Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A brief glance in the rear-vision mirror; a merry judgement day, 2015.


One of the ubiquitous ranking lists for the end of the year: Here is the list of the best art this year in Perth, from a wholly subjective and problematic point of view (though I do have my reasons). The disclaimer for this is quite long:
There is actual content coming soon.
Don’t take this list too seriously, it isn’t a truly critical text, but something of ‘highlights of the year'.
It doesn’t include performances such as Fringe (which had some stand outs – Bruce was amazing), PIAF (the Giants were an interesting case in mass spectacle – and highly successful/problematic), proximity (which I was economically unable to attend) or other performances (even those I have provided critique for – Decibel’s Anime etc.), some of which deserve to be critiqued quite seriously (Shaun Tan, normally pretty fun, had his work attached to the opera version of The Rabbits – bad move, pretty patronising and a bit racist – and for such a text) and also won’t look into FORM’s PUBLIC, though I have been hearing about a new series of works to go up in the uber-gentrified site that is Claremont’s Bayview Terrace, and a gallery (and coffee shop) in the old railway yard there. Without further ado, here is my list of the best art from what has been, to be honest, a pretty damn good year, despite the funding cuts and the associated shit storm:
1.     Jacobus Capone. Dark Learning. I started the blog with this one, and it is the reason I started writing it, really. I knew that when, in my half-drunk state, I tried telling Capone how great his work was, my words would probably not be coming out that well, and so some abstract feedback was required. This show was the best for its spatial awareness, its time-based theatricality, its appeal to an epic and yet intimate scope, and its successful engagement in what is rarely my favourite kind of work: performative, gestural, symbolic acts. Capone’s sensitivity to site and content gave this work its power, and the installation only amplified what was a wonderful work to behold. Review: http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/dark-learning-by-jacobus-capone-at.html
2.     Rebecca Baumann, Manoeuvres. I was very excited, and as ever Rebecca Baumann did not disappoint. Interestingly both the top two are spatial and temporal installations, but Baumann’s was an even better engagement with space than Capone’s – the hiding, changing, playful utilisation of the rooms at FAC gives it its place. It played with the potential of things to happen that you do not see – something often overlooked in the visual realms, which have a tendency to lump things on you. The only thing letting it down was the absence of content, and lo-fi power that Baumann’s work normally puts out – but that was present in the spectacular billboard work. There will be a review upcoming of this.
3.     Pilar Mata Dupont, Mountain. I have separated this work out from the rest of the works in An Internal Difficulty, because it was noticeably the best work of that show, but it was also the best work in PICA during PIAF, and since Tracey Moffatt was downstairs, that’s no small feat. I think I will include it with Dupont’s work for 24/7 at LWAG as well (Zauberberg), because they seem to operate together (both featuring mountains and doctors of sorts), and while Zauberberg is weaker, it is a solid foray into televisual (?) production, and a move that I admire.
4.     Carla Adams (in general, but specifically: Maverick at MOANA and Devastate Me at Free Range). It has been a busy year for Adams, with two shows beginning in Fringe and continuing through mid year performances and another show in MOANA. It is that show in MOANA that impressed the most, along with her performance at Free Range for the One Night Only series (so I’ll combine those two as well). The use of weaving seems an absolutely perfect move, reciprocal with the nature of digital technologies and a particular use of craft that draws on a history of perceived feminine tasks, while empowering a particularly female gaze. The performance at Free Range was both incredibly personal, strange, and affecting, you can read the review here: http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/carla-adams-devastate-me-free-range.html . Adam’s continues to be challenging, to both view and think about, taking the interstice of the physical and the virtual as her subject, in its sexual and gendered relations.
5.     Derek Kreckler, Accident and process at PICA. This was a wonderful installation, and a fantastic retrospective, you can read something about it here: http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/derek-kreckler-accident-and-process-pica.html this was a quiet and decidedly refined show, but it was also some of the most interesting work at PICA.
6.     Unsettle at Paper Mountain. Credit is due to Liam Colgan for pulling off an interstate-curated exhibition, and to all the artists for a fantastic series of works. This show is a demonstration of limited means for maximum result, and dynamic and powerful installation. The best show at Paper Mountain this year. Review is here: http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/unsettle-at-paper-mountain-kate-power.html
7.     Theatres. At the WA museum, and MOANA. This show is one that I almost didn’t get to see. It was difficult to get through, and difficult to watch. MOANA seemed to have something of a war theme going on, with 9/11 occurring later in the year. Theatres was the more nuanced but also the bolder of the two. It spoke of the possibility of something big and important and political happening here, and I hope that when SUCCESS opens, the same power will be brought to the exhibitions there. The excellent curation and fantastic selection of extremely important work was at a truly international level.
