on the main floor. Scattered around the main floor are pin-board dividers with samples, b&w and colour images of the art for the tapestries. When Catherine and I visited they were working on John Young’s “The Navigator” (2.3 x3.02m.) for the National Library of Australia. The weavers work in teams across large tapestries. Watching the one of the weavers mixing strands from half a dozen colours to create exactly the right blend of colour.

The observation deck also allows the visitor to observe the yarn dyed in the small colour laboratory safely from behind glass. The workshop produces a 366 standard colour range of wools for sale at their shop and also dye their own wool specifically for certain projects.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop has a shop and two gallery spaces exhibiting work for sale. I was particularly impressed with Merrin Eirth “Black Tomato’s Fleshy Heart” 2003, a tapestry in the shape of a kimono.

Translating images from one media to another is not a simple task; woven wool is a very different material than paint. (Goya’s painting style always reminded me of tapestries and I was not surprised to learn that he had started painting the designs for tapestries.) The weavers at the Australian/Victorian Tapestry Workshop interpret the source artwork and the workshop has a reputation for translating contemporary art.

Tapestries became popular in the Renaissance, as they were capable of covering the massive stonewalls of palaces dampening the echoes and they still serve this function in contemporary architecture. Over the 30 years of its operation, the Victorian Tapestry Workshop has made most of the large tapestries that currently hang in Australian public buildings.


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