Exhibition: 29 September to 7 November, 2010
© Lily McElroy
© Brown Council
Romance, with its association to rom-coms, red roses and raunchy chic-lit, has long been considered feminine territory. Yet historically, men have been the authors of the epic love stories told through literature and the arts. Love Sick, brings together the work of young female artists Brown Council (AUS), Rachel Scott (AUS), Narinda Reeders (AUS), Tatjana Plitt (AUS/US), Emma Thomson (AUS), Lilly McElroy (US), Laurel Nakadate (US) and one mixed duo Mai Yamashita & Naoto Kobayashi (GER/JAP) who are (re)writing some of their own romantic fictions.
Love Sick consists of a group show at Stills Gallery (29 September - 6 November 2010) that features video art and photomedia, and four larger-than-life photographic works on the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Art Centre billboards (15 October 2010 - 29 January 2011). Across the two venues we find real-life couples, unsuspecting men and the artists themselves, captured in telling moments and awkward scenarios that explore our desire to live out the romance of fiction. The artists converge performance with lens-based media in order to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Demonstrating how utopian romantic narratives play out, not just in the movies, but also in the performances of our everyday lives, they ask the question: is a truthful image as elusive as true romance?
Mai Yamashita & Naoto Kobayashi’s filmed performance Candy, for instance, provides a sickly sweet lament on devotion and equally a sad metaphor for long-term relationships. While they tirelessly lick an over-sized lolly, shrinking it to normal size, one can’t help but think that their heart-felt commitment and dedication to this saccharine cause, ultimately results in mediocrity and anti-climax. Offering insights into the realities of young love, a selection from Emma Thomson’s photographic series The Homemakers, captures disillusionment and disconnection rather than lust and longing, and finds that out-dated gender roles reappear anew, for a pole-dancing and exercise-biking generation.
In contrast, with an overly-optimistic approach to romance, Lilly McElroy throws herself at men - literally. Adopting the cliché character desperate-for-love-woman, she makes the humorous shift from pathetic to predatory in self-deprecating performances that both embrace and expose her character’s lop-sided logic. The resulting images of her flying into mens’ arms could easily be film stills from blockbuster romances - the tear-jerking proposal or the reunion of long-lost lovers - if it weren’t for the dingy pub décors and tell-tale grimaces on her heroes’ faces. In a more glamorous vein Tatjana Plitt’s video work Forever takes ever-lasting love to its extreme in a recreation of the achetypal Hollywood-style embrace. Accompanied by dramatic orchestral music, hot actors undertake an endurance test of passion in a filmic climax that simply never ends.
On a more realistic note, reflecting that love commonly blossoms in the work place, Narinda Reeders’ new photographs hint at the awkward tensions and suppressed passions of secret office romances. Mirroring the controlled monotony of office décor her cleanly composed images tell only a fragment of the story - hands clasp between toilet cubicles while their owners remain anonymous, and a scrunched note (arranging a rendezvous at the fax machine, or, rejecting under-the-table advances?) lies discarded on the floor.
With their usual reflexive and witty approaches, Rachel Scott heart-breakingly calls it all off with her long-term love, the video camera, whilst artist collaborators Brown Council present a nostalgic slideshow throw-back to Tracey Emin’s Everyone I Have Ever Slept With. As the names of bedfellows appear with each slide before being significantly erased by the next, Slide Show (1995-2010) considers how our romantic lives are narratives continually being re-written. The layer upon layer of names personalise a collective emotional baggage and also the sweet pang of reminiscence.
At Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Art Centre (15 October 2010 - 29 January 2011) the garden billboards resemble glossy promotions that promise eternal love and passionate sex - but gone awry. Among them, a cheesy Mills and Boon cover clinch is brought to life, Hazelhurst’s own local couple explore the truth of their true romance and artist Laurel Nakadate cheekily waves her hot pink panties at a passing police patrol like a sexually depraved damsel in distress.
Presented in association with Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre.