An expansive, lush, 9-metre by 12-metre woollen rug produced by some of the world’s finest rug makers, is perhaps not the ilk of object one would expect to carry the self-determinist, anarchist missive of some of the UK punk movement’s most incendiary protagonists.
That the rug – the chief component of Melbourne-based artist Marco Fusinato’s new show at Anna Schwartz’s vast Darlington space – recasts UK punk antagonists Crass’s emblematic stage backdrop (reading THERE IS NO AUTHORITY BUT YOURSELF) as a luxury designer good seems both jarring and incongruous. But for Fusinato, the shift in context is the precise point.
“The message is the same but it’s about providing that message for another market and context and understanding of what’s desirable,” he says.
“You’re in a privileged position as an artist to able to exhibit and have people come and see what you do, so why not have those people come and think about something that might be from outside their sphere? I’m interested in using the forum art to present something that might be confronting or that questions the value system in which it’s shown.”
Much of Fusinato’s work follows such a thread. His 2010 Melbourne show Noise & Capitalism repositioned anarchist zines as sumptuous large-scale prints, while his 2009 exhibition Double Infinitives recast newspaper clippings of rioters onto vast black aluminium panels, assuming an epic, orchestrated, almost genre-like trope. By blowing-up, morphing and otherwise shifting his collected images, texts and objects to new contexts, he gives the content new life, essentially forcing an exchange or engagement that might not have otherwise occurred.
In the case of Crass and the Dial House scene they rose out of – a kind of open house for free thought, art and socio-political dialogue founded in the English countryside in the 70s – Fusinato’s new work might be read as a way of reasserting their relevance.
“The whole story of Dial House is really fascinating,” he urges. “It wasn’t just a youth movement that died out. They’ve stuck to it and really made it their life, which is pretty incredible. It’s lived through hippy-dom, punk-dom and into the era of globalisation and rampant capitalism and it still exists, even after they threatened to knock it down and turn it into weekender apartments.”
But there’s another aspect at play within THERE IS NO AUTHORITY BUT YOURSELF. By positioning the work in such a way that the audience must walk over the rug to enter the space, they become embedded in the work’s coda.
“I wanted to create a kind of stage in a way,” says Fusinato. “With Crass, the message and backdrop is behind the band and it is activated by them playing in front it. So by taking that backdrop and sliding it to the floor, then the audience stands on it and become the activator or the performer.”
A hidden camera perched in the rafters of the space records viewers below, with the audience’s movements atop the rug then broadcast on a screen at the other end of the gallery. It’s another twist.
“In most galleries or museums you’re always on camera anyway, because you’re not allowed to get too close or to touch the artwork,” says Fusinato. “But here, you’re standing on the artwork and the camera is publically exposing that you’re standing on the artwork. You become implicit in the message.”
Indeed, for Fusinato, it’s this transaction that is perhaps most important. “I think that’s the crux of the work,” he says. “It requires the interaction with the audience and then it comes alive.”
THERE IS NO AUTHORITY BUT YOURSELF shows at Anna Schwartz Gallery Sydney until March 17.