Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Funeral Songs, 2007/2012
Photo: Rémi Chauvin


As the clocked ticked over, marking the beginning of a new century, I was beset with an overwhelming optimism. The year 2000 was going to be great: I could feel it in my bones. Big career aspirations were in the air. Personal life changes too: I had embarked on what would become a significant relationship, our first date coinciding with the birth of my first niece. This seemed important: as she got older and the juggernaut of time passed by, we counted the years of our relationship against the convenient measure of her age. Looking back, I was probably confusing some notion of zeitgeist for a confluence of events that signpost the passing of chronological time and its repurposing into the dominant narratives worth remembering as personal history.

Because then everyone started dying.

In 2000, a seemingly relentless tide of family deaths began. First an uncle, then a stepfather, and then my brother Trevor, struck dead by an aneurysm at the age of 20. With his death, everything changed for me in ways that still resonate: personally, but also professionally as an artist and curator. With no knowledge of his impending death, in a passing conversation with our mother, Trevor had expressed a preference for the song he wanted played at his funeral. Amid the shock and grief, however, the song choice was forgotten and we played something else. Sometime after the funeral, I was out with my mother when a pop song came on the radio. She turned to me in tears and said it was Trevor’s funeral song: Moby’s 1999 Porcelain. I made a vow that I would find a way to honour his wishes. I would devise a way to play the song as a tribute to him in a revisionist funeral of my imagination.

Three years later, my maternal grandmother died after two decades of a life afflicted by Parkinson’s Disease. An obsessed Rod Stewart fan, Nan advised whenever it came on the radio that Sailing was her funeral song. With her characteristic flair for melodrama, she threatened to haunt us if the song went unplayed at her funeral. So we played it, twice. Realising I had been exposed to the concept of a ‘funeral song’ by Nan since childhood, it felt more and more pressing to find a way to play tribute to Trevor’s song. He was haunting me.

In 2007, I was offered an exhibition at the now-defunct gallery MOP Projects in Sydney, a spot that would run alongside a sprawling Christmas themed group exhibition. My vague idea was to deliver my exhibition as a visual mixtape for the Christmas party, hybridising my usually discrete roles of artist and curator. Then it hit me: “funeral songs”! I would hire a jukebox and curate a playlist of songs living family, friends and artist peers nominated as songs to be played at their funerals: an opportunity for people to go on record about their chosen funeral music. I collected hundreds of songs, which were burnt onto home-made compilation CDs housed in the jukebox alongside a disc containing Trevor’s Porcelain and Nan’s Sailing.

I chose Tina Turner’s 1993 recording of Proud Mary as my song and accompanied the installation with a quick and cheap video portrait where I dance and lip-sync to the track. YouTube had only just set up its Australian subsidiary, so when I uploaded the video I had no idea that it would ‘go viral’; it racked up a million views before I felt compelled to delete it. Unwittingly, then, my funeral song became a benchmark for my practice as a video artist, which remixes the cultural archive with personal experience using the conventions of music video. My work reflects how I grew into my own queer and feminist skin as a child of 80s and 90s pop culture excess.

In 2012, Funeral Songs made the leap into a museum collection, commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona)—a maverick private museum in Tasmania founded a year earlier by wealthy collector David Walsh. I remade Proud Mary in an empty carpark and presented it alongside the 2007 version with a plan to re-stage the performance every five years: I would live out my funeral song over the span of my lifetime like a series of five-year plans.1 Not long after the installation of Funeral Songs at Mona, my friend, the artist Katthy Cavaliere died. That day, Mona played her funeral song, Prince’s When Doves Cry, on repeat. Katthy’s estate had commissioned me to curate a posthumous exhibition of her work, and this link with Mona, forged together with senior curator Nicole Durling, was strong. Durling notes in the preface to Katthy’s monograph that she “felt an immediate connection to it and, with the support of David Walsh, Mona committed to an exhibition.”2


