London Gallery Wrap Up: Bank and Sandback

This gallery wrap-up is driven by the BANK exhibition at MOT INTERNATIONAL (so many caps!), taking in the David Jablonowski show at Max Wigram and a Fred Sandback show at David Zwirner along the way.


Although not a London native, I first heard of BANK  in relation to Melbourne’s own cheeky anonymous collective, DAMP and also as provocateurs in the YBA era of UK art. I have always admired what MOT are doing as a gallery, so it felt right that the two seemed to meet up.

The exhibition is a collection of images, ephemera and original FAX BAK words, as well as a sculpture, a painting and a beautiful light box. It does all seem to be flirting with the exact commerce of art that the collective jabbed at for so long, but I’m sick of artists not being allowed to bite the hands that feed them, so I’d prefer to embrace this particular quirk.

If i had a medium-sized pile of money sitting around that I could invest in art, I would promptly buy all the FAX BAK originals. Not only because they are brilliant, but because I thoroughly enjoyed laughing maniacally at their content.

I didn’t enjoy having to stifle said laughter because nobody else was laughing, but goddamn the works are hilarious. Not just for straight-up wit, but for the sheer embarrassing close-to-home-ness of it all. All that artspeak that I have been super guilty of using in press releases and blurbs about my work, all ripped to shreds.

I enjoyed looking through the table of ephemera (if slightly overwhelming) and the lightbox was quite a beautiful object, as was the large-format black’n’white photograph. I can honestly say that I really didn’t like the sculpture of the BANK team – it was a little too Devo without being Devo enough. But to not like one thing in a whole gallery of works – their not bad percentages.

David Jablonowski and Pavel Büchler at Max Wigram Gallery

I was intrigued by this show. The installations featured a lot of synthetic display-type, media-influenced materials, loads of silver powder coating and plastic shapes, combined with moving image and/or light. I’m still not sure if it was to my particular taste, although I wasn’t completely repulsed. I am a little bored with install-on-floor trend in galleries, and would have liked to see the work get up a little – but there was a bit of 80s Patrick Bateman feeling about the show, which was interesting to me.

To be honest, I actually preferred the Pavel Büchler series of acid and nicotine drawings in the back – something about the simplicity of form and oxidisation process had me. I enjoyed looking at the studies of hands and the survey of the ways in which people hold cigarettes. And I usually can’t stand work that glorifies smoking, drugs or alcohol (I think we deserve better art than that).

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner

The highlight of the afternoon was easily the Fred Sandback show.

His works are site-specific installations of wool/thread lines and geometric shapes that play with perspective, triangulation, linear planes and dimensions. He uses simple colours, often black, red and blue, to outline and alter the relationship between the viewer and the space.

I first saw his work in Vienna at MAQ years ago and it was so great to see work like this installed in a commercial gallery; to play with the space through perspective and simple movement, to have my sense of vision and spatial assumptions messed with in such a delicate and concise way – voilà.

The spiral staircase was the perfect place to install a floor-to-ceiling work and the variety of works and spaces created in the gallery was perfect, and the gallery was packed. So deserved.

We Shall Reprogram The World, And This Language Will Be Music

Between Music and Performance Art

The event brings together artists to collectively form a broad interdisciplinary discursive space framing the broad question music, language and performance as a generative processes”

dammit!! i need to be at this event tomorrow night and i’m currently not in london.

if you’re in london, you should go.

end of story.


Friday 6th July 2012, 7pm
Curated by protoPLAY
Hosted by ]performance s p a c e [ , 
Unit 6 Hamlet Industrial Estate, White Post Lane, London E9 5EN
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audience are people too

i’ve been going to stand-up comedy gigs a bit more lately. mostly because bonnie ‘fabulous’ davies is really active in the perth stand-up scene and has been generous in inviting me to gigs.

