Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Putting On A Show

by Lisa Bryan

15 Jun 2011

No kings, no parliaments, no assemblies, QCA White Box; The Warehouse Project, Contortionist Studios; Tenterhooks, The Tidy Gallery; Dirty, Metro Arts

Most people groan at the thought of group work, having a preference for individual responsibility, which is deeply rooted in western culture [1]. A recent series of exhibitions in Brisbane issued a challenge to these ingrained ideas. Local practicing artists Chris Bennie, Jennie Jackson, Alice Lang and Chris Howlett each took some time out of their busy schedules to mentor Queensland College of Art soon-to-be graduates through the process of organising an exhibition.

At QCA’s Whitebox venue NOTeven collective put together the exhibition No kings, no parliaments, no assemblies , where the dissolution of the individual in favour of the collective lead to a wholly collaborative exhibition. Taking their lead from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s political theories, No kings... focused on allowing the general will to determine the outcome. This eventuated into an innovative exhibition where process was presented as outcome in the form of documentation: notes, photographs and films, all residual content from teamwork exercises.

The role of the collective was also considered by The Warehouse Project, which rejected notions of curatorial premise and institutional convention. The artists involved worked in smaller teams to engage in open discourse and critique of one another’s work. Their choice of venue also speaks to this rationale- Contortionist Studios, a convergent warehouse space which is simultaneously a dance studio, a domestic residency and exhibition space. Denouncing the white-cube gallery model can make for a precarious balance between art and environment however the industrial surfaces complimented many of the works, especially Nadege Philippe-Janon’s surreal framed lawns.

Just a stone throw away The Tidy Gallery hosted Tenterhooks, a slickly presented group show where both the art and the guests spilled out onto the sidewalk from the slim venue. The show had no false pretence of group coherency, rather it embraced the diverse backgrounds of the exhibiting artists “remixing past and present art practices... to examine the relevance of the ‘medium’ in current art practices.” [2] These ends were achieved with Ben Havenaar’s masculine sculpture-cum-painting placed arrestingly next to Alicia Lane’s poignant multimedia installation, while various sound based performance pieces could be heard throughout the gallery.

Finally, high in the Metro Arts building was the cleverly brandedDirty. This group presented works which seriously engaged with ‘dirty’ thoughts: themes of repression, abjection, and pornography. The use of projection screens and crates as props helped integrate the work into the space nicely.

These shows presented a sneak-peak opportunity for those interested in seeing Brisbane’s emerging artists in more intimate environments than QCA’s annual starkly impersonal graduate exhibition. For the public the new names and interesting venues provided a refreshing break from Brisbane’s same-old gallery circuit, while for the artists the shows were an opportunity for each to begin building their audiences, and prove their work can hold its own outside the confines of university.

Lisa Bryan-Brown is an emerging arts writer currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Queensland College of Art. 

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[1] pp.671, Wayne Weiten,2010, Psychology: Themes and Variations, 8th edn. Wadsworth, Canada.

[2] Kylie Spear, Curatorial rationale, Tenterhooks exhibition catalogue, 2011.