Writing

The Alien Show

The first aliens I saw were in the house of my grandmother in Townsville. Constrained safely within the television and the Dr Who universe, they could do very little to me other than give me a bit of a scare. It was the other aliens that lived there that were truly unsettling. Dark emaciated, skeletal abstractions lurking around corners. A quick moving, chaotic fear always in the corner of your eye. Always just out of sight in the dark corridors between rooms. I never figured out what they were but I know what I saw.

As an adult I have never seen a UFO or an alien and even though sensible folk tell me that it’s a ridiculous notion and that there is no evidence and that it’s all based on sloppy, magical thinking, I still believe. I still believe because all the evidence to the contrary is not entirely persuasive. I still believe because I need there to be more than just this ordinary stuff making up this ordinary life and most of all I still believe because I remember. I remember being a child and I remember trips away with my mother. I remember the searing vinyl of the car seat and roast beef, gravy sandwiches. I remember the clock in the car stopping. I recall a bright light. We saw a UFO.

Missing time. I have forgotten so much. Eventually even the most essential of memories become blurred. The razor clarity of certain events dull, reduced to a series of disenfranchised images drowned in a deep puddle of their siblings. Completely surrounded and submerged but somehow lacking context and coupled with a deeply embedded, persistent but purposeless sense of individuality. Up late one night I see an ad for a process that may help. Hypnotic regression therapy. Now I am a patient. I am a specimen for myself to analyse. What knowledge can I possibly draw from this? Do I actually recall or does the process of revelation write its own story? Does the language I use have the capacity to critically examine itself and me or is it bound to just speak and obfuscate never uncovering its motivation or my own? Am I separate from my language? Am I anything?

Aliens are among us. The Reptilians who run the governments of the world, the Greys who steal our unborn children and probe our minds and bodies. The angelic and benevolent Norse types offering us friendship and guidance. Where there are gaps in our knowledge creative minds find a foothold and fill the space. These gaps are how light and curiosity get in but it’s also how the smoke, fire and sulphur of nightmares take residence and for that we should be thankful. You will find no love here for a benign, texture-less, unchanging light filled paradise. To find traction and our place in the world we need the coarseness of alienation and the dissatisfaction that comes with it. In this is where we find the physical and ideological material to make.

The mechanisms that produce our consciousness are hidden from us. Our thoughts and compulsions are an indecipherable multitude posing as a singularity. Are we an ongoing reaction to the universe or is there an intent filled, indivisible force driving us? Are we ourselves? We never truly know why we do the things we do. We are, in perpetuity, aliens, from one another and ourselves.

Written by Christian Flynn

Essay from the group exhibition  ‘The Alien Show’  (June, 2016)
Courtesy of Fake estate ARI

Image: Charlie Donaldson, JFK is visited by aliens shortly after his death (2016) watercolour on paper.

The Cult of Forgetfulness

When you move away from a home, a place that feels so familiar, almost part of your identity, I knew everything, I had entered into it, I bore it within me, I made it live[1], it feels like you are finally able to see it clearly[2]. Somehow not being there or with the people there, or maybe it’s just the distance from all of it, it puts everything into perspective, you see it as a whole, separate from yourself, Peripheral vision integrates us with space, while focused vision pushes us out of the space, making us mere spectators[3]. It feels like you’ve resolved your relationship with it, you become more conscious of the site-specific version of yourself you were there; of your situational survival strategies, your self-policed behaviour or thoughts, Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center[4] and you become more aware that you are no longer tethered to that idea of yourself. After seeing a place from afar, returning to it as a past-insider, now-outsider is more difficult, maybe because you are faced with a return to past selves, it’s comforting and suffocating, I was enveloped in it, I was a part of it. There was nothing to fear. It was all connected… I knew I was connected to this place[5].

Being an outsider in a new place, unable or unwilling to return home, you start to compare and contrast, you recognise the many similarities across places, the new people you meet seem like variations of the people you left behind, you feel like you already know them. The artificial reality of past spaces emerges in the new place, with varying levels of sophistication, rationalised, sanitised, renamed in the conspiracy of silence[6], forgotten, missing out on the chance of a wonderful sense of shared obscene solidarity[7] maybe it’s just you, What may have begun as a simple forgetting of other possible views turned under habit and over time into something like a cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale[8]. In the constant forgetting and remembering and mixing up, it seems that the difference between the spaces becomes muddy, this reality survives by covering its tracks, by erasing its own history[9], like you are in an outer suburb of the place you left, that The past and the future are here with us now[10].

