Tag Archives: performance art

In the Post

Mailbox Art Space, formerly Mailbox 141, in Flinders Lane is the perfect location for this mini retrospective of Pat Larter’s mail art from the mid 1980s. Mail art was an international, underground art movement from the 1960 to the 1990s. It was the analogue equivalent to the internet driven, artistic side of street art.

Pat Larter, Untitled Mail Art (Art Risk Pat) c.1980, Screen Print on Paper, 29 x 24 cm. © Courtesy the artist’s estate.

Pat Larter, Untitled Mail Art (Art Risk Pat) c.1980, Screen Print on Paper, 29 x 24 cm. © Courtesy the artist’s estate.

Mail art incorporated aspects of print art, conceptual art and in Pat Larter’s case performance/body art. “Sex drama artist” is the text on one of Pat Larter’s publications. Another image is titled “‘artist action’ swinging the bag”. Photos of Pat wearing a bra with scurried faces sewn in the cups. In another photo she sits in a stiff parody of a poor porn pose, wearing fake breasts and fake vulva.

I like Pat Larter’s anti-erotic, laugh at pornography, making art from slippage between the public display of what is usually consumed privately; it is a more realistic approach than the current neo-con attitude. Pat Larter’s attack on the boys club of mail art, her ‘Female art’ rubber stamp is a pun on male art. There is a photograph of the ‘Female art’ stamp on Pat’s shaved armpit.

Pat Larter uses several print techniques include rubber stamps, photocopy, photographic and Print Gocco.

The mail boxes in the lobby of 141 Flinders Lane are full of zines, rubber stamps, props from photos and a some ceramic objects; a breast, a penis and an apple core. This exhibition shows that even a very small artist run space can host a significant retrospective exhibition.

For more on Pat Larter:

“Pat Larter from Kitchen to Gallery” by Joanne Mendelssohn

“In defence of bad taste: the art of Pat Larter and Lola Ryan” by Gemma Watson


Body of Work

When I arrived at Dark Horse Experiment Casey Jenkins, dressed in her metallic jumpsuit and high leather boots, was talking to a friend and having a smoke out the front of the gallery. It was at the end of her lunch break and she soon returned to start her work in the gallery.

Casey Jenkins, Body of Work

Casey Jenkins’s Body of Work is a three week durational, community-engagement performance artwork. Jenkins really works the idea of ‘work’ and ‘body’ and to some extent it worked.

Work is an important subject for a contemporary artist to examine; it defines us and in some cases, shapes our bodies. There are so many issues about work, from identity and gender to comparative rates of pay, that it was hard to find a focus in Jenkins, Body of Work.

Jenkins was setting different pay rates on days, this ranged from a negative fine of $1,200 (the amount street artist, HaHa was fined for about an hours work) to $1,586,852 p/h (the amount Mark Zuckerberg accrues per hour). These extreme differences did give Jenkins a couple of days off in the three weeks.

The difference between this work and reality tv shows, like World’s Toughest Jobs, is the gallery and the employers.

The gallery for Jenkins this was more of an installation, the antique punch clock, typewriter, the workbench, the bed. Sometimes she was hooked up to microphones to amplify her heart beat as she worked and the labour was screened live during working hours via the CCTV cameras. In someways the windowless gallery space appeared as a dystopian work environment with objects arranged for display rather than function.

The choice of jobs for Jenkins was more of an interaction with the employer. It required the engagement with people, provoking the public to invent short jobs that required no skills and could be done in the gallery space. In this respect both the jobs and the employers were less real than on a reality tv show. The poverty of the public imagination explains much of Jenkins work: sex acts, body painting and erotic polaroid photographs to compile tax receipts. Jenkins said many of these employee relationships were idealised, representing how the participant would like their boss to behave.

I wonder what would have happened if nobody had employed her? Is there much use for unskilled labour these days? I left the gallery as Jenkins got back to her ‘work’ updating someone’s Twitter account.

Jenkins has been a lot of news articles about the piece in The Guardian and The Melbourne Broadsheet. Jenkins is not a stranger to publicity the SBS2 The Feed’s report ‘Vaginal Knitting’ on her earlier work Casting Off My Womb has be viewed on YouTube 6,481,137+ times.

I have a growing interest in tenacious, hard-working performance artists. I have been seeing a lot of performance artists work hard recently from Amy-Jo Jory breaking rocks in Listening to Stones II and Matto Lucas working out in Endomorph, with dreams of becoming a Mesomorph. Maybe this is sympathy, because of they are amongst the losers in the art world along with art critics. Probably more due to being particularly impressed by local performance artworks by Stuart Ringholt, Michael Meneghetti, Peter Burke and others further away, like Tania Bruguera.


