Kate Mitchell, San­né Mestrom, Lare­sa Kosloff, Lau­ren Brin­cat, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Joshua Peth­er­ick, Stu­art Ringholt
Social Sculp­ture

2nd April – 18th June 2011
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks

Turn­ing the gallery inside out was the start­ing point for Social Sculp­ture, to open up the gallery to a range of tem­po­ral and process-ori­ent­ed prac­tices. This emp­ty­ing out pro­vid­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to think about the gallery’s phys­i­cal space in par­tic­u­lar ways. It allowed a con­sid­er­a­tion of its lit­er­al and metaphor­i­cal weight, how art­works are sit­u­at­ed with­in it, the space between the works and the pedestals and sup­ports for works, and the way in which artists and vis­i­tors inhab­it and inter­act in such spaces.

Social sculp­ture is a loaded term with its his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion to the work of the Ger­man con­cep­tu­al artist Joseph Beuys. He want­ed to describe the expan­sion of art beyond pre­vi­ous­ly exist­ing def­i­n­i­tions and its capac­i­ty as an agent of change in the world. In the con­tem­po­rary con­text, Social sculp­ture is less polit­i­cal­ly ide­al­is­tic but the term remains, impor­tant­ly, an hero­ic endeav­our. Social sculp­ture relates the expand­ed field of sculp­ture – here incor­po­rat­ing instal­la­tion, video, and actions – to peo­ple, and peo­ple to sculp­ture. It is about the embod­ied art expe­ri­ence – both the artist/performer’s and the viewer’s.

AGATHA GOTHE-SNAPE’S instruc­tion writ­ten in large Hel­veti­ca let­ters on the gallery’s far wall reads: DO NOT APPROACH THIS END OF THE ROOM DO NOT CROSS THE YEL­LOW LINE. Imme­di­ate­ly we are alert­ed to the con­ven­tions gov­ern­ing view­ers’ behav­iour and the demar­ca­tion of works of art with­in the gallery space. We become con­scious of how we move, often ten­ta­tive­ly, around and between art­works. This is a reminder too, of the most pal­pa­ble of com­mands in the gallery: DO NOT TOUCH THE ART WORK. Gothe-Snape’s sin­gle line lift­ed from the page and run­ning along the gallery floor dra­mat­i­cal­ly divides the space, although for no appar­ent rea­son oth­er than the will­ful­ness of the artist. Yet there may be some­thing more to it. This dra­mat­ic yel­low line is a warn­ing and a thresh­old, a test of the viewer’s obe­di­ence or dis­obe­di­ence. The view­er is faced with a dilem­ma and is like­ly to trans­gress the artist’s instruc­tion pro­vid­ing a moment of poten­tial lib­er­a­tion from more pas­sive engage­ment. In accom­pa­ny­ing gouache draw­ings, she plots oth­er pos­si­ble delin­eations and ways of mov­ing through the space. This con­cep­tion of the gallery as plat­form or are­na, with the activ­i­ty of peo­ple cen­tre stage, their bod­ies becom­ing the sculp­ture, is intrin­sic to Gothe-Snape’s practice.

Invis­i­ble forces are the focus of SAN­NÉ MESTROM sculp­tur­al instal­la­tions – in this instance, the bare weight of the gallery space. Mestrom’s group of sculp­tures, made from found, con­struct­ed and cast ele­ments, each weighs 6.5 kilo­grams, and is equiv­a­lent to the weight of air in the space it occu­pies in the gallery. Although the indi­vid­ual assem­blages are there­fore relat­ed in this fun­da­men­tal way, they vary sub­stan­tial­ly in scale and sub­stance. Mestrom draws atten­tion to the inher­ent prop­er­ties of mate­ri­als (such as bronze, mar­ble and wool) as well as to the process­es of fab­ri­ca­tion that bring an object into being; she mix­es up orig­i­nal with casts and copies, and sol­id and trans­par­ent forms with those veneered. There is a play­ful­ness at work in the activ­i­ty of mea­sur­ing up. To achieve the cor­rect weight, a por­tion of a face is removed from a man­nequin, small coun­ter­weights of cop­per and lead are added to anoth­er, and draw­ers are removed from fur­ni­ture. In Com­pres­sion Cham­ber (2011), the imma­te­r­i­al cul­tur­al and philo­soph­i­cal weight­i­ness of objects and an under­stand­ing of the speci­fici­ty of their con­text, is also made man­i­fest: an archive box of PhD research files reminds us of the embed­ded research; a warm jumper is wrapped pro­tec­tive­ly around a gar­den-vari­ety gar­goyle, usu­al­ly exposed to the ele­ments; and pre­cious­ness is rein­stat­ed by cast­ing in bronze a $2 shop Buddha.

