Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 14 - Life and Death
Log 14 - Life and Death

Thrash Mix
Chris Chapman on Thrash, curated by Emma Bugden, at the Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 28 June - 28 July 2001


Well, I’m very fond of floor-based work and work that uses real things. It’s complex, but for me has something to do with the whole Pollock/Warhol horizontality deal (Andy’s dance diagrams, and both artists’ use of the floor as an activated painting space). The use of actual objects is good too, opening up metaphoric possibilities around things we are often overly familiar with, and activating the relational aesthetics that inform and reflect our current experience of culture.

Emma Bugden, General Manager of The Physics Room, Christchurch, curated Thrash for the Experimental Art Foundation in exchange for our show Gleam. The show opened on Thursday night and Emma, Dan Arps and Julaine Stephenson stayed here at my place for a few nights. The other artists in the show, Nathan Pohio and Ella Reed had video works but they couldn’t be here.

The show was well received by our local crowd, who cruised the expansive gallery spending time with the works which were scattered across the space. The show relied on internal and floor-based illumination too, so that the spatial aspects of the gallery were changed from the usual brightly-lit white cube into something more expansive.

In the bookshop, on top of the shelf affixed with a label saying "film, tv, screen studies" is Ella’s work. It’s my portable TV from home and a VHS player and a stack of tapes bought from the sale table at the local Movieland selected by us. The idea is that staff and visitors can choose what they like, and play the tape with the sound kind of low but audible. On opening night, Grandview USA starring Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Swayze was on first. But more compelling for the opening night audience, as they shared wine and a smorgasbord of wood oven bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar from the reception desk transformed into a bar, was this movie called Model Behaviour. Um, circa 1984? Its aesthetics were very American Psycho, the movie. Good old eighties minimalism. Ella’s work is cool because of its social sculpture thing. Her original idea was to tune the TV to a local channel but, because the EAF gallery space is a custom-designed concrete bunker surrounded by city buildings, it would have required a roof-mounted antenna to get reception. This version of her work, negotiated with Emma, is great because it offers a choice of visuals and sound that any visitor can initiate.

Nathan Pohio had a pair of televideo units (34 inch screens with built-in VHS players) that sit on the gallery floor, about a foot apart and fed by a double-adaptor to a single power source. This is particularly nice because of the dual thing à la Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Nathan’s work shows his nephew asleep on the left screen, the right screen shows the glow-in-the-dark stars and Space Shuttle on the bedroom ceiling, with a sweet lullaby kind of track. It’s a beautiful and sweet work.

Julaine had this outsized Asian takeaway food container (which a lot of people really liked) spilling big yellow fabric noodles, with the dismembered body of a character - a kind of stuffed toy about a foot long. Nearby is a smaller dude brandishing chopsticks as weapons. Each artist had their name in four centimetre high lettering (charcoal Helvetica) and Julaine’s was sprayed out deleted by a model-maker hobby-sized can of fluoro pink: the cap and can right there.

Dan’s work sprawls over the floor with clusters of objects and lights fed by white electrical flex from both sides of the gallery. Some elements he brought with him, others were sourced from the huge hardware store Bunnings Warehouse - a strange shop near the Asian foodhall at the city markets called Q and P - and from the gallery storeroom. It almost looks as though things weren’t finished (remnants of bubblewrap, foam chips and packing are placed among other elements), but there are poetic formal and aesthetic formulas at work: a broom resting on upturned gallery floodlights; a framed poster of a ubiquitous eighties high-rise propped on a yellow plastic dustpan glowing so that the building becomes spectral.

The honesty of the work in the show is affecting, as well as its directness. While some people read the work in relation to a child-like sense of wonder and play, I think it shows a confident and conceptually pertinent take on process and practice. Best of all, it shows an attitude towards the world which is entirely affectionate.

Ella Reed, Untitled (2001).
[mixed media]

Julaine Stepehenson, TAKE OUT: Sugar takes Candy out (2001).
[mixed media]

Dan Arps, The Museum of X and Dolphins and some drawings towards a base for the world (2001).
[mixed media]

Nathan Pohio, Sleeper (2001).
[video installation]


Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room