Relics of Survival
7 – 31 August 2019
By Anador Walsh
Bus Projects' current exhibition Relics of Survival evokes private emotions and experiences, and situates them in the public realm. Curated by artists Zoë Bastin and Kari Lee McInneny-McRae, Relics of Survival makes tangible the intangible so that it cannot be dismissed or ignored. In Bastin's own words: "I wonder what it means to make a record of existence, to push up against the systems we exist within that silenced our voices, that have limited our power".
Featuring Bastin and McInneny-McRae, alongside Josephine Mead, Jazz Money, Bridget Griffiths and Katie Paine, Relics of Survival is a shrine to lived experience. The works installed in the front gallery of Bus are remnants of the ways these six people process and understand their existence. The deeply personal nature of these works demand both attention and reverence. They firmly inscribe in the gallery space and the world: "This is me, I am here".
Central to the significance of these relics are the processes by which they come into being. These are the remains of gestures made and actions taken in order to work through and overcome grief. Josephine Mead's "to utter aloud or render in speech", presents us with a box made of Victorian ash and Tasmanian oak, with the work's title engraved on its top. This box houses 11.54 minutes of Mead's internal processing, and an attached set of headphones allows us to interlope. She speaks of embodied experience, the way the body holds ancestral trauma, and of the capacity for transformation. Mead acknowledges her pain, considers it deeply and then works to rebuild.
The success of this exhibition lies in its demonstrating the means by which renewal occurs. Relics of Survival is punctuated by performances that enact these artists' coping mechanisms. On the show's opening night Katie Paine gave a reading. Paine's prose: "Our words found their way to one another far sooner than our bodies: A tentative verbal caress", articulated just how writing allows her to make sense of and find meaning in her grief. For Zoë Bastin the body is her conduit for doing so. On friday 16 August Bastin performed "Redemption for the Redeemer", a reflection on her Anglican upbringing and the ways that religion silenced her as a young person. By adopting religious rituals and queering them through bodily movement, Bastin signals that she will no more quiet who she is.
While an exhibition including artworks by its curators has the potential to be self-indulgent, or to lack cohesion with the other artists in the show, this is not the case with Relics of Survival. Bastin and McInneny-McRae have created a space that they wish to and do occupy. Theirs is a space where the capacity of the featured artists to voice and overcome grief through artistic practice is acknowledged and celebrated.
Anador Walsh is an emerging writer and curator, currently living and working in Narrm (Melbourne).
Title image: Image by Christo Crocker, courtesy of Bus Projects.