Copyright Leon Goh, Malmo & Who Am Eye 2009
Studio 12 Exhibition
The po lice a re the public 2008
The pub lic a re the police 2008
Pat Foster & Jen Berean seek to explore decay and erasure, aesthetisising the very act of destruction by producing a dramatically slick and considered outcome.
Hung on the back wall in the intensely lit space of Studio 12, The public are the police is a black and white picture of three pubescent teens in a moment of drunken embrace. It could have been taken during their eleventh round of drinks by a mobile phone camera digitally documenting a celebratory pause in a night of intense boozing. In between the picture and the glass that encases it, beer bottle labels are stuck facing in, only leaving the viewer with a shiny silhouette of their silver underside. It is as if we are allowed to peer into a moment of stasis, unaware and unable to discern what is about to happen. The possibility of uncontrollable damage and violence imbues the work with a sense of foreboding tension. It can be read as a work in a predamaged state exploring how social behaviour can influence physical form. Ready to be smashed and broken from the inside out by its totally inebriated and carefree subjects.
Haphazardly strewn across the floor, miniscule shards of broken window glass and remnants of smashed beer bottles create unrecognisable scatter patterns of urban refuse. Bordered by a three-panel see through room divider, which acts as a visible yet fruitless attempt to serve its intended purpose, The police are the public becomes a rumination into the way in which urban decay and detritus can create a threatening physical environment. The materiality of the work is foregrounded and overt as glass is both symbolically strong yet physically vulnerable. But there is no narrative here between the two works; no before and after. Instead the works are an amalgamation of object, cause and effect exploring the psychological and physical barriers that attempt to demarcate public and private space1 – spaces which are becoming increasingly contested.
Our everyday experiences are often predicated on the opposition between destruction and re-generation – moments in time which lead to a dramatic shift in our physical surroundings erasing what was previously known to be now unknown. In the face of this, we often glaze over such moments, instead yearning for equilibrium to be maintained. Does decay have an air of inevitability about it existing only as an endpoint within an enclosed dialectical loop between erasure and repair?
The act of destruction is in itself something that is often never fully. At its very base level, this is where trouble emerges, affecting and changing our urban fabric in a public and intensely visceral display. By distilling this uncontrollability into something that is heavily stylised, the works The public are the police and The police are the public both empty out the agency that this destructive action possesses, exploring how our ways of being are controlled and governed by our immediate physical surroundings.
Referencing the urban-sociological strategy called “Fixing Broken Windows”2 which revolved around the notion that the removal and erasure of the physical evidence of crime – graffiti, urban detritus and broken windows for example – would result in a decrease in more serious crime, Pat&Jen investigate how the idea of ‘prevention through repair’ is heavily embedded with mechanisms of power. Echoing Foucault’s notion of an all seeing eye, this strategy imposes defined power relations onto the individual through cleanliness and urban design rendering our shared social spaces into tightly controlled sites.
Copyright of Leon Goh & Gertrude St 2008
1 Discussion with the artists, 3rd July 2008
2 “Fixing Broken Windows” is an urban-sociological strategy devised by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. It has been implemented across various cities in America including New York and San Francisco.
Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance: Propositions towards urban (r)evolution
Featuring works by: Paul J. Kalemba, Marc De Jong, Van Thanh Rudd and Tom Civil
Curated by Paul J. Kalemba
6 March 2009 – 28 March 2009
Acronyms such as GFC, GDP and CPI are appearing in profuse numbers, signifiers of the impending financial crisis that is supposed to affect us all. Has this economic discourse of doom and gloom diverted attention from the need the need for socially engaged, witty and artistic commentary on other political issues such as social justice and climate change? Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance: Propositions towards urban (r)evolution, curated by Paul J. Kalemba, suggests otherwise, proposing various possibilities for a real and effective critique on our social condition.
Marc De Jong’s work Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance successfully highlights local attitudes toward our contemporary situation. Referencing text-based conceptual art, de Jong appropriated cringe-worthy Aussie vernacular speech that reinforces some semblance of a national identity and community. Phrases such as ‘See yuz later’ and ‘sweetaz’ are given the form of green road signs. They flag the humour and attitudes inherent in signifiers found in xenophobic rants against a perceived ‘other’, and heard for example, in current affairs. Situated in the brightly lit and uninhibited void of their display case, De Jong’s road sign clichés, conveyed in tones of unapologetic statements— portray a local mythologised sense of self.
Also employing a similar in-your-face strategy, Van Thanh Rudd’s work Economy of Movement – A Piece of Palestine displayed a small grey-brown stone in front of two framed, vibrant blue text plaques, designed to look suspiciously like Connex literature. One of the plaques read, ‘The stone exhibited is from East Jerusalem, Israel (Occupied Palestinian Territory). It was thrown at an Israeli Defence Force Tank (IDF) by a Palestinian Youth’. By employing a classical institutional display technique and presenting the rock as a rarefied art object, Van’s work is an act of subversion, reinforcing its emblematic significance as an authoritative document of defiant uprising. There is a sense of immediacy in the simplicity of the work, which also acts as a comment on our apathy in engaging critically with global events.
Paul J. Kalemba created a number of clever works that critiqued the lack of social responsibility of corporations. Beyond Petroleum referenced the strategic marketing changes made implemented by oil company BP to appease public concern on climate change — a ‘green’ image aimed at appeasing the average consumer’s media-fuelled concern over climate change. Arts activism on a DIY scale, Kalemba cheekily subverts this corporate dishonesty with jars of colourfully preserved fruits; a proposition for a kaleidoscopic utopian future where cyclists are the majority and the common cause takes precedence over rampant individualism and gas guzzling SUV’s.
Whilst exhibitions at PLATFORM can appear to lack thematic consistency due to the display box nature of the space, exaggerated in this instance by the broad sweep of topics that were addressed by the artists, what Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance successfully achieved was recognition of the need for daily acts of social and political engagement. With our existence becoming increasingly framed by a sense of apathetic stupor and fear-inducing media headlines, Resisting Subversion was the non-financial stimulus package that we all needed.
Copyright Leon Goh and UnMagazine 2009
 Connex’s parent company Veolia is currently building a light rail network through disputed land in East Jerusalem.