The Telepathy Project

Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples
Next Wave Festival
Forum Theatre Melbourne, 20-24 May 2008
& Poster Note Publication launch
Sticky Institute, Degraves Subway Melbourne, 19 July 2008

In May the Next Wave Festival hit Melbourne at its usual break neck speed. Situated on the corner of Flinders and Russell Streets in a south-facing window of the Forum theatre, Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples’ Telepathy Project provided a moment for pause not only within the festival itself but peak hour traffic in Melbourne’s CBD. Kent and Peoples divided the rarely used space into two self-contained rooms, wallpapered with photo-landscapes of rainforest and autumn forests respectively, the crochet blankets covering both floors and décor of each room colour-coordinated accordingly.

For four and a half hours a day, over a five-day period Kent and Peoples occupied the two separate rooms, completely isolated from each other but in full view of the general public. Every 15 minutes the artists would attempt to communicate with each other telepathically. Then rising from prone positions, stretched out on the floor or lying on their daybeds, they sat at identical sets of Ikea table and stool to document these transactions. The drawn results on oversized yellow post-it notes were time-coded, dated, labelled sent and received and stuck onto the window for us to see.

Kent and Peoples’ ongoing telepathic collaborations with signature New Age hippie meets psychedelic arts and crafts aesthetic are resolved without appearing laboured. The delivery of performative works, requiring commitment and lengthy periods of endurance, grounds their practice in a 1960s and 70s tradition of collaborative performance, like duos Marina Abramovic and Ulay or more recently Smith/Stewart. Although their telepathic communications rarely hit the mark, like the drawings of a monkey with a smoke versus an unpeeled banana, the beauty and humour lies in the close calls of the results and the attempt itself.

The Telepathy Project is documented in Poster Note Publication, a self-published compilation of telepathic 'post-it note' drawings made during the telepathic performance.
Meredith Turnbull


Drawing A Conclusion

Hell Gallery, 5A Railway Place, Richmond, June–July 2008
Ernesto Burgos, Nadine Christensen, Matthew Delege, Anthony Farrell, Torben Giehler, Lily Hibberd, Chris LG Hill, Heidi Linck, Nick Mangan, Rob Mchaffie, Ola Vasiljeva, Gabriella Mangano & Silvana Mangano, curated By Danny Lacy

This small, neat show of interesting work seems like just the thing to capture something of a common thread in current art practices. At the same time, there’s something strange about the way it successfully registers this without any exaggerated curatorial statement or other pretence. Strange in the sense that it’s a business-as-usual kind of exhibition, but without any of the awkwardness or amateurism that you come to expect of emerging art related activity, even your own.

As for the work, post-formalist patterning in thin lines of fun-but-muted colours, muddy off-red and off-yellow monochromes, slow detailed pencil drawings, and watercolours of sticks and rocks and aristocratic children are represented. Then there’s bits of text – graffiti sampled in landscapes or song lyrics – and black and white pen drawings in a comic book style, and in general a lot of blank paper. Two sculptures, squashed-face doll with a leg in plaster cast, and a monochrome which doubles as a bench complete the show.

Apart from the expected variety and style of the selection, even the title seems to hint at cultural context in a slightly procedural way. It might go something like: ‘these works are testimony to continuation of the practice of “drawing” – now a euphemism for experimentation – with and against past forms and subjects, regardless of a generalised pathos at the end of modernity.’ Whatever it may really refer to, the presentation of a cool selection of works with a serious lack of affect seems to be the real intention. This professionalism is all the more noticeable at Hell Gallery, a ramshackle peter-pan house by the train tracks, with a perfect little white cube for a heart.
Michael Ascroft

Robert Storr, Keynote Lecture

Biennales in Dialogue Forum
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
11 July 2008

On the one hand, this talk was an introduction to Storr’s curatorial method and an argument for ‘dialogue’, and in general about the practice of curating biennales. On the other, it was another episode in the ongoing public debate between Storr and critics of the 2007 Venice Biennale he curated – in particular Okwui Enwezor who was also there on the night. This meant that nearly everything Storr said couldn’t help sounding like it had a vindictive tone, even though it was delivered in the professional, neutral language of academia – and in the end it really did turn into an exercise in personal and professional restraint gone wrong.

Storr wanted to use the idea of dialogue to discuss the experience of audiences, especially the non-specialist art audiences, and contemporary art; to discuss exchanges between artists; to show how this also relates to the ‘aura’ of an artwork; and how it is finally a political moment in which two or more antagonistic parties may find some common ground through the unpredictability of exchange. His big claim is that dialogue, in the context of biennales, is a fundamentally democratic experience in a globalised world.

For a start, biennales attract large numbers of the non-specialist public, and artists often get to meet one another at them. Walter Benjamin’s idea of ‘aura’ is that it is the result of an encounter of a viewer and artwork in a specific place and time; it is a personal experience but at the same time a social one. This means that ‘aura’ is made in a dialogic setting, again, provided by the biennale. But the political meaning of dialogue was not much more concrete than the example of a potentially beneficial meeting between socially conservative groups and provocative artists and/or curators. Maybe it was this political weakness of the talk that added fuel to the fire in Storr’s tirade during question time, which was aimed at Enwezor’s highly politicised talk of a couple days previous. Enwezor himself responded that Storr had repudiated everything he just said, and from there they both tried talking over the top of one another until Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, taking the microphone, asked them to continue the ‘dialogue’ outside.
Michael Ascroft
see Natalie King's interview with Carolyn Chrystov-Bakargiev
and on the theme of the Sydney Biennale


Kate Smith

Whoops Kibbutz, Utopian Slumps
25 Easey Street Collingwood, May – June 2008

Whoops Kibbutz, Kate Smiths’ first solo exhibition in Melbourne is loosely based on her recent experiences on the family farm — which I’m guessing is like staying at Mike Brown’s house while Urs Fischer plucks chickens and Sean Landers makes mix tapes in the barn. It’s a sprawling refined mess of text and paint, rollicking about like oversized party favours strewn out for examination, destroyed, renamed and hastily rebuilt for another whirl. The 30–odd works are littered with Smith’s signature meditations on art ‘practice’, and the environment at large — which could be the studio, as singular works imply — yet en masse the works seem to heave with a kind of fever. The kind of fever that comes with wanting to make to see an idea, throw things together to see if they work while the mind prickles and fingers twinkle. No question what a weekend away can do for the soul.
Geoff Newton