Documenting or witnessing requires going out of oneself, one’s certainties and preconceptions, to dare “move in” with the other whose existence and life would not even be visible if one stayed put in one’s well-worn routines[11]. You are no longer surrounded by reminders of the past versions of yourself, but you haven’t really changed. Although the artist’s perception may readily be admitted as unavoidably personal, the objectiveness of the reality of what is seen and represented remains unchallenged[12]. In many places, reality runs away; reality denies reality[13]. How do we acknowledge things if we can’t see them? Perception is inextricably bound to memory, so much so that a perception image that is not infused with memory images is impossible[14]. How do we perceive things we haven’t seen before? How do we identify the value of the things we can’t perceive? How do we see things we don’t understand? How do we experience things we don’t name for? Ancient languages didn’t have a word for blue[15]. In Homer’s The Odyssey, the sea is described as wine-dark. If we can’t see colours that we don’t have a name for, how do we know that we aren’t seeing red when we just don’t have a name for blue? Or that we have forgotten to remember the name of blue?

Prior to colonisation of the Darling Downs, the grass grew so tall that one man riding behind the other could only see his mate’s head and shoulders [16].

Written by  Ruth McConchie
[1] Blanchot, M. quoted by Bachelard, G. in Taylor, M., & Preston, J. (2006).Intimus: Interior design theory reader. Hoboken, NJ;Chichester, England;: Wiley-Academy. p.23
[2] Conversation with Danielle Clej (2015) about her conversation with Israeli and Palestinian artists reflecting on their situation from another country. 
[3] Pallasmaa, J. (2005). The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses. Chichester;Hoboken, NJ;: Wiley-Academy. p.13
[4] Vonnegut, K. (2006). Player piano. New York: Dial Press.p.67.
[5] Murakami, H. (1995) Dance, Dance, Dance. New York: Vintage Books
[6] Riethmuller, N. (2006). The Darling Downs Aborigines: 1787-2004 : Genocide and survival. Toowoomba, Qld: Neil Riethmuller.
[7] Žižek, S.(2015) Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism. Retrieved from http://bigthink.com/videos/slavoj-zizek-political-correctness-is-fake
[8] W.E.H. Stanner’s 1968 Boyer Lecture “Great Australian Silence” quoted by Pearson, N., 1965. (2015). The war of the worlds. Collingwood, Victoria: Black Inc. Books. p.10
[9] Desmond, M., & Emirbayer, M. (2009). What is Racial Domination? Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 6(2), 335-355. doi:10.1017/S1742058X09990166.
[10] Jodorowsky, A. in Aitken, D. & Daniel, N. (2006). Broken screen: 26 conversations with Doug Aitken : Expanding the image, breaking the narrative. New York: Distributed Art Publishers. p.182
[11] Bal, M. in Ahtila, E. Bal, M., Galleria Heino, & Marian Goodman Gallery. (2011). Eija-liisa ahtila: Marian ilmestys = the annunciation. Helsinki: Crystal Eye. p.74
[12] Minh-ha, T.T. in Stallabrass, J. (2013). Documentary. Cambridge, Massachusetts;London : Whitechapel Gallery;: The MIT Press. p.70
[13] Franju, G. quoted by Minh-ha, T.T. in Stallabrass, J. (2013). Documentary. Cambridge, Massachusetts;London : Whitechapel Gallery;: The MIT Press. p.74.
[14] Bergson, H. quoted by Bal, M. in Ahtila, E. Bal, M., Galleria Heino, & Marian Goodman Gallery. (2011).Eija-liisa ahtila: Marian ilmestys = the annunciation. Helsinki: Crystal Eye.p.80
[15] Loria, K. (2015). No one could see the colour blue until modern times. Retrieved fromhttp://www.businessinsider.com.au/what-is-blue-and-how-do-we-see-color-2015-2
[16] Riethmuller, N. (2006). The Darling Downs Aborigines: 1787-2004 : Genocide and survival. Toowoomba, Qld: Neil Riethmuller. p. 8

