10 February 2017

Reflection: The Intimate 8

The Intimate 8
Finucane & Smith, National Gallery Victoria
4 February 2017
to 11 February

Last year, Moira Finucane became the NGV's first Creative Fellow. It's an honorary role, but what an honour.

And what an absolute joy to be among the lucky few who have taken Moira's The Intimate 8 tour through the gallery. Over three Saturdays, groups of 20(ish) took a free whirlwind tour where hundreds of years of art saturated our souls and reminded us to look around, see what people make and live our life as a total work of art.

A gift. Porcelain Heart handcrafted by Catherine Lane and held by many hands. (I put it next to my cat's ashes.)

Guests wear headphones and follow Moira in her swishing long black gown with crystal straps. She tells us what she thinks about when she looks at the works, what she imagines the artists thought or what the characters in the paintings are thinking.

I saw pieces I've never looked at before, but some weren't new. Her imagined revenge on the ravens in Anguish – August Friedrich Albrecht's 1878 painting of the sheep with her dead lamb that always breaks me a little bit – was gory and glorious.


The headphones add a soundtrack (composed and collated by Darrin Verhagen and Ben Keene) to her commentary – like hearing "... then we take Berlin" (from Cohen's "First we take Manhattan") while looking at Great dancing pair by Erich Heckel, painted in Germany in 1923 at the height of the Weimar Republic, when the war to end all wars was over and no one believed that a greater hell was on its way.

It felt like being in a film; feeling distanced from everyone else in the gallery and being immersed in Moira's thoughts. Even though she's talking out loud, and others are listening, we only hear her through the headphones.

There's little time to contemplate, but it's easy it is to remember each work and its story – why don't I live in the Gallia apartment? –  and still have time to accidentally hold hands with a stranger while imagining afternoon tea served eighteenth century English silver. And watch gallery visitors watching us; we became as much a part of their gallery visit as the art.


What a way to introduce and share art. Imagine if there were tours like this through the gallery every day? Think of all the artists and performers that you'd love to take a tour with. Think of all the people – some who might have never been to the gallery – who would take the tours.

The six Intimate 8 sessions were booked out almost as soon as they were announced. There are two tomorrow afternoon, so if you're in the gallery after 2.30, you may want to follow a group of people in headphones following a magnificent woman in black.

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