Media Arts – A Final Presentation

Presented at the opening of the B.A. Media Arts fine art photography graduating exhibition at the Foundry, North Fitzroy, Melbourne on the 10th November 2005

This exhibition represents the outstanding achievements of nineteen of our B.A. Media Arts fine art photography graduates. It is the first of four Media Arts shows. It is also more than just an end of year show, it is our student’s final presentation; the final accessible act for their degree and or their time with us. It is a very important time, and quite an exciting time for our dear students. It is not only the conclusion of their B.A. Media Arts degree, but it is also the beginning of the next phase of their life as an artist.

Earlier today they met individually with Dr. Isobel Crombie, the senior curator of photography at the National Gallery of Victoria, who assessed their achievements and contribution. Their meeting with Isobel represents the end of one conversation and the beginning of another. Personally it is also a very emotional time, as this is the twenty-third year of Media Arts, and also our last, as we now complete our integration within the new School of Art at RMIT University, and contribute to the new B.A. Fine Art program rather than continuing to run our own B.A. Media Arts program.

This is a beautifully poetic transition, because many of our once so-called ‘junior staff’ are now senior lecturers who are running the new program. In 2007 when I hopefully return to RMIT after a 12 month sabbatical, I will be then teaching into ‘their program’ rather than running Media Arts, which I find a right and proper fit, both personally and professionally.

To our dear graduating students, I can’t thank you enough for the trust you placed in us over all these years, and the permission to assist you as best we can. Art Schools are wonderful places; they are a site where you don’t have to take time off from what you are otherwise doing in order to pay attention to the things that most matter in your life. The subject that matters most to you is what we also most care about, and treasure. These are amongst the most important things in our lives, and I sincerely thank you for sharing your obsessions and passions with us; for trusting us to care about them as much as you do. It is also profoundly flattering to walk around these rooms discovering the tiny slivers of ourselves in so many of these works. To see a gesture, a thought, a promise, a feeling picked up and so beautifully played out. What higher compliment could you possibly pay us.

For this I remain so grateful. To paraphrase a work of mine, twenty-three years is a long time that passes too quickly. There are so many people to thank; John Billan, Shane Hulbert, Lyndal Walker, Keely Macarow, and Ian Lobb. So many outstanding contributions have been made over this time, but perhaps none greater than this exhibition.

Many many years ago, our first year group felt that their work was equal to the work of our graduating students, so they staged their own group show, which famously has become our ‘annual first year show’. Just the other night at this year’s first year show at Dantes in Gertrude Street, I was as per usual utterly impressed with what they had achieved. But this show, our final, final presentation for Media Arts fine art photography, is way more than two years ahead of this year’s first year show. What a tremendous bench mark to set our passionately ambitious first year students, what a legacy to bequeath, what a gift to all of us who have held your hand or steadied your thoughts along the way, and what a present to each other.

It is this collaborative but not selfless spirit – that community of individuals who consistently dare to do no less well than they could possibly do – that so embodies the spirit and essence of what Media Arts has always represented  – that so gracefully taught us what you needed to know and aspired to – that has been such a beautiful banquet for us all. Words let me down when I try and give thanks for all that you have done for us, all you have enabled, and all you leave behind. As I once said, it is memories not metaphors, feelings not reason, passions not ambitions, that make a real difference in this world – and do we ever need such help in these unstable and troubled times. You have given us all of this and so much more. Congratulations and thank you for everything. Don’t be strangers as you move into the rest of your lives and Media Arts fades into a distant past. I hope you will think of us kindly, and not judge us too harshly. I look forward to our friendship continuing. Well done, and thank you everyone.

Copyright Les Walkling 2005