Last year in September, JJ Charlesworth wrote a relatively short opinion piece for Art Review titled ‘At what point does nothing become too much of a good thing?‘—a pointed meandering that refers to Object Oriented Ontology (OOO hype) whilst questioning the ‘dematerialised, postindustrial rhetoric’ of Tino Seghal.

In between all this questioning of material-based culture, the market and overproduction what about the ‘thingness’ of words, verbal exchange and speech; of daily exchanges and their value; what is shared and how it becomes action—the materiality of language.

Samuel Beckett spoke about the limitations of this and language. In his famous 1986 made-for-TV teleplay ‘Quad I & II’ we have the visual boundary of these ideas played out. Quad’s script could be read as a mathematical pattern or a diagram—a thing—the material manifestation of something unspoken played out on a stage and presented en mass via television. Ungendered cloaked mimes rhythmically stepping-out a preprogrammed loop, leaders alternating, order defined by the boundaries of a square stage, this in turn echoing that of the square box of televisions from that time. The centre only ever circled (so too speak), as if to arrive or acquire desire, would only serve to make visible what we the viewer and unnamed collective might already know. Beckett’s stage play is as such, a kind of gesture towards us—a pattern we can interpret, a rhythm we might recognize—potentially boring the arrangement becomes a narrative without words and somehow contains shared meaning.

Life and times begins with about a five-minute musical prelude—somewhat Sufjan-Stevens-Illinoise in its arrangement and then …


is sung.

I’m not sure many musical theatre scripts begin with um, a pause filler dependent on place and perhaps time. (Americans use um and uh, whilst the British might use er and erm. I think we use a combo. I’m fond of the Japanese ano and eto.)

Life and times episodes 1–4 was performed on sequential nights and in its entirety during a ten-hour-day long marathon performance which included a BBQ and brownies cooked and served by members of Nature Theatre of Oklahoma (NY) during the 2013 Melbourne Festival.

The duration of the performance eventually reveals a narrative, but one that involves repetition, boredom, and choreographed and melodic improvisation. Simultaneously theatre and not-theatre, Episode 1 opens with three female cast members each singing a different part of a recored narrative. References to first person and third person pronouns move with each character. When the female cast members are replaced by their male counterparts, so too do the gendered pronouns—one person’s story becomes many. As you wonder if anything will happen, and boredom sets in, it is ruptured by the semi-fascist grey uniforms worn by the cast, the occasional glance they throw you, or the rigid mass-spectacle-type-semi-democratic-choreographed moves.

Fatigue and boredom are shared by both the actors and the audience, perhaps too by those playing the live score …

Oh my god …

um …  I’m like a very serious baby.

um and ah um.

ha ha ha

It’s a kind of a lol IRL YOLO performance that reflects on someone’s (anyone’s) life story from birth, mostly sung by a cast that somehow maintains momentum and stamina without the usual verse-chorus-verse-structure. Unlike Quad, the repetition is inconsistent, or less obvious from afar—more differential calculus than linear equation and more sculptural painting performance gig than theatre—the formal space of the Playhouse transformed.

Come on Julie, come on—is chanted semi-Appalachian—think ‘Down in the river to pray’.

It was like so beautiful—returns intermittently throughout the performance like an off-beat refrain.

Day-dreaming seems like an OK thing to do during the performance—the OK singing, the OK dancing and the OK script kind of merging to form a kind of familiar soundtrack, albeit new. By the 3rd and 4th episode—more ‘Days of our lives’ or ‘Bold and beautiful’ in its aesthetic (rather than the minimal post-Soviet uniforms of episode one, and RUN-DMC-multicolour-tracksuits of disco-backing-tracked episode 2), you might be looking at the audience around you. Watching them, instead of the stage, as they laugh, cry, walk out, fall asleep and/or sigh in response to the almost-acapella-absurdist-and-readymade-script (the (soon to be 16) episodes are derived from a phone conversation between an unknown to us story-teller and the OK Theatre directors Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper).

As with Beckett’s Quad, story is rendered irrelevant whilst language is stretched—formal foredom—like Baldessari throwing balls in the air to make a perfect square, or Taree and Ronen’s coloured Venetian blinds and Sam George’s Sony Bravia painting of every letter of the alphabet overlaid.

Art critic Jerry Saltz’s analyis of Kanye West’s video in the article ‘Kanye, Kim, and the new uncanny’ if set alongside journalist Chris Hedges’ ‘American psychosis’ which asks what happens to a society that can’t distinguish between reality and illusion presents us with a problem—that of distinguishing between varying kinds of representation, often conflicting. With Tony Abbott’s LNP and David Cameron’s Conservative party both erasing parts of their history from the net last week, this formalist boredom is perhaps a symptom of an unspoken shared social.

One half of the Life and times director-duo, Pavol Liska, originated from Slovakia and was trained in the mass spectacle performances of the Soviet-run state. It was the theatre companies that led the strikes leading to the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

In Ranciere’s text The aesthetic unconscious, he attempts to position his idea of the aesthetic regime in the context of the emergence of psychoanalysis and the order of representation. It is described as being the relations between what is said and what can be seen, and the set of relations between knowledge and action.

Amidst a plethora of representations our shared ‘trying to say everything at once’ is perhaps very similar to a potentially never-ending almost melodic and almost performed opus, huh.

History is our audience (Craig Burgess, Marcia Jane, Taree Mackenzie and Ronen Becker, David Chesworth, Dirk de Bruyn and John Nixon), curated by Kelly Fliedner, WESTSPACE, Melbourne, 22 November – 14 December 2013.

Sam George, just for now, TCB art inc, Melbourne, 30 October – 2 November 2013.

Life and times: episodes 1–4, Nature Theatre of Oaklahoma (US), Melbourne Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne (Playhouse), Melbourne, 22 – 26 October 2013.

