Equated Dissonance, Curated by Clare Powell

Visual Bulk, Hobart, 6—8 April 2018

It begins with a piece of focaccia. Salty, still warm. I take a bite and walk around Equated Dissonance at Visual Bulk, a Hobart artist-run initiative space in what seems to have once been an old garage. All concrete, mortar, and dust. The gallery sheet informs me the show is a ‘temporary catharsis towards a queer orient amidst Hobart’s autumn-scape’. Assemblages and written artefacts. Conversations and cake.

 

It was a direct response to feelings of…

isolation on the island, and sought to

bring other queer creatives here to offer

creative and emotional support. [1]

 

Equated Dissonance, curated by Hobart-based artist Clare Powell is concerned with ‘queer bonds, non-normative kinships’. [2] The show features works by three Sydney-based practitioners—Ainslie Templeton, Mark Mailler and Kieran Bryant—alongside Powell. An Equated Dissonance Reader containing a collection of texts from queer artists and theorists accompanied the physical space of the show. I print it out and read through, before walking down to hear the artist talks on a Sunday afternoon. In the doorway on the way out, I admit to my housemate I didn’t understand much of it, despite underlining a copious amount of sentences and phrases. ‘That’s the point’, they said. Thinking through reading. Learning through listening. No less.

 

Equated Dissonance was a collective

and creative resistance against

heterocentric pleasure expectations and

the dominance of martially/monetarily

situated relationships. [3]

 

At Visual Bulk, I seat myself in an alcove where Ainslie Templeton’s video work Look Down (with Epilogue) (2017/18) is playing. I lick the salty focaccia off my fingers. I’m captivated. Toenails and heals. Ribbons and selfies in a flux of thinking, walking, feeling.

 

I think queerness is seen here most in

the vulnerability of the artists, the imaginative narratives

created by each artwork and the intentionally abstract

formations used to signify love and kinship,

rather than explicitly figure it. [4]

 

I email Templeton, wanting to ask for a list of shoes in Look Down (with Epilogue), that she shot on her iPhone over the course of a year. Instead, I ask for her thoughts on the work. Templeton responds: ‘I was thinking about looking, about footfalls, about leaving marks, “bonds” as the show prompt says, taking and giving’.

 

‘What does love want? Is it always discursive or sometimes outside of rational economies of getting and giving?’[5]

 

In the entranceway, Kieran Bryant’s two-channel video work w-a (the lamp)/w-a (the waves) (2018) is shown on two back-to-back screens that face opposing walls. My visit coincides with the afternoon tea and artist talks, so the audio is hard to hear. I stand up and watch the waves. Interior narratives and emotional landscapes. Hearts break. In an email, Bryant tells me he is interested in re-contextualising music videos and respective song lyrics by placing them alongside the writing by theorists such as Sara Ahmed and Anna T. The private made public and political. Waves and watery eyes.

 

I underlined words and phrases from @yungpueblo’s Instagram post on love [6] included in the Reader. A poem forms:

our minds break. feel their rupture deeply.

how deeply.

Stretched. and broken.

a love. without

expectations, knots and burdens.

allow space. and

flourish.

 

I serve myself a slice of fig teacake and a large dollop of cream that slops down the sides and onto my hands. I slink back into the gallery space and crouch before Mark Mailler’s work digested self (2018). Styrofoam and plaster. A glass half full. The opacity of what it is we feel. During the artist talk, Mailler mentions the idea of ignorant love. I’m too shy to ask questions—but I am curious—is all love ignorant, or is it lovers who are the ignorant? Words and language sometimes are a kind of failure. disguised use. Hearts packaged up in cardboard and chains. When did we become so fragile? Bubble wrap, screenshots and snap chats.

 

What is queer love anyway?

 

dissonance

/ˈdɪsənəns/ (say 'disuhnuhns)

noun 1. an inharmonious or harsh sound; discord.

2. Music a simultaneous combination of notes conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing resolution (opposed to consonance).

3. disagreement or incongruity.

Also, dissonancy. [7]

 

‘Queer histories are the histories of those who are willing to risk the consequences of deviation’. [8]

 

Language—how it is felt and meant—seems to be an underlying theme of the show. During the artist talks Kieran Bryant reads Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson love song lyrics; Templeton and Powell recite poems; and Mailler speaks about the Internet, images, ignorant love and texting their lovers. My mind flickers to Anna T.’s article The Opacity of Queer Language. I ruffle around in my bag, flip through the print out until I find the sentences I had underlined. Anna T. writes that queer slangs are ‘a form of creative resistance, a way of producing a parallel social space of expression whose existence might in some ways indirectly affect the mainstream as well, without being the primary concern or objective behind them’. They are a ‘refusal of complete silence’. [9]

 

in regards to queerness—i'll be brief here

(but can extend later)—i feel it's resistance towards expectations

(traditionally heterocentric pleasure expectations)

in ways that are embodied, intentional, inclusive yet

different—a point of difference, fearlessness,

ambiguity, exchange, and liberty. [10]

 

I think I need to go back to the beginning. I try replicating the focaccia in my own kitchen but it comes out of the oven hard and dry. I turn to the introduction to Queer, Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art. David J. Getsy writes: ‘sites of resistance, resilience, dissent and immoderation appear everywhere as possibilities for rebellion, for connection and for solidarity’ within queer artists’ work [11]. I soon realise I can only get so far reading words on the page, I need to talk this through with another body. I want to ask: what are the conditions of this resistance? A kind of deviation? A community? A connection?

