Tuesday 19 November 2019

Subjective Spectacle - Exhibition Review

What: Subjective Spectacle
When: 14 - 17 November 2019
Where: RRI, Circus Oz
Created by: Kimberley Brewster, Mindy Davies, Lowana Davies, Naomi Francis, Skye Gellman, Rockie Stone, and Natalia Velasco
Rockie Stone
The Sidesault Festival is all about taking circus out of the big top and letting it play in whatever performance arena it finds a home. One of the more exploratory iterations of this idea is the gallery exhibition Subjective Spectacle.

Working within the paradigms of performance as art, performance art, and visual art, a collection of artists have come together to present a range of spectacles for viewers to examine and ponder. Whilst no two contributions are alike, all riff off the idea of the human relationship to, and effect on, the environment.

There is no real definitive order to how we experienced the exhibition, but certain events did occur at different times across the viewing hour, and some, such as Stone's, continued throughout reminiscent of a ticking clock counting down our time on the planet. Slowly, rythmically she makes her way around a huge circle of bottles again and again and again. In the middle of the circle is a bottle of ice with a candle underneath. Eventually the warming causes the bottle to crack and explode. Stone picks up the pieces and tries to put it back together but can't. Instead she leaves the shards in a pile over the candle to continue melting. In the meantime she continues her journey across the bottles. Every time one falls or shatters she stops to note the extinction date of Australian animals in chalk outline on the floor. All of this takes place in silence and with no emotion and no break in relentless tempo. This is what makes it so powerful and painful.

Diagonally across the room is a naked body lying face down, surrounded by a curtain of fishing line. At some point the body starts to levitate and we see the striations of the fishing lines across the underside of the body, cutting into flesh at is suspends it in the air. The body is suspended by what resembles a marionette frame and large boulders hang on either side. The audience is silently invited to play with the rocks and force the body to move despite being lifeless and hopelessly entangled. The image is beautiful but terrifying. In this work Francis and Velasco are speaking to our overfishing of the oceans and lakes of the world. And perhaps there is commentary about our plastic wastes catching and drowning sea creatures and feeding birds, leaving their lifeless bodies to haunt the oceans until they disintegrate - something the plastics will never do.

To the left is a photography exhibition by Brewster. Brewster is fascinated by the body in space and the collection invokes a range of bodies engaging unusually with architecture and space. Her works speaks to the strangeness of nature versus industry and the soft curves of the human form integrate with cold, hard RSJ's for example. There were prints available to take home if you wished. I came away with one taken of the body caught in fishing wire. It is beautiful and yet harrowing to look at...

To the right is another photo exhibition, this time by Gellman, who later presents a piece of performance art. These photos are portraits of the LGBTQIA+ community in Sydney. The faces are all made up in drag and resemble haunting death masks. As beautiful as the make up is, the face paint speaks strongly to the fish marionette beside it and there is a loneliness to these colourful images.

Just then, a video commences on a large TV screen. Lowana and Merinda Davies have created an 11 minute video which speaks to what happens when we redirect water away from its habitat. Juxtaposing a body floating underneath water, lifeless, against a body trapped in huge concrete water pipes waiting to be laid this video asks the question do we understand we are killing ourselves by killing our environment. This is a hugely important conversation to have with the Murray/Darling water issues and droughts we are facing. You can still watch this video HERE.

Subjective Spectacle ends with a performance art presentation by Gellman. Part of the decor of the room has been huge swathes of metallic gold wrapping paper which rises up the walls from the entrance of the space which resolve into shapes resembling the tail fins of whales. In an unassuming manner Gellman comes in and starts scattering small shards of this paper which floats skimming across the floor like fish in a pond. They add some tiny motorised versions which buzz around the floor in a manner which got us all laughing at how cute and beautiful they were. Gellman disappears and a long shard of pointed iron descends from the ceiling. Gellman comes back but they are some sort of Asianesque sea god - naked but covered on one side with the gold paper and wearing a white mask (again the puppet theme...). The god is curious about the metal and plays with it, eventually scaling it. But the harpoons of whaling boats are not a toy and the iron ends up dripping with gold fish corpses...

Subjective Spectacle asks us to question what spectacle means for ourselves. Is it glitz and glam? Is it sparkle and spangle? In Subjective Spectacle there is plenty of that, but this exhibition asks us, in a number of unusual and gob smacking ways, are we ready to see the pain and death this glamor costs? Will we look it in the eye, and will we do what we need to do to stop the torture and destruction - to the world and also to ourselves?

4.5 Stars

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