Publication designed by Maria Smit, double sided 2 colour A2 Poster folded down to A5
Speculative Everything began as an investigation into the occupancy of histories; the insertion of contemporary artists’ own agendas and readings into the chronology of the past. The exhibition draws four artists and collectives into this fertile territory in an attempt to disrupt the temporality and linearity of what has come before.
Andrew Hazewinkel, Stella Rosa McDonald, SLUSH and nova Milne turn their attention to discrete and particular pasts. Each focuses on an aspect of the art canon; from ballet to abstraction, renaissance to contemporary art. What unfurls is a dialogue between history and present that is played out in the tension between materials and temporalities.
The artists in Speculative Everything occupy histories that are full of holes. McDonald’s works meditate on Australian artist Ian Fairweather’s infamous voyage from Darwin to Timor on a raft, a feat that has come to define him publicly and personally. Hazewinkel’s 12 Figures [after Niccolo]: Studies in collective anxiety remodels an authorless copy of a Donatello’s bust of Niccolo da Uzzano into a dozen fractured multiples. Both occupy gaps in time, a 16 day raft journey, an artist missing and mistaken for dead, to a dated but authorless copy of a centuries old sculpture. Absence is felt poignantly in nova Milne’s Jeté (Movement Study) 1963 / 1965 / 2014 and SLUSH’s Confronting Fear / It's Only Red, Yellow and Blue (after Julian Dashper). nova Milne have rechoreographed a duet of two male ballerinas who were intermittent lovers for 25 years — the late Erik Bruhn and Rudolph Nureyev — from footage of two televised performances of Swan Lake. Erik Bruhn tragically died of AIDS in 1986. Jeté becomes a posthumous dance between the lovers across two different times. In similar gesture of posthumous homage, SLUSH have reinstalled the work Untitled (I'm afraid of red, yellow and blue) by the late Julian Dashper onto the walls of Firstdraft. Before the exhibition opened to the public, SLUSH gently sanded the three primary coloured dots back to the white of the wall. The hardened paint pigment is returned to a powdered, temporal dust existing as a marker of physical absence.
Hazewinkel’s 12 Niccolos were cast off a plaster bust dated 1885. They exist in an unknowable, countless chronology of copies. For each of his 12 iterations, Hazewinkel disrupts the symmetry of the original form by shifting the two halves of the cast at the seam. Two sides rub against each other like a fault line. This slippage draws attention to an inherent fraction, the dislocation of materials and times. The dancers in Jeté are similarly fractured; at once displaced and together, they tangentially move across years, suspended in screen and time. A parallel feeling of suspension is evoked in Sixteen Days At Sea (three hundred and eighty-four cubes of Reckitt’s Blue laundry powder). McDonald depicts a moment of evanescence and endless potential, which Fairweather’s passage provided, as he drifted between lands. Julian Dashper’s work takes Barrett Newman’s abstract series of paintings Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue as a direct question and answers it in his own title: (I'm afraid of red, yellow and blue). Into this dialogue of playful appropriation enter SLUSH. Here, the collective have transplanted the medium of painting into digital media and translated the painted primary colours into a highly saturated digital depiction of magenta, cyan and yellow. These monochrome screens gradually transform into imagery and sound derivative of spiritual, self-help videos; a shift from the purist abstraction and SLUSH’s answer to Daspher’s fear of colour.
Ian Fairweather’s history is full of speculation. His is a waterlogged history, of things shifting and drifting, threatening to dissolve entirely, as unstable and deteriorating as the materials he chose to work with. He favored unremarkable household materials to make his work; newspapers, cardboard, bleach which he would use as a substitute for blue pigment. They lend his work a sense of impermanence. Drawn to the parallels between his personal life and his ephemeral works, McDonald enters into Fairweather’s soluble history. In Sixteen Days At Sea McDonald maps the edges of the gallery wall with cubes of Reckitt’s bright blue bleach, one for each hour that Fairweather was at sea. McDonald’s physical tracing of time and material distils his journey into a frozen moment in history. SLUSH have transferred the primary colours of Newman and Dashper into immaterial objects; dust, light, video, sound. This material instability extends into nova Milne’s delicate collaging of archival film from the 1960’s into a digital animation. The inevitable erosion of grainy footage suggests the delicacy of this duet. Similarly delicate, Hazewinkel’s floating busts appear suspended in the space, balanced on intricate pedestals antithetical to the weight and gravity of their singular original marble origins.
For each of the artists in Speculative Everything, historical and personal histories coalesce. Time is rearranged as the past is rewritten. Together, the works speak of the mutability of chronology, inconsistencies of temporality, and the discordance of history itself.
This publication and exhibition were supported through the Firstdraft Emerging Curators Program.