Rolando Caputo & Juan Davila, Cine-Romance, 1983
Frame from Super 8 Film
I stepped into the post-Biennale, pre-Primavera Museum of Contemporary Art today to reacquaint myself with the work of Juan Davila. Seeing Davila's work again made me nostalgic for the art that made me want to be an artist. Is there anyone out there these days with a fire in their belly not unstuck by the hybridity-flavoured bubblegum that masquerades as identity art? Why at this sudden juncture am I nostalgic for the brash postmodernism of Davila's generation? Oh the glory days when there was a Super 8 collective rather than art made by mobile phones. And just to illustrate my thesis, pictured here thanks to my Nokia mobile, is a still from Juan Davila's brilliant Super 8 collaboration with Rolando Caputo, Cine-Romance (a work not featured in the exhibition).
Art today still seeks recourse to the familiar politics of identity facilitated by postmodernism and certainly evidenced by the MCA's earlier exhibition Masquerade (23 March - 21 May 2006). But perhaps the politics stay the same while the art often loses its edge? I miss the days when art forcefully engaged with the intellectual and political, railing against ideological blind spots where necessary, and could still "make play" without being trivial and light. And if art shocked now and then, well it's done its job. Having your art impounded by the police - which happened to Davila in 1982 for his Stupid as a Painter - is like winning a fucking Academy Award. "I did not include Stupid as a Painter in the current MCA show, but included it in the book. This is not meant to be a sensational show but one that addresses many other aspects of my work," Davila says to Joyce Morgan in a Sydney Morning Herald article (September 8, 2006). Understandable enough, but it would have been great for diehard fans to be able to see this epic work on show again. Or at least I'm waiting for the day someone curates a show called Impounded that brings together artworks banned at one point in history for some reason or other. (The last artist I recall whose work was impounded was Zanny Begg, whose Checkpoint for Weapons of Mass Distraction work was too provocative for Blacktown Council in 2005 but can be seen currently installed on telegraph poles and overpass bridges around Sydney).
Note to self: make a performance work where I visit galleries around Sydney and impound work that is not politically postmodern enough. Commission a famous designer, I'm thinking Sass + Bide, to make an outfit based on one of Davila's pneumatic phallus brandishing quotation whores. Borrow Shaun Gladwell's skateboard for the great getaway – maybe he can document the whole thing? If that idea doesn't work out, I could just go to an art opening (maybe Primavera on Tuesday night) and place well-known Sydney artists under citizen's arrest all the while chanting: "CRIMES AGAINST POLITICAL POSTMODERNISM! CRIMES AGAINST POLITICAL POSTMODERNISM!" I'd sell T-Shirts that say, "The new terrorism is the new conservatism." Juan Davila would buy one and it would match the cream suit he wore on opening night.
But when I think about making new work – the kind of work that made me want to make work in the first place, I think: Will it sell tickets? Should I invent a persona? Can I exhibit my ephemera? Should I engage with negotiation and negotiate engagement. Perhaps I should write my own catalogue essay as a text message sent to everyone at exactly the same time. Maybe I should send some mail art to Lebanon. Paint Kylie Minogue performing for the troops. Should I tour my show to Hillsong? Make a zine that has an ISBN. Turn my iPod into a mobile gallery space. Get Philip Brophy to curate it. Lament that I didn't buy a Davila painting back in 1980. Simulate experience. Reformat blog posts as editioned DVD collectibles. Stop linking Artswipe to articles from the Sydney Morning Herald. Get a haircut and a real job.