10
Feb
16

Press

Andrew Harper has got some good writing gigs these days and has written about Exhaust with a very positive response to The Rowan Reynolds Project in two publications; our local rag, The Mercury (you can download and read a pdf of it here) and more briefly in an overfiew of this years MOFO festival in RealTime Arts here.

It’s immensely gratifying to have someone absorb the work fully and respond thoughtfully. I understand it’s not an easy work to grasp quickly or lightly.

It really is a very interesting show, full of big thoughts and light on hard resolution so if the idea of that + the Harper summations whet your appetite, you have until the weekend to get in to CAT. Last day February 14.

Catalogue with the bulk of my contribution can be found online for as long as the internet lasts.

 

21
Jan
16

jiggy

I’m working on something rather colonial and coming up with many dead ends in my research so far. So in lieu of finding the answer I’m looking for, I made a colonial music room dance like it’s producing hot jazz in a Betty Boop cartoon.
MarysMusicRoom

13
Jan
16

exhaust

exhaust opened last night at Contemporary Art Tasmania as a part of the MOFO program and is curated by Erin Sickler.

exhaust is a multi-sited project that begins from an impossible position: how to work, survive and thrive on a planet in crisis.

exhaust is not so much an exhibition, a fixed and singular event, as a trace, a serpent amidst shifting sands.

Following the transmission of cultural information and artworks made by 15 artists across various modes of distribution, from the singular space of the gallery to the seemingly infinite expanses of the web, the project aims to trouble paradigmatic assumptions about what it means to “be”, on a changing planet, at any place and time.

My project, The Rowan Reynolds Project, has been conducted as my contribution to this exhibition and a new work of Rowan’s Dregs, appears in the gallery. It’s been a simultaneously pleasurable and challenging experience that I continue to learn from.

dregsscreenshot

Still from Dregs, video loop 3:14, Rowan Reynolds 2016

The structure and content of the exhibition has been a malleable and evolutionary process and I was excited to see it all come together and experience the links between the works that Erin has found/observed. It’s a show I find genuinely interesting but the best of it won’t be gained from a quick visit. Spend some time if you’re visiting.

Despite a 24 hour tech hitch that led me to post my text-content below, the online catalogue for exhaust is now entirely up and live – it’s a more attractive place to read my words which are laid out thoughtfully. I’ll leave my emergency posts here though – it may not exist forever.

exhaust continues until February 15, 2016

13
Jan
16

Rowan Reynolds Studio Visit Journal

14IMG_521720 March 2015

After tracking her down, touching base by email and floating my interest in catching up, I finally got in my car in early Autumn and drove to visit Rowan Reynolds at her home and studio in Bothwell for the first time.

I brought bread and cheese and Rowan had made frittata and a large bowl of green beans with black olives and the food did what it is want to do, in making conversation flow. 03photoWith her inherited long-haired Chihuahua, Pippa on her lap to calm the yipping (having known each other since she was a puppy, Pippa appears suspicious of my desire/attempt to share her owner) the topics of conversation stretch from art school to employment to Tasmanian Aboriginal history to roadkill.

Bothwell is a tiny town at the edge of Tasmania’s central highlands and is steeped deeply in both tragic (but locally, largely denied) Aboriginal history AND roadkill. Rowan described driving the 90minutes from Bothwell to work at the TMAG in the centre of Hobart through the Winter for an 8am start. She needed to give herself even more time for the journey to account for thick frost on the car window, black ice on the roads and the inevitable wildlife. There are times of day she says when the roads belong to the animals. As she shows me small-scale red, stranded fleshy paintings that she says are a way of processing the tremendous amount of animal death witnessed along the roadside she adds …they say moving to the country will teach you to deal with death, but I am still learning.

