TOM POLO, All I Know, 2014, documentation of artist’s billboards in Minto, New South Wales. Courtesy the artist and Station Gallery, Melbourne. 

DANIEL MCKEWEN, Dialog, 2014, six-channel video installation with sound. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

The List

Campbelltown Arts Centre, New South Wales

“The List” at Campbelltown Arts Centre is an exhibition focusing on relational art practices. Curator Megan Monte commissioned a selection of artists to create multimedia works over the course of two years, with six-month art residencies in the Western suburb communities of Sydney, and the results are what form this group show.

Artist Tom Polo listened to commuters on the South Sydney train line and painted posters spelling out sentiments that were most commonly heard on these journeys. For the exhibition, these signs are displayed on a television screen, flashing like cue cards: “All I know / Is That / We / Just keep / Doubting / Ourselves.” Elsewhere on view is Daniel McKewen’s Dialog (all works 2014), comprising a stack of six screens that each show lips reciting different answers from an internet survey, in which the artist asked people for their favorite quotes from movies and television shows.

Across the large exhibition space is a mirrored surface on the wall, which lights up and displays the words “economy,” “realism” and “persecution.” Entitled Closed Loop, by Michaela Gleave, it is not merely a picture, but a backdrop for two performers who follow each other in a circle, tossing glitter and vacuuming it up in a Sisyphean loop. Gleave’s temporal installation is a meditation on the unlikelihood that something bigger is at play in one’s life other than routine. This is an idea that is addressed throughout the show, but not in ways that call for pity.

Another artist who deals with personal mythology is Uji Handoko Eko Saputro. A stack of zines accompanies a mural dotted with wall-mounted trophies, medals and a football flag, which together illustrate a reinterpreted version of a local ghost legend. This work shows that the message, as well as the mode of delivery, affects the staying power of information. Further exploring this notion is video and performance artist Pilar Mata Dupont, who has set the bureaucratic text of the Australian Asylum Seeker Policy to an original opera, which is shown in a video that can be viewed in a family lounge within the arts center.

For YOLO Wallpaper, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd engaged students from a local performing arts school to dance around on film, while face-painted and costumed like the Lost Boys of Peter Pan. This scene was inspired by The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), a collection of short stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman regarded as an important work of early American feminist literature, illustrating societal attitudes toward women’s physical and mental health. Neither the 19th-century inspiration nor the 21st- century interpretation are intended to drive people “crazy” with their radical expression, but rather meant to save us from the maddening controls of everyday life. Nearby, George Tillianakis’s video, a result of his time working with a group of youths from the Macarthur Disability Services, plays like a black-and-white, silent horror film, with the cast dressed up as ghosts and monsters enacting a campy melodrama.

MARVIN GAYE CHETWYND, The YOLO Wallpaper, 2014, performance still from opening of “The List” at Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles Gallery, London.

SHAUN GLADWELL, Attempt to Maintain Stillness and Balance, 2014, video still. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne/Sydney.

The Adventure of Science by Robin Hungerford is bizarrely enthralling. One enters a blue-lit room to find it bookended by a video screen and a bubbling cauldron made from plastic tubes and tin foil. The video on display is of a mock children’s show, where a scientist puppet is conversing with a floating head. The pair discuss the former’s latest hypothesis: that benevolent thoughts can be captured and harnessed as a renewable energy resource. This is quickly shot down as “esoteric and irresponsible” by the talking head. Hungerford uses this exchange to relate his experience of the hallucinatory effect that contemporary life has on the human mind.

In two videos, Shaun Gladwell uses the idea of “relational aesthetics” to question its relevance. In one piece, dancers dressed in military uniforms are seen trading new skate wheels for old ones with kids in a park: this vague charity and sense of community is countered by the second video, where Gladwell is shown alone balancing on a BMX bike outside a 7-11 convenience store on an empty street at night.

Encouraging the creative agency of teenagers through collaboration with artists—who share similar experiences of dislocation or inequality—“The List” unearths the poetry of idle time, rituals and hard-won empathy.

“The List” is on view at Campbelltown Arts Centre until October 12, 2014.