BROADSHEET VOLUME 44.2 2015
BROADSHEET Contemporary Visual Art + Culture
ART | CRITICISM | THEORY
44.2 Winter 2015
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/ Len Lye Centre Opening: 25 July 2015 Aotearoa New Zealandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s museum of contemporary art and first cultural institution dedicated to a single artist 42 Queen St New Plymouth 4310 New Zealand T +64 6 759 6060
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN LIVING ARTISTS FESTIVAL AUGUST
Artist: Giles Bettison – Notch 2015 #4
Robert Cook is Curator of Contemporary International Art at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Alex Gawronski is a Sydney-based artist and writer; publishes widely, regular contributor to Broadsheet; he holds PhD from Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney; co-founding director of a number of independent artist spaces including the Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown (ICAN 2007-2014) and presently KNULP, Sydney (2015-); currently teaches in the Painting Studio, Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney. Susan Gibb is a curator at If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she previously held curatorial positions at Carriageworks and Campbelltown Arts Centre, and ran the twelve-month independent curatorial project, Society. Dr Sally Gray is a Visiting Scholar in Cultural History at UNSW Art & Design, at the University of New South Wales. As an independent curator, her most recent work was David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Melbourne (MayAugust 2014). Her scholarly writing, on intersections between fashion, art and cultural history, appears in books, exhibition catalogues and peer reviewed journals. Her ARC funded research on a cohort of fashion/art friends and collaborators, in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1970s and 1980s, is to be published shortly.
Lisa Slade is Assistant Director, Artistic Programs at the Art Gallery of South Australia; she currently lectures in several postgraduate courses delivered by Adelaide University in collaboration with the Art Gallery of South Australia in collaboration with AGSA. Lisa is curating the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. Gemma Weston is curator of the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art at the University of Western Australia and independent exhibition-maker and writer, whose key interests are collaboration and the divisions and creation of value in contemporary art. Gemma was formerly the co-director of OK Gallery, an artist run initiative and commercial gallery based in Northbridge, Western Australia.
Broadsheet can be viewed and downloaded, cover to cover, from www.cacsa.org.au
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Wendy Walker Sarita Chadwick Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia Inc. Newstyle Printing
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Dr Mary Knights is Director of the SASA Gallery at the School of Art , Architecture & Design, and Leader of the Cultural Outreach Package, Hawke European Union Centre, University of South Australia. This text was written while undertaking a Research Fellowship at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Research Institute for Arts and Humanities, Dublin. Dr Jacqueline Millner is Associate Dean Research at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, where she also lectures on contemporary art theory and history. She has published widely on contemporary Australian and international art in key anthologies, journals and catalogues of national and international institutions. Her books include Conceptual Beauty: Perspectives on Australian Contemporary Art (2010, Sydney: Artspace), Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum (with Jennifer Barrett, London: Ashgate, 2014) and Fashionable Art (with Adam Geczy, London: Bloomsbury, 2015). She co-convenes the research group Contemporary Art and Feminism at the University of Sydney. Chris Reid is a freelance writer on contemporary art and music. He completed a Master of Visual Arts at the University of South Australia and briefly lectured there.
© Copyright 2015, Broadsheet, the authors and artists. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission. Broadsheet is published quarterly by the Contemporary Art Centre of SA Inc. print post approved PP53 1629/00022 Editorial inquiries, advertising and subscriptions may be sent to the Editorial Office: Broadsheet 14 Porter Street, Parkside, South Australia 5063 Tel +61  8272 2682 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.cacsa.org.au Subscriptions: Contact the Administrator, Contemporary Art Centre of SA—email@example.com The views and/or opinions expressed in Broadsheet are those of the contributing writers and not necessarily those of the editor, staff or Board of the CACSA.
Front cover image: Julia Robinson, Folk Death, 2014-2015, flywire, fibreglass, fabric (white velvet, linen, muslin), ink, thread, gesso, cotton cord, approx 170 x 280 x 110cm. Photograph: James Field. Image courtesy of the artist and GAGPROJECTS | Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, SA.
Broadsheet magazine is assisted by the Government of South Australia through Arts SA and the Australian Government through the Australia Council and supported by the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Terrotiry governments.
This magazine uses two stocks: the cover is printed on Titan gloss - FSC® certified MIX content. The text pages are printed on Grange Offset - PEFC® certified. Printed using vegetable based inks by an Environmental Management Systems ISO 14001:2004 certified printer.
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44.2 Winter 2015 Contents Editorial 6 Wendy Walker Contemporary Australian performance art: the feminist legacy Jacqueline Millner Art and Celebrity: the Quest for Ultravisibility Alex Gawronski
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Sally Gray
Postcard from Venice Mary Knights
Focus on the experience: on the popularity of Stuart Ringholtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s naturist tours of art exhibitions Susan Gibb
Dancing and Dying Lisa Slade
Fort, Da: Here & Now15: sculpture in an ever-expanding field Robert Cook
The Constructions of Photography: five South Australian artists Chris Reid
Getting things done: Western Australian artists at Fontanelle, Adelaide Gemma Watson
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18 July - 6 September 2015 Investigating the architectural ruins of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Solid State is an exhibition that pays tribute to the monumental forms, history and memories of the Powerhouse’s former life.
Tully Arnot Marley Dawson Nicholas Folland Christopher Hanrahan Anna Kristensen Jess MacNeil Callum Morton
Jamie North Caroline Rothwell Kathy Temin Justin Trendall Simon Yates Ken and Julia Yonetani
Image detail: Marley Dawson, Circle Work (rocket assist 37”, 37”, interlocking), 2013, stainless steel, aluminum, bearings, C6-0 rocket, 37” x 70” x 5 1/2”. Image courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington DC.
Opening 6pm, Friday 17 July 2015
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
1 Powerhouse Road, Casula p. 9824 1121 w. casulapowerhouse.com e. firstname.lastname@example.org
5 J U LY â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 1 6 A U G U S T V E R N I S S A G E : 4 J U LY
Image: Jacobus Capone, Dark Learning (Chapters 1-7), 2015. Digital photograph, dimensions variable. Courtesy & copyright the artist.
editorial WENDY WALKER Marking a new era for the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Liz Nowell will return from New York in November this year to succeed Alan Cruickshank as executive director. She says: ‘CACSA was founded [in 1942] through the hard work, commitment and passion of South Australian visual artists, and it is my intention to honour their legacy in my new position… I plan to build on this culture, bridging local, national and international arts practice through collaboration, partnerships with peer organisations, an ambitious exhibition program, critical dialogue and associated publications’. In the course of his 15-year tenure as (the longest-serving) executive director of CACSA, Alan Cruickshank forged a network of connections nationally and internationally with a particular (although by no means exclusive) focus on South East Asia and the Middle East, which was reflected in his vision for both Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Broadsheet and the organisation’s exhibition program. Over time, Broadsheet evolved into the substantial, internationally distributed and well-regarded magazine it is today, creating a space for extended critical and vigorous debate. The strategic development of global ties to related critical thinking in Asia and beyond gave the publication singular traction within the local cultural climate with a remarkable array of contributors, national and international, who embraced the opportunity to write at length and in depth on a very broad range of (non-themed) topics. Having been the assistant editor of Broadsheet for the last ten years, in the period prior to Liz Nowell’s return, I will guest-edit the July and October issues for 2015. I am indebted to the writers – some of them regular contributors to Broadsheet, others new to the publication – who have contributed texts to this issue at short notice. In a period, in which the much-discussed crisis in criticism has been ongoing for decades and art commentary is driven by many agendas; where art criticism has all but disappeared, as the pre-view replaces the re-view and established magazines cease publication, the continued survival of a publication like Broadsheet is, I believe, vital. In this issue, texts by Robert Cook, Gemma Weston, Chris Reid and Lisa Slade highlight not only the vitality of contemporary art practice in South Australia and Western Australia, but also the concomitant vigour and range of approaches adopted by art commentators. To coincide with the South Australia Living Artists (SALA), festival, the cover of this issue features the arresting sculptural work Folk Death by Adelaide-based artist Julia Robinson from her solo exhibition One to rot and one to grow (2015). Marina Abramovic – in Australia for the exhibition Private Archaeology at MONA and a residency for John Kaldor Public Art Projects – asserted in a television interview that performance art has never been mainstream art and that it’s taken her 45 years to create a situation where performance art is taken seriously. ‘Now I’m in the museum’, she declared, ‘and this was absolutely unthinkable some years ago’. Jacqueline Millner makes the observation that Abramovic’s retrospective and three-month residency The Artist is Present at New York’s MoMA in 2010 have ‘arguably enthused a whole new generation about early performance art.’ In a penetrating essay for this issue, Millner considers contemporary Australian performance artists (including Brown Council and Parachutes for Ladies, who participated in QAGOMA’s Contemporary Australia: Women in 2012) in the context of the early feminist archive. Although Abramovic’s residency/retrospective attracted vast crowds
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(estimated at half a million), even higher attendance figures of around 650,000 were recorded for the 2011 retrospective exhibition Alexander McQueen:Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, prompting a spate of exhibitions of fashion in major art museums (in the everpressing quest for new audiences and enhanced visitation numbers). Fashion scholar Sally Gray examines the uncompromising designer’s design history and provocative appeal in a review of the exhibition in its latest incarnation at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, asserting that ‘the specificities of [London-born] McQueen’s simultaneously sublime and angry vision could hardly have grown from anywhere else’. Questioning the role of the museum in the twenty-first century, in which cultural institutions have increasingly become ‘a site for celebrityfocused fantasy’, Alex Gawronski underscores the pressure they face ‘to not only break even, but to generate profits’. The withering reviews surrounding Icelandic singer/composer Björk’s exhibition at MoMA (March 8–June 7, 2015) have brought to a head a simmering controversy surrounding the ‘courting of celebrities by critically regarded art institutions’. But as Gawronski suggests in his incisive essay, it seems the institutions need the celebrities more than the stars (who have achieved excellence within their own genres) need the art museum. Susan Gibb equates the popularity of Stuart Ringholt’s naturist tours of art museums with the way in which they ‘foreground the experience of the audience, revealing the ascendant place this concept holds within contemporary art and museum practice’ (the prevalence of participatory art since the 1990s has provided lively discussion in past issues of Broadsheet). In a notable development, Ringholt’s Preceded by a tour of the show by the artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only) (2011-ongoing), has been acquired for the collection of the MCA, together with detailed instructions for the work’s enactment, which will permit the tour to be delivered by someone other than Ringholt. An altogether darker vision infuses Okwui Enwezor’s sprawling Venice Biennale All the World’s Futures (9 May– 22 November, 2015). For Mary Knights, the biennale is largely abrasive and confronting, as ‘artists expose deeply held concerns, express bewilderment and call for action on a raft of matters causing havoc around the globe’. Indisputably these are interesting times: more than ever we need interesting commentary.
Marina Abramovic, The Drill, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester International Festival, 2009. Photograph by © Marco Anelli. Image courtesy the Marina Abramovic Archives.
Contemporary Australian performance art: the feminist legacy JACQUELINE MILLNER Performance art has emerged as a major form of contemporary practice, privileged in zeitgeist-capturing biennales and project spaces around the world. A new generation of artists is exploring the relationship between the private and the public, the social and the personal, the body and the self, through works that use direct forms of audienceartist interaction and exchange. Such work is in part a response to the perceived challenges of art at the turn of the twenty-first century, which includes providing an alternative to spectacular culture and everyday mediated environments, and to value creativity other than through market metrics. This new generation of artists draws on the performance practices of the 1970s that have become increasingly accessible through the digital dissemination of early documentation. The historical mining of performance takes many forms, with a prominent institutional approach being blockbuster retrospectives of key figures that includes restaging of previous works together with newly commissioned material. Marina Abramovic, of course, is a case in point: MoMA’s The Artist is Present in 2010 arguably enthused a whole new generation about early performance art and set the scene for various contemporary Abramovic projects around the world, including in Australia this year.1 While the critical discourse that accompanies such work rarely acknowledges the feminist roots of these pioneering practices,2 there is a growing number of contemporary Australian artists, both male and female, who are excavating the feminist archive as a means to develop innovative and politically acute performance strategies. They include Hannah Raisin and collaborative groups such as Brown Council, Parachutes for Ladies, and the Hotham Street Ladies. In this article, I consider the contribution of feminist art and ideas to contemporary performance by contextualising current Australian performance art with reference to early feminist works, which first explored the intimate relationship between flesh and power and innovated ways to redefine female agency. We can then see how these artists distill the insights of feminist performance art for their relevance to current explorations of power, social relations, and the agency of the artist in the public sphere.
and Ben Patterson Lick Piece (1963) that propagated stereotypes of clean man/dirty woman! Yet, as feminist critic Lucy Lippard summed it up back in the 1970s: ‘When women use their own bodies in their art work, they are using their selves; a significant psychological factor converts these bodies… from object to subject’.6 Reflecting on her 70s performance practice, Cheri Gaulke extrapolates: Performance is not a difficult concept to us women. We’re on stage every moment of our lives, acting like women. Performance is a declaration of self, who one is, a shamanistic dance by which we spin into other sites of awareness, remembering new vision of ourselves. And in performance we found an art form that was young, without the traditions of painting and sculpture, traditions governed by men.7 Young, but not entirely a new form in the 1960s, for performance had an existing tradition that dated at least as far back as the Futurists and Dadaists, if not to late nineteenth-century cabaret, and certainly to what Jones calls ‘the Pollockian performative’ of the 1950s that made the body of the artist visible and helped to undermine the claims of modernism to aesthetic disinterest.8 This focus on the embodied subjectivity of the artist is certainly a key reason performance was so appealing to women artists in the 1970s, given the significant feminist explorations and enactments of the insight that the body is the principal site of power, which it both submits to and resists.9 Performance art’s ‘deliberate transgressions of art/life boundaries, amateurish messiness, improvisational character, communal nature, and openness to the banal and everyday as well as to the realms of myth and ritual meant it was ideally suited to the feminist agenda of [the 1970s]’.10 It carried with it the potential to evade commodification, and because it removed the metaphoric status of art, it made art more direct.
Is it a coincidence that the surge of interest in performance art around the world in the last couple of years — what performance art scholar Amelia Jones has described as a bordering on an ‘art world obsession’3 — has come about the same time as the revitalisation of feminist concerns in contemporary art? This current confluence of performance and feminism in art discourse begs the question as to what draws them together, a question that benefits from a backward glance.