She doesn’t work at the museum where I last saw her anymore. Instead, dividing her time between the major purchases made with her earnings – her tiny Bothwell house and a bush block at Lachlan where she has settled a caravan. Both need and have needed a lot of work that she largely undertakes herself, but it feels like she is laying the foundations for a life where art can be the major occupation. She certainly has never stopped making since her PhD and while she doesn’t view any of the work she shows me as finished, it is clear there is an active, enquiring artists mind at work.

Rowan asked me if I was disappointed in the images she had emailed to me. There was a muddy, brown-ness to the images in my inbox which had surprised me and I told her so. But I wasn’t disappointed, they just made me curious. And viewing the works in person the brown becomes more complex – sometimes skin-like and fleshy sometimes like patinated copper or bronze.

It occurred to me that the surprise came from the fact that my memory of her work from her PhD, the last I had seen, was so pristinely white – flour grains, salt crystals, white thread. On the drive home I began to attribute the colour shift to an aging of ideas, a maturation process. The whiteness – so very beautiful in the gallery – is also impossible to sustain in a life where work is hard and space is hard to come by. This has been Rowans life since graduation. Hard graft and then retiring to small spaces at the end of the day. The pristine, crystalline perfection of an academic ideal does not necessarily translate to a life being lived, and the works now are coloured by something that might be more lived-in than before. Just like skin.

The thread is the element that has carried through from the past most strongly. A square white canvas bears the pyramidal likeness of Mt Direction (as viewed from her previous home in Berridale) rendered entirely in black thread glued fast to the surface. This is the work it is easy to be drawn to immediately – the apparent labour is impressive and the graphic quality and size stand out, but digging around the pieces Rowan has dug out of the studio and laid around the living room at the front of the house proves rewarding.

Small panels of board use the threaded surface as a ground for paint in fleshy pink-yellowed-neutrals. On another board prepped for further work the white painted ground has been ‘cast’ against a surface of crinkled plastic wrap. Texture is obviously key. Rowan has told me a number of times in email and in person that her move away from sculpture towards painting is about available working space more than anything else and in this texture, created sometimes by thread and sometimes in modelling mediums, I feel the sculptor refusing to let go.

I’m attracted to a small exquisite watercolour made with the ink soaked into a thread that leaves its filmy, blue imprint on the paper. It’s reminiscent of an otherworldly waterweed or maps of the arterial networks that spill from the human heart. It is delicate and intuitive, and I see my own experiments with watercolour reflected here.

In fact there are a lot of thought-threads Rowan and I share and much of our discussion around art is about time and completion; allowing things to accrete or erode – about accumulated effort. To make art slowly does not mean that an artist has ceased to make. If it is not in a gallery, it does not mean that it doesn’t deserve to be or that it ceases to exist in a valuable sense.

The trouble with an empathic personality is an ability to be stained by the experience around you. Rowan’s clear love of animals suggests her as this kind of empath. At one point she mentions a collection of experiments that she produced while she lived in Berriedale with her Mt Direction view. Her home was surrounded by the sounds of domestic violence incidents and she was often on the phone to police calling in their assistance. These works, like the roadkill paintings, enabled her to process the experience in some way while waiting for police to attend. These works were unable to be located for this visit but, while my curiosity begs a viewing, whether or not I ever see them is in many ways irrelevant. They have served a very real, emotional purpose and an assessment of their aesthetics is not required. Still, I want to see them. My own interest in the force of emotional energy leaves me hoping they are found.

4 June 2015

The road is foggy and Rowan texts me a black ice warning. I proceed with caution. The drive to Bothwell is breathtaking and I want to stop and take photographs frequently but I am headed out later in the day than last time so I push on. Rowans pipes had frozen and without water she asked me to postpone my visit for a couple of hours. When I arrive, again we talk and eat as I ply the chihuahua with small liver treats I’ve brought in my pockets and my relationship with her softens.

In the living room/studio Rowan has a variety of buckets, tubs and plastic basins, round and rectangular. Each is filled with a measure of water and a black, insoluble pigment. We take turns kicking and waiting and watching as the pigment slowly resettles. We talk of time-lapse and sped footage, but my feeling is that when captured within a screen, the action will be mesmerising at its natural speed. We’ll see.

