Fuel for Thought: oil, energy, conflict and art
Vol 28 no 1, 2008
How are artists responding to peak oil, the search for alternative energy sources and conflict over resources? Artlink goes global in search of answers. The issue includes artists who have used alternative energy or whose work reflects the negative effects of an oil-based economy, with some powerful imagery by artists from the Middle East, East Timor, Iraq, the Philippines, Australia, California and Chicago. Burnt out petrol bowsers share the space with artwork which looks forward to a post-oil energy scenario. A video animation by Chinese artist Qiu Anxiong offers a profoundly moving experience on mankind's disastrous love affair with industrialisation. Australian artists include Charles Green and Lyndell Brown as official war artists in Iraq, as well as Alison Clouston, Zina Kaye, Madeleine Kelly, Carmel Wallace, Pamela Kouwenhoven and more. Editor Ian Hamilton.
Subscribe to Artlink - from $55. Subscriptions available for readers anywhere in the world.
Our Lucky Country - (Still Different)Jo Higgins, Review
Nuha Saad, Soda_Jerk, Ron Adams, Mimi Tong, Nana Ohnesorge, Liam Benson, George Tillianakis, Huseyin Sami, Adam Norton, Ruark Lewis, Maria Cruz, Elizabeth Day, Michelle Hanlin, Sarah Goffman, Anna Peters
Hazelhurst Regional Gallery
8 December 2007 - 3 February 2008
View Larger Image
Liam Benson I BELIEVE IN YOU 2007, digital photo, variable size, courtesy the artist. Photo: Anastasia Zaravinos.
This collaboration between Hazelhurst Regional Gallery in Gymea and Chippendale's artist-run-initiative MOP Projects is an intriguing one. The Lucky Country (Still Different) is the second and final in a set of exhibitions featuring the work of sixteen artists in response to the notions and vagaries of community, cultural difference and what it means to be Australian in the wake of the December 2005 Cronulla riots. Specifically bounded and inspired by the idea of creating a considered response to the riots, the two exhibitions have served as bookends to a twelve-month residency by all the artists at Hazelhurst. (Still Different) presents the work and musings of this eclectic group after a year spent in and around the Shire, engaging with the community and musing on our slippery understandings of self and difference.
Liam Benson's series of works, featuring photography and video, is perhaps the most unfettered and certainly the most optimistic of responses to this post-riot Australia. Referencing a number of pop-cultural influences including Kylie and the Bra Boys, Benson's video I Believe in You is a disarming and highly charming treatise on love and acceptance. Performing Minogue's song of the same name, Benson stares directly into the camera, almost Christ-like with his bare chest, blue eyes and long curly hair, wearing only a green glitter garland-like tattoo that reads 'I BELIEVE IN YOU'. With an unwavering, entreating stare and a twinkle in his eye, Benson, a patriotic gay Australian, really does believe in us. In his other work I Love the Shire, a series of free postcards of Benson, in full ocker drag regalia, fake tan, fake tits, blonde hair and an 'I e the Shire' t-shirt, poses on the beach draped in the Australian flag. Benson isn't necessarily being provocative, he's certainly not being cynical and it's this mix of cheery faith and drag-meets-ocker male fantasy that makes his work so effective.
The installation and video-based performance work of Adam Norton is also food for thought though it's not as direct as Benson's. What appears initially as a clunky sort of installation, featuring a floral couch, mannequin and a series of suitcases and odd fabric jumpsuits hanging on the wall is brought sharply into focus by the accompanying video work. Camouflage Suit features a series of unconnected shots of unassuming landscapes - gardens, bushland, urban industrial areas - and it's not until Norton 'emerges' from his not-so-hidden-hiding-place without fanfare or provocation that you realise he's been there the whole time, outfitted in different camouflage suits, the same suits now hanging in the gallery. In many ways it's quite a witty work, you find yourself scanning the landscape trying to spot Norton before he reveals himself, but it's also a work that resonates long after you leave. There's a disquieting sense of menace to the work, playing as it does with notions of invisibility, camouflage, surface appearance and expectations and overwhelmingly it reiterates the fact that donning camouflage is a deliberate choice we make, a skin we wear and an interchangeable one at that. Indeed, despite our appearances, our socio-cultural or ethnic backgrounds, each of us have the ability to choose the environments we melt into and when to step out of them.
These are only two of the more compelling works in Still Different but they are by no means the only ones that pick away at a myriad of social, cultural and aesthetic ideas. Works by Soda_Jerk, Ruark Lewis, Mimi Tong and Elizabeth Day are all memorable - by turns humorous, clever, evocative, provocative and beautiful. The balance between overt social discussion and abstract visual exploration is nicely measured throughout and that each of the artists has responded so uniquely and thoughtfully to the residency suggests that the relationship between regional galleries and artist-run-spaces is one to explore further.
Firmly anchored by the level of thoughtfulness that twelve months of concerted reflection brings, Still Different makes for a cohesive, thought-provoking, funny and empathetic experience.
Subscribe to the Artlink newsletter now
Articles in this issue
- Artrave: Artrave
- Editorial: Editorial
- Featue: Writing images with words: an inheritance of ambiguous faces
- Feature: A rusty sign at the end of a bloody empire
- Feature: Chance encounters: Pamela Kouwenhoven and Peter McKay
- Feature: Conducting Mobility
- Feature: Hyperlexic, desalinated but not scary
- Feature: Obscure dimensions of conflict
- Feature: Power and art in East Timor
- Feature: Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh interview
- Feature: The error of our ways: Madeleine Kelly
- Feature: The revolution will not be televised: the changing landscape of film and video production in the Arab world
- Feature: The whistleblower of Discovery Bay
- Feature: The winding way
- Feature: Watching as the enchanted land meets its end: Qiu Anxiong
- Feature: World tree: sounds of a bigger picture. Alison Clouston and Boyd
- Preview: Biennale of Sydney 2008: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
- Preview: Handling the Adelaide Biennial
- Review: Economy
- Review: Fierce or Friendly: Humans in the Animal World
- Review: from time to time one talks to the moon: Aldo Iacobelli
- Review: Making it Modern The Watercolours of Kenneth McQueen
- Review: Migratory Projects: The Drive Out Cinema
- Review: Of
- Review: ON' n 'ON
- Review: Our Lucky Country - (Still Different)
- Review: Replay: Christian Marclay
- Review: Robert MacPherson, Vernon Ah Kee and Jeremy Hynes
- Review: The Road to Here
- Review: Wonderful World
- Review: [the space in between] Book project