Tuesday, June 13, 2023

On Aliens, Landscapes, Deep Diving and the Golden Runes of Art - Ella Baxter

June 13, 2023 0
On Aliens, Landscapes, Deep Diving and the Golden Runes of Art - Ella Baxter
It is peak hour on a Tuesday evening. I dodge black umbrellas and run across wet cement noting as always, that this far into Melbourne there is always a plastic-wrapped capitalist sheen to the bastard honking streets. Forty-Five Downstairs is an art gallery located in the lungs of the city and tonight is the opening of Rebekah Stuart’s latest exhibition, Orison. I’ve known Stuart for more than five years and this exhibition is evidence of her seemingly effortless commune with (as she says) something primordial, something divine. I am a big fan. A devotee. I always have been. 
Stuart, in the furnace of all her agitation and fury at the past few years, has managed to forge a utopia. These are atmospheric works, with moody skies, cresting waves, oceanic mists, and verdant, sun-lit waterholes. They are familiar, but they are also untouched. I think of the Night’s Plutonian shores that Edgar Allen Poe dreamed of. I think of Jupiter and her ninety-five moons, and also another poem, but I forget the author, who wrote that the sky above is an aerial ocean. In the thick throng of the crowd I bump into people trying to get closer. Someone sits down to get a better view. Someone else stands on their tip toes. I smell breath and perfume and the wool of the person’s coat beside me. We are clustered lemmings about to fall.
Let’s talk about place. Let’s talk about the artists role as navigator, as tour guide, as developer. Stuart is well versed in traversing inner landscapes before translating them two dimensionally. In this exhibition, she has sliced tiny slivers of intergalactic, otherworldly planes and pressed them between two pieces of borosilicate glass for us to contemplate. Stuart says this work came from an inner craving to understand the minutiae and magnitude of the world around her and to envision a pre-colonised land. Orison was made with urgency during the pandemic, growing alongside her search for home, while she uprooted herself from the city and attempted to resettle up North. But Neptune could never. Stuart has created a counterpart to earth. She has unpicked the fabric of time and space and pushed us through to another side, and we can only thank her. 

She has unpicked the fabric of time and space and pushed us through to another side, and we can only thank her.

Art can be artless. Galleries can be sink holes to the underworld, where hands rise from the floor to grab your ankles and drag you down to munch on your face and body and hair. Galleries can feel like money mausoleums. Stuart is exhibiting her inner worlds at a gallery perched on the edge of a man-made crater. Directly at the foot of her exhibition are mechanical excavators, compactors, and cranes. Out the window, a whole ass building has been lifted from the centre of the city by its roots. On a bad day this gallery could be a vault, a lair, but right now it is fertile ground. Stuart’s work blooms in the space. Is it bioluminescence? Or at the core of each piece has she dabbed gold? Can gold and neon mix or meet? How many textures has she added and subtracted? I need to know how many layers are hidden in each landscape.  The luminous works appear backlit, and in response the crowd flocks, desperate winter moths that we are, gunning for her light. This is a good time to mention the dancing. 
Marina Abramović says that in a city, the people are the nature. Three dancers including Stuart, walk into the space and stand in front of the window facing the crater. Clad in pale things, floaty garments, loose hair and barefoot, they are wide-eyed and lucid as if just born in the next room. Aliens. Creatures. They begin to move in and around each other. It is a dance, but it is also a reassembling. It is a dance, but it is also a hatching. Stuart leads the dancers deeper into the space to stand in front of her beautiful portals. The creatures become gargoyles, sentients to the landscapes they now block. They are trolls that dare us to cross. The crowd transforms again from moths to water, and the tide of bodies retreat to allow the three to move. And how do you write about movement and art? What do three beings look like in a dystopian coin cage in the guts of the city? Can dancers turn from guard dogs to oceans to sediment, churning? I would have to say yes. Washed out. Panting. Weathered. Barking. Sliding around on the fucking wood floor. Collapsed. They are together as one and then they are spread apart. Legs as arms and arms as heads. This is not the first time Stuart has done this.

There is something a little alchemical in what good artists do. They don’t just reference the past or future but rather bend everything that has ever existed sideways, until it all cracks open. They eat whatever flows from that space, chew it, and then spit it into the mouth of the viewer. Mother bird, baby bird.  Initiated by the performance, we are ready to leave our mortal plane and transport into the worlds of Orison. Words leave me for dead, and only another borrowed line from a poem comes to mind, this one by Robert Macfarlane in which he has the forest talking to time. Year, year fledge me a jay, and the year  (Stuart in this case) responds, I will fledge you a jay that will plant you a thousand acorns that will each grow a thousand oaks that will each live a thousand years that will each fledge a bright-backed, blue-winged, forest-making Jay. 

In her artist statement, Stuart says Orison is born from discomfort, displacement and inner agitation. She mined herself for sadness and anger, pulled each thread of feeling until she made art that functions as a memory of home. Stuart has distilled the peace of being in the natural world in this unnatural environment. In a closed space, filled with people desperate to see, she has cut windows for us all.

Ella Baxter, a writer and artist, has released her debut novel, New Animal, in Australia, the UK, US, and France. Her second book, "Woo Woo," is scheduled for release next year: Website

Rebekah Stuart Orison 
30 May – 10 June 2023 
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders lane, Melbourne, 3000, Australia

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Buffel Harvest

September 25, 2022 0
The Buffel Harvest


A photograph for Deans show: The Buffel Harvest

rom artist Dean West, The Buffel Harvest is an experimental performance orbiting around a live demonstration of how to grow Oyster Mushrooms using Central Australian weed species Buffel Grass as a substrate. The demonstration takes you through harvest, pasteurisation, inoculation, incubation and finally harvest again. The demonstration is accompanied by projected videos, talks from experts and a sonic score composed and performed by Luiz Gubeissi. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Monday, February 28, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

January 12, 2022 0


The original sound for this video was windy audio from the camera microphone. It has been replaced with audio recordings that intend to heighten the feeling of the location and sense of falling into the natural soundscape. Made with Aarti Jadu.

AArti Jadu rocks and waves

January 12, 2022
AArti Jadu rocks and waves