Performance’s nature as ‘an art of actions’, as Kristine Stiles termed it11 — where both performers and viewers are acting subjects who exchange and negotiate meaning ‘in the real social conditions of everyday life’— made it a good fit for emerging feminist work. Performance was seen as able to ‘instantiate the possibility for social and political change’. It became associated with feminist agency, the power to define oneself, to ‘show the show’ (as Rebecca Schneider put it),12 that is, to self-reflexively stand alongside the ideological apparatus that represents one in culture, and to performatively imagine new realities.13
Art historian Peggy Phelan remarked that it might be surprising that early feminist artists engaged with performance to explore the relation between the personal and the political given the sexism of early Happenings, citing as examples Yves Klein’s Anthropometries (1958- )
For today’s practitioners, these rationales need varying, but not an entire overhaul: interest in an acting-subject exchanging meaning in the real conditions of everyday life and in the workings of ideology still pertain, but the drive for self-determination and anti-commodity are
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less pressing: for the most part, recent feminist artists act as if these battles have been won and lost respectively. Performance for artists today might still be about Marina Abramovic’s drive to push the body to its limits to overcome the mental blocks imposed by culture, but it might be less about representing ‘the body’ so as to elicit identification. Certainly, debates around essentialism, expanding intersectional awareness, globalisation and networked visual technologies have dramatically changed the context for feminist performance, but central questions remain: how to ‘continue to expose the circuits of power through which subjects are identified and so positioned in culture’, and how to articulate ‘sexualized bodies across a range of feminisms, bodies that…enunciate varieties of agency that allow them to speak against the grain of racist, classist, sexist, anti-women’ discourses and practices.14 While in contemporary Australia certain suspicion of the ‘f ’ word as a label persists among a younger generation of performance artists, there is a growing number working in this field who actively acknowledge and look to their feminist forebears for inspiration, or who at least accept that many of the strategies and theoretical frameworks that inform their practice were pioneered by artists working within the broad feminist project and hence will always carry feminist DNA. In Australia, such trailblazers include artists Bonita Ely and Vivienne Binns, whose early works took the form of social actions. Ely’s Murray River Punch (1980), for example, was a street performance in which the artist appeared as a cooking demonstrator mixing up all the pollutants found in the river and serving them up to the public in a busy mall ‘with a garnish of rabbit dung’.15 Mothers’ memories others’ memories, coordinated by Binns and Toni Robertson, saw the women of a socially disadvantaged suburb in western Sydney bring together their albums, artefacts, homecrafts and memorabilia for public display in a local shopping centre, to recognise and honour the creativity inherent in everyday women’s lives. But important points of reference also come from the pioneering work of Carolee Schneeman, VALIE EXPORT, Orlan, Yoko Ono, Hannah Wilke, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles among many others. Contemporary performance inspired by these feminist traditions brings a self-reflexive regard for the limitations of performance as a form that harbours a certain absurdity at its heart, often expressed through a humorous sensibility, ranging from satiric to carnivalesque. Take Hannah Raisin, a Melbourne-based artist whose early performance and video, such as Rose Garden (2010), embrace the low tech aesthetics, instructiondriven, and literal structure of early performance art that emphasises its absurdity, although she mixes this up with the libidinal gratification of early body art, in works such as My cunt smoking without me (2009). In Flowing Locks (2007), Raisin danced on the roof of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, her body suit faking nudity in a wry poke at early feminist body art, while her absurdly long armpit and pubic hair mocked the codes of conventional femininity. Sugar Coated (2010) — a frenetic look at gender roles and sexuality mixing film, sounds and live performance — more openly embraced the carnivalesque. Swinging from raunch to domesticity, the performance captures grabs from stereotypes of feminine identity, as the artist lampoons and enjoys them in equal measure: she spills fish from her underpants, pours milk on her body outside a crowded theatre, douses herself with water to dissolve her bath bomb bikini as she stands in a plastic shell tub. Raisin’s tone is always humorous, foregrounding the absurdity of the restrictive codes of femininity and acting out the pleasure one can have playing around with them. The work of Sydney-based collective Brown Council (Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Kelly Doley and Di Smith) reads almost like a roll
Opposite page: Brown Council, Performance Fee, live performance, 2012, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane as part of Contemporary Australia: Women. Photograph: M. Sherwood. Image courtesy of the artists. Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with the Parachutes for Ladies, Canon, performance installation for the duration of the exhibition, 2012, Commissioned by Quneensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane for Contemporary Australia: Women. Photograph: Jess Olivieri. Image courtesy of the artists.
call of early feminist strategies, although they are overlaid with a heavy dose of irony, particularly in their earlier work that includes all-out parodies of performance art as a form, such as the self-explanatory endurance performance One Hour Laugh (2009). In Performance Fee (2012), the blindfolded artists sat for four hours selling kisses for $2 a pop at Queensland Art Gallery, mixing up stereotypes of femininity, the female artist, and the performance artist (and unknowingly, at the time, channelling Orlan’s The Artist’s Kiss from 1977). In Remembering Barbara Cleveland, the group performs an art historical retrieval action, purporting to bring to light a long forgotten female Australian performance artist, whose work was not documented, but whose recently discovered archived lectures the group re-stage. Whether Barbara Cleveland (who shares the group’s initials!) is fact or fiction is immaterial, as the work’s concern is with the legacy of institutional neglect and the contemporary phenomenon of appropriating and re-enacting historical works. In Mass Action: 137 Cakes in 90 Hours (2012), the group deploys performance to galvanise community and celebrate traditional femininity. This was an endurance baking performance, the self imposed challenge being to cook every recipe in the iconic cookbook published by the Country Women’s Association. As the artists put it, this work paid tribute to the CWA’s 90-year history, dedicated to the empowerment of women, and explored notions of ‘women’s work’ and intergenerational dialogue: a direct line to Mothers memories, others memories. Brown Council offer up interesting hybrids of performance history and other kinds of feminist activism, including a focus on the ambivalent relationship of early feminism to domestic work and traditional women’s handicraft such as cooking, a fertile seam also mined by another collaborative artist group, Melbourne-based Hotham Street Ladies. The Ladies have made cake decoration and knitting their artistic tools; they re-deploy early feminist strategies, such as community building around traditional crafts and central core imagery, often in combination, as in their takeover of the Ian Potter Centre’s foyer at the National Gallery of Victoria with whole domestic dioramas rendered in icing sugar and open to the public to lick (At Home with the Hotham Street Ladies, 2013). The conjunction of performance with the art institution and its publics also occurs in early work addressing feminist concerns, such as Barbara Smith’s Feed Me (1973) at the San Francisco Museum of Conceptual Art, where the artist sat nude in the museum restroom and invited viewers to interact with her, or Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 (1974) at Studio Morra Naples, where the artist allowed herself to be manipulated by the audience choosing props from a table offering a selection of food, grooming tools and weapons. Later feminist performance, such as that of Andrea Fraser brought another layer of institutional critique, which together with early feminist theatre and dance, provides a rich context for the work of Sydney-based collaboration Parachute for Ladies (Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward, collaborating with community participants). Parachute’s performance extends into social practice and contemporary takes on institutional critique, creating interventions where members of the public are invited to take part in choreographed or composed actions to occupy public space differently. In Canon (2012), for example, the artists worked for several months with the Queensland Art Gallery’s assistants, that group of museum workers often overlooked whilst in full public view. On the opening weekend of the show, the assistants became impossible to ignore: their every step was marked by their tap-shoes, culminating in a choreographed dance.
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These contemporary performance artists engage with the historical legacy of feminism, not through slavish imitation but through a robust dialogue, often mediated by humour that offers a potent form of psychic and social resilience: rebellious, momentarily triumphant, and pleasurable.16
ENDNOTES 1. They include Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney and MONA, Hobart. 2. A recent example is the staging of a major performance art event in Sydney, 13 Rooms, curated by über-curators Hans Ulrich Orbist (Serpentine Gallery) and Klaus Biesenbach (MoMA PS1). The project featured 13 live acts, many of which restaged well known works from the ‘canon’ of performance art that were first performed decades ago, including those by John Baldessari, and featured current art stars like Santiago Sierra, and Allora and Calzadilla, with the Australian iteration provided by Nicole Beaumont and Sarah Clark. It proved a resounding success, with tens of thousands of attendees, especially given the reputation of performance art as a ‘difficult’ medium. Yet, despite the fact that two of the main draw cards for the event, Marina Abramovic and Joan Jonas, pioneered performance and video art in the context of emerging 1970s feminist concerns (although Abramovic has publicly distanced herself from feminism, claiming she never heard of the term before leaving Yugoslavia: MoMA forum ‘The Feminist Future’, 2007), the contribution of feminism to the history of these vital contemporary media was not acknowledged. Mirror Check (1970), for example, was arguably depoliticised in the theatrical setting and retreated to mere ‘spectacle of female’. 3. Amelia Jones, ‘The Now and the Has Been: Paradoxes of Live Art in History’ in Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield (eds.), Perform, Repeat, Record, Live Art in History, Chicago: Intellect, 2012, 13. 4. For example, WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution at MoCA LA, Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum and elles@pompidou, all some 7-8 years ago, although in Australia the examples have only intensified in the last 4-5 years, with the institutional overlooking of feminism now well in the sights of a groundswell of Australian artists, writers and curators, and recent staging of major all-woman and feminism-themed exhibitions, and conferences. These include: artist run feminist collective and gallery LEVEL established in Brisbane in 2010 to ‘level the playing field’; The F Word, an ongoing series of workshops, forums and exhibitions exploring feminist art today in Victoria 20134: the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art first major exhibition and symposium on the contribution of women artists to Australian life and culture at UWA, 2012; the Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane all-woman Contemporary Australia: Women, 2012; The Performance Space, Sydney’s Sexes, a month long program of feminist and queer inspired work 2013; exhibitions in contemporary art spaces and commercial galleries focus on feminist humour and intergenerational feminist dialogues, 2013-5; and Contemporary Art and Feminism’s platform for discussion and events based at Cross Arts Projects and University of Sydney, 2013-5. 5. Peggy Phelan, Art and Feminism, London: Phaidon, 2001. 6. Lucy Lippard, From the Centre: Feminist essays on women’s art, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1976, 124. 7. Josephine Withers, ‘Feminist Performance Art: Performing, discovering, transforming ourselves’, in Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (eds.), The Power of Feminist Art, New York: Harry N Abrams, 1994, 160. 8. Amelia Jones, Body Art/Performing the Subject, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, 86 9. As famously formulated by Michel Foucault, and captured in Michel Feher’s ‘The body is at once the actualiser of power relations and that which resists power’; it is ‘the shifting field where mechanisms of power constantly meet new techniques of resistance and escape’: cited by Amelia Jones, ‘The Return of Feminism(s) and the Visual Arts, 1970-2009’, in M Hedlin Hayden and J Sjoholm Skrubbe (eds.), Feminisms is still our name, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010, 24. 10. Withers, 160. 11. See Kristine Stiles, ‘Uncorrupted Joy: International Art Actions’, in Out of Actions: Between performance and the object 1949-1979, London: Thames and Hudson, 1998. 12. Rebecca Schneider, The Explicit Body in Performance, London: Routledge, 1997. 13. See Jayne Wark, Radical Gestures: Feminism and performance art in North America, Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2006. 14. Jones, ‘Return’, 46. 15. Anne Marsh, Body and Self: Performance Art in Australia 1969-92, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993, 143. 16. As Sigmund Freud wrote, ‘Humour is not resigned, it is rebellious. It signifies not only the triumph of the ego but also of the pleasure principle, which is able to assert itself against the unkindness of real circumstance’: cited by Jo Anna Issak in Feminism and Contemporary Art: the revolutionary power of women’s laughter, London and New York: Routledge, 1996.
P. 11:Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with the Parachutes for Ladies, Canon, performance installation for the duration of the exhibition, 2012, Commissioned by Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane for Contemporary Australia: Women. Photograph: Jess Olivieri. Image courtesy of the artists.
Untold Movements 10 July â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 22 August 2015
A new sound-based installation commissioned with support from the Keir Foundation
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art 181-187 Hay Street NSW 2000 4a.com.au
PRODUCED & PRESENTED BY
Tintin Wulia: Untold Movements is produced by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and supported by the Keir Foundation. 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art is an initiative of the Asian Australian Artists Association Inc. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body; the NSW Government through Arts NSW and the City of Sydney. Champions: Kerr & Judith Neilson. Principal Patrons: Susan Acret & James Roth; Ah Xian and Ma Li. Patrons: Geoff Ainsworth AM; Daniel & Lyndell Droga; Richard Funston & Kiong Lee; Johnson Pilton Walker; The Keir Foundation; John Lam-Po-Tang; Vicki Olsson; The Sky Foundation; VisAsia; Adrian Williams. Benefactors: Brooke & Stephen Aitken; AMP Foundation; Andrew Cameron; Edmund Capon OBE, AM; Julia Champtaloup and Andrew Rothery; CHROFI; Rhonda McIver; Lisa Paulsen; Lucy Hughes Turnbull AO; Dr Dick Quan; Dr John Yu AC. Friends: Michael Alvisse; Professor Ien Ang; Michael Boston; Simon Chan Art Atrium; Michael Hobbs; Mabel Lee; Susan Nathan; Dr Gene R. Sherman AM; Becky Sparks & James Roland; Victoria Taylor; Rosie Wagstaff; Anna Waldmann; and Sean Woon. Image: Tintin Wulia, research documentation, Sharjah, UAE (2013). Courtesy the artist.
ART AS A VERB 4 JUNE – 26 JULY 2015 Marina Abramović, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Paweł Althamer & Artur Żmijewski, Francis Alÿs, Billy Apple, John Baldessari, Brown Council, Catherine or Kate, Clark Beaumont, Martin Creed, DAMP, Aleks Danko, John Davis, Harold Dover, George Egerton-Warburton, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Emily Floyd, Ceal Floyer, Heath Franco, Alicia Frankovich, Andrea Fraser, Ryan Gander, Philip Gerner, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Matthew Griffin, Bianca Hester, Hi Red Center, Christopher L G Hill, Tehching Hsieh, Tim Johnson, Allan Kaprow, Peter Kennedy, Mike Parr, Sister Mary Corita Kent, Anastasia Klose, Laresa Kosloff, Jiří Kovanda, George Kuchar, George Maciunas, Basim Magdy, Paul McCarthy, David McDiarmid, Ian Milliss, Kate Mitchell, Bruce Nauman, Rose Nolan, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, Ariel Orozco, Jill Orr, Deborah Ostrow, Campbell Patterson, Kenny Pittock, Stuart Ringholt, Sarah Rodigari, Robert Rooney, Martha Rosler, Eva Rothschild, Tony Schwensen, Jill Scott, Kateřina Šedá, Christian Thompson, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Ken Unsworth, Gabrielle de Vietri, Franz West Developed by Monash University Museum of Art in association with Artspace IDEAS PLATFORM SCOTT DONOVAN 25 June - 16 July SUNDAY SCHOOL 17 - 26 July
DAMP, Punchline, 1999/2005, still from video. Courtesy of the artists.
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Artspace is supported by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments; by the New South Wales Government through Arts NSW; and by the Australian Government through the Australia Council,its arts funding and advisory body.
Art and Celebrity: the quest for ultravisibility ALEX GAWRONSKI Controversy surrounding Icelandic composer-performer Björk’s recent exhibition, Björk (2015), at the Museum of Modern Art in New York raises a number of questions about the role of major art institutions in the twenty-first century. These questions go far beyond automatic predictably fusty indications of reactionary consternation over a mere ‘pop star’ showing in the hallowed halls of a ‘proper’ art museum. What they indicate instead is a broader crisis of identity for contemporary art institutions today. Moreover they hint at a consequent crisis concerning what art is, or can do, in a contemporary cultural climate beset by neoliberal demands for endless money-making spectacle. These days, public institutions of all kinds – cultural, educational, medical, correctional – are increasingly beholden to pressures that demand they not only break even, but generate profits as well. Not surprisingly, the museum becomes more and more a site for celebrity-focused fantasy. Indeed, while the imagist import of celebrity culture is a well-recognised phenomenon, the current global spectralisation of celebrities famous only for their celebrity is a much more recent development. Such celebrities trade on the cultivation and media dissemination of affective images and lifestyles, whose global desirability appears to transcend gender, class, race and geographical specificities. It is their openness to interpretation plus their ultimate unattainability that propels desire for these figures of fame and the images they purvey. This would also explain the deliberate courting of celebrity performed by major art institutions like MoMA.1 Of course, MoMA is no stranger to its international reputation as a coveted tourist destination; the mere pull that Van Gogh’s The Starry Night exerts over the iPhone would alone be enough to testify to this fact. The growing symbiosis between art institutions and celebrity is extremely telling. Icons of popular culture become ‘artists’ at the same rate that certain artists and curators become ‘stars’. Ultimately though, it seems that institutions need the ultravisibility bequeathed by stars more than celebrities need the support of feted art institutions. Critical reception of Bjork’s MoMA show was almost universally negative. Many well-known critics such as Jerry Saltz at the New Yorker precluded their essentially damning appraisals by stating that they admired Björk and what she had done for contemporary music.2 They just hated the exhibition. Indeed, the consistency of positive disclaimers among critics regarding Björk’s compositional and performance prowess, indicates the very real contribution Björk has made to contemporary music. In fact it would be difficult to plausibly argue against the experimental, selftesting, artful, ‘serious’ nature of Björk’s overall oeuvre. In a previous era, ‘pop’ musicians were more beholden to the expectations of the identifiable subcultures and markets, to which their music was pitched, incidentally and strategically. In contrast, in an era of digital sampling and practically instantaneous global collaboration that readily allows the interpolation of musical genres as well as technologies, varieties of experimentation have become much more accessible to contemporary practitioners. Whether or not they choose to embrace them is another question. A musician like Björk has obviously embraced such possibilities
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and has pushed technical and vocal experimentation, while intermixing classical, folk and electronic genres in a truly singular way. Not only this, she has employed the talents of an array of some the most influential and ambitious audio-visual producers and performers. In tandem with her dedication to musical experimentation is her considerable parallel concern for the imagist dimension of her practice, her comparable investment in visual experimentation and metamorphic modes of self-presentation. Some of the media aspects of this self-presentation have been cute or overtly ‘kooky’, as perhaps befits a globetrotting maverick, while other aspects have deployed a serious and nuanced concern for abrupt collagist effects. Björk’s videos, collaborating with artists like Chris Cunningham,3 have been rightly celebrated. Here are music videos that push the envelope of narrative and cinematic possibility. In the case of popular musicians like Björk, and certain others with a similarly tenacious vision, separating simple populism from serious audio-visual achievement becomes almost a moot point. The question about whether or not Björk’s music is serious ‘art’ and therefore high-culture, or low-cultural popular entertainment, means little. The hybridity, although a hackneyed term, of an artist like Björk’s work, challenges and complexifies the traditional high-low nexus. The question then remains, why was MoMA’s Björk exhibition deemed so universally terrible? By all accounts, the presentation of the musician’s output at MoMA imagined it as a combination of entertainment sideshow and marketing exercise. Not that Björk’s career needs much marketing support. The general sense garnered from the barrage of available reviews was that the exhibition inadvertently belittled Björk’s achievements. At the entrance to the show, visitors were asked to don headphones on which they listened to a mawkish narrative recounted by Icelandic poet Sjón describing the ‘the progress in life of “a girl”,’4 who would naturally be assumed to be Björk. Interspersed throughout the museum, awkwardly by most approximations, were dedicated rooms that unpacked particular phases of Björk’s career. In each, related music videos were screened and costumes presented alongside original album artwork. As audiences moved from room to room, the duration of their stay in each was limited to allow for constant audience flow. Sheer audience numbers demanded that visitors were kept moving. Returning to take a second look at particular spaces on the same visit was forbidden, strictly policed by museum attendants.5 The show had to go on. The last room screened a ‘very ordinary music video’6 from Björk’s 2015 album Vulnicura.7 But how does such a linearly retrospective account of a musician’s career amount to an exhibition? What is the curatorial ambition of a show like this outside its transparent attempts to align a venerable museum’s image with the aura of contemporary pop-cultural success? Surely there would have been alternatives to merely re-packaging the musician’s ‘career’, an exhibition both more demanding and more revealing of the artist’s creative process?
