Radical Ecologies is highly immersive and at times confronting. People listen to honeybees while laying in Mike Bianco’s beehive bed, or follow the sounds of flowing water in Mei Saraswati’s Movements. It’s all part of the artists’ mission to subtly – and not so subtly – challenge the way we relate to the earth.
Performance-based artist collaboration Peter & Molly explores themes around animal liberation in the video installation, The Superior Animal.
“We decided to try and communicate using octopuses as telepathic helmets,” says Molly Biddle, one half of Peter & Molly. She and collaborator Peter Cheng sat in a freezing bath for a number of hours while ink oozed from the top of their octopus-covered heads.
The duo’s willingness to push boundaries is instrumental in their work – the pair coerces each other into uncomfortable situations.
“We have had to put ourselves in situations where the animals have been expended in the process of making the art,” says Cheng. “We don’t feel that we’re immune to acts of a crooked nature,” adds Biddle.
In another piece, viewers watch as leeches suck on the artists’ skin, until they’ve had their fill of blood and fall to the floor. Biddle had an unexpected reaction to this experience.
“I got really attached to mine,” says Biddle. “I felt comfortable having them on me, and as they dropped off one by one I got more depressed. There’s a maternal vibe to having these animals on your person.”
Ian Sinclair and Loren Kronemyer of Pony Express, meanwhile, want to talk about ecosex – a way of relating to the biosphere in a loving way. A sexual interaction with nature seems pretty out there, but as Sinclair explains, it becomes less bizarre the more people engage.
“Sex sells in our culture,” says Sinclair. “There’s something provocative about having an underlying activist message through an audience’s response to the pleasurable possibilities of the environment.”
Originally part of the Ecosexual Bathhouse held at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens in May, visitors to Ecosexual Sauna can view “eco-porn” and hear erotic stories from self-identified “eco-sexuals”.
“The stories range from the pleasure people feel immersing themselves in water to more explicit and surprising stories that make even me blush,” says Sinclair.
Suffice to say, Radical Ecologies lives up to its billing. Environmental epiphany or otherwise, the odds are good that guests will leave with a new experience.
Radical Ecologies opens at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge on July 31 and runs until September 4. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am–5pm.