Love/City II

On Friday night I went to see Love/City II: of Time and Country, an artist run festival at Testing Ground. On the train I sat next to the Doritos Space Warrior, covered in orange triangles scale armour, illuminati triangle shield and cardboard laser rifle. He said that he was on his way to a costume party. There were a lot of people in strange costumes on missions in the city that night.

Mira Oosterwegel, Negotiating Stasis at Testing Ground

Mira Oosterwegel, Negotiating Stasis at Testing Ground

Testing Ground is an empty corner lot behind the Art Centre, all around it there are multi-story apartment buildings, hotels, the new ballet school. The empty lot has several converted containers that formed the bar and the gallery. Palette islands are the main architectural form creating towers, benches and platforms. It is a bit of urban acupuncture providing a temporary fix to an urban problem area.

Three food vans were there; food vans are now typical of festivals in Melbourne. I get some samosas from the African food van; yes samosas are African, I first had samosas when I was a primary schoolboy in Kenya.

I had a drink with photographer, Fiona Blandford, who had installed a photographic series of light boxes in one of palette islands, We Are Our Landscape: Butchers Creek, East Gippsland. Little viewers provided a magified view of the small photographs, this close up examination felt like looking for evidence in crime scene photographs, which it was, in a way. Butchers Creek was named after a 1841 massacre when Angus McMillian and his men killed an unknown number of Gunaikurnai.

In the gallery there interactive digital art works, Clark Beaumont’s Waiting for Barcelona, three channel video installation and Lyndal Irons, Goodbye Oxford Tavern, a series of photographs exploring the bright lights and tired world of strippers. There was a lot of photography and projected video art work but really worked for both the space and made me think about art was the live art. On stage was In My Hetroroclitic Body doing a hardcore electro-acoustic sonic performance with great costumes.

In My Hetroroclitic Body

In My Hetroroclitic Body

Mira Oosterwegel’s Negotiating Stasis was impressive with the perspex vitrine and florescent lights. The male performer, Lachlan Tetlow-Stuart was perfectly still. He was “relaxed and comfortable” to echo John Howard’s words about his ambition for the Australian public. The performer’s head was resting on an Australian flag beach towel, with his sunglasses he was isolated from the world in the perspex box.

Fitting perfectly with the location was Amy-Jo Jory, Listening to Stones II, an extremely physical endurance performance artwork using nineteenth century cut bluestone blocks, an archetype of Melbourne’s construction and a sledgehammer. Watching Jory smashing the granite blocks I was reminded me that Melbourne’s unemployed also broke these stones for ‘sustenance’ work during the Great Depression and the precarious financial position of performance artists.

Amy-Jo Jory, Listening to Stones II at Testing Ground

Amy-Jo Jory, Listening to Stones II at Testing Ground

On the way home to Coburg on the number 19 tram I saw a mass of people on the oval in costume and waving weird weapons. Over a hundred people were in a massive melee but by the time I got off the tram and across the road the battle was over. I thought that I might see the Doritos Space Warrior but these were more conventional fantasy warriors with foam swords and shields. Every Friday night at Crawford Oval, Princes Park south in Parkville, there is Swordcraft, a live action role-playing game.


Somatotype Workout

Matto Lucas’s performance, “Endomorph, with dreams of becoming a Mesomorph” in the front gallery of Off The Kerb on Friday night was about body building, working his body, using his body as a media for his art. He writes: “The body is the site where identity as defined by gender, race and sexuality is located, performed and challenged.” His workout was accompanied by his personal trainer and sound artist, Cat Tyson Hughes.

Matto Lucas

In one way it was very traditional art, a reference to Ancient Greece bring the gymnasium into the art gallery, the almost naked male body posed in the gallery, the contrapposto feet in his weight lifting stance.

During the strenuous workout Matto’s skin turning first pink, then red and even purple on the top of his shaved head, around his mohawk, as he became more exhausted. By then Matto’s performance, and the crowd, was spilling out onto the sidewalk but still visible from my seat at the window of the shopfront gallery. Personally I felt like a cat watching the workout while I drank Coopers Pale Ale. Work is very interesting; there is truth in work, if not beauty.

There is a great deal attention to detail in the performance and exhibition. The walls are covered in plastic as if the sweat from the workout was going to run down the walls. Aside from the performance there are two videos at the gallery. One video shows Matto’s body morphing into different shapes, absurd variations of his actual shape and the other of him in the gym.

Matto Lucas

In the upstairs gallery at Off The Kerb Sarah Louise Brownlow’s exhibition “The Great Pretender” is the antithesis of Matto Lucas’s “Somattotype” (note the double t including Matto’s name in the body type). Brownlow’s exhibition is about photographs and videos of the obscured body, the covered or masked face.

