Make & do, 5.

writing about art and culture.

Hi patient and forgiving readers,

this one came together in a flurry because, well, there’s some art around you may need to see, and it’s going to disappear.
To begin with:

CRONE

This is more of a heads up than anything else, but I think there’s something worth mentioning in the brief appearance of a work that is part of the Crone project Hobart based artist Sally Rees has been undertaking. Sally is an artist who very much has the courage to be herself. Her work investigates a wide range of issues and avenues, and it can be very personal and revealing. The Crone project has yet to be shown – it’s a series of works that were supposed to have been seen by now, but there was a plague – but it’s about women, ageing, older women, the visibility of older women, and to some extent, what happens to older women as they age; they make up the fastest growing demographic of homeless people in Australia right now, for one thing.


But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we do anything else, look at this.

That’s an artwork. It incorporates a lot of the things Sally Rees does as an artist, which is to make strange flickering animations that recall old spiritualist photography of people oozing ectoplasm, to use herself as a performer, and to now and again gather up weird cheap Halloween props and use those in her work. I like this last element of Sally’s palette a lot - partly because I like cheesy horror movie props, but also because I’m resolutely dedicated to the lo-fi found object - the use of disposable cultural detritus in art is a subtle move that implies a lot about the cost of making art and how this can be subverted - or perhaps I’m reading too much into the fake witchy nose Sally deploys. But this is the work of Sally Rees for you - it is overflowing with meaning and possibility.

image courtesy of the artist. It’s a still, the actual work moves.


Here’s a short interview with Sally

who is the other crone? 

The other Crone is my Mum, Ruth.

Do you deem this work lost? 

There is a Phase 1 of a solo Crone portrait too with a smidge of animation. But I was happier for the double portrait to represent the Crone in her phase 1.  Only one could fit in this form really and I chose this one.  I don't deem them lost. They were always meant to be retired. The two portrait works (The Crone - solo and Bloodline - with Mum) were always intended to evolve into their second phase at my 50th birthday as the exhibition timespan was to cross that date leaving a final week in evolved phase 2 before the show closed. There is not a huge difference between the phases, the principal being the acquisition of a large false nose. It's my symbology for an attainment or ascension to full crone. First phase - Crone novice, second phase - full Crone ascension

what happens to your lost art? 

Post-birthday the ‘phase ones’ will just be filed away and exist publicly only as stills in a catalogue. These works are both celebrations and sigils. My crone is loaded with qualities I aspire to acquire. The sigil had to go through its full cycle for the greatest chance of manifestation. So the phase one crone had to be seen outside of my head and hard drive, hence the temporary addition to my website. The second phases only will be shown from this point on. 

Do you think this will ever be seen in public? Does that matter? 

Yes, I do believe that the exhibition as a whole will be seen eventually but the work that is up on my website until this Friday (well.... the double portrait. The eyes are actually a second work Gateway for the Witness that will not be archived. In the exhibition installation all the works fit together so I composited for a nicer format) will not be seen again.

I have a larger question about who we make art for and what our notion of an audience is. I think audiences are crucial, but I also think pandering to them is very bad for our art and work

Who we make art for? 

Well... it's complicated and it most likely depends on the maker. I make mine for me first. Usually. I think. Maybe that’s obvious in the case of CRONE. But I also believe if you plan to take up valuable exhibition space with your work you have to consider an audience to some extent. It's why I like working with a dramaturge although it's not usually the 'visual art' way. It's good to see what you're making through someone else's eyes before it's done. 

I am aware that I am still carrying some academic hangover… this manifests as an awareness that I will have to defend myself at some point when the truth is, I actually won't. And on top of that, the incredible opportunity I was given has meant a LOT of attention and promotion. A lot of people asking publicly what they can expect to see in the gallery before the work was even finished. These are difficult things to navigate and I’m learning how to recognise, dismiss or diminish their presence in my side-view.

So yes - I agree with you for the most part. I recognise a responsibility to an audience if you're going to invite them in, but all this other stuff I mention is a rather unhealthy distraction. It wastes time and energy. I HAVE to at least TRY to trust that I know what I'm doing and keep following my nose.

What's the process that this came out of? 

