Debra Porch (Australia) in collaboration with Ian Were (Australia)
site-specific installation (photographs, threads)
High School of Arts, Mekhitar Sebastatsi Educational Complex, Yerevan
The continuing work by Debra Porch centres on memory, mortality, and the relationship existing between presence and absence. Memory can be a potent phenomenon – having the capacity to transform what may have appeared as the everyday or familiar into what can transpire into the extraordinary.
In Yerevan Debra Porch was confronted with what could be termed as ‘second hand memory’ in association to a ‘sense of place’ where absence and presence operate simultaneously in the transitions of present to past, past to present, and it is the importance of time in relating to what remains visible or invisible within one’s place (or history).
Debra had attempted to reveal memory through the ‘everyday’ ordinary material of ‘thread’ – a material mainly identified as holding two pieces of cloth together, or importantly, as a suture in securing the body together after surgery. During her every day working process on the installation with the parallel photo documentation of the environment and educational context of the High School of Arts, Debra Porch had looked each day at the ‘invisible’ horizon line at which the shy and earth appear to meet on the point of Mount Ararat – the point of nowadays geopolitics so that the ‘visible’ line…
Simple thread has become the metaphor for the invisible horizon line – this simple everyday (domestic) material hoping to provide links to the absence or presence of many histories and stories. Here the work hopes to connect the importance that an everyday object can have in representing images and ideas, that through memory perhaps can be transformed into the extraordinary. And here questioning if visual images and objects can translate the ‘ordinary’ into the ‘extraordinary’ to link the present to the past – and are the devices able to evoke that which is invisible or absent from a viewer’s sight?
Born in Chicago, Debra Porch has a Masters Degree in Art from San Diego State University (1979) and a PhD from the Queensland University of Technology (2006). She is Associate Professor in Fine Art at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Debra Porch has presented her installation-based art in one-person exhibitions and numerous group shows, and she is represented in art museum collections in Australia and the US and in private collections in the USA, Australia, Vietnam and Thailand. Many of these exhibitions have been associated with artist residencies and cross-cultural dialogues that began with a three-month residency at Chiang Mai University in 1993. Residencies followed in Hanoi at the University of Fine Art for three months in 1996 (via Asialink), returns to Vietnam (1997 and 2001), returns to Chiang Mai University (2000 and 2008), Cité Internationalé des Arts, Paris (2000), and several residencies in Australia including at the South Australian School of Art (1999). In2010, following her family heritage, Porch undertook a residency at the Art Commune/Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory in Yerevan, Armenia. For Porch, all of these cultural experiences and connections continue to inform her art and have resulted in ongoing projects and reciprocal events such as: ‘MEETING’, a joint exhibition between Vietnam and Australia (Performance Space, Sydney, 1997 and ‘9 Lives’, a residency and exhibition for nine contemporary Vietnamese and Australian artists at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (Liverpool, NSW, 1999). Others include ‘Pop Gan Eeek Krang Nueng (Meeting Once More)’ at Chiang Mai University Art Centre (2008) and Tracing the erased as part of ‘How we know that the dead return’ at Gertude Street Contemporary, Melbourne (2010). The 2010 artist residency with the Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory resulted in a new installation ‘Regards to the Family’ produced for the Canberra Contemporary Art Space (2011), and also the work, ‘Home here, there, nowhere’ presented at the Crane Arts Centre, Philadelphia as part of ‘Australia Felix’ (2011).
Ian Were is arts editor and writer. Since 1997 Were has edited more than 20 art books and publications, including six recent books as a freelance editor and writer. He edited 26 issues of Object magazine for the Australian Centre for Craft and Design (1996-2003) and 23 issues of Artlines magazine for the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (2005-2011). He was Senior Editor at the Queensland Art Gallery from 2002 to 2009 where he edited or co-edited 12 major exhibition publications. From 1987 to 1996 he managed various programs at the Australia Council’s Visual Arts/Craft Board, and was instrumental in reviewing and instigating new international studio residencies as well as helping establish Asialink’s Australian art to Asia programs. In 1975 he established an Adelaide-based studio working in metal objects and sculpture, focusing on enamel on copper and steel with mixed media. In 1981 he was a visiting lecturer at San Diego State University’s art department and, in 1984, received an Australia Council Professional Development Grant.
From the late 1970s – beginning with Preview and the Adelaide Review – he has written regularly for Australian art and culture journals and exhibition publications. He continues to write on contemporary art and design and associated issues for several magazines and other publications and, more recently, has written short stories.