Philip Brophy

Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, 200 Gertrude Street Fitzroy, Melbourne Sep-Oct 2007
In a recent conversation with Melbourne artist Lou Hubbard, she pointed out that the nexus of Brophy’s work is his fascination with communication. Communication, or more to the point engendered or sexualised communication – how we do it, why we do it and the slippages that occur between what’s on the surface and what’s really being said.

Using logo and branding, Brophy pushed VOX like a consumable product. Treating the GCAS shop-front like advertising space, he generated considerable excitement about his new work. Vox interacted successfully with the window in a way that I hadn’t seen since Spiros Panigirakis’ – albeit very different project – Without, in January 2006.

After recovering from the disappointment of not actually seeing the video component of Philip Brophy’s work at the opening (don’t be under the popular misconception that people don’t view artworks at openings) I went back during the last week of the exhibition for another look.

I can forgive VOX its technical flaws because it’s more the content of Brophy’s work and his particular vision of the world that I find so interesting. The GCAS media release presents VOX as a ‘sexualised visualisation’ of the romantic comedy, but it’s not simply a subversion or interpretation of a chick/dick flick, it’s also a sad anthropological study of what we humans do and say to one another on a daily basis; love me, fuck me, want me, understand me. This combination of insights into gender, sexuality and semiotics combined with his glam rock, Ziggy Stardust aesthetic is what draws me in. But a level of presentation that’s as sophisticated as the work is insightful will keep me coming back.
Meredith Turnbull


Two heads, male and female, stare blankly at each other. Then the lips of one extend, contort and grow outwards, as a large pseudo-sexual organ sprouts from its mouth. This growth enlarges and transforms, reaching across the screen as more transformations take place. The head gags and convulses, other bits that look like flippers, teats or testicles grow out of the forehead and cheeks, sprouting fine tendrils and glowing antennae. When they reach the other face they brush up against it and retract. The main female growth is part vagina, part puffer fish, part obscure seaweed, while the male equivalent is more penis-y, sea cucumber-like.

The mutations are synced to a revving electronic sound that is mapped across five speakers, following the bits across the screens, twisting and time-stretching in unison with their contortions. When one completes its display, the other begins and so on.

Brophy's themes are all here; sex dragged down from the hetero pedestal and reformed according to the rules of science-fiction, anime, horror films and pornography, divorcing then reattaching itself to cartoon and alien bodies. It's as if he takes John Gray's word to the letter – when it comes to sexuality, men really are from Mars and women really are from Venus. Or in this case, the aquatic theme would suggest these mutants crawled out of the sea on Neptune. For them, flirting takes the form of spewing genitalia.

And it sounds great on paper, especially in the catalogue essay, but in light of a series of inconsistencies all the grotesquerie seems half-finished, or at least rushed. While one head writhes about the other is weirdly still, like an icon on a website that you would expect to flash or sparkle when a cursor moves over it. Elsewhere tentacles lose their animated connection to the face they've sprung from, or the main organ-thingy appears to move on a different layer to the mouth, and so the illusion vanishes.
We can't let him get off so easily.
Michael Ascroft

One Word Responses to the Biennale de Lyon

François Piron

Sylvie Boulanger
David Hamilton invité par Eric Troncy
image: détail de l'installation, 34 photographies, avec le soutien du British Council, avec le soutien de Sikkens-Vachon, crédit photo Blaise Adilon

Judicaël Lavrador
Wade Guyton invité par Scott Rothkopf

Cecilia Canziani

Matthew Shannon
Cao Fei invité par Hu Fang
image: Shannon

Etienne Bernard
Brian Jungen invité par Trevor Smith
image: suc1 0084: vue d'installation, sacs de golf, tube en carton, collection privée Toronto. Courtesy Catriona Jeffries gallery, Vancouver,crédits photo Blaise Adilon.