Essay from the exhibition  ‘Woomb’  by Sean Kenny  (May,2016)
Courtesy of Fake estate ARI

Jannah Quill: NO INPUT

Do you suffer from the 31st Century’s Sickness? Am I suffering? I don’t want to believe what comes next. Perhaps it’s too late to find myself beyond clickbait retro­virals eating up cartilage across all known index fingers and thumbs granting access and pertaining ­by all appearances ­ to activity. The agricultural method behind my personalised media plantation is becoming in dire need of mechanisation and a mechanisation that knows how to reap the benefits of tunnels, portals and Return keys jettisoning the name of progress in a way that would make the debris of techno­hubris blush. Already we find it strewn across our desktops in the form of a found­self­portrait from Google Street View anonymised and waving back at ourselves from the street. Progress was a rich word for the founding­father­God­figures of Cybernetics that couldn’t buy into the term as is (progress towards…my father what have I created?) and prompted for a Darwinian belief system that the machines will rise but only the fittest machines. Not the machines winning, just competing. The looser the fit, the better the taskbar will run across the Cosmos’ background entropy ­ and as things become more disjointed on the slow march toward Maximum Entropy/Heat Death the better the purposelessness will demonstrate its worth. Perhaps best inverted at the midsection of the 20th Century when Norbert Wiener ruminated that a robust, flexible, multi­application, multi­generation machine (a true Factotum) will “have the appearance of a purposefulness in a system which is not purposefully constructed simply because purposelessness is in its very nature transitory.” So perhaps even a broken clock is correct twice a day (unless of course the GPS is playing up). But perhaps the most broken clock is the strongest timekeeper there is – after all it’s much more prepared for the unimaginable blips and freeze­frames of elastic space­time than one plagued by its own incessant claims to accuracy.

Financial arrows are better if they point up in relation to these figments of anytime. Clocks will come good with disorder in them and Vandalism Increases GDP. I bring that up to say: if GDP reads as a sum of total economic activity (currency displacement and its local circulation) and if both the paint/felt marker/pasteup/holes/scrapings/wire­cutters and the cleaning/repair/restoration/judicial resources cost money (not to mention the paid labour of the party that applies the latter in many cases) then this is a small but still very much a BLIP of spending too, and it contributes to an INCREASE in GDP. Point not being around economic literacy. Point being that costed human labour is largely one of maintenance occurring in negligible dribs. Point being human work is primarily the undoing of another human’s work and therein lays current conceptions of political movement and the cancellation of human labour to a tense, over­thought null­point. Politics and work are both conspiracies, man.

Difference being for machines they’re still largely indifferent to our projected externalities as Jannah Quill has been thinking through them in their idle something­ness without their designed­for­information­inputs in use. These beings will be the ever­ready that need not that human intervention which is hostile, illiterate and entropy­increasing. A blue screen recalls another Wiener dictum which states “the more probable the message, the less information it gives”. Say that to a Popup Dialog Box locked up on a thinking/default/setup screen saying all it has to offer about its place Right Here, Right Now. Wiener uses this statement to consider clichés, but I can’t help but feel there are some jokes our screens are still yet to tell us. In the meantime only Emojis seem to be able to cry, and ­ at least for the time being ­ some deflated beach balls humming and struggling silently are the most distinguished tears I know. See you in the 32nd.

Written by Andrew Mclellan

Essay from the exhibition  ‘NO INPUT’  by Jannah Quill  (April,2016)
Courtesy of Fake estate ARI

Catharcissism (save me make me keep me take me)

Catharcissism (save me make me keep me take me) dredges Katie Porter’s creative and written past to resuscitate and release words frozen on a hard-drive by the anxiety of sharing one’s creative production. Each of the work’s 200+ assorted poems – from random haikus, to tween love poems and abandoned and forgotten works-in-progress – is printed only once, offered by Porter as a unique physical trace. Tacked onto a pinboard inside the Clutch Collective truck, these poems present a deeply personal act of cathartic self-release and the nerve to narcissistically self-celebrate: aren’t I such a good writer/poet/artist? Just look, I’ve been a genius for years!