JOSHUA PETH­ER­ICK adopts a cir­cu­lar sys­tem of man­u­al and mechan­i­cal repro­duc­tion that folds back on itself. He push­es process­es of scan­ning and copy­ing, and reduc­tion and enlarge­ment well past any log­i­cal res­o­lu­tion to bring them to a soli­tudi­nous state’. Both Peth­er­ick and Mestrom relate their works to com­pres­sion’ and to the intan­gi­ble ener­gy found in a mate­r­i­al that enables it to be con­tin­u­ous­ly trans­formed. This is evi­dent in Petherick’s inter­est in the ghost­ing of past images fixed to exhaust­ed copy­ing drums and in the pro­files left in the off cuts of col­lages. The idea of the boot­leg is rel­e­vant to his tap­ping into the sub­ver­sive or un-autho­rised poten­tial of mate­ri­als, through var­i­ous kinds of copy­ing, trans­la­tion and re-work­ing. His floor and wall pieces in Social Sculp­ture func­tion both as art­works and dis­play units, col­laps­ing two-dimen­sion­al pic­to­r­i­al space and the three dimen­sions of sculp­ture into each oth­er through a process of blow­ing up and mak­ing sol­id sheets and off cuts of A4 paper. Con­ven­tions of dis­play appear to give way to more flu­id rela­tion­ships between forms, process­es and struc­tures of sup­port, resist­ing notions of com­plete­ness in pref­er­ence to open­ness to vari­a­tion and chance association.

LAU­REN BRIN­CAT’S suite of works is a con­ver­gence of fig­u­ra­tive and abstract ele­ments that con­found easy clas­si­fi­ca­tion or expla­na­tion. Her family’s for­mal din­ing table – the one that sat unused, albeit for its capac­i­ty to sym­bol­ise domes­tic order and gen­til­i­ty, is the mod­el for the Good Table (2011). This work com­bines the idea of ornate dec­o­ra­tive fur­ni­ture with the table-ten­nis table, which was in fact used for fam­i­ly occa­sions. The new table-ten­nis table is dressed up with bells on’ in the spir­it of its his­tor­i­cal re-pur­pos­ing. Abstract­ed from its usu­al func­tion, an appraisal of the table-ten­nis table’s for­mal prop­er­ties is encour­aged – the par­tic­u­lar shade of green, the lines and pro­por­tions, and its rela­tion­ship to the body and how the game is played. It’s not much of a stretch of the imag­i­na­tion to envis­age the table as an abstract paint­ing that has been tak­en off the wall and rest­ed on bell-bot­tomed legs. As a painter who doesn’t paint”, Brin­cat is drawn to such med­dling and sur­re­al de-sta­bil­is­ing. Near­by, a taxi­dermy cobra, stick and rope floor-based ensem­ble sur­round­ed by haz­ard signs’ is a view­ing trap’ or ruse that fur­ther dis­rupts the con­tem­pla­tion of her shift­ing furniture/​sculpture/​painting.

Brincat’s attrac­tion to the asso­ciate pow­ers of colours and forms is reit­er­at­ed in Hear This (2011), which records an extend­ed phone con­ver­sa­tion via wedges of water­mel­on. In the tra­di­tion of endurance and dura­tional per­for­mance works, Brin­cat appears to lis­ten to the water­mel­on wedges, the bright pink pulp soak­ing her face and body, in a way that’s both absurd and melan­cholic, as we imag­ine an emo­tion­al exchange with the artist left eat­ing her own words.

STU­ART RING­HOLT’S Unti­tled (wing chair – pink) (2009) is a chair made from a sec­tion of an old enam­el bath-tub ele­vat­ed like a muse­um piece on a ply­wood plinth. Where­as Brincat’s table is made imprac­ti­cal, we can well imag­ine reclin­ing in Ringholt’s chair. As in many of Ringholt’s works, poten­tial use­ful­ness is an impor­tant cri­te­ri­on. The chair is rem­i­nis­cent of clas­sic mod­ern designs, form and func­tion hap­pi­ly coa­lesc­ing for stream­lined and well-organ­ised liv­ing but this chair is made from cast-off bath­room fix­tures, the unfin­ished under­side of the bath revealed for the first time. And rather than being of the lat­est design­er mate­r­i­al, the sur­face is old enam­el, evok­ing a range of ther­a­peu­tic yet slight­ly unpleas­ant asso­ci­a­tions when we think about the bod­ies that may have inhab­it­ed the tub. That’s the point: this is not an ide­al chair but one that is intrin­si­cal­ly linked to the body.

Ringholt’s objects can be con­sid­ered as cul­tur­al arti­facts of our time. His inno­v­a­tive 19-hour men’s wrist­watch is the per­fect acces­so­ry for the occu­pi­er of the chair – the com­pul­sive­ly busy, stressed out and weary 21st cen­tu­ry body. The watch stretch­es time, promis­ing more hours in the day. Isn’t that what we most wish for – to have more time up our sleeve? But what are the impli­ca­tions of addi­tion­al time? Based on cur­rent trends, it is like­ly we wouldn’t take advan­tage of this to meet our exist­ing oblig­a­tions, but rather use the time to do even more.

