The defining legacy of Katthy Cavaliere is her unflinching self-reflection, using her artworks to tell an authentic story of her life. From the construction of her childhood bedroom in katthy’s room (1998) – and the achingly painful performance, story of a girl (1999), where she gives away all those childhood things – to empty stockings: full of love (2010) where she remembers her recently departed mother in a ritual to memory and love.
‘The Suspended Moment: The Katthy Cavaliere Fellowship’ was devised to remember Cavaliere’s own legacy (1972-2012) while giving opportunities to three women-identifying artists, from early career to established. ‘There was money left over from the sale of the property, the two executors, who were close friends of hers, had asked me to come up with a proposal for how we would spend that money in an opportunity in Katthy’s name,’ curator of the posthumous retrospective survey exhibition, ‘Katthy Cavaliere: Loved’ (and close friend of the artist) Daniel Mudie Cunningham shares.
In partnership with Carriageworks (Sydney), Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) (Melbourne), and Mona – Museum of Old and New Art (Hobart), the estate of Katthy Cavaliere awarded $100,000 each to three performance and installation artists to realise an ambitious new work at each of the galleries. Frances Barrett, Giselle Stanborough and Sally Rees were announced as the winners of the fellowships, after over 300 applications were judged by Daniel Mudie Cunningham (Director of Programs, Carriageworks), David Walsh (Founder, Mona) and Nicole Durling (Co-Director of Exhibitions and Collections and Senior Curator, Mona), Max Delany (Director, ACCA) and Annika Kristensen (Senior Curator, ACCA).
When Nicole Durling handed David Walsh the shortlist of proposals, there was one that stood out straight away. ‘He just homed in on the word crone, and he thought that was incredibly brave of a female artist to identify with,’ Durling explains. Sally Rees takes the ugly metaphor that describes older women as crones and reclaims it. ‘There is a recent history in Australian politics, of women who do not quietly comply with the status quo, being referred to as witches,’ Rees adds. ‘To call a woman an old crone is supposed to be an insult, but I want it to become a badge of pride.’
At Mona, ‘CRONE’ is an installation that extends the metaphor in a media-based exploration into ‘Crone-dome.’ A multi-sided projection of Rees and her mother as the Crone and the Mother Crone (the pinnacle of Croneness) greets you in the space. Upon entry, seventeen monitors of different sizes play intimate, hand-drawn animations of Rees’ Crone Flock. ‘They are placed in a circular haphazard way in the gallery space around a central crone,’ Durling shares. ‘They are calling to each other and to Sally.’
Rees and Cavaliere are united through their exploration of the autobiography. ‘We both demonstrate mutable boundaries around our public and private personas that are an integral part of the work’s energy and connectivity; it’s an I’ll show you mine if you show me yours approach. When I discovered [Cavaliere’s] work as an undergrad art student in the 90s it was like a permission to continue,’ the Hobart-based artist explains.
At the time, Walsh was unaware that he had picked a local artist. This fortuitous choice allowed Rees to realise her dream artwork of walking from the top of kunanyi / Mount Wellington to the gallery, dressed as the Crone, on her 50th birthday. ‘I wanted to create an image that offset these predictions of vulnerability with someone instead who is resilient, wise, compassionate, unruly and even possibly somewhat transgressive and fearsome,’ Rees adds.
At ACCA, the galleries will be transformed into bodily canals as a space for listening in a de-centred experience for Frances Barrett’s exploration of ‘Meatus’. ‘I’m imagining ACCA as a meatus that the audience can enter,’ Barrett shares. ‘Encompassing sonic and light work that you enter into – thinking about the installation as a staging of the body, an expanded abstracted form of the body.’
Once the Sydney-based artist realised she would have the whole of ACCA (complete with four individual galleries), she decided to extend her prize to five of sound-based performance artists. ACCA curator Annika Kristensen likened this to the tenderness seen in Cavaliere’s practice. ‘Her methodology often explores ideas around care and friendship,’ the curator shares. Barrett has extended this to herself: ‘It’s a very personal work, and when you hear the sounds in the room it will be quite affecting – this is the first time I’ve developed a work that is evocative of the emotional body.’
In the first space, Barrett presents her collaboration with Brian Fuata and Hayley Forward in a sound piece that also includes a series of live performances – the room will be covered in plum-coloured carpets and a simple installation with speakers. In the other three galleries, Barrett has commissioned individual artworks by Del Lumanta, Nina Buchanan, and Sione Teumohenga who will develop on ‘Meatus’ – thinking about the expanded body, practices of sound and listening within the context of the gallery.
At Carriageworks, Sydney-based artist Giselle Stanborough presents ‘Cinopticon’; inviting the viewer to consider the links between social media and surveillance capitalism through Michel Foucault’s theories on the panopticon. In the vast, voluminous gallery, a roaming spotlight sets the stage for the exhibition. Continuing through the space, a well reflects the biometrics of surveillance technology, and the duality of social media as market research takes place via a two-way mirror.
‘[The spotlight] forms this idea of our relationship with social media or the powerful gazes as both the searching ominous spotlight that is the cliché of 20th century oppressive regimes, but also [through a] theatricalised spotlight that invites a playful perform activity,’ Stanborough explains.
Lofty and grand ideas are explored in the three exhibitions, but they all return to performances within the surveillance world, community relational art, and how the body performs ‘self’. It’s interesting to consider these ideas in relation to Cavaliere’s practice. The late artist was determined to record her daily life to understand the world and herself. As such, when we contemplate the works by each of the three artists, we can see the lasting effects from Cavaliere’s performance of the self and the body.
Emma-Kate Wilson is a Sydney-based arts writer.
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
Mona – Museum of Old and New Art