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Tactical loops…from the inner circle

Felena Alach & Bec Dean

We are both implicated, both involved, in Tactical Intervention Strategies and Loop as writer and artist respectively. We are reporting as insiders standing in a moment of synergy between the working practice of local practitioners, 2 arts spaces and the wider cultural community. Young artists curated both exhibitions: Marcus Canning for TIS and Michelle Siciliano for Loop in 2 distinct cultural centres, Perth and Fremantle.

FA Both shows have an ideas-based premise and thus initiate a processual kind of working method, one with lots of flexibility towards project development that allows for a certain margin of risk.

BD TIS presented the artists involved with a dual challenge necessitating a level of commitment to a work of art beyond mere installation. It’s the challenge of engaging the current local and political hegemony at fundamental levels, and furthermore to activate a response from an audience to potentially subversive and experimental works of art.

FA Loop presents a circuit of reference that is tighter, more contained at a structural level, yet still drawing the viewer into its frame. In the context of a tricky exhibition space that (through heritage listing, and high venue costs) is primarily geared towards art that turns a healthy trade, Loop provides a series of engaged works that really inhabit the space of the Moores building and enliven it, revealing its potential for installation and contemporary work that develops a spatial paradigm.

BD While TIS had the central focus of the exhibition space, it traversed layers of the city and extended to remote, site-specific locations. All works implied a dynamism that was participatory, process or time-based, and referred directly or indirectly to the history of pranksters, interventionist and street-level performance practices. Petro Vouris’ Blood Drum, an audio/video work amplifying the sound of dripping blood, boomed for kilometers (initially) from the PICA tower while Martin Heine’s Culture Gut comprised a small caravan chained inside a skip bin (which was later subject to an arson attack and destroyed) parked in the courtyard directly outside the PICA main entrance. The PVI Collective’s A Watching Brief utilised the surveillance codes followed by security and CCTV operators to devise a set of performance instructions and props to be enacted by the viewer (see RT44 p38).

FA In contrast, I found many works in Loop to firmly place the viewer in a rarified, bounded sense of space. Kate McMillan’s In The Beginning is The End uses the ready-made economy of pre-fab (expanded grain bag) packaging to literally ‘take up’ space. Vanessa Mazza (small and large lightbulb studded backstage mirrors, arranged via dimensionally correct white floccati rug, to the tune of Black Box’s sultry pop hit Fantasy) teases the private gaze through a loop of narcissism, creating that tension between private expressions of reverie situated within public view that both solicits and denies its realisation. With Three Six-T Spin (large circular corral of scaffolding, crash mats, soundscape, inflatable screens and video projection showing suspended figure in shuttered 360 degree, variable speeds) Ivan Bannon manages to balance an intriguing text of figure and motion with the creation of an enjoyable space for the viewer to linger within.

BD A billboard erected on the side of PICA by Arthur Russell and Derek Krekkler, Follow Through, initiated discussion between us about the problematics or challenges that artists can face with the integrity of a project that requires continual or accrued maintenance. Simon Perecich and Thea Constantino’s Der Ring Des Nibelurgen placed reworked fragments of Wagner’s Ring Cycle as advertisements in the personal columns of local newspapers, slipping cleverly into a pre-existing media structure for the accumulation of phone-message responses. Lucas Ihlein’s Event For Touristic Sites required volunteers to wear shirts printed with racially stereotypical slogans in tourist centres (such as "All Australians are slobs", "All Italians are horny"), implicating and positioning them at a personal and accountable level with other members of the general public. Christian de Vietri’s (in)security organised a group of 50 security guards to follow randomly picked individual viewers around the gallery, initiating a complex game of watching/stalking that continued throughout the course of the exhibition’s opening.

FA The use of the internet in Katrien Jacob’s piece provides a counterpoint to this, engaging viewers to surf a network of packaged porn websites, downloading to feed a printer spooling accretions of paper waste, to then convert these into torn assemblage flowers. This, along with wall-text proposing a series of sexual scenarios as transactions, offers a familiar rendering of somewhat tired sexual commentary. Beyond this key idea of transformation/recuperation, I found the translation of ideas to material form here problematic, unresolved.

BD I thought that Seddon Pepper and Drew Wooton’s Everybody Needs was the finest re-working of pre-existing material. Using taped episodes of Jason Donovan era Neighbours, they meticulously re-edited a rhythmic video loop that amplified the various idiosyncrasies of each overblown character, insinuating psychosis and perverse behaviours. Mickie Quik’s 'appropriation' of an existing billboard for a Masters of Business conference, with guest speakers Norman Schwartzkopf and Mikail Gorbachev, was converted to a large scale 'before' and 'after' with the images of 2 representatives of right and left-wing politics becoming interchangeable.

FA The final 2 works were screen-based including Caroline Mazza’s untitled dual video projections. I enjoyed the slow mapping of geometries of abandoned and obsolete vaults of industry, the phantom grandeur of mass productivity economies of scale worked into a grainy image that moved between the suggestion of space and the flat image itself. Your work Lengths of Forgetting (black and white still images projected onto triptych of standing screens) weaves narrative implications between landscape and figure, a lone female walking a forest path as the trees morph between textures and certain images tweaked into spooky fractalising symmetries. Along with the other symmetry of synchronising the outer screens, this subtle play reveals a vaguely menacing deep order within the chaos and randomness of the natural forms.

BD At a material and physical level, the Swiss collective Airline’s installation Airstream had an ordering effect on the TIS exhibition. As a suspended network of thick, finely woven rope and inflated, circular seats or capsules, it created an elevated viewing platform for the exhibition space, and a contemplative space for the individual viewer.

Loop, curator Michelle Siciliano, The Moores Building, Fremantle, July 6-22; Tactical Intervention Strategies, curator Marcus Canning, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, July 4-Aug 14

RealTime issue #45 Oct-Nov 2001 pg. web

© Felena Alach & Bec Dean; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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