Charlotte Laubard

Daniel Dewar
Liu Wei invité par Pi Li
image: « Seesaw », 2007, résine plastique et bois, métal, 500 x 150 x 1600 cm. Courtesy Liu Wei et Universal Studios, Beijing, crédits photo Blaise Adilon

Thomas Boutoux

Marie Muracciole

Geoff Lowe
Nomeda et Gedimines Urbones invité par Natasa Petresin
image courtesy of the artists

Antoine Marchand
Tino Sehgal invité par Jens Hoffmann

Bénédicte Ramade
Tomas Saraceno invité par Daniel Birnbaum
Flying garden/airport city/60SW 2007, 60 ballons, cordes, 280 cm de diamètre,
courtesy de l'artiste et Tanya Bonakdar gallery, New York, Andersen-s contemporary, Copenhague, Pinksummer contemporary art, Gène, crédits photo Blaise Adilon

Mathilde Villeneuve
Cinthia Marcelle invité par Jochen Volz
screen capture,Fonte 193 (Fountain 193), 2007, vidéo 5'40" en boucle, courtesy de l'artiste et Gallery Box 4,crédits photo Blaise Adilon


Roni Horn

A Kind of You: 6 Portraits
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 111 Sturt Street Southbank, Melbourne, Aug-Sept

Flowing emotions, borderline crazy.
Elin Haukeboe

The blurred in-motion faces of the clown creates a flashback to Stephen King’s film ‘IT’. Not what I would expect as an introduction to the exhibition. Or any other art exhibition.
Joel Hui Tan

The subject is obscured on several levels, introducing the concept of masking the mask - as if to avoid recognition, though assuming an already impenetrable guise.
Jordan Russ

You walk in to a space, all eyes upon you, you feel as if you’re being questioned, yet you’re not self-conscious.
Miki Petrovic

Face, raw and fleshy.
Ben Callinan
click here to read more one-sentence responses to the exhibition from photography students at Deakin University
image: Roni Horn, Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert) 2005, courtesy ACCA


Regarding Fear and Hope

Monash University Museum of Art and Faculty Gallery
Melbourne, July – August
Curated by Victoria Lynn
Spread across both Monash campuses, Regarding Fear and Hope reads like a mini-biennale – not surprising as it was developed at the same time as curator Victoria Lynn was working on Turbulence, the 3rd Auckland Triennial. The two projects included many of the same artists and used a similar curatorial rhetoric.

If you believe curators we must always be living in turbulent times. Perhaps curators are a particularly anxious or sensitive bunch, I guess travelling and hanging around artists all the time will take a psychological toll. Or perhaps it feeds from the ever-present notion of crisis in contemporary art. Or the expectation of these major biennale type shows to make some kind of internationally relevant zeitgeist statement – isn’t that what coca-cola does?

Avoiding these issues of biennale hype, the more focused and localised scale and scope of Lynn’s Monash exhibition allowed for a more direct and intimate experience of the artworks and the issues raised. The DVD triptych maang (message stick) by indigenous Australian artist r e a builds upon archival material layered with images of the Australian landscape and words in the Gamilaraay language. The multiple readings of history and myth overlap in this work dealing with the turbulence of colonisation. Collaborative works by Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley referenced the 1973 Fassbinder film (the story of an inter-racial and inter-generational love affair) in the neon piece Fear Eats the Soul.
Rosemary Forde
Regarding fear and hope, installation views, Monash University Museum of Art 2007, photography Christian Capurro

Experimenta Playground - Biennial of Media Art

Experimenta Playground - Biennial of Media Art
The Arts Centre BlackBox, Melbourne Aug-Sept
Once my Mum emailed me a link to some virtual bubble wrap. I really enjoyed popping the bubbles with the mouse… for about two minutes. A lot of new-media art has the same limited pull for me. I visited Experimenta Playground to test my prejudices. Just inside the entrance is an interesting looking video featuring the artist Kuang-Yu Tsui, changing his clothes in urban spaces. I watch a while but keep getting bumped by gormless tourists entering. A stupid placement so I move on. Inside the space it’s hard to adjust. Screens and sounds blink franticly like a gaming arcade. Gangs of kids jump at anything that glows while their parents mull about like cows.

Narinda Reeder’s work is an ATM style kiosk providing lifestyle advice to the disillusioned. Help Us Help You Help Centre. I wait behind a couple of boys trying to get the computer-generated voice to register their name as “Dildo Fuckface”. The kiosk seems to be getting pissed off and eventually freezes in protest. I don’t get a turn. A stylish couple are swooning over the “cute little monitors” in a work entitled ‘Charmed’. I’m not charmed. I feel like I’m in a soulless Sony showroom. The artwork seems almost secondary to the technologies featured. Some works would make great screen savers. The virtual, interactive fishpond entitled ‘Immersion’ reminds me of a high tech version of the ‘burning log’ video once sold on infomercials.

