Artspace Sydney’s the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane Exquisitely Captures What It Is To Be Human

Carla Cescon, Sequence on Sequence, 2021–21, (detail), water-based paint on marine ply, 39 double-sided panels, each 168 x 78 cm, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist and Artspace.
Rachel Rose, Everything and More, 2015, HD video, 10 mins 31 secs, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London and Gladstone Gallery, New York / Brussels and Artspace.
Installation view, “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of Artspace.
Boris Achour, Games whose rules I ignore (The Bench), 2014, wood, leather, lead balls, 47 x 35 x 200 cm, HD video, 7 mins, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist, Galerie Allen, Paris, and Artspace.
Jack Ball, PDA, 2019–21, (detail), site-specific installation with inkjet prints on gloss and rag, and powder-coated aluminium pipe, dimensions variable, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist and Artspace.
Jelena Telecki, (from left) Cowgirl, 2021, oil on linen, 180 x 103 cm; Ready, 2021, oil on linen, 112 x 112 cm; Mushrooms 2, 2020, oil on linen, 139 x 112 cm, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney, and Artspace.
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Asia Society Hong Kong

The final exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, before it closes for a year-long renovation lures viewers into a sensitive, multifaceted study of the human condition through artworks by 12 Australian and international artists.

 

TEXT: Chloé Wolifson
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

“the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane”, with its tentacle-title, lures the viewer into a sensitive, multifaceted study of the human condition. The way identity forms and becomes anchored in the world is through relationships—with the self, with other beings, with our temporal, geographic and cultural contexts. This exhibition at Artspace, Sydney, featuring 12 Australian and international artists, explores these relationships—how the present moment is linked with the past and future, and how individuals, societies and cultures intersect through embodied experiences.

Carla Cescon’s human-sized suspended tarot cards Sequence on Sequence (2020–21) form a series of walls leading into the exhibition. With an effect that recalls Alice falling through the rabbit hole, the scaled-up characters, signs and symbols shift the viewer into another space and time, creating a playful opportunity for openness and questioning.

 

Carla Cescon, Sequence on Sequence, 2021–21, (detail), water-based paint on marine ply, 39 double-sided panels, each 168 x 78 cm, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist and Artspace.
Rachel Rose, Everything and More, 2015, HD video, 10 mins 31 secs, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London and Gladstone Gallery, New York / Brussels and Artspace.

 

The astute use of scale continues in the next gallery space where Rachel Rose’s video work Everything and More (2015) features astronaut David Wolf discussing his time spent in space and its subsequent impact on his life on Earth. “When I first came back to Earth after 128 days in space, I thought I had ruined my life,” Wolf says. As he describes the changes to his sensory perception, the work explores these feelings through an Aretha Franklin soundtrack and psychedelic visuals, from fracturing footage of a neutral buoyancy tank to a music festival’s heaving crowd, to the contents of a Petri dish, or a galaxy. Rose’s work evokes surprising insights into otherworldly experiences.

Laurent Grasso’s tiny painting Studies into the past (undated) is spot lit dramatically at the far end of the same darkened room. In it, a group of armour-clad horse riders are stopped in their tracks by golden rays emanating from a dramatic solar eclipse. Precisely employing techniques of Italian and Flemish painters of the 15th and 16th centuries, Grasso replaces narrative elements with celestial phenomena which were never the subject of such works. The resulting object is of an uncertain time and place, conjuring a different view of the past in our times, and leaving a fascinating and confusing artefact for the future.

Cescon’s tarot cards guide the visitor across to Artspace’s central gallery which has been modulated to thoughtfully accommodate the show’s other works. This is, after all, a show concerned with relationships, and there are harmonies, through-lines and moments of introspection to be found.

 

Installation view, “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of Artspace.
Boris Achour, Games whose rules I ignore (The Bench), 2014, wood, leather, lead balls, 47 x 35 x 200 cm, HD video, 7 mins, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist, Galerie Allen, Paris, and Artspace.

 

Like Cescon, Boris Achour plays with the language of games in his work. The eponymous bench in Achour’s Des jeux dont j’ignore les règles (Banc)/Games whose rules I ignore (The Bench) (2014) is an expanded board game of sorts whose rules are unclear. Achour’s video shows two protagonists in the living room of an apartment, straddling either end of the bench, moving the phallic leather pieces up and down a series of holes in its surface. Little is said and the couple challenge each other via eye contact, while the pieces stand erect or flop flaccidly onto their thighs, pinning them into position. The bench and its pieces are present in the gallery on a low plinth, the viewer’s relationship to this prop-sculpture challenged by its dual context.

While Achour’s work is rooted in game-play, its dry execution feels serious and with high-stakes. In contrast, Fannie Sosa’s video Cosmic Ass (2015) takes a celebratory approach to the history and practice of twerking, a now-popular dance form with what Sosa reveals to be a fascinating history. Cosmic Ass is billed as a performance-lecture and comes across as a combination of documentary, homage and instructional video. Sosa explains twerking’s emergence from the queer scene of 1980s New Orleans, its evolutions and connections into other marginalised cultures and dance forms, and its role in fertility rituals. Sosa humorously yet wholeheartedly embraces a new-age aesthetic, performing before a green-screen which switches between cheesy earth-sea-sky imagery as she adopts the tone of a self-help tape. Describing it as a feminist way of knowing the world and knowing oneself, she proclaims, “I twerk to remember, I twerk to resist.”

 

Jack Ball, PDA, 2019–21, (detail), site-specific installation with inkjet prints on gloss and rag, and powder-coated aluminium pipe, dimensions variable, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist and Artspace.
Jelena Telecki, (from left) Cowgirl, 2021, oil on linen, 180 x 103 cm; Ready, 2021, oil on linen, 112 x 112 cm; Mushrooms 2, 2020, oil on linen, 139 x 112 cm, installation view in “the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” at Artspace, Sydney, 2021. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Image courtesy of the artist, Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney, and Artspace.

 

The gallery opens up from this point and the works openly converse. The faceless figures in Jelena Telecki’s paintings strike awkward poses, their staggered hang punctuated with the visage of Ellen Cantor in the artist’s 1998 diaristic video work If I Just Turn and Run. The visceral, intimate snapshots in Jack Ball’s PDA (2019–21) lean and curl amongst unfixed aluminium frames, while the shifting, sun-saturated layers of Dylan Mira’s diasporic investigation of South Korea as if I was a thing I could do in the dark (2019) can be watched through the transparent windows of Louise Haselton’s Perspex and concrete sculptures, and the spools of wool contained within Haselton’s works calls across to the thread woven through the tracing paper investigations of Wura-Natasha Ogunji. This is the curious cocktail of balance and tension that can comprise a relationship, rather like the feet resting on an inflated tube of air in Telecki’s painting Safe Distance (2020).

For this final exhibition at Artspace before it closes for a year-long renovation, curator Talia Linz has brought together captivating works of contemporary art which transcend the present moment. Resting on a plinth in the centre of the space, a handwritten note by Louise Bourgeois sits waiting to deliver a quiet but decisive blow: “I have failed as a wife/as a woman/as a mother/as a hostess/as an artist/as a business woman…/as a friend/as a daughter/as a sister – /I have not failed as a truth seeker.”

“the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane” exquisitely captures what it is to be human.

 

the pleasurable, the illegible, the multiple, the mundane
30 April – 11 July 2021
Artspace, Sydney

 
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