Let the Healing Begin
opens at the Institute of Modern Art
5 March 2011–30 April 2011
The idea that art makes us better people, that it heals our souls, is an anathema. In the art world, ‘art therapy’ is the butt of endless jokes. Nevertheless, contemporary art is riddled with therapeutic subtexts and strategies. Let the Healing Begin features works that address therapy. Some of the works endorse therapeutic imperatives, some satirise them, others are undecided. The line-up is a mix of local and international artists.
Polly Borland Untitled XV from Smudge 2010.
Courtesy Murray White Art Rooms, Melbourne.
The show was prompted by the work of Melbourne artist Stuart Ringholt, who is known for his autobiographical book Hashish Psychosis: What It’s Like to Be Mentally Ill and Recover. He is represented with a selection of works, including portrait mirrors with circles painted on them and collages of faces, which suggest problems in recognising and relating to self and to others. Therapy is all about making and unmaking—restoring and repairing—one’s self. The show features a self portrait by Grayson Perry, the Turner-Prize-winning cross-dressing potter. Inspired by the Mappa Mundi, Perry created a fanciful map of the social forces that made him the man he is. Polly Borland’s Smudge photographs, however, are about people unmaking themselves through carnivalesque gender-bending dress-ups. Change is good, but not always. Ronnie van Hout offers a tiny sculpture of a man turning into a banana, who carries a sign which says ‘HELP ME’; another sculpture, a self portrait as twins, Doom and Gloom, presents both sides of his personality.
In his political poster, The Greatest Tragedy of President Clinton’s Administration, LA artist Mike Kelley argues that America’s primary health issue is the low self-esteem induced by celebrity culture. He suggests that celebrities be required to work in sex clinics, servicing members of the public. The flip side of this modest proposal is a compilation of newspaper articles regarding the attempted rape of Steven Spielberg.
Videos of performances loom large in the show. The earliest work is Kardinal, a 1967 film by the Viennese Actionist Otto Muehl. (With a background in psychoanalysis, Muehl led a notorious therapeutic cult in the counterculture period.) In one video, Marina Abramovic and Ulay take turns to slap one another across the face; in another, they scream. In his notorious Cathartic Action: Social Gesture No. 5, the one-armed Mike Parr chops off a fake prosthetic arm, has it replaced by a pink knitted ‘sock’ arm, then explains what this means to him. In his video diptych Bacon’s Dog, Dani Marti introduces an older man to the world of intimacy. Meanwhile, Matt Mullican makes art under hypnosis through his regressed persona—’That Person’. The show also features work by Julian Dashper, Robin Hungerford, Pierre Molinier, Rose Nolan, Tony Oursler, Grant Stevens, Peter Tyndall, and Gillian Wearing.
Before the opening on Saturday 5 March, 5-7pm, artist Stuart Ringholt will conduct a tour of the show. He will be naked. Those wishing to join the tour will also have to be naked. Changing facilities will be provided. Adults only. (Saturday 5 March at 4pm.)
We will also screen two films. Peter Robinson’s 1972 documentary Asylum records R.D. Laing’s notorious psychiatric experiment, in which patients and therapists lived together (Thursday 10 March at 6pm) while Frederick Wiseman’s 1967 documentary Titicut Follies exposes the frightening living conditions of the criminally insane inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital, Massachusetts (Thursday 17 March at 6pm). These screenings are a joint project with OtherFilm.
There will also be a forum, Talking Cure. Justin Clemens (ex-Secretary, Lacan Circle of Melbourne), Mike Parr (artist), Scott Stephens (Online Editor of Religion and Ethics, ABC), and chair Miranda Wallace (Queensland Art Gallery) will discuss the show. (Thursday 7 April at 6pm).
Judith Wright Centre
420 Brunswick Street
Tues-Sat 11am-5pm / Open Late Thursday until 8pm