“Songlines” is an installation by visual artist Kallie Turner and composer Joel Ritchie at Tinning Street Presents. It is both simple and elegant. In the middle of the gallery sits a very large cone of iron oxide red powder with a woven bag suspended above it.
It is like Anish Kapoor meets aboriginal culture; the title, “songlines” refers to the Australian aboriginal tradition of mapping routes in songs. Perhaps the powder is red ochre, an earth pigment that is widely used by Australian aborigines in a variety of traditional practices including painting and decoration.
The cone of red powder is well lite in the blacked out gallery, the shadows of the cone and bag are projected onto the gallery wall. The colour and texture of the powder stands out in sharp contrast to the darkness.
Ritchie’s powerful soundtrack of rolling deep brass lines and taping sticks makes this installation a total sensory experience; all that was lacking was a smell. The soundtrack also invited the visitors to stay longer and meditate on the cone of ochre.
Kallie Turner is a local artist; I’ve seen her work before in MoreArts 2011 (see my blog post) and, like this time, it was an impressive work.
Impressive but nothing really new for contemporary art and the documentation describing it as “a meditation on the process of renewal, transition, and illusion of life, along with a poem on the room sheet instead of the usual documentation for an exhibition is a little overblown and over directed. The artists need to be more confident that their work can communicate more than words and the mystical is often ineffable.
A post-minimalist jellybean on pin installation, “one jel-ly bean, two” by Natalie McQuade, covering all the wall space in Bus’s foyer. It was so beautiful, so minimal and so fun with the red and orange jellybeans pinned in a modernist grid.
Continuing the fun there was a kitsch over-load of plastics and cleaning products of “The Lodge” by Bree Dalton, Sarah Lynch, Cherelyn Brearley, Sarah Oldham in the Skinny Space. Not all of the artists seemed to be on board with this eccentric program and the paper cuts works didn’t work with the rest of the installation.
Then there is the blackness of “The Garment-Body” by Sarah Berners in the Main Space. “The Garment-Body” is part of the fashion festival, part PVA sculpture, part photography, part ugly, part stupid and all fun. Black is used with playful and magical effect; in one photograph the model’s legs are the only things visible amidst the blackness. I loved it partially because I wear black a lot of the time.
“Days Of Our Lives” by Melanie Chilianes is a quadraphonic soundscape, a condensed version of the TV soap opera. It is installed elegantly in the Sound Space with a single small tapestry of a man’s face by Michelle Hamer pinned to the wall. It didn’t really do much for me but I was impressed with the quadraphonic effects.
This is the last show for Bus Projects, “an independent art space”; I will miss the space, whatever it is called: “gallery”, “projects”, “art space” or “artist run initiative”. I’m not going to gush that I loved all their shows; sometimes I was disappointed after hiking over to the boring northeast side of the city, walking along Little Lonsdale Street and climbing up the wooden stairs. It wasn’t the best space for art, but they fitted in as many exhibitions as they could with all the various spaces and there is a surplus of exhibition space in Melbourne. I started this blog because I thought that there were exhibitions in spaces like Bus that were worth reviewing – good or bad. One of my favorite recent exhibitions at Bus was an exhibition of Indonesian art (Indonesian Art @ Bus); Bus may have been a small gallery but it had a vision of its place in the world.
Art involves a risk, a risk for the artist that they might fail and a risk for the audience that they might not enjoy it. Sports, strippers and stuntmen are risk free entertainment for the audience; you will generally get what you expect. Art involves an investment by the audience that might not return value for their time, money and emotional investment. Not that the risks posed by art are that great, a waste of time, money and thought. I have been bored far more often than shocked and rarely hurt (use ear protection when going to live bands or night clubs).
A critic should take more risks in what they see than ordinary members of the public. A critic should be an explorer of new territory, as well as, being aware of the established areas. I have not been taking many risks recently going to events at the Melbourne International Arts Festival as they have been programmed by festival directors and praised by other critics. Arts festivals attempt, with their selection and discount ticket packages, to ameliorate the risk of sampling new work. In this respect I feel a bit negligent in my selection of items to report in this blog. I excuse myself as I am still recovering from all the secretarial work for the Melbourne Stencil Festival.
Seeing a production of Chunky Moves has become a safe bet for me, after the last three of their productions (Glow, Two Faced Bastard, and Mortal Engine) that I have seen. I know that they will take risks in new and daring dance productions. I know that they consistently produce excellent performances and I never know what to expect from a Chunky Moves performance except that it would high-energy contemporary dance. Certainly their production Black Marrow lived up to expectations in that it defied my expectations all the way through. Just when I expected not to see a face for the whole performance, a man in a three-piece suit emerges from the mass of bodies and starts to talk to the audience. I laughed, I cried, it was grotesque – it was life in all its swampy blackness. The sound, lighting and other stage effects combined brilliantly with the dance. The Merlyn Theatre at the CUB Malthouse, is well equipped for these effects and is an excellent venue for Chunky Moves.
