ellis hutch

Genevieve Swifte has an exhibition of photography curated by Claire Capel-Stanley at The Front, Wattle St Lyneham, right now until 20 October.

If you are in Canberra you should definitely check out her work. If you can’t get to see the work in the flesh - she has also posted the images on her website: http://genevieveswifte.com/exhibitions/trespass

Here’s my response to Genevieve’s work:


Have you ever found a dead bird and gently fanned open its wing?

It is spring in the untended garden of my home, a universe of wind and chaotic growth and birds. The wattle birds fill the ti tree with their choking shriek, the trickster galahs rule the tv antenna and the tiny spotted pardalotes dart and flit, nesting in wall and tree trunk. A magpie eyes the cat sleeping on the rusting car and the rosellas feast in the native shrubs. The soundscape beyond my desk is a hum of distant traffic accented with birdcall.

Occasionally a bird crashes into a window. I once held a stunned silvereye on the palm of my hand before it gathered its wits and flashed away.

The birds are visitors – they inhabit another world – they appear and disappear with the changing seasons, always near but never completely here. They offer an imaginary escape into space and time that goes beyond my earthbound experience.

These prosaic moments of daily life are thrown into relief when I open my email to become immersed in the subtle shifting details of Genevieve Swifte’s photography. I first encounter her work in its digital form, as light on a screen drawing me in to inspect intimate objects and intriguing landscapes. Later, I see the work printed: lush, light-textured surfaces blurring into an indeterminate darkness.

For me these quiet photographs evoke sounds – the beat of invisible wings overhead, a sharp intake of breath, the crisp shifting of cotton as a hand drops into a lap, the rush of air carrying snow over frozen ground. They are intimate fragments, telling partial stories, leaving space for the viewer to make connections.


Slow photography

It is pertinent to remember that the process of photography neither begins nor ends with the click of the camera shutter. Swifte’s work is slow photography; she collects images over years, travels vast distances and looks with intent. Her gaze is investigative and poetic – calling up and creating a play between strands of history, theory and photographic practice as she works across analogue and digital; in the landscape and studio; archive and domestic environment.

Swifte frames her subjects carefully, looks for connections, tensions and aesthetic resonances. A wing extended as if in flight – echoes the sweep of a mountain upwards towards the snow line. The spotted feathers of an owl draw the eye into a close investigation of line, texture and mark, contrasting with the human-made patterning of an embroidered garment. Spots are juxtaposed with holes – the images blur providing softness, areas for the eye to glance over, returning to the focal points. There is something about this blur that pushes back at me – the shallow depth of field blocks a searching eye hinting at the unseen and unknown.

This slowness is a counterpoint to many assumptions about contemporary photographic practice, there is nothing instant here. Bird wings and bird bodies are drawn from a scientific archive and placed before the camera. Swifte takes a torch and performs the act of raking light over the surface of the body as the long-exposure allows this otherworldly light to reach the film.

She processes the film in the darkroom, and scans the negatives, the material manifest in a digital incarnation. The use of scanning enables Swifte to work the images in the digital space, removing dust, enlarging and generating different combinations and compositions. She edits, reproduces and prints – this process is one of building relationships as well as articulating and exploring boundaries.



The word Trespass has many associations for me. Growing up Catholic, I hear it in my memory as a snaky whisper of school children rushing though the Lord’s Prayer – asking for forgiveness of trespasses and forgiving others for their trespasses. The eye of my memory sees roughly painted signs warning of prosecution and shooting punishments for trespassers over forbidden land.

Trespasses are actions – decisions made to enter unknown territory.

The title of the exhibition Trespass draws attention to the notion of transgression. This can be seen directly in the subjects of the photographs where the boundaries between bodies; between skin, feather, fabric, water, cloud and mountain are explored. There is a play in the combination of images. In the paired works a line down the centre creates a split, but the resonances in pattern, form and texture shift across this boundary. There is also a larger conversation across the exhibition. Clouds, mountains, a scrubby mass of trees at the waters edge provide counterpoints to the closeness of the feathers and fabric. They call me to consider my own body, remember my own experiences of mountains, water, sky. 

Birds make very effective trespassers – able to navigate the entire planet – turning up in unexpected places – living in the air – spreading seeds and microbial life forms on their travels. Their trespassing could be seen as an analogy for the artist’s process – constantly questioning – making connections – bringing ideas to light – creating fictions – telling truths.

