Postcard from Melbourne

On the city’s increasingly fluid fields of contemporary dance and art

Despite its vastness, Australia’s recently returned Coalition government promotes a policy of insularity: borders are closed to asylum seekers arriving by boat, marriage is restricted to heterosexuals and funding for the arts has been reduced by $300 million since 2013. However, a selection of recent exhibitions in Melbourne defy these constraints suggesting that – as with all rigid structures – there are many things that can not be contained. In response to these political and economic forces we have seen a refocusing on the agency of the individual, and the possibilities and implications of the subjective body, whether it be post-colonial, trans-identified, or post-human.

dsc8054-1050x700.jpg

Chunky Move, L U C I D, 2016. Choreography by Anouk van Dijk; photograph: Pippa Samaya

Chunky Move, L U C I D, 2016, performance documentation, Chunky Move Studios, Melbourne. Choreography by Anouk van Dijk, featuring Lauren Langlois and Stephen Phillips. Photograph: Pippa Samaya

As part of this return to the body, Melbourne, like many other places, has seen an increase in the flow of ideas between contemporary dance and contemporary art. Artists are working with movement and dancers are collaborating with artists in what is increasingly shared conceptual terrain. One example is contemporary dance company Chunky Move’s new work L U C I D, choreographed by Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk, which was performed in May and June by Lauren Langlois and Stephen Phillips. The company’s theatre is located in Melbourne’s burgeoning cultural hub on Sturt Street, which includes the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), The National Gallery of Victoria, the Victorian College of the Arts, and the soon to be constructed first major private museum in Melbourne, The Buxton Collection Museum.

In L U C I D, van Dijk explores the steady encroachment of technology on our bodies and how it aids and abets individual agency. Using a screen anchored on a pivot as a kind of iPhone-swipe device, it includes multiple cameras and screens, which are utilized to record and reveal fragments of the body, of movement and of dramaturgical action. Gradually, the screen-based action geGetynerates an abstracted narrative and builds a portrait of each character in much the same way that an online profile might. This familiarity reveals the cyborgian infestation of our perception, and how our bodies sometimes seem to make more sense to us when viewed through an interface.

automaton-1.jpg

Sandra Parker and Rhian Hinkley, Automaton, 2016, performance documentation, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne. Performers: Kasey Lack, Trevor Patrick, Melissa Jones   

Sandra Parker and Rhian Hinkley, Automaton, 2016, performance documentation, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne. Performers: Kasey Lack, Trevor Patrick, Melissa Jones   

Unpacking this idea further was the recent performance and installation, Automaton, at the commercial gallery, Sarah Scout Presents. Created by choreographer/director Sandra Parker and sculptor Rhian Hinkley, Automaton is a response to the increased use of interfaces in our lives. Hinkley’s kinetic sculptures, the starting point for Parker’s choreography, feature the dull grey tones and mechanical ticking of pre-digital office machinery. From these machines, whose tasks seem arbitrary and inscrutable, Parker has developed a series of gestures and actions performed throughout the exhibition’s opening hours. The durational element echoes the repetitive analogue office tasks once commonplace in buildings similar to the one that Sarah Scout Presents now occupies.

Anna Varendorff and Haima Marriott further explored these intersections between the body and inanimate objects in a major new commission presented as part of Australian Centre for Contemporary Art’s (ACCA) annual NEW 16 exhibition earlier this year. They created a series of finely crafted, freestanding brass arches which have the capacity to generate sound through touch. The sculptures are mobile (with recessed wheels) and illuminated, which encourages audience involvement and allows for endless spatial and shadow play in the space.

a-baroque-ball-shade-frederic-nauczyciel-2014-still-film-5.13-shot-at-centre-pompidou-paris-2013.jpg

Frédéric Nauczyciel, A Baroque Ball [Shade], 2014, HD video. From the ‘House of HMU’ series, shot at the Centre Pompidou in 2013. In memoriam Alain B. Courtesy: the artist  

Frédéric Nauczyciel, A Baroque Ball [Shade], 2014, HD video. From the ‘House of HMU’ series, shot at the Centre Pompidou in 2013. In memoriam Alain B. Courtesy: the artist  

Each year, the studio and exhibition complex Gertrude Contemporary, in association with the festival for emerging artists Next Wave, nominates a curator for the Emerging Curators exhibition. This year, the Samoan/Persian artist and curator Léuli Eshraghi curated ‘Ua numi le fau’ – a Samoan expression which translates as ‘the string tying the lupe pigeon is entangled’ –  in other words, something that is complicated or difficult. The show was a powerful response to the possibilities of rebellion in the face of, as Eshraghi wrote in the catalogue, the ‘ongoing traumas of capitalism, colonialism, evangelization and neoliberalism …’. Engaging with eight artists whose cultural, social or sexual freedoms have been curtailed, Eshraghi attempted to clear a space for new ways of thinking that are ‘more honest, more curious, more aware, more possible.’ The exhibition included needlepoint works by the increasingly important Australian artist Dale Harding, alongside French artist Frédéric Nauczyciel’s striking film series ‘House of HM’ (2015) which features dancers engaged in vogue ‘battles’ within Paris’s neo-classical ballrooms.

py_2016_31_900.jpg

Paul Yore, Love is everything, 2016, mixed media, televisions, motors, lights, fountain, sound, 359 x 415 x 680 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Paul Yore, Love is everything, 2016, mixed media, televisions, motors, lights, fountain, sound, 359 x 415 x 680 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Perhaps the most significant rebellion in the face of Australia’s conservatism is Paul Yore’s exhibition in June at Neon Parc. In 2013, the artist’s collages – which included an image of a boy with Justin Bieber’s superimposed head peeing from a dildo – on show at Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, saw him accused of child pornography. A ludicrous political tactic by a suburban counsellor, the charges were eventually overturned, but Yore was profoundly affected by the accusations.

Having recently undertaken a research trip to Europe, Yore’s exhibition repurposed some of the work from his Linden exhibition, along with large-scale new collages, tapestry and sculptural works. His new works draw on European folk art and craft-based textiles as well as artworks from socially marginalized and outsider communities. Kaleidoscopic and kitsch, Yore’s magical worlds submerge the viewer in the ephemera of teenage identity construction and consumer excess. Toys and dildos, pornography and plastic jewellery – some mechanized, lit and musical – coalesce like childhood shrines, revealing the small freedoms that can be found when popular culture is queered.

Main image: Frédéric Nauczyciel, Red Shoes [Kendall Miyake Mugler], 2015
, HD video. From the ‘House of HMU’ series shot at the Chapelle du Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Saint-Denis, Paris, 2015. Courtesy: the artist 

Emily Cormack is a curator and writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is the 2016 Curator of ‘Primavera: Young Australian Artists’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia. 

Most Read

The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018