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Greater Together

Greater Together
8 Jul–17 Sep 2017

Greater Together begins with the question of work and of how to work better.

It takes place in a period of uncertainty, when contemporary societal divisions (political, environmental, cultural and geographic) are creating real need to share knowledge and resources, and to reassess ideas of production and organisation – professionally, socially and artistically.

At the same time, conventional methods of working are changing, with advances in thinking and technology creating new ways for people to communicate and organise – offering unprecedented opportunities to share services and skills, and to create networks and relationships across distance, difference and time.

Greater Together assembles eight artist projects that complicate individual notions of authorship and instead consider ideas of collaboration and cooperation as deliberate and productive means of agency and solidarity in a complex and changing world.


Australian Centre for Contemporary Art | Reviewed by Robert Nelson

You can’t change the world all by yourself. Unless other people socialise your ideas and own them, your evangelism will evaporate.

A challenging exhibition at ACCA, Greater Together, features artists who join forces, not so much for the sake of impact but to symbolise the social power of co-operation , sharing, assisting one another and by extension helping society and the planet.

The idea behind Greater Together is well explained by the curator Annika Kristensen and others in a clever catalogue. The exhibition focuses mainly on artists who collaborate in groups of two or more, sometimes involving participation by an audience.

An example is a pair of boards with Post-it notes with a single word on each by Antoinette J. Citizen and Courtney Coombs. Called Performance for activities that require two people , this stage-set for a community workshop might be physically underwhelming but it curiously invites acting out the suggested scenarios. Some of the words are neutral, like ‘‘ taxi’’ , while others are horrific , like ‘‘ rape’’ .

Some works are designed with monumentality in mind, like the huge bed of red soil by Liesbeth Bik and Jos Van der Pol. The flat box of dirt, like a grave for erosion, is intercepted by slatted bed-frames that propose that you could lie down and listen to the land.

Called Letters to the land, this gritty pool also contains seven texts piped beneath the beds. Although ‘‘ listening to the land’ ’ sounds corny, the texts are sometimes moving , like Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy’s conversational hymn to the earth.

The letter by Justin Clemens is a masterpiece of clairvoyant gabble, a breathless single sentence of almost 1300 words concatenated by conjunctions and interjections that sums up Plato’s Symposium – a theme suggested by the artists – and ingeniously turns the allegory towards the injustice of colonisation.

Clemens’ cerebral rhapsody is uniquely the outpouring of an individual with an incisive imagination; but the physical context provided by the artists adds another level of satire, where we listen to some grand mystical narrative and hear nothing but projection . The inspired nonsense that you absorb with your ‘‘ ear to the ground’ ’ recalls a delightfully absurd line from The Goon Show where a Cornishman tells us in pregnant hush: ‘‘ People do say that if you holds a nergle in your ‘and and puts one earhole to the ground, you can ’ear the wind blowing in the other earhole.’’

Many of the best works have a sense of gamesmanship rather than visual or spatial clout. Sometimes, they have a mediocre idea but a brilliant aspect is developed by one of the individuals invited into the project.

The oak tree by Goldin+Senneby that provides a space for a community to gather is a weak symbolic cliche of audienceinclusiveness . However, as with Clemens, there’s a brilliant under-punctuated text by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Standard length of a miracle, concerning an unfortunate character , Anders Reutersward, who forlornly seeks better fortunes than working in a drycleaning business.

Meanwhile, Annie Wu has picked up the name ‘‘ Anders Reutersward’ ’ for a conceptual clothing line, gathered from garments left uncollected at the dry cleaners. Her outfits are worn each day by the gallery attendants at ACCA.

The hackneyed theme of the gallery as a space for community recurs in Final visions – bunker created by the collective Field Theory. Food and hardware provisions have been shelved in this gallery-magazine to tide us over in the event of a global mishap.

Creating a small space within the ‘‘ survivalist storeroom’ ’ for community groups to assemble, the piece is faithful to the curatorial proposition. The victuals are provided by Foodbank which feeds needy people and operates through charity organisations.

Alas, the visual-spatial encounter is literal , leaving little to the imagination. There seems to be no poetic counterpoint or image or associations that take the idea beyond illustration.

Sometimes, when the artists attempt such counterpoints, the results are also literal and unpoetic. Clark Beaumont’s video The O zone tries to address climate change through sex (and vice versa) but the incongruities yield clumsy farce.

The paradox of Greater Together is that the memorable content all comes from individuals with an individual voice.

Web Link: Greater Together Link opens in new browser window


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