Of course, Björk is by no means the only ‘entertainer’ to be strategically inserted into the ‘serious’ territory of the contemporary art institution. Renowned German New Wave filmmaker Wim Wenders has exhibited luxurious photographs from his films and from his travels in such spaces; LA cult actor Dennis Hopper, whose father was a painter, has shown his paintings, photographs and collages in numerous museum contexts; photographer Annie Leibovitz has likewise exhibited images of celebrities in important art-institutional contexts. Recently it has been another popular cult figure, director David Lynch, whose paintings and other artworks have been curated expressly for the art museum.8 Indeed Lynch, like Björk, is an illuminating example of the trend that sees celebrities art-institutionally venerated. As a director Lynch has utilised popular mediums, film and television, and genres – noir, sit-com, teenage movie, road movie – to craft a truly eclectic, uncompromising, and at times, genuinely difficult, body of work. As with Björk, his ability to twist popular media to significant artistic ends, testifies to an especial tenacity and singularity of vision. However, Lynch’s recent exhibition, David Lynch: Between the worlds (2015), unlike Björk’s, which is a type of museum-situated side effect of her actual creative activity, is of original stand-alone paintings, drawings and multi-media artworks. Yet as art, these seem diminished in comparison to the director’s significant and extensive cinematic achievements. Lynch’s visual art evinces an awkward art-brut naivety that contrasts strongly with the sophistication of his dense filmic language. And although ‘interesting’ as representations of an alternative facet of his creative persona, one has to question whether or not Lynch’s painterly works would achieve favour in the highly competitive world of the art museum, if it weren’t for the high-esteem in which he is held as a film artist with an eminently recognisable ‘brand’. In the absence of such a reputation, Lynch’s visual art would most likely be relegated to the anthropological fetishist’s domain of so-called ‘Outsider art’. Arguably, in the case of Lynch’s exhibition, and unlike the way Björk’s show was handled, a much stronger exhibition could have been mounted of the working notes, storyboards, and related background material informing Lynch’s filmic output. So while Lynch’s visual art promises a glimpse into the director’s ‘true’ interior, the works themselves appear familiarly mannerist and expressionistically generic. A glimpse of the thinking underlying Lynch’s films, which are ostensibly less personal, would actually provide a closer look at the subjective world from which they have sprung. In the instances of both Björk’s and Lynch’s exhibitions,
David Lynch promoting ‘Inland Empire’ Los Angeles 2009. Image credit: s_bukley/Shutterstock.com
more curatorial attention paid to the processes of what they do and what they have achieved, would have been more telling than primary reliance on ‘who’ they are. One thing is certain though, Björk and Lynch, as well as Wenders, Leibovitz and a host of others who have transcended the limitations of their chosen genres, have all excelled on multiple creative levels. What does it mean then when the global art world’s burgeoning courting of celebrity culture filters through to celebrities with decidedly lesser artistic ability, yet who are determined to present themselves as artists ‘as well’? Take, for example, the popular US actor James Franco, something of a phenomenon in the world of contemporary Hollywood. Hollywood it would seem though is not enough for Franco, who at 37 has racked up parallel careers as an author, musician and visual artist.9 Whether or not the creative products of these alternate careers are of much lasting value, means little: celebrity, in a porous and practically infinite global media ecosystem centred on the instantaneity of production and recognition, ultimately transcends itself. The celebrity icon is mediated at the level of the illusive possibility for multiple selves. The traction and appeal of these projected, basically phantasmagoric, self-representations is simultaneously dependent on a present, where attainment of the lifestyles they indicate, remains impossible for the vast majority. In a global sense, most are literally just struggling to survive. Meanwhile, the celebrity-self becomes a fashioned fantasy commodity that paradoxically seems to actually exist. Devotees of celebrity culture have always known at heart they are being fooled, however the immanence of contemporary mediated imagery fulfils a much more convincing illusion. Another contemporary phenomenon of the entertainer-artist is postDisney pop starlet Miley Cyrus, currently known primarily for her penchant for sexually suggestive media spectacles, including her performance at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2014. Less known is the fact that Cyrus also sees herself as an artist and produces at a rate, day-glo collages and bricolage-derived sculptures. That these works recall an entire genre of ‘un-monumental’10 art practices and have even been compared, incredibly, to the art of Mike Kelley,11 reveals the degree to which the lessons of contemporary ‘high-art’ have been absorbed
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by attention-seeking celebrity culture. Comparably controversy focused is the Dadaist-sounding Lady Gaga, who has made a reputation for herself primarily through the artistic manipulation of her own body and image. The performer, who is no stranger to VIP exhibition openings, repeatedly presents herself as something of an ‘avant-garde’ ‘freak’, a chameleon-like outsider decked out in a series of titillatingly ‘outrageous’ costumes. These costumes recall everything from Bauhaus performance theorist Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet, to Salvador Dali’s more obviously lewd ventures into (un-)costuming. Concurrent with Lady Gaga’s revelling in costumes reminiscent of performance art, is their centrality to her quasi-psychedelic music videos. Ironic nonetheless is the extent to which Lady Gaga’s art-aware, media-savvy self-presentation subsumes her practice as a musician. Despite her music’s energy, it is invariably flaccid in its un-challenging familiarity, accessibility and highly derivative nature. This does not matter, for the ‘look’ of the artist is fascinating enough to keep the curious enthralled. Perhaps this means that Lady Gaga is more artist than musician? Certainly an impending museum-sponsored exhibition of her clothing does not seem unlikely. On the other side of this equation are today’s star collectors and curators with egos on par with the celebrities they seek to corral as supporters and fellow travellers. Some contemporary ‘super curators’ like Hans Ulrich Obrist may seek to perform the role of oracle-like medium, speaking for the artists whose company he collects. Otherwise there are contemporary artists who make a habit of being seen casually ‘hanging out’ with celebrities like British photographer Sam TaylorWood.12 Yet other artists like painter Elizabeth Peyton have made a career of almost exclusively representing celebrities. In Peyton’s case there appears nonetheless to be at least some degree of ironic distance at play. Then there are artists who deploy celebrities to perform for them in videos and installations, such as Cornelia Parker exhibiting actress Tilda Swinton in a glass vitrine at MoMA in 2013. What of the art institution’s role in this growing phenomenon? In many respects the realities of today’s instantaneously media-saturated age makes the marriage of art and celebrity appear inevitable, even natural? Or is it? It is unlikely that exhibited celebrities consciously approach branded art museums in an effort to augment their fame. They would undoubtedly acquire an additional aura of seriousness by showing in a museum however. Still it is hardly likely they need the exposure, already being household names, unlike contemporary artists. From the most cynical perspective, the increased courting of celebrities by critically regarded art institutions is merely another aspect of their contemporary attempts to survive the present economic climate by cementing an image of themselves as popularly irreproachable. This drive is doubly likely if we cast a glance at the attrition rate of government sponsored art spaces in regions like Europe. In those European countries suffering most from the recent economic downturn, many art institutions, previously hallowed, have fallen by the wayside and been shut down. The overall implication in these situations is always that public institutions deemed not public enough, cannot, nor should not, be allowed to survive. Ironically ‘public’ in this scenario, amounts to financially profitable. In the end, the porosity of the contemporary dominant form of capital, neoliberalism, means that all things meet. Even the most acutely critical theorists and philosophers can be turned into the equivalent of ‘rock stars’ and peripheral art world fodder.13 Militant post-Marxists can be transformed, symbolically at least, into valuable capitalists.14 In this world territorialisation no longer oscillates with deterritorialisation but overlaps it. Global culture into which contemporary art is ever more inextricably enveloped, aims for the utmost visibility and coincides with a worldview where everything and everyone is considered usable for good and ill.
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Björk at Academy Awards, 2011. Image credit: Evertt Collection / Shutterstock.com ENDNOTES 1. Especially by curators like Klaus Biesenbach, the brainchild of MoMA’s Björk exhibition and director of PS1, New York. Biesenbach has been criticised on numerous fronts for his self-promoting and status-seeking utilisation of celebrities. See Christian Viveros-Fauné, ‘MoMA Curator Klaus Biesenbach Should be Fired Over Björk Show Debacle’, Artnet News online, March 24, 2015. 2. Jerry Saltz, ‘MoMA’s Björk Disaster’, the Vulture online, March 5, 2015 3. The impressive clip for ‘All is Full of Love’ in which humanoid robots copulate lovingly on an internally lit industrial slab, is probably the best-known example. 4. Peter Schjeldahl, ‘MoMA’s Embarrassing Björk Crush’, the New Yorker online, March 17, 2015 5. See Ben Davis, ‘ Ladies and Gentlemen, the Björk show at MoMA is Bad, Really Bad’, Artnet News online, March 3, 2015. 6. The video is ‘Black Lake’ commissioned by MoMA for the exhibition. 7. Vulnicura, Björk’s 2015 album has been written about repeatedly as eulogising the break up of her marriage to artist Matthew Barney. Björk’s marriage to Barney, one of the global art world’s most famous personalities (although described by at least one critic Peter Schejldahl, as ‘mercilessly pretentious’) generated much publicity at the time, seen as it was as a true meeting of artistic equals, two creative practitioners at the top of their game. 8. David Lynch: Between Two Worlds, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, Australia, March 14 – June 8, 2015. 9. See Benjamin Hurston, ‘The 11 Professions of James Franco’, Paste Magazine online, July 11, 2013. 10. A tendency of artists working variously with found materials and pop-cultural and other detritus famously represented in the exhibition and catalogue Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century at the New Museum New York, December 1 2007 – March 30 2008. 11. And by seminal gallerist Jeffrey Deitch no less. See Zing Tsjeng, ‘Miley Cyrus launches career as visual artist at Art Basel’, Dazed magazine online, December 4, 2014. 12. Most notably Sir Elton John and his entourage. Taylor-Wood also produced in 2004 the photoseries ‘Crying Men’ depicting a swathe of well-known male actors and celebrities weeping, or appearing to. 13. The global reputation of well-known Slovenian philosopher and self proclaimed communist, Slavoj Zizek has been repeatedly compared in media releases as equal to that of a ‘rock star’, an ‘Elvis Presley’ of the world of contemporary philosophy. 14. French militant post Marxist, anti-capitalist philosopher Alain Badiou was also curiously claimed in a 2014 survey, to be the world’s highest paid. 15. The concept of territorialisation/deterritorialisation was pioneered by philosophers Deleuze and Guattari and describes the process by which new resistant, radical or transformational knowledge or experience is continually transformed into its other through repetition, utilitsation and familiarisation. The process is endless though as territorialisations provoke detteritorialisations seeking to break the controlling deadlock of institutional capture, the freeing of labour power from specific means of production for example. See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia , Continuum, London, 2004.
MONASH UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ART PRESENTS
Linda marrinon Figure Sculpture 11 July - 19 September 2015
Ground Floor, Building F Monash University, Caulfield Campus 900 Dandenong Road Caulfield East VIC 3145 Australia
www.monash.edu.au/muma Telephone +61 3 9905 4217 firstname.lastname@example.org Tues – Fri 10am – 5pm; Sat 12 – 5pm
Linda Marrinon Revolutionist 2014 Monash University Collection
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Victoria & Albert Museum, London 14 March – 2 August 2015
It’s about the politics of the world – the way life is – what beauty is.1 Alexander McQueen
SALLY GRAY This northern spring and summer, London offered a powerful Alexander McQueen moment. The Victoria & Albert Museum presented their ‘edited and expanded’2 version of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, originally mounted in May 2011 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In addition, Nick Waplington’s stunning large format photographs of the working process for McQueen’s ‘Horn of Plenty’ collection (A/W 2009) were presented at Tate Britain from March to May. Waplington, noted for photographs focusing on class and conflict, was invited by McQueen to document the development of the 2009 collection – an uncompromising exploration of waste and decay in the context of the beauty and luxury of fashion’s histories – of which McQueen commented: ‘It’s a sackable offence this collection. I could easily have made it digestible but I didn’t want to, it’s not safe in any way.’3 Another exhibition, Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-up, was presented through May-June at London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery, facial enhancement and distortion being a key element of McQueen’s performative fashion presentations. A play McQueen, by James Phillips, shown at St James Theatre, claimed to document the ‘dark dream world’ of the designer’s ‘visionary imagination’.4 And two biographies, were disseminated throughout the Anglophone world, in the months leading to the V&A show.5 As has been widely reported, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was an outstanding success in New York: the eighth best-attended exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum’s history; audience figures of 661,509; queues snaking down Fifth Avenue and thoughtful critical responses from such as The New York Times art critic, Holland Cotter, who claimed that the show was ‘poised on a line where fashion turns into something else’.6 British-born curator, from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum, Andrew Bolton, conceived and mounted the New York show and was ‘Consultant Curator’ for London. The expanded and restaged V&A exhibition was curated by Claire Wilcox, Senior Curator of Fashion at the museum and Professor of Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion. This is not simply a touring exhibition from the Met, there is an established V&A curatorial lineage underpinning the exhibition, which builds on previous research, collecting and exhibiting of McQueen’s work by the museum. Claire Wilcox included McQueen’s work in her 2001 exhibition Radical Fashion and in her speculative series of live events at the V&A, Fashion In Motion, in 1999 and 2001. Amy de la Haye, included McQueen in her 1997 V&A exhibition Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion, five years after his MA graduation show at Central St Martins College of Art & Design. McQueen himself knew and used the V&A’s collections for his research on tailoring, history, painting and photography: ‘The nation is privileged to have access to such a resource,’ he stated.7 Andrew Bolton was a curatorial assistant at the V&A when he saw his first McQueen show, ‘No. 13’ (S/S 1999).8 And he included McQueen in his V&A exhibition Men in Skirts in 2001 (later at the Met as Bravehearts: Men in Skirts in 2003-4).
