Suburbia
    Josephine Skinner & Megan Monte, Cement Fondu, Gallery

    Celebrating the launch of Cement Fondu, a new exhibition and live arts space in Sydney, directors Josephine Skinner and Megan Monte have partnered with Daata Editions to select the ‘Suburbia’ playlist, which features online at Daata-Editions.com and throughout their inaugural exhibition of the same title.

    Selected works by Ed Fornieles, Amalia Ulman, Scott Reeder, Jacky Connolly, Leo Gabin and Jonathan Monaghan are presented in the Sydney space alongside 15 Australian artists and collectives, each variously teasing apart and redefining what Suburbia means today.

    Being geographically isolated, contemporary (White) Australia has tended to look overseas, idolising Europe’s history while largely ignoring its indigenous own, and adopting aspects of America’s aspirational culture.

    A key example is the notion of suburbia. As exported worldwide by US TV dramas, it conjures images of backyard sausage sizzles, near-identical houses, trimmed lawns and white picket fences. These conventionally conservative areas at the edges of cities model the Western-idealised notion of ‘home’, and privilege white hetero-normative ‘nuclear families’ within apparently safe and close-knit communities.

    This vision may live on in the collective conscious but for most of us sits at odds with the realities of life today. In Australia, inner city gentrification continues to displace traditional landowners and push new migrant communities to city fringes. High-density urban living is spreading in all directions, and Australia’s ‘outback’ communities are increasingly modernised in both beneficial and detrimental ways.

    Within this context our exhibition seeks to take a fresh look at Suburbia through the eyes of a culturally and geographically diverse selection of artists. Ranging from the further afield perspectives offered by Daata Edition’s international artists to Tangentyere indigenous painters, who make keen observations of everyday life at the centre of Australia, all those participating reflect on current socio-cultural shifts as they play out within the everyday. We look both inside and outside the privacy of home to consider our evolving relationships to ourselves, each other and the places we inhabit.

    Key to broadening this gaze, our Daata Editions selection draws potent cross-cultural threads. Amalia Ulman’s disturbing house invasions by SWAT team agents in her White Flag Emoji videos add another layer to the ultra-surveilled society depicted by Garry Trinh’s photographic series Welcome Home. Trinh’s images document the extreme security features embellishing Western Sydney homes in lockdown - a fear response to influxes of culturally different communities. The Government surveils us as we surveil each other.

    The Daata Editions artworks contextualise Australian experiences more broadly within a globalised socio-economic reality. Scott Reeder’s immediately relatable collages, for example, evoke both a heart-warming global commonality and disquieting homogenization of identity as manifest in consumer products and mobile technologies. On the other hand, we find profound points of contrast between global and local experiences. A symbolic schism distinguishes The Garden, a text by indigenous Sweatshop Western Literacy Movement writer Louisa Badayala, performed, recorded and presented in the space as an audio piece, and Jonathan Monaghan’s digitally generated videos Back to the Garden and Earthly Delight. Badayala’s poetic and nostalgic language sincerely evokes the spiritual connection between her protagonist and late Christian grandmother, as mirrored by the growth of an inherited lush, native garden. In stark relief, Monaghan’s cold, sanitised digital imagery indicates that a comparative spiritual relationship to the Garden of Eden is now devoid of meaning, mummified through processes of commodification and environmental degradation. This, he suggests, is symbolised by the curated abundance of air conditioned organic supermarkets - relative havens from the reality of a scorched and decimated natural world outside.

    Throughout our gallery exhibition, experiences of immigration and colonisation, cultural identity, privilege and inequality, the body and home are explored with sensitivity, stark honesty and humour, and engage a broad cross-section of art forms - embroidery, ceramics, installation, digital media and live performance.

    Variously, we find artists address Suburbia today by shining a critical light - on forms of oppression, prejudice and injustice that arise in sometimes invisible spaces, such as between school, work and home - and by speaking to the personal struggles and psychological complexities of our everyday lives as they erupt or equally fester behind closed doors. Simultaneously, some embrace suburbia’s banal, kitsch and nostalgic qualities as points for connection and commonality and recognise the home as a safe space for intimacy and expression of difference.

    In its broadest sense, therefore, we aim to collectively address Suburbia as a starting point for both remembering upon whose land we stand while welcoming what lies beyond our own backyards.

    Celebrating the launch of Cement Fondu, a new exhibition and live arts space in Sydney, directors Josephine Skinner and Megan Monte have partnered with Daata Editions to select the ‘Suburbia’ playlist, which features online at Daata-Editions.com and throughout their inaugural exhibition of the same title. This Daata Editions playlist features works by Ed Fornieles, Amalia Ulman, Scott Reeder, Jacky Connolly, Leo Gabin, Jonathan Monaghan.

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