Artist: Nunzio Madden
Curator: Olivia Koh
Nunzio Madden’s video work, Bush Doof (2019) begins with a voicemail. The call contains the details of an accident – a child has fallen off the back of a tractor driven by their dad. The caller, the dad, is ringing to apologise and tells the artist, the child who fell off years ago, that ‘I was just trying to have a bit of fun.’
I watch Bush Doof on recesspresents.art, where curator Olivia Koh from Recess, a platform for experimental and emerging video art, worked with ACE Open to deliver an online group show from May to July 2020, during Australia’s nation-wide lockdown. Ten video works were made available over the course of the exhibition, with a new work and accompanying text going live each week. Koh describes a recess as a ‘suspension of time ... a space connected to but apart from the rest,’ a description that could just as easily be about the Internet. Perhaps this is why the works presented lend themselves so easily to an online format, because they too sit in a space between.
Bush Doof documents Madden’s experience of revisiting the Whittlesea Show, a country fair they have attended every year since they were a child. The first iteration of the work was created in 2016 for a group show with the German-based Ying Collective, where the artist responded to the theme of rave culture.1 In 2019 Madden documented the Whittlesea Show again, creating a second part for the work which, alongside a revised edit, was shown with Recess at HOBIENNALE (2019).
Shot on a handheld iPhone, Bush Doof’s aesthetic is unfiltered and immediate. A close-up clip of a cricket club’s group photo is quickly replaced by a clip of a person walking through the streets of a country town at night. This intersection of night and day established Part One as a meeting place for two spaces, the internal night-time space and the external day-time space. The daytime footage documents the Whittlesea Show, with characteristic elements of a country fair captured, like prize-winning cardigans, wood chopping and children’s artwork. The night-time footage is primarily of the artist moving through the quiet streets of the town, illuminated by the torch of the iPhone recording them. The immediacy of Part One is amplified by Madden’s slowed down cover of Delirium’s ‘Silence’, which spans the length of Part One. It is as though each clip is coming from the present moment in time it was shot in; as though it is being seen for the first time by us, the viewer.
Multiple perspectives of prize-winning roses, wrestling competitions and even more children’s artwork are placed side by side in a split screen in Part Two. No longer confined to the single clip, it is three years later and Madden’s editing style and approach has shifted, though the Whittlesea Show remains the same. This shift, though evident in the singular focus on the daytime space of the country fair, is embodied most decidedly in Madden’s use of audio, which is layered and extended over footage to transform the clips it is paired with. Footage of Madden moving through the fair takes on new meaning when accompanied by a mashup of Disney songs performed on the main stage of the fair. One such moment, where a helicopter flight and the chorus of Frozen’s inescapable ‘Let it go’ have been paired together, bleeds of a type of joy that is simultaneously pure and ironic.
This juxtaposition of audio and image runs throughout Bush Doof. It is first introduced in the pairing of the voicemail with a blank screen at the very beginning, carried on in Part One through Maddens’ cover of ‘Silence’ and the oscillating footage of night and day, and further enunciated in Part Two through the pairing of the Disney mash-up with layered shots of the Whittlesea Show. In doing so, Madden creates new associations, drawing out new meanings. A prize-winning rose is no longer just a rose, and a Disney song is no longer just a song — in Bush Doof the two meet somewhere in the middle. In this, Madden creates an in-between space, one where image and audio interact. And it is here, in this space, that the crux of Bush Doof lies.
In her text accompanying the work, Sally Olds describes a bush doof as ‘rave’s horizon’, a phrase that alludes to the horizon as one of between-ness, a space where night meets day, where the private can meet the public, and where worlds can collide. Madden takes us to this space, in the Whittlesea Show, and holds us there through the juxtaposition of audio and image. It is an exciting feeling, in a world that can often feel divided, to instead be held by Bush Doof in the space between.
Alice Watson is a writer/artist interested in the liminal space of memory.