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As a place of inspiration Britain is the best in the world. You’re inspired by the anarchy in the country. Alexander McQueen London was McQueen’s hometown. The specificities of McQueen’s, simultaneously sublime and angry, vision could hardly have grown from anywhere else. As fashion historian Christopher Breward puts it: ‘In the twenty-first century, London’s reputation as a guardian of the bespoke and the edgy remains a constant in the longstanding, international configuration of fashion cities.’9 London engendered McQueen’s interweaving of abjection, perversity, violence, provocation, and ineffable beauty, in shows conceived from the start as whole, often challenging, mise-en-scènes. Born in South London and raised in the East End, McQueen had the capacity to read the culture of fashion with the ruthless, truth-telling capacity of the working class outsider. Britain’s harshly enduring, finelytuned class gradations; its continual reinstatement of forms of exclusion; its phenomenal demonstrations of wealth, and its lawless youth cultures, foster sartorial thinking that Breward has characterised as distinctive, chaotic and crosscutting.10 The road from Stratford to the luxurious hedonism of the London and Paris fashion world did not change McQueen’s uncompromising attitudes – close creative friendships with upper class figures like Isabella Blow and Daphne Guinness were only the exceptions that proved the rule. After leaving his comprehensive secondary school in 1985 at sixteen, with just one pass subject – Art – McQueen found his way, almost by accident, into the bespoke side of London sartorial heritage, as an apprentice tailor at the venerable Savile Row firm, Anderson & Sheppard, followed by a short time at Gieves & Hawkes, a few doors away. He worked for theatrical costumiers, Angels, then for Londonbased Japanese designer, Koji Tatsuno, before he took himself on a one-way ticket to Milan to talk his way into working with Romeo Gigli. Returning to London after less than a year, he found his way, against the odds, into the prestigious MA in Fashion at Central St Martins under the legendary teacher, Bobby Hillson (he’d offered himself as a pattern cutting instructor; Hillson detected something extraordinary in him and asked him to return with drawings, on the basis of which she admitted him to the course). McQueen’s life is usually presented – in biography and fashion commentary – as a brilliant, tragic trajectory, traced from his MA graduating show in 1992 to his suicide aged 40 on February 11, 2010, shortly after presenting his last complete collection ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ (S/S 2010) in October 2009. In Alexander McQueen’s approximately two decades in fashion, he stunned, shocked, delighted, amazed, and often emotionally overwhelmed the fashion world. He presented 36 collections under his own label and four women’s wear collections a year (two haute couture and two ready-to-wear) as chief
designer for Givenchy in Paris, between 1996 and 2001. His impact extended beyond fashion into the interconnected worlds of art, performance, space and event design, photography, film, millinery, jewellery design, hair and make-up design. His work has influenced ways of thinking about the gesture and haptics of the fashioned body and about the dressed urban subject. I’m a romantic schizophrenic. Alexander McQueen Andrew Bolton’s original concept, for the New York show and its catalogue, was to frame McQueen as a late twentieth-century Postmodern Romantic. This idea is reiterated in the London show. The eleven rooms of what is claimed by the V&A as the largest fashion show ever mounted by the museum, follow the basic configuration of Bolton’s themes and spaces. In London there are an additional 66 garments and accessories, and a new section focusing on the grittily urban and McQueen’s early collections. Exhibition rooms carry titles such as ‘Romantic Primitivism’ (presented in a simulated ossuary of stacked bones and skulls, with an ‘underwater grotto’ ceiling, and evocative splashing soundscape). ‘Romantic Nationalism’ was presented in a timber-panelled Scottish baronial hall with gilded wall sconces; all garments were in red and white, or McQueen tartan – suggesting a Walter Scott-ish version of Scottish history, and presenting McQueen’s take on his personal/historical heritage expressed in ‘Highland Rape’ (A/W 1995) and ‘The Widows of Culloden’ (A/W 2006), which reference the Jacobite enclosures, English raids on Scotland and their aftermath. ‘Romantic Exoticism’ explored McQueen’s ‘creative translation’ of the
foreign and exotic: he claimed that (like nineteenth-century Romantics before him) he was more interested in the ‘personality than the ethnicity’ of a region.11 Design and installation are certainly realised at a high level of elegance and polish. The rooms are visually alluring and thematically immersive. However, I found the continual reference to nineteenth-century, postKantian notions of the sublime and the romantic irritating. This conceptual framing limited the exhibition’s intellectual scope and confined readings of McQueen’s work (that is those available within the exhibition’s arrangements) within an ahistorical mental enclosure, never properly articulated as a philosophical (or cultural) proposition. Not all of the spaces carried this labelling. The ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ was a lofty, open, floor-to-ceiling display at the midpoint of the exhibition, presenting 120 garments and accessories in an engrossing profusion that kept the crowds glued to this space. The boxy shelves, resembling museum open storage, included Shaun Leane’s jewellery and body sculptures, such as his Moon and Star headpieces, giant versions of Victorian brooch designs, made for ‘In Memory of Elisabeth How, Salem 1692’ (A/W 2007). Philip Treacy’s hats, including the Butterfly Headdress of painted turkey feathers for ‘La Dame Bleue’ (S/S 2008), were presented next to embroidered chopines, a crystal encrusted dress and armadillo shoes from ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ and multiple mounted videos showing nearly all of McQueen’s runway shows. High in the centre of the room was the paint splatter dress worn in performance for ‘No. 13’ (S/S 1999) by dance-trained model, Shalom Harlow, in McQueen’s homage to German artist Rebecca Horn. The Kate Moss hologram
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from the finale of ‘The Widows of Culloden’ has a room of its own with Moss appearing life-scale in a glass pyramidal structure – a mobile etheric version of a seventeenth-century, cloud-supported, Madonna by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Less convincing was the recreation of the opaque/transparent mirrored walls of the enclosed glass space of ‘Voss’ (S/S 2001) originally designed to bring to mind the padded cell of psychiatric confinement and the ‘mad women’ within it. The simulation, also from ‘Voss’, of the body of fetish writer Michelle Olley attached to a breathing tube and surrounded by live moths didn’t quite come off, lacking the surprise and horror of the original performance. The videos, placed throughout the exhibition, were essential animators of the material objects shown. The audience was always going to be fascinated by garments and accessories, which, in their performed modes, evoked fear and desire; beaks and claws of raptors, skulls, bones, slashing and piercing, dresses once worn by models who had staggered and stared, head arrangements made of garbage. The naked lower torso, a ‘new’ view of the erotic body revealed by McQueen’s radically lowered waistlines, had to be seen in sinewy movement of flesh and bone, revealing the ‘ogee’ curve at the base of the spine, (his version of ‘the line of beauty’ of William Hogarth and Alan Hollinghurst) Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A is theatrically presented with wit and imagination as an immersive experience – with John Gosling’s soundscapes adding to the sense of descending into a complete world. The exhibition’s creative director was Sam Gainsbury (from the Gainsbury & Whiting design team), who produced some of McQueen’s most extraordinary fashion shows; Katie England whose styling talents were integral to McQueen’s performed presentations was also a consultant to the exhibition. Disciplined attention to object installation detail gives the audience close access to garments and accessories. Intellectually the show’s catalogue extends the range of scholarly trajectories arising from McQueen’s work, his place in fashion history
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and the history of urban culture and creativity. This is an important improvement on the New York exhibition, which had a beautifully designed catalogue with limited scholarly content. Claire Wilcox has edited a large book with contributions from fashion scholars and commentators on topics as diverse as the psychology of fashion, art and fashion, modes of fashion presentation and McQueen’s engagement with birds, film, and the art of the Northern Renaissance.
ENDNOTES 1. Unless otherwise specified all Alexander McQueen quotes are from exhibition wall text in Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A Museum, 14 Mar-2 Aug 2015. 2. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A News Release and Media Pack, 2015.3. Alexander McQueen quoted in, Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process, exhibition brochure, Tate Britain, 10 Mar-17 May 2015. 4. Hypebeast (http://hypebeast.com/2015/3/alexander-,mcqueen--play-set-to-open-in-london) Michael Billington, ‘Scissors steal the show and McQueen meets his inner tailor’, The Guardian, May 21, 2015. 5. Andrew Wilson, Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin, London & New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. Dana Thomas, Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, New York: Penguin Press, 2015. 6. Holland Cotter, ‘Designer As Dramatist and the Tales He Left Behind’, The New York Times, May 4, 2011. 7. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A News Release and Media Pack. 8. Andrew Bolton (2015) “In Search of the Sublime” in Claire Wilcox (Ed) Alexander McQueen, London: V&A Publishing, 2015: 15 9. Christopher Breward, The London Look: Fashion from the Street to the Catwalk, New Haven & London: Yale University Press and the Museum of London, 2004, 5. 10. ibid. 11. Exhibition wall text Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A Museum, 14 Mar-2 Aug 2015.
Previous page: © Ann Ray, Unfallen Angels II, 2009, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Image courtesy of the artist, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A, 2015, Installation view of ‘Romantic Gothic’ gallery. Image courtesy of the artist and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
TarraWarra InTernaTIonal 2015
29 AUGUST – 22 NOvEMbER 2015 | Curators: Amelia Barikin and Victoria Lynn
OPENING HOURS Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00am – 5:00pm and public holidays (ex. Christmas Day)
This project is supported through a Curator in Residence grant. The Curator in Residence Grant Program is supported by the Copyright Agency Limited’s Cultural Fund, and is managed by Museums & Galleries of NSW.
ADMISSION $7.50 adults; $5.00 seniors; children, students and pensioners free entry
Telephone (03) 5957 3100 Email email@example.com 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd, Healesville, Victoria
IMAGE: Pierre Huyghe A Journey that wasn’t, Double Negative, October 19, 2005 Event, Wollman Ice Rink, Central Park, New York, USA Courtesy of the artist
www.twma.com.au MAJOR SPONSOR
With the support of the Institut Français in Paris and the Embassy of France in Australia
Postcard from Venice
56th Venice Biennale Venue: the Giardini, the Arsenale and various locations across the city of Venice Curator: Okwui Enwezor 9 May - 22 November 2015 But a storm is blowing from Paradise… Walter Benjamin quoted by Okwui Enwezor
MARY KNIGHTS Recalling Walter Benjamin’s prophetic critique of Paul Klee’s print Angelus Novus (1920), Okwui Enwezor, the curator of the 56th Venice Biennale titled All the World’s Futures, notes in his catalogue essay: ‘ruptures that abound around every corner of the global landscape today do indeed recall the evanescent debris of previous catastrophes piled at the feet of the angel of history in Angelus Novus’.2 Caught in the storm, unable to awaken the dead or turn back the clock, Klee’s petrified angel bears witness as the rush of progress relentlessly propels the wreckage of the past into the future. This is an abrasive and confronting biennale. Posing three intersecting ‘filters’ – Garden of Desire: Liveness; On Epic Duration, and Reading Capital – rather than a single theme, Enwezor has challenged dozens of artists to reflect on issues that they consider to be most pressing in the world today and the implications of these on our future. In a cacophony of voices artists expose deeply held concerns, express bewilderment and call for action on a raft of matters causing havoc around the globe. Questions are posed and answers demanded for problems that are at once local and international: systematic exploitation of labour from child soldiers to indentured labour, prostitution and slavery; the desecration of forests and polluted waterways; revolutions, war and conflicts; racism, forced migration and displacement. From a multitude of perspectives artists offer poignant insights into the ramifications of structural inequities, shifts in wealth and power, and exploitation of resources. They critique globalisation, capitalism, colonialism and postcolonialism, political and corporate structures, and human relationships with each other and the natural environment. Ominous ragged black flags painted by Oscar Murillo hang limp along the front façade of the Central Pavilion, the heart of Enwezor’s biennale. Inside the buildings spacious white rotunda decorated with a golden frieze celebrating the arts and humanities is a cluster of nihilistic works by Fabio Mauri. An ungainly wooden extension ladder reaches up towards the blacked out windows of the dome, but stops short with a tiny unstable platform pierced with the ominous words: ‘the end’. Nearby in a cramped space a film by Christian Boltanski endlessly loops a monstrous scene of an incarcerated man swathed in bandages sitting in squalor, retching and coughing up blood. Moving through the pavilion, one is confronted by powerful images and discordant juxtapositions at every turn. Screened as a triptych, John Akomfrah’s documentary footage exposing the impact of whaling shows simultaneously a whale being butchered, thousands of Monarch butterflies alighting on trees in Mexico and a huge wave moving majestically across an ocean. Elegiac skulls painted by Marlene Dumas hang at eye-level like a series of intimate portraits of friends. Rosa Barba’s subversive aerial footage reveals a toxic waste facility, not designed to last, which will leak its poisonous contents in the centuries to come. With disarmingly cool
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formalism photographs by Andreas Gursky depict sweatshop workers weaving cane chairs and the intense activity of traders in international stock exchanges. Daniel Boyd’s complex monochromatic dot paintings, which explore shifts in value and meaning attributed to cultural artefacts through acquisition resonate with Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s exuberant canvas titled Earth’s Creation. Site-specific installations and performances aggressively disrupt the physical integrity of the exhibition spaces in the Central Pavilion. Cascading office waste and papers frozen mid-fall appear to be plunging through the floor above in Thomas Hirschhorn’s work; an up-rooted tree lies on the ground with mirrors fracturing horizon lines in a restaging of Robert Smithson’s Dead Tree; and whole sections of the building seem to have collapsed in Katharina Grosse’s apocalyptic installation. Spoken word and sound performances ricochet through the spaces in a program that includes Karl Marx’s Das Kapital read from beginning to end over three days and a protest staged by the Gulf Labor Collective angry about the appalling conditions endured by construction workers in Dubai. The biennale spans out from the Central Pavilion throughout the Giardini, the Arsenale and other locations across Venice. Most of the national exhibitors seem to have responded without constraint to Enwezor’s curatorial premise. Reflecting the country’s economic crisis, the Greek pavilion has been left in a state of disrepair with holes in the internal walls and wiring falling through the ceiling. Materials and rubbish left over from a previous project has been pushed to one side. Within this mess Maria Papadimitriou has transported a tiny shop, an Agrimiká that sold skins of wild animals such as wolves in Volos and was originally established during the great depression when wildlife was hunted for food. The Nordic pavilion, a minimalist glass building designed by Sverre Fehn built in 1962, is transformed by massive smashed panes of glass, lethal shards scattered across the floor, and a viscerally disturbing sound installation by Camille Norment. Nearby, seemingly a decadent show of excess and defiance in the face of inevitable disaster, in the British pavilion Sarah Lucas has installed a series of crass, bright yellow sculptural forms flaunting male and female genitalia, some with cigarettes poked into various orifices. Using documents leaked by Edward Snowden, New Zealand artist Simon Denny has presented Secret Power in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and the San Marco Airport, exposing information about the ‘Five Eyes Alliance’, a US-led, mass surveillance operation involving Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Fiona Hall, Manuhiri (Travellers) 2014–15, installation view, Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015, Photograph: Christian Corte. Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. © The artist.
