Over the somewhat discordant didgeridoo recording that greets you upon entering the gallery, the first exhibit that’s likely to catch your eye are two white blocks adorned with a variety of cotton dolls. Varying in size and significance, from the life-like to the mythic, they’re creations from the Noongar Doll Makers. In their disparate forms the dolls suggest harmony through diversity, celebration through difference and are (like any large collection of dolls) almost certain to come to life and menace unsuspecting patrons once the lights go down.
The principle of string theory is here appropriated to suggest a kind of universal connectedness. The exhibition, currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art until October 27, seeks to demonstrate the potential of every piece of art to not be confined to a single artform; baskets might become photographs, doll-making a kind of dance, and each shares a common, if invisible, bond. A work of art is also a work of memory, of culture. I feel that while the exhibition only occasionally succeeds in demonstrating this, some of the work on display is certainly worth revisiting.
string theory showcases thirty Aboriginal artists and artist groups, and although you quickly realise there are really only so many baskets you can admire before you start questioning just how much you actually care about the baskets in your life to begin with, there are several outstanding sculptures that are guaranteed to impress. The Tjanpi Desert Weavers have what are arguably the most arresting pieces on display in great sculptures documenting the transformation of seven sisters into grotesque hybrids of tree and flesh. Vicki West’s plantenner/gathering is a piece both beautiful and oddly threatening and the unnerving mutations from the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists are all splendid creations.
Though string theory’s theme itself seems a tad arbitrary, the artwork itself is colourful, engaging and worth your visit.
BY ADAM NORRIS