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Carriageworks presents a multilayered installation and season of performance work by Mike Parr
Mike Parr, The Eternal Opening, 2019, Carriageworks. Image Mark Pokorny.


SYDNEY.- From the 25 October to 8 December, 2019, Mike Parr (b.1945), one of Australia’s most rigorous and respected artists is staging The Eternal Opening, an installation exhibiting an actual art gallery as an art object in a gallery at Carriageworks. This structure contains documentation of Parr’s minimalist performance, LEFT FIELD [for Robert Hunter], which took place at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne in 2017. A series of new performances, Towards an Amazonian Black Square on 24 October and Jericho in the early hours of 16 November, will take place over the course of the exhibition. As a critical addenda to this program, Carriageworks will also present video documentation of Parr’s 2016 work BDH [Burning Down The House] in which hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the artist’s prints were methodically positioned in the Carriageworks traverser before being doused with petrol and incinerated.

Carriageworks CEO Blair French says, “Mike Parr is a central figure in the story of Australian contemporary art. His practice is characterised by rigour, by a relentless commitment to enquiry and by a spirit of generosity. We are delighted that The Eternal Opening will extend Parr’s already extensive and unique history of engagement with Carriageworks.”

Installation and performance works to be presented during The Eternal Opening:

LEFT FIELD [for Robert Hunter], 2017 Dual-channel High Definition video installed in Built replica of Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, 2019 • Robert Hunter (1947-2014) was an Australian artist whose obsessive pursuit of minimal-abstraction is demonstrated in his white-on-white geometric compositions and white wall paintings. At Carriageworks, the documentation of LEFT FIELD is presented in mirror image, a reference to Parr’s self-portraiture as well as the creation of the original event’s eternal return.

In November 2017 when conceiving of The Eternal Opening at Carriageworks, Mike Parr wrote:

• “My enthusiasm for Robert’s work and our friendship goes back to 1971, when we included his work in an exhibition of 4 artists from Pinacotheka Gallery Melbourne at Inhibodress.

LEFT FIELD at Anna Schwartz Gallery (ASG) Melbourne required all of the main ground floor gallery. Except for 2 x 55 inch plasma screens, which had been set at the mid-point of the left-side long wall, the gallery was empty and the screens remained blank. As the opening night crowd arrived I began over-painting the white wall using a roller and the same white paint normally used by the gallery. I was accompanied by Gotaro [Uematsu], Zan [Wimberley] and Robert Campbell, Anna’s long-time installer and gallery manager. A closely co-ordinated team. I methodically climbed up a ladder, down a ladder painting the length of the wall in sections determined by the area of view of a fixed videocamera set back close to the opposite gallery wall. Gotaro filmed in close with a second camera, Zan took stills and Robert managed the incremental moves down the wall, while the audience milled in the space. The painting took about 2 hours. I left the space as soon as I’d finished and the team cleared the gear. Visitors to the gallery next day could see the documentation of this performance playing as a 2 channel installation on the 55 inch screens. This residue and the empty gallery were the work for the next three weeks.

After the performance a number of people wanted to talk to me about the behaviour of the audience. The audience had become increasingly noisy as people drank, socialised and asserted themselves. I was unconcerned by this. I rather liked this increasing hubbub, but in the aftermath I’ve thought more about this “materialization” as an aspect of the event that could be amplified.

This unplanned aspect of performance art can be very revealing. I can remember commenting in the aftermath of Kingdom Come and/or Punch Holes in the Body Politic at Artspace in 2005 which had ended in an extraordinary, unanticipated way, that the unprecedented state-of-affairs might be the real point of performance art because it is the outcome that no-one, neither the artist nor the audience fully controls and that it is this meteorite rather than the logic of the event [which is always very important for my work] that is the critical impetus for performance art as such. The meteorite produces a tremendous “over exposure” and incommensurate things stick out.

Thinking like this I now want to describe my re-conceptioning/re-staging of LEFT FIELD as The Eternal Opening.

The Eternal Opening, 2019

• People entering this part of Carriageworks would see a very large and long rectangular box, built like a set, unroofed and clad from the inside so that the exterior structure of studs, plates, noggins, braces are revealed.

