Last night Mickie and I went down to mememememe gallery near central station to see the Wild Boys show. Wild Boys is a Mardi-Gras event starring Tim Hilton, Richard Gurney, Trevor Fry and guests. These self-styled faggotty luminaries occupy the space for 3 weeks. The idea is: the show begins with nothing, grows over time, and (sort of) culminates in a closing event on the 4th March at 6pm.
The show has only just begun, and is (at this moment) much more sparse than the previous Wild Boys show (at Phat Space in 2003). Hilton notes on his blog that he’s already experienced the dilemma of “emptiness” – with some gallery visitors disappointed that there “wasn’t enough art” in the room. But as his mum suggests, “Everybody uses the Mardi Gras for their own agenda.” I agree: that’s the trouble with being part of a festival which is significantly about identity politics and entertainment – it makes your experimental, bitsy, durational artwork seem slight and contentless.
That’s not to say that it actually IS slight and contentless – au contrair! But you have to “adjust your set” in order to really appreciate what the wild boys are trying to achieve. Last night there were already plenty of things growing in the space. It’s kind of difficult to know “whose is whose.” For instance, the nestling, writhing yams on the gallery floor are scatalogical manifestations, which I thought typical of Trevor Fry, but I found out later that they were a Hilton creation. And the dozens of electric-typewritten sheets succinctly and poetically recalling the author’s many sexual partners – well, I assumed these were by Hilton, but I was wrong there too – from memory, these texts were an offering from a ring-in called Luke.
Actually, it doesn’t really matter who did what – the wild boys (and some girls too – like Sarah Goffman and Elvis Richardson) are creating a collaborative, “all-over” environment which fosters organic growth. A botanical metaphor is not out of order, but I prefer an animal one – especially something to do with “nesting”. Nesting (by birds, rats, or these Wild Boys) takes time, and is never really a completed task – there’s always more stuff to drag in to make it cosier, to decorate the “pad”. In the early days, each small Wild Boys contribution makes a big difference – as they strive to “own” the place. This is equally true in rental housing and art galleries – which retain the grimy imprints of a thousand previous tenants. But over time the space “fills up” and they have to exert proportionately more energy to “change its character” significantly. Or (and this will be interesting to watch, in the case of the wild boys) it might be necessary to remove elements which they have previously lodged there.
I like the idea of the art gallery as a kind of “lifestyle apartment” (in this case, complete with awe-inspiring city views from vast windows) – to which you simply have to invite your friends to enjoy. The whole thing is very “New York-style loft.” Indeed, the folks who run gallery mememememe, I hear, often rent it out to advertising agencies for photo shoots for this very reason. We often sneer at “lifestyle” as a yuppie construct, something that can be purchased at the Moore Park Mega Centre. However, I think that for all the Wild Boys artists, “being an artist” is a lifestyle choice they would loathe relinquish. This lifestyle involves hanging out together, playing (and making) music, countless “show and tell” sessions, eating together, (and now relentless blogging)… it’s a lifestyle of stimulus and response, consumption and production, presentation and participation. It is, in short, a very “social” way of working – and it’s clear that when we visit the wild boys exhibition, we are not just “looking at” their work, we are participating in its production. I find it infectious, and I think if this “inhabitation” model were more widely adopted, I might be tempted to visit art galleries more often.
[update – read an essay on Wild Boy Trevor Fry, in an enjoyable review by Lisa Kelly, which considers his work over recent years. Check it out at Sydney Art Seen Society…]