Between the Details: Video Art from the ACMI Collection

Between The Details Cover ImageFlinders University Museum of Art, Bedford Park. 15 Mar 2024


Between [the] Details is an engrossing exhibition of diverse video art showing at the Flinders University Museum of Art (FUMA), and the five videos on display constitute an exemplary sample from the collection of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), in Melbourne.


ACMI is a museum of screen culture, showing film, television, videogames and video art. Between [the] Details is touring regional centres from late 2023 to late 2025, and the presentation of this selection at FUMA provides a valuable opportunity for Adelaide audiences to engage with some acclaimed video artworks.


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Kaylene Whiskey, Ngura Pukulpa – Happy Place, 2021, Courtesy Kaylene Whiskey and Iwantja Arts. Photo: Max Mackinnon.


Yankunytjatjara artist Kaylene Imantura Whiskey’s delightfully happy video Ngura Pukulpa – Happy Place (2021) celebrates indigenous culture and her community. The video shows footage of Whiskey’s Indulkana Country with animated imagery superimposed over it, and the short narrative shows Whiskey as a caped superwoman flying over her Country and then producing animations that fly off her canvas to become the superimposed images of the people, animals and objects that populate her dreamworld. We see a nun, representing the arrival of Christianity, we see Whiskey and the women of her community partying before a Santa steals their celebratory cake, and there are references to heroic women, including a Blak Wonder Woman.


Ngura Pukulpa – Happy Place is a brilliantly composed artwork, and the use of superimposition becomes a metaphor for the inscription of culture on Country. The video is set to music with song lyrics such as:

This is my Country,

This is my land,

Iwantja rising up,

Strong in red sand.


Iwantja refers to the Aboriginal art centre of that name at Indulkana, and Whiskey’s video may be seen as a powerful assertion of sovereignty on behalf of her community.


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Zanny Begg, The Beehive, 2018 (video still), photo: Philippa Bateman, featuring Koco Carey.


Zanny Begg’s fascinating video, The Beehive (2018), is perhaps the most interesting technically of the ACMI videos on display. The Beehive is described as a “non-linear experimental documentary” concerning the unsolved murder of Juanita Nielsen in 1975.


Nielsen was a journalist and publisher, a model, and most significantly, a heroically vocal anti-development campaigner in inner Sydney during the era of resident demonstrations against development that would destroy heritage buildings and local communities. It is presumed she was murdered by underworld figures to silence her, and it has been suggested that police corruption prevented any resolution of the case.


The video is named The Beehive as Nielsen typically wore her hair (or a wig) in a ‘beehive’ style, and the area of Victoria Street, Kings Cross, which was under threat, resembled a human beehive as it was so densely populated. The queen of the hive was Nielsen, whose elimination was presumably intended to destroy the hive. Actor Pamela Rabe plays the role of a beekeeper and represents Nielsen’s ghost now looking back at historical events.


The video has the appearance of a documentary but is experimental in several respects: multiple actors play the role of Nielsen and various speculative re-enactments portray the possible action. There are four versions of the video that are shown sequentially and elements of each version of the video are randomly selected for screening by an algorithm, so that there are 1344 possible variations of the story — each time you see it, it will be different. The multiple versions parallel the multiple possible personal memories and interpretations of, and speculations about, the events that took place, and every viewer will make their own interpretation of the story.


The mutability of the video questions the nature of documentary as journalistic reportage, and challenges the idea of a single, definitive version of an artwork. The use of multiple actors to portray one individual suggests the interchangeability of individuals and implies that any woman might get caught up in such events. There is a strongly feminist flavour to The Beehive as it addresses the issues of Kings Cross prostitution and the role of women in politics.


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Deborah Kelly, The Gods of Tiny Things, 2019 (video still).


Deborah Kelly’s The Gods of Tiny Things (2019) is dazzling animation composed of sequences of collaged images of imaginary deities that dance across the screen like strange insects. Kelly brought together several collage artists who chopped up old encyclopedias and magazines to create the images, metaphorically destroying old beliefs to create new ideas. The imagery is symbolically powerful, reflecting for example on gender stereotypes, politics and the changing environment. Shown on two adjacent screens, the effect is kaleidoscopic, creating a mesmerising but thought-provoking experience for the viewer.


Internationally renowned video artist David Rosetzky’s Gaps (2014) shows dancers in rehearsal and performing, and then speaking with each other privately, thus comparing human expression through dance, movement, and speech. Gaps shows some beautiful dance performances, and watching it is like eavesdropping, as we observe the subtleties of human communication.


Jason Phu’s Analects of Kung Phu, Book 1, The 69 Dialogues between the Lamp and the Shadow (2021) is an 85 minute sequence of fragments of dozens of martial arts movies and television shows. Such programs often convey wise sayings, and the video’s English subtitles form a continuous flow of advice — which you may find profound or hilarious — on how to live your life. The result is a wondrous montage that questions the kinds of advice that are ubiquitous in popular culture. Like a book of aphorisms, you can dip into it and take what you want, for example:

The past is history,

The future, a mystery,

Today is a gift,

That’s why it’s called the present.


This well-curated exhibition is both thought-provoking and highly entertaining and is a must-see for anyone interested in video art and its artistic and political potential.


Chris Reid

Between The Details Cover Image


When: 19 Feb to 19 Apr

Where: Flinders University Museum of Art, Bedford Park campus

Bookings: Free entry -