Photo credit: André Piguet.
Opening Thursday 28 September, 6-8pm
Exhibition Friday 29 September – Saturday 21 October 2017
The Honeymoon Suite is pleased to announce the opening of On Being on Thursday 28 September 2017. The exhibition includes work by Isabel Buck, Jessie Bullivant, Georgina Cue, Clementine Edwards, Danny Frommer, Spencer Lai, Phebe Schmidt and Andrea Simmons.
On Being is a group exhibition bringing together eight artists who engage with the body in their practices. It posits the premise that the body is inherently performative. The exhibition also considers how artists embody self-hood and modes of subjectivity with and through inanimate objects.
Active and passive representations of the body often coalesce in contemporary art. However, the body does not necessarily need to be present to be the subject of an artistic enquiry.
On Being suggests that artistic engagement with the body, whether through an object or direct representation, can propose alternatives to the performative scripts ingrained in our socio-political sphere. It has the potential to draw attention to our physical presence and our agency of being.
On Being posits the premise that the body is inherently performative. Performative is understood as an interdependent relationship between certain words and actions, and that words can symbiotically imply certain actions. This lineage of performative theory can be traced back to J. L. Austin in his 1955 book How to Do Things with Words. The book establishes a linguistic interrelationship between descriptive sentences and related actions carried out by people. Theorists have since contributed their own philosophical developments to Austin’s thesis. Jacques Derrida has argued that performative theory extends to how commonplace communication and speech serve to define, construct and maintain our identity. Judith Butler has argued that gender is an ongoing performance and not something that the individual constructs but is a pre-existing pattern of behaviour that we adhere to. Though these theorist summations are simplified, they are cited to provide a basis for understanding that performative theory has a mutlifaceted lineage of ongoing development.
If we consider performative theory in relation to art we may readily think of performance art. This type of art engages instantly with the human body, so is therefore an accessible form within which to derive direct meaning in relation to our performative structures. Though, if we look to the many active and passive representations of the body that often coalesce in contemporary art more broadly, it is clear that the body does not necessarily need to be present to be the subject of an artistic enquiry. In The Body in Contemporary Art Sally O’Reilly argues that “the body is no longer a static, optical phenomenon, but the embodiment of dynamic human relations and even a medium of change and influence within the artwork itself.” Though this statement may seem self-evident, it is important to consider how the body has had its own trajectory of dissemination, examination and mediation within art history, alongside developments in performative theory. The artworks within this exhibition can be seen through a performative lens as they embody self-hood and modes of being, despite whether the body is physically present or absent, and often with and through inanimate objects. On Being suggests that artistic engagement with the body, whether through an object or direct representation, can propose alternatives to the performative scripts ingrained in our socio-political sphere. It does so through its potential to draw attention to our physical presence and our agency of being. Whether present, absent, embodied or disembodied On Being presents various forms within which the body and its performative parameters are the subject of the contributing artist’s enquiry. Q
Isabel Buck’s work interrogates simple architectural devices that determine how we divide spaces to consider how these structures narrate our phenomenological relationship with space. Her sculptural interventions mimic existing structures – such as walls, doorways and windows – blocking out areas from our vision and confusing our physical navigation by proposing new direction . For this exhibition, through alteration and exageration, Isabel’s structures intercept the main gallery and the doorway connecting the main gallery with the office gallery. We can see a tall and narrow wall dividing a space, providing both a boundary and a barrier. Its disconnection from the surrounding gallery walls and its visible space underneath confuses the original function of a wall. A doorway indicates an intersection or connection, the crossing over that opens one space into another. Her structure proposes two ways to enter and exist through the same single structure, asking us to make a decision about the direction we choose to take. Her work offers architectural pauses that draw our attention to the decision-making process and psychological reactions involved in moving our body through space. Her works are constructed through specific sculptural interventions that slightly alter the structures that already exist in the space, to propose a reconnection to the awareness of our movement and our own agency in the process.
Jessie Bullivant produces socially responsive works that interrogate the subtle ways power manifests and operates in different contexts – across the political, social and personal. By drawing on histories of conceptual art, institutional critique and social practice, Jessie’s works negotiate the immaterial and its material carriers, and the conditions under which they are encountered. Her work responds to the conditions of exhibition and implicates those already involved in each specific situation. Through incisive acts of complication, inversion and mediation, Jessie’s work manipulates the operation of social contracts and hierarchies. For this exhibition, Jessie has been thinking about the limits and abilities of the body alongside her ongoing interest in ideas of achievement or excellence (such as in her “in the event of winning” series). She has been interested in the Guinness Book of World Records as an arbitrary record of the body and its measurable qualities or abilities. Of particular interest is the objective recording of these things that are verifiable and measureable, in a way that we do not so much do with art. Yet, the banality of some of the record holdings entices us to question their greater purpose, for example: the record for one handed claps. Jessie has developed her own version of a plaque based on the Guinness World Record certificate for ‘coldest feet (living)’. Records must either be the reigning record holder (ever) or living record holder (living). The phrase ‘coldest feet’ has some lineages historically as relating to gambling and running out of money (cold feet referring to poverty), coldest feet relating to second thoughts about a marriage commitment (The Honeymoon Suite/plebiscite) and coldest feet are physically measurable, (world records must measurable, verifiable, universal, breakable). The works are accessible from the street level, the plaque installed on the front Sydney Road entrance and a frottage of the certificate on the back McDougall Street entrance.
