SEEN: Visual Arts

Chris Reid, Daniel Palmer, Diana Klaosen, Virginia Baxter

Beverley Southcott

Chris Reid
Beverley Southcott, Fuel and Gruel (foreground) and Contained Breath (mounted on wall)

Beverley Southcott, Fuel and Gruel (foreground) and Contained Breath (mounted on wall)

Beverley Southcott, Fuel and Gruel (foreground) and Contained Breath (mounted on wall)

Beverley Southcott’s art addresses the alienation of the individual from society and how the interdependence of the economy and the individual, through the cycle of consumption and production, constructs urban life. Her Garden City exhibition included a table at which one must stand to eat, and photos of windows that deny access.

UpstArt Contemporary Art Space, Port Adelaide, May

Peter Burke & Robin Hely

Daniel Palmer
Peter Burke & Robin Hely, What's inside the box?

Peter Burke & Robin Hely, What’s inside the box?

Peter Burke and Robin Hely make an excellent duo. Both artists are drawn to witty performative interventions into everyday life that play with our expectations of truth. Burke is known for his alter-egos and fake street tabloid Pedestrian Times, while Hely has become infamous for a recent project at Westspace in which he secretly taped a painfully fraudulent blind date, only to leave us guessing if the angry female subject was in on the game (the whole event given added perversity when publicly broadcast on Channel 31’s weekly art show, Public Hangings).

In their recent show Delivery at Conical in Melbourne, Burke and Hely pose as Starlink Express, a fake courier company. For the exhibition, the 2 artists turned the gallery into a mailroom/depot, creating a major installation of floor-to-ceiling cardboard boxes leaving only a narrow entrance. They even arranged authentic props: a small radio, maps, old beer bottles and newspapers, all as an inventive way of showing video documentation of recent stunts based around the idea of involving the public in a staged art event.

A first video shows the artists dressed in distinctive orange courier uniforms lugging a package around the streets of Oporto, causing confusion among an unsuspecting Portuguese public by trying to deliver a huge, L-shaped brown paper parcel with an illegible address. Hidden inside the parcel, the camera shows the public’s interest in trying to find the owner of the parcel, made all the funnier with subtitles. Pedestrians become performers who freely give directions, help carry the parcel and question the couriers, curious to know what is inside.

Parcel-cam is an innovative trick. As the artists suggest, “the street becomes a lively and engaging performance space for improvised narratives and the mysterious parcel is a metaphor for indefinable content.” On the other screen, the artists are shown attempting to deliver the same parcel to befuddled but helpful recipients at various Melbourne addresses: Federation Square, Gabrielle Pizzi Gallery, Parliament House, the Crazy Horse sex club. On the street, the artists left the parcel with unsuspecting pedestrians—“Hey, could you mind this parcel for a minute while we get some lunch”—before disappearing. It seems we’re used to performances in public now, and some even speculate that they might be part of “some dodgy advertising campaign.” But more than an amusing reality-TV prank, the project becomes a surprisingly touching study in animating public trust. Daniel Palmer

Peter Burke & Robin Hely, What’s inside the box?, Conical Inc. Gallery, Melbourne

Anthony Johnson

Diana Klaosen
Anthony Johnson, Utopia 2002

Anthony Johnson, Utopia 2002

Anthony Johnson, Utopia 2002
Sculptor and installation artist Anthony Johnson currently works in Hobart. He focuses on the “non-place”, typified by warehouses, cargo yards and construction sites, as a non-contextual site of transience. The non-place symbolises being nowhere yet everywhere —and the experience of feeling nothing yet everything.

These concerns inform the object-based sculptures and photographs shown at CAST, work meticulously based on equipment and detritus to be found in Johnson’s “non-places”, rendered ambiguous by their construction from incongruous materials such as polystyrene and clear perspex.

Johnson explains, “Despite their generic nature, these objects imply an illogical sense of ambiguity, mimicking the disorientated consciousness of our global village and the utopian quest for the “perfect world.”

Three into One, CAST Gallery, Hobart, May 4 – 28

Lily Hibberd

Virginia Baxter
For the past few years, the generous collective of artists who live and work at Imperial Slacks have hosted a regular program of performances and exhibitions from independent artists at their gallery in Surry Hills. Alas, Sydney rents have claimed another artist-run space and following the August shows (Look Mum, No Head—a performance/installation night on 2 August and Slacking Off, their final exhibition opening 21 August) Imperial Slacks will close its doors forever.

We dropped in to the gallery one afternoon in May to see Melbourne artist Lily Hibberd’s Burning Memory, a haunting little exhibition consisting of 15 paintings depicting various stages in the destruction of a burning house, each with an evocative title— Vicious Flicker, Collapse of dreams (skeleton). The room is infused with orange, yellow, and white light emanating from the canvases. A musical undertone bleeds from the corner where a video archive shows house fires from newsreels and films such as Hitchcock’s Rebecca. The effect is of something large contained in a small room. A slow and accumulating drama for the eyes and ears that, like fire, fixates. In her catalogue essay, “Wall of Fire”, Natasha Bullock refers to Hibberd as “referencing some of the devices of cinema—still, close-up, distance shot, cropped, blurry and sharp—(to) create a dynamic environment where interacting physical, perceptual and psychological spaces are built, re-built and collapse.” Burning Memory is a peculiarly immersive experience propelled by luminously impressionistic imagery.

Thanks to everyone at Imperial Slacks for keeping the flame alive.

Lily Hibberd, Burning Memory, Imperial Slacks Gallery, Sydney, May 29-June 25. www.imperialslacks.com

RealTime issue #50 Aug-Sept 2002 pg. 18

© Chris Reid & Daniel Palmer & Diana Klaosen & Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2002