Final Days: The December Exhibitions at Sister
Words and photographs by Letti K-Ewing
Sister Gallery’s final instalment for the year of 2017, the December Exhibitions, consists of Bella Hone-Saunders’ curatorial work of local and interstate artists entitled ‘Who speaks for a community?’ and y2k.gif’s performance-art installation ‘House on a Hill.’
The opening of the year’s final exhibitions began with a welcome to country ceremony performed by Kaurna elder and ambassador for the Kaurna people, Mickey O’Brien. O’Brien regaled the sizeable crowd of gallery-goers with an engaging welcome story and ended with a symbolic gesture of reconciliation between himself and Hone-Saunders by an exchanging of gum leaves, which he described as an equal “give and take.”
I was lucky enough to be shown around the first exhibition in Gallery 0, ‘Who speaks for a community?’ by the exhibit’s catalogue essay writer, Hugh Hirst-Johnson. In his essay, the question posed in the exhibitions title is resolved as a rhetorical question rather than a definitive answer to so broad an inquiry. To define ‘community’ is to acknowledge the multiplicity of cross-cultural identities of race, heritage, gender, and sexuality, as well as interpersonal relationships pertaining to the self, and the seemingly paradoxical element of individuality within community. Lending your ears to the headphones, you will hear that a partial answer can be afforded by addressing the responsibility of galleries lending their spaces to inclusivity. The essay expresses how diversity can easily be made visible by galleries facilitating the creation of platforms for people of marginalised communities to express their worldly experiences through art.
The essay text overlays a 3D moving image of Hirst-Johnson’s detached head, which if I’m being honest, the likeness of which with it’s glitching tongue and sporadic movement was uncanny.
The exhibiting artists comprising of local SA talent; Grace Marlow; Kate Power; and James Tylor, and interstate artists; and Eugene Choi (NSW); Ellen Davies (VIC); Seb Henry-Jones (NSW); and Angela Schilling (VIC), each conveyed their personal or projected experiences within their respective communities.
Employing mediums of video, Ellen Davies and Seb Henry-Jones, and Eugene Choi exhibited works which were each a voyeuristic experience in their own right. For Davis, as she danced and writhed about in an intimate and homely environment of what appeared to be a bedroom, in a blown-up projection on the gallery’s wall, the removal of her clothing and eventual stripping down to her nearly naked form might make some uncomfortable. However, true to the notion of inclusivity proposed by Hone-Saunders and wonderfully achieved by Sister Gallery, within the walls of a safe space, Davis’s provoking work of desexualised femininity is not out of place. Choi’s video work, ‘Solo Pauses,’ comprised of side-by-side monitors showing a visual recording of two hands in a continual clasp, accompanied by text showing personal messages, one to the particularly endearing effect of ‘did u have some ginger in ur porridge for brekky?’
James Tylor, a recent finalist of the Ramsay Art Prize in 2017, exhibited an array of complimentary works from his series ‘Turralyendi Yerta.’ Tylor’s works comprise of natural materials such as ochre and pipeclay overlaying his photographs of the Kaurna region of South Australia, exploring his personal connection with the land as a Kaurna man and conveying the deep cultural connection between Kaurna land and Nunga people to viewers. Similarly engaging with her cultural heritage, Angela Schilling’s installation is an interactive auditory experience that invites the audience to engage in a close listening of an exchanging of words in both English and Thai. The installation made for an engagement in forced – but not unwelcome – intimacy, as I was made to share an audio-box with another woman, facing each other with our ears pressed to the material we were inches away from each other’s faces. We soon struck up a conversation. On the opening night, Schilling’s mother and sister were in conversation, chatting to one another in Thai and English, respectively. The maintaining of intergenerational cultural identity
Finally, installation and sculptural pieces by Adelaide artists Grace Marlow and Kate Power managed to encompass gallery-goers within their works. Marlow’s exhibited text, ‘we are gathered here’ as part of her ongoing 2017 work, ‘let me carry that for you,’ struck me as an acknowledgment to a literal gathering of people at the gallery. Power’s installation invited people on opening night to make deliberately uncomfortable noises into a microphone in exchange for a glass of whiskey, which each person was to drink from the same glass. Eroding away the usual civility of gallery openings came a loud resounding coughing, gurgling, chewing, singing and, possibly, questionable animal noises (if not animal noises, they certainly were still questionable). Beyond the sectioned off bar, Power’s sculptural works entitled ‘Tenda’ protruded from the walls and floor of the gallery.
In the back gallery, Gallery 1, was the art and performance art piece ‘House on a Hill’ by artistic duo ellen.gif and Damiano Dentice, known collectively as y2k.gif. As I walked into the gallery, the two artists wearing all black, one donning a turtleneck and the other a black blunt-cut wig, enthusiastically greeted me.
“We are y2k.gif and we are representing the work of y2k.gif,” they said.
I was then emphatically directed to “please admire” the enormous five metre long work of a literal image of a house on a hill, stretched beyond the advertised catalogue photo in order to adhere to the large wall-space it was mounted on. Despite the work being apparently outsourced to users on marketing platform Fiverr to develop and create, y2k.gif were very proud of their ‘House on a Hill,’ which was up for silent auction to the bidding of one hundred dollars by the time I looked at the friendly bidding-war burgeoning on the auction sheet.
Accompanying the physical rendition of the house on a hill is a video of an array of people, again all employed through Fiverr for their work as spokespeople, directly addressing the camera and exulting their fervent expressions relating to the artistic merit of ‘House on a Hill.’
What y2k.gif offered with their clever performance as artistic representatives of this entirely outsourced production was a satirical look at art as a commoditised practice, rather than as idealised work far removed from the reality of consumerism. Their debut as a collective, y2k.gif added humour and showpersonship to this temporary dialogue between art, ownership and consumerism.