Katthy Cavaliere was an artist who made work about time: women’s time, her time. She melded performance and installation to embody time in spatial terms. Time, memory and commemoration circulate in a feminist body of work cut short by untimely death. Her final work, 11.11.11, endures in the artist’s archive as a proposal for a twelve-hour performance that was drafted but never realised due to terminal illness. Katthy intended the performance to transpire on her thirty-ninth birthday—11.11.11—between 11am and 11 pm (eleven o’clock was the time of her birth). The performance was to comprise the setting ablaze of a number of her personal effects, earlier transported to the historic regional town of Hill End, where she had previously undertaken a residency. It was to be an attempt to incinerate her past through the cremation of objects oppressed by heavy burdens. But 11.11.11 came and went, and Katthy’s plan remained unrealised. Instead, all her efforts were consumed by the will to survive a cancer diagnosis that she received in July 2011 and which ultimately claimed her life in January 2012.

This chapter considers the emotional labour at the heart of certain curatorial practices. By examining the intersection of Katthy’s time with mine, I explore how the burden and anxiety of linear time—the crushing feeling that time is always running out, just as one is trying to unpick time as an idea or concept for creative labour—rubs up against gendered experiences of cyclical time. I reflect on a curatorial methodology informed by grief, underpinned by the experience of friendship and a duty of care. This becomes also a reflection on the limits of authorship, on where Katthy’s work intersected with mine and how, in re-presenting her work through a posthumous retrospective, I felt less like a conventional curator and more like an artist where her installations became readymades for my own art practice. As an artist and curator, I have often struggled with the institutional limitations imposed on these roles and have compartmentalised my creative output accordingly. Working with Katthy’s material radically challenged my professional and personal boundaries, informing and somewhat transforming the way I now work. Acknowledging this project and the friendship underscoring it as a key life moment, this essay offers Katthy’s project as a case study for a curatorial discourse on the care and intimacies of affective labour. 


To curate a posthumous retrospective is to map an artist’s life-work against the passage of time. Looking back on an artist’s oeuvre when engaged in the forward-looking service of revisionism inevitably positions time as a linear temporality—a relentless singular pathway the individual paves into the future. Reflections on time have pointed out that the very act of theorising time is thwarted by how naturalised and taken-for-granted time is in the fabric of our experience and existence. “We are concealed in our thoughtfulness about time, even as we take it for granted,” writes feminist phenomenologist Christina Schües. “Time withdraws and therefore remains in the background; as such, it is continuously unsettling”.3 And yet I cannot shake time off. In telling this story, mine as much as Katthy’s, I am compelled to signpost dates and times which seem important, set a scene, season the narrative with drama and epoch, signalling the end of an era as a new one begins. I titled Katthy’s retrospective Loved after one of her key works, but also as an expression of love for the artist and her work, whose legacy I wanted to protect.

Among other artists of her generation, I believe Katthy was unique in Australian art of the recent past—her very Italian Arte Povera leanings and stress on the lived experience of embodied installation performances made her work deliberately ephemeral and susceptible to cultural amnesia; if it had not been experienced first-hand, it may as well not have existed. Much of her work in the nineties captured the zeitgeist in terms of contemporary installation art. For instance, the same year her work katthy’s room4 appeared at Artspace in Sydney in 1998, Tracey Emin created My Bed—a landmark installation that became famous a year later when it was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London. Creating performative art out of found objects was nothing new. But somehow in Australia at that time, Katthy’s work was ahead of the curve in the sense that performance installation is more widespread among the generation that followed.5

Katthy’s project was my second time curating the retrospective of a deceased Australian artist. In 2010 I curated a two-part survey of the work of Arthur McIntyre (1945-2003) at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Macquarie University Art Gallery.6 I came to know McIntyre’s work after his death—we were not friends. I curated his work as a ‘serious’ institutional curator would, taking care to write him into a recent art history that had largely overlooked his work. But in working on that project I felt a growing intimacy and obsession for the material. This intimacy and obsession grew in the aftermath of the exhibition, when I was charged with managing the artist’s estate. I placed over one hundred works in public collections in Australia and facilitated the donation of the artist’s effects to the National Art Archive at the Art Gallery of NSW. This experience informed my initial approach to Katthy’s material—yet ultimately what set Loved apart was the personal investment that came from a profound sense of loss, a motivation to declare a curatorial position born from love and grief.