I had less of an idea what to expect of Ray Lee’s Sirens at the Meatmarket even though by the time I saw the second last performance there had been a few published reviews. It was clear from the festival program that this did not fit into a conventional artistic format of a play, concert or exhibition. It was worth the risk its of ambiguity and minimalism as there was a lot of beauty in it. Sirens is low-tech, drone installation and performance. It required a meditative mind, a person capable of keeping silent and listening to nuances in sound to appreciate. The machines, tripods with a rotating arm with a speaker and LED light on either ends are turned on and tuned. A single oscillator provides the sound to each pair of speakers. Then a motor turns the arm creating a Doppler effect as the speakers swing around. The shadows projected onto the walls of the Meatmarket of Ray Lee on a ladder turning one of the taller tripods as other arms rotated around was surprisingly beautiful. In the darkness at the end of the spinning LED lights are another beautiful image. All of this made me keep on moving around the installation to see and hear it from a different angle.
I haven’t been to Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) for a while; it has changed a lot since I wrote my last review in my old blog. It now occupies two stories above Brunswick Street with numerous white walled gallery spaces, track lighting and dark wood.
The “first Brunswick Street Gallery Picture This 08 Prize” exhibition filled BSG’s galleries and it stairwells, hung salon style to fit in more photographs. There are some 900 photographs by about 300 photographers in this exhibition – far too many to make individual comments. I did recognize Matthew Harding’s photographs because I had seen them only last month in a larger format at RMIT’s 1st Site gallery. There is great variety of photographic techniques in this exhibition from duotones, b&w, color, and digital manipulated. And the subjects of the photographs are even more varied. The handwritten gallery cards with titles and prices are a bit shabby and some of the artists printed their own.
Not surprisingly with so many exhibitors and the sunny spring Saturday on Brunswick St. there were lots of people in BSG when I visited. And Brunswick St. remains the trend-setting, cultural heartland of Melbourne with its bars, cafés, restaurants and bookshops.
Slide in Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces doorway Tim Hillier’s video “Shackle me not”. The video features two men on a beach wearing a double hoodie, two hoodies sewn together along one side, like a garment for co-joined twins. The video is fun combining avant-garde body sculpture traditions from the 1970s with popular romantic images of running on the beach.
Seventh’s gallery two has “sonance”, a work of sonic and sculptural art by Miles Brown, Monica Zanchetta and Craig Love. It is beautiful and strange with musical influences from LaMonte Young and Luigi Russolo. I don’t know if the three white card pipes and horns contributed much acoustically, apart from allowing the listener to separate the sounds, but they looked the part magnificently.
At 696 artist and gardener Bernadettte Trench-Thiedeman had a small exhibition “Archeology” of pen and ink drawings. What is remarkable about this exhibition is its installation-like hanging. The whimsical drawings are on small linen kites that have become stuck in a tree, their strings trailing down. Bernadettte Trench-Thiedeman has been busy this year; she had the exhibition “Eat the City” at Platform and helped plant vertical garden at Melbourne Central. So the use of the tree branches for the installation is part of Trench-Thiedeman botanically influenced art practice.
The Ian Potter Museum of Art has a survey exhibition of Dale Hickey and The Vizard Foundation Art Collection of 1990s. The State Library of Victoria has an exhibition that they call “the Medieval Imagination” even though most of the manuscripts on display were from the Renaissance. I saw all of these exhibitions but I’m sure that they will be reviewed elsewhere in the arts media. All of these exhibitions were looking back, but this review will look to the future. And at exhibition that are unlikely to be reviewed elsewhere, not because of a lack of quality but a lack of marketing budget.
Brunswick Arts is exhibiting Launch, by recent fine arts graduates, an impressive contemporary group exhibition. The exhibition is dominated by Will MacDonald’s sound installation, Close to the Edit. It is an awesome but subtle sound, a complex drone or a didgeridoo like a LaMonte Young composition, hard to tell with all the distortion. And it has been installed in an intriguing way; I wanted to look into the steel garbage bin, just to see. By placing containers of water on the speakers the sound waves are translated into ripples on the surface of the water. These ripples are extraordinarily beautiful, transient, chaotic forms. And the vibrations of the containers add too and distort the sound.
The other work ranges from the mystical beauty of Monika Andrew Poray’s meditations, in a number of different media, on a pot plant. To the disgusting, but intriguing, work of Amanda Jean Filleul who has made a dinner set of “regurgitated bread” along with a video of her chewing the bread. There is the curious miniature world of Julie Skeggs’s installation and photographs. Masha Makarova was exhibiting spiky bronze and steel sculptures and quirky cast sugar sculptures elegantly placed on a mirror.
And at the LaTrobe Street Gallery, the shopfront part of the LaTrobe College of Art & Design, Jim Hart is showing “No User-Serviceable Parts Inside – exhibits from the Museum of Electrical Philosophy”. This is a gallery exhibition of quirky kinetic sculptures that Jim Hart has been showing in his Museum of Electrical Philosophy, a small window in the door to Room 603 in the Nicholas Building.
Face Crumpets Inward, a toaster with a knife and fork going in and out of it, has the instant humour of danger. Some of the sculptures, the whirling dervishes especially, reminded me of kinetic sculptures by Len Lye and Pol Bury, the masters of kinetic art. But Jim Hart’s sense of humour and knowledge of science gives his kinetic sculpture additional qualities.