Mike Parr
Half Way House

1st May – 31st July 2021
Anna Schwartz Gallery

Mike Parr’s artis­tic pro­duc­tion stems from his work as a per­for­mance artist. The last few years (although not strict­ly lim­it­ed to this peri­od) have seen the artist use per­for­mance as a pro­duc­tive ges­ture for exhi­bi­tion-mak­ing. With­in this process works are cre­at­ed in-situ. Anoth­er ten­den­cy has been to use the exhi­bi­tion as a dynam­ic medi­um, with per­for­mances evolv­ing works from one state into the next.

Half Way House is Parr’s most recent exhi­bi­tion to use this approach. Cen­tral to this is the inter­ro­ga­tion of the self-por­trait image, and blind­ness. Since the 1980s, Parr’s Self-Por­trait Project has encom­passed every mate­r­i­al approach the artist uses, with per­for­mance, as stat­ed above, the point of depar­ture. The project com­pris­es thou­sands of images, and for this exhi­bi­tion, drawn and paint­ed exam­ples from the 1980s are nom­i­nat­ed as pri­ma­ry sub­stance for new works. Installed as sin­gu­lar instal­la­tions, his­tor­i­cal works on paper and can­vas are trans­formed by Parr’s per­for­ma­tive action paint­ing’. Under­tak­en blind’, these per­for­mances bring Parr’s approach to mark-mak­ing into the exhi­bi­tion space, col­laps­ing the tra­di­tion­al pro­duc­tion-to-pre­sen­ta­tion mod­el. The artist has said of ear­li­er Blind Self-Por­traits that, the imagery all seems to emerge out of the process of touch­ing the sur­face. Touch­ing the sur­face is one of the steer­ing para­me­ters of all my print­mak­ing and touch­ing the plate was the basis for all the ear­ly work in dry point.” Here, the site of pre­sen­ta­tion is also for production.

The exhi­bi­tion-as-medi­um is also mate­r­i­al for re-use. In LEFT FIELD (for Robert Hunter) at Anna Schwartz Gallery in 2017, the artist over­paint­ed white paint on the white gallery walls as a repet­i­tive action, evi­denced only with the video doc­u­men­ta­tion left behind. The same video doc­u­men­ta­tion was sub­se­quent­ly exhib­it­ed in The Eter­nal Open­ing (Car­riage­works, 2019) with­in a 1:1 scale repli­ca of the orig­i­nal gallery space. Also in that exhi­bi­tion was the video doc­u­men­ta­tion from Parr’s per­for­mance BDH [Burn­ing Down The House] (Bien­nale of Syd­ney, 2016) which saw the artist set fire to an 1812 metre grid of works from his print archive. In 2018, a blind’, direct wall draw­ing in char­coal was used to cre­ate one of the cen­tral works in KIND­NESS IS SO GANG­STER (Anna Schwartz Gallery). A per­formed blind’ paint­ing of gallery walls fol­lowed short­ly after, first­ly in Towards a Black Square (Detached, Hobart, 2019) and sub­se­quent­ly in Towards an Ama­zon­ian Black Square (2019), which was also includ­ed in The Eter­nal Open­ing at Car­riage­works. Parr simul­ta­ne­ous­ly exca­vates his own back-cat­a­logue while also extend­ing it.

Parr’s per­for­mances for Half Way House gen­er­ate new works in-situ as well as videos that are insert­ed back into the exhi­bi­tion as delayed feed­back loops. In per­for­mances from the ear­ly 2000s, Parr cre­at­ed live feed­back loops, where an image of the live per­for­mance was web­cast, or broad­cast’ into an adja­cent phys­i­cal space, or vir­tu­al­ly. The image was manip­u­lat­ed either through fram­ing or direct inter­ven­tion, and audi­ences were able to expe­ri­ence both sit­u­a­tions. Par­r’s play with pres­ence and absence recurs through­out much of his work. More recent­ly, per­for­mance doc­u­men­ta­tion has been struc­tur­al, with cin­e­matog­ra­phers and pho­tog­ra­phers nom­i­nat­ed as co-per­form­ers and includ­ed in-frame. The record­ing involves two mov­ing cam­eras, which is then dis­played as a two-chan­nel video. This struc­tur­al device offers a simul­ta­ne­ous view of the artist’s phys­i­cal and men­tal effort, the insep­a­ra­bil­i­ty of mind and body. Pre­vi­ous­ly assert­ed with the lim­its of what is phys­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble, Parr now under­scores this with blindness.