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Referring to the imminent drowning of the vulnerable Pacific island nation as a result of global warming, Tuvalu, represented by Taiwanese artist Vincent Huang, has created a shallow pool of water that can only be crossed by walking along a path that sits just below water level. Utterly beautiful and engaging with Enwezor’s curatorial premise with philosophical resignation, in the Japanese pavilion two wooden boats float on the floor and a web of red yarn creates a maze of connections from which thousands of old keys are suspended. Chiharu Shiota’s installation alludes to the one reality that all humans have in common – that each life ends in death and leaves only a residue of memories. Within all of this, Australia’s contribution seems to be perfectly pitched. The new pavilion, designed by Denton Corker Marshall, is a mausoleum-like structure clad in polished black granite overlooking the Rio dei Giardini canal. Replacing the temporary structure designed by Philip Cox, it is an elegant ‘white box within a black box’3 intended to provide a neutral interior space, in which artists can present work unfettered by an overbearing architectural style. In this case the artist has stained the white box black. Fiona Hall’s exhibition Wrong Way Time is poetic, tormented, unnerving and dark. Stepping through a gaping aperture into the gloom, one is immediately confronted by a human skull delicately woven from metal fern-leaves and tendrils. As if anxious or demented, clocks of all shapes and sizes are ticking out of sync. Cuckoo clocks and grandfather clocks chime in jarring discord and, like a scene from a nightmare, their faces have been defaced with graffiti and desperate warnings: ‘go back’, ‘endings are the new beginnings’, ‘wrong way time’. A labyrinth of interlocking spaces and passages has been created with an assemblage of ebony and glass museum display cases. Resembling cabinets of curiosities or Wunderkammer, they are full of bizarre and beguiling objects. As well as new artworks, Hall has integrated into her ‘archaeological installation’ a number of older works, revealing a multifaceted investigation into the relationships between global politics, economics and the environment. In the outermost passage animals made from native grasses and scraps of camouflage material are clustered together as if part of a diorama from a nineteenth-century natural history museum. Titled Kuka Irititja (Animals from another time) (2014), each represents a species from the central and western deserts of Australia believed to be extinct, or near to extinction, and were made through a collaboration between Hall and eleven artists from the Tjanpi Desert Weavers collective. Perhaps suggesting the failure of western knowledge to protect biodiversity, many of the sculptures are balanced on columns of charred books. Nearby, is the uncanny work Manuhiri (Travellers) (2014-2015), a circle of bleached and twisted pieces of driftwood found washed up on a beach near the Waiapu River in New Zealand that are pinned to the wall like mutant animal specimens. Strangely familiar, the night sky is charted on a glass panel stained black with a galaxy of stars illuminated through broken car-indicator lights. Objects are displayed as if to reveal variations for scientific study. In Tender (2003-2006) hundreds of US dollar notes have been shredded and woven into elaborate birds’ nests. Each, empty and redundant, is an accurate replica of a nest belonging to a particular species of bird. The systematic collection and identification extends to the money used to make the work. Although destroyed by the process, every note has been recorded and the serial number etched onto the glass. In other cabinets, alluding to the ongoing movement of immense volumes of cheap raw materials such as tea, cocoa and rubber across borders and
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the impact of the trade on the natural world, Hall has displayed When my Boat Comes In (2003-). Using found bank notes from places such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Madagascar and Vietnam, which have a picture of a boat as a part of the official design, Hall has superimposed an ink drawing of a leaf that represents the major export from each country. In the centre of the maze, ghostly apparitions of soldiers dangle mutely, their shredded military uniforms barely holding together. All the King’s Men (2014-15) is deeply disturbing and evokes the grotesquely disfigured, eyeless faces of the dead that cannot find peace, or memories of war that cannot be forgotten. Two works from Hall’s Paradisus terrestris (2007) series, in which sardine cans are transformed into tiny erotic sculptures, glint in the shadows behind the broken youths. An erect penis and the straight shaft of a Xanthorrhoea hint at an age of innocence and paradise lost. The amount of artwork that Hall has presented is astonishing and the intensity unrelenting. One of the most disquieting, Untitled (2014) could easily be missed. Almost hidden in a jumble of intricately carved traditional Chinese cork dioramas – framed in black lacquered glass cases crammed one on top of the other – Hall has embedded a tiny, ghastly video. Two tarantula spiders and two cockroaches are trapped in one of the small perfect worlds with a pagoda, willow trees, an arched bridge and white cranes. A macabre drama slowly unfolds as in close proximity with limited resources the battle for survival inevitably ensues. There is no escape. The clocks are ticking.
His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.4
ENDNOTES 1. Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, quoted by Okwui Enwezor, ‘On Debris’, 56th International Art Exhibition: All the World’s Futures, Venice: Marsilio, 2015, 15. 2. Okwui Enwenzor, ‘On Debris’, 56th International Art Exhibition: All the World’s Futures, Venice: Marsilio, 2015, 15. 3. Denton Corker Marshall, ‘Australian Pavilion Venice’, www.dentoncorkermarshall.com/ experience/cultural-civic, accessed June 2015. 4. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, New York: Knopf, 1969, 257-8.
Australian Pavilion north east view from canal. Photograph: John Gollings. Image courtesy of Australia Council for Arts. Opposite page: Fiona Hall, Vaporised, 2014, installation view, Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015. Photograph: Christian Corte. Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. © The artist.
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Focus on the experience: On the popularity of Stuart Ringholt’s naturist tours of art exhibitions SUSAN GIBB The sight of a human body, unadorned by clothes, is not unusual within an art gallery. From fertility statues made in prehistoric times, to those celebrating athleticism in ancient Greece, to the divine body in Renaissance paintings, to performance artists locating their bodies as sites of representational struggle in the 1960s and 1970s, it is fair to say that the nude is a well-established art convention. What is less conventional is for the audience of art to be naked. Since 2011, however, artist Stuart Ringholt has been challenging this situation, through his naturist tours of art exhibitions at major art institutions throughout Australia. And it seems to be a growing trend. Recently other naturist tours have been included within the event calendar of museums internationally, including at the El Segundo Museum of Art in Los Angeles, USA, and the Leopold Museum of Art in Vienna, Austria, alongside surveys of the nude in art.1 While these international examples have created a clear visual connection between the viewer’s naked body and those on display, and have subsequently garnered media attention, which much like that spun around Ringholt’s tours, pivots on nudity, it could be argued that the essence of these tours’ popularity lies elsewhere: in how they foreground the experience of the audience, revealing the ascendant place this concept holds within contemporary art and museum practice. Ringholt’s idea to host a naturist tour of an art exhibition was born out of one of his earliest works, C3PO at North Innaloo Primary (1995), a simple video work in which the artist appears naked, except for a mask, at the primary school he attended as a child. Referencing the common social anxiety of appearing without clothes in public, this work, as in many of Ringholt’s early works, explored embarrassment in an explicit way, often involving the artist’s public re-enactment of a generalised humiliating situation. In an interview, Ringholt has reflected on these works by saying, ‘I learnt a hell of a lot about my body and how fear manifested in my body’.2 He has used these lived experiences of embarrassment – that importantly he restaged as art – to find a framework, within which he could harness, positive therapeutic benefits. Ringholt has since translated these lessons in bodily awareness into other projects that aim to offer the same to viewers, which he does by inviting them to participate in carefully constructed social activities within exhibition contexts, and which have included Anger Workshops (2008—ongoing) and a nude daytime disco, Club Purple (2014). Falling within this vein, Ringholt’s naturist tours of art exhibitions, titled Preceded by a tour of the show by the artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only) (2011-ongoing) are simple in concept. They involve an hour-long guided tour of an art exhibition by the artist, in which both he and the visitor are naked. This premise is combined with a few basic house rules: visitors have to be over 18 years of age to participate; the museum
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must be closed to the clothed during the tour (though the hosting institution’s staff can choose to stay clothed if they wish); casual drinks and a discussion are to be offered after the tour, and photographs can be taken and reproduced if all of the participants provide their consent. The first iteration of Preceded by a tour… was hosted at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) in Brisbane, in the context of the group exhibition Let The Healing Begin (2011), which traversed various ideas on art and therapy. Reflecting on the decision to let Ringholt present the tours, the curator and then director of IMA, Robert Leonard, recounted in an essay: ‘[Stuart] wanted to present a guided tour of the show, prior to the opening. There was a catch: he would be naked and so would the audience. When he suggested this, I flinched. At first, all I could see were the worst-case scenarios, with me ending up in the CourierMail explaining myself to the ratepayers. Ringholt admitted that he had already suggested the idea to other galleries, all of whom had passed on it. But, I had to concede, given the theme of my show, it was perfect. I could hardly say no’.3 Though he agreed to host the work, to ease some of his concerns for the institution, Leonard drew up a liability waiver for participants to sign and kept the publicity for the event low-key: it was listed solely on the exhibition’s invitation, where details of the standard artist talk were normally found. Despite the modesty of the publicity, the event quickly attracted both participants and an audience provoked to respond to the work’s proposition. As Leonard remarked in his essay; ‘For a week or so, dozens of people personally apologised to me because they couldn’t make it. Usually, parishioners feel no compunction to justify their absence, but on this occasion it seemed everyone was compelled to.’4 On Preceded by a tour…’s audience, Ringholt has commented; ‘I’m really asking a question of everyone—will you take your clothes off in public? The majority of people probably think, could I do that? Would I take my clothes off ? No. Yes. I’m not too sure. And so the primary audience I think is the audience that hears that question, and the audience [then] gets split into people that book and participate.’5 These comments on the work’s audience are pertinent as the number of people to actually experience the work ‘in the flesh’ is miniscule6 compared to the sizable audience, which has experienced the work through the circulation of its concept, the resulting imagery and the subjective provocation implicit in both. For despite Leonard’s initial concern that the tours might attract negative press, they have been something of a media success story for each of the museums that have hosted them. Is there another contemporary Australian artwork, which has secured coverage in every major newspaper, radio and prime time news broadcast in the last ten years? As well as mentions and feature stories in international rags such as The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times?
Stuart Ringholt, Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only.), 2011-onging. Photograph: Christo Crocker. Image courtesy National Gallery of Australia.
Following the IMA exhibition, the demand for Ringholt’s naturist tours have seen him criss-cross the country to host similarly booked out events in many of Australia’s leading contemporary art museums, including at ACCA, Melbourne, as part of the group exhibition Power to the People: Contemporary Conceptualism and the Object in Art (2011), which celebrated the role of the audience within an expanded field of art making; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, where the work was presented as part of Performance Space’s live art program, Local Positioning Systems (2012); at the Museum of New and Old Art in Hobart, where they included a discussion of Wim Delvoye’s infamous Cloaca (2000-2007), a mechanical apparatus that simulates the functioning of a body’s digestive system; and most recently at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra, as part of the public program for the major retrospective of the American light and space artist, James Turrell. Notably, Turrell had previously offered viewers the opportunity to enter his Perceptual cell – Bindu Shards (2010) without clothes, in order to be bathed in its coloured light; this acted as a prompt for the NGA’s curators to propose extending the offer to the whole show via Ringholt’s tours. With these iterations of Ringholt’s naturist tours in mind, a significant distinction can be drawn between those offered by the El Segundo and Leopold museums. While the latter two focused exclusively on the experience of the nude while nude, Ringholt holds the conviction that some artworks are more suitable to being viewed naked than others, and in particular has commented; ‘geometric abstraction and minimal art view well naked’, as ‘we have a very different experience to colour. Naked, our whole body experiences colour. We no longer just look at it but now have the capacity to feel it also.’7 This sentiment is something that was affirmed by the journalist Monica Tan, who having experienced Ringholt’s tour of the Turrell exhibition, reported’; ‘…It’s not until we reach one of Turrell’s works Raemar pink white (1969) that it hits me why we are here. Why art – something we appreciate through our eyes, sometimes our ears, but rarely with our entire bodies – can suddenly be transformed by the absurd act of nudity… Without a thread between my body and the work, my bare flesh seems to be drinking all that peppy pink brightness in… Everyone around me is gawping at the art, almost euphoric with delight.’8 In her essay The Experiential Turn (2014), the art historian and curator, Dorothea von Hantelmann, constructs an argument for the epochal change she coins in the title, by identifying a growing concern since the 1960s for an artwork’s effects on the viewer and the situation in which it takes place. She elaborates this idea by drawing a line that begins with Minimal Art – emphasising such practices’ concern for the perception and experience of the subject through their encounter with the art object – and connects it to economic and cultural transformations within
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Western bourgeois-industrial societies that have elevated experiences as a central focus of social activity.9 Within this shift, the museum acts as an intersection of these concerns, and is something expressed both in its programming and contemporary architectural vernacular (an idea eloquently argued by Rosalind Krauss in her influential essay ‘The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Museum’ ). Playfully highlighting these links and responding to this logic, Ringholt has commented about his naturist tours; ‘The museum in itself is reductive – we have the idea of the white cube but why have we then not reduced the viewer through their clothing?’10 Recently Ringholt’s Preceded by a tour… has been acquired for the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Following the established convention of such conceptual work, its material presence takes the form of a ‘Certificate of Sale’ that lists the rules and instructions for the work’s enactment. This document is interesting for some new negotiated conditions: in the future the tour will be able to be delivered by someone other than Ringholt, who can be selected from an art or non-art industry, and a minimal ticket price (no more than $20) can be charged. These changes to Preceded by a tour… and its acquisition into a public collection indicate a development in the work’s recognition, moving it from humble beginnings on the invitation card of the IMA exhibition, to its canonisation within an institutional collection. The acquisition of this work and the flexibility offered by its new conditions is also evidence of the museum’s desire to be able to reactivate the work, undoubtedly to draw on the popularity it has already demonstrated in gaining both press and audience attendance. Nonetheless, beyond the pragmatics of institutional agendas, maybe it is also not so surprising to find Ringholt depicting the audience naked, particularly if within an art historical lineage they have taken up the mantle of the new muse of art.
ENDNOTES 1. These tours were held on the 18 February 2013 as part of Nude men: from 1800 to the present day (19 October 2012—4 March 2013) at the Leopold Museum of Art in Vienna, Austria, and the 20 July 2013 as part of Truth (12 May—25 August 2013) at the El Segundo Museum of Art in Los Angeles, USA. 2. Robert Leonard, ‘Stuart Ringholt: The Artist Will Be Naked’, 2014<http://robertleonard. org/1015-2/>, accessed 7-6-2015. 3. ibid. 4. Tim Spencer, ‘How to read an interview with Stuart Ringholt’ in Das Superpaper, Issue 24, 31 August 2012, accessed 6 June 2015. http://dasplatforms.com/magazines/issue-24/how-to-read-an-interview-with-stuart-ringholt/>. 5. ibid. 6. The number of participants in each tour varies from 30–60 people. 7. Katherine Brooks, ‘Australian Museum is giving naked fans what they want – nude art tours’, in The Huffington Post, 25 March 2015, accessed 6 June 2015 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/25/ nude-art-tours-james-turrell_n_6934476.html>. 8. Monica Tan, ‘Skinny-dipping in the void: the day I toured James Turrell’s art show naked’, in The Guardian, Thursday 2 April, 2015, accessed 6 June 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/ artanddesign/2015/apr/02/skinny-dipping-in-the-void-the-day-i-toured-james-turrells-art-shownaked>. 9. Dorothea von Hantelmann, ‘The Experiential Turn’, in On Performativity, Walker Living Collections Catalogue, accessed 6 June 2015, <http://www.walkerart.org/collections/publications/ performativity/experiential-turn/>. 10. Jil Hogan, ‘The National Gallery announces its first ever naked tours’, in The Canberra Times, March 16 2015, accessed 6 June 2015. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-life/the-national-gallery-announces-its-firstever-naked-tours-20150316-1m0f0b.html>.
Stuart Ringholt, Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults Only.), 2011-ongoing. Artist talk, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, January 2012. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane. Opposite page: Julia Robinson, Rutting creature 1, 2015, approx 200 x 90 x 60cm, flywire, fibreglass, fabric, thread, wire, foam padding, timber, buttons, plaster, fixings. Photograph: James Field. Image courtesy of the artist and GAGPROJECTS | Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, SA.