Taree Mackenzie and Ronen Becker, 'Glow', 2013, venetian blinds and perspex
Taree Mackenzie and Ronen Becker, ‘Glow’, 2013

Sam George, 'trying to say everything', 2013, video
Sam George, ‘trying to say everything’, 2013

Sam George, 'trying to say everything', 2013, video, (detail)
Sam George, ‘trying to say everything’ (detail), 2013

Public art = social space: A review of Sean Peoples’s ‘Channel G’

‘The Internet is by its essence a machine of surveillance. It divides the flow of data into small, traceable, and reversible operations, thus exposing every user to surveillance—real or possible.’ Boris Groys

Throughout June, West Space became a live-to-air studio for Sean Peoples’s social experiment Channel G TV. Over a period of nine days performances and pre-taped mayhem were broadcast via U-Stream accompanied by schedules, nightly updates and content appearing randomly on Facebook. Peoples and his collaborators created a multidisciplinary social arts experiment exposing the strengths and weaknesses of online platforms for artistic engagement. Interestingly Channel G was based at a public gallery but viewed primarily online. In this way Peoples challenged established arts audience codes by proposing the public realm of social media as a platform for public art. His open invitation to  friends, associates and relatives resulted in the production of live content that included over 100 participants.

Groys’s theories of Arts Worker and Bertolt Brecht’s theories of Epic Theatre highlight themes that are marked in Peoples’s project. Groys writes: ‘the artistic project becomes a revolutionary project that aims at the total transformation of society’. One of Peoples’s mantras ‘no EGO, no PROBLEM’ acknowledges a similar desire to revolt against polemic definitions under the gaze of public scrutiny.

I wonder does the G experience improve upon our desire to scrutinize or question; does it address the percieved non-criticality of the net while also promoting the sprawling platform for engagement?

As an act, Channel G expresses a desire for research in an area arts practitioners often leave dormant or ignore. I wonder how Peoples’s social experiment fares with Groys’s thoughts: Can egos, faults and relationships (and their intermixing) become sources for engagement and gathering?

During its nine-day life span, Channel G became a site for reality (in which there were many broadcast moments of casual socialising) and questionable privacy expressed in the plurality of practice. In gallery form, the absconded studio played its greatest hits: 60 hours of demo footage looped on screen. Facebook uploads and TV playback showed participants playing, be it in a band or in a game; chatting, on a talk show or to the director or a friend. Formal moments were juxtaposed with personal actssearches on computer, camera set up, dress up, clean up, measuring, adjusting, feeding (a pet or themselves), drinking, kissing and dancing: functioning topics.

I asked Sean a few questions via email and over the phone.

KM: How did you approach managing the show?

SP: I really took a non-arts focus when putting it together. Most of the decisions were technical in production. My job was making people feel at ease with what they were going to do. It was apparent there were complications associated with the format months before it became a reality. The idea of participants juggling set construction, dialogue, costumes and scene changes in tandem with others was inescapable. The mantra soon became ‘How do I do my best in this impossible situation?’

Perhaps it is brave to comment ‘I took a non-arts focus’ when presenting organisation as art, but this is the new way, to gather being the statement. Which encapsulates a direction we are heading, switching towards social interdisciplinary art that is process-driven, differentiated by communicative ‘non-art’ perspectives (enabled by a renewed appreciation of a range of media sources).

I’ll admit, I got hooked on the experience of Channel G. Watching the phenomenon develop and Peoples’s craft improve was a real pleasure. I took part, then asked Sean not to republish it. As an audience member, I enjoyed observing participants in the act of posing before an unquantifiable gaze.

KM: Do you think the participants were posing?

SP: Many participants appeared to ‘pose’ to some degree—in some cases literally such as Trevelyan Clay’s work Pure Trev—but I’d like to think that any ‘posing’ was really a reflection of how everyone acts when they think no one else is around. The message was ‘Leave your ego at the door’ and ‘Do or do not. There is no try’. Letting go and not worrying about embarrassment was the mood I hoped to foster.

Theories of audience distancing itself from the actor’s identity is exemplified in Brecht’s Epic Theatre approach, or ‘Verfrumdungseffekt/Alienation Technique’. Brecht believed emotional distance should be maintained in order to ‘effectively critique and evaluate the struggle between characters and so as to understand the social realities of narrative’. Unlike Brecht, Peoples’s audience chose to interact via social media (Facebook), enabling comments, messages or phone calls from the audience to foster response from performers. Unlike Brecht’s, Peoples’s suppositions did not seek to be moral. Rather, Peoples attempted to create a celebration for us, of ourselves and comment on the power of community to embrace difference.

Brecht wanted to break the notion of disbelief employed in theatre, with the audience able to acknowledge that they were witnessing performative fiction (entertainment) and as such were able to interact, communicate and alter performances accordingly—a feature of the Channel G transmission.

Many participants responded to the 1980s-inspired, computer-generated scores that Peoples used as feature (I loved how these backing tracks were jarring experience of lo-fi late night infomercials or reminiscent of the irritation of supermarket fluorescent lighting, when hung over) and the professionally shot ad breaks. With more then 100 participants, the footage varied in length and meaning, from postcard-style snap-shots of interviews, infomercials and more familiar TV formats such as news, exercise programs and cooking demonstrations.

A critical performance with little preparation, an open journal without need for an editor, Channel G consciousness oscillated between: ‘who could be watching?’ and ‘what if people are watching?’ A few artists chose to share influences and to meta-perform: Anastasia Klose faced the camera staring passed it watching archive footage of Andy Kaufman (interviewing his ex) on screen while smoking. The green screen trick meant Klose met Kauffman with the YouTube clip screened behind her; Simon Zoric played Simon and Simon while Matthew Linde, Holly Childs and Christopher LG Hill created unsubtle text/sound performances that challenged poetics. Nathan Gray, Moontubers and Sarah CrowEST initiated live performances; Gray’s Ancient memories was an improvisational 8-piece scratch ensemble and CrowEST’s Mount activity utilised Arthur the cat searching for an object under a sheet. Masato Takasaka used computer-generated sound distortions to describe theories of the ready-made.

KM: I noticed the green scene was popular.

