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Julian Crotti, Chris Tamm Hard, Its Passing By Me (VIP ROOM), Willoh S. Weiland, Hard Party Julian Crotti, Chris Tamm Hard, Its Passing By Me (VIP ROOM), Willoh S. Weiland, Hard Party
photo Kathryn Barron
ON JANUARY 15, A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE IN HIGH WAISTED JEANS, CHROMATIC TIGHTS AND EXCESSIVE EYE MAKE-UP GATHERED AT EAST CIRCULAR QUAY TO BOARD A BOAT. HYBRID PRACTITIONERS IN AN INTERDISCIPLINARY CONTEXT, EVERYONE RESEMBLED ONE ANOTHER SUFFICIENTLY SO THAT THE PASSENGERS COULD IDENTIFY EACH OTHER AMONGST THE PASSING TOURISTS ON THE CORSO WITHOUT EFFORT OR DOUBT. THEY MILLED AROUND SMOKING HAND-ROLLED CIGARETTES AND EXCHANGING FESTIVE GRIMACES, WAITING FOR THEIR SHIP TO COME IN.

The group in question was waiting for the Hard Party boat to dock. An exhibition on a boat and a “Harbour Cruise Party”, Hard Party was a three hour long irony-laced critique of how youth culture has become dominated by binge drinking, celebutards and meaningless glamour (note how important the placement of the inverted commas were to the meaning of that sentence, and how much it would have changed if they’d been placed around “boat” or “exhibition”).

The audience was free to roam the boat, mingle, dance to party anthems and fool around with a video juke box (a sort of video art parody of the endless video clips played in conventional night clubs). Post subverted wet t-shirt contests by holding a wet t-shirt contest, which I saw from behind, and involved a lot of endurance pogoing to orders given by the inimitable Zoe Coombs-Marr until the performers coughed blood all over their breasts. Brown Council stuck their heads in buckets of water every time the song “Take My Breath Away” played, in a sort of auto-erotic asphyxiation game, and looked correspondingly moist and refreshed. DAMP, a Melbourne based collective, wore rubber noses and talked amongst themselves. Every now and then, revellers received an anonymous SMS, like this one:

“Babe where are you? The DJ suck.. I just dropped my phone in the toilet!: Meet me in the sweat corner next to bar! Cum on!” 21:36

I don’t really know what a hybrid practitioner in an interdisciplinary context is any more than the next boatswain, but do you know what cognitive dissonance is? Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term that describes the state of mild discomfort caused by holding two contradictory ideas in one’s mind at the same time. It dates back to a classic 1959 experiment by psychologists Festinger and Carlsmith, in which three groups of voluntary test subjects were asked to perform an unutterably boring and tedious task, turning wooden pegs for an hour, and then requested to persuade a third party that what they had done was fascinating. The first group was paid nothing, the second group a dollar, and the third group twenty dollars. When asked to describe how they actually assessed the experiment, the second group was most likely to rate it positively. They’d been bribed, but with an amount so paltry that they’d been forced to internalise the lie they’d told, as they couldn’t reconcile their dishonesty with such small gain.

Full disclosure: I wrote a short essay for the Hard Party catalogue. That was my dollar. However I’d be lying if I pretended it was clear to me where the ‘irony’ stopped and the party started. That was clearly intended, but the problem that the event faced is that it couldn’t really succeed as a party without failing as a critique, not without some horrifying ship-of-fools climax in which the boat crashed into the pier. All the same, the crowd didn’t turn into the egregious drunken rabble the organisers might have feared or hoped for. That was chiefly due to the micro-economics of the situation. Most artsy types turn up to these sorts of events with less than $20 in cash (excluding tickets). Drinks were around $7 each, you couldn’t bring your own alcohol, and there was no ATM on the boat. Even the impeccably besuited Gilbert and George (Lucas Ihlein performing as George the Shit, and Mickie Quick playing Gilbert the Cunt, or vice versa), who were doing a reprise of the 1972 12-minute video “Gordon’s makes us Drunk” (for three hours), were only two sheets to the wind, as the ship’s purser had confiscated their 1 litre bottle of gin in the first half hour.

“I just saw somethin really full on I feel a bit sick, can we go now?” 22:28

Doubtless the best work of the night was Willoh S Weiland’s. Having cottoned on to the importance of exclusivity in maintaining glamour, she established a VIP room under extraordinary spatial constraints. The VIP tent consisted of a Leigh Bowery style confabulation of metres and metres of soft pink fabric held in shape by two huge burly gay genies. One of them was “security”, the other was “door bitch.” If one was lucky enough to get past “security” and could sweet talk “door bitch”, one was allowed to climb under the genie’s skirts into a synthetic womb, where the diminutive Weiland was eager to “do lines”, which consisted of repeating an arbitrary sentence, such as “there’s treasure in that sunken chest of yours”, over and over until it was perfect.

“i feel hot and heavy and everything. and weird. Do you know those kids who never made it through the party? xxxx” 23:22

Nothing much else happened. One of the members of DAMP, when I asked how they thought the night went, said that it was impossible to tell if it was good or bad because “Sydney is such a category error. Everything here is so wrong, there’s no point judging it.” Considering how lazy and boring their performance was, that just seemed like terrible manners. At least one drunken outlier who was actually wearing a cocktail dress had the audacity to confiscate Gilbert and George’s megaphone and boom at them, “You don’t even have any more gin. You guys are lame.” The ship came into dock. No one fell overboard, and the remnants of the exhibition drifted down to Jackson’s on George, a notoriously awful pub, for more ironic drinking. And that was it.


Hard Party, Artist interpretation of a party cruise, curator Lara Thoms, performers Brown Council, Post, Willoh S Weiland, DAMP, Teik Kim Pok, Tully Arnot, Hana Shimada, DJ V NRG, Lara Thoms, video jukebox Katarzyna Kozyra, Tara Marynowsky, artistas amistosos de neukölln, Corey Coda, Mathew Hopkins, Sally Rees, Rachel Scott, Emile Zile, TR Carter, Sue Dodd; Sydney Harbour, Jan 15

RealTime issue #89 Feb-March 2009 pg. 38

© Adam Jasper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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