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Ambitious work unfolds across the State Library walls in a new exhibition that explores place and identity

Media release

Tuesday 10 May 2022

State Library Victoria has today announced an exciting new exhibition that shines a light on the stories of women and their overlooked but significant contributions to innovation in artistic and scientific fields. The new show opens on Friday 24 June.

Handmade Universe: From craft to code and the spaces between is inspired by the rewards of making and the limitless scope it offers for invention and enquiry.

In a Library-first, seven artists, designers and makers will present newly commissioned works to sit alongside 68 rare and remarkable items from State Library Victoria and other collections. Many of these items have never been on display before, including several new acquisitions inspired by the exhibition.

A highlight is the ambitious work of Deanna Hitti: A is for Alam (pen): the object, the language, the archive a room-sized installation comprising 156 panels of printed cyanotypes, one of the oldest photographic printing methods. The prints fold down into an artist book, hinting at Deanna’s skill as a bookmaker and binder.

Responding to Western portrayals of Middle Eastern culture, Deanna’s work draws on her Lebanese heritage to explore her multicultural identity and pose questions about what it means to be Australian.

The Melbourne-based artist says it is her most ambitious work to date.

The ‘object’ talks about my childhood Arabic reader; the ‘language’ is where I’m describing how to write the English language with Arabic instructions, and the ‘archive’ is where I document objects from my home,” she said.

“For me, it’s a nice way to talk about the disappearance of language and my Lebanese heritage.

“The oriental paintings that I reference are representations, or rather misrepresentations, of the Middle East, and I bring them into the work so I can talk about Australian identity.”

State Library Victoria Senior Curator Linda Short said it’s an important exhibition for the Library.

“Handmade Universe not only features creative responses to existing collection items but, by centring the voices of women and culturally diverse artists, adds knowledge and perspectives to the State Collection that haven’t been represented before,” she said.

“A series of commissioned artworks and new collection items emphasise that the process of making can be a powerful way of understanding the world around us and our place in it.”

Handmade Universe: From craft to code and the spaces between is the second exhibition to be held in the Library’s new Victoria Gallery, endowed by the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation, which was established as part of the Library’s $88.1 million Vision 2020 redevelopment.

The additional commissioned artists will be announced at launch.

The exhibition will run until 26 February 2023. For more information go to


Interviews are available with State Library Victoria Senior Curator Linda Short and artist Deanna Hitti.

About State Library Victoria
Established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, State Library Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world. As the custodian of Victoria’s history, the library has a rich collection of  physical and digital items such articles, artworks, photographs, manuscripts, books, journals, artefacts which are accessible to the public. The Library has a membership program offering tailored benefits to families, students and culture lovers alongside its flagship free Access membership.

About Deanna Hitti
Deanna Hitti is an award-winning Melbourne-based visual artist who has been working in printmaking, predominantly cyanotypes, for the past 25 years. As a child of Lebanese parents who migrated to Australia, her interest lies in comprehending the diverse cultural traditions among the varied population of Australia. Growing up with both a strong Middle Eastern tradition at home and western influences in her social and school environment sparked a visual exploration of Australian Identity.