Ying Colosseum, Natasha Madden + art shows imagined elsewhere

, 16 December 2016

After the death of the theatre and the market takeover of the museum all that was left was a wasteland. This wasteland will be better. This wasteland will be easier. This wasteland will be open. This wasteland is for everyone. What did they find there? They found non-binary performative formats. What else did they find there? They found art was there too. Then, turning their bodies, they talked about a system as if it was a ready-made. This mediated zone of non-art. A DJ set in graveyard, busted up. A poetry-reading in a Turkish bakery. Maps made up of trillions upon trillions of pixels. Aerial views. GPS.

“it’s 2:33am here and I’m going to bed now”, writes Natasha Madden.

The line above is from Facebook. I read it as I leave for Ying Colosseum’s penultimate art gathering, a party-like event in Berlin, announced online with an artist list. Their exhibition title: Rave. The immediacy of Madden’s real time status update is in contrast to their actual time and place. Madden will not be there. They are one-day ahead, in Melbourne. To address this physical separation (and to participate in a project on the other side of the planet), Madden uploads a short film, entitled ‘Bush Doof’, to Ying Colosseum’s event page. The film’s opening credits (also translated into German) reads as follows:

“On the 6th of November 2016, Ying Collective are holding an exhibition in a DIY music venue in Berlin, called West Germany. They have invited me to participate in the show.”

“On the 6th of November 2016, I am attending a country fair in my hometown called the Whittlesea Show. This film includes documentation of my time in the outer-northern suburbs of Victoria.”

“This footage was recorded on the stolen and colonised land of the Wurundjeri Willum people of the Kulin Nation.”

Filmed and shared on the same day, Madden’s ‘Bush Doof,’ depicts a wasteland that is ‘cartographically’ similar to the wasteland used by Ying Colosseum — both take place in sites outside of the gallery context — but Madden’s wasteland is a land wasted long ago, ‘stolen’ and ‘colonised,’ a mirage called ‘Australia.’ For Ying Colosseum, theirs is a wasteland of quasi accessible markets and open borders, of going anywhere, taking anything, and surface connection. Are these activities the subconscious effects of long-term globalisation; traits based on technical mobility, power and privilege? For Ying Colosseum, navigating and evaluating the impact of their respective exhibitions has been a self-critical sticking point, in so far as their part-interventionist, part-engagement strategy has evolved since the first volumes in 2015: some of their exhibitions appeared without notice, others after building understanding with the one-night-only host.

In contrast, Madden’s wasteland of local territories is somewhere specific and personal. In ‘Bush Doof’, their highway journey and small town arrival is inevitably framed by the problematic of an all-white-Australia, and of a dominant culture where the presence and experiences of trans-queer bodies are frequently out of view or, worse still, erased. Reflecting these power conditions, their return to the wasteland to ‘make art’ is intentionally low-key and low-impact. In the film, they cut between day and night, filming and being filmed, and switching between documenting the activities of a country fair/going to McDonald’s. Furthermore, the film’s unspoken dialogue (reflecting Madden’s ongoing research into questions of body) is based on close-ups of signs, book titles and award categories. Often lasting mere seconds, these text-based selections include poem-like utterances: “Lost Children”, “Are you a good person” and “The Body Adventure”.

In the weeks following Ying Colosseum’s night-club gathering (in effect its final offline gesture before announcing in Volume 13 that the part-artistic, part-curatorial project will become “open source”), Madden uploaded to Facebook a series of unedited previews (or PS4 shares) for their upcoming new work (a project two-years in the making), entitled Final Form. Exporting gamer action from Fallout 4, an open-world role-play video game by Interplay Entertainment, the key narrative of the unedited previews is the construction of a blown-out art gallery with curated artworks installed using Fallout 4’s database of visual (art) miscellany. By sheer coincidence, Madden’s gamer exhibition appears to follow a key wasteland logic of many a Ying Colosseum: art exhibitions imagined and installed elsewhere.

Aside from following Madden’s various online uploads and their various invitations/collaborations with, for instance, Centre for Style, Rare Candy, Info-Punkt and Wet Kiss, my immediate interest in these teaser uploads (and its connection to Ying Colosseum) is how Madden’s online art production pairs up with my own experience of seeing art everywhere and anywhere but the gallery system. The obvious next question: is this really anti- art establishment? I’m not sure, but we are for sure entering a time when self-organisation and self-built spaces are coming back (and perhaps more urgently). And just as we have seen artists feeding off social media conglomerates to organise and distribute their respective projects, maybe we will also see the same artists moving off these very platforms, as they consider their cultural, social and environmental impacts/values as art believing humans.**

Natasha Madden’s ‘Final Form Part 1’ was uploaded Vimeo on December 8, 2016. The complete work will be released next year. See artist’s tumblr for details.  

Header: Natasha Madden, ‘Final Form Part 1’ (2015-ongoing). Video still. Courtesy the artist.