Atomic: Full of Love, Full of Wonder 2005/2008 (detail)
Installation at Casula Powerhouse
Photo: The Artswipe
The Artswipe has been a nervous mess of late - all this Bill Henson talk has made me quite twitchy, aware that any minute a huge tsunami of repression could wash over a population of stupid masses who are happily drowning in their self-perpetuating hysteria. Grow up Australia! Grow up now! If you see me in the corner, twitching and in a fetal position, it's not because I'm being photographed by Bill Henson; it's because I'm pissed off. I never wanted to live in the 1950s and seeing I was born in 1970, now is not the time for time travel.
The Artswipe promises never mention Bill Henson again, because frankly other art shows are doing the rounds. And because I won't give it power.
So I went to the Casula Powerhouse today as I have been simply dying to see how the renovations turned out. Plus there is this shit-hot show called Australian. I bet Baz Luhrmann is pissed off - his movie Australia is about to come out and he probably thought he was tapping into something that had never been done before. Well think again Twinkle Toes Luhrmann, your movie frankly doesn't have the budget Casula Powerhouse does. Yes, Casula was given a trillion dollars to pimp their space. And just as well: power stations are so 'modernity' - give me the digital age already.
I got off the train at Casula and thought for a second about how this is Ivan Milat Country. The murder rape fantasy eventually wore off and I made my way to Casula Powerhouse. It's quiet there; I'm used to the flightpath of my inner west terrace. I tremble nervously as I made my way across the narrow road that crosses the railway line. All of a sudden I am stuck - fuck it, I can't move, I really am stuck! I have become such a fatso whale that I am increasingly finding it impossible to move through entrances and exits. So much for accessibility. I have been eating a lot of carbs these last few months and now as a result, I won't be able to get into the Casula Powerhouse because the pedestrian access across the rail line is so narrow, so "fat-ist". Even the producers of the "hit" show Keating! share my anxiety.
How I Got Fat (Thank You for Your Donation) 2008 (detail)
Installation at Liverpool McDonalds
As the Liverpool Leader reports:
Casula Powerhouse staff braved a few bumps while setting up for the musical Keating! A crew of about 25 people rolled up their sleeves on Monday to help unload the set, which travels by a semi-trailer that was too big to manoeuvre down a narrow road and cross a railway line leading to the Powerhouse. Theatre producer Lyn Wallis said the 'bump-in'' theatre lingo for setting up a show ran smoothly despite the obstacles. 'It's been a well-executed operation,' an excited Ms Wallis told the Leader. 'The show's been touring in the semi and there's a tonne of equipment. We managed to negotiate the semi down to the bottom of the hill and close to the railway line, which was a surprise. From there we used three small trucks to load the set to the theatre.'Finally, after a combination of sweaty discombobulation and holding my breath, the good Lord used his invisible fist to push me through the tough Westie terrain. (Or some volunteers came out to help me...) All of a sudden the angels started singing "Hallelujah." At last, I was inside the Casula Powerhouse after a struggle screaming out for its own screenplay.
Australian, the inaugural exhibition at the revamped Casula Powerhouse, is curated by Nicholas Tsoutas and according to the website:
Casula Powerhouse commissioned Australia's hottest contemporary visual artists to transform the newly refurbished arts centre into a spectacle of colour, texture and movement. Combined, the artists have 40 biennales between them, and are among the most exciting practitioners today. The exhibition features 12 new works, in a variety of mediums including sculpture, painting, installation and textiles.Great, I love "hot" artists. Since I've put on so much weight the art "hotties" have stopped picking The Artswipe for casual sex at art opening so I have been a bit sex deprived. But that's OK, masturbation is free. And if you're an art lover like me, you can always use those quiet moments of ecstasy to imagine all kinds of sexual adventures with Shaun Gladwell's skateboard or Nike Savvas's balls.
Like most Australians the artists have cultural and family ties in other places and it is this which informs their work. Australian celebrates the complexity that makes this country such an interesting place to live and presents some of the freshest and most dynamic work being created in this country today.
In case you're thinking this exhibition of "hot" art only features Gladwell and Savvas, think again. It also includes Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy (so hot right now), David Griggs, Raquel Ormella, Guan Wei, Dani Marti, Gordon Hookey and others. The hottest moment was the wonderful ceiling installation of motorised kinetic chandaleirs by Suzann Victor that greets you upon entering the space.
Unfortunately it's downhill from there. David Griggs presented an installation called Donkey Root and unless the sizzle of your Winfield Blue ciggie lighting up a friend's Marlboro Light has made a comeback in "hotness" stakes, then it may as well be met with a frosty reception.
I suppose this exhibition has set up a couple of impossible tasks. Much has to do with the title: being called Australian, it heralds itself as both grandiose and remote. Australian erects claims about "cultural difference" in a self-conscious and tokenistic manner befitting something that heralds its "hotness" before anything else.
Weirder still, the show advertises the involvement of "writers", Prof. Ien Ang, Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz, Assoc. Prof. Nikos Papastergiadis, Dr. Juan Salazar and Dr Paula Abood. The very least you could expect then is some killer publication to accompany this ambitious exhibition. At least when Captain Cook "discovered" Australia he wrote it all down and it was later published. This exhibition purports to depict what being "Australian" is all about through art and instead of publishing anything, the writers involved are put to work penning the didactic wall texts accompanying the artworks. Surely a catalogue is not much to ask for? For starters, it's usually where the curatorial rationale is located. The writers were also put to work as "speakers" at a three day conference. I was at a pie eating contest and couldn't attend, so I hope they performed the necessary intellectual audit of all the issues involved.
Considering the $13 million government funding Casula Powerhouse has received for the refurbishment, and the media hoopla greeting its re-opening, I expected to be dazzled. Alas, I have been more dazzled by parking inspectors and abortion clinics.
Flick through the Casula Powerhouse program and you quickly realise the space has been given over to the priority of high-turnover theatre productions. "Bums on seats" is the technical term used in the industry to describe this phenomenon. It appears that Casula Powerhouse's days as an art space are endangered. The program does not indicate what the next visual arts show will be, and that's because they probably don't know: it is still months and months away. The dates for Australian are 5 April - 7 September. Who ever heard of a regional gallery holding an exhibition for five months? Don't trip over yourself in the wild stampede to see it before it closes! In contrast, the theatre program rolls over with swift conveyor belt regularity.
On my lonely all-stations train ride home, I imagined what it might be like to exhibit at Casula Powerhouse. Some of us are hopelessly aspirational, I know. But then I remembered how fatso whales like me have no place there; we can't even get through the pedestrian crossing! The weight loss has to begin with either me or them. No doubt I'll be the biggest loser.