Katherine Huang

Neon Parc
1/53 Bourke Street Melbourne, February
It's 2008 and nice to have a show that feels like the future. Katherine Huang's current exhibition at Neon Parc seems to hail from there, but a good one where plastic hasn't taken us down, but has become a new passable and appealing media. That's a nice thing artists can do, take something that’s tagged ‘bad’ and give it a good new go.
Huang's studio drawings feel familiar and set the exhibition like it's still being made or is about something that feels like making. I have had about enough of ‘The Studio’— as mysterious location where real things happen — on invites or in Art Collector interviews. I think Huang does it better and a bit further.
With titles like, ‘This Piece Is About Air. There's Nothing There’ (2008), Huang’s op shop buys, containers and placements cap the inbetweens and spaces. Huang seems to really want us to notice where she put it and where the object is found — that she definitely chose it and not the other way around. It seems like the tweaking could go on forever, including her audience in putting and preparing to arrive, rather than the studio invite opposite of that.
Kate Smith


Fuck Your Heros

West Space
Level 1, 15 - 19 Anthony Street Melbourne, February
Michael Ciavarella, Ross Coulter, Deven Marriner, Laith McGregor
Michael Ciavarella’s “Kissing Cousins” pushed the connections between the tradition of the male artist-genius through macho celebrity worship via camp appropriation, to a strange commentary on the erotic charge than runs through them all. Basically, Coulter took a copy of Courbet’s Origin of the World and overlayed Ben Cousins’s “Such is Life” tattoo. In all, four different heroes come together: the artist-genius; the AFL star; Tupac’s “Thug Life” tattoo, from which the font and style of Cousin’s tattoo is appropriated; Ned Kelly’s famous last words. The associations between the hardboiled men play off one another in such a way as to affect a weird solidarity between them, in opposition to the background image of the woman’s naked crotch. But as a whole this exhibition’s generic, quasi-critical approach seems to undercut this more unexpected and interesting content.

More than that, the “one part homage to every two parts irreverence” approach to the hero isn’t really even quasi-critical because a constructed, ironic, and I’d go so far as to say a camp self-understanding is already an everyday aspect of masculinity today. That excessive macho-ness that Ciavarella’s “Kissing Cousins” focuses in on now runs through so much ordinary pop culture product that we already know that the excessively masculine man tends to be shown to be as unmanly as the traditional effeminate one. Which shows how camp as critique is well and truly absorbed into mainstream gender politics.
Michael Ascroft

I’ve only seen photos of the show Fuck Your Heroes, but making new work can’t escape the context of what’s been made/done before, and this idea is interesting for all the many relationships that it manifests between contemporary and predecessor. People often have feelings of aggression towards artists whose work is valuable to them, an anger at an idea having been ‘taken’, as though there are a finite number of ideas that are unlocked at points of time and consumed, used up. When Ai Weiwei brought 1001 Chinese people to Kassel for Documenta, my friend Hao Guo had a crisis, feeling that this was the most important artwork in the world so everything from then on that he made would be superfluous, or trivial, or diminished. But then later he found out that another Chinese artist, Yue Luping (see below from the interview), had done a similar project on a much smaller scale. Then, a question of power comes into play: Ai was financed by Swiss banks to realise Fairytale, so the scale was made possible by corporate wealth, but it’s hard to imagine a fairytale involving Swiss bank giants. Maybe this is the fairytale of contemporary art.

Speaking of power, when I first read a précis of Jean Baudrillard’s Forget Foucault (before I read FF) I was obsessed with what was claimed the essay was trying to do: that it was an imperative action undertaken by Baudrillard, necessary for him to become an independent thinker, as he felt too committed to Foucault’s ideas. So, fuck your hero to become yourself. I’m unsure if this was Baudrillard’s motivation, but since then I’ve paid more attention to the different ways that this tension plays out.

On the topic of dealing with inherited ideas of masculinity, I don’t think I can offer much… Not just because I’m not a man, but from my experience Man is (almost) a gender-neutral existence, while Female is steeped in gender. So almost all of constructed culture and history feels like it has largely been a study of what it means to be a man, coming after other men.
Liv Barrett
Yue Luping: Now in this festival, my work is “Journey To The West” of three platforms. One is “ Touring in the Western World”. Like present, China is copying everything from Western culture. I say it’s unfinished copy. Like you have toured around the city and seen all the Western signs like Mac and KFC. And our political structure also originated from Marxism and the economic system is……
Lennie Iee: copying capitalism.
Yue Luping: Everything is copying Western culture including AIDS. Now China has a lot of AIDS cases not really through sex intercourse. So I would like to comment on this unfinished copy, I think it’s a problem of modernization. http://www.ionly.com.cn/nbo/ionlyshow/ionlyshow1/yueluping/20051031/131650.html


A dinner with... Erick Beltran

9 bis - 21 rue des Trois Frères Paris, Sunday Feb 3 at 8.30pm Un projet de Thomas Boutoux, Natasa Petresin et François Piron, avec Benjamin Thorel et Oscar Tuazon
During the exhibition Société Anonyme, last March at le Plateau, Mexican artist Erick Beltran developed a body of work around the notion of synesthaesia as a metaphor for the translation of practices and the creation of links between unrelated things as a way of organising the chaos of signs. He worked full-time over four months in the art space organising workshops with children or art students, participating in debates, inviting scientists to respond to his experiences… This working method, based on exhaustion and energy expenditure, lead him to performances and presentations considered as never-ending events.

Last night Erick prepared a dinner at the Kadist foundation to accompany his discourse, considering different dishes as tasteful translations and creating the baseline for a conversation about synesthaesia between him and the 25 dinner guests. SPEECH asked a number of the dinner guest to respond, read on...