In writing the life and career spanning monographs published alongside Katthy’s exhibition Loved and McIntyre’s Bad Blood, I realised later how my approach to narrativising history was framed decade-by-decade as a stock standard unit of measurement for understanding and periodising the artists’ life and work. This inclination of thinking through decades endures as a normative way of framing the past in cultural histories as much as it is rampant, though necessarily critiqued, in philosophical and literary contexts. We have seen in Western art history, for instance, how ‘Feminist Art of the Seventies’ vacuum seals its contents into a period to the exclusion of everything that came before or after. Within this decade-ism is a tendency to neatly compartmentalise an artist’s activity within convenient, linear blocks of time, a grand art historical narrative that attempts to resist the ruptures by untimely events, traumas and, inevitably, death. 

In declaring this problem with time, I feel compelled again to invoke the millennial moment of optimism I foregrounded earlier. It was an optimism, and decade-ism, Katthy shared. As 1999 receded, Katthy had reached an all-time low, describing what occurred as a psychological breakdown. A significant relationship had come to an end—as one, for me, was beginning—echoing the apocalyptic tone of the Y2K threat. Yet, Katthy saw the turn of the millennium as an opportunity for clarity and purpose, renewal and change: “The year 2000 – I felt that somehow I had to make this significant…I’m searching for the first sentence—I have been since I was a child—today I will start”, she wrote in her diary in January 2000.7

On the other side of the world, feminist literary critic Naomi Schor was having a similarly depressing turn of the century experience. In her poignant essay “Depression in the Nineties”, Shor reflects on the decade-ism characterising feminism of the seventies and eighties to which she belonged, and how she felt she had been plunged into a state of confusion and despair by the time the nineties set in:

In the marketplace of ideas there is no time for mourning and melancholia. Mourning is viewed as somehow shameful, not to say retrograde. Furthermore, in the age of postmodernist “waning of affect,” those who wish to bring back affects such as depression are not very good company, unless of course their name happens to be Julia Kristeva … Clearly there is a lot to be depressed about in these twilight days of the bloodiest of centuries, especially when one is, as I am, of a melancholic disposition.8

Reflecting on this essay, literary theorist Emily Apter notes how Schor’s “periodizing consciousness… used the nostalgic lever of the ‘decades’ time signature to snap into focus her personal and very melancholic sense of an era’s ending.”9 The very decade-ism that impelled Schor’s scholarship became the burden at the tail end of her life: depressingly enough, she met with her own untimed passing in the early part of the decade to follow. I am interested in how the decade-ism that has marginalised feminism can be challenged by aesthetic practices composed of non-linear time, such as those at the heart of Katthy’s work.

Julia Kristeva’s influential essay from 1979, “Le temps des femmes” [“Women’s Time”], is a useful guide for understanding how feminist criticism is retrospectively perceived according to generations of thought that correlate to the socio-geographic forces of place—feminism grouped by time as much as nation. Women’s time, for Kristeva, is cyclical and characterised by repetition and routine, maternity and gestation, and embodied in everyday things that are diurnal, habitual and intimate. It is marked by ritual, the body’s processes, and labour that repeats and returns:

… there are cycles, gestation, the eternal recurrence of a biological rhythm which conforms to that of nature and imposes a temporality whose stereotyping may shock, but whose regularity and unison with what is experienced as extrasubjective time, cosmic time, occasion vertiginous visions and unnameable jouissance.10

Kristeva also identifies ‘monumental’ time as having been gendered in relation to female subjectivity. Distinct from the domestic rhythms of cyclical time, monumental time relates to eternity, myth and the cosmos, concepts often couched in maternal terms. Orbiting within or outside the dominant teleology of linear time—a scheduled conception of time that dominates knowledge production and the chronological writing of history—these distinct generations of feminism and their aesthetic practices come to pass. Kristeva writes: “when evoking the name and destiny of women, one thinks more of the space generating and forming the human species than of time, becoming, or history”.11

