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10 March 2005

10 March 2005

A group of artists will wrestle with the question of why deserts captivate them at a free public forum this Sunday at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The forum, entitled Seeing the Desert, is the first of a series which coincide with the exhibition Extremes - Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere involving artists, writers, adventurers and musicians in discussion about the seductive nature of the desert.

Panellists at Sunday's forum are: the producer of the recent film Japanese Story, Sue Maslin; landscape artist Mandy Martin; Sydney Morning Herald arts writer and former National Gallery head of Australian art John McDonald; expert on the Aboriginal art of the western deserts, Dr Vivien Johnson; and director of the National Museum's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program, Margo Neale.

"Deserts have inspired a wide range of visual artists, and we'll be trying to tease out just what it is that gets into their psyches and on to the canvas and the screen," said Extremes curator Dr Mike Smith. Dr Smith will chair Sunday afternoon's forum.

Seeing the Desert takes place in the Studio of the National Museum on Sunday, March 13 from 2 to 3.45pm. It will be followed by a screening of Japanese Story .

Three more forums are planned for Sunday afternoons before the exhibition closes in August. They are:

  • Sunday, May 8 from 2 to 3.45pm. Writing the Desert: poets and novelists who have written about the desert discuss how they've been changed by their experiences.
  • Sunday, June 5 from 2 to 3.45 pm. Surviving the Desert: on World Environment Day, a panel tells stories of loss, adventure and survival in the desert.
  • Sunday, July 10 from 2 to 3.45pm. Singing the Desert: composers, lyricists and musicians explore how arid landscapes have inspired them. Panellists include composers Peter Sculthorpe and Gordon K Williams.

All the forums are free. More details:

Extremes - Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere continues at the National Museum until August 21.

For interviews, images or more information please contact Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or or Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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