The only difference between the installation of the LEFT FIELD documentation in Melbourne and in the mock-up would be sound level. I propose to amplify the opening night noise level recorded with the video, so that it dominates the memory and record of the performance. It’s a simple shift but a very interesting one because the audience in this construction predominate as performers. It’s another level of the objectification of process and response. It seems to accentuate the null of the painting-out action, of whiteon-white, and of the loss of an artist, by accentuating a kind of eternal opening night as a portrait of the art world.” Mike Parr, 1 November, 2017

Towards an Amazonian Black Square, 24 October, 2019

• On the opening night of The Eternal Opening at Carriageworks, Parr will perform Towards an Amazonian Black Square. We do not know what is going to happen during this performance. Drawing on Parr’s outrage at the current wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, the work is an urgent response to an ongoing environmental catastrophe. Documentation of Towards an Amazonian Black Square will be rendered in mirror image and presented on screens within the space. The sound from this performance will play simultaneously over that of LEFT FIELD.

“The smoke from the Amazon fires is a taste of our own medicine. It tastes like ashes.” Benjamin Kunkel, London Review of Books. 12 September 2019.

Jericho, 16 November 2019

• In the early hours of the morning of Saturday 16 November, 2019 Parr is scheduled to undertake a closed performance session at Carriageworks. Location and details for this event will be provided by Carriageworks closer to the time. Duration unknown. Further details unknown. This comes with a warning.

“Kazimir Malevich’s (1879-1935) iconic 1913 painting Black Square became the ground-zero for non-objective art – it could be understood as an end-in-itself, or a window to a new beginning. Parr’s pursuit of art-after-Malevich has frequently required his own body to become the key object of interrogation. If Black Square is the severed head of painting, the limits of the body in real-time are the future of art.” Carriageworks Head Curator Visual Art, Beatrice Gralton.

BDH [Burning Down The House], 2016

• From Saturday 2 November to Sunday 8 December, visitors to Carriageworks will be able to see the presentation of video documentation from Parr’s performance BDH [Burning Down The House], 2016. This work was produced and presented by Carriageworks for the 2016 opening of the Biennale of Sydney exhibition at Carriageworks. In BDH [Burning Down The House], Parr set fire to an 18 x 12 metre grid of works from his print archive and their accompanying copper plates. Approximately $750,000 worth of the artist’s prints were methodically positioned in the Carriageworks traverser before being doused with petrol and incinerated. BDH [Burning Down The House] probes the role of art and the artist in a period where issues such as climate change and refugee policy have polarised communities and Governments globally.

The artist says, “once you compromise the future, the past becomes unbearable.”

“The runaway emissions of past decades have pushed average global temperatures to around 0.9C higher than they were prior to the industrial revolution. Enough atmospheric greenhouse gas now exists to push global average temperatures to 1.5C above the preindustrial average, even if all emissions stopped today. At 1.5C of warming, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be dead, many coastal areas will be covered by the rising sea and the impacts on extreme weather will go from serious to devastating. At 2C of warming, the climate scientists warn, we will be at the threshold of climate disruption so severe that it may threaten global civilization.” Tim Flannery, The Guardian Weekly 27 November – 3 December 2015.

Mike Parr: The Eternal Opening is the fifth in the series of SchwartzCarriageworks major artist commissions that have taken place since 2015 including Katharina Grosse: The Horse Trotted Another Few Metres, Then it Stopped, 2018; Daniel Buren: Like Child’s Play/Comme Un Jeu D’enfant, 2017; Francesco Clemente: Encampment, 2016; and El Anatsui: Five Decades, 2015. “The reproduction of another gallery in The Eternal Opening, with its implied history and previous enactions is also a very moving evocation of the thoughts, actions and images expressed in this Carriageworks gallery by Mike Parr in his exhibitions during my time here: Milk in 2008; The Golden Age, in 2011; Easter Island in 2013 and Deep North in 2015 all also lie below the surface of this work in the memory of the viewer.” Anna Schwartz 2019.






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