SP: Everyone loved the green screen! They were obsessed with watching a preview of themselves onscreen. They saw themselves in those spaces and acted as if in those spaces they weren’t present in the actual space. This caused an unconscious type of other’. I had a particular persona when people were asked to participate, come in and do their part—I was interested in what they were going to do, who with, the amount of time and what they needed. Most people wanted to explain why but I wasn’t interested in that. It didn’t matter if they were bad or awesome, if it was embarrassing that was fine. I suspected it would be in some ways, that’s why I created the wall from the front gallery to create privacy, for a sense of security. We created a few spaces, the green screen and a living room. It made the room (gallery) feel homely. Some people were really rehearsed and brought in their expectations about the camera angles and how the show would look, others would walk in and walk out and leave it up to me. The camera being there made some people feel embarrassed.

KM: How did the ideas for presentation come about?

SP: The concept of an unknown audience and the distortion of their usual practice and prepared art object as opposed to a spontaneous act was obviously challenging for some artists.

KM: What is your definition of ‘collaboration’ for the purpose of this work? Was it creating opportunities for presentation?

SP: I took a deliberate approach for the project to be seen as a collaborative effort. Channel G’s success was reflected by those participating and the programs they created. I didn’t want everybody’s hard work being solely a reflection of what I had done. I wanted to acknowledge that they had generated the work.

KM: Groys writes that ‘Jean-Paul Satre said hell is other people—life under the gaze of others’. What do you think this means in regards to Channel G?

SP: I feel like the project’s experience of ‘the eye’ was the reverse. It was supportive, the emphasis was to embrace all those mistakes.

In the spirit of Channel G here’s my moment. Also the pre-election moment, in July.

Channel G, West Space, Melbourne,  21 June – 13 July 2013.

Anastasia Klose, '13 minutes with YouTube video and a smoke'
Anastasia Klose, ’13 minutes with YouTube video and a smoke’

Christopher LG Hill and his Poetry TV, 'Performance as poetry'
Christopher LG Hill and his Poetry TV, ‘Performance as poetry’

Elevator, Michael John Joseph and Hannah Smith
Elevator, Michael John Joseph and Hannah Smith

Moontubers: Rebecca Jensen, Sarah Aiken, Natalie Abbott, Janine Proost
Moontubers: Rebecca Jensen, Sarah Aiken, Natalie Abbott, Janine Proost

Matthew Linde 'A rose by any other name'
Matthew Linde ‘A rose by any other name’

Screen Shot
Screen shot

de for

In the last month or so, we have seen leaders change, policies align and disgusting decisions imposed on the most vulnerable. Decline seems to be our modus operandi. If an empire is failing, how does it fall with the least possible pain?

Harriet Morgan’s exhibition with the same name, Decline at Top Shelf above Deans Art in La Trobe Street might have been asking the same thing—an omnipresent apocalypse with a glass of champagne. Nick Austin’s paintings of flying envelopes and Kate Smith’s three-part painting Art school point to a past, a kind of neo-nostalgia: one more melancholy than the other—a nuanced picture and unrecognisable painted forms in spaceless-languid-yellow. Alex Vivian’s Dirt swatch is a sliced soccer shirt flicked with filth and fixed with hairspray skinned over a neo-faux-doric-columned-new-bone-china-serving-dish registers painting in its past-particle-present—the ambiguity of polity evident in an array of decadence.

New improved qualities …

… reads the text on Janet Burchill and Jenifer McCamley’s painting accompanied by a chair.

Helen Johnson’s video as long as a pop song has a group of nameless voices discussing Badiou and Brecht in a context that’s not ours to be privy to. We see, not hear, violins played and a cat looks back at me spliced after footage of Karl Marx’s grave. I look down to my phone, a ‘fact’ reads: other than humans, cats are the only other species which likes getting things for free. While wondering what this might mean, the analytical screen and self-conscious spoken words remain synced, ‘I keep making the same point, fine, but … I don’t understand what an individual is. I don’t know what it is … ‘ But it is in the opening lines, ‘But aren’t the militants here precisely trying to prevent the young militant from taking this path’, that we find the dissension and the doubling in Decline.

To depose is to get rid of, dismiss or displace. De-pose on the other hand, might infer a colloquial reference to the stance of someone captured on The Satorialist blog. In either form, power is undermined—that of the leader by an action or that of the image (and beauty itself) by language.

Caligynephobia is an irrational fear of beautiful women, callophobia is an irrational fear of beauty and scopophillia is the ‘love of looking’.

The first may be evidenced in cinema, and the latter perhaps found in art: Abicare’s objects declare a different type of decadence than that which is found in Decline.

Decadence (Medieval Latin for ‘decay’) in Abicare’s work appears in the subtle arrangement of objects that point to one another and us, creating a space of suspicion between. A chair in the corner of the room. A cast of clay the size of a table-top, perforated by studio-based archery lessons framed on three sides with stainless steel and the other with bronze. Looking back at it, on the mantle above the disused fire-place rests a small framed photo of a woman wearing a beautifully made coat—the sartorial sign—that also hangs on a coat-hanger as you enter the space. In the photographic image, behind the woman modeling, hangs the perforated clay, exactly as it does now, as I the viewer stand, minus the coat, the build and the photogenic smile. The aforementioned frame is mirrored, but to scale. Before the mantle, in front of an unused fire-place, the stainless steal and bronze are echoed again but inverted. A silk wool scarf that depicts a golden retriever and her double is placed, not thrown—its material more vulnerable and volatile than the metal one usually expects to be used for a screen. From the vantage point of the chair, one sees all and all sees one.

Go-see is the models’ audition, success is not predetermined. A trophy-pose is held by the winner, failure is for another time.

Attention to detail, these fragments from a narrative, un-timed objects re-appearing and re-occurring. Power. Desire. Target. Capture. Game in all its forms. Fair and unfair.

Love of looking. Fear of beauty.

Fear of beauty. Love of looking.

Décor starts with de.

Decline (Brent Harris, Helen Johnson, Luke Holland, Joshua Petherick, Alex Vivian, TV Moore, Kate Smith, Dan Arps, Dale Hickey, Kain Picken and Rob McKenzie, Nick Austin, Fergus Binns, Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley, Lane Cormick and Tony Garifalakis), curated by Harriet Morgan, Top Shelf Gallery, Melbourne, 14 June – 14 July 2013.

