♦ Untitled (Collaborative Hellscape), in Mixxed Business: Fully Reloaded ll.
The two exhibitions at Goolugatup Heathcote catch the eye: Oblique Politics and Mixxed Business: Fully Reloaded II by the collective Pet Projects, consisting of Dan Bourke, Andrew Varano and Gemma Weston. Together, they make an odd couple — perfectly matched in their eccentricities, equally unsettling yet appealing, like obligatory dinner guests who always seem to unnerve. The experience will stay with you, linger in the mind, but just why that is may not be clear at first.
Oblique Politics is a collection of six works displayed in Goolugatup’s main gallery. Curated by Guy Louden, the gallery is spaciously set out, each work afforded an abundance of space. Quickly, one picks up on sounds and smells, as well as the sights — my eyes (and ears) first catch Circle Time: Money with Babak Radboy, a video by the New York collective DIS. It sees our protagonist Radboy describing monetary systems to a group of children. The real wit is in the children’s perplexed and unimpressed reactions to the ‘logic’ of these systems. Initially, I expected to dislike the video, assuming to be put off by the schmaltzy premise. Instead, I found myself engrossed, backside planted on the floor, chuckling away. Effective and fun, I’d recommend watching start to finish regardless of age.
Moving on, Loren Kronemyer and Pascale Giorgi’s works are next. Kronemyer’s Autonomous Armory is a set of throwing knives protruding out from the wall, their shadows casting the words ‘soft power’ below. Overtly, everyday militarism is tied with commodification. Yet we are told of a second reading: that the artist handcrafted these knives whilst off-the-grid in rural Tasmania — are we to believe that these are in fact the tools of resistance? Perhaps it depends on your appreciation of wall labels.
The political references in Giorgi’s sculptures prove more disguised. Iconography is remixed, with allusions to Smurfs, Marx, medieval castles and more. The pastiche provides much fodder for interpretation. Visually, they remain intriguing and eclectic sculptural forms. Bridget Chappell’s Offensive Opacity resonates with me — it is a homemade noise-cancelling shield suspended in the middle of the gallery, cancelling out the sound of an obscure speaker system blasting gabber (a sub-genre of hardcore techno). The politics of Offensive Opacity is less oblique and more opaque. Visually, it is a harsh and jerry-built construction, while the audio is uncomfortable to experience. During my visit, a mother and her two children were exploring the show and they seemed equally impressed and perplexed. One child exclaimed “this one hurts my ears!” and proceeded to hang around to observe, curious about the work — a testament to its uncomfortable yet appealing nature.
Finally, on the back wall is a large painting by Curtis Taylor from 2019. While playfully sloppy in its construction, the subject is violent. Taylor depicts the burning and butchering of a colonial oppressor — the severity of the subject contrasting the playfulness of the painter’s hand. To me, unexpectedly, playfulness is an element apparent in all the works in the show, from DIS’s video to Giorgi’s eccentric sculptures: serious subjects handled with a lively artistic sensibility. The effect is at once exciting and unsettling, and certainly intriguing.
Strolling out of Oblique Politics, through to the Pet Projects’ exhibition, the unsettling tension follows. The small gallery of Mixxed Business: Fully Reloaded II is lit vermillion and night-vision green — the effect is not at all Christmassy. Instead it conjures the camp ambience of a 60s horror flick. Set up as a children’s playroom, the walls are scrawled with charcoal, with phrases like ‘imagine’, ‘contribute’, ‘share’ and ‘collaborate’ stencilled in the charcoal scribble. To one side is a shelf of all manner of little clay monsters and creations. In the centre of the room is a low plastic kids table, upon which is a clay labyrinth-like diorama, evidently shaped by prodding fingers and patting hands. I cannot shake the feeling that it is the centre of some ritual; the surrounds being the remnants of some strange goings-on; the little kids table perhaps some kind of Ouija board. I find myself no longer thinking about art, but looking for clues about the work, in an attempt to solve the mystery of what surrounds me.
Moving into the adjacent room, I sit on a plastic kids’ stool to watch the short film being projected (part way through, I realise how ridiculous I must appear!). The film remixes footage of an underground exploration with video of the creation of the clay-covered children’s table: a séance of sorts by members of Pet Projects. In the world of Pet Projects, actions beg questions and answers seem elusive. The result is intriguing, silly, supernatural and uneasy.
After exploring (and I mean exploring!) both exhibitions, it is not hard to notice the synergies shared by the two; their focus on creating a mood simultaneously uncomfortable, unsettling, yet playful, witty and alluring. While the urge to keep a safe distance may persist, I encourage you to endure — the rewards may be plenty.
Oblique Politics and Mixxed Business: Fully Reloaded ll are on show at at Goolugatup Heathcote Gallery until 16 July.
♦ Autonomous Armory, 2023, sharpened stainless steel, 9 pieces, by Loren Kronemyer, in Oblique Politics.
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