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Kurt Brereton

b. 1955

“Did you know Kurt Brereton was born in a circus and ran away to live in a home?” asks George Alexander in his opening address for Brereton's 2001 multimedia exhibition Kurt Brereton at The Loft, Loft Gallery, UTS, Sydney. He goes on to add, in this short biographical note:

“Both [his] parents were artists, first generation hippie drop-outs before there were hippies, bohemian Beat artists from Melbourne who could weave, throw pots, paint, make baskets and fishtraps and stuff. They pitched their tent in the coastal village of New Brighton near Mullumbimby. A Mullumbimby before Japanese cars, shopping malls & Do the Right Thing garbage cans. It’s an important influence. ...That’s where Kurt learnt his vernacular craft.” His visual influences thus were “the dappled, weather-beaten, lime-green-and-olive Pacific beaches of Ian Fairweather and the tropical palm-fringed surfaces of Ray Crooke. It’s a palette and a sensibility he [kept] coming back to.” 1

From 1975 Brereton attended Alexander Mackie College of the Arts (Cumberland St, Sydney) and began making videos with John Drewes and 16mm films with Peter Dallow in the Electro-Media Department of the college. These mostly consisted in the documentation of conceptual performance works and other forms of video documentary. A classmate, Andrew Clegg, introduced Brereton to Standard and Super 8mm film and together they independently made more experimental films for screening at college parties. Many of these experiments involved the techniques of hand-made film-making such as direct scratching and painting the film, non-linear editing, in-camera split frame and disordered projection techniques. At the this time, Brereton was influenced by Dada and Fluxus artists and avant-garde film-makers such as Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Michael Snow, Andy Warhol and Werner Herzog.

While still at art school, Brereton’s early b/w video works included Portrait While You Wait, (1978), Damn The Ironing, (1978), and True Luv, (1979). Living in a film co-op house in Darlinghurst, Brereton shot a 16mm b/w punk doco Chuck You Farley focusing on the Sydney punk music and art scene.

Brereton finished his Dip Art in Photography, Film & Video at Alexander Mackie in 1978. His graduation Super 8mm film, Greetings From Sydney, (1978), was described as “a short comic murder film playing with rear projection illusions”.2 It was shown at the first Super 8 film Festival at the Sydney Film-makers Coop in 1980. As a result he met festival co-organiser Kate Richards who later acted in his Party Tricks (1981), a comic magic performance using scratched film techniques. After graduating Brereton worked as a magician’s stage assistant with The Amazing Mr Rooklyn and performing with Pipi Storm circus.

In 1980 Brereton was employed as the Audio Visual Technical Officer at Sydney College of the Arts. During 1981 he edited the book Photo-Discourse: Critical Thought & Practice in Photography for the SCA, and co-organised the 2nd Super 8 Film Festival, Sydney in October 1981. At the festival, Brereton and Richard screened The Coal Cliff, which Brereton has described as “an expression of how we were editing our post-structural lives; a humorous position description on how we thought and felt about the world”3. Serving as a rare first-hand historical record of the underground artist and poet’s coastal centre at Coal Cliff, north of Wollongong.

Other projects in 1981 included an involvement in the production of several anti-racism documentaries, including camera work for Rock Against Racism, event and documentation of the Aboriginal Islander Dance Company. For the first Semiotics Foreign Bodies Conference (1981) Brereton collaborated with writer and art critic George Alexander on the Super 8mm performance film/radio play Aus-Land (or the Other Country) at Sydney University.

Later that year Brereton travelled to the U.K. As director of King St Gallery, Bristol Brereton co-ordinated the Bristol Super 8 Film Festival. Running film workshops, Brereton collaborated with English photomedia artist Kit Edwardes producing a touring visual and multimedia exhibition Natural Histories at Watershed Gallery, Bristol.

Invited back to Australia in 1984 to take up an Artist in Residence position at the Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide, Brereton and Edwardes showed Natural Histories at Sydney’s Artspace and the EAF. The following year Brereton took up a full-time lecturing position in the Faculty of Humanities at UTS. Co-editor of the critical cultural studies magazine Third Degree and anthology Australian Mythological Sites, Cites, Sights, Brereton was one of the first to teach computer-based desktop publishing in 1996. From 1997–2001, Brereton introduced digital multimedia design and postgraduate creative arts programs at the University of Wollongong. Working in recent years as an Adjunct Professor, Brereton has supervised local and international doctoral creative arts students across The University of the Sunshine Coast and UTS. Since 2009, Brereton has once again focused on his own visual and digital media art career – exhibiting, performing and writing in Australia and overseas.

1Opening address by George Alexander for Kurt Brereton at The Loft, Loft Gallery, UTS, Sydney, 2001. []



Stephen Jones with material supplied by Kurt Brereton.
Period of activity 
from 1977
Other works 

Selected Film/Videography (1978 -1994)

Chuck You Farley: Punks in Sydney 1977, (1978) 16mm film, col/b&w, 25min.