Georgina Cue is interested in theatre production and its ability to construct narrative. Theatre is an art form that is premised on enacting the human condition. Bodies become characters that act out, through language, movement, costume and set design, a fictionalised narrative intended to evoke or elicit emotional responses from an audience. Bertolt Brech, a German playwright active in the 1930s, disrupted the historical lineage of theatre by introducing a process of what he termed ‘alienation’ between the theatre production and its audience. His theory aimed to remind viewers that they were watching a play by jolting them to notice inherent performative visual cues – for example, a mask sliding off an actors face to reveal the real body underneath, or a translucent screen over an entire stage to make viewers more aware of the constructed set. The notion of bringing faults and a human element to the fore can be seen in Georgina’s work, whose ad-hoc set and costume designs are inherent to her multilayered and referential works. Experiemental films and theatre from twentieth century avant-garde movements including Dada and Russian Constructivism, such as Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet and Francis Picabia’s ballet Relâche, influence her works. Georgina subverts the inherent romanticism and female gaze associated within the art-historical movements by constructing images in which the artist herself features as femme fatale. She physically builds her own sets, costume and make-up design, and often places her own body within the sets. This creates an awkward and humorous scene that teeters between an illusory surface and noticeable physical presence, with the narrative readily brought into a contemporary dialogue when we notice her athlesiure-ware.
Clementine Edwards produces work that makes reference to craft histories and is in conversation with contemporary jewellery’s performative parameters. Lately she has been thinking about femme subjectivity in relation to the traumatic encounter. In her recent art practice, Clementine returns to the question, How can we move towards embodied modes of subjectivity, that do not reduce the trauma survivor to just one thing – a victim? For Clementine, storytelling is central to this question. She is interested in the small in scale, consent and its predicates, and how we wear things such as jewellery or experience on the body. Through her material forms Clementine explores the possibility of hope in the aftermath. The precarious assemblages make the gentle demand on the audience that they observe with care. And where the scale of the sculptures invites intimacy, up close, their shelter-forms evoke a sort of home.
Danny Frommer’s work involves the performative parameters of the building and its history of labour. He became interested in the large steel wheel within the roof at the back of the space, which since the gallery’s arrival into the building (and perhaps for sometime before) has remained stagnant, and therefore no longer serves its original function. Over the course of the past few months, Danny has conducted various tests with the wheel to see whether it can still work and to understand why it may have been installed in the first place. This on-site research led him to an in-depth research of the history of the building, its past life, functions, occupiers and owners. Though there was not much information available, he discovered that the building used to occupy a business called Balfe & Son who specialised in manufacturing paints and varnishes, and also stocked hareware. The assumption is that the wheel was used to transport goods from the ground level outside to the first floor inside. Rather than making it function mechanically again, Danny has approached the work from a restorative perspective, to highlight elements of the wheels function and to propose an extended and mythologised narrative to its only known history.
Spencer Lai’s work is engaged with capitalist commodity culture and its ability to construct generic and conforming ideals within which we are conditioned to identify with. Spencer’s personal items are materials in their work, as in a compliment behind closed doors, through gritted teeth, in darkness. Also: a gentle occlusion in conversation between us leave me considering other options (drifting) we see personal clothing form a sculptural installation across the beams and vent in the gallery space. Drenched in Calvin Klein unisex cologne, the smell seaps from the clothing to permeate the air, so much so that even if we wanted too we cannot escape the smell – we have to experience it. Their personal clothes tied in position to the beams and vent seem to conjure the sentiment of being hung out to dry, an idiom used to convey some sort of punishment or defeat, but this sentiment is undone by the very fact that the clothing is soaking in cologne. In the other room, their sculptural assemblage Untitled sits precariously on the wall, the memory foam acting as a protective mechanism for Spencer’s personal items and the remnants of animal life forms. Their work collapses the autobiographical into the generically branded to create a symbotic yet precarious relationship, one where identity of ourselves is constructed through consumer objects. Through a soft dismantling, Spencer offers a mediated and renewed perspective.