Shaun Gladwell’s simple slow-mo video of himself skating around various public fountains is like catching a breath. I catch snatches of a moody soundtrack but it’s drowned out by the blinking jangle. I imagine Shaun’s work would be great amplified and projected but it’s lost in these surrounds. I give up and head off to Ikea for another dose of masochistic people hate. I need new picture frames.
Jolly Johnson



RMIT Project Space Spare Room, Melbourne Aug–Sept
Justin Andrews (Curator), Stephen Bram, Bianca Hester, Kyle Jenkins, George Johnson, John Nixon, Kerrie Polliness, Sandra Selig, Masato Takasaka, Inverted Topology (Danny Lacy, Gemma Smith and Mimi Tong)
Justin Andrews has curated a highly considered and elegant exhibition for RMIT Project Space and Spare Room. Titled Abstraction/ Architecture/Space, he has eloquently selected twelve artists of diverse experience and development whose practices deal with the convergence of these themes. Andrews follows a somewhat traditional curatorial model but maintains a natural flow and easy relationship between works. But it’s Carolyn Barnes’ accompanying catalogue text that generates a critical perspective on the history of these artists’ practices and fully investigates the curatorial premise.

Three works in this exhibition provide the most exciting points of conflation between ideas in and around abstraction, architecture and space. George Johnson’s Sonata No.1, 6.2.2005 uses acrylic on canvas to convey dynamism of form and colour in an arrhythmic abstraction. Sandra Selig’s volumetric sci-fi installation Time isn’t holding us explodes a geometric web of white elastic from rock and Stephen Bram’s Untitled (Two Point Perspective) pigment print on paper obsessively overlays black lines to provide an intensely warped moment of amplified architectural drawing.

Discussing each artist in detail, Barnes cites various influences and antecedents to these works from Bauhaus to Minimalism-Conceptualism and examines the traditions and contemporary relevance of Modernism within an international and Australian art context. Abstraction/Architecture/Space is an exciting exploration of new developments in non-objective art and contemporary modes of abstraction.
Meredith Turnbull

RMIT’s glass-fronted Project Space is more retail showroom than abstracted white cube. A sense of overwhelming transparency dominates, one is caught in the glare of the high beam – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It’s the type of paralysis we see in retail display.

The current exhibition Abstraction, Architecture, Space, curated by Justin Andrews, creates a light, yet self-assured footprint in this display cabinet. Drawing on the over-exposed conditions as a metaphoric and material opportunity, the show flows easily between specific responses to the gallery environs and a more generalised hermeticism, typical of historical abstraction.

For example, Stephen Bram’s work Untitled (Two Point Perspective) is wryly hung directly opposite the front glass wall. Rather than a face-off between the contained art object and the random, moving images of the street, this small, framed work acts as a projector of the prevailing conditions, without getting specific about it. Bram’s outreaching refractions break through the frame, creating a sense of continuum with the present, encapsulating the responsive sense the show has as a whole.

Rather than a testament to the survival-machine status of Modernist abstraction, the works, and the way they come together, are as resolutely about now as any more fashionable takes on relativism. The familiar sense of high-mindedness typical to the idiom is not apologetically undermined, rather, the continuing dilemma of being in the world – of conjecture, potentiality and process – reigns over any sense of aloofness or estrangement. Revisionism is not on the agenda.
Adrien Allen

(see details for this exhibition on the post below)
It's great when artists can pull off a curated show with a fancy essay, nice catalogue and impressive mix of works. As an artist you can maintain the autonomy of a practice and closeness to your peers, while I guess as a curator type you're always torn between choosing specific works to feed the 'vision' of the show and teasing out new works by artists to extend their practices and take a few risks. Both can be said of this show by Justin Andrews, who has succeeded in defining links between abstraction and architecture by inviting a handful of this country’s foremost spatial/abstract practitioners to live the dream. Each work has been carefully selected to occupy a specific space within the gallery and each space within the gallery has been occupied nicely. I forgot about the premise and just enjoyed seeing a bunch of great works working together.
Geoff Newton