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Kinesphere Kinesphere
photo Alessandro Bianchetti
OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, ERIN COATES AND HER TEAM HAVE BEEN CLIMBING THE PUBLIC ART AROUND PERTH AS WELL AS APARTMENT BLOCKS, HIGHWAY RETAINING WALLS AND SUPERMARKET BUILDINGS. HER EXHIBITION KINESPHERE IS THE CULMINATION OF ALL THIS EFFORT, SHOWING OFF BODIES AS THEY LUNGE AND TENSE FROM ONE HOLD TO ANOTHER. A VIDEO OF THEIR CLIMBS, AND SOME PARKOUR TOO, IS PLACED INSIDE A SEVEN-METRE BLACK MONOLITH THAT RISES IN THE CENTRE OF THE GALLERY. IT IS A MONUMENT TO THOSE MONUMENTS AROUND THE CITY THAT COATES HAS REPURPOSED.

The best video footage is of the climber at risk, when Coates herself is suspended underneath a ridiculously ugly public sculpture, swinging from side to side, hanging precariously for our viewing pleasure. At such transcendent moments the point of Kinesphere comes to the fore, as physical performance confronts the legacies of modern art, the ecstatic affects of the body in motion bringing the dead spaces of our civilization to life. In watching performances like this our neurones enact the same pathways as the climbers themselves, and their pleasure becomes our own.

There is another video here too, a brilliant little film called The last climber alive must keep herself fit and ready, in which a pint-sized performer climbs walls and exercises high on the rooftops of a miniature model city. She lives in a world without people, a single body lost amid the concrete. The last climber... is an intimate contrast to the massive ambition of the central installation, with its towering geometries and bodies at their limit.

The most innovative part of the show, in which art and climbing comes together most evocatively, is in a series of bouldering walls tucked into one of the gallery spaces. The room is decorated with colourful handholds and lines drawn between them, geometries of colour and line tying the body and the eye together. Here the art really is climbable, and during the exhibition many children clambered over each other in a wonderful array of splayed little bodies. At last, I thought, PICA have coincided their exhibition program with Perth’s Awesome Arts festival for children, which always lives up to its name with a packed program of quality installations and performances that impress kids and adults alike.

Alas, the young invigilators were unhappy with this proliferation of fun and joy in the gallery, and prevented the youngest from climbing, telling their parents the installation was not for children! Coates’ installation proved once more that art galleries are failing to do what they are designed for, to affirm what we all share as human beings, to poke and prod at the ways in which we have been embodied in the world, to celebrate life and its vicissitudes. Such aims are better achieved outside the gallery, aloft and clinging with a climber’s nimble hands, or even on the internet, where videos of such performances abound.


Erin Coates, Kinesphere, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth, 13 Sep-2 Nov

RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 pg. 55

© Darren Jorgensen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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