‘Til It’s Gone

‘‘Til It’s Gone’ brings together a trio of Australian artists each approaching themes of ecology, geomorphology, time and ruin. The exhibition has been curated by Pippa Mott for Mona’s summer festival, Mona Foma, as a site-specific response to the former site of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. Not quite on the outskirts of Launceston, but in a district where parklands jut up against industry, the old car museum is a hanger-like space that evokes equal parts nostalgia and decay. Subtle interventions into the space amplify this effect. The original museum signs have been hijacked by the exhibition title, which appears in retro-styled hand-painted cursive. 

The title itself belies the inevitability of environmental destruction, the precariousness of the Anthropocene, and the false urgency of commercial cries for action. Its foreboding quality is foregrounded in reality, too, as the venue is due for demolition at the close of the festival. The old car museum is part of a patchwork of inconspicuous yet strategic sites scattered throughout urban Launceston and Hobart that have been acquired by the University of Tasmania. A self-fulfilling prophecy seems to be at play, too, as the thrust of gentrification so often appears in the wake of creative intervention.

For ‘’Til It’s Gone’, local artist Eloise Kirk presents a new body of work: the culmination of an artist residency undertaken in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in late 2019. Throughout a suite of three paintings, photographs of volcanic landscapes melt and merge with resin and acrylic paint. Elsewhere, plaster sculptures evoke the plasticity and power of lava. Free-standing and scattered across the original pebbled showroom floor, they create the effect of a dilapidated and forgotten rock garden. A potent sulphur-yellow coats concrete surfaces and walls, tinging the entire exhibit with chemical opulence.

Tristan Jalleh’s video work nadir (2019) presents panning drone-like footage of a simulated metropolis: crumbling in the wake of an unknown disaster. The unpeopled landscape is littered with anachronistic detritus; here, the corpse of a shark, there, a single Adidas slide, and a Mickey Mouse doll. The film features textures from a deserted hotel construction in Bangkok that was inhabited by squatters, and artist interventions in Detroit’s abandoned car factory district. Jalleh describes his interest in these repurposed, post-capitalist spaces as ‘an interesting backdrop for re-evaluating expectations for the future’.

An installation on the upper mezzanine by Kai Wasikowski features bouldering hand-holds upon which the artist has transferred photographs of the melting glaciers of Aotearoa, New Zealand. climb, grip, hold (2019) extends upon Wasikowski’s ongoing investigation into the human urge to connect with the natural world, and the potential for technology and simulated experiences to satiate this desire. The work contemplates the inherent contradictions that exist within environmental rhetoric and ‘outdoorsy’ culture – it is neither free, low-impact nor inclusive. Rather, it is rooted in macho-gendered politics and whiteness.

Pippa Mott explains that the exhibition ‘is an intuitive response to a very unique site. Kirk, Jalleh and Wasikowski are emblematic of a certain generation of artists who are responding to the low-humming threat of impending environmental catastrophe in extraordinarily nuanced ways. There is a commonality in their explicitly elemental and poetic stance.’

Situated within the context of a festival that seems to brand itself as bright and bouncy, ‘‘Til It’s Gone’ may be more than punters bargained for, but it is these moments of darkness and reflection, peppered throughout the program, that make for a distinctly varied and captivating festival experience.

‘Til It’s Gone – Mona Foma
15 January, 4pm–8pm; 16 + 17 January, 11am–5pm
Old Car Museum, 86 Cimtiere St, Launceston

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