Yet in reading Porter’s portmanteau title and instructional subtitle, Catharcissism (save me make me keep me take me), we are in no way convinced – Porter acknowledges, apologises and distances herself from the self-suggested narcissism. By opening up the personal past in such a public format, and by the nature of Porter’s shifting personal pronouns in the poems themselves, a distinct author/reader relationship is averted. The narcissistic auto-biographer celebrating their own life puts themselves at the centre of their narrative: the reader reads about them. Porter’s catharcissistic installation on the other hand, in performing a deeply personal ritual aimed to release, resuscitate and reactivate anxiety-locked creative production, prompts the reader to perhaps read about themselves, or remember a friend, or to experience the thought that one’s past need not be closed off from being reshaped, burnt off or reassigned.

Thus, Catharcissism (save me make me keep me take me) achieves a playful tension between the personal, the serious, and the dripping-with-affective-potential moments, and the impersonal, the funny, and the formally-pleasing-yet-not-overly-meaningful parts. The lofty portmanteau’s reference to self-release, renewal, ostentatiousness and the anxiety-laden publication of personal creativity, is counter-weighted by a soft and instructional poetic subtitle that anthropomorphises and personalises each printed poem as an individual, a me.

Porter’s strategy of distancing herself from her creative production in order for it to be shared and become public is here evidenced. Each poem a character in itself, an always-already apologetic title, the shifting personal pronouns: all are defence mechanisms that allow Porter to step outside her usual processes of work-making and release unedited and raw creative production. Some hurt, some are cringe-worthy, some are funny, some are good, some are bad, some are personal, some are just fun: all engage in an interaction between language, emotional attachment and the showing to others of things others don’t really care about seeing.

Written by Jacob Warren

From the exhibition ‘Catharcissism (save me make me keep me take me)’ by Katie Porter (April, 2016)
Courtesy of Clutch Collective

Dominic Byrne: Bust This Flesh Pit

“The body is our general medium for having a world.”
― Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

​Interdisciplinary art practice facilitates multiple forms of engagement. By expanding the boundaries of medium specificity the attention shifts from its inherent limitations to the possibilities. Dominic Byrne’s 2016 exhibition, BUST THIS FLESH PIT, celebrates this crossover by drawing attention to the space and place in installation practices. Byrne questions the viewership and object dynamic to consider the role of the artist’s performing body in video art. The artist mediates on the visibility of the body from the perspective of digital technologies. The camera becomes the filter in which the performative body manifests itself to the spectator. In this way, there is a doubling of both the self and audience, allowing for intersubjective structures of vision that investigate representations of identity, gender, self and other, self and the social world.

In terms of phenomenology, BUST THIS FLESH PIT investigates the a priori of correlation that characterises the being as what present itself in its appearances only by being absent from them, as offering itself up to an exploration, in the face of which it continuously steps back or withdraws. From this, these works identify the interrelationship between the physical manifestation of the artist’s body and its affiliation to the self, in order to bust out of the established ways of viewing the body to champion autonomy over oneself. Byrne’s large-scale ironic text based work i.e., You engages in a meta-critique of the perceptions attached to the body, arguing that autonomy over oneself is an act of performativity. This concept acts as thread, intertwining the sculptures and video art which points towards the conclusion that gender is not something one is, it is something one does, a sequence of acts, a verb rather than a noun, a ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’[1].

Consequently, both the sculptures and video performance are in a constant state of self-awareness. This self-awareness breeds uneasiness for the spectator, since as they watch, they too are being observed. This is reflective of Byrne viewing himself through the apparatus of a lens. This uneasiness serves to critique what and how we ‘watch’ in the contemporary world and how this feeds into autonomy. Byrne further examines this through a political charged lens in by delving into normative structures of self and other. Intrigued by the current ISIS beheadings, Byrne’s work Me N’ My “Guernica” (Iwabt2fuckanISISprisoner.jpeg) suggest that the philosophical and antithetical parameters that delineate self from other are being subverted. This paradigm is challenged given that the traditional definition and gender representation of the masculine is in flux. The absence of the body within the sculptural works extends this instability within normative discourse. Masculinities are constructions of gender, which involve the simultaneous treatment of the body as a signifier for the representations of normativity and the constant destabilisation of those representations. These works offer temporary ruptures in the organisation of normative structures, which predispose universal privilege to white male bodies. As Judith Butler asserts “gender is not to culture as sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which “sexed nature” or “a natural sex” is produced and established as “prediscursive,” prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts”[2]. In this way BUST THIS FLESH PIT illuminates the construction of masculinity to champion ‘self contained’ masculinities, and in turn threaten hegemonic categories.

