Why make art by yourself when you can have much more fun with
your friends? Eschewing the traditional role of the artist as
the angst ridden, garret dwelling individualist, Australian artists
seem more prone to congregate in packs than their New Zealand
equivalents, with recent showings at The Physics Room by collectives
G3, KIT, First Floor, and Textbase in the last two years alone.
Based in Melbourne, the four core members of Rubik have exhibited and curated in
alternative spaces throughout Australia, as well as publishing a series of books
showcasing the work of Australian and New Zealand artists. Going against the grain of much
contemporary installation art, Rubik emphasis the qualities of drawing and 2D imagery in
their practice, often in large scale works which utilize the very space itself, drawing
and painting onto gallery walls and floor.
Drawing on pop cultural references as diverse as One Flew Over The Cuckoos
Nest and childrens fairy tales, the works in this show
were both playful and explorative. Using DIY home decorating techniques,
James Lynch transformed a white wall into wood paneling for Are
You Experienced?, against which small paintings were hung,
in the manner of hunting trophies or animal skins, but with a
suburban twist - a brightly colored sparrow, a fast car,
rendered in the rather painstaking fashion of a Sunday painter.
Also applied directly to the surfaces of gallery walls, work
by both Andrew McQualter and Julia Gorman appeared as diagrams
or blueprints for some suggested action. Gormans abstracted,
geometric shapes hint at patterns for some technological masterpiece,
or perhaps a birds-eye mapping of the rhyzomatic structures of
a city. McQualter offered more specific instructions in his sprawling
construction, presenting a flowchart of the processs, and
reasons, for art making.
Ricky Swallow, fresh from winning Australias Young Contemporas award for 1999,
exhibited a life-size homemade turntable which played records via a sewing needle stylus
inserted into a picnic paper cup. Like Lynchs work, Swallows turntable had the
meticulous construction of a keen enthusiast, and was accompanied by a how to
video, to educate the uninitiated into the subtle mores of DJ culture.
Elaborate fantasy creatures and the seductive world of Hollywood were represented by
drawings and photographs by Tim McMonagle and Julia Gorman. Gormans larger than life
coreflute reproductions of childrens tales swung like mobiles from the gallery
ceiling, while McMonagle displayed snapshots of the artist standing in an airport arrival
lounge, holding up signs in the manner of a car hire agent, each scrawled with the name of
an actor from classic movie The Magnificent Seven.
DAMP, a further (sub)collective offered models for communal behaviour in three
videos which endlessly looped. A loose grouping of ten artists, and formed while all
members were fellow students, DAMPs initial project from that time involved the
establishment of an art school cheerleading group, created to promote a sense of
achievement and worth in fellow students.
However, such noble ideals seemed to have been turned on their head by the first of the
videos shown in Are You Experienced? Featuring raw documentation of a performance
staged at 200 Gertrude Street, in Melbourne, and promoted as a group show of DAMP ceramic
work, members are seen infiltrating the opening crowd, engaging in small interactions with
each other which are rife with tension. These apparently random disputes build,
culminating in the entire collective brawling in the midst of the artwork, smashed plates
and wine glasses abounding galore. Audience members can be seen looking on, their faces a
mixture of excitement and embarrassment.
Much in the way in which traditional drawing becomes a tool for the development
and refinement of initial ideas, to be ultimately resolved in
the medium of oil on canvas, the works in Are You Experienced?
can all be read as marquettes or manuals for some further action
or process. From McQualters complicated diagrams to DAMPs
explanatory videos aiding good behaviour, Are You Experienced
offered support and advice for the culturally confused.
Reviews, Essays & Articles
Rubik 10, Are you experienced
Log 12, 2001, p. 47
<also available on-line>