Things Between You and Me
By Brigid Noone, 2016
CACSA Project Space
9 April- 15 May 2016
We want so much to connect, to love, to be loved and to feel like we belong…. Art crowds are full of anxious wanting. We meet to connect, to be real, be loved and approved of; and to choose who we give love and approval to. Sometimes I want to turn up with something stuck in my teeth on purpose or have my skirt caught in my undies, to embrace the fact that I am often undone: carrying all my thoughts, lists, wanting and pressures of the day, to let everyone know that I am not perfect and that I am ok with my flaws and I know that you have them too.
So now this is open, I have spilled my guts, showed vulnerability as a badge of honor… like Kate’s objects and the atmospheres she manifests with a confidence of newfound language. She somehow harnesses awkward internalised sensations and guilds them with lush fabrics and gold trim to elevate and adorn potential weaknesses to a level of mysterious importance. Kate’s work creates a tangible capacity to decorate her perceived wounds; she reminds us that we are all strange objects as bodies moving around each other in forced and found atmospheres. A strange friendliness exists to enamor us, drawing us in to sit in a land of her sensibilities, where scale and form are obscured, and ambivalence-embracing, contradictory emotions live.
Making figures abstract and individual enough, so that they seem to exist in imaginary relationships to one another, is a unique ability that needs to be approached with tenderness and a confident hand in the making process. An exposed process must be incorporated in the days, weeks and months of making, harnessing the very nature of internal and external pressure to experience and perform for one’s own range of emotions.
Approaching the bounds of psychological thinking can lead us to notice nuanced behavior, often not experienced in concrete spoken words, but transferred through the little unspoken gestures that float in and out of shared spaces, impacting on each interaction. When you leave an interaction, you know those little unspoken objects between you and the other person (growing as amorphous blobs between two people) are often intangible, but on reflection they can leave an impression that might raise doubts or fears.
Anchors of strangely familiar form will see you through as you navigate the sculpted setting offered by Kate, but be prepared to embrace a poised hint of humiliation. The creation of these art works has been influenced by a gentle squeeze of said humiliation. Humiliation and jokes can be used to enforce or reinforce dominance or power over one another. It can be used to push people into positions of passivity. Humiliation grows on the body, it doesn't go away; it accumulates and becomes a big formation, like a creeping sense of the inexplicable, an introduced foreign body that grows to feel normal and at home. Spend some time absorbing the delicately composed language of equal embarrassment and beauty, and you might come to feel at home amongst these forms.
A lot of things about being a woman (and femininity) are easy to humiliate, it’s such an exposed state (it could be that being a women or feminine is experienced as the other). Humiliation is also seen as a process of othering, jokes are funny before you are both laughing, because both parties are reminded of one person’s ‘lower’ status, both agree in laughter even though it is masking a social inequality. Social categories influence the formation of social status, people often feel obstructed from one another due to unspoken codes we silently agree to. They can effect how hard it is to get through the layers (pink, black and gold), past yourself and to another person.
all that effort and desire
By Lauren Abineri, 2015
29 March- 19 April 2015
Kate Power's visual arts practice encompasses performance, installation and considered object-making. Through these mediums she responds to the way people interact with each other. Societal structures and social pressures affect the different energies exchanged, affecting the physical ways we might reach out to each other, our intimacies and our discomforts.
Power’s installations take on dualities we are familiar with: comfort/discomfort, sensual/grotesque, even taking on a peculiar inanimate/intimate balance. Power's sculptural forms in particular are a bit self-conscious. There is something about them.
The works are plump, healthy and little bit sexy. I feel a bit bad for staring.
Whilst they seem a bit like they want to be looked at, I feel like part of them doesn't want me to look at them. Sometimes they slump, sometimes they weep and sometimes they seem to look up at me for a moment, inviting me to gaze at their tactile surfaces or glitzy outfits - then they suddenly withdraw and I have to pretend I was looking at something else.
A video-sculpture hybrid piece, with an inviting plush exterior lures us to peer inside. A painterly, pink gush is looped. There is a sense of satisfaction felt when watching this babbling pink liquid. Its composition is secretive and alluring and the peculiar satisfaction through seeing liquid encased in solid. And the feelings of longing to maybe dip a finger in.
Again, a bit sexy. Stop looking.
Sudden changes in the energies exchanged between people (or in this case, myself and one of Kate's characters) are something that the artist is interested in. That sound of the ball dropping. Or the sound of it being picked up again and we can connect once more. These shifts can be caused by social expectation, perhaps sexual energies that can inhibit or uninhibit our actions. Sometimes there are moments that don’t seem to be governed by these feelings, there is an uncharted place of inhibition, even comfort, and the connection grows. Which all of a sudden becomes a bit too intimate and the shift occurs - we withdraw with something like ‘Well, I don’t know’, break the now uncomfortable eye contact and the ball drops.
Mikala Dwyer’s installations are recalled as we see multiple materials harmonising together, apparently engaging in some secret meeting. Or more uncomfortably, a private joke. Or perhaps their communion is open and ready for us. Power’s installations also engage individual pieces in dialogue with each other. She describes this arrangement as ‘social’, which of course can have its comforts and discomforts as close social proximity can affect the energies in the room. Power describes this orchestration as deciding ‘who gets to play with who’.
Kate's characters dress luxe. For example, Madam Mâché in all her glory – opalescent head, oxblood velvet gown. She’s dressed to a tee. Compared to her other subjects surrounding her she appears the most stable. Her choice in materials highlights and exaggerates the small moments where we experience these energy shifts, which sometimes can't be articulated, are brought to full light and extended. Precarious augmentations of works attempt to express these little nuances in interactions – teetering and balancing, tiny moments of space between somewhat threatening pointy-sharps edging closer to lush curves.
Power’s work often examines these energy exchanges through the lens of feminist methodologies. Power considers the thinking of Elizabeth Grosz who describes how we can never truly "stand back from the body and its experiences and reflect upon them''. Perhaps those moments when you catch yourself realising that you are actually peering out of your head, perhaps you visualise yourself for a moment, or you look in the mirror. Probably as close to standing away as you can get. Sometimes standing away from ourselves in reflected in who we are interacting with.
Video performance You're Telling Me silently re-performs that bit of blah-blah that we all engage with during social chatter. The close up of the mouth stirs both discomfort and intimacy. As Power shows us this duality of 'small-talk' she is often babbling gibberish words, but minus sound they still read as ‘hi what did you eat for breakfast today’. Perhaps we can never really get around small-talk (as big-talk does come across as arrogant, I know). I am recalling a million different Buzzfeed articles/internet-diagnoses about 'how to spot an introvert' or 'I'm not rude I just can't deal with small talk/don’t really want to talk to you'. Yes, there is a bit of judgement thrown around depending how well one deals with social interactions. Are you 'socially awkward'? The spectrum is a bit ostracizing.
This exhibition sees Power’s characters extend themselves to us and share with us their moments. The works tap into our desire to take a peek but at the same time there is sense of privacy and intimacy that we have stumbled upon. Connections and energies from spending time with people, or spending time alone, are diverse. And even if it does get a bit awkward (cue leaving the room) it can be a bit funny as well (cue laughing hysterically) but maybe you laughed a bit too much (cue leaving the room once more).
 Elizabeth Grosz. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. (Allen and Unwin: Sydney, 1994),86.