I talk to Rowan a little about my interest in the origins of the word occult, from the Latin, occultus meaning ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’. I describe her work as a true occult practice, revealing the hidden energies in the aggressive action of kicking the vessel. It’s right up my alley.

The title of the work will be Dregs. We speak of the work of cleaning, of dirt at the bottom of buckets, female crisis and grief. I once made a spontaneous work with the dirt left on my hands after scrubbing a floor. I made it to mark a heavy grief that could not receive official recognition in my workplace as it was attached to the death of a friend rather than a family member. I taped a neat rectangle onto the wall and stencilled it in using the filth on my skin.

I’ve been very depressed about Australian politics and the curious motivation of Tony Abbot naming himself as Minister for Women. Ever since it first happened really, but more so of late. Initally at least I had a sense of humour about it. Now I can’t bring myself to continue the discussion of what the invisible labour of cleaning means to women. The reality has seeped in now and corroded my ability to find it funny.

Before I head home this time, we rug up and stroll the town. We amble to the river Clyde and down near the old barracks. Bothwell was a significant location of contest during Tasmania’s Black War and the remnants of colonial stronghold are all around but I was rather shocked to find no reference at all to the indigenous history of the place. No cursory didactics, no memorials. Instead there is a rather twee, civic cling to Scottish heritage via tartan street signs and a golf museum. Startlingly ugly signage leading to colonial sites of interest, defaces a physically lovely townscape.

I have heard colloquially of an incident nearing the end of the war where the town awoke one morning to find a small island in the middle of the river Clyde, draped in the bodies of a number of brutally slaughtered aboriginal women, their corpses neatly lined up on display to the township. An imagining of this horror has burned itself into my brain recently and it is much on my mind as we walk upstream and cross the river using a charming bridge constructed by a mix of municipal and domestic hands.

I break this narrative of our afternoon together to interject with a qualification:

I am aware that the domesticated animal/native animal binary used to analogise the colonial/aboriginal binary is possibly a tired one, but I shall risk completing the narrative of my experience regardless.

Driving home from Rowan’s on this day along narrow roads edged in pristine green and paddocks of bright, white Merinos, I was genuinely shocked to see marsupial roadkill that appeared to have been theatrically positioned, but more probably flung by the force of their demise, hanging inverted over the wire fencing, their rotting mouths gaping open as if in cry, the sheep browsing oblivious behind, fat and so white. The hideous chance of this analogy forced me to stop the car. In my mind now, the imagined faces of the murdered women and those of the roadkill wallabies and pademelons, flick between one another like a lenticular image.

When able to return to the road, I karaoke Kate Bush songs (a comfort habit) to distract myself. Wuthering Heights of course, Babushka, Oh England, My Lionheart, Hello Earth, The Kick Inside, Coffee Homeground. By the time I turn off the highway near my home I find that I have come, by no forethought, around to Bush’s odd (perhaps, misstep) The Dreaming :- both a cultural appropriation (an early example of ‘world music’ perhaps) and an homage to Australian indigenous culture that pictures the plight of a disrupted people in very Kate Bushy way.

BANG goes another kanga on the bonnet of the van…

 I become distressingly self-aware and silent until I pull into my driveway.

Rowan wants to move from Bothwell when she can. I think I would too.

 

30 October 2015

 

My visits have a routine now – woo the dog (I am welcomed now), food, talk, art.

Rowan has been away visiting family in Adelaide and seems refreshed although the departure of winter probably contributes to this too. Winter in Bothwell seemed harsh.

I have arrived with an assortment of camera gear and my laptop for editing. I can’t remember now if we had actually discussed it or not but I had imagined myself very squarely as Rowans technician; a skilled guide to help bring her first moving image artwork to fruition. But as we move from eating and chatting to art it becomes apparent that this is not my role.

Rowan is blessed with ingenuity and an investigative fearlessness.

