In a Rush: Menangerie @ ACCA

Menangerie @ ACCA 13 December to 1 March.

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Exhibition/  13 December 2014 – 1 March 2015, ACCA

Menagerie is an exhibition at ACCA that’s based around the theme of animals and their relationship with self. As with most exhibitions at ACCA this was well thought out and presented.

You enter via the passage on the left and after being greeted by a work of video art comprising of footage of a man’s mouth, you move into a room of drawings by Patricia Picinnini. These drawings are of hummingbirds playing around in a woman’s hair which comes out of her backside and vagina.

The drawings are light and subtle and have the playfulness of some of her sculptures. They show the human less as a character and more as an environment to live in or use for creating a nest.

A sculpture I’ve seen before, of a bird in a pair of trainers by Ricky Swallow (the other darling of Australian Art) is presented in the middle of the room. It is whimsical and playful, perhaps referring to the resourcefulness of the bird to create a home in whatever environment is available. There are some works by Paul Wood who takes existing ceramic sculptures of animals and adds other things to them like for example the appearance of a draped cloth over a traditionally seated dog or German Shepherd. The draped cloth is actually a glass or ceramic of some sort glazed onto the dog.

There are a number of video installations throughout the exhibition, but for me, the pick of the bunch was the one of the deer and the wolf in an enclosed studio environment. I enjoyed watching the way they deal with the presence of each other in that space. There is anxiety, there is awkwardness, there is tension and then there is apathy. It looks closely at the interplay between the hunter and the hunted and could be in some way a metaphor for our own lives. There was also a drawing piece by Anastassia Klose who created a series of works based around her dog and her relationship with it. I like the idea of doing something based around one’s pet, as the relationship between master and animal is often very close and in some cases closer than some family members. There was the obligatory video as part of the drawings but really the images just didn’t have give me that feeling of familiarity and sense of love that I wanted out of them and I know that I have felt for my pets.

Overall the exhibition was good as far as most exhibitions go but it did seem a little like it was one of those considered to be a little bit of a space and time filler. Much of the work was of old paintings of hunting scenes, stuffed animals and twee drawings which had minimal impact on me. When you consider the importance of animals in art as symbols and metaphors and what a huge part they play in art, I came from the exhibition content but less inspired than I would’ve liked.

Menagerie“explores the human tendency to anthropomorphise through animals and their behaviors as a process of metaphoric discovery of the self”. Curated by ACCA Artistic Director Juliana Engberg, the exhibition features works by international and national artists including Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Joseph Beuys, Thomas Binks, Rosa Bonheur, Basil Bradley, Mircea Cantor, Maurizio Cattelan, Henry Coombes, Herbert Thomas Dicksee, Annika Eriksson, Elliott Erwitt, Fischli & Weiss, James Giles, H. Hall, Benjamin Herring Jnr, Robert Gligorov, Lucy Gunning, Deborah Kelly, Anastasia Klose, Loretta Lux, David Noonan, Michael Parekowhai, Patricia Piccinini, John Nost Sartorius, Sinibaldo Scorza, William Strutt, Ricky Swallow, Shannon Te Ao, Caroline Tisdall, Peter Wächtler, Amelie von Wulffen, Paul Wood, as well as historical works.

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