Katthy’s work enacted a unique form of women’s time in its performance of cyclical domesticity. A facet of her daily routine was keeping a diary, a personal ritual to chronicle life in linear time. In making time to reflect on time, Katthy’s creative process recounted childhood memories to make sense of the present as a space where anachronism could be embodied. The impetus for diaristic self-reflection as a catalyst for art making was the experience of migrating to Australia from Italy with her parents as a young girl in the mid-1970s. It was this grief for the lost country or motherland that informed her feminist art practice. Katthy’s art found form from her steadfast focus on the key familial relationships, both paternal and maternal, that both anchored and set adrift her female identity. Using found objects from her own life, Katthy created performative installations that transformed these banal domestic materials, and the labour they embodied, into poignant environments, charged with meaning pertaining to personal experiences of love and trauma. Isolation and solitude were key themes, symptomatic of the experience of being an only child in a migrant family. Katthy found refuge and agency within the self-constructed and intimate world of the bedroom—an autonomous and domestic space-time where the tropes of identity are fashioned through the material (maternal) effects accumulated there. katthy’s room recreated her childhood bedroom inside an oversized cardboard box: a time capsule of childhood, the artist’s floating world. The inside of the room could only be seen from the top, by climbing several steps onto a viewing platform that revealed the artist going about mundane daily rituals like sleeping, reading, listening to the radio, or writing in her diary.

Katthy Cavaliere, katthy's room, 1998
Photo: Zan Wimberley


Katthy found enduring inspiration in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1958): “For our house is our corner of the world…it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.”12 For Bachelard, what makes the house a home is its metaphoric structure as a feminised, maternal space. The house cradles the individual—an architectural expansion of the figure of a mother nursing an infant. In katthy’s room, the teen bedroom replaces the figure of the mother as an immersive container where subjectivity is formed by its accumulative, material effects and their territorialisation.

In Katthy’s installations, identity and being are arrested (in space) as much as they are in constant formation and becoming (as time). Katthy used the temporality of performance to spatially inhabit her installations. Chronological time was ruptured as she presented an infantilised version of herself to the world. Breaching the cyclical realities of everyday life’s perpetual present as much as she was bound by it, Katthy cast herself in the fragile psychical realm of childhood past. Adulthood playacted through childhood—an inversion of an infant’s desire to emulate adults through dress-ups. A child’s bedroom is where the fantasies of a future adult self are projected, entertained and nourished. In returning to a cardboard box simulacrum of her teenage bedroom, a makeshift shelter for vagrants is evoked, suggesting how the risk and anxiety of homelessness always circulates within the fantasy of containment offered by the home.

During the late 1990s, Katthy made work exclusively about her bedroom and possessions, investing the materiality of her private universe with mnemonic significance. It is unsurprising that the work to follow katthy’s room should be story of a girl (1999)—an action based work intended to dispense with objects and their evocations of the past. For this work, Katthy laid out her childhood possessions on the floor at Artspace, sat among the sea of objects and gifted them to viewers with whom she interacted. This work is another reconfiguration of her bedroom, except that she replaced the intimacy of the cardboard walls with the architecture of a conventional gallery. At 26, Katthy was one of the youngest artists to stage a solo exhibition in Artspace’s history up to that point, and the show underscored her obsession with youth. Although a young woman, Katthy still saw herself as a child: infantilised and responding with youthful wonder to the world around her. “I forget that I’m a woman—too often—I must learn to see myself as a woman—less as a girl,” she wrote in her diary.13 Katthy’s consciousness of her self-perception as a child underlines the way linear time is both affirmed and broken in her practice.

With these installations, Katthy compartmentalised time in a unique way through performance. She would be present for a set period each day the gallery was open: for two hours daily she would be inside the box in katthy’s room; for two hours daily she would be giving away things from the debris of story of a girl. These rituals were scripted to capture a snapshot of time that exists in the routine of domestic life. A two-hour block synthesised the period one might spend in one’s room after school or work and before or after dinner. Within this world of private reverie, time is sliced off as cyclical and based in the labours of ritual on the one hand, and as meandering and dreamlike on the other, a space of imagination and wonder to contemplate sweeping refrains of life and death. 

