I prefer to see imaginary anthropology rather than real sociology in art galleries. I understand the historical development of presenting real sociology in art galleries; it emerged from realist photography that documented the world. Sociology can be presented as art rather than social science. Sociology is not without interest or value but when I walk into a gallery it is not the most appealing of exhibits. Perhaps if it was in a gallery or museum of sociology I might be better mentally prepared.
The word ‘dull’ springs to mind when I think about both sociological exhibitions at Conical Inc. Lily Hibberd’s “Bordertown” is both depressing in content and the way it has been exhibited with a curved black wall dividing the gallery. Emidio Puglielli “Through” is not depressing but failed to excite my interest. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details.
West Space Inc. has three exhibitions about identity over time, an excellent achievement for an artist run gallery. ‘Two’, photographs by Vivian Cooper Smith and David Van Royen, contrasted the permanent and transient. Fassih Keiso’s fun digitally manipulated photographs and video exhibition ‘Generations’ that engages with the next generation of her own family. And Mark Guglielmetti and Lisa Broomhead’s cultured skin grafts and installation: ‘Toowongs Don’t Make a White’ was a quasi-scientific and psycho-geographical study of identity.
I greatly enjoyed the imaginary anthropology of “Brothers & Sisters” by Belle Bassin and Alasdair McLuckie at Utopian Stumps. It was exciting, like finding the art of an unknown people who practice unknown rituals. The centrepiece of the exhibition is large ritual gateway with a narrow passage dangerously decorated with glass shards.
There are pyramids, triangles, repeating net pattern, knitted wool tubes, strange symbols and esoteric iconography waiting for interpretation. The foundation of this unknown culture is the shamanic visions of Jim Morrison, ‘Celebration of the Lizard’ (Absolutely Live, 1970). Bassin and McLuckie started collaborating in 2004 and I hope that they continue to create imaginary anthropology.
Utopian Slumps, a non-profit art space that opened in 2007, is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Utopian Slumps is down an alleyway full of rubbish and up a flight of stairs behind the Melbourne Fringe building in Collingwood. It has a foyer and a single gallery room.