last night i went to chuckles gong comedy, which is quite the hilarious audience-participatory deal. 
the comedy is only as good as its judges and last night i had the fortune of at least seeing the first half with some ruthless judges (i’ve now made it a mini-mission to be a judge next month, ahem).
anyway, in a post-gig discussion about comedy, i found myself up on my soap box about sexism and misogyny in comedy. i know, how unusual.
this came about, not just because i’m a sweary, ranty feminist. 
some of the jokes last night were appalling. so many men using degrading portrayals women as a vehicle to talk about their dicks! i mean, seriously. there are only so many times i can hear about a dick on stage – not even performance art is that bad. 
classics like:
if women were ruled by their vaginas, they’d be freaked out by children’s heads;
ladies, if a guy opens the door, just suck their cock and save time;
when guys get caught checking out chicks…. (serious? never even been done before? wow)
and lots of whinging about being single (no shit, douchey mcdouche)
of course, because the audience was at least half full of blokes (friends with the mostly-male comedians), they get a few laughs. which is why they keep telling the damn things.
although ‘know your audience’ is excellent counsel for stand-up comedy, going for lowest common denominator is like shooting fish in a barrell. 
heard the one about ‘just because you can masturbate on a public bus doesn’t mean you should’?
just because you can be a sexist jerk and get some laughs doesn’t mean you should. 
to be able to make a room full of people laugh at dick and fart jokes is not actually that hard. 
it takes skill, true wit and real intelligence to be able to hold court and make a stack of people all laugh at what is common humour.
c’mon, just be fucking hilarious.
(and this is where i get sanctimonious.. )
i also don’t think a comedian’s role is just to get a few giggles and a bit of an ego stroke. 
most comedians are observant, interested in what makes people tick and on some level believe that a humourous way to look at life is an opportunity to sometimes say something serious. 
i think they can raise the standards of what people find humourous (and by definition, then, not funny at all). they can make the kind of difference on an audience’s perceptions than art can only dream of. 
i just wish they’d take that role and put it to good use.
and to women going to comedy nights, i reckon we should start heckling a little more. sick of hearing jokes about just sucking a guy’s cock when he opens a door for you ‘cos that’s what he really wants? BORING!! GET OFF!
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and then what happened?

i may continue to write about things i learned at reckless for a while. probably because some of the works will take a while to sink in*
one that came to mind early on, perhaps even before the workshop started, was my new slogan for 2012: and then what happens? i don’t recall making a specific one for 2011, but it was tied up with not having a day job. 
anyway, i realised that i’m not so great at thinking through an idea to its true end. like, i have a good idea and can imagine the final ‘image’ of it, but the reality of my ideas and their execution is that the ‘image’ is really only the first part of the experience and sometimes i forget to think about the rest of it.
say i decided it’d be awesome to set up an installation in which people DO stuff. well i imagine all the details of the room – lighting, costume, action, person shuts the door, ta-da! but after that, someone has to open the door, reset the room and make sure that the instructions for the audience actually work. and i often forget about that stuff until the last minute. having gaffed it up in small ways during the workshop, i’ve vowed to take some time in a project to think like a production manager and make sure that the actual end of the work gets seen to. like when the last piece is taken out of the building and the work is safely stored in a warehouse, or something.
i don’t know if i’m quite explaining it, but i just wanted to share it all with you anyway. perhaps as a confessional. perhaps to get a witness. and make it ‘real’. 
and something along with that resolve is also a reminder that i can make meaningful work about things that matter when i start with what matters to me. musicians i like often talk about the personal being political and i have been able to see how it works with them, but it wasn’t until i saw my own interests and experience being extended and expanded that i could see how it pertained to me too.
as i write, i’m currently waiting for some funding apples to fall from trees (could those with connections to christopher hitchens please ask him to orchestrate a little luck for me, please?), and quite a lot of that funding is to develop new works, or extend works currently in the early stages of development. i’m hoping to bring into those new works a deeper consideration and perhaps a more serious or formal process for developing my own works. this year it was quite haphazard – dependant on residency projects and a bit reactionary – coming back from europe and the early stages of figuring out how to actually manage my practice.
in that time i feel like i learned from my peers and elders how to put some space around my work a bit. interestingly a lot of them are from performance backgrounds and seem to have a good sense of time-planning that i have pinched from. not that i won’t give myself time to respond to works immediately, but next year i’m hoping to bring more measure into my time. 
and then what happened?
*guffaw! in-joke!  i made a work in which i got people to stick their heads in a sink full of  water) 
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fremantle arts centre shows

for the first time in ages, i went to see other people’s art. it feels so strange to write that, considering how much time i spent doing just that prior to this year. i guess the recent article was right in a guide to buying art when the author said ‘don’t listen to artists, they’re too busy making art to see anything’. damn.
i digress.
on saturday i went to fremantle arts centre to see what was on offer. i’ve seen some good shows there during the last year, but i was a bit disappointed this time – the paintings and prints from the mark howlett collection really left me cold and the women in fremantle public art design competition made me angry. 
the paintings i did enjoy were a series with geometric consideration. not hard-line math-art, they were nonetheless drawing from isometry, representations of dimension and had a quasi-sculptural element to them. the framing/structure of the paintings themselves contributed to their form.

