31.05.2019 – 20.07.2019

Opening: Friday 31 May, 6pm - 8pm
Gertrude Contemporary || 21-31 High Street, Preston South
Exhibition Dates: 31 May - 20 July

Initiated in 2001, the Octopus series of exhibitions supports ambitious curatorial practice, through engaging an invited curator annually to develop a project that draws upon their research interests and provides a platform for new forms of exhibition making. In 2019 Gertrude is delighted to be working with Joel Stern.

The Octopus exhibition series is generously supported by Proclaim. 

Exhibiting Artists: Ceri Hann; Danielle Freakley; Eric Demetriou; Gabriella D'Costa; Jacqui Shelton (with Alice Heyward and Megan Payne); Jake Moore; Makiko Yamamoto; Mel Deerson (with Briony Galligan); MP Hopkins; Simon Zoric; Steven Rhall


Performances by: Ash Kilmartin; James Rushford and Rachel Yezbick; Jacqui Shelton, Alice Heyward and Megan Payne; Jake Moore, Kate Brown; Mel Deerson (with Briony Galligan); Melody Paloma; MP Hopkins; Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, more TBA


Opening Weekend Performances

Saturday 1 June, Gertrude Contemporary, from 2pm.
Ash Kilmartin; Mel Deerson; Melody Paloma; MP Hopkins

Other performance programs TBA


Narcissism and its Echoes: Notes from Steven Connor’s Knee

The variability of the voice’s origin, whether magically detached from the body, or erupting from illegitimate orifices, means that the ventriloquial voice is both an attempt to imagine and pit the speech of the body against the speech of culture, and an attempt to control that illegitimate speech, to draw it into discourse.”  - Steven Connor

What we call ventriloquism is an effect, created in the mind of the spectator. (As Steven Connor says, ‘The art of ventriloquism consists very largely in persuading the audience to do much of the ventriloquist’s work [....] in enfleshing the voice from the skeletal approximations that the ventriloquist supplies”.) Ventriloquy is as much a trick of the mind as it is a trick of the mouth. The sound is issuing from either the wrong time and place, or the wrong voice and body. Or from no body at all. The voice and its shadow, time out of place, a wrong time-place: ventriloquism is about being in-and-out of sync. It is an anachronism, or as Connor (again) says, a dissociation effect, the voice separated from its source, the source either known but not present (‘clear, so to speak, to the ear, but not apparent to the eye’); or purely imagined (hearing voices where there are none). But the difference between these two, ‘the difference between dissimulation and hallucination’, may not always be objective. Speech itself may live as a state of ventriloquy, in ‘there’ talking within us as if we are spoken from elsewhere. Do we, like the doll, offer ourselves as a dummy location for the voice which cannot be located - a vessel for dummification?

7 - Unnamed

Simon Zoric, Self Portrait / Self Portrait (incognito)


"I think it is in bad taste to quote myself, but here I must make an exception"  - Mladen Dolar

Hearing yourself speak, as Derrida first said, is fundamentally unsettling; we perceive this as an echo of our being, a ‘signifier interrupting self-presence’. Your voice is literal, material - a real thing in the world. We can all sing (some actually in tune). You can recognise a cough. Your voice is recognisable, emulable, and now, printable. Your voice is unique; in Australia, my voice identifies me (as the Australian Tax Office makes us repeat when we call them). In Australia, my voice identifies me; that’s why we conflate ‘having a voice’ with political agency. Those denied a voice are stifled, muffled, suppressed, oppressed. Those who get to have a voice are noisy - heard and overheard - powerful; their automatic amplifications part of what Jacques Attali calls ‘the giant noise-emitting machine’.

 5 - Unnamed

Ceri Hann, Money Talks

Ventriloquism is a technology and technique of deception, statecraft, and power’ - Sarah Kessler

There are problems with assuming everyone’s voice is entirely their own. Who hasn’t picked up a saying here or there? We all - intentionally or obediently - parrot the views we feel are correct. It’s an autotune everything world. What you hear are both your own thoughts, and also echoes from within the silo of your own making. Steven Connor says, “the state or the socius enacts its authority through the process of speaking for and through other subjects. Ventriloquism is both the guarantee of this system and a threat to it...” David Goldblatt says, "ventriloquism entails the effacement of the speaker, while he/she pretends simultaneously to listen ... while certain people speak for things (art and nature), persons also speak for other persons, those muted in the social diaspora; the mad, poor, sick, imprisoned.” People speak for things, people speak for persons - and things, perhaps, speak for people. Ventriloquism is an act in which things talk, and those things might be people. (Or not).