I first saw the work of Matto Lucas in the Metro 5 prize four years ago. Although he was the youngest artist in the prize I thought that he had an outside chance if the judges wanted something truly radical. (See my blog post: Metro Art Award 2011) Since then Matto has exhibited widely and is currently painting an Australia Post postie bike with a queer manifesto written by an anonymous activist in the 1970’s for the Midsumma Festival. He has also done some photographs for my forthcoming book, Melbourne’s Sculptures.

Matto Lucas’s work is about his own body, a body that he develops at the gym and that he also loathes. I’ve been wondering if  I could sell a story about his weight loss to some magazine? You know the usual weight loss story I lost x kilos in x time, proposing an artist diets and noting that overweight artists are rare. Matto and I could only think of Diego Rivera (height 6ft 1inch 316 pound in 1931), Pierre Manzoni (the Italian conceptual artist), William Turner and Isaac Julian (an installation and fine art film artist who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001). Do you ever skip a meal or eat a lighter meal so that you can continue working? Do you have a full time job? Can you afford food? Do you ever try to eat enough at a party to put off having your next meal?


Noula Diamantopoulos’s Quest

Noula Diamantopoulos is performing Quest at the Melbourne Art Fair and I had an interview with her on Wednesday morning. Quest consists of Noula sitting on a pile of cushion on a carpet in a quiet space with mirrors. There is a low table with coloured pens and another pile of cushions for the visitor. The visitor writes a question on paper that has already been painted by Noula and the quest begins. In silence the visitor asks five questions and gets five written responses back. “The silence is intimidating” Noula told me, “The writing makes it concrete.”

Noula Diamantopoulos

You would think that a punk philosopher, like myself interviewing what appears to be a new-ager is bad idea but keep in mind that art is not what it appears to be. Often with good art some people forget that it is art. Quest might look like a meeting with a spiritual guru, but it is not. Some people ask Noula questions as if she were a fortune teller: ‘will I fall in love?’

Noula Diamantopoulos is a performance artist and performance art it is closer to sculpture than spirituality. “I sculpt” Noula said, paused and then explained that her work is like moulding clay only it is a collaborative participation on a conceptual work of art, sculpting both the physical and the conceptual.

In preparation for my interview I looked at several of her websites; Noula told me that she doesn’t have a main website but that she finds them a way to organise her ideas. Noula studied at Sydney sculptor Tom Bass’ school in 1998. She remembers Bass dressed immaculately in white (Noula is also dressed all in white except for a pink scarf) and that his studio smelling of mud. He was very strict in teaching sculpture and wrote poetry. People in Melbourne would know Tom Bass’s sculpture from his Genie in Queen Victoria Gardens or the Children’s Tree on Elizabeth Street.

On one of her many websites Noula had written: “Art making is a transformative process.” People expect transformation from the spiritual but art really is a transformation, something changes into art. In making art you have to have the intention to change something and that requires awareness of what you are intending to change and what you changing. Noula told me that generally by the third question that people ask her things have changed. “Questions have the seeds of all answers.”

In the rush of the Melbourne Art Fair performance art involving a quiet space for reflection is a rare opportunity.

Noula and Peter Burke

Noula Diamantopoulos and Peter Burke


Performprint Spectacular

“Extreme printmaking and macho ritual fuel Performprint – a ten-hour exploration of masculinity, live art and print reproduction in the 21st century.” Publicity promised a spectacular event from 9am to 7pm at the Arts House/Meat Market as part of the Festival of Live Art on Sunday March 23rd in Melbourne, Australia.

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The first question that I asked Joel Gailer, when I saw him a weeks ago. Joel looked relaxed, he was leaning on the cast iron lace railing of his terrace house veranda. “Are you in training for Performprint?”

“Yes, I did some training earlier today,” Joel replied. He had been in training. A few days later he and Michael Meneghetti, painted silver and orange, staggering through the Bourke Street Mall, in the centre of Melbourne with very large BBQs strapped to the backs. The ‘Stations of the BBQ’ was a live performance in the lead up Performprint. The masculine domain of the BBQ are locally believed to be quintessentially Australian; “throw another prawn on the barbie” comedian Paul Hogan would say in old Australian tourism advertisements.

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At Performprint, in the historic setting of the old Melbourne Meat Market printer, Joel Gailer and his old friend and collaborator, performance artist, Michael Meneghetti were both in sunglasses, t-shirts, black jeans and boots. They were constantly working with a silent concentrated intensity for the ten hour event except when Gailer would, megaphone in hand, would climb to the top of a ziggurat of half finished copies of Warhol’s Brillo Box to announce his print manifesto and laugh at painters. Gailer proclaimed that “the truth is a copy”, “the copy is primary” and “Warhol is our god”.