For KATE MITCHELL, the idea of art as work and the artist as both man­ag­er and work­er is fun­da­men­tal. In a series of video re-enact­ments of clas­sic com­ic sit­u­a­tions she has been mak­ing since 2006, Mitchell dons stan­dard work clothes and boots (much like Beuys) to per­form planned actions that often involve a degree of pre­car­i­ous­ness, risk and dan­ger. In A Sit­u­a­tion (2011) shows her poised on a plank pro­trud­ing from a dairy shed in an idyl­lic coun­try set­ting. Mitchell pro­ceeds to saw through the plank and after a pro­tract­ed peri­od of time, but actu­al­ly only a six-minute sin­gle-take, the antic­i­pat­ed and unavoid­able hap­pens. As she falls to the ground, she rolls over, gets up and calm­ly walks away. The work is fun­ny but unset­tling, in the man­ner of Fun­ni­est Home Videos. We laugh guiltily.

In Lost A Bet (2011) Mitchell offers to pig­gy­back a busi­ness­man from his home to his office in her bid to pro­vide a tan­gi­ble ser­vice. The more awk­ward and dif­fi­cult the task becomes the more aware we are of her com­mit­ment to the action and her unfail­ing work eth­ic. One of her most sig­nif­i­cant endurance works, she describes it as a covert jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for con­cep­tu­al art: Hey, I lost the Bet!’. This is an under­state­ment that nonethe­less is con­sis­tent with the humor­ous and often self-effac­ing nature of Mitchell’s work, but the effort to prove her­self brave, strong, capa­ble and hard work­ing is gen­uine. Every new work is an addi­tion­al test of her abil­i­ties and attempt to legit­imise her art work, nowhere more evi­dent than in the heavy log Mitchell has dragged across Syd­ney and left as a call­ing card in the gallery, its under­side worn away by the impact of the extra­or­di­nary journey.

LARE­SA KOSLOF­F’S videos record staged actions using ama­teur per­form­ers. They share a par­tic­u­lar qual­i­ty of being out of synch in some way, appear­ing to be abstract­ed from real time or rou­tine prac­tices to focus more intent­ly on embod­ied expe­ri­ences, often with a com­i­cal dimen­sion. In Agili­ty drill (2011) Kosloff brings the per­for­mance into the gallery, set­ting up a series of coloured steel props, which look very like hur­dles, at reg­u­lar inter­vals down the length of the space. The per­for­mance involves Kosloff train­ing some­one via a pro­tract­ed and clum­sy process of learn­ing through move­ment. In match­ing sports’ out­fits that cre­ate a dou­bling of sorts, Kosloff man­u­al­ly moves each of the arms and legs of the per­former over the hur­dles in a sequence rem­i­nis­cent of a Buster Keaton sketch. The hur­dles remain for the dura­tion of the exhi­bi­tion, a trace of the acti­va­tion of the sculp­ture, while video footage of the per­for­mance is rein­tro­duced as a screen-based ele­ment. Echo­ing the ear­ly stop-frame pho­to­graph­ic sequences of Ead­weard Muy­bridge, Kosloff again frac­tures move­ment; she makes us more con­scious of the human form in rela­tion to the spaces we inhab­it, the way our minds and bod­ies are required to work in uni­son, to analyse human inter­con­nect­ed­ness and fallibility.

Char­lotte Day, 2011

Images

Social Sculp­ture, 2011
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Curat­ed by Char­lotte Day

Social Sculp­ture, 2011
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Curat­ed by Char­lotte Day

Social Sculp­ture, 2011
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Curat­ed by Char­lotte Day

Agatha Gothe-Snape

Chore­og­ra­phy #2, #24, #6, 2011
Gouache on Arch­es paper
7656 cm (each)

Agatha Gothe-Snape

Text Work, 2011
Vinyl letters
Dimen­sions variable

Joshua Peth­er­ick

Simul­ta­ne­ous Solitudes, 2011
Mixed media
Dimen­sions variable

Lare­sa Kosloff

Agili­ty Drill, 2011
Sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour, sound
5 min­utes 45 seconds

Lare­sa Kosloff

Race Shape, 2011
Pow­der coat­ed steel, wood, acrylic paint
Five parts, 6010040 cm (each)

Kate Mitchell

Lost a Bet, 2011
Sin­gle-chan­nel SD video, black and white, sound, 9″ flat screen, framed news­pa­per advertisement
19 min­utes 38 seconds

Kate Mitchell

A Log Dragged From Its Ori­gin to Here, 2011
Paper­bark log, rope, nails
147 cm x 8.5 cm (radius)

Kate Mitchell

In a Situation, 2011
Sin­gle-chan­nel High Def­i­n­i­tion dig­i­tal video, 16:9, colour, silent
6 min­utes 2 minutes

Kate Mitchell

29kg Par­ty Hat, 2011
Lead, archival qual­i­ty water­colour paper
269 cm (radius)

Lau­ren Brincat

Good Table, 2011
Hand­cast brass bells, tim­ber, glass, acrylic
70270150 cm

Lau­ren Brincat

The Quick and the Dead, 2011
Taxi­dermy cobra, tim­ber, acrylic, rope
Dimen­sions variable

Lau­ren Brincat

Hear This, 2011
Video doc­u­men­ta­tion of an action
8 min­utes 5 seconds

San­né Mestrom

Com­pres­sion Chamber, 2011
Mixed media
Dimen­sions variable