The fever dream, only a couple of degrees of body temperature (the same increase projected for the global average temperature) influences both the body and the imagination — the embodied aesthetic hallucinatory experience of the strange — the delirium accompanying a fever. It is also the title an exhibition of ten Melbourne-based contemporary artists (Ingmar Apinis, Naomi Bishop, Mitchel Brannan, Harley Ives, Luke King, Elyss McCleary, Ted Mckinlay, Valentina Palonen, Bundit Puangthong and Paul Yore) at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, curated by Mitchel Brannan.
How to describe the neon graffiti obscured fragments of historical references and gestural brushwork in Mitchel Brannan’s two paintings? Or the tumult of signs, symbols, patterns, and blotches in Bundit Puangthong paintings?
Should I describe any of the art in the “Fever Dreams” as “sick” or even “fully sick”? Given the exhibition’s title, would it be appropriate to employ the late-80s skateboard slang to describe the paintings? Engaging with the disturbing, the lurid colours, the ambiguity of using a word for unwell as complimentary. What subtle differences does its meaning have? What baggage from the skateboarding era would the word bring with it? Do the strange nuances of ‘sick’ imply something cooler but less strange? Is a sick colour palette different from ‘feverish’ ones like those in Valentina Palonen’s paintings, where bright colours discordantly vibrate, melt and drip?
Consider the vocabulary used to express approval and the subtle variations in meaning between these terms. These words are not the same as a ‘like button’, and even the meaning of positive emojis varies. “Sick” is not interchangeable with all other positive assessments, for example, “elegant” or “graceful”. It raises the question does a poverty of vocabulary leads to a deprivation of aesthetic experiences? The newspeak world with only “good”, “plus good”, and “double plus good”, or the equally limited like-buttons of social media. And does an extensive vocabulary expand aesthetic possibilities?
Such are the fever dreams of a critic; I hope I’m not coming down with something.