In her lounge room/studio in front of the couch is a lightbox she has fashioned from lamps and a remnant of Laserlite propped up on buckets. Three more white buckets are stationed equally on top filled with the now-familiar black pigment (a powdered oxide for colouring cement – I finally asked) and water. Several bucket-bases cut free of the vessel are propped along the mantle with their dried pigment on display. Recalling them as I write I now have the curious urge to see them motorised and rotating but stationary they are positively planetary in appearance.

I make mention of the return to whiteness and Rowan smiles. Of course the vibratory patterning of the bucket-kick shows up so much better and graphically this way.

I mention getting out my camera but Rowan is way ahead of me. She has been test shooting using her phone camera and has already recognised the problem of the kicked bucket jogging out of shot, ruining the framing. Not only has she recognised the problem, she has also already solved it. A makeshift camera(phone) rig fashioned from coat hangers and gaffa tape is the solution. With the camera suspended from and attached to the mouth of the bucket itself. It moves with the greater motion and still neatly records the action inside. It was an obvious problem I hadn’t even considered yet. I leave all my gear alone. Rowan knows what she wants and works to achieve it.

I muse about the colonialism in my attitude as visiting video artist. ‘Well… I’m not used to film…’ she says modestly. I enthuse in awe about her capability. This ingenuity is one of the benefits borne of working in isolation, I think. One just ‘gets on’ and doesn’t consult. Work may develop it’s own unique character this way.

Rowan has the native video editing software on her computer and I assure that that it will be enough for what she wants to achieve. I declare my availability by email for assistance but also stress that Google is the most useful teacher. There is rarely a problem that someone else hasn’t already encountered and solved publicly on the internet.

Our next time together will be spent in my studio testing projections.

This time on the way home, I stop frequently to take photos of this stunning countryside and shoot the odd piece of video. Passing a pastorally idyllic paddock of grazing sheep, I park across the road. A particularly cuddly-looking young Suffolk makes eye contact and then steps brazenly between the fence wires and out onto the road bleating at me sweetly and idiotically.

Over the next 20 minutes I clumsily herd the creature back and forth along the fence desperately trying to keep it off the road and get it back through where it belongs. At the point where I consider defeat I narrowly avoid stepping one foot into the rotting corpse of another sheep who has stupidly wandered out and become a casualty of country traffic. After a time the Suffolk takes it’s leave, easily rejoining it’s companions through the fence of its own accord.

As you would be able to tell by now – I am constantly guilty of analogy and a (perhaps misguided) search for meaning where there is often – probably – none. I have not been able to channel the meaning and moral of my sheep encounter but I suspect it is something to do with responsibility.

What IS my role here? How IS this process my artwork? I comfort myself each time these queries arise with the returning question: How is it NOT?

__________________________________

NOTE: This work The Rowan Reynolds project is a part of the exhibition exhaust that opened last night at Contemporary Art Tasmania.  Due to a tech hitch this text and my accompanying essay are absent from the online catalogue/project website. EDIT: website now fixed and available HERE.

12
Jan
16

The Rowan Reynolds Project

10IMG_5172

Image from Rowan Reynold’s studio

I want to check in on the progress of an artist whose work I’ve not seen for around a decade, I proposed to Erin last January, although I know she is still producing work – at what rate I am yet to discover.

Not said: Convincing you to put another artists work in the gallery is my artwork.

This was not my agenda but, in truth, is what it boils down to in the end.

Rowan was a student colleague of mine from a decade past who made ephemeral works of infinite delicacy. I remember pigment in buckets of water, kicked by her daily until the settled pattern met her aesthetic approval and plush bath towels draped in an ultrafine, wheat flour that clung to the pile.

Quiet and steady, she did not posses the personality of a Barnum, which can sometimes appear to be the most fixed assurance of a contemporary art career, and did not seem to develop any chance relationships through art school that would provide her with a champion for her practice later on. I always respected her commitment to working with difficult, ephemeral materials and envied her light step on the earth in using them.

