by Alex Wisser
artists: Adrian Gebers, Alex Pye, Alex Wisser, Audrey Newton, Clare Johnston, Crystal Skolnick, Emma Anderson, Francesca Mataraga, Georgie Pollard, Goran Tomic, Huw Lewis, Kate Mackay, Laura Gamio, Mamadada, Pineapple Park, Susannah Williams, Todd McCoy, Victoria Waghorn
Decorating Loos explored the aesthetic impulse through the prism of one of its most basic forms – the desire to embellish the lavatory walls with the mark of our distracted fancy. It did this quite literally through the construction of 15 toilet cubicles in the gallery, each of which was given to an artist to “decorate” according to their practice. The result was 15 immersive environments, each drawing on different mediums, genres, and subject matter – from video and performance to installation, painting and drawing – each a discrete world of imaginary practice, and all existing in intense proximity to one another. The installation was intended to interrogate the value of aesthetic endeavor by superimposing advanced contemporary art practice onto the much denigrated act of public toilet vandalism, asking what is the relationship between these two activities? Are they so different, and if so how?
At the heart of its enquiry is a wry reference to the Modernist architect Adolph Loos, who equated decoration with barbarity and the progress of culture with the gradual eradication of the ornamental from cultural production. He wrote stridently against the decorative urge. He considered it to be a primitive cultural practice that modernity strove to overcome in its progress towards a rational, efficient, and orderly society adorned only with the clean lines of function and the smooth planes of reason. At stake is the sense of authenticity, of the capacity of art to carry the unadorned truth of its subject, to give us some access to it’s reality, free from the signs of an explicit intention to influence or seduce us in it’s apprehension. Decorating Loos makes no attempt to resolve the tension between the artistic and the decorative, but only to stage it’s conflict and ask what it might mean in an era that is no longer the high modernity of Loos, but is also no longer the post-modernity that attempted to supersede it.
Decorating Loos was a joint curatorial project by Marrickville Art Lab (Alex Wisser and Georgina Pollard)