you, me and a weirdo

The story goes:

As a child, D discovered a Zero fighter plane crashed in the bush behind her house. The wings were beat up, the nose was crumpled and banksias had started growing through the cockpit. The plane was practically pungent with history; a skeleton cast from the bombing of Darwin Harbour, a relic from one of the largest airstrikes on Australia. But for D and her sisters, the plane simply became one very cool cubby [1].

Narrative  weaves  precariously  in  and  out  of  Anya Swan’s  practice.  Yet  while  her  works  are  tied  to  reality  they hover on the verge of mystery and absurdity; where the discrepancies between fact, fantasy and  emotion bleed messily together.

Anya  paints,  draws,  pulps  paper,  molds  and  seals  eerie  figurative-esque  paper  forms  with  resin.  Her  works are rarely smooth; they appear to bubble, pulsate, sway and they represent and distort familiar  imagery,  unpacking  our  rituals  and  parameters  for  the  everyday.  In  presenting  us  with  overtly  hand-made,  ad-hoc  objects  Anya  permits  her  narrative  frameworks  to  swell  and  dissolve,  implicating  viewers  in-between  states  of  representation  and  subjectivity.  And  it’s  these  shifting  states  that  she  uses as allegories for the complex and precarious realms of ‘inter-personal exchange’.

Anya  mentions  that  her  works  start  with  stories  about  ‘people  interacting  with  each  other’  and  their  vignette, model-like properties propose birds-eye-views and third person perspectives. At times these  perspectives,  when  combined  with  bodily  references  and  textures,  alternate  viewers  between  feelings  of  watching  and  being  watched.  Her  choice  of  imagery  also  enhances  this  feeling  of  unease  through her tendency to depict figures and forms as un-rendered, isolated and estranged. I have seen  Anya present an array of lone caricature-esque figures and forms; one awkwardly holds a green baby;  another is despondently wrapped in a bath towel, garden hose in hand. I’ve also noticed skewed bat  formations (and other animals displaying human-like characteristics), an empty public pool and lumpy  floating boxes.

‘you  me  and  a  weirdo’  revolves  around  a  larger  aeroplane  relic,  carefully  painted  and  assembled  to  give  appearances  of  age  and  injury.  It  rests  in  the  gallery,  much  like  an  aquarium  ornament  on  the  bottom  of  a  fish  tank.  This  makeshift  model,  even  in  its  playful,  hand-made  state,  reeks  of  time’s  relentless  melt,  of  things  left  unkempt  and  the  way  tragedy  and  the  unresolved  nature  of  death  are  inevitably  things  that  haunt.  For  me  this  work  is  both  playful  and  serious.  It  collapses  personal  and  political arenas but with an uncertain smile. While inspired by a second-hand ‘truth’ Anya’s rendition  moves  beyond  specific  bodies  and  lips  to  emulate  frictions  between  the  sculptures  own  process  and  intent and conflict narratives more broadly. And while these themes are left in flux, we’re marooned  within our own detachment; at odds and unable to follow our habitual desires for order and resolve.  And  in  encouraging  us  to  re-position  ourselves  Anya  asks  us  to  think  for  ourselves,  promoting  speculative  interpretations  that  prolong  experience  rather  than  over-encode  or  stifle  it.    And  I  think  her clunky, formless techniques play a star role in all this; her textures and application delightfully and  noisily repel and intrigue, delude and persuade. They ask us to be wary, but of what I’m never sure. I  speculate it could be the freedoms but also the dangers of swimming outside the flags? Or she might  hint  at  how  insidious  and  all-encompassing  the  nature  of  misunderstanding  is;  and  the  way  it  can  dangerously haunt and infiltrate not only the borders of our media and technologies, but that of our  bodies and minds.

And meanwhile I discover:

The plane was unlikely a zero fighter (only a small number were reported missing and most have been accounted for). The plane that most likely fits the description is an Airspeed Oxford, as the RAAF had a heap of them, a couple went down over that area, from what D remembers (door on the side/gear inside) it’s the most likely of the planes that also match that description [1].

I saw Kate Tempest interviewed on ‘ABC’s the mix’ and as a poet/musician she connects her interests  to  ‘ideas  of  cycles  and  loops’  and  that  ‘in  a  hip-hop  sense  these  loops  become  the  mantra’.  She  concluded  by  describing  looping  as  a  ‘process  of  retracing  the  cycles  themselves,  and  that  part  of  getting older is to spot the cycle before you find yourself unwittingly back on it; in terms of behaviors  or situations or relationships’ [2].

So  I  imagine  Anya  is  finding  methods  for  interrupting  and  redirecting  the  ‘loops’  in  our  lives.  And  while  standing  here  gazing  at  a  paper  mache  aeroplane  and  a  series  of  stiff  mutated  bats,  hopefully  we start to ask ourselves: what are our own realities made up of? where do they come from? and to  what end? And most importantly, are they our own?

And I guess that’s why ‘weridos’ haunt our minds and conversations; they can’t be contained because  they depend on who ‘you’ or ‘I’ are; and in being essentially everything ‘we’ are not, they are home to  our fears and lack of understanding.

Written by Erika Scott

  1. Swan, A, 2016. Personal email correspondence [between A. Swan and E. Scott]. [1‐16 June2016]
  2. ABC The Mix: News 24 view. (2016). Kate Tempest speaks with Zan Rowe on ABC’s The Mix. [Online Video]. 18 May 2016.Available from: Link. [Accessed: 8 June 2016]

Essay from the exhibition  ‘you, me and a weirdo’  by Anya Swan (July, 2016). Courtesy of Fake estate ARI

Image: anya swan, bat rack I, 2016