Gillian Wearing, Dancing in Peckham
i’m a little behind in my gushing over my last trip to ACCA, but thankfully i was reminded this week to write about it, by seeing a work that was so glaringly derivative that it spurred me into action.
“what is she talking about?” i can hear you saying..
she is talking about one YBA called Gillian Wearing.
when i was in ol’ melbourne town celebrating friends’ birthdays, having meetings with board members and laying around in bed with a virus, i did manage to honour my committment to go and check out Living Proof at ACCA. I have been a huge fan of Gillian Wearing since my photography major days and was looking forward to seeing Dancing in Peckham, the video piece which introduced me to her, of which i had only ever seen stills (thanks to Sensation getting canned at the NGA).
Gillian Wearing for me highlights where Australian’s get their sense of humour and taking-the-piss attitude from. Her ability to deride and glorify the british pathetic is awesome and she does so with just enough tongue-in-cheek to take the depression out of it all, but also has enough sadness in there so we have some compassion. When i think of Gillian Wearing, I think of ‘Are You Being Served?’
The exhibition was a survey of her works including her other well-known photographic works Signs: about 30 images of regular brits holding up quite quirky signs that may or may not have related to them. The one i had seen before was the ‘I’M DESPERATE ONE’ held up by quite a suave looking chap with a nice Ray Martin style hair cut. I absoluted pissed myself laughing at two other of those works- one very refined older woman holding up a sign saying ‘HELLO SAILOR’ and an image of two young black twins, one holding up the sign saying ‘I LOVE THE WILLIE’!! I laughed out loud, and i really wish that i hadn’t been in a large, echoing room with a bunch of other people, because i would have laughed louder, believe me. I would have Rolled On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off. No, really.
All the other works were pretty fucking great as well. The self-portraits as members of her family were creepy in a Cindy Sherman kind of way and although I got bored with the video vignettes of people singing their favourite tunes, only because i had reaching my upload limit and there was some really bad singing, i still totally dug the pieces.
But back to Dancing in Peckham.
It wasn’t the only piece there, but boy, it was the biggest drawcard for me. It is the epitome of her black humour, her focus on the vulnerability and dagginess (for want of a better term) of britlife and the schutzpah of saatchi-funded art practice that the YBAs embodied.
The video went for about 34 minutes and i didn’t get to watch the whole thing, but i did go from the beginning and watched for about 10 minutes. The only reason i stopped watching is because i became self-conscious about the noise of my laughing! i pissed myself for about 8 of those minutes, just really enjoying the pastiche dance moves she did with such apparent seriousness, the looks she was getting from the crowds walking past and the absolute style with which she pulled the whole performance off. I couldn’t imagine dancing in front of a camera in the middle of Frankston mall, or Penrith Plaza and be able to sustain it for as long as she did! It was great!
And if anyone has seen Rachel Scott‘s work as part of the fantastic show at First Draft at the moment, curated by Scott Donovan, you’ll see the ‘glaringly derivative’. Perhaps Rachel’s work is supposed to be an appropriation, perhaps i didn’t quite get the significance, maybe to some it wasn’t derivative because Rachel was singing as well as groovin’, but for me – i couldn’t watch it. And unfortunately for Scott’s work, this may just be a matter of timing. Perhaps if i hadn’t so recently seen Peckham, i would have made the link and appreciated it. Unfortunately, it was just too close to home.
By the way, the rest of the work in that show is ace (including Rachel’s other video work) and go check out the Invisible Reading Room – it’s pretty close to heavenly with couches and lamps and loads of cool reading material!
And if you wanna do your own impersonation of Dancing in Peckham, head on down to Lanfranchi’s for the Dance Off! I’ll be there after the 4A opening!