Phebe Schmidt is a Melbourne-based photographer who creates hyper-real images, often portraits, which are tightly constructed are imbue with ambiguity. Her work has a stylised plasticity and otherworldly aesthetic that acts as a mask to examine notions of self, theatrical role-playing, and what lies beneath. ‘Plasticity’ is a term Schmidt uses to describe her work and marks a contemporary obsession with homogenised, generic beauty ideals that conform to gender, social, and cultural norms. As part of this approach Schmidt treats subjects like an object—products, as if positioned and conceptualised for an advertisement to illustrate and foreground how the body is treated as a commodity. By engaging with visual strategies often used in advertising industries, her work treads a line between the construction, perpetuation and critique of stereotypes. As viewers, the exaggeration of her subjects and objects make us more aware of how meaning is being constructed right in front of our face, and this awareness disrupts the allure of the images, instilling an ominous fetish undertone. For this exhibition Schmidt’s decision to print on a smaller scale seems to mimics something that can be held in the palm of our hand, perhaps a reference to the way that we indulge in, consume, share and digest images of ourselves, others and objects in our digital age.
Andrea Simmons work is preoccupied with the notion that personal characteristics can be embodied vicariously through objects, such as jewelery and clothing, and cars. We make personal choices and decisions about how we present ourselves through these objects, which can in turn become an extension of or come to resemble elements of our own personality. For this exhibition, Andrea repurposed a car bonnet from a vehicle that has become encrusted with lichen. Lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacter living among multiple fungi in a symbiotic relationsip. Its growth is determined through this symbitoic relationship to other organisms, that basically eat and regurgitate each others bacteria, creating the film of interconnected web of lichen on a surface. Simmons has frozen the lichen in this state by pouring transluent silicon over its surface, giving it a glossed finish while maintaining its encrusted texture below. Various clumps of horsehair are woven into the surface and potrude from varying angles, as if different personalities are encased in the object, while a dolls wig sits neatly on the surface nearby but noticeably different from the others. Underneath, the dolls head and body peers out, as if stuck underneath. An embodiment of Andrea’s personal narrative, Daddy is part homage and part tombstone to relationships in her life.
Isabel Buck completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at RMIT in 2016. Selected group exhibitions include An implied purpose; within the act of doing, Sawtooth ARI, Launceston, 2017; Products of Confinement, Grey Area Gallery, RMIT University, Melbourne, 2016; How One Thing Meets Another, First Site Gallery, Melbourne, 2016; Apathetic Journal Launch Exhibition Issue 2 #Floored, Good Space Gallery, Sydney, 2016; Apathetic Journal Launch Exhibition Issue 3 #Log off, ALASKA Projects, Sydney, 2016; RMIT Graduate Show, RMIT, 2016; Banal, First Site Gallery, Melbourne, 2016. Isabel’s work has also been featured in Issue 2 #Floored and Issue 3 #Log Off of the publication Apathetic Journal.
Jessie Bullivant completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at RMIT in 2011, and Honours at the VCA in 2015. She has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including at ACCA, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, West Space, TCB, the Substation and Fort Delta. Jessie has undertaken residencies in Perth (PICA, 2014) and Auckland (RM, 2014), and participated in the inaugural Melbourne Public Art Biennial Lab under the direction of Claire Doherty (Situations, UK) and David Cross in 2016. Jessie was a finalist and Highly Commended in the 2016 John Fries Award, and a finalist in the 2017 Konica Minolta Redlands Art Prize.
Georgina Cue completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 2008, and Honours in 2011 at the VCA, Melbourne. Selected solo and group exhibitions include Stages, TCB Art Inc., Melbourne, 2017; Misshaped Head, Neon Parc Brunswick, Melbourne, 2017; 9 x 5, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne, 2017; Tricking the Eye, Geelong Art Gallery, Geelong, 2016; Living Room, Bus Projects, Melbourne, 2016; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. In 2017 she was a finalist in the Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize held at the National Art School, Sydney and the Ramsay Art Prize held at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. She has been a recipient of the Australia Council Jump Mentorship program, the NAVA Foundation Travelling Fellowship and the Sainsbury Sculpture Grant. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and Artbank.
Clementine Edwards is an artist and editor from Melbourne. She produces work that makes reference to craft histories and is in conversation with contemporary jewellery’s performative parameters. Lately she has been thinking about femme subjectivity in relation to the traumatic encounter. She is interested in the small in scale, consent and its predicates, and how we wear things such as jewellery or experience on the body. She is currently at the Dutch Art Institute and lives in Rotterdam.
