In the wake of the Easter long weekend I must say I felt an almost instantaneous affinity with this exhibition as I stepped over the threshold onto the unpolished cement floor of number 107 and saw CUNT IS A CHRISTIAN WORD and a lengthy accompanying poem hanging from the ceiling.
This week 107 Projects space in Redfern is showcasing THARUNKA to THOR – Journalism, Politics and Art 1970-1973, an exhibition and series of forums surrounding the UNSW student magazine Tharunka and later underground affiliations and the social and political contexts of the time.
The exhibition and forum series draws parallels between what was happening in the Sydney media scene and the
landmark controversy in New York in 1971 involving the artist Hans Haacke over the journalism as art/art as journalism debate.
The exhibition is curated by Wendy Bacon, investigative journalist, activist and original member of the Tharunka editorial team, and Chris Nash, a professor of journalism at Monash University. Both curators are at the exhibition from 11am till 6pm and are more than willing to discuss anything and everything with exhibition goers.
Wendy Bacon is a true rock star. Her unrelenting battle against censorship saw her wear a nun’s habit to her court trial for obscenity, with the slogan I have been fucked by God’s steel prick emblazoned across the front.
The newspaper sparked outcry from the conservative government and Catholic Church with its unapologetic coverage of sex, gay liberation, Indigenous and minority oppression and violence in the criminal justice system. The newspaper sought to destabilize institutionalised ideologies surrounding sex and women’s rights and confront head on the censorship that was rampant in NSW in the early seventies.
The faded brown articles pinned to the walls are text heavy. The newspaper had a lot to say, a lot to inform its readers on. As I wandered through I was grabbed by headlines like In Search of the Orgasm, Gay Power – The Real Facts, What is Obscene? Fucking or War? and The Chances of Getting an Abortion. I was fascinated but also unsettled by the longevity of these headlines.
What the exhibition shows is that while in the last fifty years so much has changed, there is also so much that has remained constant. Sex education and women’s health issues continue to be on the periphery of mainstream media. Governmental pressures on media press, censorship and propaganda, oppression of indigenous groups and institutionalized racism are all still rearing and rampant in Australia and around the globe. Now more than ever we need strength in our voices and fearlessness in our stride.
In the centre of the space is a large table with original copies of Tharunka, Thor, Thorunka and the Sex Manual, also published by Tharunka. The Sex Manual was distributed to schools around Sydney illegally and features articles about female and male orgasm, masturbation, abortion and ‘first fuck’ anecdotes. People are encouraged to pour over the original copies and lounge on the chairs and couch provided as a reading space.
The publications drew wide reaching support from students, Sydney libertarians, activists, writers, lawyers and others as they waged a tireless campaign against the police and authorities. By 1973 the censorship regime in Australia was
broken, and nearly all the charges against Tharunka were dropped.
You can catch the exhibition at 107 Projects until April 23. Check the forum guide for speaker times.
THARUNKA to THOR – Journalism, Politics and Art 1970-1973 launched on April 12 and runs until April 23. Guest speaker forum guide is as follows:
Thursday April 20, 6-8pm
Journalism as art/art as journalism – Hans Haacke banned from Guggenheim 1971
Chris Nash and Ian Milliss
Saturday April 22, 1.30 – 3.30 pm
The Unacceptable Works Literary Supplement – literary publications and censorship in 1960s and 70s
Frank Moorhouse -Interview with Chris Nash and discussion
4 – 6 pm
THARUNKA to THOR – Art, design, layout and the production process
Panelists: Val Hodgson, Jenny Coopes, Rick Mohr and Jack Rozycki
Sunday April 23
Note : During the exhibition, Wendy Bacon and Chris Nash will be at the gallery from 11am to 6 pm. There will be drinks at 107 Projects at the end of events. If you would like to contact us email Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0409403774, or leave a message here.