Katthy’s consciousness of mortality is evident in her work brown paper (2001). After winning a major travelling fellowship in 2000—a moment consciously articulated as a breakthrough linked to hopes she had pinned on the year 2000 in contrast to the earlier decade’s angst—Katthy returned to Italy for the first time since childhood. While studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Brera, Katthy was selected with a small group of students to attend a summer school workshop taught by Marina Abramović at the Fondazione Ratti in Como. Katthy was considerably influenced by Abramović and regarded her as a mentor. As part of the course, each of the students performed in Abramović’s Energy Clothes (2001) and developed their own work for the group exhibition Idea Bank at Ex Chiesa di San Francesco. brown paper was Katthy’s contribution. In it Katthy lay naked in a human-sized cardboard box, repetitively inhaling and exhaling into brown paper lunch bags, some of which she placed on her body, and others she cast outside the box. Piles of captured breath surrounded her. brown paper synthesised her conceptual and material investigations into the nature of existence and the home in a poetic and reductive way. It was a work that powerfully signalled a newfound maturity—a growing out of girlhood.

Describing brown paper as a “portrait of the soul”,14 Katthy saw the paper bags as a lung for the universally human function of breathing. In approximately an hour, the accumulation of inflated paper bags came to represent the “first and last breath of life and all the ones in between”.15 An ongoing trope in her work, the cardboard box had moved on from being a bedroom and had become a coffin: “our bodies live in houses and die in coffins”.16

Katthy Cavaliere, Loved, 2015
Installation view at Mona
Photo: Rémi Chauvin


The song you just heard, Rewind by London Elektricity, is the piece of music Chris wanted played at his funeral when the day came. He told me this in December 2011 in anticipation of an art installation I was exhibiting at Mona museum in Hobart in January 2012. My art project was a way of correcting history, and paying tribute to my little brother. Thinking about this now, on the occasion of another brother’s funeral, I’m struck by how I knew this project was just as much about Chris as it was about Trevor.17

In July 2013, a year-and-a-half after Katthy’s death, I was commissioned by her estate to write her monograph and curate a future retrospective. Several boxes of Katthy’s diaries were delivered to my studio as a starting point for the research. The thirty or so diaries to which I was granted access spanned from art school notebooks of the early nineties through to sketchbooks where the artist was developing what became her final works. 

Half way through reading the diaries I was interrupted by another untimely death in the family: another brother, Christopher, dead at thirty-three; another funeral song cued. The eulogy I delivered told his story as much as Trevor’s, punctuated by the music they both loved. 

loved was the title of Katthy’s 2008 video performance, a work that becomes a kind of funeral song to her mother. In it the artist is depicted as an adult rag-doll, discarded on a rubbish heap. The rag doll comes to life and rummages through the detritus, edited to a recording of Katthy’s mother singing Hello Dolly. After this was filmed, Katthy’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Accepting an opportunity to perform at Artspace in November 2008, Katthy re-developed loved into a live work incorporating the video as a projected backdrop, in tribute to her sick mother. The live element commenced with Katthy as the rag doll being carried into the gallery by a workman clad in overalls. Placed down in front of the projection, Katthy performed a tap dance to Hello Dolly. Years earlier when she was studying in Italy, Katthy had asked her mother to record herself singing this song to potentially use in a work, but it did not find its place until loved. In tapping her troubles away, Katthy was referencing how this form of dance had been historically performed “to uplift people’s spirit during a time of depression and destruction”.18 As Hello Dolly concluded, the doll flopped to the floor and began knitting an umbilical cord from wool: “sewing [her] mother together again”.19 Katthy’s mother died two months after loved was performed. From this point on, a dense fog of sorrow settled over Katthy’s diaries.

