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You See What She’s Saying: Selections from the Monash University Library and Art Collection

28 February – 27 June 2022

Sir Louis Matheson Library
40 Exhibition Walk
Monash University, Clayton Campus

Hoda Afshar, Micky Allan, Ying Ang, Angela Cavalieri, Fiona Connor, Cherine Fahd, Bianca Hester, Jan Hogan, Therese Keogh, Inge King, Susan E. King, Jenna Lee, Rebecca Mayo, Elizabeth Newman, Mary Newsome, Rose Nolan, Katie Paterson, Emma Phillips, Patricia Piccinini, Kerrie Poliness, Clare Rae, Marilyn R. Rosenberg, Kathy Temin, Jude Walton, Judy Watson and Dai Zhen Chew.

Emma Neale, Collection Manager, and Francis E. Parker, Curator – Exhibitions, MUMA, with thanks to Anne Holloway, Special Collections Curator, Sir Louis Matheson Library, Monash University

You See What She’s Saying: Selections from the Monash University Library and Art Collection focused on women artists working with both artists’ books and visual art. It drew from the Monash University Special Collections, Caulfield Library’s Artists’ Books collection and artworks from the Monash University Collection.

You See What She’s Saying acknowledged that gender equality within collection holdings of many institutions had not been prioritised in the past, resulting in the under-representation of women artists despite the libraries having a long history of collecting ‘non-traditional literature’ such as romance, ephemera, cook books and education material. At the time of the exhibition in 2022, 37.3% of artworks held in the Monash University Collection, and less than one fifth of the holdings of artists’ books held in Special Collections and the Artists’ Books collection were produced by women. Both the libraries and Monash University Museum of Art, which manage the Monash University Collection, were committed to redressing this imbalance.

Originally devised for the Monash University Collection’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations in 2021, You See What She’s Saying joined another critical re-framing project, Queer Readings of the Monash University Collection, a series of commissioned texts that read collection artworks ‘queerly’, available on MUMA’s website and represented by a selection of artworks on display in the Caulfield Library on Level 4.

With a title that paraphrased Rose Nolan’s print You See What I’m Saying (Twice Over Print Version), 2012, You See What She’s Saying spanned from the 1970s to 2022 and touched on the innumerable concerns of contemporary artists. As historically, artists’ books provided a significant alternative to the conventions of making and distributing art for both conceptual and feminist artists, the works in this exhibition were grounded in these practices. The emphasis on printmaking and photography reflected the materiality of books, together with an evident preoccupation with books’ regular contents: text and language—or their limitations. A number of artists dealt with the intimacy of birth, the domestic environment or the formation of identity, while still more were concerned with journeys—several of their books representing the outcomes of artists’ residencies. Finally, the land emerged repeatedly, particularly in consideration of urban or disrupted environments, Indigenous connections to Country and a reckoning with the legacies of colonisation.

Photo: Installation view, You See What She’s Saying: Selections from the Monash University Library and Art Collection, Sir Louis Matheson Library, Monash University Clayton Campus, Melbourne, 2022. Photo: MUMA

Installation Views