I saw some exhibitions by artists with connections to Monash University this week.
In the Sample case in Campbell Arcade is Lucy Berglund sculpture Mother/Lover/Other. Lucy Berglund is currently completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at Monash. Found basalt block of stone, familiar to all inhabitants of Melbourne as ‘bluestone’, wrapped, tied and taped. The tradition of wrapped objects goes back to Man Ray and the Surrealists, through Christo, and Berglund has little nothing new with the idea. However, the stone blocks wrapped in blanket material, nylon stockings, or bound with rope do have a primitive minimalist sculptural quality.
There are former post-graduate Monash Art and Design students exhibiting in a group show at Shifted, a new gallery and studio space on Albert St. The artists are exhibiting work in a variety of media: sculpture, painting, drawing and video art. The theme of the exhibition deals with the body in space but, like the media, there is no uniform method or ideology evident amongst the artists.
One of the exhibiting artists is Michael Brennan, who was once a member of 69 Smith St. proving that in this case an artist-run space can be the step to commercial gallery representation. I instantly recognized Brennan’s vertiginous perspective and surface of wrinkly dried paint. His current painting is less realistic, more urban and more thought provoking than the earlier paintings that I have seen.
This is just a brief sample of Monash fine arts students currently exhibiting in Melbourne. This small entry is my little celebration of Monash University’s 50th anniversary. I am a Monash alumni but that hasn’t influenced my critical judgment, as I never studied Fine Arts or Design at Monash University and have no connection with that department. When I studied at Monash University there was only one campus, at Clayton, and no Fine Arts department.
Platform has a wacky exhibition by Simon Pericich; wack-wack wacky with my wacking-stick wacky. Violent fun with lots of weapons and the spray-painted slogan: “…when they come we will be ready”
I enjoy exhibitions that create new fictional cultures. There were lots of weapons displayed in Platform’s glass cases like museums display antique or ethnographic weapons collections. And, as in those displays, the weapons are not just functional but decorative cultural artifacts. Pericich’s improvised weapons are the decorative, colorful artifacts of some post-apocalyptic suburbia.
Some of Pericich’s weapons were less dangerous than others; some may not even be functional, like the crossbow made from a guitar neck and a clothes hanger, but they are all hysterical. Arm yourself with what is around the house: mops and brooms turned into spears, golf clubs and cricket bats studded with nails, fails with mirrorballs, whips made from electrical cables, quarterstaffs with high heels.
Looking at the weapons I started to think which ones I could manufacture from items around the house but why would I? This arsenal of crude weapons are hysterical paranoid reaction to an ambiguous threat – who are “they”?
Who are they? ‘They’ are not one of us. This is explained in Brad Haylock’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Politics” at Vitrine, also in Campbell’s Arcade. This exhibition ties in beautifully with the crude politics of the weapons in Simon Pericich’s exhibition. Haylock has condensed politics to “US/THEM” in large, glowing, neon letters.
Both of these exhibitions mark the end of recent extreme paranoid global and local politics. In the past few years the public has been threatened with the ambiguous threat from “them”: terrorists, refugees, American neo-cons, Muslims, germ warfare and nuclear-armed states. This confused dichotomy is the front line of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we are beginning to see this insane period of world politics as crude, manipulative madness. For both of these artists finding something aesthetic in the ugly side of politics is an achievement. And this makes them excellent exhibitions for the public space of Platform where they are seen by hundreds of commuters daily.