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Allan, Micky - 2011.34.1a

Micky Allan

My Trip 1976
printed newspaper
20 sheets, each 45.5 x 28.5 cm
Donated by the artist, 2011

My Trip is an artist book made in the manner of a tabloid newspaper. It was created following Micky Allan’s impromptu coastal camping trip in 1975. It is distinguished by her departure from prevailing approaches to fine-art photography and authorship, and for what it reveals about attitudes towards photography and a woman travelling alone. My Trip is also significant for prefiguring broader Australian diaristic, performative and relational practice.

Far from a conventional journey, this trip was bound by performative and technical determinates set by the artist and declared in her handwritten text: ‘I took a photo of everyone who spoke to me, and offered them the camera to take a photo back’. Allan presented the photograph she took on the left, with a verbatim account of the subject’s response, and ‘On the right is the photo they took and what they said when taking it’. Occasionally the grid is blank, indicating the subject didn’t respond or they declined to take a photograph. While the principles of engagement, collaboration and recording were fixed, importantly, the work’s final manifestation was not; this came to Allan when she returned and My Trip was produced.[1]

Trained as a painter, Allan was, during this period, exhibiting hand-coloured photographs that explored domestic subject matter and working as a designer for the Australian Performing Group. Her milieu was politically radical and engaged in experimental theatre, poetry and consciousness-raising, rather than in what could be characterised as the art scene. My Trip owes its spontaneity and exuberant desire to engage with people as participants and as audiences to the collaborative form of theatre in which Allan was immersed, as well as her deeply intuitive feminist and spiritual disposition.

The early exhibition of My Trip placed the work within conceptual rather than documentary practice, and as a vehicle for social encounter. Initially, Allan distributed it through newsagents, and later that year it was presented in A Survey of Post-Object Art in Australia at the Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide.[2] In 1978, Allan included it in her first solo exhibition, Photography, Drawing, Poetry: A Live-in Show, at Ewing and George Paton Galleries, Melbourne, and later at Watters Gallery, Sydney. My Trip wascasually placed for visitors to hold as part of this landmark exhibition, during which Allan lived in the gallery amid an installation of domestic furniture and a range of her artworks. My Trip formed a conversation point between visitors and the artist, further challenging boundaries between art and lived experience.

Some forty years later, My Trip is still bold and surprising for how it forged the democratic possibilities of photography, as well as for its conceptual rigour. But mostly it is a remarkable window onto the period.

Naomi Cass is the Director of Castlemaine Art Museum (CAM).

[1] Micky Allan, in conversation with the author, 17 September 2018.

[2] In a review of her 1987 survey exhibition at Monash University Gallery, Robert Rooney notoriously recalled the young artist dropping off copies of the work to be sold at the Source Book Shop where he was working. Robert Rooney, ‘Frames of Allan’s journey’, The Weekend Australian, 10–11 October 1987, p.12. At the Experimental Art Foundation, Allan placed one copy of My Trip on a table – reminiscent of the newspaper desk in a public library reading room – and pinned two to the wall so that each page was visible