Taylor Reudavey: Awkwardness and conviviality: Free Range: One Night Only.
Perhaps my position is compromised as a participant in the development of this work, and a friend of the creator, but the position of awkwardness, as this show reminds us, is one we often participate in – particularly in the insular world of art.
Last year, Free Range initiated the One Night Only program to encourage experimental and low-stakes exhibitions. Unfortunately the response was hardly overwhelming, and as it is unclear when or whether Free Range will re-open, the program itself is cast into even more doubt. Last year, Cactus Journal launched, Carla Adams performed Devastate Me a one-person show, and Dave Atwood, Alira Callaghan and Nicole Breedon put on Already, (I did not make it to one other show, Tim Burns, Chrissi Crash and Tatjana Seserko’s Zone Aware). The endeavours were worthy of praise, and each show (that I saw), perhaps for the alleviation of some fees, or the fact that it was only for one night, was fantastic.
Taylor Reudavey’s show this year continued in the vein of Adams’ more intimate performance. The video work was well executed, an interesting and eventually nightmarish parody of a 24 hour dinner party, with some terrible camerawork by yours truly. A kind of relational performance and endurance act that many students and followers of the discipline may at some point find themselves engaged upon. The difficulties of relational aesthetics that have interested Reudavey for some time were here centred on relationships with friends. As Claire Bishop reminds us, it was only people in the already insular art world who came to the relational performances Bourriaud used as his examples – limiting the scope of their purported political potential. Reudavey inverts this slightly, by creating something antagonistic within a small group of friends, perhaps the most challenging thing to do – to go against the kind of inadvertent pressure towards that conviviality Bourriaud supposed was somehow beneficial, and towards the more democratic foundation of agonism and antagonism. Reudavey reminds us that without the space for disagreement and discomfort, there is only a false sort of getting along.
The performance work is what is intriguing however. The video work, though strong, is a work that does not require a space, though the response it had there was worth its positioning and inclusion. Reudavey’s performance, dressed in sunglasses in the dark space at night, a multi-coloured disco-ball amplifier spinning beside her as she gave her speech, was a reminder of the powerful possibility of an intimate performance, and what the most minimal and simple of decisions in a space can do. Though the speech’s subject was ostensibly awkwardness, Reudavey shied away from overstaying her time, or delving into disinterest, only taking extensive, though not unrelated detours. Though it was unclear what mistakes were acted or deliberate, even they, in the context of the show, did not create an awkward atmosphere as might be expected.
It was rather the faux pas of the sunglasses worn indoor, the hollow and over-the-top coloured-flashing amplifier that set the theatrics for something simple, yet no less magical to take place – Reudavey’s separation from the audience, and the entrance into the role of performer. An almost perpetually awkward circumstance, here it became the object of focus. The speech, that detoured via a poem read at her grandmother’s 90th birthday, and her desire to speak to the man who gave it, yet her simultaneous reluctance, along with her awkward economic position, and finally, the odd purpose of her speech itself, was an affirmation of the potential of the temporary position of awkwardness to be a position of dissonance, and thereby for action or decision – or even simply to deliver and advocate for the position itself.
The title’s reference to the conviviality of relational art was the clear target of the show. Yet it was addressed in a way quite differently from what Bourriaud’s influential text envisioned. It is not the relation, but the separation that defined the performance, that produced the awkwardness and its power. The convivial is almost always associated with the connotation of falseness for a reason: it is an empty and forced circumstance. It has its own separation, its own awkwardness, which is perhaps better embraced than erased.
Hopefully, when Free Range re-opens, there is another opportunity to make one-night-only works, and for similarly simple and effective and important acts and gestures to take place.