Ellis Hutch

Team training exercise 001

Here’s a timelapse of the performance I did last night with Lucy Quinn as part of Zonk Vision’s Pocket Holiday at Canberra Contemporary Art Space



I recently exhibited this video in the I heart video art exhibition at ANCA Gallery, Canberra:



Pulse 2014, still from digital video

Leaving the busy intensity of Bangkok on a slow-moving train for the darkness of the countryside; I became mesmerised by the pulsing city lights. Flashes of red-yellow-blue, triggered imaginings of a busy space-port filled with long-haul interstellar travellers, or phosphorescent lifeforms under the surface of the ocean. I love the way it’s possible to be here on a dirty vinyl train-seat staring out the window, and inhabiting other universes; to be remembering the sounds and smells and crush of the night-market, some half-lost melody triggered by the passing traffic, and an imagined alien transporter lifting off in a far away galaxy.

Facing west

Here’s one of the works I currently have on show at M16 Artspace - the work is on show until Sunday afternoon - so come check it out!

Facing west, Queanbeyan 2014, inkjet print on Ilford Pearl photographic paper, 111.5cm x 78.5cm

If you visit on Saturday at 2pm you’ll have the chance to hear two of the other exhibiting artists talking about their work - Blaide Lallemand and Caroline Huf. We’ll also be serving tea and cake.

Walking the talk

I’m speaking at this event next week - should be a good couple of days:



Wednesday 21 May from 6pm: ANU School of Art Lecture Theatre and Foyer Gallery
Thursday 22 May 9am to 5pm: ANU School of Art

How does walking facilitate emergent perspectives and embodied practices that activate relations between art, practice, environment and politics?

Talking the Walk/Walking the Talk is a snapshot of contemporary Australia art practice where the common ground is perambulation. Artists use walking as a means of engaging with the environment and landscape, providing a physical and meditative way of connecting with people and place, while activating the diverse and layered histories present in the land and landscape.

Water and walking is an emerging theme; Keynote speaker, Nici Cumpston will discuss her practice of photographing the Murray-Darling Basin, Vic McEwan and George Main will present on their forthcoming project, Walking the Murrumbidgee River, and Rebecca Mayo’s paper engages with her recent 7 day walk along a peri-urban/urban waterway in Melbourne. Ellis Hutch walks in the dark and Anne-Marie Jean walks in the footsteps of artist/gardeners while other papers address urban expeditions and Ryan Johnston (Head of art, Australian War Memorial) takes us through Tom Nicholson’s Palestine Memorials.

The symposium commences with a Feldenkrais class designed to bring participants’ attention to the organisation of their moving body in space.


A couple of installation shots of my work in the exhibition Relative Constructions: The Poetic Lens

Free Feldenkrais Lessons


If you’ve never heard of Feldenkrais - check it out. It’s an integrated movement awareness method that can be practiced by anyone. I love it.

Poetizing activities

Just encountered a passage in a book called Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy by Max Van Manen that really resonated for me.

I’ve been reading up on Phenomenology and looking at how different contemporary theorists engage with phenomenological research. Van Manen outlines a method for a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to human science research. 

I’m reading it to see if I can adopt/adapt this methodology in my own artistic research. I’ve only made it as far as page 12 - but I really loved this:

Phenomenological research is a poetizing activity

Thus, phenomenology is in some ways very unlike any other research. Most research we meet in education is of the type whereby results can be severed from the means by which the results are obtained. Phenomenological research is unlike other research in that the link with the results cannot be broken, as Marcel (1950) explained, without loss of all reality to the results. And that is why when you listen to a presentation of a phenomenological nature, you will listen in vain for the punch-line, the latest information, or the big news. As in poetry it is inappropriate to ask for a conclusion or a summary of a phenomenological study. To summarise a poem in order to present the result would destroy the result because the poem itself is the result. The poem is the thing. So phenomenology, not unlike poetry, is a poetizing project; it tries an incantive, evocative speaking, a primal telling, wherein we aim to involve the voice in an original singing of the world (Merleau Ponty 1973)….

While I force myself to sit at my desk every day and try to write 1000 words of my exegesis I am grappling with the problem of all creative PhDs - the art is the thing, it is the research and the expression of the research, and yet I have to find a way to write about it in an academic context - this is something I have chosen to do. What I like about Van Manen’s approach is he discusses the interconnectedness between research and writing.

I’m at the stage now where I want the writing to be a reflection of the whole research process. I have been reading other theses and exegeses and some of them are so incredibly boring. How to bring to the writing the life, passion, and sensory engagement that the studio work embodies or elicits - how to write in a way that enacts the research process rather than just produce a list of actions or a timeline with references. 

I guess I’ll find out over the next few weeks…

Lost Astronaut

Many thanks to Brigit Larson for taking the following photographs. These images are early work-in-progress shots of a project called Lost astronaut that I’m continuing to develop. The photos were taken in the area around Arteles Creative Centre in Haukijärvi Finland, where I was an artist in residence in December 2013.

Learning to walk on ice December 2013