Tag Archives: video art

Performprint Spectacular

“Extreme printmaking and macho ritual fuel Performprint – a ten-hour exploration of masculinity, live art and print reproduction in the 21st century.” Publicity promised a spectacular event from 9am to 7pm at the Arts House/Meat Market as part of the Festival of Live Art on Sunday March 23rd in Melbourne, Australia.

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The first question that I asked Joel Gailer, when I saw him a weeks ago. Joel looked relaxed, he was leaning on the cast iron lace railing of his terrace house veranda. “Are you in training for Performprint?”

“Yes, I did some training earlier today,” Joel replied. He had been in training. A few days later he and Michael Meneghetti, painted silver and orange, staggering through the Bourke Street Mall, in the centre of Melbourne with very large BBQs strapped to the backs. The ‘Stations of the BBQ’ was a live performance in the lead up Performprint. The masculine domain of the BBQ are locally believed to be quintessentially Australian; “throw another prawn on the barbie” comedian Paul Hogan would say in old Australian tourism advertisements.

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At Performprint, in the historic setting of the old Melbourne Meat Market printer, Joel Gailer and his old friend and collaborator, performance artist, Michael Meneghetti were both in sunglasses, t-shirts, black jeans and boots. They were constantly working with a silent concentrated intensity for the ten hour event except when Gailer would, megaphone in hand, would climb to the top of a ziggurat of half finished copies of Warhol’s Brillo Box to announce his print manifesto and laugh at painters. Gailer proclaimed that “the truth is a copy”, “the copy is primary” and “Warhol is our god”.

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Joel Gailer is an experimental printer; he presses hard up against the boundary of the definition of printing to get a good print of its relief. He has printed in many different processes from etching to commercial printing in art magazines for which he won the the Fremantle Acquisitive Print Award for Hot Process, a page of paid advertising in Art Almanac magazine. Action printing was the next logical step; the LPG gas fire in an iron grill for branding on slabs of pig skin. Branding is a form of print making.

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Gailer and Meneghetti were using many different printing processes from the traditional cast iron printing press to using a lawn roller to make giant prints with large plywood letters. Printing on a giant scale you need a casking gun of tar for ink and a line of rope strung across rigging.

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Meneghetti’s performance art a lot of stilt walking while wearing masks; see his YouTube page. As well as, assisting Gailer with the printing Meneghetti was occasionally walking around in several different versions of the stilts including one made crutches and broken surfboards. There was a video loop of two of his four legged creatures walking around on the rocks of the tidal zone as the water slowly came in.

Other looping videos showed Indonesian fighting cocks being prepared for battle, a man with a spectrum of coloured underpants and a hand holding sprigs of wattle flowers above a flame. The wattle is a reference to both the right-wing nationalist, Australia Natives Association’s ‘Wattle Day’, as a symbol of Australia, and Monty Python’s parody in their Bruce Sketch. Together Gailer and Meneghetti have refined and redefined ideas about Australia and country boy machismo into masochistic endurance performance art. Machismo and masochism are very close.

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There was skateboarding on two ramps at your own risk, with t-shirts printed with legal waivers for the event. The skateboard wheels were carved with letters and the ramps were covered with the printed word. There were many carved wheels and tires that Gailer and Meneghetti pushed around printing words onto the bluestone cobbled floor.

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It was somewhere between print making and rock’n’roll; smoke machines, spot lights, multiple TV sets, video projectors and Harley-Davidsons. This was an event with a bar, a coffee bar and a catering van.

At the end there was the cacophony of competing bands, MY ‘Michael Yule’ Band and Coffin Wolf, and the human branding. At 7:59pm Michael Meneghetti that night posted a photo on Facebook of Joel Gailer at the emergency ward. Gailer went to hospital on Arts House staff advice worried about alcohol poisoning after he consumed a bottle of gin too quickly during and post branding. He sat around for a while and then left before being examined.

A video of a 2013 outdoor version of Performprint.

A video on UStream of the Meat Market event that will make you head spin.

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The Meta-Cinema of Ian Burns

Are you tired of CGI dominating cinema but you still want to enjoy some illusions? Are you tired of the virtual world where windows of illusion disguise the operating system? Then you need the meta-cinema of Ian Burns.

