GOLDEN SQUARE 2022 : ARTWORK DEEP DIVE
Hear from curator Grace Herbert on the context behind the glowing pyramid, capitalist mega-church and more at Golden Square.
Hello and welcome to Golden Square,
After a cancelled festival in 2020 and a devastating single night of the festival in 2021—when standing on the carpark rooftop felt like being one of the violinists playing in the movie Titanic (and there were literally giant ice blocks up there)—RISING’s Golden Square exhibition is finally up and running.
Chinese art collective Slime Engine’s projection on the façade of Golden Square reads "Art is Cooperation". Made during the most recent, and incredibly strict lockdown in Shanghai, the artists have compiled a whacky assortment of small videos to communicate with us over here in Chinatown.
And in the spirit of collaboration, just across the road, Jenny Holzer’s I CONJURE illuminates the voices of powerful femme artists on the façade of Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. Cooperation, understanding, and patience are the practices that have landed us here and now, and these sentiments sit at the core of RISING’s Chinatown program.
Naarm’s Chinatown is the longest continuous Chinatown settlement in the Western world. Situated on stolen Wurundjeri land, it holds space for an incredibly diverse cross-section of communities, allowing for belief in varied gods, spirits and rituals; and hosts a multitude of festivals throughout the year. Add to this an endless assortment of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, beauty clinics, massage parlours and gambling houses. RISING’s Golden Square exhibition pays homage to this cultural layering, whilst challenging, queering, and offering new takes on tradition. Golden Square demonstrates the complex way in which stories, identities and belief systems develop through geography, history, cultural mythology, fiction, and personal experience.
Read on if you’d like to know more about the artworks in the exhibition. Thank you for being a part of Golden Square.
— Grace Herbert, Golden Square Curator and RISING Artistic Associate
Tabita’s Rezaire’s work navigates architectures of power (digital and IRL), exploring the possibilities of decolonial healing through technology. In Ultra-Wet Recapitulation the words of a traditional South African healer imparting wisdom such as "It’s good to want to crush the patriarchy but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the masculine all together" soothe; while the video projection across the pyramid travels from Credo Mutwa (the healer’s village) to the sandy landscape of Egypt past—floating flowers, serpents and galaxies. Ultra Wet Recapitulation celebrates the power of the erotic as a creative and transformative force to be nurtured and cherished.
Invocation for a Wandering Lake
Invocation for a Wandering Lake is in part inspired by turn-of-the-century colonial explorer Sven Hedin’s book The Wandering Lake (1938)—which tells the story of a migrating body of water in the Chinese desert.
In one video, the artist is documented meditatively washing the body of a deceased sperm whale floating off the coast of Newfoundland’s Fogo Islands—a former fishing powerhouse. In many religions washing the body of the deceased is a practice for purifying the body to prepare it for the next stage. With a parallel sense of attention, another video shows the artist scrubbing the shell of an abandoned ship in the desert of Muynak, Uzbekistan—a defunct irrigation project and seaport that stole water from the Aral Sea—affording a ritual of care to a non-human entity.
Made at a time when Chang was grieving the death of her father and celebrating the birth of her son, Invocation for a Wandering Lake weaves together notions of mourning, caregiving, the female body, geopolitics and landscape.
Power of Will — final shooting
A giant inflatable head screams in silence, with bright beams of light streaming from its eyes. Lu Yang’s Power of Will — final shooting is a physical to digital (and back again) self-portrait—part of Yang’s ongoing examination of the myriad ways digital technology and science are shifting our ideas of self. With reference to virtual reality, gaming subcultures, manga aesthetics and popular music, Yang celebrates the digital realm’s potential to control one’s identity, partially liberated from the rigid confines of nationality, gender and sexuality.
Melbourne based performance artist Scotty So rotates three performances (and a hologram) for Golden Sqaure:
For As She Floats
Scotty So appears in holographic Tang dynasty style hanfu with hair and makeup styled after the moon goddess, silently lip syncing a Chinese Opera and performing as an offering to the spirits of the space and the moon goddess herself.
Referencing the play opera Madame Butterfly and the tale of Butterfly Lovers, Scotty So explores the gender performance in traditional theatre of opera, Kakbuki and Chinese opera through lip syncing to 'A Capella of Un Bel di Vedremo'. Working with a professional soprano, So performs the recording of her voice through a portable speaker under their obi with a susohiki kimono and an authentic katsura wig.