Fiona Abicare, De-pose, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne, 27 June – 27 July 2013.

Fiona Abicare, 'De-Pose', 2013
Fiona Abicare, ‘De-pose’, 2013

Fiona Abicare, 'De-Pose', 2013
Fiona Abicare, ‘De-pose’, 2013

Fiona Abicare, 'De-Pose', 2013
Fiona Abicare, ‘De-pose’, 2013

Fiona Abicare, 'De-Pose', 2013
Fiona Abicare, ‘De-pose’, 2013

Fiona Abicare, 'De-Pose', 2013
Fiona Abicare, ‘De-pose’, 2013

Fiona Abicare, 'De-Pose', 2013
Fiona Abicare, ‘De-pose’, 2013

Alex Vivian, 'Dirt swatch', 2013
Alex Vivian, ‘Dirt swatch’, 2013

Alex Vivian, 'Dirt Swatch', 2013
Alex Vivian, ‘Dirt swatch’, 2013

Kate Smith, 'Art school', 2013
Kate Smith, ‘Art school’, 2013

Helen Johnson, 'Er Brecht, Wir Brechen', 2008
Helen Johnson, ‘Er Brecht, wir Brechen’, 2008

Helen Johnson, 'Er Brecht, Wir Brechen', 2008
Helen Johnson, ‘Er Brecht, wir Brechen’, 2008

Helen Johnson, 'Er Brecht, Wir Brechen', 2008
Helen Johnson, ‘Er Brecht, wir Brechen’, 2008

Nick Austin, 'Travelling Envelope #10', 2012
Nick Austin, ‘Travelling envelope #10’, 2012

Ro Noonan’s parents fire place guard
Ro Noonan’s parents’ fire-place guard

A Con Temporary image post on the book of face
A Con Temporary image post on the book of face

Decline, (from left to right) Jennifer McCamley, 'Homage to Thierry de Cordier (I have absolutely nothing to do with the 20th century)', 1989; Luke Holland 'Warning', 2013; Joshua Petherick, 'Gutter', 2013; Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, 'New Improved, Qualities', 2007
Decline: Jennifer McCamley, ‘Homage to Thierry de Cordier (I have absolutely nothing to do with the 20th century)’, 1989; Luke Holland, ‘Warning’, 2013; Joshua Petherick, ‘Gutter’, 2013; Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley, ‘New improved, qualities’, 2007

Decline, Dan Arps, 'Untitled (green ambivalent up)', 2012; Dan Arps, 'Not Titled Atm', 2011; Kate Smith, 'Art School', 2013; Nick Austin, 'Travelling Envelope #10', 2012
Decline: Dan Arps, ‘Untitled (Green ambivalent up)’, 2012; Dan Arps, ‘Not titled atm’, 2011; Kate Smith, ‘Art school’, 2013; Nick Austin, ‘Travelling envelope #10’, 2012

Writing mail, writing class: ‘The big east’

It was kind of an awkward week or so.

At the opening for Simon Zoric’s exhibition What I can and can’t do and what I will and won’t do, after being kind of startled by his carved wooden effigy, I was walking away from one of his works where Zoric had basically cut out the wall from his teenage bedroom because it contained the beloved Nirvana poster that needed to be shown. I was walking and thinking, ‘is it really from his bedroom?’, ‘how’s that ’70s blue paint’, ‘what’s with Nirvana?’, ‘it’s the ’90s again’, ‘Fuck, Kurt committed suicide’, ‘shit, I hope Zoric doesn’t die’.

At the precise moment of that last thought, I kicked the silicone cast of his Cock & balls. Zoric’s self-depreciating humor, quite obviously contagious.

On Saturday just past, I went to see Christos Tsiolkas talk about Class and Culture at Trades Hall in Carlton. I guess, other than being called a hipster, my question about class and its invisibility or slipperiness re-emerged—does the approach to definition un-render representation?

Kiron Robinson’s 8-minute video When I write I write for you begins with a sniff and ends with awkward laughter. It’s an 8-minute close-up of a tightly framed face. Reminiscent of John Cassavetes’s 1968 film Faces.

The Le Tigre song ‘What’s your take on Cassavetes’ begins with a kind of drawling voice:

we’ve talked about it in letters
and we’ve talked about it on the phone,

but how you really feel about it,
I don’t really know.

Which, however obtuse, seems relevant here.

Robinson’s short film, mini-doc, foray into a kind of cinéma vérité aesthetic straddles a monologue about family relations, siblings, age gaps and role models, footy, responsibilities, time and scale issues, pornography, masculinity, hierarchies and the need for an inability to take sides.

Robinson exhibited the work in an exhibition he organised called The big east, which involved seven artists exhibiting in two Scout halls in Heathmont on Sunday June 9 between 10 am and 5 pm.

I asked Kiron some questions, the first being, could I ask him some questions:

LR: OK. I’m gonna start really simply. How did the idea for the show come about?

KR: About eighteen months ago I moved out here (outer eastern Melbourne). It is not my ideal location and resulted in odd sorts of pressures in my life. As a result, I decided to make some work out of being in the middle/outer suburbs. When I started looking around I noticed there were lots of psychologically interesting spaces in the suburbs that I had not noticed before. The Scout halls I used, are two that I pass by on a run. Over about eight months of running by them, an idea emerged of what I could do, so I decided to see if they were open to being used and it turned out they were. The rest just grew from there.

LR: What I found interesting about the project was the way in which it forced us out of the safety of the CBD. There is an inherent irony in this, especially if we consider all the ‘danger, drunk’ talk of the media, ‘mayhem on the weekends’ blah blah. You turned us into Sunday drivers without cars or something. All the obvious, by-chance visitors are kind of amazing as well. Having worked out there at one stage, I liked catching up with my old boss again and hanging out with his kids in his hood.

