Boomtown Eleanor Avery Blacklab, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane 26 August - 13 September 2006
Eleanor Avery constructed her Boomtown at Blacklab Gallery (soon to be renamed Ryan Renshaw Gallery), which opened two years ago.
In Boomtown there is an eerie silence. It is inhabited by excessively glittery Magic Mountains consisting of Fatman (bulging, stretched and swollen), Nugget (irrepressibly perky baby mountain) and Magic Mountain Zoom (tall, thin and more subdued). Then there is Boom 2, a crane gantry constructed from wood and steel (and wrapped with plastic) from which a carnival pony is suspended. Its glittering reins puddle on the ground. At the base of the gantry is a stack of decorative concrete breezeblocks. This scene is not menacing but it is troubling.
On the wall are six canvases each depicting fragmented moments in a landscape. While the sky in these works is iridescent blue or green, strewn on the ground are abandoned and dysfunctional industrial and household artefacts. There are bridges that twist and turn but go nowhere, a cat run in the middle of who knows where, a crane gantry stands as an elegant folly and miniature log cabins appear to have just popped up with freshly painted roofs. Remnants of nature are skeletal - copses of conifers or a tree spewed out from the earth with roots intact, or, a branch of a tree hopelessly just there. And yet in all these scenarios somewhere there are efforts to build or play with the building blocks of decorative interiorsa stack of the patterned square breezeblocks or a gesture of parquet flooring. Or, are these too, all that is left? There is something very noxious here. But strangely we are caught just looking. Are we tourists passing through, drawn to the sites of tragic world events? Traumascapes they are called. For, there is no missing the titles of the works From the Ritz to the Rubble (borrowed from the Artic Monkeys), Dirty Boulevard (Lou Reed), and Road to Ruin (The Ramones).
What can we make of the Magic Mountains: Fatboy (named for the bomb that fell on Nagasaki, but also the name of a range of products like beanbags, a Harley-Davidson and a record label), and partners small Nugget and thin Magic Mountain Zoom? These are the detritus (as friendly as they are) of fun parks, of determined efforts to make things as good as real, or rather, more fun than real. Avery says she loves the way that mountains are named. Like the Glass House Mountains, Mt Warning, Nobby Mountain. Mountains seem to be places where the imagination can soar.
Ideas of global tourism and the mediated experience of the tourist are of keen interest to Avery, who with her partner and collaborator James Avery, has created an ongoing project OUR DAY OUT Daytripper in which artefacts of leisure and tourism are constructed. They are fragmented, isolated and ridiculous. Yet somehow nostalgic. In OUR DAY OUT Daytripper there is parody in anticipating the sublime or exotic, however in Boomtown there is no escape from the slow gloom.
I looked up Boomtown on the web hoping to find an example or two. I found the biggest boomtown ever. It is being built now. It is Dubai. One fifth of the world's cranes are there at work at this minute. The traffic congestion is like Los Angeles. It already has the biggest shopping mall in the world and while the world's tallest building is going up, an underwater hotel is going down. An indoor ski resort already exists and there are plans for a second one, this time, with a revolving mountain. The place it is said however looks more abandoned than half-made. And it just happens that some of world's poorest labourers from India and Pakistan are building it. We get the picture.
As one leaves the gallery space there is an increasing sense that the party's over.