A quick online search throws up pages of references to Ross Gibson, identifying him as an academic, curator, poet, film maker, media producer, audio artist, and et cetera.
He was that rare individual: someone genuinely capable of working across a range of media, to a very high level of expertise, innovation and artistic quality. But, as he has often noted, writing is the form that links all these practices: within all his academic and creative outputs one can identify the analyst, the critic and the storyteller at work. His work as a researcher, teacher and doctoral supervisor means that his influence is felt right across the sector.
When his death was announced, social media was crowded with eulogies in the most literal sense: praise for his contributions; anecdotes of meeting him and being encouraged and directed; statements of gratitude for his enduring legacy not only within the broad field of creative and cultural practice, but also in the careers of so many Australian creatives and other researchers.
Ross grew up in Brisbane, and after completing first class honours at UQ he headed overseas and continued his studies in the UK, taking out a PhD from Kings College in London. Just two years later he published his first monograph, The Diminishing Paradise: Changing Literary Perceptions of Australia (1984), which was described in the National Times as "the best book since Serle’s From the Deserts Prophets Come, in [its] richly rewarding overview of the changing literary perceptions of Australia".
On returning to Australia he settled in Sydney and commenced his lifetime career of making and innovating and training and mentoring and being a key transformative influence on our culture. His curatorial work is evidenced in various institutions, most notably the Museum of Sydney and Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image.
He’s also been an adjunct or academic staff member at various universities, including UNSW, UTS, and the University of Sydney. He’s served on the ARC College of Experts, been a board member or advisor for organisations as diverse as the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, Screen NSW and the Lucy Guerin Inc Dance Company, and has exhibited his many individual and collaborative works in venues across the nation and internationally.
In 2013, the University of Canberra appointed him as one of the Centenary Professors, and he joined the Faculty of Arts and Design where he took a leading role in the newly-established Centre for Creative and Cultural Research. Here he contributed his powerful intellect and his broad networks to help establish the research structures, direction and support for this very diverse research centre.
He was a generous mentor to many staff, led a number of ARC funded projects himself and contributed to others, such as the innovative Heritage of the Air project. He taught into the honours, short course and masters programs, supervised a number of PhD candidates (one of the last of whom will be conferred in the upcoming graduation ceremony), and brought a number significant research visitors onto campus to conduct workshops and symposia, as well as ‘surgeries’ for HDR candidates.
He collaborated with the members of the News and Media Research Centre, which supported the development of intellectual bridges across the faculty. With the CCCR director, he developed a framework for the assessment of research quality for NTROs, and offered valuable support in the preparations for ERA 2015 and 2018.
Overall, his presence in our faculty was that of remarkably generative connective tissue, both drawing together, and expanding, our creative and cultural research and art practice.
Words by Jason Bainbridge, Tracy Ireland, and Jen Webb. Photo supplied.