“Contemporary technology overvalues invisibility in the delivery of the screen-based image. I find this a bit sinister. For me, this cult of the virtual is often the antithesis of the embodied experience that art viewing, when at its richest, is often about. The structure that supports the contemporary screen is not just a technological one, but a social and political one. I try to emphasise technological presence in my work, not just to relish its possibilities but to also expose its limitations and flaws.” – Ian Burns (ACMI blog)

You don’t need to know any art theory to appreciate the art of Ian Burns; the whole thing is exposed. All the wiring is visible, the little video cameras, the materials are all familiar ordinary things that you could buy down at the shops. It is a magic trick so good that the magician can show how the trick is done and you still marvel at it.

There is the appeal of the idea of an artist/inventor playing with artistic experiments like Leonardo da Vinci or Marcel Duchamp. Reminding me that the history of engineering started with Hero of Alexandria (c. 10–70 AD) making toys steam engines and other entertaining mechanisms and that currently computing technology is being driven by the games industry. Not surprisingly Ian Burns trained as an engineer.

There is more to the art of Ian Burns than a few video tricks. Burns describes his work as “meta-cinematic”. He gives the audience both the illusion and the crude reality that created it. It is about the satisfying that basic psychological drive to get to see the back of things, to know what is behind them. This knowledge does not destroy our interest in the illusions anymore than an atheist looses interest in religion (most atheists know more about religion than the religious) or watching a puppeteer pull the strings, instead it adds another level of interest to the work.

In his ACMI exhibition, “In the Telling” Burns sequences his kinetic devices to create separate shots for a simple road movie. We all have these dreams of escape, it is a simple illusion but the art is in the telling.

Ian Burns is the Commission Artist for the 2012 Melbourne Art Fair and is also on exhibition at ACMI. I first encountered Ian Burns art two years ago at Anna Schwartz Gallery and it left me wanting more (see my blog post: Ian Burns “and then…”).

 


Shaun Gladwell – Physical Graffiti

I could get cosmic about the Gladwell’s art and write about the spinning fat god that is the turning universe. I could art historical and refer to Gladwell’s references to Turner and Caspar David Friedrich. Or examine his cinematic references to Mad Max and Ozploitation films. Instead, due to my interest in street art, I saw something else in Gladwell’s art a kind of physical graffiti.

Shaun Gladwell is most famous for his video “Storm Sequence” (2000) (it is not in the ACMI exhibition) but how did he come to this? I vaguely remember some of his early paintings.  Joanna Mendelssohn reviewing Shaun Gladwell’s exhibition at Sherman Galleries in Sydney has clearer memories of these paintings. Mendelssohn notes that Gladwell started painting giant copies of Penguin paperback classics. (Artlink Vol 23 no.3 2003) There is nothing of this early phase in Gladwell’s art in the ACMI exhibition. There are still a couple of minor works on paper scattered through out ACMI’s exhibition but they are largely incidental. One drawing, “Untitled” (2011) does provide a key to Gladwell’s art showing a diagram of train surfing yoga positions.

When Gladwell stopped focusing on painting and drawing and turned to video he was able to better integrate his art and his own life. Videos of Gladwell’s street movement; skateboard riding in “Storm Sequence” or hanging from the handrails of a Sydney train in “Tangara” (2003) became the foundation for his video art. Using BMX riders, break dancers, graffiti artists, skateboarders, pole dancers for his videos – this is physical graffiti.

Contemporary movement defines space in a creative, interactive way: what can be done with this space, what orders can be found, explored, used and created. Movement and perspective are not determined by the space but by the person using the space. This is body art as an urban intervention, captured in the locations and the momentum in Gladwell’s videos. In his photographs of the rollerblading police at the Louvre Gladwell is documenting changes in contemporary movement. “Planet & Stars Sequence: Bondi” (2011) looks at the movements of an aerosol art busker routine.

“Shaun Gladwell: Stereo Sequences” in the large Gallery 1 space at ACMI is the first in what ACMI promises to be a series of commissioned new works by ”leading Australian and international contemporary artists.” The horizontal tracking and the walk through “Parallel Forces” (2011) curiously reminded me that the long Gallery 1, deep under ACMI, was once a platforms at Flinders Street Station. It is an engaging exhibition and I hope that has an influence on Melbourne’s street art scene.


Gathering Intelligence @ Brunswick Arts

“Gathering Intelligence” is a group show at Brunswick Arts “aimed at showcasing the recent works of a selection of emerging artists from around the Brunswick area.” (curator’s website statement) On a warm Friday summer evening I bicycle down to Lt. Breeze St. to attend the exhibition opening and gather intelligence on local artists.

