Anna Daučíková, Luke Fowler, Gail Hastings, Rita Keegan, and pieces from the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection
Curated by Isabelle Sully
Exhibition design by Maud Vervenne
October 25, 2022 – February 5, 2023
La Trobe Art Institute, Bendigo
Citational choices is an exhibition that began from an invitation to work with the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection. Donated to La Trobe University in collector Etta Hirsh’s name by her family, the collection is an intensely eclectic and unwieldy array of Australian ceramics produced between the late 1960s and the 1990s. The unwieldiness is a product of the simple fact that the collection is undoubtedly huge, a testament to the enthusiasm with which Hirsh collected, and the social impulse underpinning many of the acquisitions.
What first stood out first was Hirsh’s insistence that the functionality of the works still be maintained, that upon acquisition the ceramics wouldn’t be rendered static, preserved to last the test of time. This is evidenced by the chips to surfaces that can be found on a number of pieces, as well as photographic documentation and oral testimony that depicts the many dinners Etta and her husband Emmanuel Hirsh hosted, the ceramic pieces holding court.
Reflecting on the spirit with which Etta Hirsh collected, this exhibition seeks to ‘functionalise’ the collection again, though in a different way, now that the pieces are in the custodianship of La Trobe Art Institute and no longer able to be regularly handled given the requirements of museum conservation. Instead, at the centre of this approach is the idea of reading the collection as an instance of biography, one that
has within it various personal, institutional and social histories that don’t often make it onto the record. To unpack this, the exhibition brings together four contemporary artistsAnna Daučíková, Luke Fowler, Gail Hastings and Rita Keeganwhose work focuses on personal archives and histories, biographical approaches, institutional structures and spatial considerations. Here, their work is set in relation to pieces from the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection, and the wider reality of working with collections in turn.
Photos by Christo Crocker