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Spotlight Talks @ Museum of Contemporary Art

Home > Sydney > Public Lectures | Galleries | Free | Art
by Vanessa M (subscribe)
I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published February 23rd 2013
The Spotight Talks on offer at the Museum of Contemporary Art are short, five to ten minute talks from knowledgeable Visitor Services Officers that focus on a single artwork. The locations of the talks change each day, so you have to check at the Information Desk to know where to go.

[ADVERT]After visiting the MCA to see the Volume One: MCA Collection exhibition one Wednesday, I decided to return to the gallery at 3.00pm that afternoon to check out one of these Spotlight Talks. I arrived five minutes early and headed straight to the Information Desk, only to overhear two ladies in front of me ask where the talk would be held.

It was to take place on Level Two, in Volume One: MCA Collection (I guess you can't hold a free talk in an exhibition that requires an entry fee). An announcement confirmed the location moments later.

mca, museum of contemporary art
The Museum of Contemporary Art

As the lady at the Information Desk had directed, I stayed in the foyer outside the exhibition and waited to be collected by the Visitor Services Officer who would be speaking that day. I spent the time looking at the artworks I had missed earlier, when I just headed straight into the exhibition.

The ladies from downstairs had followed these instructions too and were sitting on a seat outside the entrance. But it wasn't long before a Visitor Services Officer approached them and directed them towards the painting that would be the subject of today's talk. I followed, and when I got there it turned out the talk had already started. I hadn't missed much though. The young lady - from California, it turned out - had just started providing the five-strong crowd with some background information on the exhibition.

I had already visited Volume One: MCA Collection, so I was familiar with what she was talking about and picked it up quickly. But I still learned a few new things, getting there just in time to hear that the exhibition featured an equal amount of male and female artists, which was described as an unusual but deliberate choice. I also learned that most works had been collected in the last ten years.

Remembering Babylon

The talk then moved onto the artwork itself, which was one of Rosemary Laing's Remembering Babylon images, a photograph of disembodied heads partially submerged in what looked like a pool of water. I was happy with this selection, as the placard next to her work gave nothing away.

After a brief background on the artist, we were informed that the work was a collaborative effort with fellow artist Stephen Birch, who also had his own individual artwork, called Untitled, displayed nearby. We were told that the heads were casts of people Laing and Birch know in the art community, that the setting was an Outback salt bore, and that the name of the piece comes from David Malouf's novel Remembering Babylon. It wasn't long before the talk was over, and when I checked my watch, I saw it was only 3.01pm.


I think the Spotlight Talks offer straightforward, bite-sized amounts information that are pretty easy for those not familiar with the art world to appreciate. They seem to cover everything relevant to the artwork too - the exhibition, the artist and the work itself. The groups aren't that big, even with the few extras who drifted over by the end, and you can ask questions if you want anything clarified.

The talks take place on weekdays at 3.00pm, but you might want to get there a bit earlier to make sure you don't miss out.
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Why? Get even more out of a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art
When: Weekdays at 3.00pm
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art
Cost: Free
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