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Sideshow Alley Infamy, the macabre & the portrait

Sideshow Alley

Infamy, the macabre & the portrait

Saturday 5 December 2015 until Sunday 28 February 2016

Our Victorian forebears weren’t squeamish. And they weren’t all that prim, either. Sideshow Alley re-tells tales of criminal and institutional savagery in Australia’s colonial settlements and considers the tension between:

  • the idea of portraiture as a means to edify, refine and elevate the sensibility of the populace, and
  • the popular thirst for the lowbrow, the cheap, the tacky and the ghoulish in portraiture.

Sideshow Alley transports us to a time when crowds surged to see the laid-out bodies of outlaws, competing to tear out scraps of their hair and beards; and a photograph of a corseted matron, posed against a pillar no less rigid than she, might be stuck in the family album alongside a photograph of a defunct bushranger, propped up with gun in hand to menace the populace even in death. 

Sideshow Alley brings to life a time when lithographs, woodcuts and waxworks of men in their direst moments attracted just as much interest as the monumental representations of explorers and statesmen that set the official tone of the age.