The lingering stench of propriety and duty at the Heathmont Scout Hall was nearly as strong as the snags Kiron Robinson was cooking out the front. The framed colour photo of the Queen, the pine-panelled hall with honour boards, the texta instructions for the urn in the kitchenette, it was all there. Pip and Nat Ryan’s work in The big east, curated by Robinson, was like an amulet; both made of, and antidote to, the spirit of the Scout.
The sculpture sat in some dark place between the cultish initiation in the rec reserve car park, the smirking gags in the back row and the repressed angst of Scoutmaster. Speaking of grown-ups playing in a kids’ world, these adult figures in jammies and sleeping bags are about as cute as a double-dare suicide pact after lights out. A sculptural sardonic laugh, the work was an antidote to the dutiful and its absurdity soothed the pragmatic self-betterment that haunts the building. Flippancy keeps self-seriousness on the back foot.
The charts, codes, uniforms in the hall at Heathmont look a lot like all the other frameworks we build to face the terror of infinite choice. Laminated and framed on the wall, the Pathway to the Grey Wolf Award (tasks, skills, badges, rules for living) is the most basic of survival mechanisms; a self-imposed cell. We’re all agoraphobes. And handrails and cell bars are made of the same stuff. Painter Charline von Heyl describes ‘breaking the rules where there are none’ as a way of grappling with abstraction. Like a Scout gone rebel, the greatest freedom comes from having a rule to break, which is why the institution makes the best house of horrors.
The big east, 3rd Heathmont Scout Hall, Melbourne, 9 June 2013.