Melbourne theatre-maker Nicola Gunn inhabits her art, dwelling in the spaces between the real and artifice. For her new meta-fictional show In Spite of Myself, Gunn will call on her signature mix of magic, scathing honesty and satire to shed light on the mystique of the performance artist.

The action takes place on opening night. Exercises in Hopelessness: Nicola Gunn (1979-Present) is a retrospective exhibition of one of the world’s most preeminent artists Nicola Gunn, a fictional version of the real life artist. The Fairfax Studio at The Arts Centre Melbourne will be transformed into a ‘liminal museum’, with bizarre performance art antics spilling out into the foyer.

Described as part-performance, part-lecture, part-workshop and part self-help forum, the staging of In Spite of Myself leaves very few art forms unturned, innovatively melding video, sculpture, illustration, photography, text, audience interaction and live performance.

Bringing the production to life is a team of collaborators, who with the real life Gunn, form an inter-disciplinary performance and design collective called Sans Hotel. Gwen Holmberg-Gilchrist, Michael Fikaris and Pier Carthew, along with five other creatives, have been instrumental in the show’s creation, from designing the lighting to illustrating the exhibition catalogue.

Gunn has drawn chiefly on her own life in devising the show. “I suppose it’s reacting to the politics of art-making in major organisations,” she says. “I don’t know if I’m making a commentary. I’m just presenting it as it is, from my experience of contemporary culture and making art, here, now.”

In Spite of Myself premieres at The Arts Centre Melbourne as part of this year’s Melbourne Festival.