Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 5 Trans-Tasman
Log 5 Trans-Tasman

Sydney Roundup
David Haines


Adrian Hall-garlic geomantic rituals, the artist as gangster levitator-an Artaud megaphone-orange bondage ropes, occult tents-cinematic scale-super maverick-Fluxusian space madness-seen at Gitta Weise Gallery.

Picture this, a giant photograph. I am standing in a suburban backyard at night. Maybe I am looking over the back fence. My brain has been messed with, since everything is in negative and of course monochrome. The backyard is full up with small, boyscout style tents. It seems to be crowded with them. I know that they have people inside, since I can see an arm pushing up against the fabric, a shadowy sillhouette hunched over in another, the outline of a body in sleeping position. It's a very spooky image and begs the question, as any great work does, Who are these people? Where did they come from? Could it be a secret society in training? A suburban backyard swingers' meeting? Boy scouts at the creepy scoutmaster's house? The possibilities are endless. It's almost medieval and definitely the uncanny that's revealed. Adrian gives us the perfect situation to create our own reading. For me, the cinematic scale of the image was perfect.

Turning to the left, there is a man in a suit strapped to the wall by way of orange rope and a modified spring bed base. It is a real person up there-the artist. It's as if he has somehow been sucked off the floor and up onto the wall by a great force (my imagination tells me, by a poltergeist.) It's a very disturbing thing to see, since he is close to a window which is about a foot away from where busy Oxford street pulses in typical Sydney traffic hell, three stories below. And you can't help but feel that maybe the gallery walls will cave in and Adrian will be lost.. It's so vertiginous and powerful.

Adrian has made variations on this theme before, such as the time he suspended a bed frame out from a single pole and up in the ceiling with Adrian fast asleep on the bare springs. It's classic stuff in the Chris Burden sense, but so vital in the over-charged, over-cooked, issues-dominated artworld here in Sydney. Sometimes a lot of work looks like and aspires to being like the ultimate post-graduate final show. It's the pressure that does this I think, atmospheric, social, institutional, political and the result maybe of too many summers at Bondi. Hall is a bit of a legend, a rare maverick guy who, it is rumoured, once fingered the local art academy, a fair slab of which he was in charge of, with a box of the finest garlic, brave heart, in an often soulless Kafkaesque maze of red brick walls, economic razor blades and too many school desks. I say, steer clear of the cops Adrian, we damn well need you and I think there is a whole younger generation of artists who have got something great from you, you and Sheehan and the rest of your ilk, thanks to your great style of living, of working and giving us all a little bit of post-Fluxus madness in this town.

coloured pencil shavings and public sculpture-the island of anti-young kunstlers-worried deadlines-an update to late twentieth century ideas about public sculpture-welded metal-will the funds become vapour?

Seems a lot of artists are civil-servanted-out by the South Sydney Council's desire to stick contemporary art everywhere throughout the city, what with deadlines looming, and title pages to be coloured in ( remember how we would grind the tip of a coloured pencil in a pencil sharpener and then smudge the powdered shavings into puffy balls on the page at school?) A certain sort of hysteria has permeated the air. I wonder if there will be any 'naughty kunst', or anything too unfamiliar in the artists who do eventually make it in the end. Some of the older types (read: welded metal crew) complained bitterly in the press. But it's the young kunstlers that seem to be left out. But of course, it is highly worthy to spend money on public sculpture, of all brands and persuasions.

Pipolotti fun food-red hot pokers-glass fragments-smiling girl cop-child on a bmx bike-pure delirium-closest thing to a dream

Ever is Overalll Pipolotti Rist
Ever is Overall, 1997
Strange Days
Gallery of New South Wales

Pipolotti Rist does good things for video art. Here's the scenario. I am in the popular Strange Days exhibition at the AGNSW. An attractive woman is walking along a street in a town somewhere in Europe. It's not a particularly busy street, but it is one that is typically lined with parked cars. It's all SlowMo. She is wearing a nice soft blue dress and carrying a flower known as a red hot poker. It's kinda like a tropical flower on a long green stalk, about the thickness of a broom handle at its stem, with a baroque looking red bulbous part on the top. I guess it's kinda phallic, though this never really occurred to me at the time. This woman is caught up in the throes of a kinda dance style gait as she gleefully proceeds to smash out the windows of about every fifth car with the flower, and all of this to the beat of a sort of cheesy, dreamy pop song. When we were kids there was nothing like the sound of a smashing window. Projected into the corner of the space is a second video sequence of a walk through a real field of red hot pokers in topsy turvy oblique camera mode. Very pretty indeed. It was great to hear the gasps of the Sunday afternoon gallery crowd as they tried to get their heads around this work. Surprisingly the gallery was packed, but then again it's a long time since I have been to the gallery on a Sunday.

Parr family in a gorgeous over-sized fishbowl-pre-Viola-unsentimental-small bubbles of air-deep green water-timeliness

Stumbling into the Ivan Dougherty Gallery, located not very far from the site of Adrian Hall's garlic geomancy ritual (see above if you have forgotten)

This is Mike Parr's 1980s foray into video-meets-photography seen in the group exhibition Telling Tales. Family, under water depicts the Parr clan immersed in the green inky depths of an oceanic volume done long before Bill Viola made such things normal in video and with far less new age sentimentality. (I could almost regret saying that about Viola who is so uncritically embraced by lots of people. I do like a great deal of his works, however). But Parr's work really moves. I felt the claustrophobia of drowning and drowned in the family. I asked J. Rrap about this work on the way home in the car one day and was surprised that it was done maybe in the late seventies. It certainly proves that sometimes an artist can make a highly significant work that seemingly disappears and then re-emerges with great strength. For video art in Australia this is one of the more important works.

David Haines
Spring 1998



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room