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Joel Gailer is an experimental printer; he presses hard up against the boundary of the definition of printing to get a good print of its relief. He has printed in many different processes from etching to commercial printing in art magazines for which he won the the Fremantle Acquisitive Print Award for Hot Process, a page of paid advertising in Art Almanac magazine. Action printing was the next logical step; the LPG gas fire in an iron grill for branding on slabs of pig skin. Branding is a form of print making.

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Gailer and Meneghetti were using many different printing processes from the traditional cast iron printing press to using a lawn roller to make giant prints with large plywood letters. Printing on a giant scale you need a casking gun of tar for ink and a line of rope strung across rigging.

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Meneghetti’s performance art a lot of stilt walking while wearing masks; see his YouTube page. As well as, assisting Gailer with the printing Meneghetti was occasionally walking around in several different versions of the stilts including one made crutches and broken surfboards. There was a video loop of two of his four legged creatures walking around on the rocks of the tidal zone as the water slowly came in.

Other looping videos showed Indonesian fighting cocks being prepared for battle, a man with a spectrum of coloured underpants and a hand holding sprigs of wattle flowers above a flame. The wattle is a reference to both the right-wing nationalist, Australia Natives Association’s ‘Wattle Day’, as a symbol of Australia, and Monty Python’s parody in their Bruce Sketch. Together Gailer and Meneghetti have refined and redefined ideas about Australia and country boy machismo into masochistic endurance performance art. Machismo and masochism are very close.

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There was skateboarding on two ramps at your own risk, with t-shirts printed with legal waivers for the event. The skateboard wheels were carved with letters and the ramps were covered with the printed word. There were many carved wheels and tires that Gailer and Meneghetti pushed around printing words onto the bluestone cobbled floor.

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It was somewhere between print making and rock’n’roll; smoke machines, spot lights, multiple TV sets, video projectors and Harley-Davidsons. This was an event with a bar, a coffee bar and a catering van.

At the end there was the cacophony of competing bands, MY ‘Michael Yule’ Band and Coffin Wolf, and the human branding. At 7:59pm Michael Meneghetti that night posted a photo on Facebook of Joel Gailer at the emergency ward. Gailer went to hospital on Arts House staff advice worried about alcohol poisoning after he consumed a bottle of gin too quickly during and post branding. He sat around for a while and then left before being examined.

A video of a 2013 outdoor version of Performprint.

A video on UStream of the Meat Market event that will make you head spin.

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Little Diver Remembered

Melbourne’s street artists have been recreating it in tributes ever since Banksy’s “Little Diver” in Cocker Alley was destroyed in 2008.

Cocker Alley Banksy Tributes – Sunfigo above, Phoenix below

The first artist to document create a paste-up tribute images was Phoenix. Phoenix created an identically sized Little Diver figure that was revealed by the dripping paint that destroyed it. Phoenix continues to refer to the Banksy’s Little Diver, this time with a cross over reference to Warhol “Famous for 15 minutes comments.” (See “The Resurrection of Banksy’s Little Diver” by John Raptis.)

Earlier this year Sunfigo remembered Banksy’s “Little Diver” in a work that parodied the Melbourne City Council’s Laneway Commissions. Sunfigo is a good multi-layer stencil maker and knows Melbourne street art and graffiti history including references to HaHa, Hugh Dunit, Sync, Phibs, the notorious CCTV, and others, as well as, Banksy.

Melbourne street art performance artist, Bados Earthling has been creating his own tributes to Banksy with performances and songs. When a Banksy rat was destroyed in Prahan in 2012 Bados held a candlelight vigil in Prahran to mourn the loss. Bados Earthling and his band the Wild Audio Society’s have a Banksy tribute songs: ““Be Like Banksy” with the chorus “Where’s the Banksy?” Bados Earthling says “the most comonally asked question I get from the general public is where are all the banksy’s located… They never asked about any Austrtalian street artist.” (You can enjoy Bandos’s performances on YouTube.)

In 2010 another Banksy rat was destroyed in Hosier Lane, local street artists reproduced it and added other work commenting on it. (See my blog post: Street Art Notes July)  Do all of these tributes to Banksy really contribute anything to Melbourne’s street art? Even though the tributes to Banksy by Phoenix, Sunfigo and Bados are all quality and nuanced works of art but repeating the legend of Banksy is not the subject of significant art. Apart from serving as a reminder of the hypocrisy of Melbourne City Council towards street art – and politicians eat hypocrisy for breakfast. There is an element of the cultural cringe in both the council and Melbourne street artist’s continual celebration of a visiting British artist.

Rather than dwelling on the past maybe these artists should think about the future of street art in Melbourne. Street art is ephemeral and has little room for history – maybe it’s time to forget about Banksy.


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