Justene Williams at Performa15

Visually dense, decorative, and undone, Australian artist Justene Williams The Curtain Breathed Deeply, presented the artist’s interior mind across four immersive video installations. First premiering at Artspace, Sydney, Williams reconfigured her suite of video performances and sculptures into new constellations that filled the basement of Performa 15’s Hub. Amassing tropes and objects from the Australian vernacular, an adolescence spent between dance classes and musical recitals, and her father’s wrecking yard, Williams’ installation operated in a private economy, fueled by personal relationships and her bower-bird impulse to gather and assemble. Williams’ materials are tactile and eclectic signifiers. An inflated backyard pool, lattice fencing, astro-turf, tarpaulins-as-architecture, and moving imagery of dense bush-land functioned as autobiographical signposts that evoked and geographically localized the Australian Suburban fringe.

The eponymous curtain was an expanse of decorative white vinyl tablecloths that traversed the whole of the space. Cross-hatched with blue utility tape and glittery gold adhesive, the curtain hung heavily, creating a passage through chromatically divided assemblages of video monitors, projections, soundscapes, screens, and crafted and found objects. In the two-channel video, Yves Klein Eyes, figures assembled in beaked masks, hats, and outfits fabricated from the same materials as the curtain, move and sing in trace-like collectivity, casting blue light back into the space. The rhythm and repetition across the video installations created a hypnotic effect. Bodies and body parts, both decorated and naked, gyrated and swayed to different tempos. Williams throws nothing away; materials were endlessly recast and reconstituted between backdrop, costume, and installation. The effect was akin to camouflage; as the materials seeped and overlapped, sources disappeared. Following the rhythm and repetition of the anthropomorphic breathing curtain, Williams’ installation expanded and contracted personal and geographical orientations.