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Off the wall

Greg Moore steps into CCAS’s hybrid nights

Greg Moore is a rank amateur—a crank and a dabbler who lives in Canberra.

I had a gander at some interesting performance stuff in Canberra recently and it was refreshing to see some free-form exposition take centrestage. What I like about the whole performance thing is that it moves the punter away from the edges of the gallery to that somewhat dangerous middle ground at the centre of the space. Thus exposed, the audience becomes an integral part of a fleeting event. It’s kind of like a dance. Audience and artists meet halfway and fool around.
Dysfunctional Feed Dysfunctional Feed
photo Brenton McGeachie
The exhibition comprised 3 separate collaborative performances, and I saw the opening of each over the course of 3 Friday nights. First on the menu was Dysfunctional Feed, an apparently loose collective of about 25 artists from Sydney. It was a terrific show, comprising various video installations and live performances set against and interacting with a range of experimental music, which was the engine and undisputed star of the performance. Trying to say too much more about the music would be futile—you just have to hear it—but some of the artist descriptions are great: “cinematic industrial analog”, “computer game music”, “laptop focus listening.” One feature that especially captured me was a sort of time-based programming in which the artist manipulated the sound digitally to maintain a kind of wave function on the video, sort of like a flowing worm graph. Another of the larger video installations depicted multifarious human scenes quickly, but with pathos, though maybe this was my reaction to the ominous, building white noise that accompanied it. I really like the ideas of these guys. They just seem to be into putting stuff together and getting it out there with very little pretension, though it must be hard to shuffle the stylings of so many together.

Natalie Thomas and Kristen Phillips gave us their appropriately titled Picassol performance on the second Friday. Fast forward many hours after the show and I still seemed to be surrounded by imitation Picassos resplendent in their French jailbird tops. This was true of more than one drinking establishment. The work centered on Dora Marr, the surrealist photographer who was better known for her relationship with Pablo Picasso and as his model. Through Marr, the artists explored the subjugation and suffering of female artists across history, I suppose asking us to consider amongst other things the social maladies that lead to their obsequiousness. This was achieved through an ‘historical’ intervention, an act of retribution against men like Picasso and their brutal and selfish use of women. To wit, the audience was treated to installed caricatures of some of the little man’s sculptures: cleverly mutated versions of Goat and Skipping Girl. There was video and dance too, the former incorporating Johnathan Richman’s witty single Picasso, the latter performed to a scathing poem acerbically highlighting the history of a very one-sided relationship. I guess this was overly and overtly a political piece, but, as Richman’s lyrics noted, “Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole, not like you.” So perhaps it was high time. Plus there was plenty of free wine.

spat & loogie rounded out the series with new!shop, a “genre-hopping ride in a shopping trolley full of video, performance and interactive technology.” Now this was a fully interactive performance piece. The space was changed entirely to resemble a supermarket or convenience store; and the audience was asked to take a basket and fill it with a range of nebulous yet strangely desirable products such as used sporting trophies, syringes and styrofoam pills in bottles with labels making outlandish promises. Once the shopper’s contagious desire was sated or the basket was full, an orderly queue was formed to checkout where the goods were scanned—but not delivered back to the customer. Instead a receipt was printed outlining a unique consumer horoscope, topped with a dapper name badge. Naturally, I was “priceless.” This was all to the insidious banality of elevator music. The shop was fully staffed (I was at one point frisked for security purposes) and the audience/shopper was initially guided by a video installation outlining a perverse sort of mission statement. Lots of fun and an apt parody of the inward material vision of contemporary human life.

See Barbara Bolt's experience of new!shop at Next Wave

Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS), ctrl+alt+del, performance-sound-new media-installation, curators Mark Hislop , Amita Kirpalani; Dysfunctional Feed,, April 21; Picassol, Natalie Thomas and Kristen Phillips, April 28; new!shop, spat & loogie, May 5; Gorman House Arts Centre, Canberra

Greg Moore is a rank amateur—a crank and a dabbler who lives in Canberra.

RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 pg. 48

© Greg Moore; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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