The lift smells like urine and the walls are covered in spider webs of graffiti, splashes of paint and coarse messages. Above the lift buttons there’s an unofficial notice: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY- SUCK MY COCK. We hadn’t even made it to the fifth floor yet and already we were scared.
When the doors opened and we stepped out onto the Escher-like landings of Hibernian House on the fifth floor we remembered we had been to a party there in the early 1990s where we drank a lot of beer, listened to Yes and BTO on an antique reel to reel tape deck and got into a violent argument with a chef over his Christian beliefs. We had been to Hibernian House in a more recent but virtual sense as its warren of rooms, studios and balconies served as a location in the film Better Than Sex, but we’d forgotten about that, and we were visiting to see the Wild Boys show.
The Mememememe Hyper Contemporary Lodge is a studio/gallery run by Joseph Emmanuel Psegianniakis and for the length of the show’s run (until March 6), the gallery is hosting the Wild Boys . The art group have set up shop in the gallery where they are striving to build a future for a gay/queer/whatever art aesthetic that isn’t a cute-and-cuddly-ready-for-Dicko-primetime acceptance type art, but something that is collaborative, ephemeral and based almost entirely in their concept of community.
In one sense Wild Boys is a backlash against the commodification of queer aesthetics in the commercial mainstream. Where gay was once punk and funk and speed and Quaaludes, it’s now an Empire store life style accoutrement with expensive E and commercial House that you can tune into weekly on Network TEN. Wild Boys are attempting to regain some of the transgression of the queer alternative that existed in the ‘70s and they’re doing it through an art practice whose roots go back even further – 1960s happenings. It’s not for nothing that the studio is painted silver.
Trevor Fry, Richard Gurney and Tim Hilton are the main instigators of the Wild Boys group and they seemed pretty glum when we visited them. Although we saw that the show was advertised as being on daily from 5pm, it became pretty obvious when we stepped through the door that the ‘show’ is not really on until it closes. In other words, the whole project revolves around the opening and closing events (that we mentioned here last week). For the hapless visitor arriving between parties there isn’t a whole lot to see in the traditional sense. You might encounter Hilton sitting at a computer or Fry arranging models on a shelf that he is in the process of photographing. You can also read posted bits of paper outlining some anonymous contributor’s boyfriends and sexual escapades while the rest of the room is piled high with models, paper, cutouts, fluoro lights, a TV wrapped in yellow plastic, drawings, sewing projects, piles of records and Polaroids as well as a vast array of yams arranged on the floor.
So how does this connect to the 1960s and why are the walls silver? Happenings developed during the late 1950s and 1960s as a way of rejecting the commercial hierarchies of the art world by placing the emphasis on the process rather than on a final object. Wild Boys resuscitates the Happening as a post modern irony that celebrates both the knowingness of recreating such a process as well as the blatant acknowledgement that the process is flawed. There’s nothing to see here until someone enters the room and does something – be it sitting in the space making a mess alone or dancing around in the nude inside a sleeping bag in front of an audience – when the show finishes, that’s it.
Andy Warhol’s factory and its silver walls is the spiritual touchstone for this retro-aesthetic while William S. Burroughs and Duran Duran share equal credit for the group’s name. Perhaps the most radical element of Wild Boys is this desire for the ephemeral, a denial of the commercial imperative of all art shown in Sydney. Although there is little to see and nothing to buy, Wild Boys lasting legacy is in the way it creates its own traditions and possible futures by collating all these influences into something that can be referred to past tense. Where you at the Wild Boys party?