upstairs was an exhibition of public art proposals about the women of fremantle and within 3 minutes of being there, i was pretty damned angry. in fact, if i was a woman from fremantle, I’d be pretty damned depressed that the only way of representing me was as someone concerned with facile symbols of out-dated ideas of ‘femininity’: 
chocolate moulds of flowers and hearts, guadalupe on a ship with safety pins and an iron; a bracelet and a pearl necklace. 

i mean, for fucks’ sake! are the women of the area so uninspiring that the artists can produce nothing less insipid? the only image that didn’t make me want to go on a rampage was a twisted, ribbon-like form that was reminiscent of the pink ribbon of breast cancer research, twisted with a double helix. the video produced was an investigation in form, but it was more interesting (or perhaps less embarrassingly out-dated) than the rest.

i don’t think these plans or ideas reflect the true depth of the history of women in the area. in fact lily hibberd’s play and exhibition showed more research into the women in the area and she’s from melbourne.
this exhibition also dangerously paints female artists as limited, not concerned with the depth of another woman’s experience. 
perhaps there has been no funding attached to this call-out for a new public art work, which results in no time for research or thinking. 
it may be that the artists involved felt that they couldn’t investigate ‘difficult’ subjects like education, imprisonment, racial discrimination, madness, triumph, glory or revolution. 
it may be a case of jumping to conclusions about the lack of depth of fremantle/western australian audiences (which i can understand). either way, the work suffers, art as a whole suffers and the depth of women’s experience in public has been reduced to a cariacature, which is unacceptable.
so, looks like i’ve been a bit grinchy with my writing about others’ work for my first one back – sorry about that. over summer i’m going to try and check out some more shows, so i promise to make it up to you.
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was it successful?

so, the listening and being exhibition is over and to be honest, i don’t really know how to assess it. which has prompted some interesting thoughts about how to value performative/experiential works.

so, how do i know if my work was successful?

i haven’t come from a performance or even a contemporary art background, so a lot of what i’m learning through my arts practice is having to stretch over from tradition image-making and art-historical language. which, naturally, doesn’t quite fit.

old-fashioned parameters of quality mostly include sales, or publishing. people’s opinions matter too, but seeing as i was hardly available to to hear them, it’s hard to say. and i haven’t put in place a formal process for getting feedback by my peers yet (more on that later).

added to that, during an exhibition, as the work gets realised, and i spent time with it, the goalposts shifted slightly. i think i would have initially felt the work successful had people interacted with it, and a few of the catalogues had been taken.

but once i decided to perform the work myself, i realised that i also wanted to research more deeply the nature of listening reflectively and that set up new parameters. and then as i listened, i thought about the work even more, and built in even more ways in which the work could be meaningful and they added another layer of ‘is it working’-ness to it.

so now i’m properly confused 🙂

in short, i think the work worked.

and yet it still has some life in it yet – as an object, as an ‘instrument’, as a set for more performances, and as a means of greater research. i think this might be what’s called ‘setting the bar higher’.

and i think this self-critical process is also good and perhaps a mark of my own maturing –  years ago i would have been crippled by the ‘not enough-ness’ of it all and not coped with the greyness of achieving success.

in fact, years ago, i’m pretty sure i just would have wanted you to like it and leave it at that.
how depressing.

now i think the greatest disappointment for an artist is to have completed everything that she wanted to say.


feedback etc.
all of these thoughts and some of these questions have actually fuelled a desire to create a better format for feedback for my work. and perhaps for others like it.

i’ve had the pleasure of being part of the feedback, etc group that has started up in perth and i really missed it when i was in melbourne. and, i became aware that the clubs model it uses works best for static, gallery-based, exhibitions that can be observed and discussed easily in real-time. this is not so easy for works like listening and being, or even the how to do things with words event from last month.

so, tomorrow night i’m going to head up a discussion about developing a model for feedback on work of this kind. we’ll start to unpack what we consider ‘meaningful’ for an audience, and what our own parameters are. and even ask where performative work really resides – is it in real-time, or is it in our memories?

and if any of you guys have any ideas, please, chuck them in the comment section:

how to you assess the success of an experiential or performative work – especially if you were not there at the time?

i’ll post the results here (and probably cross-post on the feedback, etc site too.)

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx