Opinion | ‘Ugh… Art’ at RM

Ugh… Art

RM (Auckland)

Wednesday April 8 – Saturday April 25, 2015

Curated by Mongoose Chen

Cameron Rey, Theo Macdonald, Natasha Priddle, Poal Ex, Mongoose Chen

Open Discussion on Thursday April 23, 3pm at RM.

So often these days you find yourself at an opening staring at a white sheet pinned to a white wall, and there’s nothing on the sheet, the girl next to you is stroking her chin, and you find yourself sighing.

The opening of Ugh… Art at RM on Wednesday April 8 seemed to be totally conscious of this feeling – the prevalence of it – and so managed to avoid it. Despite one of the works appearing to be simply a damp (or lacquered) section of floor, it did the unthinkable and managed to be unpretentious. Part of this was the exhibition’s refusal to couch any of the work in ‘art speak’. Even the show’s bill spoke to this. At the very top it read:

‘Not quoting anyone else here, so my name is on the next line.’

– Mongoose Chen

This was followed by the names of the artists or ‘participants’ as they were labelled: Cameron Rey, Theo Macdonald, Natasha Priddle, Poal Ex and Mongoose Chen. That was about all you got. The effect was to let the works speak for themselves: A digital animation of a man in the process of being shocked out of his monocle; a cell phone number lasered into the top of a Perspex vitrine that contained a column heater, on top of this was a tile with scented pool of liquid (?) – the heat encouraging the scent circulate around the room. When I called the number, I discovered the sound of crickets on the other end. Maybe it was the fumes messing with me, but I found this rather soothing. One of the artists spent the opening lurking around the gallery in heavy concrete clogs that seemed to have been carved from cinder blocks. As with the crickets, something about this put the audience at ease.

In the end, maybe it was the lack of justification that came with these pieces that made them so agreeable. In an art environment where everything has a verbose paragraph attached to it, where words like ‘synergy’ and ‘praxis’ and ‘zeitgeist’ are used like weapons to deflect meaning or as a kind of self-defence, it was really nice to see art simply be, to exist just because. In this sense, Ugh… Art was a huge success.