I searched for Rowan Reynolds because I have never forgotten her capacity to engage and captivate me with the work she made. When I say ‘searched’ I don’t mean to suggest embarking upon an epic adventure and exploration – it’s Tasmania and it’s a small community – I simply asked one of her work colleagues if he had an email address for her. What it has been, is a very quiet and deeply pleasant adventure that I will continue to process for some time. But if you read my journal accounts over three studio visits you will find a grand theme of colonialism. Despite Rowans warm welcomes, sometimes now I wonder if I had unwittingly been somewhat imperialist; peering, recording and ultimately perhaps, absorbing someone else’s practice into my own (tiny) ‘empire’. Despite what I might say in a few paragraphs time, my impetus was genuinely more altruistic than this.

I often think about the beautiful things you were exploring during your MFA and see the kind of ideas you were teasing out reflected in the work of younger artists now, which is what never fails to bring you to mind. A memory of your practice is then closely followed by curiosity about why I haven’t see your work around in the years since then.[1]

 Rowan really had haunted my mind for a while. An alchemical vibe has bloomed across contemporary practice, and the crystals and fine grains have been making me think of her for most of the wide timespan between points of contact with her.

When asked if I might like to produce something for this exhibition, I was suffering something of a shock. I had recently become aware upon my return to postgraduate research that amongst our small community there was some idea that I had abandoned art in the interim 6 years between completing my MFA and that particular ‘present’. “It’s so good to see you making work again” I heard, more times than I care to mention.

Sure, within that time I had been ill, been employed outside of the field, given birth to my son and cared for him over his first three years of life, but as well I had been working around these obstacles in my studio. I had made a conscious decision not to apply for any grants/prizes/opportunities and instead invest my short supply of time and energy purely into making. By some quirk also, any exhibiting I did at this time was all out of State. I don’t currently have an artists website (I had one – I regretted my design choices and hated it after a few years so pulled it down and have yet to replace it.) but still maintain a blog and post about any activity that may occur. New work, new influences, new exhibitions…

Basically – I AM GOOGLABLE.

I guess that despite my (what will I say… Googleability? Yes.) Googleability, these factors combined to make my practice somewhat invisible. The question crossed my mind – my work is forgettable? Imposter syndrome loomed very large[2].

Is it a sign of a rabid ego that I hoped for someone to remember, value and Google? Do I Google? Actually, yes I do.

When I search for any trace of her [Rowan], all the internet gives me is an image from an old CAST[3] show http://www.contemporaryarttasmania.org/program/timepiece of a work made of salt crystals grown over a surface… scored black perspex maybe it was… I certainly remember it’s dark , open ‘pore’ as it crusted and closed up… I think of her when I see crystalline forms, pigments and powders appearing in current works by other artists and I wonder where her work has progressed to.[4]

I will say, with an awareness of my own idealism, that while art that manages to generate self-sustainability, renown or even income is inarguably as valid as any other form of practice, surely – of all the ventures a human may undertake – the value of an artwork (and practice) should be considered outside of these measures. Surely it is not volume of production alone that ensures the worth of an artist. I am not buying fruit – the art experience is not bought by weight (except perhaps in the instance of Manzoni’s shit cans). No, productivity alone is no measure of value. I love art. I love good art and I can wait for it and search for it.

This project, nested within [what became the ‘exhaust’ project] is to be constructed of the contact and conversation that ensues, and which will (at minimum) be documented and published. This is an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity and express my (distant but real) care for this artist and her work, but I am loathe to pre-determine what other outcome there may be. Until the conversation begins, the artists willingness to be public or publicised is unknown and so while a further outcome is proposed it remains uncertain at this time. A small exhibition? The commission of a new work? A series of documents of prior works? A text? A dead end? The object is most definitely NOT to ‘extract’ the artist like an oddity for display and the project must end where the artist desires it to, leaving any of these outcomes as the possibility.[5]

I think exhaust’s audience is a contemporary and sophisticated collection of makers and audience who sit comfortably post-object, who understand that a work of art can be made of an infinite number of ideas and yet I can’t help feeling the need to justify The Rowan Reynolds Project. I confess I am not entirely sure what I lay claim to here as an artist. As I wrote in the closure to the journal of my final October studio visit: What IS my role here? How IS this process my artwork? I comfort myself each time these queries arise with the returning question: How is it NOT?

