The system may have got you but it won't get me—Constellations, Marco Fusinato

21st Biennale of Sydney, SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement, 16 Mar—11 June 2018

Marco Fusinato’s, Constellations, 2015, thunders within and without of Carriageworks, one of the key venues of this year’s Biennale of Sydney curated by Mami Kataoka titled Superposition: Equilibrium & Engagement. In simple terms the Superposition Principle is a theory in quantum physics that argues that particles can exist across all possible states at the same time, continuously shifting from one state to another—like (sound) waves lapping over each other. Much of the work in the Biennale shares a similar philosophy where information or form is evenly distributioned throughout the exhibition, however Fusinato’s Constellations violently ruptures this comfortable flow and radically shifts the balance of power between artist and audience.

Constellations creates a subversive space that engages the audience in a ritual performance that temporarily suspends normal social behaviour—particularly within an art gallery—raising questions about the intrinsic value of art as being able to transform the viewer morally or spiritually. The work jolts the audience out of their passive contemplation into a sense of agency through an invitation to propositionally vandalise a gallery ‘wall’. The installation requires audience activation but much more than that, it viscerally saturates the body of the audience through noise and vibration. An interesting sequence occurs in the body when viewing and participating in this work:

1. As the audience enter the gallery a deafening boom hits the ears and hits the solar plexus, making unaware visitors physically jolt in shock.

2. The audience is directed into the gallery where they are confronted with nothing but a passive white wall slicing at an angle across the entire length of the room. The absence of visual information is almost threatening in its silence.

3. Walking around the wall the key elements of the work are revealed. A metal baseball bat lies impotent on the gallery floor attached to a steel chain waiting to be activated. A constellation of holes and broken plaster cover the false wall exposing the layers of gyprock and plywood beneath.

4. A gallery attendant warns that there is a one hit rule—this is the result of a bureaucratic backstory as the original installation of this work in Singapore required multiple replacements—but in a way the warning heightens the anticipation of this singular moment of ecstatic transgression.

5. Adrenaline builds as the bat is raised and the clinking of the steel chain sounds amplified by the humbled silence of the room. Everything narrows down to the weight of the bat and the place on the wall being aimed at.

6. The drama of the bat hitting the wall is disproportionately amplified by the contact microphones and concert grade amps hidden within the wall. This final act of intensity is transferred from the body to the wall as either catharsis or anti-climax or both. There is a moment of excess (of emotion, aggression, noise, self-awareness) that fades as quickly as it began.

The band Crass, famous for their iconic phrase, ‘there is no authority but yourself’, a statement Fusinato has used in previous work also wrote the lyrics, ‘without your walls I am alive…without your walls I will survive’. [1] The white wall is as much a trope in the art world as the ‘white cube’, as we have come to discover is by no means neutral. Walls are fundamentally political—from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to Trump’s wall across the US-Mexico border—they are the literal and ideological barriers that protect ‘us’ from ‘them’. In a way, Fusinato is revealing the vulnerability or fakery of these walls, particularly institutional or ‘false’ walls. The audience act as invaders while the wall remains passive, showing accumulative signs of trauma throughout the duration of the exhibition. A reminder that all walls can be torn down if people are given enough agency.

The work also plays tribute to Fusinato’s background and interest in noise and anarcho-punk music through the aesthetics of non-traditional sound and reverberation. The amplified boom feels like an attempt to capture the final note played at a rock concert and the silent rapture that follows. As the experience of being in a stadium mosh pit watching artists like Iggy Pop or St Vincent has come to replace the preacher at mass, this work collapses the ritual experiences of high-art with underground culture. From the processional way audiences move through the space, to the heightened sense of energy being transformed from one state into another, Constellations engages with the pseudo-religious effects of sound and music.

The success of this work is Fusinato’s ability to push and pull between violence and euphoria, pleasure and pain, minimalism and maximalism. By transforming the architectural infrastructure of the ‘white cube’ into an instrument Fusinato is undermining the spectacle of contemporary museums. The white wall is the ultimate ‘anti-spectacle’, in an age when museums preach audience engagement via ‘selfie’ opportunities. The work is a gesture of resistance against blindly accepting the status quo as it ultimately questions how art can be used as a form of defiance. Each assault against the wall feels like an accumulation of pent up emotion, like much needed art world therapy that aims to alter individual subjectivity towards a collective catharsis.

The aural crack continues to sound throughout the exhibition, bleeding through the walls of Carriageworks. Eventually, the audience become acclimatised to the sound and it loses some of the initial brutality. As tension leaves the body, it’s the absence of sound, silence that speaks loudest.

 

[1] Crass, Walls (Fun in The Oven), 1979

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Mark FUSINATO_007(silversalt).jpg

Marco Fusinato, Constellations, 2015/2018, baseball bat, chain, purpose-built wall with internal PA system at 120+ decibels, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Carriageworks. This version was created for the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Anna and Morry Schwartz, UAP and the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Silversalt photography

Mark FUSINATO_001(silversalt).jpg

Marco Fusinato, Constellations, 2015/2018, baseball bat, chain, purpose-built wall with internal PA system at 120+ decibels, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Carriageworks. This version was created for the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Anna and Morry Schwartz, UAP and the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Silversalt photography

Mark FUSINATO_040(silversalt).jpg

Marco Fusinato, Constellations, 2015/2018, baseball bat, chain, purpose-built wall with internal PA system at 120+ decibels, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Carriageworks. This version was created for the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Anna and Morry Schwartz, UAP and the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Silversalt photography

4_Fusinato, Marco_Constellations_2015-2018_(Zan Wimberley).jpg

Marco Fusinato, Constellations, 2015/2018, baseball bat, chain, purpose-built wall with internal PA system at 120+ decibels, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Carriageworks. This version was created for the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Anna and Morry Schwartz, UAP and the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Zan Wimberley

Mark FUSINATO_069(silversalt).jpg

Marco Fusinato, Constellations, 2015/2018, baseball bat, chain, purpose-built wall with internal PA system at 120+ decibels, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Carriageworks. This version was created for the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Anna and Morry Schwartz, UAP and the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Silversalt photography

2_Fusinato, Marco_Constellations_2015-2018_(Zan Wimberley).jpg

Marco Fusinato, Constellations, 2015/2018, baseball bat, chain, purpose-built wall with internal PA system at 120+ decibels, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Carriageworks. This version was created for the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from Anna and Morry Schwartz, UAP and the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Zan Wimberley

Elyse Goldfinch is an independent curator and writer based in Sydney. Alongside her independent curatorial projects, she currently works as Executive Assistant & Curatorial Liaison at Artspace, Sydney and was appointed curator of the GreenWay Art Prize in 2017. Elyse holds a Bachelor of Art Theory (Hons.) from UNSW Art & Design and is currently completing her Masters of Art Curating at the University of Sydney.

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