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Dancing and Dying
LISA SLADE In Corlata in northern Romania, not far from Ukraine, there lingers a new-year ritual where individuals don deer masks and antlers, and, for several days, repeat a performance of ceremonial dancing and dying. This custom of relinquishing the old and inducing the new, simply called Cerbul (‘stag’ in Romanian), was among the last of the European festivals documented by Charles Fréger for his Wilder Mann series of photographs published in 2012. Half-human and half-beast, the slain and surviving symbolic stag signals to an abiding atavism – a tendency to revert to archetype and to our ancestors. Artist Julia Robinson believes that this atavism can be found in us all. Just like the conjoined human/animal Cerbul, the work and world of Julia Robinson is one where the grafting of the new and the old, the real and the imagined, the human and the animal and the dancing and the dying all coalesce. This hybridising can be readily seen in Rutting creature 1, where the uncharacteristically polite and vertical coital dance of the deer is also a dance with death, as the animals transform into a domestic apparatus complete with the adornment of a lampshade-like covering. And there is something deeply amusing and downright bawdy about all this. We respond like teens apprehending the absurdity of sex for the first time. We are amused, beguiled and left wanting more. The sateen tailored fabrics and meticulously stitched draperies render the scene a strangely papal one – this primal scene carries the scent (frankincense?) of a heavily ritualised performance. In Rutting creature 2 we sense the quivering hind legs of the stag in spite of the partial concealment of the beasts under fabric (a clever Surrealist device). More than cloth, the golden covering is like a vestment from a sacred order, reserved it seems for a particular type of liturgical dancing. In this marriage of the carnal and the ceremonial we are reminded of Robinson’s own words when she describes her work as an attempt to ‘evoke both the domestic and the barbaric’. For Robinson it is ‘this push and pull between gentility and brutality that both spurs [her] on and stays [her] hand.’ Robinson conjures her beasts into being by shaping fine wire into a naturalistic armature over which fabric flesh is sewn. There is no casting, no mould and no model. They emerge from inchoate materials to possess their own pagan power. Sometimes the handcrafted is conjoined with found objects, as in the case of earlier works, such as Marrow and Legs Eleven, with the latter now held in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection. As Robinson explains: The game of substituting parts becomes a process of material surgery. Using found or fabricated objects in lieu of body parts, I become a sort of butcher, slicing off bits deemed irrelevant or redundant. Branches, poles or chairs may stand in for limbs, and body parts are rounded off to smooth nubs, as the figurative form dissolves and is subsumed by foreign elements. These new components are in a state of material make-believe – mimicking the thing they replace, yet still retaining their authority and identity as discrete objects. 30 | BROADSHEET | Winter 2015
This game of substitution frequently leads to visual puns, as in the case of Garland, where an ornamental gourd screams phallic power and virility and offers itself, somewhat suggestively, to be worn. Encircled with heavy bells (another visual quip) Garland generates sound, signalling the arrival of its wearer. Bells appear frequently in pagan rituals – protective devices thought to drive away evil with sound. But more than talismanic, this work in its perverse sexuality is gently mocking. In Death admires you a digital clock adorned with a tiny skeleton becomes a contemporary vanitas. The appearance of this figure of death, hand carved from lime wood and complete with scythe, underscores death’s role as the inevitable counterpoint to fecundity. While reminiscent of Ricky Swallow’s 2005 life-size sculpture, The Exact Dimensions of Staying Behind (also held in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection), Robinson’s work has more in common with its sixteenth-century Habsburg antecedent known as Tödlein. Meticulously crafted from pear wood and placed among other marvels in princely cabinets of curiosities, the diminutive Tödlein represented the possibility of resurrection and hope. With the name, Tödlein, translating to mean ‘little death’, the figures offer a further entendre in the allusion to a sexual or orgasmic state. Here humour returns – with the tiny grimacing figure, powerless in scale, and its incongruous steed taking the form of a plastic alarm clock, Robinson invites us to laugh back at death, at time and ultimately at ourselves. Humour, for Robinson, is another weapon in her arsenal. Like the ladders, brooms and bread, seen recently in Dark Heart, the 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, humour is apotropaic, possessing the power to avert bad luck and turn away evil. Through this now signature process of hyper-crafting creatures and animating dormant objects, Robinson exhumes our animism – and our animalism – and in doing so she resurrects our relationship with nature. This relationship, fraught and vulnerable in the twenty-first century, is also announced through the enigmatic exhibition title, One to rot and one to grow. Drawn from a mid-nineteenth century agrarian parable, wherein the farmer is cautioned to allow for the exigencies of nature, the folklore cautions the farmer when sowing his seeds to allow one for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot, one to grow. It’s tempting to read Robinson’s work (and the attendant exhibition title) as a critique of our current abuses of nature and our failure to heed its warnings. In our selfabsorption and vanity, have we failed to protect ourselves from nature, from ourselves and ultimately from annihilation? Robinson’s work avoids such doomsday declarations. By summoning the ceremonial, the arcane and perhaps most crucially, the comedic, Robinson’s rutting creatures call on us to celebrate the continuity and inevitability of both dancing and dying. This essay has been reproduced from the publicaton Julia Robinson: one to rot and one to grow, 2015, Contemporary Art Centre of SA, Adelaide.
HERE&NOW15:sculpture in an ever-expanding field
ROBERT COOK Despite (briefly) attending the opening of HERE&NOW15: sculpture in an ever-expanding field with a sickening post-aura migraine head, I’m confident that my more vital impressions of it are mostly accurate. What hit me first was the healthy cross-section of the WA arts community making up the brimming crowd, and their buoyant feeling of pride and celebration. And I’m pretty sure that in the speech the words ‘the necessity of artists’ were spoken, or stressed without them actually being said, and that (not necessarily therefore, but therefore anyway) I think I was not just mute witness to opening good times but to something larger: to the expressive manifestation of a rolling WA artist-centric momentum at the third of Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery’s annual, thematic group shows of contemporary WA practice. The confidence in the air was that of artist people being taken seriously (and not just those in the show, but as a collective). And it was only natural that it (the air!) resonated with the immoderate alto hum of folks easeful in the potential flowering of their cross-generational ambitions and, as far as they can anywhere, their prospering… maybe momentarily, maybe longer than that, but prospering nonetheless. On a poetically concrete level, this prospering (suddenly, an awkwardly elongated word already belonging to another time, another century, a world of heirlooms and engagement rings) was embodied in the most unexpected of ways – a line of people waiting to go into AbdulRahman Abdullah’s The Accidental Traveller (2013-2015). The nightclub line vibe of Ian Strange’s recent ‘dark-room’ show at FORM aside, I’ve never seen that in Perth. And this extraordinary fact evidenced an honest desire to ‘see’, that in itself (and categorically) signifies success in the visual arts and neatly summed up the enthusiasm that abounded elsewhere. And yet I think, at exactly the same time, the line, and without in any way undermining the chipper opening surface, also, and equally unexpectedly, signalled the deeper tenor that underwrote the show. Abdullah’s work is a long hallway (but from the outside it has a cratelike appearance) and is based on the artist’s childhood one. Inside is a taxidermied cat, a chair, and a Lynchian-industrial soundscape. This haunted oddness played off, intentionally, against the pragmatic exterior. As an activated entity it beautifully pitched the here and now (of the show’s title) against the absent and gone (crowd members being made invisible, lost in an unknown space, becoming hauntings themselves maybe). The momentary loss of opening night folks saw the work both symbolise and lurch against visibility and spectacle and the cohesion of a professional body in high spirits. In doing so, it structurally summed up the interplay of presence and absence that was, for me, what the show (curated by Andrew Purvis) was fundamentally about. That this should be present as a clearly wrought structure is perfectly natural given the show’s titular nod back to Rosalind Krauss’s own Structuralist diagrammatic argumentations.
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, The Accidental Traveller, 2013-2015, timber, brass fittings, 240V lighting, sound component. Image courtesy of the artist and the Constantine Family Foundation.
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Above: David Brophy, high line, 2014, two man tent, fixings, 105 x 345 x 300 cm. Photograph: Bo Wong. Image courtesy of the artist. Right: Rebecca Baumann, Light Event, 2015, Dichroic film, theatre spotlights, dimensions variable. Photograph: Bo Wong. Image courtesy of the artist and Starkwhite. P. 34: Alistair Rowe, Support Acts, 2015, installation, dimensions variable. Photograph: Bo Wong. Image courtesy of the artist. P. 34: Shannon Lyons, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m always looking around (youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re always looking away), 2015, exsisting gallery lights, bronze, vinyl, polymer plaster, ink, blu-tak, MDF and acrylic paint, dimensions variable. Photograph: Bo Wong. Image courtesy of the artist.
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VCA School of Art
Live your art The School of Art offers undergraduate, graduate coursework and research higher degrees in Drawing and Printmedia, Painting, Photography, and Sculpture and Spatial Practice. As a student you will be guided by some of Australia’s most progressive art Melanie Irwin, Master of Fine Arts (Visual Art), Distension (Assembly) 2013.
educators and respected artists within a creative learning environment. Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Art) Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) (Visual Art) Graduate Certificate in Visual Art Master of Contemporary Art Master of Fine Arts (Visual Art) by Research Find out more at Open Day ZO570111
Sunday 16 August, 10am-4pm
Left: Matt Mullican, Video still from an untitled live performance at the Haus de Kunst, Munich, 2011. Right: Richard Grayson, Nothing Can Stop Us Now, video still, 2014.
SPEECH ACTS Matt Mullican | Richard Grayson curated by Wes Hill 8 September - 9 October
UTS GALLERY L4, 702 Harris St Ultimo NSW Mon–Fri 12–6pm art.uts.edu.au
Whilst on opening night my take on all this was merely intuited, it cohered when I went back with full vision on a rainy Saturday. I gave my bag to the grey haired guy at the desk and while he talked to Pony, walked around, taking phoners, tapping notes. Then Tanya Lee, who is Pony’s friend and one of the artists in the show, came up; she was surrounded by a mobile desk with room sheets on it. It (and her presence and her speaking) was her work and its intent was to tell me, and whomever else, about the exhibition. Titled The Artist is not Present  +  (2015) it was done in a super lo-fi, even tentative way that was (defiantly?) more desk girl than curator. Indeed, I think it was (via a skewing of the Andrea Fraser thing) a deliberate acting out of those distinctions and their loadedness in institutions. Either way, the performance was helpful: I now had certain facts that could underpin whatever writing thing I was doing; I had been given “value”.
My next step in the show, then, was naturally mediated by Tanya, who pointed out a room I’d overlooked at the opening. It housed a work by Jacobus Capone, I am my Mother’s Son (2015). Inside, after adjusting to a Turrell-room-like darkness, I saw two speakers on stands. Two heartbeats were being played. I felt them in my chest, my stomach, and as I felt this and was conscious of my feeling it, I rapidly refused to be in the room, making my way out by phone light with a feeling of relief, escape even. I responded to it as if I were trapped in a double chest cavity, or a womb carrying twins. Outside, Tanya explained that the beats were those of Jacobus and his mother in real time (some device involved no doubt) and that Jacobus was a ‘difficult birth’. The tension that followed was based on my anticipation of one of them stopping; this quite real fear of an awful, final absence provided a heartfelt, semiregular bass-line to the show.
However, I do admit to being defensive. My dickhead response was to perform even harder the role of ‘professional middle-aged art professional man professionally doing a professional writing thing’. This saw me looking semi-distracted, like I was listening, but also like I was not that interested, like I was having my own thoughts. Pathetically, it gave me momentary agency. Of course, my struggle was exactly what the work was about: it was an embodiment of the power of information and how its delivery doesn’t simply open up works but creates relationships within the exhibition space that are inseparable from the works themselves. This is, it was ‘about’ the transformation of visitors into ‘exhibition and post-exhibition subjects’, some of them happy, some not, some resistant, some totally willing, but subjected all the same. Additionally, and like Abdul-Rahman’s work, Lee’s performance staged a highly active missingness; it brought into being a set of stories and explanations and details I’d either not had the space yet to find for myself or that I would never find, and this was the discursive framing device for the show. In doing so, she provided the ‘missing’ info (that she herself kind of constructed as missing) – the ways we could encounter works and how we might appreciate them – and so she did this in such a way as to present the missingness of the info as a thing with a spatial and interpersonally-thickened quality all its own.
This weight was countered by a work, Light Event (2015), by Rebecca Baumann located directly opposite Capone’s piece at the sets of glass doors that create the gallery’s air lock. I can’t recall what Tanya had to say about this; maybe I just asked if Baumann’s work was ‘over there’, and she said ‘yes’. Anyway, it was a tinting applied to the glass that filtered references to the Farnsworth and Philip Johnson houses, bringing their far-away forms into the gallery along with their notions of the transparent modern subject, and other more oblique ideas of ‘lenses in landscapes’ that the American James Welling made his own riffs about. Through these tropes, Baumann’s work amplified the feeling and sensation of between-ness, the flows of connection and separation, and more generally, the idea of mediation, of being and looking from and through some-place and this place being a gallery at the point that it separates itself from the outside world by creating its own distinct (and stable) environment. As such, the work trucks in the ultra-specific, and nods, by way of a sensory historicisation, to the modernist myths that frame her intervention as an artistic and conceptual strategy that bridges the past with this exact, ongoing present. In this, it was a piece that also generated its own friction, producing a kind of mid-century, northern-hemispheric drag in a way as a pert, late non-cloying, centreperiphery encounter.
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Such specifics took a different turn in David Brophy’s work high line (2015): an upside-down tent hanging on the ceiling. As we stood under it, Tanya’s verbal note was that it was meant to function as a nonobvious metaphor for the sensation of surfing. It was, therefore, a tricky embodiment of a combo-idea the moving water creating a little (tent) cavern to cling to before it swings you and your imaginary tent over (somewhere you become the tent itself, or the tent is your body, and the vacant inside is your soul etc., etc.). And here and now, we have the imaginary presence of experience, what we recall of being in waves etc., and its necessary absence that enacts a rippling associative idealism, a perfect one-ness, and the flashing multitude of a precarious balancing tent bubble which doesn’t exist ‘for-itself ’. It was an idea as light as the tent fibre and as heavy as gravity but it left me with the feeling that perhaps the work is simply the demonstration of my credulity, my willingness to lay my guard down, stop fighting the earth’s tug and find and or manufacture a work of the thing we call, by mutual consent, art. And as such it was, as per Baumann, a discrete historical manoeuvre that wound a path back to the imagined, mythic Duchampian moment, when the first person gave in, quasi-erotically I’m sure, and went with the proposition. Again, it was an act of freedom and an act of being bound to an idea, and act of being ‘subject to’ and ‘subject for’. A here-and-elsewhere-ness was also at the core of Loren Kronemeyer’s The Social Sculpture Network (2015), sticky gallery labels with instructions to do this or that and textual encouragement to take photos of the doing that would be then posted online. On this occasion, her Erwin Wurm meets social space gesture activated my refusal of performance reflex. I could blame it on my unwillingness to ‘deal with’ instructional art, but I think it was a desire, again, to adopt a pose of remove that was at play, to not join in, to not participate in light of the other claims on my subject. Yet I don’t rule out something else: maybe the label held no fulfillment, maybe the label ‘as question’ was all there was, and the work was really about framing my (because right now I am all people, all viewers, humanity entire) uncomfortable neediness about pleasing and simultaneous pleasure in not. Maybe it too was a question about freedom - its possibility/probability, its impossibility/improbability. The most overtly (and paradoxically) commanding room was that inhabited by Alastair Rowe’s and Shannon Lyon’s works. Rowe’s Support Acts (2015) took the centre. They were sculptures on low plinths, and the objects were steel armatures, geometric, Meccano-ish with various glass plates, slotted not fixed. Seen as a whole, it was an act of choreography and David Leavitt’s wonderful The Lost Language of Cranes (1986) leapt to mind, a pared-back gesturing of biggish, mute-ish phallic-ish things. To me, it was building-boom lyrical expressionism, the creation of a world where building bigger and more is not an act of ego, but of the will to fuse one ego with other, one lumbrous body with another. A nice fantasy indeed. These people-sized, skyline-throbbings were ghost-framed by Shannon Lyons’ I’m always looking around you (you’re always looking away) (2015), that were illuminations (courtesy of the gallery’s lighting system) of 2D art works not present. The works not present were from the UWA Collection and the light shapes on the wall corresponded to the outer perimeter of the works. Though a study in absence, detail (according to Tanya) was important: blank labels were placed nearby, and the custom-made wall plugs were situated where they would go in relation to where the actual D latches might sit), and the missing works’ titles were available on the room sheet (that was also a plan of the space). All of this foregrounded the labour of the loss, and an obsessive regard for demonstrating this labour. The ‘art’ was not simply in the imagining of the absent art works, but the imagining of the diligence it took to make the work (undercut and emotionally tinged by the logically awkward fact
that only the works were seen fit to light, not the walls themselves, which fade into the background as Hillary Whitney-esque unsung heroes). It became a portrait of a behind-the-scenes busy-ness that I think doesn’t only celebrate the (very pale, lavender) blue-collar side of gallery life, but is a bigger statement about the significance of exhibitions as such, and the gallery as a mythical pleasure and meaning and power giving and generating and receiving entity in its true entirety. And in this there is something less pragmatic and more romantic (in a courtly sense) about the approach, an act of simultaneous artist-amplifying and artistnegating deference, not rebellion as I might have initially thought. And that I guess is my set of feelings and intuitions about the structure of the show (of which much else is laid over, that I’ve not addressed). It was a series of openings around presence, absence, the here and the ‘associative away’, that I believe accurately maps out the true flows of WA art as being not a thing of and for WA only, and therefore a thing that is not special simply because of its WA-ness. In this mode, curator Andrew Purvis has performed a site-specific sculpture itself (expanding his everexpanding field) as an exhibitionistic-exhibition structured on the flip between overt display and overt non-display. Its binary evasiveness came alive in order to produce a refreshed take on post-figurative sculpture in WA, which is based in, but not ground down by, the local… because the local, where it is brought into being as a category of experience and encounter, is simply a point on a line, an atom in space amongst the other atoms, that is in a million or more ceaseless relationships… and, either way, is a thing opaque and unknowable, maybe, anyway. Given this, this show cannot, in fact, be seen as a celebration of the local, but a complexification of it, which is the best thing for artists and everyone long term, as we move (collectively) away from boosterism towards more subtle, grounded and persuasive engagements. And in addition, the idea of being subject to the show was, I feel, a mode of assertiveness in this regard, not simply examples of beyondformalist, creative activity. It heightened the exhibition’s presence, its real drama (as a thing to be struggled with and against, as I did), and its intent to shape not simply reflect (a scene, an arena, a visitor etc). It also perhaps indicated, or acted out, the notion that WA-ness itself is a subject position, as random, as positive, as limiting, as insistent, and barely-there, as throw-offable and (in my experience as possible to resist whilst positively remaining) as anything else. I know, though, that in saying this, my take on the show’s structure is indeed further fetishising the local itself. I know it was not Andrew’s intention to do so, because when I rang him (in a septically depressed mood) to say that I was not reviewing his show but cannibalising it (as a curator and not as a writer, finding my own show in it, my own concerns), he said that it is about WA by eligibility only. Still, in response to my fetishising here (and maybe such gestures by others), I think that the absences staged in the show might be seen as strategies to evade being pinned down in such a way. Indeed, it’s as if the absences are akin to those haiku elements that Barthes wrote about in Empire of Signs, pockets of relief from metaphor and meaning, thingnesses-withoutmeta-nesses. So, yes, in a culture where the WA-factor has become a pulsing-entity of enormous, if not oppressive, debate, these artists and their curator have succeeded in shifting its parameters with a maturity that is quite remarkable.
