Measures of Distance
‘Measures of Distance’ illustrates how artists have used ritual and the body to explore concepts of closeness and distance. The title, taken from a 1988 video work by Mona Hatoum, alludes to the difficulty of measuring and understanding our relationships with people and places that are physically distant yet intimately close to us.
Drawn heavily from the Gallery’s international collection, the exhibition also includes supporting works from our Australian, Asian and Pacific holdings. Body and performance art appear alongside abstract painting, installation, contemporary video, electronic media works, drawing and ceramics, with works dating from the 1900s to the 2000s.
A ritual, in its most basic form, can be described as a series of repetitive, performed actions. Ritual can be individual and personal, and is present in everyday activities as well as in political and social practices. Motifs and processes associated with ritual and the body recur across ‘Measures of Distance’ and range from rhythmic repetition to objects and symbols, such as masks, body markings or imprints. Simple geometric forms and emblems – such as the spiral and circle – are significant across many cultures, and often have larger, more symbolic meanings.
Rites of passage – between birth and death, from childhood to adulthood, and in migration from one place to another – are often marked by rituals. For some artists, the making of their mark is a ritualised activity, expressed in the abstract, painterly gesture, or through calligraphic brushstrokes. For other people, the simple activities of walking, eating and breathing are rituals in themselves, which enable a deeper understanding of our world and our place within it.
‘Measures of Distance’ features works from diverse eras, cultures and artistic styles. For each artist, ritual has provided a point from which to question accepted moral codes, perceptions and experiences, to challenge the boundaries between the body and the work of art, and to diminish the distance between people, places and histories embedded in the landscape.