Monster Pop!

Monsters come in varying guises, the snake-headed woman, the giant at the end of the beanstalk, the bunyip in the creek, the boogeyman under the bed and the modern-day politician. ‘Monster Pop!’, an exhibition of contemporary Australian and Indonesian artists, embraces them all. A group exhibition, at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, it features thirteen artists, who find the idea of monsters, or the monstrous entering their works in different ways.

Chayni Henry, Tripitaka

A cross-cultural examination of all the creatures and creations lurking in the mind and popular culture, the exhibition mixes mediums and styles. There are traditional shadow puppets, an inflatable head sculpture, self-portraits, photographs and street art, all sitting side by side. Curators Andy Ewing and Fiona Carter had a strong vision of the artists and works they wanted to include. Ewing explains, “We had a clear idea for our initial proposal, but decided to hone it on our visit to Indonesia and let the Indonesian artists begin the discussion. We refined it to artists ‘exploring monsters and or the monstrous, be it political, emotional, psychoanalytical and/or literal, who also refer to popular culture.’ This way we could remain open in selecting works, and allow the exhibition to say many things.”

The pair wanted a mix of established and emerging artists and also wanted to spark a dialogue between the two countries, showcasing what links, and separates them. “There is an attention to the uneven distribution of resources, cultural traditions fading or changing or reigniting in the social media age,” says Ewing. “Australian artist Rodney Glick worked with traditional Balinese carvers, who usually do very fine Hindu deities. Rodney would show them photoshopped images of suburban people with six arms, like Kali Yuga, and work with them to realise the forms. Reko Rennie worked with 11 artists in Yogyakarta [for Warriors Come Out To Play], on an Asialink residency, to make a road trip video work, with an Indonesian punk soundtrack. Gender politics and queering identities are also common to both in this instance.”

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While Ewings has a soft spot for all of the works, there’s one that speaks to him, Indieguerillas’ animation Banyan Tree Lounge. Indieguerillas, made up of Yogyakarta artists, and couple Santi Ariestyowanti and Dyatmiko ‘Miko’ Bawono, attempt to revitalise a Javanese folk tale about ghosts under the Banyan Tree. “They designed these contemporary funky reinterpretations of ghosts and deities, and used a traditional music structure, but digitally made to sound contemporary, to reignite interest in stories that they feel are dying out in one generation, due to Indonesian young people’s interest in social media, says Ewing. “A kind of collective cultural amnesia is taking hold, and I like that contemporary artists are rising up to take that on.”

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT)
Until 14 February, 2016
Northern Territory

Chayni Henry, Tripitaka, 2013, acrylic on board
Photograph: Fiona Morrison
Courtesy the artist and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern
Territory, Darwin

Justin Shoulder, Pinky, 2013, photographic print on aluminium
Photograph: Jordan Graham
Courtesy the artist and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern
Territory, Darwin