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University Collections curating and collaborating researching and documenting engaging the community presenting events enhancing university experience supporting university values
With its illustrious history, the University of Adelaide holds over 40 collections which form in effect a decentralised museum with many branches and facets. We share our collections with the public through a dynamic program of cultural activities and invite you to register for electronic invitations and see what we are up to: firstname.lastname@example.org www.adelaide.edu.au
image Smith Elder & Co Physiological diagram The Organs of the Senses, Plate 1, 1876 photograph: Catherine Buddle
Image: Sophie Green, Distil, Condensed respiratory vapour in glass bottle, 25 x 10 x10cm, 2014, James Field Photography
JULY 2015 SOPHIE GREEN THRESHOLD
EUGENIUSZ LIPCZYK CONSTRUCTIS Opening: 1st July Running: 2nd - 18th
AUGUST 2015 LOUISE HASELTON CHRISTINE COLLINS CACSA CONTEMPORARY 2015 Opening: 29th July Running: 30th July - 22nd August
SEPTEMBER 2015 ELIZABETH HETZEL, OLGA SANKEY, SALLY ARNOLD, REBECCA BIRCH, MARY GOOD LIGHTHOUSEKEEPING Opening: 2nd September Running: 3rd - 19th
Wed 1pm - 4pm Thur 1pm - 4pm Fri 1pm - 7pm Sat 10am - 4pm 12 Compton Street Adelaide 5000 www.feltspace.org email@example.com
The Constructions of Photography: five South Australian artists CHRIS REID In his 2014 biopic Mr Turner, director Mike Leigh shows how the painter JMW Turner was intrigued by the invention of photography and commissioned a portrait photograph. Although photographic techniques that emerged in Turner’s era were primitive, their potential for recording visual information was revolutionary. The ability of artists to manipulate photographic imagery emerged at about the same time. In his exhibition East Antarctica 1915,1 Ian North showed photographs of the Antarctic seascape, to which he had added drawings of World War I ships and submarines grounded or sinking amongst icebergs, above which fly zeppelins and biplanes. The resulting composite images suggest fictional conflicts in the Antarctic Ocean. North made the seascape images on a 2012 trip celebrating Douglas Mawson’s 19111914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. In an exhibition floor talk he cited the photographer Frank Hurley, the Mawson expedition’s photographer, as an influence on his work. While North’s photographs offer homage to Hurley and Mawson, the additional hand-drawn imagery triggers wide interpretation. Drawings on photographic prints collide and implicitly compare two fundamental
forms of image-making that have proceeded in parallel since the invention of photography. They also aggregate two forms of conception: optical registration and imagination. At a distance, the hand-drawn imagery appears as part of the original photograph, but up close, the artist’s intervention becomes clear. By taking an un-retouched and thus ‘authentic’ seascape image and hand drawing the additional imagery, he establishes a metaphor for human action generally. The altered seascape implicitly condemns human intervention in any environment. Had he Photoshopped the entire work instead, the resulting pictures might have seemed entirely fanciful and would have lacked the impact of these works. As Mawson’s trip was of the same era as World War I and the exhibition coincides with Australia’s celebration of the Gallipoli centenary, North is acknowledging two significant threads in Australia’s history and dramatically juxtaposing them. The sinking ships comment on both the futility of war and the potential for failure of expeditions in a hostile environment. The imagery is not to scale, the ships appearing dwarfed by the ice, reminding us that nature will prevail over human endeavour. By layering military equipment over scenes that might be attributed
James Tylor, Te Aoraki, Aotearoa (Mount Cook, New Zealand), DeCookolisation (series), 2015, becquerel daguerreotype, 4 x 5 in. Image courtesy of the artist and GAGPROJECTS | Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, SA.
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to Hurley, North notes how such equipment is often left to decay long after the battle is over, as is now occurring in the Middle East, Ukraine and elsewhere. And in photographing the Antarctic waters, North is obliquely commenting on the colonisation of Antarctica and Australia’s role in that process. In earlier work, such as Pseudo panorama. Cazneaux series: no 2 ‘Far flung ranges of the Finders’ (1988), North painted additional features onto collages of landscape photographs and photographs of other paintings that were appropriated to comment on the concepts of landscape and colonisation.2 James Tylor’s work also addresses colonisation, but in a more confrontational manner. In his Un-resettling (dwellings) series of handcoloured black and white digital prints (2013), he shows images of Indigenous huts in national parks, as if to recolonise those areas. He indicates in the accompanying text how Indigenous people are prevented from practising their traditional culture in national parks, contrary to the park publicity that implies that Indigenous people retain a connection to these areas.3 In using images of imaginary settlements to posit the possibility of such settlements, he declares an aspiration: that Indigenous people might one day be permitted to practise their culture on their traditional lands. It’s the huts that are hand-coloured, as if marked with a highlighter pen, drawing attention to the forms that might be built by Indigenous people should they be permitted to do so. By contrast, Tylor’s DeCookolisation (2015) comprises a series of becquerel daguerreotypes rather than digital prints.4 In this body of work, he displays photographs of regions named after the explorer James Cook, noting that these regions had already been ‘discovered’ before being claimed and named by the British, and renames them in
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traditional terms, thus reappropriating them. This theme is not new, but Tylor’s work reminds us that the issues of ownership and naming remain unresolved. There is also an element of personal disclosure, as Tylor chooses the locations to map his Aboriginal, European and Maori descent onto Australasia’s colonial past. Tylor’s use of the daguerreotype can be seen as a device for locating the imagery historically. The development of photography coincided with a period of colonisation during which the photograph symbolised ownership and was used to document Indigenous Australian and Maori culture. He notes that photography has long been considered a tool of the colonising process and of anthropology.5 Significantly, Tylor’s DeCookolisation daguerreotypes are not photographs of the landscape but photos of photos. Evidently he ‘discovered’ the images he chose for DeCookolisation on the Internet and appropriated them without seeking the copyright holders’ permission. He thus uses appropriation ironically to question the concept of ownership, whether of land, property or copyright. The assumption of a position of superiority that characterises the photographer in relation to the photographic subject also applies to the coloniser and the appropriator – observation as active rather than passive. A finished daguerreotype is a unique physical object, an image on glass, but Tylor has rephotographed his DeCookolisation daguerreotypes for display via the Internet, thus creating photos of photos of photos and further disrupting the idea of the ‘original’ image and its ownership. His work (as with that of other artists) can itself be further appropriated, manipulated and reinterpreted, and might thus be seen as a potentially transient stage in the endless flow of visual stimuli through electronic
transmission, mediation and reception that is characteristic of contemporary media. Tylor’s series These are our Objects (2015) comprise daguerreotype images of drug-use paraphernalia, displayed on small wooden shelves that add a kind of homely feel.6 In this body of work, he bravely declares his former addiction to warn others of the potential harm addiction can cause. However, Tylor’s ‘objects’ are not the treasured mementoes typical of framed daguerreotype subject matter. Instead, his objects are tragically abject, for example a packet of white powder or a pipe improvised from a plastic bottle. Because they implicitly overwrite the kinds of family or landscape subjects often found within such photoframes, they convey the despairing addict’s misplaced affections. Aurelia Carbone uses another early photographic technique, the ambrotype wet collodian process to photograph theatrical scenes she constructs using toy models. These fairy-tale scenes in the series the unspeakable horror at tea time (2013) for example, appear superficially cute but are charged with tension, as bizarre characters that resemble
children’s toys act out surreal dramas.7 She also creates anamorphic constructs and then photographs them, as in her honest magic series (2012), producing works that show how easy it is to deceive the eye, or rather, how vision works.8 In her collaborative installation i saw a dream like this (with Tanya Schultz and Alex Bishop-Thorpe, 2013), viewers were invited to be photographed within an anamorphic array of coloured rocks, which when seen from the correct viewing position, created a rainbow around their heads, the viewers becoming the subjects of this relational artwork. These images were made using a Polaroid camera, producing objects for consumption whose uniqueness and commodity nature parallels that of the daguerreotype and ambrotype.9 Carbone’s miniature tableaux draw viewers into fantasy worlds that subtly allegorise human psychology and social interaction. Viewers of her anamorphic works might recall Hans Holbein’s painting, The Ambassadors (1533), in which an anamorphic image of a skull bisects the lower part of a portrait of two gentlemen posing with their backs to an array of scientific instruments. Carbone’s work gently inverts that painting’s vanitas character.
Mark Kimber, Side Show Valley, 2014, 50 x 50cm, pigment print. Image courtesy of the artist, and Stills Gallery, Sydney. Opposite page: Ian North, East Antarctica 1915 no. 11, 2015, 55 x 148cm, charcoal on inkjet pigment print, unique work. Image courtesy of the artist, and GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide.
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unmediated and the fixed position has a crucial effect, for it enables close examination of the actor’s sequence of action. In her videos she is an actor playing out roles that are caricatures or tropes of characteristic human behaviour. Weave me into your flesh before you go (2015), shown in Performance Presence/Video Time, is a video of Harris washing a bronze sculpture of an angel (which forms part of a monument in North Adelaide to two nineteenth- century South Australian colonial pioneers, JH and GF Angas). Appearing to be enacting a religious ritual, she climbs into the angel’s arms and lies as if cradled by a mother figure, a mother who cannot respond to her. In her Jump (for my love) (2012), we see her standing on a footbridge over a creek, as if contemplating jumping and then doing so. She finally lies in the creek, the sequence suggesting a misdirected suicide attempt involving an Ophelia-like drowning in water too shallow for drowning; she thus acts the role of being drowned. The footage of the jump itself is reversed and replayed several times in slow motion, exaggerating the spectacle of the crucial moment. Harris’s work parodies human behaviour to challenge stereotypes and societal conventions. Her expression is always deadpan as she plays out each role, limiting our emotional engagement and emphasising the ritualistic nature of the action. While we watch dispassionately, we can place ourselves in her position and see our own behaviour as equally ludicrous. Again, we see the constructed photographic image, and her work recalls Cindy Sherman’s art, as well as live performance art.
In his Side-Show Valley (2014) series Mark Kimber photographs figurines, whose appropriated features and implied action, under vivid lighting, create haunting effects.10 These sinister-looking characters suggest neurosis or psychosis – projections of our own fears, uncertainties and dreams. In a catalogue essay, Ann Marsh notes that Kimber is referencing cinema and photographers such as Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon.11 Kimber’s characters are proxies for us – we are no longer looking at outsiders, as we might be when looking at Arbus’s work, but at avatars representing ourselves. By referencing characters that are familiar from popular culture, Kimber reminds us that our fears and nightmares are neither unique to us nor original. There is a flavour of David Lynchian surrealism in both Carbone’s and Kimber’s explorations of the psyche. Kimber’s Chemical Moon (2013) series is a set of photographs that resembles dramatic landscapes, but which were created using studio models lit for theatrical effect and photographed using a camera with a Diana lens for low-grade resolution.12 He indicates in his catalogue essay his interest in the way movie sets mimic immensity and in the necessity of cinema viewers’ suspension of disbelief. The Chemical Moon landscapes are a projection of imagination and memory and suggest the sublime, but are clearly fictional and thus comment more on how contemporary culture is constructed than on the idea or effect of landscape imagery. A sample of Ray Harris’s videos was included in the AEAF’s Performance Presence/Video Time survey exhibition of performance art (2015), and her work is primarily in the performance art tradition. But her videos are usually shot from a fixed position and the stationary viewing position suggests the still photograph. Each performance is in that sense
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The artworks employ a variety of forms of tableau image-making to create theatrical moments embodying powerful symbolism. The work is not about recording a moment in time photographically, but about the carefully considered portrayal of complex issues. The aesthetic in contemporary photography lies in the elegance of the artist’s contrivance and the power of the issues raised. Which brings to mind JMW Turner’s 1840 painting Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On).
ENDNOTES 1. Shown at Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, 1–26 April 2015. 2. Collection of the Art Gallery of NSW: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/ works/181.2010.1/>, accessed 23 May 2015. 3. http://www.jamestylor.com/un-resettling-dwellings.html, accessed 21 May 2015. 4. Shown at Stills Gallery, Sydney, 6 May–6 June 2015 http://www.jamestylor.com/decookolisation. html, accessed 22 May 2015. 5. ibid. 6. Shown at Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, 1–26 April 2015. 7. http://aureliacarbone.com/unspeakablehorror.php#_self, accessed 22 May 2015. 8. http://www.aureliacarbone.com/honestmagic.php, accessed 22 May 2015. 9. In Arte Magra: From the opaque, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, 2013. 10. http://www.markkimber.net/sideshowvalley.html, accessed 21 May 2015. 11. http://www.markkimber.net/sideshowvalleyCE.html, accessed 21 May 2015. 12. http://www.markkimber.net/chemicalmoonCE.html, accessed 24 May 2015. Ian North, Aurelia Carbone, Mark Kimber and Ray Harris are showing work in CACSA Contemporary 2015. James Tylor is showing work in Penumbral Tales, curated by Mark Kimber, at Flinders University Art Museum, 18 July–20 September.
Aurelia Carbone, The Guest, 2013, 12.5 x 10 cm, ruby ambrotype. Image courtesy of the artist. Opposite page: Ray Harris, Weave me into your flesh before you go, 2015, digital video (still). Image courtesy of the artist.
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August @ NCCArt Rambangi / Together as equals 7 August to 5 September 2015
BARAYUWA Munungurr, RUARK Lewis, BENGITJ Ngurruwuthun & JEFFREY Ngurruwuthun Opening: Thursday 6 August, 3pm An exploration of the cultural poetics and politics of the homeland movement through a collaborative installation-based project involving 3 custodians of the Yarrinya site (a saltwater estate in Blue Mud Bay, north-east Arnhem Land) and a Sydney-based artist. Presented in association with Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala & the Darwin Festival 2015. Ruark Lewis, from the ‘Construction’ series of photographs, with Barayuwa constructing a seasonal bark shelter; image courtesy the artist
Vimy Lane, Parap, Darwin
broadsheet ad June July August015N2.indd 1
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3/06/2015 9:50 am
Image: Michelle Nikou, Sylvia’s jumper, 2013. From the upcoming SASA Gallery exhibition, CACSA Contemporary 2015.
