Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 12 - The Pink and Blue Number
Log 12 - The Pink and Blue Number

That's Entertainment


That's Entertainment
Curated by Sean Kerr,
feat. Young Hae Chang, Richard Reddaway, Joyoti Wylie, Panacea, Yuk King Tan, Sean Kerr, Terry Urbahn, Scott Eady.
13 September - 6 October 2000,
The Physics Room, Christchurch.

The following is transcribed from a video work produced for this show in which Christchurch rocker Ritchie Venus, a. k. a. Michael Brathwaite, reads a catalogue-style text by Dante Cullpepper. Cullpepper had initially hoped to interest both Venus and the Wizard of Christchurch in the reading, as both figures have been responsible for the lion’s share of “entertainment” in Christchurch over the years. However, the Wizard, upon finding out that the text was not directly about himself, refused to be involved...

Recently on National Radio, performance artist Sean Kerr stressed the importance of “being able to laugh at yourself”. Kerr cited an example of his own recent performance art where he was seen walking down Willis St. with an armload of fluorescent tubes. Unlike the liminal performances of Peter Roche - which used lit fluorescent tubes within the confines of the gallery, emphasised the danger of electricity, and often culminated in the smashing of the aforementioned tubes - Kerr’s performance was deliberately light-hearted. Reminding the public that “the artist has to live like everybody else”, Kerr underlined the ungainly aspects of sculptural practice, the “behind the scenes” of the work-in-progress.

Kerr is perhaps, however, best known for his sleeping performances, where he will suddenly abandon social convention for a more private investigation of interiority. Kerr has been known to fall asleep at all kinds of occasions, perhaps referencing a work by Vancouver artist Rodney Graham, “Halcion Sleep” from 1994. In this piece, Graham is drugged with Halcion, then forcibly raised from his bed and driven all over town. It is a rainy night and the performer simply rocks to and fro in the back seat, fast asleep and totally oblivious to the fact that he has been “kidnapped”.

Perhaps Kerr’s most frequent performative gestures occur in his corruption of the English language. Kerr is infamous for deliberately misspelt words, random capitalisations, phonetic translations, and a lurching, laconic style. The motley patchwork that he creates from the tattered fabric of communication resurfaces within Kerr’s visual practice as a video artist and sometime painter or object maker. Kerr chooses words, often very silly words, and spits them back at us like symbolic code or brand names in a parallel universe where stupidity reigns supreme. The deliberate juvenility of Kerr’s choice of words echo his maxim that all artists should be able to laugh at themselves. Kerr has no desire to be “taken seriously”. Rather he hopes that through exposure to his work other people will learn to “lighten up”.

Kerr’s choice of artists to illustrate this manifesto is broad and at times oblique. Scott Eady echoes Kerr’s own predilection for obscenity with a collection of decoy ducks saying the word “wank”. Eady and Kerr are both obviously from the school of Art Pronounced with an F. In Eady’sart world, “artwank” is the decoy that takes our minds off the work. One can almost imagine a “shooting gallery” in which the ducks, and their cantankerous wankery, could be eradicated altogether by some good hard young men.

Another good hard man act is Panacea’s contribution to That’s Entertainment. A hardcore German Drum and Bass recording artist, Panacea was only too delighted to lend Kerr his most “hands-on” soundtrack to date. In the time honoured tradition of Vito Acconci’s Seedbed, there’s a wanker in the gallery. Unfortunately, Panacea couldn’t be here to perform in person. Instead we are left with the aural remnant of a beautiful moment.

The women are not to be outdone by Kerr’s crude boys. Joyiti Wylie (who must have had entertaining parents) has made another of her famous “soundtracks”, narratives which she “sings” (in the Yoko Ono sense of the word). With titles such as “No Nipples” and “Pussy Philosopher”, it’s not hard to see why Kerr was so keen to curate Wylie into this show.

Meanwhile Young-hae Chang is no stranger to using rude words pertaining to the girlie anatomy in her work. Her website is the site of constantly changing texts, simple boygirl stuff about fannys, or, day-to-day stuff about public transport. Like Kerr, Chang likes to play with her typefaces, and always uses a struck through 0, like a zero rather than the alphabetic vowel, likening her work to coding, as well as to the strike-through signage that has international currency for “NO”. These bold, ballistic messages chop and change before the reader’s eyes. As Kerr confesses, “if you watch it long enough, it gets ruder and ruder.”

Yuk King Tan, though not a rude girl, has long been interested in tracing the role of art-as-commodity both in the wider art community and within the trajectory of her own career. Though not about to cast herself as a porn star, she has taken her clothes off for art’s sake, in a changing-room video. Tan has also lain around doing absolutely nothing under public scrutiny, no doubt another version of the narcoleptic states Kerr has spent so much time investigating. More than anything though, Tan likes to wake her audience up by letting off explosive fire-crackers within the gallery, creating a festive, anarchic atmosphere within the often stuffy confines of the white wall system.

Terry Urbahn is Kerr’s natural choice for That’s Entertainment. Urbahn has minced and lipsynched his way through a number of “entertainment” videos. Using the popular “Karaoke” format, Urbahn has created televisual madness of the sad-arsed wannabe kind. Dressed in leathers, Urbahn let us in on the behind-the-scenes of the serious karaoke champ, the hair dye, the lipstick, the eyeliner, and then the attempt to appear completely scruffy and casual. Entertainment is not always the easy option. In his Saloon series, he allowed us as gallery-goers to be the flies-on-thewall of a bar in which he got pissed and caroused with unsuspecting punters.

Richard Reddaway is a less obvious choice for That’s Entertainment, but a pleasingly oblique addendum to a show dominated by show-offs. Reddaway, most often an object maker, has recently begun a series of gallery installations, infiltrations, and occupations. It is his glitter works that have attracted the magpie eye of Kerr, no doubt for their “glitterous” connotations. It’s appropriate, too, that Reddaway should be giving the gallery something of the feel of a fun fair, given that That’s Entertainment coincides with the inaugural Christchurch Biennale, during which the whole city begins to take on the popularist patina of Te Papa. Forget New Brighton, Christchurch is the New Blackpool for arts and culture downunder. In the meantime, Kerr puts high art back where it belongs - under the boardwalk.

“Dante Cullpepper is an American football hero with an abiding interest in New Zealand art.”

“Curated by master showpiece Malcolm Melrose, working under the pseudonym of Sean Kerr, That’s Entertainment drew on notions of entertainment and the entertainer to produce a thoroughly entertaining exhibition. Clocking up a broad spectrum of pop cultural forms and references with an exotic international flavor, Melrose’s Manifesto is oblique and sometimes obscene. This is art pronounced with an F.”




Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room