The Scout halls were these interesting spaces where ‘contemporary’ seemed irrelevant. I know we talked about the upturned coloured plastic cups; Daniel Belfield’s Map easily blending in with the in-situ pin board; your film projected on a stand (can’t remember the word for this thing!) as if ready for rope-knotting demonstration; Eliza Dyball’s performance which could have been a team-building exercise; the Ryan sisters hiding from the world double-self-portrait-sculpture could have been real-kids playing real-games (albeit slightly sinister) and Cormick’s dirt-bike dinks slip easily into hoon territory. How did you choose the artists for the exhibition? And did you specifically choose the Scout sites for these artists?

KR: Yes, it is nice to be out of the CBD. It changes things in terms of whatever our expectations or preconceptions of the suburbs are and alerts us to our conceptions of art. I am alerted to this every time I go home (as I live down the road from the Scout halls.)

I was really stunned when the first visitors came by. I think up until the point of someone arriving I had been unable to marry up these two parts of my life, art and where I live, and having people turn up acted as a catalyst or a clash which alerted me to my own awkwardness in relation to how I see my life.

The Scout halls came first. I chose them really thinking about my own works (selfish yes), but then invited the other artists because of a psychological aspect to their works which resonated with the sites. I knew of all their practices obviously and like them as people and so thought it would be a good combo.

LR: I am going to latch on to something there about ‘liking the artists as people’. It is something I am interested in in terms of momentum and criticality. In some ways, it is traditionally opposed to the very notion of critical because its first encounter is recognising subjectivity and in some ways, the sentimental.

When you said ‘I knew of all their practices obviously and like them as people and thought it would be a good combo’, what is it about the combination of artists? I know there is a space of not-knowing that we are working in, or aim to work in, but what were you hoping to achieve though the exhibition and the relationship between the works?

KR: Mmm.

I have curated/organised a number of exhibitions. Basically it is about working with people I am interested in. I see it as an extension of my practice in that I do things and make work about things that I am interested in. I am not really into curating for the sake of curating. As such i feel no obligation to criticality. Rather, like my own work I just want to do something that interests me first and hope that others can also connect in their own way. It is the way most artists work I think. It is nice, as you kind of just put your subjectivity front and centre.

It is the psychological aspect of the Scout halls, which I think reflects a deeper psychology of the suburbs, what lies beneath, that I was really interested in and that I was hoping to draw out. There is an intrinsic anxiety within the suburban, the anxiety of the aspirational and it leaks out in all sorts of ways. I think partly I recognise this within myself and moving back to the suburbs has really heightened it in me. Maybe for me it is not so much the aspirational but the settling. The giving up that I associate with a regression of returning to a suburban setting. I wanted to work with that. There is a romantic aspect to the suburban that I was interested in as well. The Sunday drive, the ideal that it sells. I just find them a very tense place.

Simon Zoric, What I can and can’t do and what I will and won’t do, West Space, Melbourne, 21 June – 13 July 2013.

The big east, 3rd Heathmont Scout Hall, Melbourne, 9 June 2013.

Screen shot, Google search for Cassevetes faces

Screen shot, YouTube, Le Tigre, ‘What’s your take on Cassevetes’

Simon Zoric, ‘Nirvana’, 2013, poster, Blu-tac, bedroom wall

Simon Zoric, ‘Cock & balls’, 2013, silicone and crepe hair

Lane Cormick, ‘Only one way out of here’, 2007–13

Eliza Dyball, ‘Conformation in three parts’, 2013

Eliza Dyball, ‘Conformation in three parts’, 2013

Eliza Dyball, ‘Conformation in three parts’, 2013

Daniel Belfield, ‘A blanket woven from the laughter of my friends’, 2012, cotton

Daniel Bellfield, ‘Map’, 2013

Kiron Robinson, ‘When I write I write for you’, 2013, DVD

The cups in the 3rd Heathmont Scout Hall cabinets

‘Our Joey Scout Huturn Tree’ on the Scout Hall pinboard

Hi mail, love Lisa

I think it was in 2006 that we at TCB art inc. decided to invite Rebecca Ann Hobbs, based in Auckland at the time, to curate a show at the gallery. We were keen to mix up the programming and eager to see things we might not otherwise see.

How to look
well, feel well:
First, you need
to find a

The exhibition One for the ‘other’ ended up being like a convoluted gift. Rebecca, herself invited, in turn invited fourteen of her favourite men to exhibit alongside her. Among them were Melbourne-based artists, friends and colleagues of ours and hers: Nick Selenitsch, Paul Knight, Christopher Koller, Brendan Lee and Kiron Robinson. The others were artists based elsewhere, mostly New Zealand, perhaps one in LA (1).

Three Nicks in one show.

Nick Selenitsch, whom I didn’t really know well at the time, assisted installing the works— quiet logic and confident ease.

I remember opening a homemade foam core box from Michael Lett as if it were a present, a gift. Upon opening I found a set of instructions, a woollen blanket and a $2 shop-esque thin plastic decorated tablecloth.

1. Rub blanket on wall
2. Spread tablecloth on wall.

Simple instructions, alongside a simple diagram, Untitled, by Simon Denny.

3. Fall in love with static electricity.

I lie. The third instruction does not exist. Perhaps saying it, overstates it.

If my memory serves me correctly, Nick Austin’s work arrived in a tube. Unrolling a carefully wrapped and painted tabloid double-page spread has a particular material quality to it: the newspaper and paint somehow merge to become another material—softer, more fragile, more plastic.

Note: Fall in love again.

The scumbled surface of Austin’s painting left only remnants of the daily dealings below its surface. Eliciting a kind of banal-melancholic humour, Austin’s painting A rhizome (2006) depicted a small piece of ginger (or was it tumeric?) contained by an almost-sloppy-peachily-painted round-edged-rectangle.

Quotidian beauty.

Jon Bywater might say, ‘As if to say: if that’s what you’re looking for, don’t look for it in the canvas. It highlights instead their simplifications, the analytical, human character of the act of painting’.

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me who my favorite artist was. A strange question to which I am usually hesitant to respond—the answer can seem to be transient and allusive to both the questioner and questionee. Deciding to commit. If only allowed one, the parameters were set, I would say Nick Austin.

