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Tag Archives: shock art

Scandal Shock!

“… as a protest against the niggardly funding of the fine arts in this hick State and against the clumsy unimaginative stupidity of the administration and distribution of that funding.” Australian Cultural Terrorists claim of responsibility for the theft of Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the NGV in 1986.

Melbourne love an art scandal. This is assisted by having some top rate scandals, for example, the unsolved theft of the Weeping Woman. Although sometimes these scandals seem to be borrowed from US culture wars, as in the case of the vandalism of Andre Serrano’s Piss Christ in 1997.

Art scandals have been ruined careers and lives, some of them were crimes and art has been destroyed. Melbourne never gave Vault a fair go. Juan Davila sighs at yet another repetition of the cry of ‘obscenity!’ Some of the unfortunate victims of these scandals and some naive realists might be thinking: “what has this got to do with art?” but this discourse is part of what defines art.

In the wake of an art scandal, even people who have not been to an art gallery in decades will express an opinion. The media is full of the story and more comments and from the informed comments to the mad ignorant rants it is this discourse that, in part, defines art. The year of debate about Ron Robertson-Swann’s modernist sculpture Vault in 1980, although driven by local city council politics, inspired the next generation artists to think hard about art and express their ideas not just in their art but in public forums.

This love of art scandals has created its own artists, CDH and Van Rudd for example, who create their own mass media interactive art works by provoking police, politicians or the public. These artists and their art are well known, although not exactly popular. Creating a scandal that goes viral is not the easiest thing to do and not every attempt succeeds in being both a scandal and art.

It has also helped create the environment that fostered Melbourne’s street art and graffiti scene by giving their contentious and audacious actions a wider public eager to discuss them and collect them.

These accidental and deliberate scandals are interesting because they expose the cracks in the facade of our culture and deep divisions in the airbrushed idea of a united society. These scandals raises more questions than they answers prompting further thought, action and creation.

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Minor Infinities

Attempting to resolve the issue of the theatrical versus sublime in visual arts with an exhibition that could be stored in a matchbox. It could be a recipe for another boring exhibition. “Another empty gallery” was my first thought when I came around the corner of Conical gallery and set eyes on “Minor Infinities” by Jeremy Bakker.

This is not a hugely popular or hyped exhibition that attracts a large audience but there is something of the theatrical about it. It is art that can only survive on the theatrical stage of the white walled space of a contemporary art gallery.

However, if it weren’t for this stage of a white gallery room then only the mystics or the scientists playing at mysticism would be able to see the sublime beauty. And there is sublime beauty, a powerful poetics to the exhibition.

Bakker’s “Minor Infinities” at is in touch with the infinite and the sublime but also the theatrical. It is about seeing the infinite, like William Blake, in 107,928 grains of sand piled on a small white shelf low on one wall.

In other works Bakker subverted the sublime, bring it down to earth by swallowing the glass marble of “Satellite”. Or using his sperm as glue to attach the 100’s and 1000’s cake decorations to the pins heads for “Minor Infinities”. (How many sperm can dance on the head of a pin?) The art world has become blasé about shock art but this is often because so little poetry to it, that it lacks has any quality of the sublime. These little shocks in the exhibition bring a fundamental human quality to the sublime and infinite.

At first I didn’t even notice all the pins that filled one of the gallery’s white walls. Looking more closely I saw the precise geometric movement of shadows. Looking even closer it looked like a miniature (or infinitely large) 3D version of a dot painting by Damian Hirst with a randomly colored dots spread out across an infinite white plane. It is Jeremy Bakker’s “Minor Infinities”.

Jeremy Bakker is a Melbourne based artist who is on the programming committee for Westspace Gallery. His background in philosophy and English literature, that he acquired as an undergraduate student at UNSW Sydney, was clearly showing in this exhibition.


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