8.     Tracey Moffat. Kaleidoscope. (Thankfully Fiona Hall won’t be at Venice again. She must be getting tired of it by now.) Tracey Moffat’s show was great; the work was fantastic, except for her more recent video works. As good as their conceptualisation was, visual artists are often terrible actors. There were lesser-seen works here, and they aren’t as strong as her most famous early work, but still absolute powerhouses, and installed interestingly through Robb’s careful, bold hand.
9.     Jacqueline Ball. Room Service. Ball’s work is moving in an interesting direction, maintaining its great visual strength while imbuing something more human and troublingly intimate into the sets she constructs to take her subterranean-appearing images. Review is here: http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/room-service-jacqueline-ball.html
10. Some of the work from Dead Ringer at PICA, the rest of the show sitting outside my list (its my list, I can do what I want.). This show is strange, containing both the best and worst. There is an essay forthcoming, but there are some significant problems we can outline briefly: its haphazard post-colonialism, its vague appropriative ‘meaning-making’ strategies, its constant and annoyingly overplayed attempts at theatricality, and those deep, persistent soundtracks. We must thank Leigh Robb, as she leaves for Adelaide, for giving us some of the best art to grace PICA. Steve McQueen’s early video artwork, and Mikayla Dwyer’s gold-robed shitting performance. It was difficult to watch, but I only wish that it had have been given the west end, instead of the vacuous, biennale-like work by Angelica Mesiki, that typifies the failures of much of the other work, that cluttered what could have been the best show this year.
11. The Abdullah Brothers at AGWA….AGWA, AGWA, AGWA… what will we do, now your budget is so small? Not that it really helped when it was any larger. The revelations of the past year have been difficult, and this is the first in a series of positive steps. I hope that you get more money, like our other, richer institutions in other states. It seems, though, that with the new museum, that we are not likely to see a significant investment in our dear gallery for some time. The Abdullah Brothers, though, as always, kicking it. Present in Salon as well (though, this is my most hated annual show of all, bar Perspectives, the intersection of private wealth and public institutions blatantly on display, [but with good art]), Here and Now 2015, and also in AGWA and Turner galleries, their work is ubiquitous, but still powerful and important, and the only reason this is not closer to the top is because, as everything AGWA does, it comes from work that has already been shown. http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/abdul-rahman-abdullah-and-abdul.html
12. Here and Now 2015: sculpture in an ever-expanding field. There are a series of reviews: http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/here-and-now-2015-sculpture-in-ever_10.html http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/here-and-now-2015-sculpture-in-ever_7.html  http://sensibleperth.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/here-and-now-2015-sculpture-in-ever.html A wonderfully curated show by Andrew Purvis, to whom we must also bid a sad goodbye as he leaves to Adelaide. Wonderful particularly for letting this series of artists have the space needed to do what they can. Rebecca Baumann, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Shannon Lyons, Jacobus Capone, Alistair Rowe and David Brophy – a list of people whose work is worth paying attention to. Given space and time, they produce the most amazing things, and definitely the best show at LWAG this year.
13. Object Lessons 1,2 and 3. The finest curating on this list, but also the most difficult to make an impression, shoved into a tiny part of LWAG. The writing is fantastic, the artwork carefully chosen, and fascinating and difficult terrain navigated carefully. Can we recommend Gemma Weston for Leigh Robb’s job? Fantastic works from Mikayla Dwyer, Agatha Gothe-Snape and Elizabeth Newman formed a solid basis for this small, but important series.
(UPDATE! I forgot that this happened this year, and it definitely deserves a place) 14. Ragnar Kjartansson, The Vistors and The End at FAC and JCG. A spectacle, but one with surprising intimacy. While it seems Kjartansson's answer to everything is to chuck a little song in, and hope it'll be alright, The Visitors was one case where it definitely was alright, FAC was more of a mixed bag, but a worthy accompaniment. Excellent curation, and great festival piece.
15. AGWA: American Dream, American Nightmare: While Whitely is hyped, and I hate his work, and it reeks of bygone lurid drug-addled ages and annoying, over-saturated representations of pop-surreal icons, and the cliché ideas that I suppose Whitely might have thought meant something at the time, the accompanying elements to this exhibition were impressive. David Hockney’s Rake’s progress, is my pick, along with a small work by Graham Miller that was single-handedly more impressive than his whole WA focus show (and got me really excited for it). It features his wife in focus in the foreground, the great American desert in the background, blurred. If Miller paid as much attention to the framing and scale and installation of his other works, I feel they may begin to take on the power of this small, non-traditionally framed post-card.

That’s it. There were lots of good shows this year, but these are the ones that really stood out, that I will carry with me. This year has, despite everything, been wonderful, and here’s looking forward to the next. Hopefully it will open well, with MOANA’s SUCCESS opening under MANY, and Fringe and PIAF on soon. Stay tuned.


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