Citational choices

25 Oct 2022 to 5 Feb 2023

Artists: Anna Daučíková, Luke Fowler, Gail Hastings, Rita Keegan and the Rita Keegan Archive Project, and pieces from the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection, with exhibition design in collaboration with Maud Vervenne
Guest curator: Isabelle Sully

Citational choices takes La Trobe University’s Etta Hirsh collection of ceramics as its point of departure. The exhibition will combine the Hirsh Collection – amassed between the late 1960s and the 1990s – with artwork by contemporary artists. Like the precious ceramic vessels that Hirsh used in her home and everyday life, Citational choices marries the functional and the formal. The exhibition combines ceramics with archival material, moving image, sculpture, exhibition design and publishing. Together, these elements unravel the biographical stories present within the collection itself – those of Etta Hirsh, of a local art scene, of La Trobe Art Institute and now, in the case of this exhibition, everyone newly involved. Through contemporary works which engage with personal and material archives, the exhibition pays particular attention to the biographical stories – the anecdotal and the informal ones – that often don’t make it onto the record.

Read Isabelle Sully’s curatorial statement below.

The Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection is an eclectic array of ceramic artworks produced by Australian artists between the early 1960s and late 1990s, donated in avid collector Etta Hirsh’s name to La Trobe University between 2009 and 2011. The collection, in a careful compulsion towards conservation, remains largely in storage. Yet when Etta Hirsh began collecting ceramics in the 1950s, she never intended for them to become static. Instead she used them in her everyday life, maintaining their function while also appreciating them all the more through living with them so intimately. Such a decision leaves intriguing material traces throughout the collection; chips to the ceramic surfaces and other signs of wear convey Hirsh’s insistence that the essence of the artwork is felt when it is touched and engaged with.

The personal nature of the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection stands as a biography of sorts, though it is an intertwining biography: of an individual, a community in the form of the local art scene that the collection encompasses and of an institution in La Trobe Art Institute (and its predecessors, such as La Trobe University Museum of Art). Citational choices is therefore an attempt to flesh out the footnotes of these intersecting biographical stories, the ones that slip through the cracks of archival and administrative processes, or which simply do not translate, and to ensure that in one way or another, these instances make it on to the record.

To assist in this process and to add another layer of citation, a number of contemporary artists will present work alongside pieces from the Etta Hirsh Collection. These are works which engage with the institutional university setting, with (family) history and its material relics, and with space and its organising principles; much like the different factors that come together to maintain a collection in the first place.

– Isabelle Sully, August 2022