Saturday, March 1, 2008

Boxes and birds nests

Give a dog a bone - seedpods carved from sunlight soap, with their recently completed DIY ikea shelving made of the most interesting cardboard boxes we could find.

Give a dog a bone - Fiona building the cardboard empire

Tender - biologically-exact assorted species of birds nests constructed from US dollar bills... on the table and ready to hang in their brand-new cases, built for the occasion

Scar tissue - objects knitted from VHS video tape... still in their boxes. I quite like them in their boxes...

Give a dog a bone - closeup of banksia pod carved from sunlight soap

Getting to handle and help install (yes, with gloves on) artworks that you've loved for years is a special experience. I am actually a little sad once the work is fully installed. Now it is perfect, just in the right place. Now it is untouchable. Now it doesn't need my help anymore. Now it stops being something i can touch and smell and understand, and becomes the exhibit. And I cease to be part of it's life, and become just another viewer.

Weird stuff. I'll try not to sound too glowing about all this. But holding a Fiona Hall birds nest made from American dollar bills (a Queensland Lyrebird's nest, to be precise) in my own two hands is a little like holding a dear friend's newborn. It's really quite lovely. If a little daunting.

But this is the experience I'm lucky enough to be in the middle of, until this coming Thursday, when Fiona's major retrospective show Fiona Hall: Force Field opens at the MCA here in Sydney. Every day we've been wrangling soap carved from banksia pods, nests made from legal tender and sardine tins containing genitals and sprouting trees all into their rightful places within floors 1 and 2 of the MCA. Along the way, I've been learning a heap about the works ... all of which is making my brain boil with ideas and projects and, most useful of all perhaps, gaining insight into Fiona's process and concerns. The lady is both a trojan and a treasure. She's great fun, and mad as a cut snake.

I think this looks like being the first major stint of the mentorship that I'm doing with Fiona over the next six months or so... during the lead-up to her exhibition, I'm acting as an assistant of sorts. Fortunately Fiona is incredibly prolific so this retrospective involves installing heaps of intricate works, which means I have plenty to do, and am not just either shadowing the artist or standing around trying to look official in a jaunty scarf.

So, despite having now spent two weeks straight here in Sydney town without as much as a sniff of the country air of home, I am, in a different way, spending my days working with seed pods and seedlings. It's just that they're made of soap. and sardine tins.

No comments: