Chalk Horse artists Kate Mitchell and Sannè Mestrom are currently exhibiting bodies of work as a part of an exhibition called Social Sculpture at Anna Schwartz curated by Charlotte Day. The exhibition runs from 02 April through until 18 June and is thoroughly worthwhile checking out as it has been heralded "the most dynamic use of the space ever" through our own eavesdropping on the evening of the opening. Check out the details below...
Turning the gallery inside out was the starting point for Social Sculpture, to open up the gallery to a range of temporal and process-oriented practices. This emptying out provided the opportunity to think about the gallery’s physical space in particular ways. It allowed a consideration of its literal and metaphorical weight, how artworks are situated within it, the space between the works and the pedestals and supports for works, and the way in which artists and visitors inhabit and interact in such spaces.
Social sculpture is a loaded term with its historical connection to the work of the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. He wanted to describe the expansion of art beyond previously existing definitions and its capacity as an agent of change in the world. In the contemporary context, Social sculpture is less politically idealistic but the term remains, importantly, an heroic endeavour. Social sculpture relates the expanded field of sculpture – here incorporating installation, video, and actions – to people, and people to sculpture. It is about the embodied art experience – both the artist/performer’s and the viewer’s.
Invisible forces are the focus of SANNÉ MESTROM sculptural installations – in this instance, the bare weight of the gallery space. Mestrom’s group of sculptures, made from found, constructed and cast elements, each weighs 6.5 kilograms, and is equivalent to the weight of air in the space it occupies in the gallery. Although the individual assemblages are therefore related in this fundamental way, they vary substantially in scale and substance. Mestrom draws attention to the inherent properties of materials (such as bronze, marble and wool) as well as to the processes of fabrication that bring an object into being; she mixes up original with casts and copies, and solid and transparent forms with those veneered. There is a playfulness at work in the activity of measuring up. To achieve the correct weight, a portion of a face is removed from a mannequin, small counterweights of copper and lead are added to another, and drawers are removed from furniture. In Compression Chamber (2011), the immaterial cultural and philosophical weightiness of objects and an understanding of the specificity of their context, is also made manifest: an archive box of PhD research files reminds us of the embedded research; a warm jumper is wrapped protectively around a garden-variety gargoyle, usually exposed to the elements; and preciousness is reinstated by casting in bronze a $2 shop Buddha. …
For KATE MITCHELL, the idea of art as work and the artist as both manager and worker is fundamental. In a series of video re-enactments of classic comic situations she has been making since 2006, Mitchell dons standard work clothes and boots (much like Beuys) to perform planned actions that often involve a degree of precariousness, risk and danger. In A Situation (2011) shows her poised on a plank protruding from a dairy shed in an idyllic country setting. Mitchell proceeds to saw through the plank and after a protracted period of time, but actually only a six-minute single-take, the anticipated and unavoidable happens. As she falls to the ground, she rolls over, gets up and calmly walks away. The work is funny but unsettling, in the manner of Funniest Home Videos. We laugh guiltily.
In Lost A Bet (2011) Mitchell offers to piggyback a businessman from his home to his office in her bid to provide a tangible service. The more awkward and difficult the task becomes the more aware we are of her commitment to the action and her unfailing work ethic. One of her most significant endurance works, she describes it as a covert justification for conceptual art: ‘Hey, I lost the Bet!’. This is an understatement that nonetheless is consistent with the humorous and often self-effacing nature of Mitchell’s work, but the effort to prove herself brave, strong, capable and hard working is genuine. Every new work is an additional test of her abilities and attempt to legitimise her art work, nowhere more evident than in the heavy log Mitchell has dragged across Sydney and left as a calling card in the gallery, its underside worn away by the impact of the extraordinary journey.
- Charlotte Day, 2011
Compression Chamber, 2011 mixed media 5m³
Lost a bet, 2011
In A Situation, 2011
Images courtesy the artists, Anna Scwartz Gallery and Chalk Horse Gallery