I said, ‘Nick Austin’.

Across the Tasman Sea, aided by intermittent internet searches and the occasional exhibition in Melbourne, I can be a fan. Electing Austin as a favorite, not the Firefox kind, means I might get to share some of his historical friends—Morandi, Cezanne, Giotto, Piero della Francesca—and wonder, would he share mine? Tony Clark, Vermeer or Sophie Tauber-Arp. What of Bonnard? De Stael? John Brack? What does he think of wacky Magritte paintings such as The ellipsis (1948)? Does he like Patrick Lundberg’s shoelaces?

Funny formalism for lovers. Empty absurdity for wanna-be vagabonds.

Hey Lane! Hey Col! Hey Moo! Who was that Mannerist that lived in the tree?

About a month ago, after some brief email conversations with Helen from Parsons’ Library Supply, credit card numbers and expiry dates, I received in the mail The liquid dossier.

Handwritten 45/200.

No expectations.

A humble-but-eluding-to-order Eastlight. Slimpick. Wallet. Foolscap in fact, Manila folder yellow in colour. Contained within it, an unbound book. A package. Some loose thoughts. Some points to, some points from—trajectories. Personal paraphernalia. Personable.

A list of items contained within—a room-sheet for a folder. A poster, a laser print, a risograph, photographs printed and enveloped in the equivalent of an Officeworks envelope. A very short PowerPoint film called Dentists on holiday with an improvised-jazz–accompanied-by-an-engine soundtrack on a DVD in a crystal case. A small sachet of coffee the size of a photo depicting a coffee cup the size of a small car. A postcard of a painting of an envelope flying.

Envelopes inside envelopes. Unread … no … wait … cannot be opened mail.

The green notebook was a gift, Jon Bywater writes.

He goes on: I find ways to use it as well as the laptop on which I usually write; sometimes, of course, just because it’s easier to carry and the only thing to hand, but it also creates a loose genre of notes.

The package is im or I’m perfect. And quirky in its everyday-ness, in its dossier-ness, rather than its archive-ness. This is like Christopher LG Hill’s Endless lonely planet or Jon Nixon’s Mike Brown research volumes 1 and 2.

But also not.

A very short letter to Bonnard dated 13 August 1925 reads:

Long Live
In Friendship

Likened to what Patrick said, maybe our interest can lie in ‘a more social painting. A painting with a keener sense of duration. A painting which one day may no longer beg to be called by that name’.

A book with a keener sense of time, a book which one day may no longer beg to be called by that name.

(1) One for the ‘other’ was curated by Rebecca Hobbs. The artists included in the exhibition were: Rebecca Hobbs, Peter Volich, Phillip Maysels, Nick Selenitsch, Josh Stone, Dan Arps, Christopher Koller, Jon Bywater, Brendan Lee, Nick Austin, Paul Knight, Simon Denny, Kiron Robinson, Mario Garcia Torres and Nick Spratt.

(2) Jon Bywater, ‘Power nap’, in Nick Austin, The liquid dossier, designed by Nick Austin, Gilbert May & Duncan Munro, Lucky Stairs Studio, edn 45/200, published by Nick Austin & Hocken Collections, University of Otago, on the occasion of the exhibition The liquid dossier, Feb. 2013.

Simon Denny, ‘Untitled’, 2006, static electricity, woollen blanket, plastic sheet

Nick Austin, ‘A rhizome’, 2006, synthetic polymer paint on newspaper

Rene Magritte, ‘The ellipsis’, 1948, oil on canvas, Royal Museum of Fine Art Brussels

Nick Austin, ‘The liquid dossier’, 2013, at my house, on my coffee table with my new copy of Elizabeth Newman’s book, ‘More than what there is’ (published by 3-ply in 2013) underneath

Nick Austin, ‘The liquid dossier’, 2013

Nick Austin, ‘The liquid dossier’, 2013

Paddle-pop populous and farcical femme-fatales

Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr, aka Perez Hilton, had his first child on 16 February this year, appropriately named Mario Armando Lavandeira III—the mother a surrogate, the conception facilitated with a donor egg.

Cloning, copying, reproduction, redemption.

Gossip, someone says, is the production of something from nothing. A kind of Warhol-infused neo-Faustian bargain. A dialogue with the devil—aesthetics ‘n’ ethics. A schematic backdrop to mundanity.

Sue Dodd’s Best of: a survey of Gossip Pop, presented ever so briefly at Techno Park Studios, was a Mike Kelley-Day-is-Done-esque (minus the absurd narrative) immersive installation, which transformed the once kindergarden into a kind of lo-fi-sci-fi video-file den. Seductive and silly, the ambitious three-room installation presented several new satirical video works alongside a Gossip Pop compilation. At times droll and occasionally sardonic, Dodd’s performed and animated New Weekly (or is it Women’s Weekly?) chants an absurdist yes or no response to a series of speculative rumors—the slippery pages of the gossip mag become Beckettesque in a Quad kind of repetitive way—the outcome unimportant while the pattern is prolific, the irrelevancy of the question Is it true? existentially revealed.

Amongst the humorous and self-reflective multi-channel-but-on-a-telly-not-projected installation, backdropped and furnished with faux-silver-forms-cum-stage-props, a kind of melancholic void pervades—Gossip Pop may perform on the empty stage surrounded by her looped-video ghosts. Dave Hickey suggests Warhol wants us to be redeemed by representation. Dodd repurposes the voices of digital deities whom we consume, digest, passively accept and occasionally ignore. Twelve dead musicians: Kurt, Janis, Jimmy Hendrix, Morrison, Michael Hutchence, Winehouse, Nico, Karen Carpenter, Bon Scott, Freddy Mercury, Sid Vicious and Brian Jones, resuscitated, re-animated, brought back to life on a vertical flat screen, just managing to declare in a catechistic whisper—




Sue Dodd, Best of: a survey of Gossip Pop, Techno Park Studios, Melbourne, 23 March – 14 April 2013.