The process has evolved into (or perhaps has always been) a role more traditionally taken by a curator – but this show already has one in Erin Sickler. I’ve become the inner core of a modest, two-stage matroyshka doll. But I feel like I am ‘making’ something more that ‘curating’ something. And inside that ‘making’, Rowan is making something too.

I wanted to enter this work respectfully, curiously and open to an unknown outcome. The fantasies of potential outcomes were there: I imagined an attractive collection of documentation of her work or maybe a collaboration or even me simply telling the story of her asking me to leave her alone and not bother her again (unlikely – she is a friendly person).

The product of my labour is hard to grasp, especially when my guilty work ethic keeps reminding me how pleasant the labour has been and therefore, perhaps not really labour – the ‘work’ has been mostly made up of my to and fro journeys to Bothwell to meet with Rowan resulting in these words, a brief journal of visits, a few snaps and snippets of video, and a new Reynolds work to view in the gallery (which in itself is no small thing and brings me a great deal of satisfaction). If you want to ‘see’ the work, this is all I can offer as a way to take you on those journeys with me.

At it’s core – despite bearing another’s name – The Rowan Reynolds Project is equally generous and selfish. I want Rowans ideas and aesthetics to be seen but equally, when I leave the University micro-culture, I will most likely once again recede to a more reclusive practice and will need someone with the will to search for me.

The administration of what we have come to know as a professional art career, I find exhausting, uncomfortable and distracting from the making of the work itself. It is unlikely then that I will be seen meeting visiting art figures or that my name will be listed in a prize selection or list of grant recipients. I am fairly certain that this in itself should not invalidate the work I produce.

I hope people will remember what I do, because it is largely a practice that has depended on proffered destinations and opportunities. So far I have been lucky to receive both. So far.

So this is partly a confession: it is the great fear of being irrelevant that turned my thoughts to local artists I have admired that I hadn’t heard from in a while and the anxiety has stoked a febrile mission to look harder – further than the end of my desk, beyond the faces I see in postgrad seminars and the names on invitations that drop into my inbox and the photos and events posted on social media. I already know the next artist I will seek out and hope I get the opportunity to do something with that contact also.

Dregs will be the first work that Rowan has declared complete in that broad span of time. It is considered and beautiful and the result of long process. I am confident that while I flicker between comfort and discomfort in what I have done here for exhaust, ultimately there is a new work by Rowan Reynolds to be seen in a gallery. If that is the minimum of my contribution, I can say with satisfaction that it is a marvellous thing.

My studio visit journal concludes with an encounter with an unruly, young Suffolk sheep as I clumsily try to herd it to safety and an attempt to find meaning in the encounter, which I tackle in an equally maladroit fashion.

I needed a friend to tease it out for me. The Suffolk she said is about relinquishing control, and about the way we inhabit space. She identified the paddock fence as simultaneously the divide between studio and gallery, Rowans space and my own, between the familiar and not and even Pippa the Chihuahua’s anxiety. She also pointed out that the sheep returned to safety only after I had relinquished control. Sometimes, she concluded it is knowing that somebody cares if you are in the paddock or not that motivates you to slip through the fence.

December 2015

[1] Excerpt from my initial email approach to Rowan in January 2015

[2] It occurs to me now that this project could simply be a manifestation of this imposter syndrome. A grand deflection.

[3] Contemporary Art Tasmania’s previous identity.

[4] From my initial project proposal.