 

Considering José Esteban Muñoz’s theories of queerness, Megan N. Burke writes: ‘…queerness is about how one engages, not necessarily whom one engages’. [13]

 

Perhaps its important to note that

my intentional use of the ‘queer’ label—

despite being quite critical of it—

was in response to the Hobart creative environment,

and how I felt a lack of critical discourse around queer

or femme or butch or radical embodiments

in light of MONA and the more traditional and

environmental focuses in the arts. [14]

 

Soon after the show, I begin to consider how to write this piece. I take Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp (1964) with me into the bathtub, soaking I contemplate the form of her writing. Could I take a similar formal approach? A nod towards Sontag. Although, Sontag is so assured, while my own understanding around queer is continually in flux, forever morphing and bursting into new forms. Out of the bath, my skin all pruned, I think about what form a queer art review would take. I consider the opinion Astrid Lorange expressed in a recent interview: ‘the mainstream interpretive models for reading art are totally non-queer’. [15] A bending of language. A disruption. Something felt rather than known.

 

... what else? [16]

 

It is not until now that I look at Powell’s personal work (2018). A cream-white roller blind. Facets of yellow light spill through the cutout letters spelling B(L)ind. Blind love. Love is blind. Blindness as a form of power? Not-knowing as a source of new knowledge. Love unlearns us, but then we are remade. Powell reads two poems standing behind personal work (2018). Her words assemble in the hollows of the room.

 

I would say its more a cathartic resistance,

and assemblage of a safe space

for othered identities and realities,

a place to talk, think and be

outside of hetero barriers of love, gender, sex etc. [17]

 

Listen to Keiran Bryant’s playlist [18]. Read C. A. Conrad’s poem Pluto 3 [19]:

                                 judged by the way we fall in
                                    love in the bathroom in sweating out the
                              misery entering the fine blades in harmony
                          chopping all of our best to distribute over the
                                        whole goddamned rotted beating muscle
                                                   even when we have
                                                            forgotten where we are
                                                                    love        finds us just
                                                                               sticks us
                                                                 sobbing with shame
       inside a glorious steaming pile of the musk
saying no doesn’t matter you can’t say no for long

 

Let me know what you think xx C [20]

 

[1] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[2] Or so the peachy-coloured poster tacked up around Hobart tells me.

[3] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[4] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[5] Emily Roysdon, ‘Queer Love’, in Queer, Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art, ed. David J. Getsy, Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, London, 2016, p. 178.

[6] yung pueblo, 2017, an Instagram post on love, in Equated Dissonance Reader, edited by Clare Powell, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MKAzGWwKyPcBTziW3O92Q7FON6Ln2t6q/view; accessed 6 April 2018.

[7] Macquarie Dictionary Online, https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/features/word/search/?word=disson... accessed 24 April 2018.

[8] Sara Ahmed, ‘Happiness and Queer Politics’, in Equated Dissonance Reader.

[9] Anna T., ‘The Opacity of Queer Languages’, in Equated Dissonance Reader.

[10] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[11] David J. Getsy (ed.), Queer, Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, London, 2016, p. 15.

[12] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April, 2018.

[13] Megan N. Burke, ‘Love as a Hollow: Merleau-Ponty’s Promise of Queer Love’, in Equated Dissonance Reader.

[14] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[15] Kate Britton, ‘Queer Spritz #1’, in Queer Spritz, https://queerspritz.com/; accessed 12 April 2018.

[16] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[17] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

[18] Keiran Bryant, Spotify playlist, https://open.spotify.com/user/1256850965/playlist/2x8fBezKqNENYBrq9gqfxl?si=4R9-F_v5TZqq2gcKikiCRw; accessed 24 April 2018.

[19] C. A. Conrad, ‘Pluto 3.’, in Width of a Witch, http://www.duendeliterary.org/ca-conrad/; accessed 24 April 2018.

[20] Clare Powell, email correspondence with the author, 20 April 2018.

Vendita Di Noleggio Nike Air Pegasus 83

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Equated Dissonance, installation view, Visual Bulk, Hobart. Image courtesy of Grace Herbert and Visual Bulk.

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Mark Mailler, digested self, 2018, styrofoam, plaster, digital archive print, plastic, tissue paper. Installation view at Visual Bulk, Hobart. Image courtesy of Grace Herbert and Visual Bulk.

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Mark Mailler, disguised use, 2018, cardboard, tape, bubble wrap, chain, plaster. Installation view at Visual Bulk, Hobart. Image courtesy of Grace Herbert and Visual Bulk.

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Clare Powell, softie, 2018, satin, stuffing, earthenware, stones from the old garden bed. Installation view at Visual Bulk, Hobart. Image courtesy of Clare Powell.

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Clare Powell, softie, 2018, satin, stuffing, earthenware, stones from the old garden bed (left) and Kieran Bryant, w-a lamp/w-a waves, 2018, two-channel video, colour, sound, 05:13 mins (right). Installation view at Visual Bulk, Hobart. Image courtesy of Grace Herbert and Visual Bulk.

 

Viv Cutbush writes, reads, makes and bakes. She currently lives and works in Hobart, where the sky grips the heart. 

 

Air Precision 2017