Death of an Idea

Death of an Idea
Rhonda Dredge

The collectors were out in force at a West Melbourne gallery in March as a show of museum-quality postcards opened to the public.

Peter Milne is well known as a photographer but these exercises in photomontage went beyond his early work.

Basically, there were 150 jokes on the wall, each cut and pasted by the artist.

Katie Beale, curator at One Star Gallery, said the show sold very well at its opening and that it was on for another two weeks.

Photomontage was big in Germany during the Dada movement with its coded messages, often against the Nazis.

Milne said that Dadaism could be distinguished from surrealism in that the juxtaposition of images and the cut-out text made a political comment.

He has cut the text out of Civilisation, a book by Kenneth Clark, and used it to comment on his collages or vice versa.

Ms Beale said the works were not just clever commentaries but showed that Milne was “good at sticking and pasting”.

The visuals combine figures from a number of photographs with phrases such as “the new democratic system” or “a small group of humanists”.

The first shows a stone edifice, a sheep and a suited man with his back turned, while the second shows three people in a strange underground car park with gold columns.

The commentaries generally lampoon Clark’s pompous generalisations and buy into tropes beloved by art critics.

“I don’t know enough about Persian literature” shows an artist in the desert doing a painting of an upside-down nurse, and slings off at the metaphorical meanings attached to art practice.

A good satirist never reveals his thinking for the joke is always on the viewer. “I think the text and image relationships make sense on their own terms,” Milne said.

This has put the artist into a quandary for he is scheduled for an artist’s talk at the gallery on Saturday, April 15, and isn’t sure how to proceed.

“I might have questions at the beginning instead of the end,” he said, with an enigmatic smile.

Milne is attracted to misunderstood imaginative geniuses and his next project will be based on articles he has collected about King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

The Death of an Idea, the name of his current show, is based on a quote from Nietzsche that he has got wrong.

When pushed, Milne is similarly disrespectful when speaking of Clark whom he calls “a waspish little man”.

Death of an Idea, Peter Milne, One Star Gallery, artist’s talk, 4pm, April 15. •

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