An anarchic post-structural doco from inside the Sydney punk scene.

Greetings From Sydney, (1978), 8mm film, col/sound, 15mins.

“a short comic murder film playing with rear projection illusions featuring Sheona White and Duncan McLay.”1

Portrait While You Wait, (1978), u-Matic video, col., 30 mins

A post-Warhol take on street portrait artists.

Damn The Ironing, (1978), u-Matic video, col., 35mins.

Doco on suburban life-drawing classes focusing on retired men.

True Luv, (1979), u-Matic video, col., 60mins.

Doco on Pipi Storm circus performances.

Backwards To You, (1979), 8mm, col/sound, 20mins. In collaboration with the Polish performance artist Piotr Olszanski.

An anti-sports culture comedy sketch on the Sydney City to Surf marathon. Olszanki runs backwards from finish to start and meets race 100 metres from the end before being swallowed up in the rush of mass normality.

Rock Against Racism, (1981) (camera) 3/4 " col. 90mins.

Doco on concert performance shot from stage looking out to the audience faces.

Aboriginal Islander Dance Company, (1981), 3/4 " col. 60mins

Doco on traditional dancers from Oenpelli who perform and live in a city (Sydney) for the first time and are about to fly to Europe.

Party Tricks, (1981) 8mm, col/sound, 4mins.

“a magic performance starring a rebel scratch (post-cut into the film) that danced and performed disappearing tricks.”2

The Coal Cliff, (1981) Super 8, 15mins, 24 fps, sound. Co-directed with Kate Richards. Actors: Sal Brereton, Kate Richards, Ken Bolton, Kurt Brereton

The Coal Cliff is a non-linear narrative that tracks the everyday mundane dramas that make up relationships. Set in a house "squat" at Coal Cliff on the south coast of NSW, the film conflates time (a weekend trip) while expanding a sense of space (coastal cliff backdrop), The film plays with the relationship between sound and image (synchronicity) as a metaphor for unfolding expectations, desires and disappointments necessarily connected with intimacies between lovers, friends and family.3

Screened at:

The 2nd Super 8 Film Festival Sydney October 1981
ICA London 1982
King St Gallery, Bristol 1983
Super 8 Effect, d/Lux/MediaArts, Chauvel Cinema, Sydney, 2007.
The Coalcliff Days exhibition, Wollongong City Gallery, 2011

Aus-Land (or The Other Country), Super 8mm, 20mins, 1981

Screened in collaboration with George Alexander performance as part of the Foreign Bodies (First) Semiotics Conference, Sydney.

Ideal Homes, Super 8mm, 10mins, 1982

Filmed on location at Knossos Palace, Crete.

Sleight of Land, Super 8mm, 20mins, 1984

Screened as part of a stage performance with George Alexander as part of the Futur*Fall (Second) Semiotics Conference, Jamison St. Nightclub, Sydney.




The Coal Cliff -Brereton & Richards, – via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton & Kate Richards - WHO, Kurt Brereton & Kate Richards discuss their biographies and collaboration – via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton & Kate Richards - WHY, Kurt Brereton & Kate Richards discuss the making of 'The Coal Cliff' – via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton - Aus Art Hist, Kurt Brereton gives his perspective on media art history – via Vimeo 
Brereton & Richards - HOW, – from The Coal Cliff, via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton 'Coal to Coral' 2010, – from Coal to Coral, via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton 'Marking Time' 2010, – from Kurt Brereton 'Marking Time', via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton 'Messiaen at Mt Keira, Ile de Feu' 2001, – from 'Messiaen at Mt Keira', via Vimeo 
Kurt Brereton, 'Party Tricks' 1980 – from Party Tricks, via Vimeo 
Andrew Clegg - filming 'Backwards To You',
Andrew Clegg - filming 'Backwards To You', – from Backwards To You, via 
Kurt Brereton shooting 'Chuck You Farley' 1978,
Kurt Brereton shooting 'Chuck You Farley' 1978, – from Chuck You Farley, via 
Kurt Brereton, still from 'Aus-Land' or 'The Other Country',
Kurt Brereton, still from 'Aus-Land' or 'The Other Country', – from Aus-Land or The Other Country, via 
Kurt Brereton, invitation poster for The Opening, video installation, AGNSW/Vuspace, 2006,
Kurt Brereton, invitation poster for The Opening, video installation, AGNSW/Vuspace, 2006, – from The Opening, via 
Kurt Brereton, Chronography performance animation poster, 2005,
Kurt Brereton, Chronography performance animation poster, 2005, – from Chronography, via 
Kurt Brereton, Edgewood Estate animation, 2007
Kurt Brereton, Kurt Brereton, Edgewood Estate animation, 2007 – from Edgewood Estate, via YouTube