Unsettlement by various
MUMA’s shows are often more cerebral than they are aesthetically pleasing. This is the gallery’s most sensorily pleasant exhibition in some time. Unsettlement is a group show all about power and architecture. There’s plenty to talk about. The first room, with art by Archie Moore, hits you all at once: it’s a shed, with red dirt underfoot and walls covered in rusty corrugated iron, and the sound of rain on tin. It’s stuffy and unlit, and the emotional pull is real.
The collective Forensic Architecture takes us inside a Syrian torture prison through documentary footage. Former inmates, faces obscured, describe the indescribable while trying to reconstruct a model of their prison. Hayley Millar-Baker’s photographic collages juxtapose Indigenous infrastructure like eel traps, and walls with colonial architecture built by slaves. Amie Siegel offers a marble fragment of Trump Tower she bought online.
Aliansyah Caniago places a punching bag in the middle of a room, and a pair of boxing gloves. Put on the gloves and go for it. It’s filled with the crushed remains of a shanty town in Jakarta, levelled for redevelopment.
Polyphonic by Stieg Persson
At the Ian Potter Museum, Melbourne artist Stieg Persson’s gothic metal fantasies are indulged. Persson talks about the “almost communication” of painting, and titles like The first alteration, the first grudging, of the sickness and The king sends his own physician propose a kind of mythology into which these murky paintings comfortably sink. Twisted X-rays, the ornate branch-like structures of metal band logos, and tattoo designs all get a look in at this retrospective of his work.
It’s all gloomy and painful, but like a lot of metal it has a sense of humour too. Upstairs is a different game: bright colour, twists of cursive script, cakes, puppies, piglets and floral formations offset the decay downstairs.
“Everyone loves fluffy kittens and bunnies,” says the artist. “There’s nothing to understand. It’s a gut response. You are drawn into a judgement based on taste. And the exercising of taste is one of the most potentially shameful and exposing things the middle class can do.”
Dwelling Poetically by various
ACCA’s new show takes us to Mexico City. This is no tourist tour, and neither is it a survey of the city’s biggest names. It’s about communicating the city’s feel, history and culture through sculpture, video and painting. We’re introduced through Jaki Irvine’s film of street vendors, focusing on the distinctive sounds that announce their presence: ringing bells and pan flutes play alongside longing, mournful cello and vocals. Andrew Birk’s paintings depict underpass walls, posters for missing dogs and graffiti tags. Beyond that, hanging from the ceiling, are aluminium slat blinds twisted into bird-like shapes, covered in neon spray-paint – they’re graceful and beautifully messy, taking flight from the grimy street.
Elsewhere, there’s a series of illustrations questioning the colonial history of the letter “x” in Mexico, and in a theatre, a film of an obese couple having sex in what looks like a rubbish tip. A sparsely curated but very evocative show.
Winter Blues by various
As we hurtle towards another Melbourne winter, Daine Singer is staving off – or bringing on – seasonal affective disorder with a small show about the blues: not just the colour, though there’s plenty of that. This is depression, cold and grief.
Six artists run with the theme. Jahnne Pasco-White’s Seabed, a two-and-a-half metre linen patchwork quilt dominates the space and sums up the aesthetic of the whole show: murky, grubby, but warm. Scattered around the walls, Rafaella McDonald offers little pillow-like sculptures, and abstract paintings from Gervaise Netherway, Merryn Lloyd, Renee Estee and Renee Cosgrave evoke landscapes, temperatures, oceans, clouds and little narratives all their own.
Remaking Dubbing by Deanne Butterworth
From choreographer and dancer Deanne Butterworth comes this living installation, comprising video projection and human bodies. When I visit the red-lit gallery, two dancers writhe and contort around the room, three hours into a five-hour performance. Sometimes the choreography recalls yoga, sometimes they’re simply lying there, or standing face to the wall. A video of them performing in a different space is playing, sort of mirroring the live performance – same clothes, similar moves. Tape on the floor marks the dimensions of Butterworth’s studio, where the piece was rehearsed, and every day the performance evolves. Be sure to check performance times before you visit: they’re not every day, and when they’ve happened they’ll never happen again in quite the same way.