Sue Dodd, ’12 Most wanted’, 2012, single-channel video with stereo sound

Sue Dodd, ’12 Most wanted’, 2012, single-channel video with stereo sound

Sue Dodd, ‘Fame puppet’, 2010, single-channel video projection with stereo sound

Sue Dodd, ‘Gossip Pop may perform’, 2013, microphone, mike stand, NW magazines (2004–13), portable PA, laptop with iTunes visualiser playing selected Gossip Pop songs play-list on shuffle playback, duration: 58 mins, headphones, cardboard, silver tape, 240 x 250 x 250 cm

Sue Dodd, ‘Encyclopedia of Gossip Pop’, 2013, 8 single-channel videos with stereo sound, looped playback, headphones, cardboard, silver tape, 378 x 197 x 262 cm

Sue Dodd, ‘Gossip Pop may perform’, 2013, microphone, mike stand, NW magazines (2004–13), portable PA, laptop with iTunes visualiser playing selected Gossip Pop songs play-list on shuffle playback, duration: 58 mins, headphones, cardboard, silver tape, 240 x 250 x 250 cm


Something something video-film-paint something (1)

Steve McQueen crossed over in 2008 with Hunger. Gillian Wearing did it in 2010 with her doco/art film Self made, which got neither a major release or a spot in a film festival in Melbourne. On 17 March, at LongPlay in North Fitzroy, Doc(c)o Club returned with a screening of Wearing’s film.

A couple of friends-slash-film-making-colleagues have recently started this film club. Modeled on the reading-group-cum-book-club phenomenon, Kim Munro and Amanda Kerley began Doc(c)o Club with the idea of screening seminal, rare and innovative films that could generate discussion and dialogue. While Doc(c)o Club centres around screening and discussion, Amanda and Kim’s other project, Camera Buff Movie Makers, brings together makers interested in the production of short, essayistic films that question the limitations of documentary making. With funding for documentary film-making becoming harder to get, these projects have provided a way for Amanda and Kim to focus attention and help grow divergent ways of thinking about and telling non-fiction stories.

Amanda and Kim have both engaged in documentary practice. Kim began her foray into the field with the short musical documentary, The rise of Leatherman (2008), following this with Nerve (2011), a made-for-television (in particular the ABC) documentary about the London-based Australian artist, Paul Knight, and his project to find two strangers interested in having sex upon meeting. Together, Amanda and Kim have worked on the short campaign documentary Save the Hope Street bus (Keep our hope alive), made last year following State Government funding cuts which saw the axing of the shortest bus route in Melbourne. The ‘economically irrational’ cuts to the service meant some 150 elderly citizens could no longer be self-sufficient.

Gillian Wearing’s Self made is a cross-over film. By utilizing processes and approaches not unlike her previous works, Wearing made a documentary film that not only traverses a kind of self-help, cathartic-reality TV genre but also a film that, in the end, tends to the dramatic theatrical. Wearing’s doco becomes drama as she weaves together scenarios determined by the film’s own participants and the workshops they have participated in with Sam Rumbelow, a method acting teacher. Scenarios involve a man who has planned his own death and identifies with Mussolini as his on-screen alter ego, a depressed and repressed middle-aged woman who becomes the heroine of a 1940s love story (this reminded me somewhat of Claude Chabrol’s 1970 film Le boucher), and the complicated relationship between a daughter and father, which is replayed via the restaging of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The process of fictionizing self-emanated facts highlights the difficulty of representation—in particular, Wearing’s participants’ complex relationships with themselves and the world.

The participants’ privilege of being able to cathartically engage with their past or present internal conflicts and then reshape that conflict via method acting reminded me of Salvoj Zizek’s 2011 article ‘Shoplifters of the world unite‘, published in the London Review of Books. The text examines the sloganless actions of the London rioters reacting to the shooting of Mark Duggan and their relationship to the European debt crisis through Zizek’s typical Marxist-Hegelian lens—those outside organized social space express discontent through ‘irrational’ outbursts of destructive violence. The rioters’ unspeakable and unrepresentable conflict with the present eventuated in several days of violence and looting; this was a space between rational and irrational, the representable and the unrepresentable, tentative and potentially volatile.


If Wearing’s film can be considered a fictional cinematic portrait of the lives of seven Londoners, I see a parallel with Colleen Ahern’s exhibition Cortez the Killer at Neon Parc this month (previously written about by Hannah Mathews for Stamm). This two-year project has seen the production of more than thirty portraits of a man based on the Neil Young song of the same name, a man Colleen can only imagine. The song references Hernán Cortez, a spanish conquistador who conquered Mexico for Spain in the sixteenth century. The song utilizes a historical narrative and then shifts to what seems like a personal first-person narrative. Colleen has painted the image of this man she cannot see and of whom there is no photographic portrait in existence.

Oil paint can be a slippery, manipulative medium. Sometimes the portrait is a collaged mash-up of faces, another is clearly a painting of someone (whom I am privileged enough to know is Colleen’s daughter) masked with a taped-on moustache and goatee. In the exhibition, we are presented with thirty questions of what a portrait is, what it can and what it can’t be, whether finely glazed and reminiscent of a Velásquez or loosely painted, facial features rendered awkward. I can’t help but think of the Shroud of Turin, or Robin Williams’s character Harry in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, a man who literally slips out of focus: portraits, pictures and leaps of faith.

In the end, through these works Colleen forces us to make our own assumptions as to who is being depicted and we name them accordingly: the Dave Grohl one, the Alex Vivian one, the Tony Abbott one. What we are left with, perhaps, is the melancholic loss embedded within an endless project. Painting a portrait is difficult at the best of times, but painting the portrait of someone whom one has to imagine, building the face, the structure, the tonality, the touch, is surely near impossible. Colleen gives us thirty paintings about the impossibility of portraiture and representation and the challenge of historical memorialization. Her serialized, fictional portrait of one person becomes a collection of individual portraits of a faceless many.

Note: Kim and Colleen are both very good friends of the writer. Gillian is not.