Heart-broken by the recurring cycle of grief in my own nuclear and extended family, I had to temporarily set aside tending to Katthy’s life and work, and processing my own grief for her. When I returned to the project of writing her story and curating her show, I sought to downplay our personal relationship as a means of self-protection and take on a conventionally detached and objective curatorial methodology—as if objectivity is ultimately ever achievable. Yet, when reading her confessional diaries, I would be carried by the same emotional rollercoaster of Katthy’s interior world. But the last sentence of her final diary entry, dated December 8, 2011, stopped me in my tracks: 

It was my last chemo of the 4 ½ month cycle today. Nerine was with me. I have booked myself in for a CT scan next Monday and Jodie on Tuesday for the results. I checked my letterbox this morning and found Artbank cheque. It has come at a good time and I am very grateful.20

Several months before Katthy died, I purchased her photographic work untitled home (2007) for Artbank, the Australian Commonwealth Government art collection where I have been employed as Head Curator since January 2011. That I had played a role in the backstory of her final diary’s parting words shook me profoundly. I had subconsciously understood there were parallels in Katthy’s story and mine, but suddenly time was coalescing in its own strange and unknowable way. Whether a benign coincidence or numinous omen, I felt like I had heeded a calling, as if Katthy had willed me into her afterlife.

In Katthy’s monograph, the last entry listed in the chronology of her work is a photograph called afterlife (2011). After her mother’s death, Katthy commissioned a glass-maker to customise an hourglass to house her mother’s ashes. Katthy used the hourglass as the subject of a photographic shoot—images that remained unedited and unprinted at the time of her death. Only one of the photos, which portrayed her shadow looming high above the hourglass, was selected for exhibition and printed and framed posthumously. As part of the process of curating this exhibition, I was called upon to steer the decision making around how her final works—most of which were arguably still in progress—were to be ‘completed’. Like the hourglass in her work, time had run out for Katthy. It became apparent that my duty of care to the artist, to my friend, was to reanimate time as a trace of the artist’s hand. It was important to handle the material and all its intimacies, with delicacy and care—even if it meant the comingling of her breath with mine.

For the retrospective at Mona and later at Carriageworks,21 Katthy’s installation brown paper was recreated using all the original materials from the 2001 work. Upon retrieving the work from storage (Katthy’s dank suburban garage) we found the original brown paper lunch bags used in the 2001 performance and its subsequent three re-stagings for exhibitions that occurred in 2004-05.22 These bags—each one a unique sculpture of breath, some crumpled, some flat—were a revelation, a gorgeous trace of life beyond death. A crate containing hundreds of unused bags for future performances were also found in storage. It seemed that Katthy had futureproofed brown paper with a plan to perform it in perpetuity. As I installed brown paper in the museum, I breathed into many of these unused bags, augmenting the artist’s effects with curatorial affect.

In many ways, re-presenting Katthy’s work insisted on an element of co-authorship as intrinsic to the curatorial methodology that was unfolding. In dealing with the reality that the artist was not present except for the voice of her diaries, the re-presentation of her work could have gone one of two ways. I could have opted to present an objective archival tribute to her work, told through photographic and video documents that emphasised her having-been-there. A classic historical convention for feminist performance art is to recirculate its narrative through the indexicality of its often black and white photographic documentation. Thus, iconic feminist histories are often constructed through photographic evidence of the performance artist at work. I abandoned this approach for an exhibition that emphasised the materiality of Katthy’s installations, now absent yet somehow imbued with a spectral trace of the artist.

In rebuilding katthy’s room, I was aware that Katthy would not be present for two hours daily, as was the routine scripted for the work. Remarkably in her archive, I found video footage that Katthy had filmed of herself sleeping in the actual bedroom that inspired her cardboard reconstruction. The recreation of katthy’s room for her retrospective was faithful to the original as she had left clear instructions for its configuration. However, one key modification I enacted was the insertion of the video of the artist sleeping on a domestic television monitor typical of the period.23 The original two-hour slot that Katthy had allocated for live performances within the work has now been replaced in perpetuity by the televisual simulacrum of the artist forever at rest.

