Day For Night is an uncommon kind of experience, placing a selection of Australia’s boldest queer artists together for a show that is part art exhibition, part dance party, and part free-for-all. The key cultural event of the 2014 Mardi Gras, Day For Night is a durational exhibition, taking place over a period of days at Carriageworks. During that time, a variety of artists will do their thing, including Justin Shoulder, Lilian Starr, Sydney dance stalwart Martin del Amo, and all-grrrl collective Hissy Fit. One of the centrepiece works comes from the duo of Alex Clapham and Penelope Benton, who have been doing beautiful and weird things together around Sydney for several years now. You may even have seen one of their living pictures, or eaten one of their toasted sandwiches in that time.
“I think that Day For Night is really exciting because it crosses the boundaries between what one might expect in a gallery or a theatre or a club or a party,” Benton explains of the event. “It combines those four elements, and it kind of speaks to something at the core of queer performance, which is to say it doesn’t really fit into anything traditional.” The show has performances and works that develop over the duration of a few days, and the whole thing ends in a giant dance party on the final night, led by Stereogamous, the duo of Paul Mac and Jonny Seymour. “The pieces themselves are very immersive,” Benton continues, “they’re the kind of things that don’t necessarily fit into a traditional gallery or club format, they sit in the middle, so it’s very exciting. There’s an ebb and flow to the whole thing, you can experience different works at different times, and take it at whatever pace you want.”
As for her own piece, Benton tells me that she and her partner Alex will be creating a living work of art. “Alex and I have been working collaboratively for about three years now, and particularly in the last year, we’ve developed our work with a focus on the tableau vivant,” she explains. “That’s what you might call a living picture.” The tableau vivant was a very popular form of entertainment before television and film – the host of a party would recreate a scene from a painting, and everyone would think how fabulous it was, and the party would continue. “Our work is based around that,” Benton says. “We’ll be a living picture around a table. It’s very still but it breathes. We’ll be doing it several times throughout the event, mostly at the start and the end. Without wanting to give too much away, there’s a climax. We sit there for about an hour, and it finally explodes at the end.”
As for the theme of their work, Benton tells me that it’s about partnership, both as a creative team and as a couple. “The work really reflects the feelings that we get when we’re together,” she explains. The dynamics or art and couple-dom are more alike than you might first think. “When you’re trying to make something, there’s a whole lot of nothing for a really long time,” she says, “and it can be annoying and awkward. There are a lot of silences, and then suddenly, there’s magic. Then it gets quiet again. Relationships are like that, there’s a lot of silence, there are a lot of times when nothing’s happening, and then things suddenly get passionate again, and you have everything you ever wanted. Some days it’s goosebumps and fireworks and other days it’s nothing. Our piece represents that.”
Day For Night runs from February 13-15 at Carriageworks.