Jeff Wassmann studied postcolonial theory in the 1970s with Edward Said’s mentor, friend and colleague, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, at Northwestern University’s Institute for African Studies in Chicago. He later studied parliamentary politics in Wellington, New Zealand as a Richter Scholar before returning to Chicago, where he worked variously as an artist, writer and photojournalist. He emigrated to Australia in 1989. Jeff was recently awarded a Creative Fellowship by the State Library of Victoria for 2005 to co-curate an exhibition from the Library’s collections on the intellectual perception of space and time in post-contact Australia.
Mr. Wassmann’s personal work incorporates assemblage, photography and web-based new media to examine the institutional structures that frame the artistic canon. His exhibition BLEEDING NAPOLEON, presented by The Melbourne International Arts Festival 2003, in association with the fictional “Wassmann Foundation, Washington, D.C.”, featured the work of the equally-fictional Leipzig artist and sewerage engineer Johann Dieter Wassmann (1841-1898).
In creating the character of “Johann Dieter Wassmann” and bestowing on him all the art world accoutrements a dead artist needs – the well-endowed American Foundation, the cadre of curators, the Flash-driven website and the European roots – the contemporary artist has been quietly, and with some success, “placing” the dead artist into the western canon. Wassmannfoundation.com has attracted visitors from over 50 countries on six continents, while Google now lists the character among the top 400 artists in history. ART IN AMERICA’s Washington, D.C. correspondent, James Mahoney, writes, “Such visionaries as Herr Wassmann will not only endure, they will prevail, I’m more than certain.”
Mr. Wassmann continues to publish as a writer and photojournalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, Fortune, The Times (London), USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, The Bulletin, W and WWD.
In recent years he has collaborated with Paul Grabowsky in the making of several jazz albums, including TALES OF TIME AND SPACE (Warner/Chappell), recorded in New York with Branford Marsalis and Joe Lovano; RUBY (AAO), with Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter; and BEFORE TIME COULD CHANGE US (Warner/Chappell) with Katie Noonan.
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