Putting together a show of the best young Australians meddling in the art of now is a hefty task. Contemporary art is a noisy, ADHD thing – an equation with countless variables. Today’s young artists deal in hypervideo and high definition. That means the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Primavera 2013 is in fact a pop show. “This Primavera speaks about our world. It’s not like going into a fine art museum – it’s about our immediate culture,” says curator Robert Cook.
The thread that pulls this year’s Primavera artists together is the simple fact that they are all working in CAPS LOCK and at the centre of the contemporary art map. “This is an unapologetically big show,” says Cook who is also curator at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. “It’s a popular show. I live in Perth, so this environment for me is quite bizarre and exotic. I imagine people stepping off the harbour and straight into the MCA so I want it to be a ‘bang’ show, captivating and jaw-dropping. All of the artists are so intense and I want that intensity to come through. The artists are very much of this moment.”
Bringing these artists together inside the “perfect white cube” of the MCA’s level one North Gallery means that something else arises – a platform from the gallery into what Cook calls “an imagined beyond”. This is a show that manifests more than the sum of its eight artists’ parts. “Everyone’s brought their A game to show the best of what they can do. Noone’s done a little work. Everything’s huge and the challenge has been to modulate that to make it all work together,” says Cook.
That means that although Kusum Normoyle (NSW) is ostensibly a sound artist, what she’s really doing is transforming the gallery space and our experience inside it. Normoyle has made a series of six videos wherein viewers see her screaming in different positions. “You come very close, you put on the headphones, it’s very immersive. You take the headphones off and you’re aware of the silence in the space. It brings you into another landscape, imaginatively,” says Cook.
Likewise, the works of Juz Kitson (NSW) and Brendan Huntley (VIC) cross one another through the medium of installation as a portal to other art-making disciplines. Thomas Jeppe (WA/VIC) and Jess Johnson (VIC) have hijacked the gallery walls to create large-scale paintings and structures that leap off and into the space. And Jackson Eaton (WA/VIC) and Jacqueline Ball (WA) are both photographers working off and on the traditional two-dimensional plane.
Most familiar to Sydney audiences is Heath Franco, who has exhibited at Firstdraft and Galerie Pompom. “He’s just insanely fantastic,” says Cook. “His work is about suburbia and the nightmares within it; it’s about regression and childhood and things just festering inside without being socialised properly.” Through his videos and installations, Franco creates clown-like characters who are, as Cook describes them, “the negative of every Australian stereotype, but massively amplified. The worst of yourself.”
That massive amplification is the core of Cook’s big, bad brief. By opening the floodgates for a cresting wave of maximalist, satisfying contemporary art candy, the curator has issued an unashamed booty call for the cult of contemporary art. The kicker is a long afterburn of ideas. “I want it to be memorable. I want you to really feel like you’ve seen it. All the artists have turned their amps to eleven. This is the Spinal Tap of Primaveras,” says Cook.
BY LAUREN CAROLL HARRISS
Primavera 2013 opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art on September 12 and runs until November 17.