HIGH RISE LOW RISE (GOLD COAST)
HIGH RISE LOW RISE coming to CCAS Canberra 9 December. Artists: Anna Carey, Claudia De Salvo, Anja Loughhead, Monique Montfroy, Millan Pintos-Lopez and Kael Stasce.
Curators: Rebecca Ross and David Broker
High Rise Low Rise began as a mentoring program with Rebecca Ross Artistic Director of The Walls Art Space and David Broker Director of Canberra Contemporary Art Space. In its early stages the project required visits to art spaces in Canberra and on the Gold Coast, the exchange of information and lengthy discussions concerning budgets, finance and funding. Eventually over a glass of wine, the uncanny similarities between Canberra and the Gold Coast started to dominate the conversation.
Speaking atmospherically, while the two cities are like chalk and cheese, both are designed for very specific purposes with industrial foundations of: (i) politics and education and (ii) holidays and night-life. Each underwent major development during the 1960s and 70s and has a fragile sense of heritage. While the Gold Coast’s buildings reach for the sky and Canberra central limits building heights to 617 metres above sea level, both locations tend to keep the notion of old at a distance. Importantly, both centres have a symbolic role in the Australian national psyche, Canberra as political capital and the Gold Coast as leisure capital. Consequently, Chris Bennie’s poetic catalogue essay reflects a common obsession with prime real estate using texts from property advertising to reflect characteristic lifestyles and the architecture that maintains them. At Vice Vice Baby beneath the Outrigger Resort, Miami Beach; as each curious paradoxical similarity emerged an exhibition evolved that focuses on the artistic concerns and styles of each city.
As one might expect with a title like High Rise Low Rise, several artists have contributed works that echo the urban landscapes of Canberra and the Coast, albeit in ways somewhat abstract. Kael Stasce’s elegant interventions into the structural peculiarities of venues focus attention on aspects of buildings that are not always seen, hiding certain elements while highlighting others. They constantly remind the audience how much goes unnoticed in the most familiar city surrounds. An aficionado of Bauhas design and Dada, Millan Pintos-Lopez’s stark lines are an oblique evocation of crazy paving with an intimation of the impenetrable maze, holding a stable pattern within the tenets of modernism. These works along with Claudia De Salvo’s tiny sculptures explore the audience’s interaction with the kind of physical spaces that seem to dominate in the uniformity of Canberra and the Gold Coast’s urban plans. De Salvo’s fragmented constructs speak of decay, where the dynamic space generated within the work is as important as its ostensibly disintegrating structure. All three provide a refined understanding of interactions with physical spaces and how they are connected to architecture and the built environment.
The monochromatic aesthetic of Stasce, Pintos-Lopez and De Salvo dissolves into garish colour as the three other participants turn with varying degrees of sardonic humour to industry, tourism and the leisure activities of local communities and their visitors. Anja Loughhead’s wall of souvenir tea towels contextualise Canberra and the Gold Coast within a tawdry iconography of common Australian stereotypes, blurring the boundaries of national pride and shame. The text, “Where the bloody hell are you?” emblazoned across these colourful symbols of domesticity references a controversial 2007 advertising campaign by Tourism Australia that saw tourist numbers fall. Ambiguity also drives responses to Anna Carey’s work, whose photographs of models of seedy motels capture feelings of wistful reminiscence, and disgust. With names like Hi Sky and Pool Side she raises the spectre of the Americanisation of The Gold Coast that is highlighted by ubiquitous Vegas style motels and hotels. Monique Montfroy’s documentary style of photography is the perfect complement to Loughhead and Carey with its harshly lit views of everyday life on the Coast. Exposing the nationalist mythologies of coastal lifestyle with sunlight, each image suggests that Gold Coast glamour is a thin veneer over nostalgia for an Australia that only ever existed in dreams.
High Rise Low Rise is a contemporary art Contiki Tour with artworks packed in suitcases, curators on flights to far-flung locales, artists emerging from airport terminals into the sea air of the Gold Coast and mountain air of Canberra. Importantly this exhibition is not only about the work on display but also about the experience of being involved. It is often difficult for emerging artists to secure exhibitions outside their base and High Rise Low Rise attempts to make this possible. It is an opportunity for artists from regional Australia to travel together, to develop skills in touring their work, to meet other artists and curators while learning about other art spaces and places.
David Broker with thanks to Rebecca Ross
HIGH RISE LOW RISE is supported by The Regional Arts Development Fund. The Regional Arts Development Fund is a Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast Council partnership to support local arts and culture.