6 - Unnamed

MP Hopkins, Internal Transcriptions

mid 17th century: from modern Latin ventriloquium (from Latin venter ‘belly’ + loqui ‘speak’) - Oxford English Dictionary

Ventriloquism used to be a magical practice, aligned with gastromancy - a kind of divination-by-the-stomach. Contemporary gastromantics express their unique subjectivity through productions of distributed, dispensed and disclaimed authorship; performances which, paradoxically, may be read as personal, distinctive, voiced. Perhaps that is where the fantasies of speaking in tongues, the expressivity of the untrammelled id, come in. It is hard to abandon one’s voice completely. But closed mouths and loose tongues can speak other truths too.

4 - Unnamed

Jacqui Shelton, Crush

It may be that we are puppets - puppets controlled by the strings of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation.” - Stanley Milgram, Cyranoids

We suggested that he imitate his own voice, he said he could not do that.” - Thomas Bernhard, The Voice Imitator

More Goldblatt: "ventriloquism is illusion without deception - a truly deceived audience would undermine the nature of the act." In other words, it’s an illusion in which the audience is in on the act, a consensual, participatory, self-conscious illusion. The double agency at work here goes beyond modernist reflexivity - ‘I’m IN this experience / I’m HAVING this experience’. Our (self-)awareness of the irreducibly ventriloquial condition of relations is more like ‘This experience is IN me / This experience is HAVING me’. Conversing with oneself via a proxy, the tension is between dialogue and a schizo-monologue. Hello ventriloquist; hello dummy. 

Joel Stern and Danni Zuvela, May 2019

3 - Unnamed

Makiko Yamamoto, Ego as Echo



Australian Tax Office, ‘Voice Authentication: Benefits of Enrolling Your Voiceprint’. 
David Goldblatt,  Art and Ventriloquism.
Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music.
Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology.
Mladen Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More.
Sarah Kessler, 'Karaoke and Ventriloquism: Echoes and Divergences’.
Stanley Milgram, Cyranoids, cited in Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie, ‘Revisiting Milgram’s Cyranoid Method: Experimenting With Hybrid Human Agents’.
Steven Connor, Dumbstruck; Panophonia.

Octopus 19: VENTRILOQUY, is curated by Joel Stern. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of public programs presented in partnership with Liquid Architecture at various venues in Melbourne.

Joel Stern is a curator, researcher and artist concerned with theories and practices of sound and listening. With Danni Zuvela, he is Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture, an Australian organisation for artists working with sound. Other initiatives include the artist collective OtherFilm. and Instrument Builders Project, instigated with Kristi Monfries in 2013. In 2018, with James Parker, Stern curated Eavesdropping, an exhibition and research project exploring the politics and ethics of listening. Stern has been curated festivals, events, exhibitions, screenings and concerts in Australia and internationally since the early 2000s. He is a PhD candidate in Curatorial Practice at Monash Art, Design and Architecture, where he teaches Sound (in the Space of Art).

8 - Unnamed  9 - Unnamed

02.08.2019 – 14.09.2019

Inagural River Capital Commission

01.10.2019 – 09.11.2019

Hope Dies Last: Art at the End of Optimism
Curated by Mark Feary
Opening: Friday 4 October, 6-8pm
Exhibtion dates Gertrude Contemporary: 1 October - 9 November
Exhibtion dates Margaret Lawrence Gallery: TBC

Hope Dies Last: Art at the End of Optimism is a curated exhibition of Australian and international contemporary art presented across two sites, Gertrude Contemporary and the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the Victorian College of the Arts. The project focuses on how artists consider the depletion of optimism, how they might envisage the end of days, and how they make sense of these tumultuous times. The project brings together works by leading Australian and international artists, as if to choreograph a collective swan song of lament. Exploring themes of mortality, fatalism, extinction, pain (both emotional and physical), failure and downfall, the works largely focus on the specific moment when hope evaporates for the final time. Explored with compassion, humour, sadness and resignation, Hope Dies Last confronts our individual and collective anxieties around death, reminding us that we will all destined for this certainty, yet each of us will experience that moment alone. Hope Dies Last will be one of the most depressing events of the year, an exhibition that will riddle us with sadness, and likely leave us more pessimistic than we have ever been before. 

Presented in partnership with Melbourne International Arts Festival and Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts.

More information coming soon...

22.11.2019 – 21.12.2019

Gertrude Studios 2019
Opening Friday 22 Nov, 6-8pm.
Artists: Kay Abude, Andrew Atchison, James Nguyen, Andrew Liversidge, Steaphan Paton, Jahnne Pasco White, Mikala Dwyer, Isadora Vaughan, Eugenia Lim, Joseph L. Griffiths, Spiros Panigirakis, Georgina Cue, Sam George + Lisa Radford, Georgia Banks, Ann Debono, Jason Phu.

Gertrude concludes the year with its annual Gertrude Studios exhibition, presenting new and recent works and projects being produced within the 16 studios of the organisation. The exhibition enables a collective snapshot of the practices supported within the program, offering the opportunity to experience a broad diversity of works from leading arts practitioners in Melbourne.