BUST THIS FLESH PIT reverses the notion that identity is the source of more secondary actions, to champion the notion that performativity serves to define identity. It achieves this by looking at the ways in which to view the body and its associated hegemonic categorisations without necessarily using the body to do so. Through abstraction these works are scrutinising the materiality of bodies as a means in which to define them. In subtracting the physical, tangible form, that is perceived as a basis of subject hood and desire, Byrne is suggesting that subjectivity can exist as ‘self contained’ and therefore independent of others. Moreover, Byrne highlighting contemporary disjointed perceptions of the body by transforming it into a sculptable substance that while transmuted, still holds spectatorial desire. This notion of desire is explicably linked with the image. Suggesting even with the absence of the body the voyeuristic tendency to spectate cannot be irrevocably expunged. As a result, the role of subjective perception becomes crucial and the spectator’s contemplation with these works is to mediate on the conditions that compose the ‘self-contained’ identities that advocate autonomy for oneself.

Written by Rosie Hazell.

[1] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 25
[2] Ibid, 38.

 

Essay from ‘Bust This Flesh Pit’  by Dominic Byrne (March,2016)
Courtesy of Fake estate ARI

Wandering, Wondering

We are taught to think of time as a resource, that we can manage and sort into useful allotments. We are taught to determine the value(s) of our actions, and how to categorise the various forms of value attributed and action performed. We are taught to articulate an ends, and seek a means. We are taught to reduce the complexity and infinite possibility of daily life to a workable cost / benefit analysis.

We aren’t taught these notions explicitly, but are socialised into them from a young age. We internalise them, and have them affirmed by our daily experiences as participants in a capitalist economy. Operating at both a micro and macro level, they are part and parcel of the wider system that judges achievement and rewards progress. They are a psychological tool in the overarching process whereby control of the many is enacted by the few – that insidious many-faced enemy, the patriarchy.

What if we unlearned these notions? What if the assumptions they are based on are wrong? Can we replace them, and with what? What are the strategies for doing so?

Courtney Coombs is working on unlearning. I’m sure she’d recommend it, if you asked her. Without unlearning, the radical shift in understanding necessary to underpin the reimagining of fundamental structures will continually encounter obstacles in the form of prior ‘knowledge’. A new system cannot be conceived using the language and rules of an old one.

The task of unlearning is complex and vast, and the works presented in Coombs’ Urban Strolling mark the beginning of her engagement with these ideas. Created during her month long residency on the small Spanish island of Cadiz, her video Walking is not a Sport proposes the action of walking as both a strategy of and metaphor for the process of unlearning. With no particular destination and no determined route, Coombs video trails her on a stroll through the town. Unhurriedly, she moves throughout the lanes and squares shared by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.

A pointedly simple work, Coombs found this sort of walking to be analogous to the process of unlearning. Leaving the known behind and always moving forward, though towards what is unanticipated. Opening oneself up to the experience of the walk, soaking in the sights and sounds without motive or intention, being present. This is the approach to knowledge that forms the basis of unlearning.

Within her artistic practice, Coombs has always sought to strip away anything superfluous, and present the idea in its most concise and articulate form. Her audio work Urban Strolling is just that – simply the sound of footsteps walking, the work is sublimely minimal. By presenting only the sound, Coombs isolates the action of walking and emphasises the body as the vehicle for the action. Entirely self-driven and directed, walking becomes pure agency, each step at once vulnerable and defiant in the face of the unknown.

To challenge complexity with simplicity is an unlearning strategy. To embrace the whole from a part is an unlearning strategy. To allow for contradiction is an unlearning strategy. To search with no conceptions of what for is an unlearning strategy. Coombs moves forward, unlearning.

Written by Lisa Bryan-Brown

From the exhibition ‘Urban Strolling’ by Courtney Coombs. 18th March, 2016.
Essay courtesy of Cut Thumb ARI.

