The FERAL project’s ethos has been likened to a communal studio and its relentless progress as a series of overlapping, altered and interactive spatial occupations of the communal studio and project space was certainly evident at the opening of Feral 4 last Friday night.[i] There was a distinct performative aspect, as a number of artists (and one particular work) acted within and upon the confined space, performing in close proximity to each other and to viewers. Apart from the vitality that these performances brought to the experience, an unexpected aspect of returning to a progressive exhibition such as this one was the experience as the returning viewer. The return to last week’s show as it transitioned into this week’s show is activated by the familiar and the unknown. As a returning viewer you are able to interact activated not only through memory and a certain nostalgia, but also with curiosity and this awareness mediates your perception of the show. You have arrived with baggage.
Some works linger as relics and mementoes of FERAL 3 and consolidate the notion of transgressive domesticity that characterised the earlier FERAL. Other works have been removed, their sites replaced by new works that may or may not be haunted by what has gone before, depending on the baggage of the viewer. As with any group show, sometimes the proximity between the works allows other dialogues to emerge, expected or not.
Entering within the narrow rectangular space of Articulate Project Space, one is confronted once again with the now familiar forms of Veronica Habib’s suspended underwear work. As promised, the hair is even thicker and curlier than before, assuming a defiant territorial occupation of each little patch of lingerie, and therefore of its section of the show. It is as if the work has matured and staked its own little land claim over the past week. A little beyond, writhing slowly on the floor is the shiny green ducting recognisable as of Sue Callanan’s In the space of a breath, perhaps a little more battered. Her neighbours this week are not static however as there is a cluster of performance activity centred on this part of the ground floor as incoming artists move in on the space. Also under the staircase, Jeff Wood tinkers and adjusts his work Painting Machine, an assemblage of found objects, including skateboard parts and a bicycle wheel as ode to Duchamp. These are all coaxed into function and pressed into service as surrogate-artist objects, mechanically creating works of paint on canvas. Against the wall near Jeff, Melissa Maree quietly and methodically sorts and sticks brown lionoleum cut-outs onto the floor and wall, based on “basic forms of artworks, objects and feelings” she has encountered during FERAL.[ii] At some point, Aude Fondard’s performance work, Dolly’s mad enters the fray as a self possessed young woman lies down in the possession of / possessed by a plastic bride doll. All this activity occurs in a close and narrow space, around and between groups of spectators.
Possibly a poster piece this week for the curatorial concept of feral / fair isle as transgressive / domesticated is Kate Mackay’s soft edged and hand crafted piece of geometric abstraction. Crochet Cubes is a three-dimensional work and it hangs across the space, forming a room divider or screen. In contrast to the usually cool delineations of gridded colour associated with geometric abstraction in which gesture is minimised however, every stitch references the gesture of making, and yarn edges and changes protrude unevenly, clearly delineating the crafting process. The work’s cubed seriality is appropriately within sight of Richard Dunn’s series of small, perfectly square paintings, in which precise bands of precisely mixed colour are placed, hard edged yet emergent in subtle relief against other bands. A part of the material dialogue between Richard and Kate’s proximate works is surely colour as pigment as against colour as dyed yarn. Upstairs, Yoshi Takahashi’s installation of timber cubes presents another variant of geometric abstraction as units of colour are placed in gridded symmetry in a meticulous visual analysis of colour as part of a larger whole, creating a field-like effect.
Appearing as a motion stopped by a brick, Sarah Fitzgerald’s sculptural piece Arch curves gracefully away from the back wall of the space’s ground floor, providing a contrast, as Sarah describes, with “the post and beam structure of the gallery space”.[iii] Continuing this mode of invasive interactions into the gallery space, but taking it to invasion is Dominic Byrne’s aggressive little work, Trigger Warning 2015. Perched in apparent domestic serenity on the far back wall this air dispenser squirts pepper spray into the room once every 15 minutes, in an eye-watering, sneeze-inducing inversion of the domestic room fragrance product.
A synchronous melding of works from FERAL 3 and 4 occurs upstairs, where the upper portion of Helen L Sturgess’ work, consisting of bunched pale pink tulle on exposed rafters is adjacent to a softly flickering watercolour animation of couples dancing, their bodies compressed within the space of the projected band across the uneven white brickwork: Thin Ice by Elizabeth Rankin. This narrative of containment is continued with Kathryn Ryan’s boxes, arrayed in a museological display of small and delicate items that appear to have been collected from the site. Particularly poignant and tenderly observed is the box of “small white spaces” visible below.
The final iteration of this 6-week long communal project, FERAL 5 opens on Friday 6 February 2015. Some visitors will then have 5 pieces of baggage to carry around with them.
[ii] Melissa Maree, Facebook post, 01.02.2015 https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1570312622&fref=ts (accessed 05.02.2015)
[iii] Sarah Fitzgerald, Artist Statement, Feral 4 Roomsheet https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B78OP44gB4wbS1I0bVo4NS1rZGs/view accessed 05.02.2015)