“This is REAL! life / is communication still possible?” is the current exhibition at artBEAT in North Melbourne. Rex Veal curates and uses the title in two parts to effectively take a conceptual stand on the nature of the exhibited work and open a dialogue, the first part boldly states that the artworks, and by extension, the exhibition, closes the gap and multitude of differences between art and real life, which seems near impossible seeing as what defines the two are defined by opposites: art is fictional, the displayed, proposed theoretical and the viewed whilst real life is truth, experienced and consists of the implemented and the practical. To grammatically strengthen this standpoint, Veal capitalises the word ‘real’, and backs it up with its own exclamation point, regardless of its mid-sentence positioning.
The second part of the title asks ‘is communication still possible?’ and Veal is keen to open up the lines of communication and dialogue by going to extraordinary and commendable lengths to have the gallery open from 10:00am to 10:00pm everyday of the week for the duration of the exhibition with the additional opportunity for attendees to sleep over in the gallery (if they arrive before the gallery closes in the evening) every night, essentially enabling the viewer to constantly experience the gallery in ‘real-life’ time, or real time, without the closures or opening hours dictating the viewing hours that we are so used to experiencing art within.
There’s a strong allegiance in the materials used to create the work within the show, the main constructive medium leans towards a new form of art povera, a plastic povera that utilises decades of capitalist gluttony in which we over-dosed on cheap plastic manufacturing.
Dan Bell uses these cheap and discarded objects in a way not dissimilar to bushcraft, as though they are natural detritus (sticks, stones, pinecones, twine, etc) as opposed to the throwaway household tacky plastic moulded products and fare you find in discount variety stores, which they are.
One of Veals work was a boxing bag half filled with the same polystyrene beads which would usually fill bean bags, changing what would otherwise be a hard, vertical, strong object used in machismo fight training in leiu of a human body to punch and kick, and giving it a new less threatening and less abused life as a functional object that slumps flaccidly and powerlessly on the floor, giving itself up to be laid upon or sat on. All the innuendo and allusions to failure are intentional; if this is REAL! life, how can they not be?