Tape Projects and Six_a
19–21 August 2010
The opening of Lazy Slum at Blindside coincided with the Nicholas Building’s annual open studio event. Lazy Slum, a collaboration between Melbourne collective Tape Projects and Hobart group Six_a was described by Blindside as a ‘cross-disciplinary experiment in what happens when you build a society from scratch’.1 The three-day event started at the entrance with an imported form of cultural hegemony: tourist visas and workers’ permits, paperwork and kindly-worded requests were handed out by the ‘President of Tourism’ at the door to those keen to take part in this fleeting experiment. This social game was a sign of the immediate formation of matrix-like relationships of power that determined participants from the moment they were ‘granted entry’.
While seeking to create an exhibition that represents and questions the way different global cultures gather information, Lazy Slum immediately provided the kind of gallery experience that created a divided cohabitation between the visiting public, the resident artists, and those willing to briefly engage in Lazy Slum. A curious construction resulted, creating a palpable tension between agency, innocence and observation. The activities carried-out: sewing, cooking, discussion, crafting and recording, facilitated the interaction between those attending the gallery at any one time. Both a dystopian and utopian environment was achieved, inclusive of all wilful inhabitants, which served to emphasise the divide between the producers and the consumers of the work. What resulted was a sense of alienation for participants, who could only submit to the ritual processes artificially manufactured for the exhibition, suggesting a parallel between bureaucracy and other more archaic forms of empowerment.
The collaboration between Tape Projects, a group who emphasise hybrid forms of art practice and site-specific events, and group Six_a, who promote fresh process-driven work, developed around the themes of order, colonisation and global cultural practices.2 Participating artists wore and continuously quilted mutant patchwork Snuggies throughout the event, while attempting to reuse and remodel pocket refuse in a literal representation of trash appreciation. Meanwhile, the inclusion of VL-1 Casiotone synthesisers and the stench of toasted sandwiches added to the sensory engagement in Blindside’s seventh-floor space. The project was recorded and the video replayed as it unfolded, emphasising a constant theme of the exhibition — the reflexive lessoning of modernity — as it monitored present action by constantly representing the past. In contrast to this, the hyperlinked Oracle, Tape Projects alumna Lee Anantawat appearing on Skype from Bangkok, manipulated the atmosphere of the space, monitoring Lazy Slum from an distant location. This aspect would have been more impressive were she not confined to the screen of a MacBook Pro: the by-now everyday experience of VoIP calling was strangely détourned within the Lazy Slum paradigm.
The Gore-tex tunnel that led to the Oracle proved the most exciting aspect of the exhibition, acting as a connection to another place and providing a sense of exteriority that made the exhibition more than just a comment on Australian cultural security. The potential to encapsulate social interactions as an element of the project recalled the kind of control the spectator was subjected to at recent institutional exhibitions, such as the fair-like Embedded Art (2009) at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. While the presentation of social practices within the isolated space of the gallery is often criticised, the investigation into socio-cultural norms as art practice sets up the paradoxical relationship that ‘we effectively -become something by pretending that we already are’.3 The resulting conflation of ideas, however, ended up approaching the reinforcement of the cultural institutions that Lazy Slum sought to criticise. As such, a particularly Agambenian zone was produced by Lazy Slum, under the microscopy of Blindside’s ‘white cube’. This study of the social game ultimately left the onus on the public, for better or worse, to connect the tropes.
Giles Simon Fielke is a writer and no-practice artist from Melbourne.