I buy a beer at the gallery bar – the gallery is partially funded by bar sales at openings. There is the usual exhibition crowd of young women, friends of the artists and artist’s parents. I start to make notes on the A4 photocopied “catalogue and pricing” list. The prices are all very reasonable; under $200 for most works that are for sale (a few are NFS – not for sale).

The exhibition is the usual contemporary art mix of video, manipulated photos, painting, and sculpture with some quirky drawings by Serena Susnjar. Susnjar draws deliberately kitsch celebrity portraits with naff titles like: “Arnie is so confident in speeches”. Illustrations like these are a change from all the formal and otherwise empty art, so they are now a regular feature of group exhibitions. I wonder why there is so much use of solarization in the photographs of both Julie Forster and Kalinda Vary (actually Kalinda Vary’s aren’t photographs but drawings – see the comments). I’m not impressed with Polly Stanton and Adele Smith’s videos even though they both reminds me slightly of the work of David Lynch. I think that Rylie J. Thomas painting’s should be larger because they look too timid. Then there is punk work of Chris Smith, a series of photocopied band posters and two framed assemblages of readymades – “Sick Blowfly with Ointment and Gauze” and “Slowly Undressing Razor with Comb”.

After surveying the exhibition I decide to talk to Chris Smith. I find him standing outside with the rest of the smokers. Chris Smith used to play guitar in various little punk bands. Although I didn’t know of any of the bands I had played at some of the same venues – the Punters Club and the Tote. We talk about his art, catharsis, photocopying band posters and the differences between analogue and digital photocopiers. Chris misses the old analogue photocopiers and the cheap analogue tricks you could do with them.

The sound installation was being set up as I was leaving. Brunswick Arts has long had an interest in sound, both art installations and the occasional performance by bands. Breeze St. has all these new apartment blocks – I wonder how many of the new inhabitants will discover this little artist-run gallery in their shadow.


Graduate Exhibition @ VCA

The VCA School of Art Graduate Exhibition 2009 is huge. Space after space filled with art: video installations, sculpture, paintings, drawings, printmaking, installations and things that defied classification, but were called “spatial practice” on the invite. If you are going to see this exhibition, and it is worth seeing, then give yourself over an hour to see it all. It is at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery (named after the Margaret Lawrence Bequest who supported the exhibition); which is all of the studio and workshop spaces at the VCA turned into a gallery.

The entrance is at 40 Dodds St., Southbank, it looked like there was a cue to get in when I arrived shortly after 6pm. It must have been the biggest thing happening in Melbourne’s art scene on that a mild Monday night. There were two long bars in the courtyard with a DJ and hundreds of people. Free wine or buy Mountain Goat beer (a strange kind of sponsorship). Young men with haircuts from 80s new wave bands, fashionably dressed young women, the artists, their parents, their friends, etc. There were thousands of people at the opening doing the gallery shuffle and demonstrating their “spatial practice” by not bumping into people after a few glasses of free wine.

Carmen Reid had sent me an invite to the exhibition (I wrote about her June exhibition at Brunswick Arts ) and I was pleased that I could find her exhibits. Her latest works continue to be enjoyable, the accordion doors “(Fidget) Neither Here Nor There” is like Looney Toons architecture made real. Unfortunately I did not get to talk to Carmen – I think that she was cleaning up broken bits of glass from her work “Limbo” that had been damaged by crowds of people.

Seeing the opening was like stumbling into an art fair, overpowering and diluted at the same time. It was hard to take in all the art because:

a)     there were so many people at the opening

b)    there were so many works of art (the invitation said over 1,000 works and I believe it).

c)     there were so much variety of quality art

The list of “School of Art Awards” ran to two sheets of paper – not that there was any information about the various awards beside the award-winning work.

All the current contemporary art moves are on show, the heat from lights, video projectors, art stirring up dust, plants trying to survive an art installation and visual puns from desperate art students. Although there is likely to be one or two very successful artists amongst this year’s graduating class. This doesn’t mean that they are doing great work now or that all the work in this exhibition is great. Much of the art is going down the plughole. Clare Scalan was painting studio plugholes prognosticating a future for so much paint and artist’s careers. I overheard someone in the crowd saying: “90% of video artists are rubbish.” It is probably true of all the arts graduates.

