You become me
And I become you
She is she
And she is you too
--- Throbbing Gristle – United
The smell is strong; a mix of vinyl, petrol and brake dust pooling in oil. Ms&Mr’s work at Alaska is made for the space, and the space for the work.
Alaska is located on Level 2 of an underground car park in Kings Cross. The gallery is next to the site of exchange that is the Sydney Travellers Car Market. European tourists sit around small tables outside the campervans and the more or less roadworthy cars they attempt to sell.
Cars circle the car park. There are no road rules. People come and go and the screens in Alaska pulse.
Occult to do list 1988/2012 uses English writer JG Ballard’s book Crash as the basis of the exhibition.Crash (to do its author an injustice and give it a Readers Digest précis) is about the car crash as sexual fetish.
On first approaching Alaska large polystyrene letters spelling CRASH confront you. The surfaces of the letters are covered with a thin coat of brake dust. The dusts surface is broken occasionally where someone has touched the letters leaving fingerprint reminders of their presence.
At the beginning is the word, and the word is confronting if you get there by car.
The digitally cut lettering is perfect. True to the original, which is in effect a representation both title and the title design from the 1st edition of the book, the word is literal, figurative, whole.
Occult to do list 1988/2012 is by Ms&Mr, who are two artists united. They are credited as "the artist". They are also Nova Milne, or at least he/she/they created the sound.
As you enter the gallery a white and sticky sound, reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle’s Something came over me, greets you. It seems to recall the noise before Genesis P-Orridge’s vocals kick in (the absent lyrics are P-Orridge’s paen to masturbation). The soundtrack seems prefigured to the leisure culture and attendant crisis that Ballard’s work is often described as detailing. Ballard’s Crash came before Throbbing Gristle who came before Alaska who came after 1988 which happens at the same time as 2012. Chronology is something that Ms&Mr collapse.
The screens of Occult to do list 1988/2012 are bathed in red. The languid movement of a car enters and re-enters a chequerboard floor in one screen and is mirrored by a cat’s movement in another. A figure in the central screen extends their hand in a gesture of pain. The figure appears to be Ms&Mr from 1988 or from 2012 or both.
A watercolour rendition of the first edition cover of Crash is hung opposite the 3 channel video work. The video work is viewed on the gallery wall that has been tilted against the wall proper. The shape of the wall is reminiscent of the sleeve of a VHS cassette. There is a lot going on more than can be detailed in one review.
Of the litany of beliefs JG Ballard cites in his prose poem What I believe, one of them is multi storey car-parks. Occult to do list 1988/2012 needs to be seen to be believed: sex and death in a Kings Cross car park; sex, cars, death and Throbbing Gristle, perfect.
Occult to do list 1988/2012
Alaska Projects, Sydney
05 Sep – 23 Sep 2012