[5] from my initial project proposal

NOTE: The exhibition exhaust opened last night at Contemporary Art Tasmania but due to a tech hitch this text and the journal of studio visits are absent from the online catalogue/project website. EDIT: website now fixed and available HERE.

07
Jan
16

The Guðmundsdóttir Summoning

It is rather timely to have popped the witch’s hat on again just weeks before the term ‘witch’ once again entered the Australian political vocabulary (Remember ‘Ditch the Witch’? Never forget. Never, ever forget.). Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton this week referred to political editor, Samantha Maiden as a ‘mad fucking witch’ in a text he mistakenly sent directly to her and in reference to her column criticising his colleague, Jamie Briggs (for whom the message had been intended) regarding the sexual harrassment of a younger female colleague.

My general disgust with Australian politics and a feeling of immense powerlessness to enact change through the conventional democratic means has been one driver behind some of the more esoteric explorations I have made as an artist. How else can I affect change? What tools are available to me? Magick seems as legitimate a possibility to me as the machinations of the Australian political system right now. I’m as agnostic about one as  I am about the other.

My disgust has been strengthened and validated by both Dutton’s words and Briggs behaviour and a general failure in Australian politics and media to comprehend why it is not OK to brush off either incident as a misplaced joke or high spirits. It’s also done nothing but strengthen my position that it is not OK for Australia to be run largely by a club of rich, white fellows big on handshakes and personal networks and short on empathy and, most importantly, that we must endeavour to do something about that.

It’s no surprise to me that Australian women, at least online, have responded with a great embrace of the terminology. A Facebook page ‘Mad Fucking Witches’ has received in excess of four thousand ‘likes’ since it’s inception 2 days ago and there is a grand movement to #putyourbroomout around the front doors and gates of the nation (extra points for getting a black cat in the photographic evidence). With it’s history of being applied to women perceived as wielding unknown power and working outside societal conventions, I believe the term ‘witch’ is a badge to wear with pride. This is despite (or inversely, in celebration of) it having become Australian political shorthand for ‘woman we can’t control’. It’s use is intended to generate fear and to undermine the subject, but judging by the way women are responding, they have got it so wrong, at least for roughly half the population. I for one, will be looking for the ‘witches’ and following their lead. They must be doing something very right by my ethical compass to have earned that title.

But in December, before all this occurred, I put on the hat for The Guðmundsdóttir Summoning, which has been a very agnostic but equally optimistic experiment in magick to summon performer/singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Björk to Tasmania.

The work came about as I was revisiting The Golden Bough and thinking about occultism and how/if it figures into the animations I make. When I dipped into a passage on sympathetic magick, I began to think it was an apt description for the purpose and process of my animations, but I had never thought of them as this quite so boldly before.

I began to entertain thoughts of ‘testing’ the effects of more deliberate, purposeful magick. While I chewed over worldy concerns I felt desperate to affect (asylum seekers in detention and a change of government figured largely) as the subject of such an experiment, I began to feel that it would be irresponsible to attempt L-plater spellcraft around anything too critical and so wound back to a more selfish and flippant desire – to have Björk come and perform in Tasmania. It was important to me, as an entirely novice witch, for the intent to be not beyond the realms of possibility and thanks to David Walsh, MONA and the MOFO festivals I believe this to be true.

So – I opened up a little magick workshop in the Plimsoll Gallery as a part of the exhibition, Gratis curated by Sam Johnstone.

The starting point was a hand-drawn effigy – scanned, emailed from here, then given physical form a couple of months before the exhibition and escorted back from her neighbourhood in Brooklyn Heights NY by an artist friend. She is structurally supported by one of his paintbrushes and a giant, spliff-paper packet he found on the street. Once in Hobart I took her to the top of the mountain to see the view and collect some earth before taking her to the gallery and placing her in a protective vitrine with a small slide-show of her travels.


To assist the transition in the gallery from civilian to magick-worker, I constructed a ritual hat based in structure and colouration on her headpiece (designed by Maiko Takeda) worn on the the Biophilia tour and, more recently, the Vulnicura album cover but shaped in the form of a more traditional witches hat. When not in use the hat is displayed in the gallery upon a ceremonial stand.


