|Connie Anthes, Untitled (98 vacancies) (2013) |
photo Brett East
Cementa 13, a new kid on the conglomerate block, took on-board this experimental premise with a critical tongue-in-cheek approach. We have all heard of Documenta and Monumenta and now, in Australia anyway, we have Cementa. And here lies the key. Unlike the others, Cementa is firmly located within a social and site-specific context that debunks the white-cube-washing of contemporary art.
Presented by Kandos Projects under the directorship of Ann Finnegan, Georgina Pollard and Alex Wisser, Cementa’s exhibiting artists were invited to undertake residencies in the town of Kandos to develop their works. This residency model resulted in a range of works that not only connected site-specifically, but also with the community and the town’s distinctive character. Works were presented over four days in disused community buildings, empty shopfronts, people’s backyards, on the streets and even the local golf club.
Kandos, over 200 km northwest of Sydney, was certainly not on my regional road-trip radar until I heard the chatter about Cementa at arts gatherings around Sydney. Spurred on by the word-of-mouth build-up as well as the large and impressive list of participating artists I committed to a three-day stay for Cementa.
|Connie Anthes, Untitled (98 vacancies) (2013)|
photo Brett East
|Fiona Davies, Cane (2012) |
photo Fiona Davies
|David Capra, Intercessions, Kandos (2013)|
photo Alex Wisser
During his Kandos residency, Capra was also asked by the Cementa directors to paint the Cementamobile—a handy white van used to cart artists and objects around town. Avoiding a well-trodden path to painterly over-statement, Capra denied the van canvas its loud voice. With sparse, minute motifs on the van—banners, hands shaking and his dachshund Teena—Capra’s van mural was an extremely restrained work. From a distance, the work was indistinguishable. Up close, the motifs came to life in charged patterns Memphis style, an aesthetic born of 1980s post-modernist rejection. Not so coincidentally, the van had a practical role to play in Capra’s performances around town.
|Liam Benson, Cementa (2013)|
photo Alex Wisser
Over the four days of Cementa, inspired by the cockatoo’s forlorn call, Benson continued his investigations into masculinity and Australian identity by performing songs of longing and love across Kandos. Singing alone and a capella, each performance’s location unannounced, Benson’s strong rock-infused vocals could be heard emerging from the uniquely Australian local landscape. A sunset performance outside the main pub lured art-goers and locals who followed Benson singing and walking against the backdrop of the dipping sun. As darkness encroached we listened to his rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” a song about love gone wrong; “Listen to the wind blow, down come the night, running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies.”
When not drawing a crowd, Benson sang to Kandos, to an escarpment, a lake, a lone shiftworker in hi-vis clothing, a sleepy campsite and, underlining the ephemerality of performance, to the Glossy Black Cockatoos.
|Josephine Starrs, Leon Cmielewski, Chapel of Rubber (2013) |
photo Josephine Starrs
Starrs and Cmielewski’s screen-based work, framed by the intimate architecture of the small chapel, directed our eyes not to the cars, but to the ground—to the spinning tyres and burning rubber. Shot at low-level and in slow-mo, the creeping movement of rising smoke travelled across the screen, at times revealing heavy deposits of burnt rubber on the ground, layered markings of excess, of thrill and of the town’s people and visitors letting go a little. In a town undergoing post-industrial transformation, Chapel of Rubber redefined the strongly symbolic chapel space, maintaining its sense of worship and reverence by channelling hedonistic thrill-seeking action.
There is no doubt there was a lot to conceptually consume at Cementa. At the same time, the incidental social atmosphere—constantly bumping into Sydney-siders and locals while walking along the main drag or grabbing a coffee at the Railway café—meant that Cementa was enjoyably easy to consume. As a conglomerate art experience, the event inhabited the nooks and crannies of Kandos, injecting contextual soul into contemporary art and making it part of the everyday in a rural town. Here’s hoping Cementa 2015 comes around quickly, so we can all get on-board the contemporary art road trip to Kandos.
Cementa 13, directors Ann Finnegan, Georgina Pollard, Alex Wisser; Kandos NSW, Feb 1-4, for participating artists and some great documentation see cementa13.com/
This article first appeared as part of RT's online e-dition April 3, 2013
Sophia Kouyoumdjian has worked in the arts sector for over 10 years across curatorial, directorial and exhibition management roles. Currently the Coordinator, Parramatta Artists Studios and previously the Curator at Blacktown Arts Centre, Sophia has particular expertise in Western Sydney’s arts sector.
RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. 55
© Sophia Kouyoumdjian; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org