The social secretary has been at it again – looking at art that is, and on Sunday afternoon she took the ferry to Cockatoo Island for the Outpost exhibition of street arts from Australia and the world. Although young people with caps, tattoos and pierced bits make her very nervous she braved the dreadful Sydney weather for what turned out to be a rather rewarding excursion. Nothing, she thought, could be as intimidating as Mike Parr’s exhibition at the 2008 Sydney Biennale which rendered her close to breakdown.
It was pouring with rain and so it seemed sensible to go straight to the underground tunnel that traverses the island. The tunnel was transformed into an art gallery with “wall works” produced especially for this environment by all and sundry. This is quite a good intro and the environs are most interesting, but her favourite works would be the large ones on walls, cliffs, tanks … pretty much anything that doesn’t move … too quickly.
There is a lot of work in this exhibition, however, that is exactly what you would expect to see and as a result, few real surprises. Even in this spectacular industrial environment that seems to have been built for shows like Outpost its kind of rare that anyone has attempted to do anything truly interesting in a different space. So in the end its street artists doing what they always do on an Island. In fact the street arts in fact are mainstreaming on Cockatoo Island – in limbo between their illegal and subversive pasts and the seductive world of high art and business. Perhaps only Mini Graff breaks the mould with works that sit outside most street practice and are more aligned to culture jamming by using actual advertising imagery to subvert its message. Go Mini ! And then there is Ghost Patrol’s beautiful projection on white balloons which transports the viewer away from the streets into some sublime heavenly party space. Positively Ghostly.
So the secretary felt a little tristesse not to mention nostalgia as she wandered amongst the brightly painted ruins on a grey afternoon in Sydney. There are some artists in this exhibition, she thought sternly, who try very hard to be cool and bad which they don’t really need to do because they already are. Outpost Cockatoo Island until Dec 11