Justene Williams
I Am Your Recep­tor / You Are My Transmitter

7th June – 20th July 2024
Anna Schwartz Gallery

Justene Williams’ solo exhi­bi­tion I Am Your Recep­tor / You Are My Trans­mit­ter fea­tures a series of futur­is­tic trans­mor­phic fig­ures based on the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women. A key fig­ure in the Aus­tralian art world since the 1990s, Williams is known for large-scale works, video per­for­mances, sculp­tures and instal­la­tions that con­front the view­er with par­o­dy and the absur­di­ties of mime, rec­ol­lec­tion and identity. 

Often inspired by the lyri­cal vocab­u­lar­ies of Dada and the rad­i­cal­ism of the 20th Cen­tu­ry Avant-Garde, the artist rewrites our col­lec­tive his­to­ry by lay­er­ing exist­ing art­works, sal­vaged objects and mate­ri­als, as a process of recla­ma­tion, renew­al and rebirth, into new envi­ron­ments. For this exhi­bi­tion, Williams has reformed con­cep­tu­al ele­ments of Futur­ist, Umber­to Boccioni’s icon­ic sculp­ture Unique Forms of Con­ti­nu­ity in Space, 1913 into robust fig­ures of vary­ing scales – large, mechan­i­cal, lan­guid and loom­ing in presence.

In pur­su­ing a metaphor­i­cal link between the female body and the machine, each sil­hou­ette artic­u­lates the ten­sions between men­tal and phys­i­cal resilience. Williams’ abil­i­ty to trans­form the triv­i­al­i­ty of sub­ur­ban ver­nac­u­lar and the banal­i­ty of the every­day into bizarre envi­ron­ments full of satire, play, para­dox and the uncan­ny, ren­ders a strange lim­i­nal space; some­where between a hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry dream and a sci­ence fic­tion novella.

A for­mer cabaret artist and dancer, her sculp­tur­al assem­blage is staged as a futur­is­tic dance, where each fig­ure per­forms mun­dane tasks in the pur­suit of per­fec­tion. Act­ing as a con­duit between tem­po­ral­i­ties and dif­fer­ent states of being, these bod­ies in motion become trans­mis­sions or ori­fices to an imma­te­r­i­al or inter­stel­lar realm. Here, Williams com­bines ele­ments of both cer­e­mo­ni­al rit­u­al with avant-garde motifs, where bod­ies are reimag­ined into psy­chopomps, per­form­ers, moth­ers, daugh­ters and lim­i­nal bod­ies. As the artist states: My prac­tice is obsessed with inces­sant con­ti­nu­ity, the end­less­ness of human effort. Its con­text derives from an unend­ing ful­fil­ment of the present time, with no per­ceiv­able begin­ning or end. Recy­cling things and ideas is an attempt at new­ness’. Holes and mir­rors are revis­it­ed as por­tals, aper­tures, and ori­fices, func­tion­ing as con­duits between times and places.”

Cen­tral to her pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with res­ur­rect­ing over­looked or for­got­ten fig­ures from his­to­ry, Williams pays homage to the ancient god­dess of the divine fem­i­nine Sheela – Na – Gig, and male icons, such as Russ­ian avant-garde artist Kaz­imir Male­vich, the artists’ father and San­ta Claus which have been recon­tex­tu­al­ized into a female form. Aside from redefin­ing notions of mim­ic­ry, Williams estab­lish­es an exchange between fic­tion and truth, and myth and mag­ic. The artists’ abil­i­ty to inhab­it dif­fer­ent per­son­ae chal­lenges the view­er to con­front their own per­cep­tions of self and soci­ety, invit­ing con­tem­pla­tion for reori­en­ta­tion and transformation.

Employ­ing makeshift mate­ri­als such as auto­mo­tive car­pet, heli­um bal­loons, cell foam, fibre­glass, plas­tic man­nequins, builder’s bog and insu­la­tion tape, Williams’ intel­li­gi­ble struc­tures have been rough­ly hewn by hand with chain­saws and shov­els. Key works include: Moon­walk­ing Mum­ma, 2024, a ges­ture to Michael Jackson’s 1980s dance, Boc­cioni Babe, 2024 and Con­gen­i­tal Pedestal, 2024 ref­er­enc­ing Brazil­ian artist Lygia Clark’s Bichos and archi­tec­tur­al sculp­tures often con­struct­ed from met­al planes under­pin­ning the idea of the mon­u­men­tal sculp­ture, the plinth or the pedestal. 

As a kind of robot­ic chore­og­ra­phy, com­bin­ing per­son­al nar­ra­tive, meta­mor­pho­sis and spir­its from our col­lec­tive his­to­ry; in Williams’ exhi­bi­tion I Am Your Recep­tor / You Are My Trans­mit­ter view­ers are trans­port­ed into a strange pat­a­phys­i­cal and pseu­do-psy­cho­log­i­cal space, cel­e­brat­ing the absur­di­ty of the human con­di­tion and our inces­sant need for preservation.

Melis­sa Bian­ca Amore, 2024