Exhibition: very beautiful chemicals that produce very stylish results in people's mental functions
Artists: Edward Dean & Brayden van Meurs
the following document is a letter from poet daniel ward written to Edward Dean and Brayden Van Meurs in response to their current exhibition very beautiful chemicals that produce very stylish results in people's mental functions showing at Asbestos from 13-29 May 2023.
Edward and Brayden,
i very much enjoyed dinner. the soup was perfectly sized as was the one pint of Guinness taken around the corner shortly afterwards. while walking home through burnt leaves draped against burnt fences, sanded and lived, i thought a letter might be a more considered or a more convenient way of articulating my thoughts on your display. know that i have been given little room.
the show. when we speak next i would certainly love to talk more about the structural and critical influence of the artworks and how they parallel someone like Kienholz, as you mentioned, or the inundated lineage of collage and found text that runs through you both from the likes of Schwitters. or perhaps we could speak more to the spatial confidence one might glean from Vostell. but i am fearful of leaving the room. and i know little of their work. but no matter.
i want to start at the gate of Asbestos, because the gate was very important as was the long weatherboard wall that ran half the length of the backyard, obscuring the enclosed domestic diorama. what horror you offered us through rifts of familiar materials and fittings. right now i am rewatching a video i recorded through the cracks in the wood: a saw blade tears through a pressed and stained tablecloth threatening two plates of raw organs. albeit your offering of a distorted sensibility and limited view, the room holds a dishevelled loneliness, dimly lit in golden second-hand light.
the gallery space adjacent continued these linear consistencies, as wooden planks leaned and hung as the rotting teeth of our young city. it is difficult to understand what role you have played in augmenting the surface of this timber, with each piece alternative realities present themselves across the white washed walls. we could assume these planks were once part of structures built perhaps sometime in the last 150 years, roughly two lifetimes after the deep heritage of this country was decimated for our conveniences and specificities. i believe these works operate in the anxious reverberation of this reality. indeed it is in this context in which the painted union jack fades at the head of the two wooden windmills standing three metres high in the yard of this spacious rental property. Sasha and Vince1 suggest that the artworks are celebrating an ‘Australiana’ aesthetic. if it is nostalgia you’ve tried providing here it is certainly not a joyful one. the works seem more paranoid than this. rather than being pulled into memory i find the works demand of me an acutely present state, which Sasha and Vince concur. as the heavy materials of our demolished nostalgia are discarded to suburban tip shops (where you then do your shopping) what new materials replace them today to carry the colonial project forward?
conveniently, that question answered itself when i exited the gallery to the feet of a newborn inner city garden bed below a polystyrene monolith of an opportunistic subdivision towering in the petite laneway. probably looking similar to what Meow Gallery will soon look like as they hand their keys reluctantly to its new property developers. did you know my girlfriend’s Nokia 8210 is still trapped beneath the floorboards of Meow? there are some great photos on it. but like the weatherboards that you have modified, the phone too is now discarded. at the very least i am glad you have had the opportunity to use and i would add honour the fence post, the weatherboard, the horn, the key, the book, the otherwise piled heaving cemetery of unambitious shells. it is indeed a wooden plank’s destiny to live as a border until it winds up sitting empty and wilted as the decayed skeleton of redevelopment and laundering. one could probably even push that metaphor (although grimly) to the human body; lonely but loyal, lined up politely as it fully and wholeheartedly commits to its assigned duty. but this lumber in this show has been scouted and collected and fussed about and consulted and collaborated over – what wonderful conversations on the particulars of wood you must have had. we weren't able to get there, but i wish to next time. from what you have told me i understand your gleaning and material consideration to be grounded in intuition, chance and both meandering and dedicated explorations. dada etc. it is laboured, it is considered, it is inquisitive. it is generous too and that is the most striking part; the size of the show. art here adheres to the mode of carnival or theme park or shopping centre. something disguised as public space.
over dinner one of you, or perhaps both of you, spoke on the importance of the show's accessibility and its obviousness. ‘signifiers’ you said many times. but i wonder, while i agree that the maximalist entity was both successful and risky, i disagree with the sentiment that these works are any more accessible than let's say the kind of minimalism preoccupied with an international trajectory that sometimes flavours the walls of such backyard galleries, and which certainly in turn flavours our major institutions. i think the condescending position is actually to suggest that a non-art-adjacent audience cannot understand this mode of art, or any art for that matter, rather than to suggest the artist is being condescending by making something particular. perhaps i misunderstood your position. regardless, at the opening, the work's position felt welcoming and strange, as if a damp showground lined by whirling attractions, sweet wet smoke spraying across bright flood lights aimed at floating sediment and people.
predictably, i want to congratulate the audacity of the works in specific consideration of their time on show. where major institutions bear a particular kind of curatorial latency, Asbestos has temporality. i believe the show both taunts and celebrates this parameter. arguably, its grandiosity is revelatory. in trade i want to offer you both another metaphor here perhaps where we consider the life-span of something brief and intoxicating. a poppy – perhaps the most potent flower in both style and content – houses of course a ‘very beautiful chemical’ that ‘produce(s) very stylish results in people's mental function’. certainly, no matter its height, a poppy stands proud on saturday morning only to crumble (or disassemble) by tuesday afternoon. its height is forgotten, but the drug is just as smooth upon its death, lasting as long as it does. as hard as we try to keep these warm things around, to celebrate the time we have passed together, much like the rented home, things are discarded and redeveloped. a week earlier i was left alone and nearly drowned in that gallery. the wet blue and deep green glass of Alethea Everard’s exhibition held me stagnant for a good hour, and then the electricity cut off.2 Ed and Brayden, let me tell you, i stood there in the darkness of hard work and quick, brilliant, concise paintings. in the accidental rift, the slow intoxication of Alethea’s show echoed in dim blackness. i wish i could tell you that your exhibition shocked me as hard as this abrupt visual silence, but this was cosmic. your exhibition did however set a path for generous ruminations and i am grateful.
1. the ‘very beautiful chemicals that produce very stylish results in people's mental functions’ exhibition text was an interview between Vincent Le and Sasha Geyer2. here the letter speaks to Alethea Everard’s recent exhibition at Asbestos New Works on Board
daniel ward is a poet and musician. they are the editor of ‘no more poetry’, an independent publisher of poetry books and art magazines. daniel performs predominantly improvised music under the moniker bodies of divine infinite eternal spirit and is the drummer and guitar player for Wet Kiss.
un Projects’ Editor-in-Residence Program is supported by the City of Yarra, Creative Victoria and City of Melbourne
Editor: Carmen-Sibha Keiso