The notion of 'magical' realism originated as a literary term in the 1920s when German art criticism began to focus on the mystery of life behind surface reality. Influenced by Sigmund Freud and his reading of the monstrous and uncanny it can be illustrated by the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and by the stories of Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. Magical realism is related to surrealism but has a longer and deeper history.
By the 1960s however, Latin American writers began to incorporate magical happenings in a realist manner like Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. As a narrative mode, it became an international postcolonial phenomenon. Think of novels by the Anglo-Indian writer Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children), the African-American Toni Morrison (Beloved), the Chilean Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits), the Malay-Australian Beth Yahp (Crocodile Fury), and the Chicano-Spanish Laura Esquivel, whose Like Water for Chocolate was made into the highly regarded film by the Mexican director, Alfonso Arau.
Australian films too, such as Bliss and Picnic at Hanging Rock could well be considered as typical of the genre where there is a collision of different but coexisting worlds. Magical realism's splicing of reality and fantasy suggests multiple interpretations that can be liberating and transformative. Indeed this inherent subversiveness has been used by many postcolonial, feminist and cross-cultural writers and theorists to challenge authoritative and patronising structures.
Photography has a magical relationship to realism because the medium is literally a slice through time and a reflection of the 'reality' of that moment.
A number of Australian photographers working since the 1970s have explored this magical potential, reinvigorating and broadening the boundaries of photography beyond its straight documentary function. This exhibition will have around 30 photographs by Robert Ashton, Robert Besanko, Kate Breakey, Peter Charuk, Ian Dodd, Victoria Fernandez, Sue Ford and Juliana Swatko. They have all pursued their vision of a world where the borders between dream and reality are blurred.