June – September 2015 Marzha/Borders Khadim Ali Kubra Khademi Hamed Hasanzade Mohsen Hosseini
Curated by Elyas Alavi
11 June – 16 July
Tuesday – Friday 9am – 5pm
Collecting Convergences Lilly Buttrose
A participant in
6 August – 3 September Tuesday – Friday 9am – 5pm
Nexus Artist in Residence Program
Beyond Identity FX Harsono Curated by Rayleen Forester
Nexus Arts Corner of North Terrace and Morphett Street Adelaide SA 5000
nexusarts.org.au P. 08 8212 4276 F. 08 8212 3276
10 September – 1 October Tuesday – Friday 9am – 5pm
CACSA MONOGRAPH SERIES N E W
J U L I A
R E L E A S E
2 0 1 5 :
R O B I N S O N
one to rot and one to grow The CACSA publishes a series of artist monographs focusing on South Australian visual artists. Our new publication One to rot and one to grow coincides with Julia Robinson’s solo presentation at CACSA during June 2015. This limited edition monograph, which is the first comprehensive overview of Robinson’s practice, features texts by Lisa Slade, Assistant Director of Artistic Programs, Art Gallery of South Australia and Logan Macdonald, CACSA Curator. Julia Robinson | One to rot and one to grow ISBN 978-1-1875751-10-3 RRP: $10.00 A5 soft cover, 48 pages with colour images. Published June 2015
Other artist monographs in the series include: - Paul Hoban: Paintskin Survey - Louise Haselton: Errand Workshop - James Dodd: Sabotage To order copies, visit www.cacsa.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call on (08) 8272 2682
THE CONTEMPORARY ART CENTRE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INC. 14 PORTER STREET PARKSIDE SA 5063 T +61 (08) 82722682 W www.cacsa.org.au
Getting things done: Western Australian artists at Fontanelle, Adelaide GEMMA WESTON For nearly twenty years Doug Sheerer, former director of one of Perth’s top tier commercial galleries, Galerie Dusseldorf, has attached a fairly idiosyncratic signature to his emails, a stack of coloured forward and backslashes followed by a short line of lowercase text: always more steps to climb. Sheerer developed a unit named ‘Interactive Computer Image Processing’ in the mid 1990s for what is now called the School of Design and Art at Curtin University and adopted the ASCII-inspired signature to remind sender and receiver that, ‘if you don’t keep creatively pushing onwards and upwards you go backwards.’1 Ironically, representation by Galerie Dusseldorf and the biennial solo exhibition that it entailed sufficed as a career pinnacle for many of the Western Australian artists who would have received Sheerer’s emails, so the announcement in 2012 that Galerie Dusseldorf would close after 30 years of operation sent tremors of panic through Perth’s population of more senior artists. 2011 and 2012 saw a total of four of Perth’s contemporary art dealers close their doors. In relatively quick succession, the inner-city Goddard de Fiddes and North Fremantle neighbours Perth Galleries and Gallery East cited retirement age, a depressed market, or changes to selfmanaged superannuation laws, leaving close to 100 artists outside wellestablished comfort zones relatively late in their careers. This swift redesign of Perth’s artistic landscape shadows Shannon Lyons’ work for Getting things done, an exhibition by four ‘early career’ Western Australian artists – Lyons, Dan Bourke, Teelah George and Jacob Ogden Smith – at Adelaide’s Fontanelle Gallery in late June 2015. Getting things done takes as its central focus the periphery of artistic practice, the invisible but not immaterial work of installation, administration, documentation, or in Ogden Smith’s case the DIY projects of domestic life. This territory is familiar for Lyons, who has long foregrounded in her work the specific architecture and infrastructure of ‘host’ exhibition spaces, but Getting things done marks an interesting deviation. Rather than responding to the Fontanelle space, Lyons has instead chosen to recreate Sheerer’s email signature in Adelaide as a wall-sized mural. ‘Getting things done’ is a close cousin to ‘always more steps to climb’ – less aspirational, more pragmatic, suggesting an optimistic resignation to the ongoing slog of work. It is, in fact, the title of ‘work-life management philosophy’ trademarked by management ‘guru’ David Allen – a holistic means to success ‘in the game of work and the business of life’.2 GTD™ involves removing tasks from the mind by ‘externalising’ them as lists, breaking them down into smaller, ‘actionable’ units. Allen’s five steps towards realising a ‘mind like water’ and ‘applying order to chaos’ read in their efficient vagueness, as though they could also apply to the development of an artwork or exhibition: 1: Capture, collect what has your attention; 2: Clarify, process what it means, 3: Organise, put it where it belongs, 4: Reflect, review frequently, 5: Engage – simply do.
The evocation of GTD™’s new-agey behavioural science and productivity rubric draws the artistic labour of Getting things done into dialogue with a broader system of late-capitalist professionalism. However, the exhibition is less an exercise in mimicking the language and iconography of corporate work than it is an examination of the combination of physical, intellectual, and ‘white-collar’ administrative labour characteristic of contemporary art practice, for which the four artists use their individual practices as a microcosm. Common across each artist’s work is an insistence on material pleasure and contemplation, which works to disrupt the rhetoric of efficiency and professionalisation. Lyons’ mural, colour-matched to a redundant printout of Sheerer’s email, will translate an endlessly replicated sliver of digital correspondence into singular, real space, as though illustrating the scale of administrative labour in physical terms.3 Cut loose from its context and writ large, the san-serif text and keyboard grammar are generically, corporately motivational. But, the artist’s correspondence with Sheerer reveals the action is in fact a personal memorial to an unreached career goal – Lyons had hoped to exhibit at Galerie Dusseldorf – and an acknowledgment that Lyons’ benchmark has since been set further afield. Teelah George has worked with South Australian artist Sam Songailo to produce a large vinyl banner. The banner will hang on the gallery’s exterior, in conversation with Songailo’s existing all-over painting, as though advertising the exhibition within. The graphic it depicts is an interpretation of a found diagram titled ‘Effect of dose on taste’, ostensibly about the caffeine content of coffee but also more difficult to quantify qualities of taste and enjoyment, which may be the source of its visual ambiguity. Two coloured curves form an eye-like shape over a soft gradient framed by pink, perhaps a graph, perhaps an oversized new-age bumper sticker. Inside the gallery, George will produce one of her large-scale drawings made with blu tack, a provisional support rendered aesthetic and adhered as a field of small pieces to the gallery walls by pressure alone. The two components are conjoined opposites, setting up a conversation between the literal interior and exterior of the gallery and divisions of the physical and intellectual labour of artist and audience. The banner is a clean, impersonal broadcast, digitally and collectively produced; the blu tack is a dirty, tactile record of the artist’s physical presence. One is an enticement to meditation, the other a meditative process, used by the artist to think through the space. Dan Bourke’s 24 square monochrome paintings could be a minimalist grid if they weren’t also representational. The six shades of grey and eighteen colours are matched as closely as possible to the Macbeth ColorChecker, a standard photographer’s card used to calibrate colour.
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The ColorChecker is itself vaguely representational, with certain colours chosen to mimic human skin, flowers or foliage. Enlarged from the standard 15cm to push two metres, the colours of Bourke’s grid should vibrate with optical beauty. They should also be functional; in exhibition documentation the other artists’ works can be calibrated against it. It is an object designed with circulation and the endgame of online documentation in mind, re-enforcing the image-status of any installation views that contain it – made to be simultaneously selfeffacing and hyper visible. Jacob Ogden Smith provides a counterpoint, considering labour beyond the cultural industries. In the process of renovating a cottage on his property in the Perth hills, Ogden Smith has documented smallscale projects – installing venetian blinds, building a woodshed – as he completes them. These photographs will be printed to poster-scale, mounted onto aluminium and curved into free-standing sculptural monoliths, juxtaposed with images of uncompleted projects printed onto less structural fabric and a series of domestically sized vessels made from the property’s clay and footed with felt in ‘winter’ colours. Each group of works is a time signature, describing the work of maintaining a home as an almost Sisyphean task, while the work’s internal conversations between image, object, frame and support, locate otherwise abstract dialogues of form in immediate, lived experience. These works were developed specifically for the exhibition in response to a brief provided by George, with the inbuilt capacity to be revised, added to, or renegotiated once the artists are present in the gallery space. Despite being the instigator, George refers to Getting things done as ‘co-curated’ by the four participants; the development process has resembled a think tank more than a curated exhibition, and whilst it
has not produced direct collaborations, each has held the others’ needs in mind. George enlisted Bourke, Lyons and Ogden Smith in part due to sympathies between their practices and her own, which all examine to varying degrees the construction of value and circulation of the art object, but a key factor was also what she describes as their common ‘extra-curricular activities’. Bourke runs a Risograph printing press, Benchpress, and is the former manager of Galleria, an ARI that closed in 2013 and which Ogden Smith was also involved in setting up; Lyons, with her partner artist David Attwood, runs ‘Applecross’, a project space based in their apartment. All, including George, have taught art or worked in technical support and all have long, entwined resumes of largely self-initiated exhibitions. This scenario, in which contemporary artists generate both artwork and the context that supports it and, faced with increasing precarity, are required to continually re-negotiate their status in a variety of professional contexts, is indicative of a broader international trend and point of debate. Where artistic labour becomes the subject of practice, it is usually in critique of global capitalism’s cannibalistic tendencies. Hito Steryl describes global contemporary art’s ‘strike workers’ – a Sovietderived term for ‘superproductive, enthusiastic labor’ available in excess – as an underclass generating an ‘accelerated form of artistic production that creates punch and glitz, sensation and impact,’ for the purpose of capitalism’s beautification: ‘free labour and rampant exploitation are the invisible dark matter that keeps the cultural sector going.’4 The conception of artistic labour Getting things done is, in contrast, if not openly optimistic then at least resignedly practical. George interprets her peers’ expanded field of reference and operation as indicative of a communal generosity rather than market-driven exploitation.5
Teelah George (with Sam Songailo), Study for ‘Effect of dose on taste (full phase), 2015, dimensions variable, digital image. Image courtesy of the artists.
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FOCUS WITHOUT LIFE’S DISTRACTIONS
OPEN TO ARTISTS OF ALL DISCIPLINES
WWW.BUNDANON.COM.AU/RESIDENCIES APPLICATIONS CLOSE 6 JULY 2015
Image from The Last Time I Saw Richard by Nicholas Verso, 2013
DAVID ATTWOOD SHANNON FIELD AMBER KOROLUK-STEPHENSON 25 July – 23 August 2015
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Image: Amber Koroluk-Stephenson, Divided Living (detail) 2014 Oil on canvas, 112 x 154cm
In the same text, Steryl describes a misconception that political art must be political in subject. Instead, the politics of an artwork should be derived from ‘what it does—not what it shows.’6 This idea is extended by Anthony Huberman to consider not just what the artwork does, but also how the artist behaves: ‘Another way to look at the history of art might be to look at artists not according to the different styles, techniques, or subject-matters that characterise their work, but the different codes of conduct that guide their behavior.’7 Huberman proposes an ‘ethics of care’ that posits a gift economy amongst friends as a counterpoint to a system of capitalist competitiveness, suggesting dropping out of the big game of work in favour of maintaining smaller and more meaningful networks. Read in this light, the functionality of Bourke’s grid is an act of generosity rather than the pursuit of efficiency; George’s enlistment of Songailo is about connection rather than outsourcing; Lyons’ mural is homage and preservation, and Ogden Smith shares his pursuit of the elusive, autonomous good life. Such pragmatic positivity could perhaps result from a context where the machinations of a global art market, even a local one, are so depressed as to become entirely abstract, and where the flush of mineral wealth that has been driving Western Australia’s economy has had little benefit for contemporary artists.8 But, as Huberman’s text suggests, this ethos is far from localised, and the smaller networks he describes aren’t necessarily defined by geography. Bourke, George, Lyons and OdgenSmith have each independently described their peer group as extending far beyond their locality.9 Getting things done is happening in South rather than Western Australia due to similarities that George indentifies between the artists and Fontanelle co-directors Brigid Noone, Ben Leslie and Mary-Jean Richardson, who take a similarly proactive birds bird’s-eye view of the relationship between artist and industry. It is, in part, a mixer. Furthermore, integral to the ethos of the exhibition and the model of contemporary art practice it describes, is an in-built ability to navigate the challenges of distance; works can be ‘managed’ rather than made, or produced in-situ, rather than freighted. If it is not specific to it, the idea of an expanded community and with it an expanded and reciprocal generosity has specific benefit to Western Australia, where geographic isolation is so frequently evoked in discussion about its art. At a recent symposium, which discussed a perceived lack of Western Australian participation in national artistic discourse, where isolation was a consistent theme, a senior artist bemoaned an ascending generation’s focus on networking to the detriment of studio practice. The assumption that ‘networking’ is both dichotomous to studio practice and fundamentally without value – as well the title of the symposium itself, ‘Undiscovered’, which placed artists in a position of passivity – demonstrated that descriptions of Western Australia as a ‘two-speed economy’ have application beyond the pay-rates of boom professions. For that rising generation, local commercial representation has rarely offered viable steps to climb, even before the closure of most of its reputable dealerships, which were already past productive stable sizes. Faced with either too much or too little market intervention, you have to find other ways of getting things done.
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ENDNOTES 1. Correspondence between Douglas Sheerer and Shannon Lyons, 11-02-2015. 2. The Five Steps, www.gettingthingsdone.com. 3. At the time of writing (early June), Getting things done was still in production and planning stages. The descriptions of works are correct at time of writing, but necessarily do not take into account alterations made in the gallery. 4. Hito Steryl, Politics of ‘Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy’, 2010, e-flux journal, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/politics-of-art-contemporary-art-and-the-transitionto-post-democracy. 5. Teelah George, Steps to climb (working title): exhibition proposal, 2015. 6. ibid. 7. Anthony Huberman: HOW TO BEHAVE BETTER, 2011, The Serving Library, http://www. servinglibrary.org/. 8. The exception to this are Perth’s ‘street artists’, who have been experiencing an opportunity boom as a result of PUBLIC, an ambitious annual festival of civic beautification (scheduled for three instalments) initiated by FORM and an advocacy body for ‘creativity as a catalyst for positive change’ sponsored by principal partner BHP Billiton the state and federal governments. 9. Email conversations with the artists, April 2015.
Jacob Ogden Smith, Finished as of 19-05-2015 (Bathroom Blind), 2015, digital photograph, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist.
Learn from South Australia’s leading artists at Adelaide Central School of Art Enrol in our Bachelor of Visual Art and experience • • • • • • •
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Deferral of course fees available through FEE-HELP Mid-year enrolment available Contact the School now for further information about our courses, scholarships and exhibitions, or to arrange a tour.
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image | Julia Robinson, Please the Pig, 2014, flywire, fibreglass, fabric, thread, ribbon, ribbon sashes, plaster, star anise, string, dimensions variable. Photograph James Field.
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In the Gallery abstract | narrative 16 June – 18 July Tom Borgas, Kristian Glynn and Yve Thompson CACSA Contemporary 2015 28 July – 21 August Sasha Grbich and Sue Kneebone The Art of Medicine 29 August – 25 September in partnership with Doctor’s Health SA Contemporary Indigenous Art 6 October – 30 October in partnership with the Art Gallery of South Australia for TARNANTHI | Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, 8 – 18 October 2015.
Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia 24 Jul – 30 Aug 14 Porter Street, Parkside
FELTspace 29 Jul – 22 Aug 12 Compton St, Adelaide
Adelaide Central Gallery 28 Jul – 21 Aug
GAGPROJECTS Greenaway Art Gallery 5 Aug – 28 Aug
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39 Rundle Street, Kent Town
Light Square Gallery Adelaide College of the Arts TAFE SA 27 Jul – 23 Aug Lower Ground Floor 39 light Square, Adelaide Art Pod Adelaide City Council 6 Aug – 30 Aug
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