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Nominated by Helen Frajman

Jane Burton works with photography, film, and more recently, painting. Burton’s response to the STAGES commission, Night windows, is both an intensely personal refl ection on the impact of COVID-19 and one that also alludes to its social and economic impact on people and their businesses. Burton was nominated by Helen Frajman who commented that


‘… [f]or almost thirty years, Jane Burton has sustained a profoundly poetic practice, suffused with a deep melancholy, a fascination with mortality and the natural world alongside her interest in feminine desire. In these days of turmoil, fear and uncertainty when so much of our lives have been focused on the concrete and practical, we need more than ever to maintain a connection with our imagination, our psyche, our interior selves.’ (Frajman, 2020)


Burton shot Night windows in Melbourne’s South East, which reflects the 5km boundary she was confined to during the lockdown.


‘In the [first few] months of the pandemic I have felt my isolation, and that of others, more profoundly. I have not enthusiastically embraced online or virtual connection, rather I have felt closer to people by encountering them – at distance – in the streets around where I live and work. Because most of us have been recently home-based, there is a greater sense of one’s immediate community. This has been an unexpected comfort. And it has prompted me to look closer to home as a way to tell stories.’ (Burton, 2020)


These photographs depict deserted shop windows at night. At fi rst one may not notice that these windows, shrouded in a nocturnal sleep, are of businesses impacted by the lockdown; a restaurant with chairs stacked high on tables, undressed mannequins in a dress shop and half-price sale signs taped to a window of a shuttered business.


‘I see that I have selected, unconsciously or otherwise, shop windows with displays that evoke a suspended quietude and contained isolation. Although unpeopled, the windows speak of absent humans through ghostly traces, fragmented body parts, and objects: lost tokens of desires, loves, and dreams.’ (Burton, 2021)


While depicting absence, these images show traces of humanity, what is being lost and the fi nancial and social impact resulting from industries closing down. These are not the windows of big business. These are businesses that may not be able to survive the pandemic or ‘pivot’ to a new business model with ease.


The works are powerful in their silence. Windows act as portals into another realm, a contained world as if glimpsed through a car window in the depths of night. These are enclosed worlds; darkly ambiguous, enigmatic and provocative. Burton has lifted the veil on the social and economic impact of COVID-19, on the everyday, that ripples throughout society; one cannot help but feel the isolation and heaviness of the businesses’ loss which contributes to the sense that we now inhabit a surreal and dystopian world.

Night windows #2  2021 chromogenic print


Night windows #2  2021

chromogenic print

110.0 x 110.0 cm

courtesy of the artist

These photographs of shop windows by the artist Jane Burton were taken at night during one of Melbourne’s lockdowns. They show the changes that the pandemic brought to people and their businesses. The shops in these photographs look quiet and still.

Why do you think the artist has photographed shops in this way?

How did your family shop during lockdown?

Which place did you miss visiting the most?

Do you recognise any of these shops, or are there similar shops near where you live?

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