Meth(odology) Lab: Making TIME

Camila Marambio and Amaara Raheem Meth(odology) Lab: Making TIME as part of Goldin+Senneby's: Standard Length of a miracle (The Bootleg), Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Brisbane, 21—25 November, 2017.

Goldin+Senneby presented the first iteration of Standard Length of a miracle in 2016 at Tensta konsthall in Stockholm. Constructed by artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby, the substructure which is Goldin+Senneby exists as a collaborative exchange of ideas, examining economic, political and spatial concerns. Invited by Goldin+Senneby to work in partnership for the Brisbane iteration of the project Standard Length of a miracle (The Bootleg), Camila Marambio and Amaara Raheem presented a new work titled Meth(odology) Lab: Making TIME. Described as ‘an immersive set of procedures that distill and digest through lines of Goldin+Senneby’s practice’ the project took the form of installation, a makeshift laboratory which saw the artists distill formulas in what I felt to be both a participatory experience and performative happening.

I was relieved to be escaping the humid Brisbane heat into the air-conditioned gallery. I walked through the first parts of the Goldin+Senneby show before heading towards Marambio and Raheem’s work positioned in the back space of gallery three. Entering the room I noticed three pairs of shoes on the floor next to the doorway. I was greeted by Camila Marambio, who welcomed me into the space, saying: ‘Welcome to my house.’ I asked her if I needed to take my shoes off at the door and she responded saying ‘only if you want to.’ I could see Amaara Raheem at the far end of the room sitting motionless on a wooden chair and staring vacantly ahead. With a large smile on her face, Marambio asked if I could see the eucalyptus trees outside the window, I had a look and tried my best to make out a cluster of Ironbark trees, imagining bushland in place of the painted gallery wall. Marambio briefly explained that eucalypts also grow in similar climates in Chile. A huge lavender landscape rectangle had been painted on the far back wall wrapping around onto two adjacent walls. Later on I enquired about the lavender paint and the artists both responded saying ‘What Lavender?’ I paused for a moment, wondering if I had misread the particular shade of light purple. I noticed the other people in the room sitting on the floor, they were picking leaves off small eucalyptus branches and transferring them into copper pots laid out on the floor, ready to distill.

 All of the equipment required for distilling appealed to me, for its utility and for its visual form as a group of assembled objects—it had a DIY backyard pharmaceutical lab/ relaxation centre aesthetic with a holistic environmental feel. On a high square table in the back corner of the room was a tall plastic bucket, a thick blue hose trailed from the green vessel into a black plastic garbage bin. A smaller hose worked its way up to the neighbouring table into a pot and copper still sitting on a gas burner. This second table displayed an arrangement of copper utensils, a pan filled with leaves, a mortar and pestle containing crushed quartz, glass vessels and spray bottles. The still was used to alchemically transform the essences from the flowers and leaves into saleable art products, formulas in spray bottles. The artists spoke of their foraging process and how it was important they sought approval before removing anything natural from its place, taking only what was offered to them. I sat down on the floor at a third table, which held a vessel containing one of the formulas made earlier. Raheem passed this formula around the small group for us to take in the vapours. I have been thinking about the phrase ‘Making time’ seen in the title of the work. How was time being made here? I can see that the process of extraction and distillation—as in the processes of any artistic medium—requires a certain amount of time from the artists. I have considered that I spent over an hour of my time contributing to the process and naming of a formula—at what prices does that come? How can this be calculated? What about the old saying ‘time is money’? I sensed an unease in the experience, frustration being translated by the artists to their audience.

There were a few times during my visit that I noticed one or both of the artists rolling on the ground, sitting by themselves in the corner, moving rhythmically, at times communicating with noise but without words. I observed Raheem wandering in a dream like state around the space, walking backwards, moving in circles and stopping to check on the distilling process. The artists would occasionally speak while performing movements, they mentioned themes such as institutions, nature, money, partners and time. Marambio and Raheem were embodying personas that I found both intriguing yet confusing; the artists seemed to pass in and out of reality, not entirely present. Questions pointed toward the artists were not always met with direct answers. Often the duo would decide how to answer collaboratively, communicating by whispering to each other before responding to out loud in synchronicity. Decision making in the space was another element that stood out. I saw it as an effort to engage in democracy, as we collectively decided what to name the formulas. I wondered what would happen if we spent more time considering others before responding to questions and making decisions. Throughout the happening I felt there was a secret script, understanding or language between the two artists that would at times feel alienating as an audience member. At one point I can recall one of the artists asking how we felt about being watched. It was then that I understood the hint that a CCTV camera was monitoring the room. Upon leaving the gallery we had to sign a waiver, which I signed without really thinking, but I am aware my behaviour has been recorded many times in public without my permission.

There were many components to the lab work, a tangle of conceptual narratives that made me consider the value and materiality of time. This work could be thought of as a visual process in making and selling time—a product I previously considered to be intangible. I had been in the meth(odology) lab for roughly three hours and it was approaching five thirty or six o’clock in the evening. Those of us still in attendance lay on the cold concrete floor, aware of the heat we left behind hours earlier.

Part two of the Goldin+Senneby’s Standard Length of a miracle (The Bootleg) runs at the IMA from 3 February—10 March 2018 and draws upon the distillation process that Marambio and Raheem undertook to create a new work.

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 Camila Marambio and Amaara Raheem, ‘Meth(odology) Lab: making TIME’, 2017. Installation view via CCTV footage, Institute of Modern Art, 2017.

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 Camila Marambio and Amaara Raheem, ‘Meth(odology) Lab: making TIME’, 2017. Installation view via CCTV footage, Institute of Modern Art, 2017.

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 Camila Marambio and Amaara Raheem, ‘Meth(odology) Lab: making TIME’, 2017. Installation view via CCTV footage, Institute of Modern Art, 2017.

Lucy Forsberg is an artist, writer and curator based in Brisbane. Their visual practice utilises new media, assemblage and sculpture to examine socio-political issues within the Australian Landscape. Forsberg's research is informed by ecological economics, addressing the nexus between environmental, social and economic systems. Lucy has exhibited throughout Australia and was awarded the 2017 biennial Jeremy Hynes award for emerging and experimental Queensland art practice. Forsberg is a founding co-director of Brisbane ARI Cut Thumb and co-directed the Metro arts 2017 ARI-In-Residence. Lucy is currently working with NAVA on the first regional Artist-Run-Initiative knowledge exchange program.