2/17/08

Fuck Your Heros

West Space
Level 1, 15 - 19 Anthony Street Melbourne, February
Michael Ciavarella, Ross Coulter, Deven Marriner, Laith McGregor
West-Space
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

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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

2 Comments:

Anonymous david thomson said...

I don't know what Yue is smoking but to claim the West invented AIDS is garbage. Remember the hysterical protests by Chinese students against visiting African students becuase they said they all had AIDS and had sex with Chinese women. The challenge for China is to become a genuinely multi-cultural society, and the bizarre views of these non-entities like Yue do no thing to bridge the gap. Waste of space.
Cheers, David T

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yue needs to realize that the pools closed. Due to AIDS.

6:43 AM  

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