Saturday, October 29, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Cluster: agroupofthingsorpersonsclosetogther. The invite image (below) for Cullen’s show ‘Cluster’ both repulsed and intrigued me, it was the photograph of an open-palmed hand that had a cluster of small, green caterpillars crawling all over it. I hate caterpillars, I don’t know why, my fear may stem from some deeply hidden trauma that’s locked away in my subconscious. The image was a great psychological-masochistic motivator.
Cullen’s work in the exhibition was spread between two rooms, connected by a small window (below) between them, whilst this architectural anomaly is a fixture of Rearview gallery, the multiple rooms lend weight to the underlying concept of grouping, clusters and assemblages, as the separate display spaces themselves come together as a collective.
The first and smaller room of the two spaces is an introduction, a preface comprising of a few photos and some sculptural works on the floor (above), in order to prep the viewer for the second room. Models of black stalagmites rise out of sheets of pine ply (below), they are pillars of accumulated mass, mass that is delivered in tiny particles over hundreds of thousands of years. Stalagmites, like everything, are slow forming clusters, geological clusters of H²O molecules and dust, clusters of atoms. The entire universe comprises of the same building materials that exploded out during the big bang and everything is a new cluster, a new reorganisation, of these minute parts.
The second space feels much less like an incubator or studio space of ideas, and holds the crafted results of his practice: a collection of collages, displayed under uniformed wood panels, under perspex. The works dominate the space, surrounding the viewer, an army of cubic Petri dishes containing the collaged mashed mutants of matter, pictorial hybrids in which landscapes, architecture, botany, and portraiture are fused together, again affirming the similarity between all matter and that all of existences matter emitted from the same source.
Taken from disparate sources and of differing subject matter, the images are not joined in order to create a new recognisable picture or scene, but are joined together by shadows, outlines, colours, creating a loss of gravity or orientation within the image, parts existing together rather than wholes. Even Frankenstein’s monster was comprised of like parts, those of human anatomy, Cullens single-cell patchworks are impossible combinations that could never occur in nature.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Apathy. Pathos. Everything is the same, it may as well all collapse, or condense, whatever, either one, it doesn’t matter which, and that’s the point: artistic apathy. That’s what is happening in the magazine, ‘Bohemia’ (below), produced by Schwartz: layers of images and text all flattened out to one plane, unreadable, indistinguishable, a huge mess of corrupted visual data, all of it as equally important, or as unimportant, as each other.
Forget art history, or arts theoretical frameworks, the ideology for an artistic practice or exhibition can be formed song titles that express the aforementioned lament (below). Abandon thought and consume popular music in lieu of reading philosophy.
On one table is a copy of The Labyrinth of Solitude with a colour photocopied selection of Australian currency peeking out from the pages (below). If we are to learn anything from Octavio Paz, it’s that ‘Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition’ and because it’s so universally familiar, you could probably make a buck out of every single person on the planet by exploiting it.
Pop-musicians (inadvertedly?) use it to convince millions of hormone-riddled teenage girls all over the world that their clichéd sonnets are actually personal messages of love and devotion directed to each and every hopeful, naive, little Miss. Religion takes full advantage of the inescapable truth of solitude and death and sets its sights on a target audience well beyond the small demographic of prepubescent fan-girls. Religion aims at everyone, even members of other religions, no holds barred.
Before you even enter the exhibition you’re faced with a free-standing promotional banner guarding the entrance, however the message it delivers isn’t trying to sell us anything but instead proclaims ‘GOD IS IN LOVE’ (above), but it may as well read ‘SANTA CLAUS IS IN LOVE’. The absurd announcement is printed in virginal, holy white text on a blue skyed photo background, the visual elements amplifying the insanity of speaking for an omnipotent, omniscient, deity whose existence is questionable.
An exhibition review probably shouldn’t be written in suite with the show itself, but (just as Schwartz asks via The Smiths) ‘what difference does it make’?
Thursday, October 20, 2011
The exhibition shares its name with a pornographic remake of the blockbuster ‘Gladiator’ from 2000, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russel Crowe. The pornographic remake, ‘Private Gladiator’, is a blatant scene-for-scene refilming of Gladiator, except with over 9000 times more sex. It is also touted as being one of the most expensive pornographic films ever, although its budget would be insignificant compared to the $103 million dollars it cost to make ‘Gladiator’.
The work by Janet Beckhouse and André Ethier mirrors this act of remaking that occurred with Gladiator and Private Gladiator: both extreme variations of what we know about the world with a liberal dose of extra sexuality and energy added.
Beckhouse’s work is littered with skulls, bones, seaweed and mutated sirens of the sea, exposing their junk boldly, like they’re usin’ their goods as the bait for man-trap, akin to the feminine monsters in classic Grecian tales of heroism and adventure.
Each figure is a possible strand or divergent that could have occurred in our own evolutionary history. This idea is given strength by the fact that these beastly femme-fatales are perched within their ceramic dioramas on the side of a vase surrounded by human skeletal remains, our remains, we the failed, unfit, human species.
The work is baroque, flowery and leafy. Ceramic isn’t necessarily a delicate medium, museum pieces have proven that it can survive thousands of years, and yet Beckhouse crafts it so ornately. The subject matter occupies a similar dichotomy: the women are physically young and beautiful, but their poses and claws or sharp teeth tell us that they are wild and dangerous, as does the underwater graveyard they live in.
This is work that teenage boys would be very much interested in, from a hormone driven perspective, there is tits and ass, baring all to the viewer with some even adopting the lewd open mouthed expression of blow-up sex-dolls, all framed by grisly elements of death. Generally speaking though, there is more care and meticulous craftsmanship in the work than an average teenage boy would be capable of.
'Untitled', 2007, André Ethier, (courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery)
André Ethier’s paintings account for the other half of the work in Private Gladiator. Ethier’s 2-D works bounce layers of bright coloured washes, often spectrally clashing, a visual effect that manically vibes and hums, as if in a drug or fever fuelled state which resonates at the same frequency as the energy and movement in Beckhouses sculptures.
This visual static-mania depicts the visions of an altered state of possible alternative evolutionary forms: hybrid shamans with celestrial flames radiating from their heads, bouquets of mutant plant life mimicking delicate and aroused human genitals, picturesque summer meadows occupied by sedate animal-men with manes that take styling cues from both the carnivorous African lion and the now extinct 1960’s, free-lovin’, hippy-archetype, and the portrait of a star-cheeked, cyclopic, bearded man.
The exhibition as a whole is both balanced and in conflict between the two fantastical strains of work as a collective as it is obvious the work is by two different artists, working in two different disciplines and mediums, yet both stylistically complement each other so well. Private Gladiator flits in spasms between sex and death, the fragile and the dangerous, creating fantasy by slightly perverting what is real and known.
 Dragonball Z, ep. 28, ‘Goku’s Arrival’. Within the episode, the Saiyan warrior Nappa asking "Vegeta, what does the scouter say about his power level?" Vegeta replies, "It's over 9000!" and then crushes the scouter in his hand. The scene is completely overdramatic and the power level 9000 seems to completely arbitrary. The scene was made famous and achieved meme status when it was posted by the user Kajetokun on YouTube in its entirety once and then replayed several times at a variety of speeds, and interspersed with a clip from GaoGaiGar. The term has now come to mean ‘a great deal’ or an simply an unquantifiably-large amount. Dragonball Z became known for its focus on fighting and violence yet created as a cartoon and marketed at children. Ten points if used to describe violence and pays homage to the original context.