I formed The Guðmundsdóttir Coven, a group of (not compulsorily so, but as it happens) artists who also hold the desire to see her perform here. Together we conducted karaoke rituals, exercises in chaos magick. Each member of the coven bore a sigil on their palm in the form of a temporary tattoo.


The sigil is a magick symbol designed purely for the purpose of drawing Björk to Tasmania.   We concentrated on the sigil, and charged it with the transcendent and transformative power of group song. There were two karaoke rituals conducted at either end of the same day. One skyclad (nude) in a closed gallery and the other clothed and during the opening of the exhibition. Documentation of the skyclad karaoke can be seen here.

 

Another couple of artist pals had just left Björk’s birthplace and cultural identifier – Iceland – when I began this project. They knocked the glacial mud from their walking boots and brought that back for spellcrafting in a ziplock bag. It was later blended with the earth from the top of our mountain, Kunanyi, and used for a simple (and more traditional) spell: The blended earths held a candle. Another summoning sigil (the same symbol used for the karaoke rituals) was burned in the flame as I concentrated on it’s image. The flame scorched my fingers and the energy of that pain charged the sigil. The flame was then left to burn until extinguished by the breeze. It’s worth noting that as soon as I announced that intention, the breeze complied.

I have documented a lot of the process through my Instagram account using the hashtag #theguðmundsdóttirsummoning.

Gratis will begin touring the country next year and artefacts from and documentation of the project will tour a number of galleries around the country. Effigy Björk however, will relocate to my studio here in Hobart, as to continue her travels would mess with the spells intent. I want her here, not Wagga Wagga. I can’t afford a trip to Wagga Wagga. Sad but true.

My primary reason for writing this post besides documenting that this project occurred and to complain about the state of the nation, is REALLY to give many a thank you where it is due. As you may notice reading this – I have relied on the good will, trust and generosity of many people from coven to couriers to child-minders (who cared for the covens kids while they sang).

So in immense gratitude I here acknowledge everyone who has become involved or assisted in some way:

. Alison Butterworth .

.Rob O’Connor .

.Julia Drouhin .

.Lucy Hawthorne .

.Sam Johnstone .

.Kate Kelly .

.Mish Meijers .

.Lola Page .

.Oscar Parsons .

.Lisa Rime .

.Elissa Ritson .

.Josh Santospirito .

.Pip Stafford .

.Kim Taylor.

.Matt Warren .

.Tricky Walsh .

.Sarah Wright .

It is the interest, will and trust of other people that have thrust this project along and in many ways I have merely administrated it along the way, as it charged forward under it’s own energy. This took me by suprise and has given me great pleasure and gratification. I’m forming new schemes based on these feelings. I plan to try to relinquish control more often and some mass-collaborative dreams that I have considered too difficult in the past now seem like a possibility.

When Björk is imminent, I’ll let you know.

I’ve not yet done anything about the rich, white men lacking in empathy, but I am conducting tests to find out what tools I might have available to me. It’s a start.

Witch it up, Witches.

27
Aug
15

My book has arrived

…with an assortment of the other beauties in the series of Documents of Psychic Amateurs.

My book is here!

A video posted by Sally Rees (@sallyr) on

It looks LOVELY and the other books are just dreamy too.

So excited to be a part of this collection and I wish I was going to be at Lucky’s Comics tomorrow for the launch but sadly, here I sit on the other side of the globe. Regardless it still makes me feel a bit more EXCITING and INTERNATIONAL.

Below is a quick flick of a few (but by no means all) of my DoPA colleagues.

Some more (but by no means all) of the other DoPA (Documents of Psychic Amateurs) publications.

A video posted by Sally Rees (@sallyr) on

It’s all making me very cheery and all thanks to the fine folks at Perro Verlag and the Institute for the Science of Identity for their co-publishing efforts.




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