Colleen Ahern, Cortez the Killer, Neon Parc, Melbourne, 13 March – 6 April 2013.

(1) Something something video something was an exhibition curated by Blair Trethowan and Jarrod Rawlins and presented at Artspace, Sydney, in 2003 and Uplands Gallery, Melbourne, in 2002.

Screen shot of online image search results for ‘Gillian Wearing “Self made”‘.

Amanda Kerley and Kim Munro, ‘Save the Hope Street bus (Keep our hope alive)’, 2012, production still

Amanda Kerley and Kim Munro, ‘Save the Hope Street bus (Keep our hope alive)’, 2012, production still

Colleen Ahern, ‘Cortez the Killer’, 2012

Colleen Ahern, ‘Cortez the Killer’, 2012

Colleen Ahern, ‘Cortez the Killer’, 2012

Beam me up Scotty (1): eulogy for a leader

So, my favourite tweet from the evening of 23 February came from @FakePremierTed a couple of hours before the official 7 pm kick-off for the 24-hour White Night event. Premier Ted Baillieu (albeit Fake) dutifully declared: ‘White Night Melbourne tonight. As Arts Minister, I have to smile at the hippies and pretend I like them. The things I do for opera tickets’.

Which got me thinking, as I periodically do, about the idea of culture by osmosis and the probability of this event acting as a blanket-cum-diversion-strategy for a neo-liberal cost-cutting agenda. Why? Because surely it’s cheaper to put a whole heap of cash into a one-night affair than invest in quality art education and its long-term effects. There does seem to be an inherent irony in a situation that elevates Ted (the real one) as our culture-loving leader when he is also the head of a party that has slashed funding and, as such, access to TAFE education, resulting in the closure of visual arts courses that don’t appear to make money or result only in vocational activities that make the one-eyed economics-focussed establishment happy (2).

This is why there is something about Liang Luscombe’s complex social-functional-design-object artworks (3) that rings true. A shelf to use, coins to steal food with and some things that just need to be said. Yes Our TAFE does need to be saved because if funding to TAFE is not returned, if we don’t consider the type of arts education we are providing (and receiving) at all levels, then the next generation of artists may be spawned entirely from the upper-middle classes who make fake coins from mining and reside and eat wherever and whatever they like. Actually, why would these people even bother becoming artists? Regardless, you know where I am going. We live in a complex space of masked stealing and failed state obligations: file-sharing, crowd-funding, health and education cuts.

I know you like the arts, Ted, and were moved to ‘sing’, but you were watching opera while ‘the people’ were doing a Zumba class.

Not that I am averse to Zumba. Heck, I spent a good six months taking a class twice a week in a temporary gym/stink-box at the Carlton flats—and loved it. I’m happy to dancercise to tracks-that-you-only-hear-in-supermarkets-but-somehow-know-all-the-words-to for two hours a week. Perhaps I’m too cynical. I love crowds and I like art, I’m just suspicious of Ted’s motives and pissed off about the TAFE cuts. To be frank, rather than shuffle through the laneways of Melbourne ‘looking for culture ’cause I’m told to’, I’d much prefer to meander through the Edinburgh Gardens and come across an absurd shrine to Mick Edwards (or Swami Deva Pramada as he was also known), contributor to the first four or so albums by ELO who was killed when a 600 kg hay-bale rolled onto his van in 2010.

A folly such as this (the shrine, not Edwards’s death!) is perhaps harder to contextualise. Sure, I might know when to pop over to the picnic-cum-opening for cheap beer and a chat with friends. Even more so, I like knowing that Aunty Joan, who has lived in North Fitzroy since day dot, might chance upon Oscar Perry’s hay-bale atop a previously sculpture-less plinth (4) that she has walked past umpteen times and ponder the recently deceased Edwards, rekindle her love of ELO, go home and put on her copy of Eldorado, play air-trombone to the fanfare at the beginning of Boy Blue, and then sit and reminisce to the title track while drinking a portagaff and googling art and contemporary prog. Aunty Joan may of course prefer Woody Guthrie and Russian Caravan tea, and might instead google the why, what and where of hay-bales spontaneously combusting.

1. From a bumper sticker reading ‘Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life form on this planet’, which spawned our abridged and shared evacuation chant. The phrase was apparently never actually uttered in the Star Trek series, but we all know it and as such it’s perhaps an example of cultural osmosis.

2. See Ann Stephen’s address to the AAANZ conference in November last year about the importance of TAFE in fostering an inclusive and rich culture.

3. Liang Luscombe’s Jonas Bohlin (from Spring Street, the office and the vending machine), 2013, was exhibited in Navel-gazing, curated by Brooke Babington and Melissa Loughan at Utopian Slumps early this year.

4. Plinth Projects is a new artist-run public-art venture codirected by Daniel Stephen-Miller and Jeremy Pryles assisted by a gang of other artists including Sam George, Carla McKee, Ben Ryan and Isabelle Sully. The project, launched on 3 March, is funded by the City of Yarra. The committee isn’t paid but the artists exhibiting get a fee.

Oscar Perry, Harvest showdown/Early classics, hits and rarities, Plinth Projects, Melbourne, 3 March – 2 April 2013.

White Night Melbourne documentation courtesy Piero and a conversation we shared on the night of 27 February 2013, Meyers Place, Melbourne

Liang Luscombe, ‘After Jonas Bohlin (from Spring Street, the office and the vending machine)’, 2013, mixed media, 40 x 45 x 180 cm. Photo: Christo Crocker

Liang Luscombe, ‘After Jonas Bohlin (from Spring Street, the office and the vending machine)’, 2013, mixed media, 40 x 45 x 180 cm. Photo: Christo Crocker

Oscar Perry poses with Yarra Mayor, Cr Jackie Fristacky, Plinth Projects opening picnic. Photo: Kobie Nel

Oscar Perry, ‘Harvest showdown/Early classics, hits and rarities’, 2013, Plinth Projects opening picnic. Photo: Kobie Nel

Oscar Perry, ‘Harvest showdown/Early classics, hits and rarities’ (detail), 2013. Photo: Kobie Nel