Still there is plenty of art to enjoy at this exhibition; I liked Graham Brindely’s sculptures. They are elegant, they are like physics experiments and drawing in 3 dimensions. In Brindely’s “Gravities” a plumb bob hangs over a circular pile of black sand.


@ Kings ARI

Tidal River by Mark Rodda is a beautiful, graceful and fantastic video. Rodda has created another world, an alien planet of floating islands of a mirror dark lake under a starless sky. Combining the arts of landscapes, gardening and video Tidal River is mysterious, enchanting and beautiful.

The floating islands are gardens; the rocky-looking islands are planted with carefully arranged greenery. The trees and shrubs on these islands are actually small plants or parts of larger plants, the ends of a branch as a fractal version of the whole tree. These are gardens in a beautiful extension of the Japanese tradition of “bonkei” (or “bonseki”) miniature gardens. This is not the first time that Rodda has used video with plant life; his Zombie Garden was a finalist The One Minutes Awards at Paradiso Amsterdam 2006.

In Rodda’s video the islands move slowly in a parade of graceful beauty, propelled by unknown forces across the still water. They move out to the horizon where they are out of focus and achieve a kaleidoscopic beauty in their mirror reflection. Then the islands move back, closer to the camera’s position, and into tight focus, creating a 12-minute loop of action.

I saw Tidal River at the AV gallery in Kings Artist Run Initiative on King St. in Melbourne. Also at Kings ARI are two installations: Potential Energy by Jordana Maisie and Widow’s Walk by Sky Kennewell.

Potential Energy is fun, in a ghost house automated way. A series of metal chains hang from ceiling to floor creating a corridor around two walls of the gallery. A series of infrared sensors along the wall that activate a device that shakes the chains as the visitor walks along the corridor. The sound of the potential energy moving along the chains as a visitor walks along has a great rhythmic pattern. Unlike a ghost house there are not secrets, the devices that trigger this reaction are all exposed, a multicolored spaghetti of wires and circuit boards lie on the gallery floor.

Widow’s Walk is a failure; it has no mystery, no fun, no beauty and no interest. A series of good timber frames have been arranged into a useless combination and within this unsuccessful construction a temporary shelter has been created for an imaginary inhabitant who looks at pictures of successful arrangements of timber frames. Why this imaginary inhabitant hasn’t used the timber to create a better shelter is obvious because it is just something installed in a gallery.


Not Making Sense

Katie Lee, Bridie Lunney and Harriet Turnbull, Making Sense, Bus Gallery

Katie Lee, Bridie Lunney and Harriet Turnbull are involved in artist-run-initiatives; between them they have exhibited at most of them in Melbourne. Katie Lee and Harriet Turnbull are both on the committee of Conical Inc. another of Melbourne’s artist-run-initiatives. The “artist-run culture” as described in Conical’s website is an aesthetic preserve mostly for post-graduate fine arts students. Artist-run-spaces are not a culture, perhaps a sub-culture, but I doubt that it is even that, more of a clique, a circle or set of people aware of contemporary art.

As I moved around the exhibition I thought about what the exhibition could mean. The relationship between an artist’s practice and exercise; the logistics, movement, the exercise of mounting a contemporary exhibition like this compared to other kinds of movements. Making Sense is definitely contemporary art following the now academic history of contemporary sculpture from 1960s on. Bridie Lunney’s use of the artist’s body as a sculptural medium and Katie Lee’s deconstructing of the art gallery are serious features of contemporary art. I was then given the artists statement and had a second look at the exhibition.

Climbing around the gallery and finding the connections in the artists activity could have been fun. Katie Lee’s taking the gallery apart; cut a hole in the wall to show the space behind the ubiquitous white gallery wall. Climbing over the obstructive white plinths piled up in the doorway to the third gallery. However, any sense of play and fun is negated by the Spartan space and the neutral colors. And although this is a serious exhibition ultimately it appears as pointless as hoping on one foot on a spot, a motion that is repeated in the exhibitions videos.

Why bother replicating some types of interactions (unsuccessful collaboration, unstable interactions) in the world? It is not much of an end in itself. Especially if it “soon degrades into something that whilst resembling its origin, begins to make a lot less sense.” (Making Sense artists’ statement). Interacting with the exhibition is disappointing because in the end because Making Sense does not make sense, nonsense or fantasy, it just makes contemporary art.


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