Australian photographer Alice Hutchison was born and raised in one of Melbourne’s most diverse working-class neighborhoods; an inner city enclave of European and Middle Eastern migrants. Weekend walks presented a smorgasbord of sights and sounds that inspired her young, creative mind. For her latest collection, she drew inspiration from the neighborhood’s kitsch, industrial past, and borrowed props from shops and friends across the city to create “a suspended reality”.
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Tell us about Alice Hutchison the photographer.
My practice is driven by a critical reflection and engagement with the inherent processes and biases of different mediums, often examining the unspoken dimensions of personal identity within contemporary consumer culture.
And how about Alice Hutchison the person?
I grew up in a multicultural part of Melbourne, surrounded by foreign influences. Both my parents are avid art lovers, so family excursions to galleries were not uncommon. I was an anti-establishment teenager, and after being threatened with expulsion, I decided to leave high school. I later attended one of the most notorious schools in a low socioeconomic area. The school has since been burnt down.
Your latest work is a collaboration with musician and artist Carla Ori, who performs as Biscotti. Tell us about it.
The initial project was to design a front and back cover for Biscotti’s album. The first shoot was so successful that Carla proposed the idea of doing a shot for each track. Carla and I then went about discussing and listening to each song, and naturally began to think up corresponding objects and colour palettes, while expanding upon the visual narratives and nuances present in different eras. We let this process unfold organically so the images took on a life of their own, rather than being literal interpretations of each song.
The exhibition made news in Australia due to a complaint about a prop. What was the complaint and how did you respond?
A dildo was placed on a large plinth that was situated in the gallery window. Unbeknownst to me, the gallery was located across the road from a Catholic primary school. The day the show opened also happened to be the first day back at school. A mother called up Melbourne’s largest talk-back radio station and made a complaint. The prop was in the show as it featured in an image that consisted of a playful theme, celebrating female desire and sexual awakening. The gallery and I decided to respond to the complaint by draping the work in a large white sheet. This highlights the censorship and, in my opinion, highlights the absurdity of it all.
Melbourne has a large Greek and Italian population. What from those cultures have you incorporated into your work?
One of my influences is Franko Cozzo, a local furniture shop owner and B-grade celebrity. He had infamous TV commercials that were a splendid mix of Mediterranean flamboyance and homespun, do-it-yourself advertising.
If you had to choose one object to define you, what would it be?A retro irish coffee cup that looks like it’s out of an ‘80s Italian film. It’s gold, glass, and has a triangle handle. It features in one of the images from the recent series. It’s extravagant, refined, practical, a little fragile, and the most stylish thing I own.
INTERVIEWED BY: NICK FULTON