Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance: Propositions towards urban (r)evolution (Review in UnMagazine 3.1 2009)

Marc de Jong 2009

Marc de Jong 2009

Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance: Propositions towards urban (r)evolution

PLATFORM

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’.[1] 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



[1] Connex’s parent company Veolia is currently building a light rail network through disputed land in East Jerusalem.

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