After thinking about magick and witchcraft for so long, I had developed a real interest in the Crone figure - her status as reviled outsider (despite wisdom, specialised skills etc) and what that means to contemporary older women, a demographic becoming increasingly vulnerable to poverty and homelessness in Australia and elsewhere. I wanted to create a ritual to celebrate and usher in my 50th (an arbitrary year but it seems to be the one people pick out as significant). It’s an incredible feat AND a luxury AND a skill to have reached 50 and beyond and I feel the lack of value Australia places on the demographic of the female elder needs to be addressed and countered. The ritual was going to be a walk, just a long costumed walk. Nothing remarkable, just something that took time and effort and placed my figure of the Crone in the world. The action itself expanded to include other novice (nearly 50) and full-crone (50 and over) women I worked with on the project and everything else (the installation total) evolved around this walk (from the summit of kunanyi through Lenah Valley and Glenorchy to MONA). But the walk now will not take place at all as a response to the pandemic (we *could* still go, but I don’t feel it’s right) and my desire to be a better ally to the aboriginal community. I've had a realisation that kunanyi is a very special place beyond my personal feelings for it, there's more ancient claims. It’s not my stage. So we are left with the supporting works which I hope are strong enough to stand alone. I’ll conduct a small and private video ritual on the sunrise of my birthday instead. And it may become a part of the whole. Or not. 

I love your method of making these gif/loop creations that have sound, and I see you as both reaching back to early moving images and into the future of what images are. The side bar things look as if they are decayed, worn, stained. Why are you doing this? Where is it from ? 

So there’s a couple of main touchpoints for the animations. 

They emerged from a frustration at the impracticality of working with film. It’s too expensive and too fragile but I missed the tactility and the opportunity to mess with the chemistry in interesting ways. And I believe in a kind of transference that occurs with the handmade object. Breaking video down to many many pieces of paper means every frame is intensely ‘handled’.  And there’s the possibility of introducing all manner of fluid substance into the frame.  But these works just use paint. I like watercolour as an analogy for thought and energy and although what I paint is very abstract and freeform, it’s again about a transference of thought into the image. It’s free-flowing and hard to control.

The other thing is a layering of two realities; something I referred to in my thesis as ‘record’  - the photographic image and ‘construct’ - the painted other.  The record roots the image in reality, the construct makes that reality fantastic. In my imagination, the animated element is the result of an occult camera that sees beyond human reality into super nature. 

It is my favourite way of working but so labour-intensive and slow that I needed to also work in straight video in order to get this show made. You didn’t ask but I’ll tell you, I wanted to go back there (straight vid) as I hadn’t worked in it for a few years and needed to remember how it felt. 

Working in tableaux is (I hope) an interesting offset to the flickery-boil of the animations. I love the humanity of a tableux. The portrait loops are somewhere between 10  and 15 minute poses and I love the entropy of energy as the bodies fail to remain fully upright. Blinks and sways. The portraits are installed as large projections with the figures around 8 -9 feet tall so those small shifts should be somewhat amplified. 

The work disappears tomorrow.

It will be replaced by something else.

Go and look at it.

MORE THINGS TO NOTE
This Saturday, two early career performance artists, Sharifah Emalia Al-Gadrie and Tilley Wood , will be launching a new work as a livestream on Instagram at 7pm.
You will be able to check this out at  @tilleyandemalia should you feel so inclined. Given that there’s still a plague out there, this is a fine idea and I’ll be following up to see how this works. Here’s the invite.

Tomorrow, Bandcamp Friday is with us again - the moment when Bandcamp do not take a chunk and it all goes to the artist. This makes it a great time to buy some music. If you want some weird as all get out avant-techno and strange noises (and who doesn’t, I ask you?) you could check out Altered States; you could also give local experimental label Frustration Jazz some love (try Ragtime Frank is my hot tip) and worthy of a dig is the great Longform Editions, which is best described as a kind of sonic float tank.

GOING OUTSIDE

We can and perhaps we even should. If you want to go to a gallery space, the most unmissable show on right now is Pat Brassington at Bett Gallery. Pat is one of our very best local artists, her work keeps getting better and this exhibition is a stunner.

Don’t miss seeing this as an expression of where this significant artist is right now before the show is divided up, never to be seen like this again. Don’t say I didn’t tell you. Do not miss. Mandatory, even.

Nicole O’Loughlin’s awesome work is up in the window at Good Grief but you can read something about it from the artist herself here.

CAT has a worthwhile one in - re-member, featuring work from Selena de Carvalho, Takani Clark and Georgia Morgan, and curated by Caitlin Fargher . This show really gave me a lot to think on and around, and is a really satisfying exhibition to get your teeth into and provoke discussion.

Okay, that’s a ton.

Here’s the tip jar if you want to buy me a coffee. Or something nice. Not grog. 82 days off the grog here.

righto, that’ll do for now. Cheers. Stay safe.