Perhaps the most radical reconstitution of one of her works was the dilemma presented by her installation story of a girl. As this work was a gifting ritual, one might assume that it no longer exists as a body of objects. Katthy perceived story of a girl as a failure because she struggled to acknowledge the terms of her own performance: she could not let go. Found in the remnants of Katthy’s life in storage was a trunk of her treasured childhood possessions—objects she could not surrender back in 1999 when performing the work. The emotional breakdown she experienced at the turn of the century was compounded by this failure. 

Due to the limitations of allocated exhibition space at Mona, I decided to allude to this work by cramming some of the toys into an exposed cavity located in a disused heritage chimney within the museum’s Roundhouse, adjacent to the library galleries where her retrospective was presented. A small monitor was placed among the rubble showing Super 8 footage of the artist as a child with her family in Italy in 1974, edited to an audio recording of a very young Katthy reciting The Three Little Pigs. When the exhibition travelled to Carriageworks, there was opportunity to restage story of a girl more in keeping with its original 1999 presentation at Artspace.

During the setup of the exhibition, I requested that story of a girl be installed last. I wanted to lay it out myself, alone in the space, without assistance. As a private ritual to Katthy, I set about placing the toys as I listened to Prince’s When Doves Cry on repeat on headphones. The next day the exhibition opening occurred in the conventional two-hour period assigned to such events. On its final day a month later, on September 11, 2016, we held a closing event in its final two hours—also a tribute to the two-hour period Katthy would have been present had she been available to perform in the installation. In a symbolic tribute to Katthy, the closing drinks invitation was extended to Katthy’s friends and family to receive a gift in the form of an object from story of a girl. It became apparent that Katthy never concluded the work—a trunk full of things would not have been left behind if she had. With her friends, I would help her finish what she started. Now a memory from my recent past, the labour of love of curating Loved, was most explicitly expressed in the decision to reanimate and rescript story of a girl, to complete it when the artist could not—to set Katthy free, and by extension, myself.

Katthy Cavaliere, story of a girl, 1999
Installation view at Carriageworks, 2016
Photo: Zan Wimberley


A large part of this ‘freeing’ was in how Katthy’s project contested the personal and professional boundaries one might normally erect through curatorial labour. In some ways, it was appropriate that private and public realms would be challenged as the blurring of these tropes are central to the emotive transparency offered by the materials—the belongings—of Katthy’s practice. Operating in a space of friendship, love and acknowledgement of grief impacted on how the outcome was received. In one review, critic Andrew Frost, picked up on this: “Curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham Loved was a testament not just to a talented artist and her work, but also to their friendship.”24 Similarly, John McDonald wrote: “Loved is an apt title for an exhibition by an artist who appears to have been surrounded by friends who cared deeply about her and have made huge efforts to keep her memory alive.”25 Loved was a watershed moment in my own practice because it gave me the freedom to inhabit a curatorial role as an artist would, thus breaking down institutional rules that keep these roles separate. Central to the etymology of curatorial discourse, the ‘care’ for art is often at the expense of the maker. For me, they were both important—one could not exist without the other. With Loved, the care for the artist was in many ways a care for the self, a way of working through the miasma of grief that was as much embedded in Katthy’s late works as it had been ever-present in my own life. In her diary, Katthy writes of an evening where she had to go out and be in the world to rupture an extended period of self-imposed solitude following her mother’s death. The destination was the opening of my 2010 solo exhibition: “It was great going to MOP last night and see some familiar faces and see Daniel’s work—Daniel has been a great friend—I wanted to support him.”26 With Loved, I reciprocated that support.