Danny Frommer is currently undertaking a Master of Contemporary Art at the VCA, Melbourne. He completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the ANU, Canberra in 2002, and holds Certificate 3 and 4 in Engineering Studies from NMIT, 2012. Selected solo and group exhibitions include Serious Work, Rearview Projects, Collingwood, 2017; Museum of lost Public Notices, George Paton Gallery, Melbourne, 2017; Dogs Breakfast, Second Space Projects, Melbourne, 2016; Saturn Returns, curated by James Bowen, Fort Delta, Melbourne, 2016; Standing Reserve, MARS Gallery, Melbourne, 2015; Horror Show, curated by Natalie and PIP Ryan, Gippsland Art Gallery, 2015; Stranding Reserve, MARS Gallery, Melbourne, 2015; Clogged Pipes, Bus Projects, Melbourne, 2014; A Million Bucks, curated by Justin Hinder, Utopian Slumps, 2013; Video and Voice, curated by Louise Dibben, Rearview Gallery, Melbourne, 2012; Utopian Slumps Fundraiser, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne, 2011; Solutions without Problems, Studio 18 at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 2009; Studio Show, Rearview Gallery, Melbourne, 2008;Art Off the Wall, Melbourne Art Fair, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 2008; CAPO, Canberra Museum & Gallery, Canberra, 2006; Snap, Canberra School of Art Gallery, Canberra, 2002. Danny has recently been the recipient of the Faculty Graduate Student Assistance Grant (VCA and MCM Scholarships) in 2017. Danny’s work is held in numerous public and private collections including Sydney Jewish Museum, Yarra City Council and the Spanish Embassy in Canberra.
Spencer Lai completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at RMIT in 2014 and Honours at VCA in 2015. Selected solo and group exhibitions include Containment, figures, Fort Delta, Melbourne, 2017; LENTO VIOLENTO, TCB Art Inc, Melbourne, 2016; 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art at the Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, with Rare Candy, Alden Epp and Amber Wright, June 2016; Saturn Returns, curated by James Bowen, Fort Delta Gallery, Melbourne, 2016; AFFADAVIT VITO ACCONCI, Gertrude Glasshouse, Melbourne, 2016; A Really Good Look, as Monica’s Gallery, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, 2016; To Wound the Autumnal City, curated by Liam Osbourne, Punk Café, Melbourne, 2016; The Bathhouse Show, curated by Ella Krivanek & Dorothy Siemens, Space Space Gallery, Tokyo, 2016; Widow’s Walk, LON Gallery, Melbourne, 2016; youth, born at brunch (from a wish), George Paton Gallery, Melbourne, 2015; the smell of an oily rag, curated by James Bowen, Fort Delta Gallery, Melbourne, 2015; CABIN FEVER CREATURE, curated by Centre for Style, Melbourne, 2015; Draw backs, curated by James Bowen, Fort Delta Gallery, Melbourne, 2014; do you want me to come downstairs, with rollers in my hair? BLINDSIDE Gallery, Melbourne, 2014; BYOB Melbourne #2, curated by Ry David Bradley and Antuong Nguyen, RMIT Design Hub, 2013; Pleasure Structures, Contemporary Lifestyles, c3 Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne, 2012. Spencer is co-founder of the collaborative project Monica’s Gallery with Jake Swinson and is represented by Fort Delta, Melbourne.
Phebe Schmidt completed a Bachelor of Arts in Photography at RMIT, Melbourne in 2013. Selected solo and group exhibitions include Thongs, LON Gallery, Collingwood, 2017; Sweethearts, Lamington Drive, Melbourne, 2016; Erewhon, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne, 2016; Neverwhere (in collaboration in Claire Lambe), Asialink, Margaret Lawrence Gallery project, Gaia Gallery, Istanbul, 2015; Spring 1883 (in collaboration in Claire Lambe), Establishment Hotel, Sydney, 2015; Miss Universal (in collaboration in Claire Lambe), Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 2015; In some places it’s illegal to hang your washing out to dry (in collaboration in Claire Lambe), Sarah Scout Gallery, Melbourne, 2014; Render, Brunswick St Gallery, Melbourne, 2014; Studio Show (in collaboration in Claire Lambe and Audrey Schmidt), Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 2014; Sincerity (in collaboration in Claire Lambe), Moana Project Space, Perth, 2014; Hard Bodies, Kreisler Gallery, Melbourne, 2013; Browser, Paradise Hills Gallery, Melbourne, 2014; It’s That Sometimes You Move Too Loud, Edmund Pearce, Melbourne, 2014; Per–Tim: Club Bed, Goodtimes Studios, Melbourne, 2013; Xmas Presence, Kreisler Gallery, Melbourne, 2013; The Eleventh Hour, Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, 2013, Death Be Kind, The Alderman, Melbourne, 2012. Her work has appeared in publications including Elephant Magazine, Vault Art Magazine, Garage Magazine, The Lifted Brow, Sleek Magazine, Dissect Journal and Catalogue Magazine. Phebe is represented by Sarah Ewing Agency (SEA), Melbourne.
Andrea Simmons is an artist based in Melbourne.
Image: Clementine Edwards, The more I wonder, the more I love (after Alice Walker), 2016, silver, brass, sulphuric acid, dimensions variable. Photo: Christo Crocker.