“Maria Fernanda Cardoso wins Australia Council grant to video insect sex”.The Sydney Morning Herald.

By Bhakthi Puvanenthiran 

Maria Fernanda Cardoso may have moved on from snail penises, but the world of insect sex isn’t out of her sights yet. As one of six recipients of the Australia Council’s established artist fellowships, Columbian-born Cardoso can continue her work on the cusp of art and science with a new video project on Australia’s smallest spider species, the Maratus.

“I think spiders are artists themselves. They know how to dance, they know how to sing, they know how to make visual display, all while mating” said Cardoso whose PhD project was called The Museum of Copulatory Organs

Cardoso, along with fellow interdisciplinary artists Claire Healy, Liza Lim, James Hullick, Alexander Davies and Jon Rose will receive $100,000 over one year towards a project. For Cardoso, wife of the dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, Ross Harley, the money will be spent on video technology.

“Now I will be able to produce artwork to the best standards, better even than BBC documentaries. I will really be able to really push the limits of macro videography,” she said of the new project, entitled Dancing with Spiders.

“I have been developing this project for the last two years, I have been taking test shoots and now that the next mating season is coming up between September and December I will be ready”.

Seven grants worth $60,000 over two years were also awarded to emerging artists in fields ranging from participatory theatre, to installation and composition. The recipients are: Zoe Pepper, Lara Thoms, Michaela Davies, Dale Gorfinkel, Tintin Wulia, Julian Day and David Finnigan

The grants announcement comes on the heel of major cuts to the Australia Council in last week’s budget.

“It’s very unfortunate because artists are the ones who are innovating culture and innovating what it means to be a human,” Cardoso said. “None of these works (which received grants) are commercial in the traditional sense, so how are we going to support this creativity?”.

Chairman of the council, Rupert Myer of the Myer Family Company, said on Wednesday that philanthropy will be an important part of the council’s strategy.

“We will definitely try and minimise the effects of the budget on the small to medium arts sector. Ultimately we want to be a culturally ambitious nation, and I think we want to see this kind of innovation, which requires larger grants, likely with help from the private sector,” he said. 

Australia Council CEO, Tony Grybowski echoed these sentiments, foreshadowing a greater involvement with philanthropic organisations as the council prepares to announce it’s new grant strategy.

”I have been misquoted as saying there will be smaller and fewer grants. We could see more grants at a smaller level, or there could be fewer grants funded on a bigger scale,” he said.