LANDSHAPES

IS ART NATURAL?

The question concerning Art’s relation to Nature is one central to Aesthetics and is bound up with associated problems regarding subject formation, differentiation and freedom. Via F.W.J. Schelling’s 1807 lecture On The Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature, the task here is to attempt a conceptual illumination of this question that may sit alongside and communicate with Amy Commins’ 2016 light installation LANDSHAPES.

Schelling maintains that the artist must withdraw from Nature, in order to regain Nature with a thousandfold times interest. We can thus say Art partakes in Nature, without presenting Art as coming after Nature in time or sharing an eternal identity with Nature. The common sense platitude, “We humans are natural; therefore our Art is natural” has all but lost meaning for us today. We must vigorously defend the distinction between human compositions (=Art) and non-human compositions (=aesthetic) such as those of the bowerbird, the maple tree, or the horizon at sunset, no matter how prototypical these latter may at first appear. The dividing line is made manifest by the active component of reasoning in sapience and the conscious Idea that nevertheless depend upon and originate in Nature’s unconscious production of aesthetic forms. Those who claim to reside wholly within Nature birth simple incidents of sense-data or ‘larvae with a blind purposiveness. In so doing, they naively seek to re-present the actual whilst failing to acknowledge the always already conceptually mediated nature of artistic creation.

Is Art’s relation to Nature parasitical? When Schelling says that Art withdraws from Nature, this is not in an extracting or objectifying sense. Above we said that Art shares no identity with Nature, but this is only partially the case. For Schelling, the artist holds a privileged relation to nature, one inaccessible to the philosopher amongst others. As the creator and wielder of concepts, the philosopher dwells principally in the realm of Thought. They may conceptualise Nature, but such conceptions remain some among many and fail to capture the silent aesthetic dimension of Nature’s forms. Conversely, it is the ability to bring together and put forth both the Idea of Nature and the Form of Nature at once and in one work that gives the artist primordial access to Nature.

Schelling does not mean for his concept of Nature to be synonymous with the Real or the Actual. Denouncing those who see Nature as something static or dead, Schelling views Nature as a productive process in continual mutation. If Nature is a process, then it’s meaning for us can never be fixed; it is an updating and updatable force – For Nature never repeats herself. Art’s relation to Nature is thus figured as a revealing. Art is able to reveal the Truth or Idea of Nature not by representing instances of Nature A=A (as in the Romantics’ landscape paintings), but by instead representing the creative energy constitutive of Nature.  To ‘imitate’ Nature is to separate off and unjustly kill Nature by capturing it as inert and in turn producing the semblance of ‘spectres. On the other hand, to actively participate in and diagram Nature’s processes is the highest aim of Art.

Given this crucial relationship, Art-making itself becomes revealed as an updatable practice, which via its different modalities throughout history is challenged to maintain this essential role at representing Nature-as-process – ‘To different ages are given different inspirations.  Via this feedback loop, Art can open us up to the myriad ways of experiencing and thinking through what Nature has become for us, and what we have become for Nature.

Please refrain from scrolling through LANDSHAPES.
Sit within it. Observe it.
And meditate with us on the nature of Art and the Art of Nature.

Written by  Jeremy Kane

From the exhibition ‘ Landshapes’ by Amy Commins.  19th of March 2016.
Essay Courtesy of FAKE estate ARI.

Dhana Merritt: DM Teahouse

Make a delicious bowl of tea:
Lay out the wood charcoal to heat the water.
Arrange the flowers as they are in the fields.
In summer, evoke coolness; in winter, warmth.
Anticipate the time for everything.
Be prepared for rain.
Show the greatest attention to each of your guests.

Japanese tea master, Sen no Rikyū (1522–91)

In the 12th Century, Zen monk Eisai (1141–1215) introduced a philosophy of tea for health and recovery by linking the Five Organs and Five Tastes. Eisai noted that the liver prefers a sour taste, the lungs prefer a pungent taste, the heart prefers a bitter taste, the spleen prefers a sweet taste, and the kidneys prefer a salty taste. Eisai considered that the heart, as the most important organ for sustaining life, could be cared for by the bitter taste of a daily cup of tea. At DM teahouse, participants are welcomed to explore the benefits of drinking tea and to extend this enquiry into the effects of different types of tea on our moods and expressions.

