While everyone in Melbourne has been trying to live as close to the city as possible over the last few years, theres something of a suburban revival happening in the artworld. It seems the burbs are definitely in this spring - perhaps that trip to visit the relatives in the burbs over Christmas made an impact on the inner-city art scene this year - though Im still looking out for my first flannelette shirt and pair of ug boots at an opening.
200 Gertrude Street ended the summer slowdown with a big opening for None More Blacker featuring a REAL metal band playing REAL metal in front of the gallery on a truck. There were even some moshers decked out in REAL black (not Melbourne "gallery" black) moshing up the front while artists and friends stood back and tapped their feet. Aligned with the Melbourne Fashion Festival, None More Blacker aimed to mine that rich vein of resources that was (and still is) metal and glam rock. Intended to tour regional Australia, particularly industrial cities, the exhibition consisted of works by the "hottest" artists in Australia - John Meade, Hayley Arjona, Alexander Knox, Lyndal Walker, Ricky Swallow and the ubiquitous Adam Cullen. According to curator Lara Travis catalogue essay, "None More Blacker is not here to make you work, learn, or be a better person. Its designed to show you a good time with some amazing art." Though not a metal or glam fan myself, highlights of the show included Arjonas larger than life self-portraits in rock star poses, Lyndal Walkers portraits of friends dressing up as rock stars, John Meades suggestive black wig sprawled on the floor, and Ricky Swallows row of painted key chain skulls. As a show, it provided recognisable metal and glam references, presumably appealing to a wide audience beyond the regular art crowd.
Meanwhile at 1st Floor, a similar vein of popular culture was being mined. Tougher Than Art, curated by Mark Feary, saw artists respond to outer suburban "bogan" lifestyles and accessories - hotted-up cars, tight jeans, flannies, moccasins, hard rock, truckloads of beer washed down with Jack Daniels - the whole ensemble glued together with a "live fast die young" sentiment. The artist Wankuss asked a dozen friends to construct art from a pair of KT26s, which included a KT26 bong, a stubby holder and roller disco gold painted KT26s. Daniel Fearys (Business At The Front) Party At The Back featured video footage from the back of a moving panel van while Renee Sos installation, Wanted Dead or Alive, featured an installation about a pitbull terrier called Chucky that included a crocheted Chucky doll, photos, newspaper cover pages and a newspaper article. According to the article, Chucky mauled a couple of cops on a drug raid, took two bullets before being arrested and impounded, then finally, facing death row, Chucky was "dognapped" from the vets surgery. Near this on the gallery floor, Ben Moriesons Featur-ism piece comprised 12 sections of asphalt framed in shallow drawers onto which someone had done a burnout. And as if to confirm that the burbs are encroaching on the inner-city art scene, Moriesons Burnout 2001 carpark performance featuring some of Australias best-known burnout champions creating a burnout masterpiece is to take place on the 18th March (see <www.burnout2001.com> for the results).
For me, these shows reflect a certain type of nostalgia - a teenage performative rebellion against mainstream culture and values - when it was clearer who the enemy was (parents, school, cops). Its no coincidence that both AC/DC and KISS are touring around Australia at the moment - perhaps following the same wave of nostalgia (despite the cries of "they were never out of fashion for me"). This time though, rebellion is instantly recognisable, commodified, aetheticised and, ultimately, contrived. However, the mixing of different audiences suggested by both exhibitions and Moriesons performance has to be a good thing.
On a more sedate note, Daniel Von Sturmers Science Fiction at Penthouse and Pavement continued his exploration of space with a video work. Attached to one wall at about eye-level was a square piece of perspex that functioned as a screen with digital video projected onto it from behind. The video was a compilation of various visual tricks - a hand pouring a glass of water into another glass which rather than getting full simply emptied; a glass of water whose water level tipped up slowly without the glass moving; and a hand squashing a square of plasticine and letting it come up again slowly. Against a minimal white background, these slow-moving tricks were mesmerising, while the floating screen attached to the wall seemed like it was hanging on despite gravity. Manipulating the basic laws of gravity, Von Sturmer questioned how pictorial space functions, confirming the dominance of the virtual over how we perceive space.
D.J. Huppatz is a Melbourne writer currently upgrading the engine in his Laser, putting on spoilers & practicing donuts. KT26s are very cheap running shoes that were big in the seventies. They still make them and you can buy them at places like K Mart.