Monday, April 26, 2010

You’ll be the Death of Me: Bridie Lunnney and Meredith Turnbull

"You’ll be the Death of Me"
Bridie Lunney and Meredith Turnbull

In the Degreaves St subway, (commonly known as the Flinders Street Station subway for those of us who have trouble remembering the multitude of alleys and laneways in Melbourne) exists the Platform exhibition space. The Platform space is a series of window boxes set into the wall of the underground thorough fare, an expressway for commuters exiting and entering the train station. Ordinarily these window boxes contain the artworks that are being exhibited (objects, images), so that passers-by, if they have enough time to throw a passing glance during their busy commute, may be visually appeased by some artifact of some aesthetic value, made by one of the many artists that belong to the plague that is choking or city with creativity and culture.

Bridie Lunney and Meredith Turnbull have proposed something a little more bold: a concept (heaven forbid, I can already see our major selling newspaper, the rag newssheet for the common man, crying out that artists are gobbling up our tax dollars with their superfluous existence and needless, functionless arts practices). As opposed to a constructed object or image, like a sculpture or a painting, what they have done is physically change the space: the duo have painted a coat of mid-grey onto the outside of the glass, so that the window boxes now appear to just be flat grey panels exhibited on the wall, as opposed to three dimensional enclosures within the wall.

The grey shares multiple commonalities: it reflects Melbourne’s drear weather, the cities mass of concrete and bluestone, and even the average commuter, the common people, anonymous in the peak hour, grey-men. It almost appears to be the same colour used by city councils to buff (paint over) graffitied walls, which in a way is exactly what they have done; they’ve buffed out, or over, erased a physical three dimensional space used for exhibiting art. Ordinarily this action would mean that they’ve erased an opportunity to display.

What Lunney and Turnbull have done is provided a space for people to exhibit their own work or words by encouraging the public that pass through the area to graffiti the painted glass by scratching the paint off, thus revealing the negative space, both pictorially and literally, because as the paint is scratched off in letters and words or shapes, a peephole is created to look into the empty space of the unused window box behind the grey façade.

The irony is that usually audience participation and interaction is seen as a positive force of collaborative creativity, yet the more the public create, the more they destroy the result of the initial action and efforts of the artists to facilitate such an opportunity. The line between the creative act and the destructive act disintegrates when we realize that the only action a public participant can execute without destroying anymore of the artists original glass painting, would be to refurbish, or repaint the glass as well, essentially an act of graffiti because it would destroy what others have done, yet it would also adhere to the artists initial intentions.

The works title, “You’ll be the Death of Me”, is a great summary of this creative-destructive dichotomy and a chance for the work to speak to the Audience, the participators, not in condemnation but merely alert them to the truth of the relationship that they have together.

A work that destroys itself is perfect in this push and produce world. If you’re going to bring anything new into the world, it should be this: action.

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