Pres­ence and absence is also a mate­r­i­al explo­ration. A selec­tion of three video works will be shown through the dif­fer­ent stages of the exhi­bi­tion, two of which var­i­ous­ly depict the artist’s face being made up’, with either audio or visu­al dis­tor­tions. Art Class­es (2020), filmed in Parr’s stu­dio last year, uses the two-cam­era struc­ture to sur­vey Parr’s face being cov­ered with plas­ter (ren­dered sculp­ture) up-close and from a dis­tance, with one cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er des­ig­nat­ed to film blind’. This obscures the image from one point of view, while the face is being obscured through the action in the oth­er. MIRROR/ARSE (read­ing back­wards from the Aus­tralian Nation­al Dic­tio­nary) (2012) pre­cedes Art Class­es and occurs dur­ing a peri­od that saw Parr per­form a series of face sewings. Fol­low­ing the ini­tial action, the face is then made up’ or dis­guised’ and over­laid with a sound­track (also dis­tort­ed) of the artist read­ing from the Aus­tralian Nation­al Dic­tio­nary back­wards. A recur­ring char­ac­ter, the dic­tio­nary has been used by Parr through­out his career. The final agglu­ti­nat­ed form of the film assaults the con­cept of iden­ti­ty, while also mak­ing a mess of pic­to­ri­al­i­ty and enter­tain­ment values.”

Sculp­ture is con­sis­tent through­out Parr’s oeu­vre, even if inter­mit­tent. The new instal­la­tion of four­teen bronze-cast, nick­el-plat­ed heads, Towards a Blind Self-Por­trait, uses a com­bi­na­tion of moulds of pre­vi­ous self-por­traits, with new neg­a­tive­ly mod­elled blind’ self-por­traits to rad­i­cal­ly shift the out­come. The artist’s own archive is again the sub­stance for new work, a point of depar­ture, and a feed­back loop. The sit­ing dis­places and inverts a pre­vi­ous exhi­bi­tion, with the new sculp­tures installed direct­ly above where their coun­ter­parts were 25 years ago (Bronze Liars, 1996, Anna Schwartz Gallery). I’m con­tin­u­ing my research­es into the end of the self-por­trait image and the notion of blind­ness’… the end of the image as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion… and all those uncon­scious forces that swirl in the vicin­i­ty of mat­ter itself… I feel that nick­el plat­ing will put the image to sleep’… abstract/​alienate it fur­ther as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion. I want the whole ensem­ble to seem like the after­math of a performance.”

Images

Mike Parr

Half Way House , 2021
performance
3 hours 15 minutes
30 April 2021, Anna Schwartz Gallery
Per­former: Mike Parr
Cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er: Gotaro Uematsu
Sec­ond cam­era: Heath Franco
Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: Zan Wimberley
Co-per­former: Rob Campbell

Mike Parr

Half Way House, 2021
(still) two-chan­nel video, 16:9, 4K, colour, sound
1 hour
Per­former: Mike Parr
Co-per­former: Lin­da Jeffereyes
Cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er: Gotaro Uematsu
Sec­ond cam­era: Heath Franco

Mike Parr

Art Class­es, 2020
(still) two-chan­nel video, 16:9, 4K, colour, sound
1 hour
Per­former: Mike Parr
Co-per­former: Lin­da Jeffereyes
Cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er: Gotaro Uematsu
Sec­ond cam­era: Heath Franco