Presence looks at the ways in which the presence of the body is signified and materially understood through discussions of autonomy, the digital body, queer embodied experience and fetishisation.
Focusing on sculptural forms and non-literal depictions of body, the project engages artists from marginalised perspectives as central to inform its discussion. Presence challenges the heteronormative gaze's relationship with body through asserting the power of a queer gaze and approach to artistic practice.
Digital, sensual, abject, algorithmic and performative, ‘Presence’ asks how a body is made manifest in material. We bring together 6 artists with diverse practices across sculpture, video and performance to examine their understandings of body, beyond and in relation to, physical bodies.
How do we understand a body’s presence? In Anna Horneand Zoë Bastin’s work, we see the body as tactile and segmented; a working entity paused in gesture, abstracted, divided and amalgamated. Horne’s group of sculptures use cast metal, concrete and plaster to evoke visceral qualities of skin, blood and bone. In Bastin’s pyramid-like works, reverse casts of finger imprints on wax, plaster and plasticine are seen in shades of grey, green, blue, white and yellow.
Fantasy bodies are explored in Holly Bates’ large-scale black PVC sculptural works. Filled with large lumps of black charcoal visible from the exterior, Bates uses the tessellating, cradle-like and queer innuendo of the starfish to enact a felt intimate and personal experience. Pleather and shower curtain rings - forms with which bodies wear and view unclothed - come together in a coy display of sexual identity, queer fetishism and desire.
Archie Barry and Isabella Hone-Saunders both explore the feeling of seeing and being seen in a body. Where Hone-Saunders speaks about transforming the body under someone else’s instruction through militant structure, Barry, in their simultaneous evasion of and enforcement of the gaze, resists the human desire for eye contact. Representing a body whose gaze is autonomously intermittent to an audience, Barry’s ‘Shutter Utter’ is particularly poignant within the context of transgender bodily experience where there is a hyper-aware sense of others’ gazes onto the self. Hone-Saunders considers the autonomy of body under socio-cultural structures of strength, fitness and beauty in creating a gym installation in the gallery. Described by the artist as sitting between body-building and body-language, the work documents a self-regimented period of fitness-obsession using an outdated instructional text. Barry and Hone-Saunders work to reconsider the normative constraints of gesture and the physical limitations of the body.
Furthering exploration of digital queer bodies, Lou Fourie’s installation uses the binary constraints of algorithm as an analogy for the normalisation of gender diverse bodies. Using two suspended, divided speakers encountered as a spatial portal, the installation is derived from a computer program designed by the artist. Creating sentences from collected words referring to bodies from diverse sources from self-care articles to queer theory, the work is limitless in its length as different combinations of poetic phrases are generated infinitely. Though timed for this iteration of its presentation, these randomly generated sentences create a post-human guided meditation embodied by the artist’s voice, exploring the potentials and limitations of language around body and proposing a continual self-becoming.
We, the curators, would like to acknowledge that this exhibition takes place on stolen Wurundjeri land and that indigenous sovereignty was never ceded.
Brigid Hansen and Zoë Bastin, August 2018.
Photographs by Jessica Curry