Collaboration, performance and theory are intertwined in ‘Certain Situations’ – the current exhibition at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA) by Agatha Gothe-Snape and Wrong Solo. The title of the show suggests a slippery ambiguity; which almost could be perceived of as an inside joke. Indeed; ‘certain situations’ is a phrase that each of us could hypothetically insert into the dialogue of our everyday life to explain a broad range of uncanny and peculiar instances – moments of encounter that perhaps we haven’t fully come to terms with yet.
Contemporary art almost always exists within the spectrum of an ambiguous sensibility. However most artists are defensive to this reality, ignoring it or are blissfully unaware that this slippage exists at all within their practice. Others; like Agatha Gothe-Snape; and Wrong Solo; actively lean into the uncomfortability present within this space, its shadows – doubt, precarity and uncertainty.
When I think of what frightens me in terms of global uncertainty, I think of incompetent democracies, unstable ecologies, growing automation and shrinking salaries, policies and rights. In light of all this; and indeed, it is almost fitting that, one solution to the gnawing anxieties of our times is to be present in the moment; and to perhaps share that moment with others, the interpersonal vulnerability here superseding individual insecurities. It is fitting then, that today in the attention-economy; devising performance work based on sincere interpersonal experiences is probably one of the most directly political acts possible.
Wrong Solo is an ongoing collaboration between Agatha Gothe-Snape and writer and performer Brian Fuata. Together for ‘Certain Situations’ they debut a major new work, Five Columns (2019), a collaboration with five interlocutors: Sonya Holowell, Ruark Lewis, Sarah Rodigari, Brooke Stamp, and Lizzie Thomson. The exhibition is comprised of a series of zones for conversational and performative logic between each contributor to the exhibition.
The way this plays out in the exhibition space begins in the gallery bookshop, where five coloured banners are installed representative of the Five Columns work. Moving into gallery space one, we meet a framed text-based work She’s Asleep (2019) then in the foreground two video-based works Interior Dialogue for Powerpoint (2019) and Agnes’ Gate (2019); these works speak to each other; and stand at eye level height perhaps to suggest a conversational logic. In the rear of the room is a small looped Powerpoint projection called Women Asleep Under A Tree (2019). Moving into gallery two there is a sculptural space consisting of vinyl-based work on the far wall I – V Reclining (2019), these texts compliment the centrepiece, an engaging green steel structure called The Five Calls (2019); here audience members can sit and listen to the sound work The Five Unknowables (Dialogue Version) (2019).
In gallery three the major new collaborative work for the exhibition Five Columns (2019) is revealed, Gothe-Snape’s studio space has been re-staged at the gallery, complete with lavender coloured walls and a royal blue carpet, this room gives the impression of a set or a stage; and is where the IMA has hosted a range of public programs for the exhibition, creating an authentic platform that further activates the space. Five screens hang in the centre of the second room of gallery three, as a glitchy sort of mise-en-scène each presenting a video that captures ten minutes of a day-long improvisation session featuring Fuata, Gothe-Snape, and one of their five collaborators (or columns) as they play out a range of performative exercises together. The exhibition is grounded in theory such as Kathy Acker’s text ‘Against Ordinary Language, the Language of the Body’, which is exhibited alongside notes and residue from the work in a glass vitrine in gallery three. In the last room viewers are given a space to rest, beanbags surface the floor of a final Powerpoint-based text work called Listening Exercise (2019), a fitting counterpoint to ‘Certain Situations’.
‘Certain Situations’ is curated by the Institute of Modern Art’s Madeleine King, beyond her extensive experience as Program Manager, then Assistant Director of the Institute – a background in fashion theory here further grounds King’s curatorial approach in relationship to broader interdisciplinary trajectories present in major themes in this exhibition.
Tess Maunder is a writer and curator, currently working between Australia, Asia and the United States.
Institute of Modern Art
Until 31 August 2019