More than just flesh and bone: Kieran Bryant’s embodied environment

Art Life , Interviews Apr 17, 2018 No Comments

Andrew Frost interviews Kieran Bryant on his latest solo show at Verge Gallery…


Kieran Bryant, I thought it was nice. That’s all. I was trying to make things nice. You can’t. You just can’t alright. I’m sorry. Things aren’t nice anymore, single-channel video (loop), 00:08:09, 2017


Andrew Frost: I think your exhibition title ‘grappling on the precipice of the squirt and the stream’ is one of the more arresting exhibition names I can recall. Where does it come from?

Kieran Bryant: It was originally a phrase used in my bio. Quite a dramatic opening line! I always liked the way it sounded and the tension it evoked. An image of a fountain as it bubbles just before it erupts, or a torrent of water right before tumbling down a spillway. Whilst working on this project I kept coming back to it, so it seemed like the right fit for the exhibition title.

AF: You worked on this project while you were on residence at the Cite Internationale des arts Paris. What was that experience like? Had you planned before you left Australia on making this work there, or was it something that came about from the residency?

KB: At the risk of sounding trite it was a life changing experience. Extraordinarily fulfilling. And fun! I went over to the Cité with an interest in exploring the man-made watery sites of Paris and its surrounding areas. The fountains, canals, sewer systems and water supply networks of the city. As I spent time in the residency conducting field work, coupled with processing the recent aftermath and disintegration of a toxic relationship, the project really started to emerge and present itself.


Kieran Bryant, how empty of me to be so full of you, digital print on polysilk with cord, 2 m x 1.35m, 2018


AF: The thing that’s striking about this work is the idea that elements of the built environment can act as metaphors and analogies for the human body. Could you talk a bit about where this idea came from and what it might link to in terms of art historical precedent?

KB: I’ve always viewed aspects of built environments with an understanding that they could be stand-ins for the human body. It seemed more interesting than having to accept our bodies as just flesh and bone. In this particular work I wanted to connect holes and orifices, as sites of passing and escape, with water; using water as a conduit for certain emotions such as shame, regret and control. The point in a fountain from which the water gushes, the gap between a lock gate, the void of an entrance to a drain; using these structures as surrogates for not only myself but also the audience, allowing your body to grow, change, or respond in ways that exist outside the limitations of your own form. It may link to works and ideas generated by artists such as Paul Meheke, Mika Rottenberg and Matthew Barney. All approaching bodily subjectivity and connectivity differently but each containing clear visual metaphors of a constructed environment-body relationship, whether real or imagined.


Kieran Bryant, wetness trilogy (install view), single channel video (loop), rubber hose, water, dimensions variable, 2017


AF: In the show’s press release, you also talk about the themes of queer sensibility and identity signification in the work. Would you consider your work to be a treatment of those themes that’s perhaps outside the way they’ve been explored recently?

KB: I think yes and no. There are clear connections with recent examinations of queer narratives inherent in built environments, yet I feel this work perhaps approaches them from a slightly different angle. Engaging with and queering those previously mentioned man-made watery sites by re-aligning the way they are viewed and experienced; altering their ‘built’ intent to include those bodies that exist at the periphery. Also somewhat askew, there is a thread of image and sound re-textualisation from popular culture in the work, which leans hard on subtly to deviate from established tropes surrounding camp and humour. Voices of divas altered to unrecognition and explosions of water teetering on the edge of absurd.


Kieran Bryant, so you want us to get back in the water, do you? taken from ‘wetness quartet’, single-channel video (loop), 00:34:18, 2017


AF: The show is accompanied by a series of performances through the run of the show and then a final week of ‘collaborative harmonisation’… What does that mean, and what are you hoping the performances will bring to the work, and vice a versa?

KB: The act of collaborative harmonisation will be the final performance, a grouping of all performers in the series (including myself). We will each sing segments from our prior weeks; a circulating round robin of a performance that will build to a cacophonous harmony. I invited each performer based, not only on their talents and my deep respect and admiration for them, but also their ability to impart a fluidic grace into their work. By pouring them all together in this finale I hope to achieve some sort of collaborative togetherness that provides a capstone to the narrative threads and nuances that the performances and work will be able to draw out from each other through the run of the show.


grappling on the precipice of the squirt and the stream, Verge Gallery, until 19 May 2018 Gallery open: Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm / Saturday 11am – 4pm

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Andrew Frost

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