Let No One Sleep
Scotty So dresses in the modern take of traditional Chinese clothing, referencing the Westernised Chinese costumes worn by Maria Callas in the 1940s Turandot concerts. Sco lip-syncs to the aria, 'Signore, ascolta! in A Capella', echoing the voices of the tragic females in opera who often die for love.
Deep Down Tidal
Deep Down Tidal explores transoceanic networks, examining the political and technological effects of water as a conductive interface. As modern information and communication technologies become omnipresent we urgently need to understand the cultural, political and environmental forces that have shaped them. It is striking, for example, to realize that submarine fibre optic cables are layered onto colonial shipping routes. Once again, the bottom of the sea becomes the interface of painful yet celebrated advancements masking the violent deeds of modernity.
Deep Down Tidal navigates the ocean as a graveyard for Black knowledge and technologies. From Atlantis, to the "Middle passage", or asylum seekers travelling on boats in the Torres Strait and Mediterranean, the ocean abyss carries pains, lost histories and memories while simultaneously providing the global infrastructure for our current technological, economic and political landscape.
What data is our world’s water holding? Beyond trauma, water keeps a myriad of deep secrets, from its debated origin, its mysterious sea life of mermaids, water deities, and serpent gods, to the aquatic ape theory, and sacred water spirits celebrated in many cosmologies. Deep Down Tidal depicts complex cosmological, spiritual, political and technological entangled narratives sprung from water as an interface to understand the legacies of colonialism.
Guan Xiao has developed her own logic and language for sampling and connecting imagery. When she places things in conjunction, she defines the cross section in terms of aspects like rhythm, or action, looking for equivalence of things, for their connectedness and their state of becoming. Her absurd, loud and at once hypnotising three-channel video Weather Forecast visualizes the personal change that someone who travels goes through, a process with a volatility that she compares with the fluctuation of the weather. She reflects on the conditions for this change: is a geographic expedition necessary, or would a series of perceptions, experienced while staying in the same place, have the same effect? Weather Forecast was created in 2016, prior to the pandemic, but in this new era of working from home and online exhibitions and Zoom festivals, this notion of travelling and experiencing the world without physically moving takes on heightened meaning.
SEEING IS BELIEVING BUT FEELING IS THE TRUTH
A glowing beacon at the pinnacle of Golden Square, and a sprawling monument to the quasi-religious and ritualistic nature of capitalistic excess. A mega church or abandoned fast-food restaurant in a carpark wasteland. SEEING IS BELIEVING BUT FEELING IS THE TRUTH is a sacred funhouse, a garish nexus of capitalist exchange, fluoro signs and found objects. Paul Yore tackles globalisation’s ecological and social consequences with his trademark warping of nostalgia and sentimentality.
The White Waters
The White Waters (originally commissioned for Performa19) explores the spirit of Tian Qiyuan, Taiwan’s first openly gay and HIV-positive student, and co-founder of the experimental theatre group Critical Point Theatre Phenomenon in the 1980s. Tian’s work White Water (1993) references The Legend of the White Snake, one of the four classic Chinese folk tales written in the Ming Dynasty, set on the idyllic lakes of Hangzhou, capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. The legend reflects the philosophical influences that shaped Chinese society—including Daoist themes of immortality and Yin and Yang, alongside Confucian and Buddhist influences—to tell a magical tale of transformation, underpinned by universal questions.
Since the anchors of the first fleet dropped, and the sovereignty and land of the country’s First Peoples was stolen, migrant stories have been woven into Australia’s concept of itself as a nation. But that colonial history is often written from a European perspective.
Atong Atem’s Banksia explores the lesser-known history of this country’s first African settlers—one that started long before Atem’s own family arrived from South Sudan in 1997. The ambitious free-to-view projection reveals obscured layers of history on a breathtaking scale, accompanied by a score devised by Melbourne composer Petra Salsjö.
Parade for the Moon
The moon’s phases mark the river’s swell; the opening and closing of underworld gates; and times of harvest and celebration. Parade for the Moon is a sporadic, bi-nightly, 30-person parade of spirits, dragons, loud drums and animals marching in tribute to the moon. Performers sporting extravagant costumes made by local community groups weave in and out of Golden Square and Chinatown, in recognition of the moon worship and symbolism prevalent in Melbourne’s myriad cultures.