The tea ceremony, not unlike most rituals, involves a performance on behalf of the host and their guests. In this instance, Dhana Merritt presents DM teahouse, a performance piece engaging both artist and spectator in the medicinal properties of tealeaves. This exhibition stems from Dhana’s current interest in the study of naturopathy combined with her experience of teahouses all over the world. Throughout her travels overseas Dhana encountered the ambience of many international teahouses and their inhabitants. In the city of Dalat, 1,500 metres above sea level, Dhana recalls tasting the smooth flavour of artichoke tea. In a Middle Eastern teahouse she experimented with the combination of drinking mint tea and smoking shisha. In Berlin in the rain, she entered a Russian teahouse and ordered a tea set with a shot of vodka and a spoonful of jam for her black tea. Each visit inspired thoughtful enquiry about the people who inhabit these spaces. DM teahouse is an investigation into what draws people to such minimal social environments. What is it they find themselves talking about day to day?

At DM teahouse, Dhana offers her audience a selection of three tea sets. Each tea set has been selected to stimulate different emotions, expressions, and conversation. One may notice heightened sensory perception, cheerfulness, calmness or warmth. Dhana’s first tea set inspires romance with elements of rose combined with damiana, which has its origins in Aztec culture as a type of aphrodisiac. Those who select the second tea set may feel restful and calm as a result of tasting passionflower, chamomile and Echinacea tea. The tea is then paired with lavender ice water and oat biscuits, whose carbohydrates work to increase serotonin levels, resulting in a calming effect. The third tea set is perhaps her most curious due to its capacity to cleanse the throat through the use of sage, licorice root, and cinnamon bark tea combined with peppermint infused ice cubes. Those who select the third tea set may find themselves increasingly aware of their articulation, accents of speech, and the speed at which they layer words. This creative project insists on focusing wholeheartedly on its audience. Sit, taste, and by all means speak your mind.

Written by Kate O’Connor

 Herbert Plutschow, Rediscovering Rikyu: And the Beginnings of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Global Oriental: Kent (2003), 26.

From the exhibition ‘DM Teahouse’ by Dhana Merritt. Saturday February 13, 2016.
Essay courtesy of Cut Thumb ARI.

Made pink

“I am the self portrait of my father” – Saeed Jones

It is important to inaugurate this piece of writing by mentioning that the artist’s father is a truck driver, specifically a transporter of tanked chemicals. By quirk of fate or maybe direct sarcasm, the artwork will accommodate itself in the rear container of a truck. Presented here are two videos projected onto pearly perspex screens built into thin pine (pink painted) scaffolding frames. One of these neat constructions projects an image of the artist’s father, a figurehead for the truck driver archetype. It’s a body of work that seamlessly eats its own tail.

The trucking lifestyle is one drenched in overtly straight and privately gay histories, and the artist has done their research, or has typed ‘truck stop blow jobs’ into a porn search to see if this very engagement exists. Trucks are burly objects. Look at a picture of a truck or drive beside one on a road. They are wide set, rigid and lofty. Powerful and mechanical and monstrous to look at and to drive, they represent a male orientated operation. So associated are they with the masculine, in fact, that an internet image search for “trucks; masculine” results in a fetishist picture of a cowboy hat-clad man adjusting the side mirror of his truck. Another is a picture of both truck and man’s undercarriages side by side. These images both seem like mild porn. It is interesting that a vehicular object such as this can generate at once such masculine machismo and sexuality.

Pink for young girls, trucks for young boys.

The sensitive, genteel colour winds itself tautly around every facet of this show, from the title to the colour wash to the roughly lathered paint. There is strength in choosing a colour so directly aligned with queer culture and associated with masculine and feminine stereotypes. The artist is flaunting the colour. Pink stands for genitalia, flesh, the indent left from leaving your elbows on your thighs for too long. Pink is perpetually bodily, a visual signifier for human sexuality. It is also a colour of innocence and youth. It sits in direct contrast to the grey tones of an engine powered road vehicle. The artist identifies the pink in all of its might and shifts it into the position of astute vigor. What we see is the deconstruction and reconstruction of symptomatic typecasts of gender and the preconceptions of masculinity. Here the screen transcends the inherent masculine and feminine qualities woven deeply into the colour and the vehicle and presents them in a queer and accredited position. And so the effeminate pink renders itself utility grey and becomes the unrelenting pink once again.