  1. In February 2017, I performed for camera the third iteration of the Proud Mary series in an empty swimming pool in New Norfolk, Tasmania.
  2. Nicole Durling, foreword to Katthy Cavaliere, by Daniel Mudie Cunningham (Sydney: Brown Paper in association with Hobart: Museum of Old and New Art, 2016), 9.
  3. Christina Schües, “Introduction: Towards a Feminist Phenomenonlogy of Time.” In Time in Feminist Phenomenology, ed. Christina Schues et al. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011), 2.
  4. Non-capitalisation of artwork titles is consistent with the artist’s intentions.
  5. In February 2015, artist Dara Gill curated Katthy’s work a moment alone (1998) into Taken to Task at Kudos Gallery, a space associated with the art school of the University of New South Wales where Katthy had been a student many years earlier. In examining female performance and video artists whose work engages task-oriented processes, Gill assembled a line-up of artists that linked Katthy to generational peers like The Kingpins, Julie Vulcan and Michaela Gleave with younger artists including Brown Council/Barbara Cleveland, Giselle Stanborough, Claudia Nicholson and Beth Dillon. Gill’s exhibition traced a lineage of female artists (particularly those hailing from the associated art school) who, as the catalogue brochure notes, “explore duration, labour and performance, often utilising simple actions that connote complex concepts and histories”. Though this area of practice in Australian art is yet to be explored in more ambitious survey-style museum exhibitions, Gill touched on Katthy’s influence and her more analogue role in the development of a kind of practice that would become prevalent with the social-media-savvy generation that followed.
  6. Arthur McIntyre: Bad Blood 1960-2000 was exhibited at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre from 15 May to 27 June 2010 with a companion exhibition presented at Macquarie University Art Gallery from 19 May to 26 June 2010.
  7. Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, February 16, 2000
  8. Naomi Schor, “Depression in the Nineties.” In Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 159.
  9. Emily Apter, “‘Women’s Time’ in Theory,” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 21:1 (2010): 4.
  10. Julia Kristeva, “Women’s Time” [1979], trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake, Signs 7:1 (1981): 16.
  11. Kristeva, ibid. 15
  12. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space [1958], trans. Maria Jolas. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 4.
  13. Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, June 1, 2000
  14. Katthy Cavaliere, brown paper, artist statement, 2001
  15. Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, July 2001
  16. Katthy Cavaliere, ibid.
  17. Extract from eulogy for Christopher Lee Mudie, written and delivered by Daniel Mudie Cunningham at Chatswood, Sydney, September 5, 2013.
  18. Katthy Cavaliere, loved, artist statement, 2008
  19. Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, September 2008
  20. Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, December 8, 2011
  21. Katthy Cavaliere: Loved was presented at Carriageworks from August 5 to September 11, 2016.
  22. brown paper was included along with katthy’s room and other works in Katthy Cavaliere: Suspended Moment, a survey exhibition initiated by Goulburn Regional Art Gallery in 2004. It toured to Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and Campbelltown Arts Centre in 2005.
  23. While the exhibition was on at Mona, the museum’s founder David Walsh purchased the installation for the collection, along with sleeping as a ‘video performance’ that was presented by Katthy’s estate as a unique edition.
  24. Andrew Frost, “Trace, Breath and Touch”, Art Monthly Australasia 293 (October 2016): 32.
  25. John McDonald, “Packing a Punch”, Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum (August 27-28, 2016): 14.
  26. Katthy Cavaliere, diary entry, October 1, 2010. My solo exhibition Rhymes with Failure was held at MOP Projects in Sydney from September 30 to October 17, 2010.
  • Emily Apter, “‘Women’s Time’ in Theory,” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 21:1 (2010)
  • Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space [1958], trans. Maria Jolas. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994)
  • Andrew Frost, “Trace, Breath and Touch”, Art Monthly Australasia 293 (October 2016): 32-33.
  • Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Katthy Cavaliere (Sydney: Brown Paper & Hobart: Museum of Old and New Art, 2015)
  • Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Arthur McIntyre: Bad Blood 1960-2000 (Sydney: Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, 2010)
  • Julia Kristeva, “Women’s Time” [1979], trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake, Signs 7:1 (1981).
  • John McDonald, “Packing a Punch”, Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum (27-28 August 2016): 14-15.
  • Naomi Schor, “Depression in the Nineties.” In Bad Objects: Essays Popular and Unpopular (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995)
  • Christina Schües, “Introduction: Towards a Feminist Phenomenonlogy of Time.” In Time in Feminist Phenomenology, ed. Christina Schues et al. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011)

Peer reviewed book chapter for anthology Feminist Perspectives on Art: Contemporary Outtakes, edited by Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore.

Published by Routledge in 2018.

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