THE RED QUEEN
18 JUNE 2013 - 8 SEPTEMBER 2014
The Red Queen is a character from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass. She's a sinister mixture of power and futility: even as she doles out orders willy-nilly, she seems to lock herself in a weird and lonely prison of words:
'What's the French
'Fiddle-de-dee's not English,' Alice replied gravely.
'Who ever said it was?' said the Red Queen.
Alice thought she saw a way out of the difficulty this time. 'If you'll tell me what language "fiddle-de-dee" is, I'll tell you the French for it!' she exclaimed triumphantly.
But the Red Queen drew herself up rather stiffly, and said 'Queens never make bargains.'
More curiously, the Queen is driven, by abstract forces, to run in order to keep pace with the world around her. However fast she goes, she never seems 'to pass anything', and 'the trees and the other things around' her don't change their place at all. '"[Do] all the things move along with us?" wonders Alice.
We're co-opting the Queen for our own purposes in this exhibition at Mona. But she's been corrupted already of course, by scientists working in the field of evolutionary biology. That notion - that one might run and run, with neither goal nor end - is one key to twenty-first century thinking about how species evolve, in brutal harmony, with their environment. We're not used to thinking of it like that. We like to imagine we are struggling ever-forward to some end-point - personal, collective, universal - that will atone for our suffering and make our joys mean something. Evolution has no such agenda, nothing in mind for us, as it molds us to the shape of our environment. When you look at it like this, and surrender the assumption of progress, all of a sudden our words and deeds - like the Red Queen's - mean nothing and everything at once; rich and strange nonsense indeed.
How does art fit into this? It is a behaviour, a practice, that congeals humanity like the fat in a fry-pan; it clarifies and distills, evaporates the excess, until we can see (just for a moment) into the base of ourselves. And perhaps -- let us phrase it as a question. Is human-ness nothing but a set of such behaviours?
The answer, we hope and aim, will remain elusive; there will be no lessons learnt or taught, only contagious inquiry into the messy machinery of human nature.
Alice looked round her in great surprise. 'Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!'
'Of course it is,' said the Queen, 'what would you have it?'
Please note some works will be removed from display before September 8.
LIBRARY GALLERY, MONA
7 DECEMBER 2013 - 28 JULY 2014
Roger Ballen is what you'd call a 'wound opener'. Working with black and white film, Ballen's photography sheds light on the darker side of the human self - a scab that most of us would perhaps rather leave untouched. He describes his work as fundamentally psychological and existential; for him, making art is an exercise in defining himself. His photography also incorporates drawings, sculptures, and a photographic drawing technique developed by Ballen himself.
Ballen is at MONA to exhibit work from his Asylum and Apparitions series.
Curated by Olivier Varenne and Nicole Durling.
Archival pigment print
Image courtesy of the artist
B1 GALLERIES, MONA
7 DECEMBER 2013 - 28 JULY 2014
Here for his first solo exhibition in Australia, French artist Hubert Duprat continues his unending investigation of the world. The selection of work features a huge array of materials and techniques-including natural magnets, crystals sculpted by microscopic atomic arrangement, Neolithic flint-knapping techniques and endemic caddisfly larvae. Curiosity trumps 'out of the blue' spontaneity as Duprat asks precise questions of nature and knowledge, of originality and art itself.
The experiments of Duprat - a self-taught and self-professed amateur - have us intrigued. Duprat's approach to making art resists neat compartmentalisation, with his work plumbing the ripe borderlands between artistry and science. You can expect (among other things, mind you) an evocation of prehistoric symbolism and technical adaptation, as artistic expression meets rationality head-on.
Curated by Olivier Varenne, Jane Clark and Nicole Durling.
Polished axe, fresh clay
Courtesy of Art : Concept
ADAGP, photograph Rebecca Fanuele
AN EVOLVING EXHIBITION, 21.01.2011
Highlights of the collection.
And lowlights. Evolving.