Written by  Lilly Heenan

 

From the exhibition ‘Make it Pink’ by Callum McGrath. 11 March 2016
Essay courtesy of Clutch Collective ARI

Marilyn Schneider: V.V.V.V.V.I.P.

Art fairs are a transient space for commercially motivated consumption. The material-semiotic messages transmitted by Marilyn Schneider’s sculptures and paintings communicate a complex interrelationship between architecture, the designed object, the art object, the environment and its inhabitants: actants that complete a circular capitalist narrative. This artwork, like the art fair environment, is a venue for experience: not just the framework through which art is experienced, but the framework is revealed as art, in and of itself.

Marilyn’s work is, in this sense, paradisciplinary: situated vividly in relation to its forms of production, drawing attention to textural surfaces and architectural forms by reconstructing them with imitative materials that highlight their artifice. These reconstructions, isolated in the gallery space, demonstrate how our dominant cultural fantasies are deceptively integrated as part of a continuous lifescaping project, into seemingly benign architectures.

The Socialisation of Luxuries is a pencil drawing of Georg Jenson ‘Infinity’ cufflinks. Their enlarged size draws attention to their sculptural quality and highlights the culture and clientele that art fairs attract – being a luxury men’s accessory it points towards male power, dominance and wealth.

Marilyn uses architecture and material as a metaphor for our social conditioning, drawing links between production and consumption through a coded visual language. Beyond Product is a partition stud wall constructed from lightweight plywood and MDF, which indicates the temporal manufacturing of the art fair’s pop up and pack down culture. The wall’s façade presents a painting of Jonathan Anderson’s exhibit for the luxury fashion brand Loewe in Art Basel Miami 2015[1].

Although Anderson did include established contemporary artists in his exhibit, the display acted as a backdrop for the staging of V.I.P. parties and events. By positioning themselves in an art fair setting, Loewe were able to encourage shoppers to associate the brand with art of high culture.

In an art fair context, high end luxury labels sit alongside mega galleries such as Gagosian and David Zwirner, indicating that big name artists have equal brand recognition and that their artworks are commodities which are collected to reflect economic status. A good example of this conspicuous consumption is when Kanye West gifted his wife Kim Kardashian a Hermès Birkin bag painted by George Condo for Christmas.

The wall behind the sculpture (Beyond Product) is clad with Microsoft Excel formulas that hint at the behind-the-scenes labour that underlies the staging of experiences and orchestrated events. Mega art fairs, blockbuster exhibitions and Biennales, along with their long list of public programs have become feats of administration rather than art. This subtle nod makes visible the inner-workings of the amorphous capitalist machine churning out art as a global luxury experience in the 21st century.

The art fair lounge presents the perfect metaphor for the economic shift towards a broadened cultural elite who value access, experience and consumption over ownership and acquisition. Where once social status was defined by one’s property, (what one bought at the art fair) it can now defined by one’s access to and participation in the fair’s V.I.P. lounges and associated parties. Rented luxury, temporal luxury: these are the new points of access to the global capitalist dream, placing new emphasis on the materiality of experience.

The objects’ materials, tones and textures communicate familiar yet abstract forms, allowing us to consider their social positioning and their communicative effects: the status attached to access – not just of luxury items but luxury environments – articulates a seamless integration of art with advertising, entertainment, fashion and design.

These objects at once reflect a vapid culture of generic luxury, whilst ironically creating that very aspirational allusion to the culture being critiqued. By documenting and presenting these simple elements as art, Marilyn abstracts the forms and aesthetics of art fairs and re-presents them as artworks, creating a witty irony: the artworks themselves are something to be desired, they create consumerist aspirations in the viewer even though at the same time she is deconstructing the same luxury economy that fuels the generic aesthetic that is antithetical to the production of art.

Essay written by Roslyn Helper

[1] Jonathan Anderson is the Creative Director for the Spanish fashion house Loewe.

Courtesy of FAKE estate ARI. 

From the exhibition :  V.V.V.V.V.I.P. by Marilyn Schneider. (February 2016)