Friday, September 22, 2006

Punch Drunk

Sari TM Kivinen
Drunk in the Kitchen Sink Again, video, 2006
Courtesy of the artist and Artspace.

The Art Life has done it again. "What did the Team do?" I hear you ask. "Beat me to the punch with an overview of the Art Award love-in circus currently spreading like a sexually transmitted hybrid media disease." If I ever get around to writing an art theory book, it will be an ethnographic tell-all memoir about how awards have been passed down from ancient civilizations to ensure marginal culture groups (like the artworld) have the opportunity to have a burger named after them at the Burger Bun. And it's about time: there's only so many Logies, Oscars and Aria Awards you can eat. Now artists can stop pretending they'd prefer Sushi Train and feel justified going down to a local food court and purchasing a "Lempriere, hold the lettuce." Primavera artist Julia de Ville would be working in the kitchen making all sorts of taxidermy treasures from the mince patties before they made their way to the bun.

I always thought art was too cool for words, let alone awards. Awards are tres tragic and that's why we use awards ceremonies as a good excuse for a party. For instance, last time the Emmy Awards were on, I had to watch with a bunch a friends and a case of champagne, if only to perform a taxonomic analysis of how many times Hollywood celebrities like Rachel Griffiths and Christina Applegate were sprung turning up to the same do in the same dress.

Well that's exactly what happened to me at the Primavera and Helen Lempriere opening nights held recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Artspace respectively. I turned up both nights wearing the same dress as a very famous art star, whose name I cannot divulge. (You know who you are, bitch!) But true to form I had too much to drink after only an hour or so and spewed Burger Bun chunks all over my Lisa Ho. Never mind, I always have a change of clothes underneath – just in case. Seeing I had not yet invented my Twin Towers costume, the spare change was this slinky denim corset, beaded with "glitter licks" (my term) and hemmed with a deconstructed Tsubi like stitching. Where the fuck is my award for even documenting such minutia, such ephemera, such low down, top grade grandeur?

But no, awards don't come easily when the sun comes up the next morning and you realise your friends haven't SMS'd you in like twenty minutes. You've been dropped. They are too embarrassed to be called your friend, even though they need you because you're a more important artist than they are. It is you who is always being shortlisted – not such much for awards than for jobs at Ikea – but never mind, you've used a few tan-coloured coffee tables in your installation art from time to time to make the whole application process worthwhile. It's when those same "friends" make a beeline for the other side of the street while holding Zanny Begg inspired placards that read "BEING DRUNK IS NOT PERFORMANCE ART." And on the other side of the placard, Mitch Cairns has rendered your image - all nervous line work and naive stylings in vomit coloured crayons. OK, so maybe now I am sounding like that anonymous SLUT who had the nerve on my own comment forum to call me "a spoiled brat" for dissing the Biennale volunteer slave drive. Actually s/he may just be right.

But what is that I see over there, shining its data-projected light onto an Artspace wall? It's Sari TM Kivinen, emerging star of the dark night. The Art Life made brief mention to this little vixen of the yard glass, and I'd like to take the opportunity to elaborate. Frankly, I'd like to thank Kivinen for showing me the way. In her video Drunk in the Kitchen Sink Again, Kivinen does something no one really does anymore: make work about being drunk rather than actually assuming alcohol is an artist's natural adjunct (with or without awards).

In the video, Kivinen sits in the sink manufacturing a slow building intensity that erupts in a train of rabid affects. Seducing with a sweet smile or a butterfly lullaby before growling like a Diamanda Galas banshee gripping the wine bottle in a tightfisted presidential handshake, Kivinen's video climaxes in a fit of "low-fi" toe-eating self-loathing. Searching for this Kivinen lady online to see who she is, what she's on about, and how I can join her AA group, I stumbled on her
website, which details a whole sordid backstory spun around three fictional characters called Jessee-Liina, Caroliina and Starella. Sisters with a hereditary weakness to alcohol, they can be socialites with a taste for the sherry bottle (as in Jessee-Liina, who is seen on the website cavorting with those gorgeous think-pink-tanks, The Motel Sisters) or Caroliina, who is a jealous tipsy bitch unstuck by Jessee-Liina's popularity, or Starella, the mad one who gets all downward spiral on the piss. Starella is so troubled, she bathes in a fruity punch polluted by her own weeping mascara.

Kivinen writes:

"Starella is the youngest of the Liina sisters. Armed with a mean temper Starella often appears out of control and out of sync with this world. As the youngest Starella is infinitely influenced by sister Caroliina's drinking habits- taking it ten folds over the limit without a care about what anybody thinks.

"Starella often comes across like a wild animal caged and confused, however she is completely aware and in control of this primal impression and finds strength in her out of control behaviour and uses this image to protect her true self from the harsh opinions of her older sisters. Starella relishes embracing her own demons and enjoys the fun of never knowing where she’s gonna wake up next."

So I am assuming it's Starella making the appearance in Kivinen's compelling Lempriere video. Or could it be Kivinen after all, muckraking certain reality/fiction distinctions? As her website explains, "Most importantly, Kivinen explores her own fears of becoming an alcoholic, due to her own genetic predisposition. She does this by passing the buck to her characters by exploring how the sisters individually deal with their alcoholic genes."

Now I am totally convinced: Kivinen deserved the Lempriere award because she brings a refreshing honesty to her practice that I haven't seen in years, one that makes me long for sobriety (and then discard that longing as a form of false consciousness). Furthermore, I just know that Kivinen would have used the money for more "art supplies" - the liquid kind.


Anonymous said...

dear artswipe
seeing as i can't make it to the show (living regional right now) it was great to read all about this drinking artist - thanks for giving her the attention she deserves

Gricegrocers said...

A friend of mine wanted to make a film about people taking party drugs (going hard at it) and I told him it would be difficult to find a sympathetic audience. I must have been wrongo.

Sari said...

Dear Artswipe, thankyou for a fab post about my work, it is heart-warming to know that there may be a sympathetic audience out there, but even if there isn’t (and if it is just a few odd people here or there) it wouldn’t change my need to make work of this nature, so it is really great to receive interest that initiates some form of dialogue.

So anyway, being relatively new to the world of blogs I read over a few recent posts on this blog upon being contacted by The Artswipe and goodness gracious me found a Bergman reference to the film Persona. Now I go absolutely nuts of any mention to dear old Ingmar, and so that entirely validated to me that The Artswipe must be a pretty darn good blogger site and that I should be pretty darn proud to be on it.

Scenes from Bergman films are never far from my thoughts yet it was only fairly recently that I realised that the two that I most relate to (Cries and Whispers & The Silence) are both films exploring the dynamic of sisterhood, not so dissimilar to my preoccupation with the nature of sibling interaction. In particular Ingrid Thulin’s performances in both films are incredible- although difficult to sympathise with.

Gricegrocers said...

I'm revisiting Patrick White at the moment. Difficult characters are my current mantra.