New11 @ ACCA, Melbourne

ACCA NEW11 002 - Shane HasemanWednesday, 16 March 2011

New11 @ ACCA, Melbourne

There’s an old Russian saying: everything new is well-forgotten old. This thought pulsated through my mind as I was walking through a recently opened exhibition at the ACCA. There was so much borrowing, so much recycling of old ideas, that I began questioning whether the exhibition’s title, New 11, was actually warranted.

It’s a worrying trend, especially since the artists that are profiled at these annual exhibitions are supposedly our youngest, brightest, and the most promising, guaranteed to become the favoured staple of contemporary art curators and collectors for at least the next five years. However, with one or two exceptions, there’s hardly a truly original idea among them. We have already seen so much of this earlier, beforehand, in other galleries, in other museums, in other artists’ spaces, that one begins to wonder whether there is an assumption that everyone suffers from some sort of a cultural amnesia, and that no one else, apart from curators and exhibiting artists, is supposed to know what happened in the history of art, whether in Australia or internationally, prior to entering the exhibition space.

ACCA NEW11 005 - Brendan van Hek

For, indeed, once you leave all your prior acquired knowledge at the gallery’s threshold, you would actually end up experiencing an entertaining and enjoyable exhibition – as I had done in the end.

The visitor is met at the entrance to the ACCA – and once again at the entrance to the exhibition space – but Tim Coster’s Umbrella, a sound installation of amplified street noises. You then proceed into Shane Haseman’s installation Lanterne Rouge, with brightly-coloured walls and a bicycle suspended on brightly-coloured MDF shards. From this bright cacophony you emerge into a contrastingly understated, cool, white, minimal space with an installation by Brendan van Hek, The Person who cried a million tears, with three oval mirrors, five glass panels with circular cut outs, and variously sized mirror balls spray-painted uniform white, the only light source in the room being a Dan Flavin-style neon tubes.

ACCA NEW11 007 - Justene WilliamsThe next room is filled with Justene Williams’ She came over singing…, an eleven channel video installation. Once the eyes get used to the fast-moving, pulsating, and brightly-coloured visions that surround the viewer from all four sides of the room, you slowly begin to distinguish in the videos two completely masked figures, dressed head to toe in closely resembling outfits, one in a suit of newspaper and magazine clippings, another in a similar suit of brightly-coloured geometric designs; both are almost lost within interiors that completely match their outfits, wrecking havoc within their respective environments. It is only then that the menacing retinal and aural onslaught gives way to a harmless, humorous, and entertaining voyeurism.

ACCA NEW11 010 - Greatest HitsThe next room contains one of the cutest things in the exhibition – aquae profundo by Gavin Bell, Jarrah de Kuijer and Simon McGlinn, moonlighting as a creative trio Greatest Hits: an ice carving of an alien displayed in a glass freezer, whose humorous, cartoon-like appearance and demeanour is worlds apart from Marc Quinn’s haunting ‘blood heads’.

There is also Dan Moynihan’s installation of a skeleton seated on a mound of sand under a plastic palm tree listening to a CD-player (how retro!) in a cylindrical enclosure with rainbow coloured walls; the artifice of the installation underscored by an adjacent fully equipped Ilya Kabakov-style utility closet.

ACCA NEW11 017 - Mark Hilton ACCA NEW11 019 - Mark Hilton (Detail)This leads us to perhaps the most striking and original, as well as the most disturbing  and haunting sculpture by Mark Hilton (in the room which contains other works by the artist, including three sump oil paintings on paper, and an exquisitely carved human bone). Fashioned in a shape of a mark on the outfits of colonial convicts, and resembling a melted Cricifix, the wall sculpture presents a macabre rendition of Jacques Callot’s The Hanging from The Miseries of War suite, or Francisco de Goya’s The Disasters of War.  A tree is growing from the human DNA, on the branches of which the “undesirable” elements of society are hung: mentally and physically disabled; homeless, elderly, obese, and infirm; women in burkas and indigenous chieftains; prostitutes, drug addicts, and pregnant teens; paedophiles and their victims; and there’s even a statuette of a guy in a military uniform hung while choking with a rope another guy whom he is sodomising. The edge of the ‘Cross’ is etched with jokes and one-liners about women, obese, drug addicts, etc. To my mind, this is perhaps the strongest, most outstanding, accomplished, and most politically and socially aware work within the exhibition that shows it is possible to quote from other artists and yet create one’s own iconic ideas, and develop one’s own unique iconographic language.

ACCA NEW11 021 - Mark Hilton

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

2 Responses to “New11 @ ACCA, Melbourne”

  1. 1 Mark Holsworth
    March 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I thought that it was more like, leading or big, rather than new. As you say there is a lot of similar stuff around but the artists at New11 were doing big examples of it. It is a very enjoyable and accessible exhibition (“accessible” in that we are all familiar with it). What I thought was really new in visual art was across the road – “Margaret Seaworthy Gothic” at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the Victorian College of the Arts.

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

March 2011


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