Writer Lou Pardi put together this article in this weeks Beat Magazine about the Weapons of Mass Consumption exhibition. She interviewed Ms Louisa Marks, our 'young curator' who put this thought provoking and beautiful exhibition together. You can visit the article online at Beat Magazine, or please see below for the interview. Thanks to Lou Pardi at Beat Magazine for this.
Opportunities for young curators to formulate exhibitions are few and far between. Town Hall Gallery curator Mardi Nowak has given young curator Louisa Marks exactly that opportunity. Marks speaks with Beat about the experience.
Can you tell us about the Young Curator Project?
LM: “I have been working with Mardi since August last year as part of a Young Curator Mentorship at Boroondara's Town Hall Gallery to implement an exhibition in July as part of the annual program. She has done a lot of work previously with many young and emerging artists and that's always been a focus of her curatorial program. This, however, is the first time Mardi has mentored a young curator and given someone the opportunity to curate their own exhibition from concept to practical installation and display. She offered to put me in the program and I jumped at the chance.”
What does this opportunity mean to you?
“This project has given me valuable experience as a curator as I have been provided with the opportunity to design and deliver an exhibition under the guidance of a highly experienced curator. There are not many public institutions in Australia that offer a relatively inexperienced curator the chance of a mentorship and to actually have creative control and management of their own exhibition. I undertook a Masters of Curatorship at the University of Melbourne and while they facilitated internships, which was very helpful, it was almost impossible to find the opportunity to get curatorial work experience in an Australian public art institution despite good efforts and even doing freelance work as an arts writer. I am really thankful for Mardi's willingness to try something new, let a young graduate have a go and give young people opportunities like this one because it really is uncommon in this field. Mardi is definitely a leader and I do hope to follow in her shoes if I ever work as a professional curator.”
How did the concept for the exhibition, Weapons of Mass Consumption , come about?
“The concept was conceived through discussions with Mardi Nowak. I have always been interested in art that addresses current and topical social issues; many of these issues stem from our consumerist nature so selecting consumerism as an exhibition concept was a natural decision. Finally, the dialogue between the handmade and the mass-made has always been a discourse that I have found interesting; this is something that's been explored in art since the ‘60s with Warhol with brand domination – Campbell soup cans and Brillo pad boxes, not to mention screen printing which pointed to the new printing technologies to produce images repeatedly as posters or newspaper pages – an essential technology that drives mass production.
Consumerism is even more consistent and dominant these days though, with product placement in movies, music clips and even TV shows likeMasterchef. This exhibition does not seek to label consumerism as good or bad; and this ambivalence is definitely present in the exhibition. Weapons of Mass Consumption comes out of my desire for more challenging social and political thematical exhibitions. I don't see that many group shows doing that but I do see artists doing it.”
How did you go about connecting with the artists?
“Some of the artists I approached because I knew they were critically engaged with these ideas in their practice. We also did a ‘call out’ and received some fantastic submissions, which resulted in many of the interstate artists being involved including Peter Zylstra, Emma-Lee Crane and Karla Marchesi. There are many other Melbourne artists too and a Chinese artist Huang Xu whom I became acquainted with through some previous work at Arc One Gallery. He does incredibly beautiful photographic studies of plastic bags, seemingly weightless and suspended on inky black backgrounds. I find them quite sublime – but how can that be, they are plastic bags which are made and disposed of every second? There is a real contradiction there. I never think they're beautiful in real life.”
Can you tell us about a work in the exhibition that you find inspirational or that brings hope?
“All the works in the exhibition give me inspiration, but in terms of hope that's a little different. One of the artists, Ryan Foote, is showcasing an installation called Objects of Desire which involves acrylic, etched transparent boxes of recognisable products, rather their packaging, on shelves and plinths. There's an iPhone box, Macbook, cologne and a D&G shoebox. They are slick and beautiful but filled with scraps and offcuts left over from past artwork. I think they are the best example of that conflict with my own personal consumerist desires. It's more hope because there's that element of connectivity, that innate humanness to want material possessions.
“Another artist Daniel Kaplon has taken photographs of other people's graffiti messages in the streets Daniel has been documenting slogan graffiti over the past seven years – there is a sense of hope, distinct from the negative perception of graffiti – in how it related to our freedom to communicate; whether it's the protest against a political leader or that written agitation against a brand (Nike) which could be perceived as humorous and somewhat refreshing in its profane, flippant dig at capitalisation. I find hope in the potential of individual voices to be heard through graffiti and then the common themes that can be there universally. I find it as liberating as the internet which is completely democratic. Forums for individual voices.”
Can you tell us about a work or works in the exhibition which you find challenging?
“I think works such as Karla Marchesi's photo-realist paintings from her Left Behind series are quite challenging; they are external views of houses with abandoned personal items and mounds of rubbish strewn over gardens or near train tracks. There is a way she's painted the refuse with such incredible detail and observation is challenging in what it presents to us; we could imagine this subject matter being presented photographically, but Karla has painted it and therefore it becomes more potent and thought-provoking.
Another work by Adam Cruickshank is an installation that is essentially a tube or knitting nancy of hundreds of metres of electrical cord, instead of wool, hung from the ceiling. One end has a plug and at the other between metres and metres of plastic and metal cord is a light bulb. It's looking at technology but in quite an ironical and humorous way. The threads and wool have been usurped by the electrical cord; the hand-made makes way for the mass-produced. Adam had a previous exhibition at Craft Victoria, Reverse Cargo, in which he transformed mass-made Ikea objects into hand-made, highly crafted works. He definitely presents challenges to the viewer in terms of contemplating the systems of contemporary culture.”
Weapons of Mass Consumption is on until 31 July.