When Zoë Croggon was asked to dig through Arts Centre Melbourne’s archives held in the Australian Performing Arts Collection to create an artwork for PHOTO 2024, she felt like a kid in a candy shop. The result is the Melbourne-based artist’s new 20-metre-long work, Chamber Dance, which stretches along Arts Centre Melbourne on St Kilda Road between Hamer Hall and the Theatres Building under the Spire.

It was commissioned by the Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation as part of the biennale international photography festival, on this month. The exhibit is a union of Croggon’s background in dance and her years-long exploration of the body through her art practice. The collage uses 25 archival photos to pay homage to the performances at Arts Centre Melbourne over the 40 years since it opened.

“I spent several months poring over the photographic archives,” Croggon tells Broadsheet. “There are secretly six of my own architectural photographs in there as a way of weaving things together. It was such a rich experience, and I felt really privileged to be able to be in there and look through all of these old folders of really exquisitely beautiful images.”

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Croggon’s style is characterised by single cuts and folds that make for striking collages. She is economical in her use of materials, which contrasts with the bounty of archival images she had access to for Chamber Dance.

“I really enjoy the simplicity of having two images interacting, but also the challenge of that because there’s a refinement that you need because it’s so bare,” Croggon says. “I’m always trying to achieve something that looks like it has a sense of both precision but also of ease, as though it’s something that kind of stumbled along.”

As the daughter of two writers, Croggon grew up with literature. Language is constantly part of her work; she thinks about her PHOTO 2024 exhibit as being almost a form of asemic writing – an abstract blend of art and writing that is unreadable on a literal level but that gestures towards writing.

“From afar the shapes become abstract and they look a little bit like an alphabet, and the bodies and structures can kind of fuse to create a language of their own … I’ve never worked in such a large scale,” Croggon says. “It opens up all of these new avenues of ways to see the body and the self. Your body is in relation to the bodies in the work.”

Croggon is one of more than 150 local and international photographers being showcased at PHOTO 2024 exhibitions and events across Melbourne and Victoria. Chamber Dance will be on display for the rest of 2024, but the festival finishes on March 24.

On the closing weekend, dubbed Photobook Weekend, Abbotsford Convent will come alive with full-day programs of free events. Visitors can hear talks from artists and publishers including American photographer Daniel Jack Lyons, Wiradjuri queer photographic artist Kyle Archie Knight, and New Zealand-based photographer and performance artist Ann Shelton.

There will also be photobook launches and tours of the installations and exhibitions at the Convent which include the Australian Women Photographers exhibit; the Beauty in Small Things showcase of archival, smaller format photobooks; and the finalists for the Australia and New Zealand Photobook Awards (which are being presented on Saturday the 23rd). Local and international photographers, artists and publishers will also have stalls at the Photobook Market on Saturday.

photo.org.au

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