February 2015 Work

Continuing the experimental lab approach of its first show in October 2014, in its second show the xs collective interrogated two further aspects: those of anonymity and over-identification. As part of its thematic prosecution of human excess, the collective chose to explore issues relating to gender (femininity, masculinity, costume and gender stereotyping) using anonymity as a literal cloak (hooded cloaks and Anonymous masks) together with genocidal racism (Nazism) in the two front exhibition spaces, while in the rear-most space extreme politics (Nazism) was mimetically examined using over-identification.

With the xs collective sharing curatorial responsibilities, Rosina Byrne accepted the facilitator role for this second show and suggested the highly effective idea of breaking up the very large front installation space by creating a criss-cross floor pattern of electrical cords taped in perfectly straight lines from each plinth to the farthest power points using black cloth tape (see picture above). This floor pattern device gave the hotch-potch of TVs and monitors on equally higgledy-piggledy plinths, facing in all directions, a sense of cohesion – as did the video works which mostly featured forms of human excess using the anonymity afforded them by Vendetta masks.

Using a megaphone, anonymously clad members of the collective relayed announcements relating to their individual video installations (see pictures above). Rosina began a chant that was repeated during the two performances “We are more than our bodies” – a rejection of women’s bodies being treated only as sexual and commodified objects. This performance and refrain were carried over into the next space where a hierarchical podium was set up as a ‘soap box’ for anyone (including the public) to make announcements or speeches from, using a megaphone (pictured below). The anonymity afforded by the cloaks and masks was essential to the performance of the work in that “We are more than our bodies” contested both the capitalist commodification and patriarchal subjectification of women. This contestation is primary to the many issues facing women in their battle for equality and justice. The nexus between the idealised objectification of women’s bodies and issues relating to mental health (e.g. depression, anorexia and bulimia nervosa) and between a dominating patriarchy and the violence perpetrated against women, are just two of these.

In a direct reference to NSK collective and music group Laibach – and their use of aesthetic apparatus for collective experimentation and diagnosis – the xs collective used over-identification to mimetically amplify the current rise of extreme right-wing politics in Australia and globally in the guise of neoliberal ideology, in a multi-medium installation Untitled: (drum beat), pictured above.

With a backdrop of a video loop of Leni Riefenstahl’s black and white film of the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, with an mp3 loop of a 1933 Hitler speech playing at very high volume, with programmed multi-colour stage lighting, the xs collective performed a very pronounced and deliberate series of militaristic drum beats and synthesised sounds that were built into a crescendo punctuated by performers yelling into an FM microphone “Sieg Heil” (meaning Hail Victory) in response to the Nuremberg footage. This over-identification with Nazism – and the seeming ease with which people depicted in the movie were being lured en masse to subscribe to an ideology that led to genocide – reflected what was currently happening with the rise of political ultra-conservativism and the subversion of democracy by global neoliberal capitalism.