Exhibition: Into My Arms - Frances Barrett and Toby Chapman Explore the nature of the embrace

Words by Freya Langley
Photography by Sam Roberts

 Katherine Botten,  KB B2B Process-Product (DJ Set) , 2018.

Katherine Botten, KB B2B Process-Product (DJ Set), 2018.

‘Into My Arms’ explores the idea of the embrace in a time of political and social uncertainty and how an embrace serves as a form of care and resilience. Curated by Frances Barrett and Toby Chapman, the exhibition features the works of a range of local and national multi-disciplined artists. The eight-week long program kicked off on May 10th at ACE Open, and was soon followed by the first installment of the live performance program.

‘Into My Arms’ explores the embrace as acceptance of change and ideas, and drawing someone or something nearer. Artists explore ideas cultural lineages, familial relationships, digital revelations and speculative imaginings to illustrate new and emerging forms of intimacy.

Saturday afternoon featured live performance pieces from Sione Monu (NZ), Anthea Thebus (NSW), Grace Marlow (SA) and Lonelyspeck (SA).

The afternoon began with a workshop for local emerging artists, led by New Zealand-based artist, Sione Monu. Monu and the emerging artists worked to create a series of Tongan flower garlands – which will be on display for the duration of the exhibition.

Writer, sculptor and drawer, Athena Thebus performed their text work, ‘DOGGY’ – a heartfelt and emotive prose, embodying both shame and hope.

 “Being a dog is how I want to move through the world… Though in all my clumsy honesty, it is to be dumb, and fuck, and still be fed”

The descriptions of shame, angst and pain that can infiltrate identity, love and sex struck a painful chord. It was bold and graphic but maintained a sense of softness and vulnerability. With allusion to Kylie Mingoue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head – Thebus’ ‘DOGGY’ was honest, painfully relatable and tugged at the heartstrings of their audience.

 Athena Thebus,  Doggy , 2018.

Athena Thebus, Doggy, 2018.

Grace Marlow and Virginia Barratt performed Marlow’s commissioned piece, ‘(again, back remain through’ exploring ideas of language and the structural conditions of an embrace.

Marlow and Barratt moved around the room, speaking to each other in different positions at different distances: side by side, back to back, opposite sides of the room, sitting, laying down and standing. The audience sat scattered around the room, some at the feet of the artists as they changed positions.

 “The appointment is cancelled.

Begin. The proposition of a tattoo take this weight becomes heavy.

Respite –“

The darkened gallery room with artists moving among the audience members sitting cross-legged on the floor made for a mesmerising and intimate performance. Marlow draws on the former Australian Experimental Art Foundation performance archive to create an immersive piece that embraces the ACE Open gallery and artists’ time and research in the space. The likeness of the two artists, paired with the age difference added to the performance.

 Grace Marlow,  (again, back remain through  ,  2018.

Grace Marlow, (again, back remain through2018.

An activation of her poster installation, Untitled for the exhibition, Katherine Botten’s ‘Open Window.’ Part DJ set, part spoken-word poetry, she performed facing a wall, her back to the audience. Botten’s performance was funny and honest.  Despite not facing the audience, the familiarity of the Botten’s content sparked heart-warming and emotive connections – much like an embrace.

Local musician and visual artist, Lonelyspeck performed their 2017 EP, ‘Lave’. The dreamy, hypnotic synth, paired with their gentle vocals and wavy lighting, paired with the acoustics of the large gallery space made for an immersive musical experience. Themes of identity/self-awareness explored on their experimental pop/electronica release connected with the overarching themes of acceptance and embrace the exhibition explores.

‘Into My Arms’ features the works of Amira.h. (VIC), Katherine Botten (VIC), Eugene Choi (NSW), Matt Huppatz (SA), Lonelyspeck (SA), Grace Marlow (SA), Sione Monu (NZ), Kate Power and Susie Fraser (SA), and Athena Thebus (NSW). The exhibition runs from 12th May to 7th of July at ACE Open Gallery. 

Artist Talk: Toby Chapman and Matt Huppatz
Saturday 23 June, 1pm-2pm

In Conversation, Performance and Roundtable
Saturday 7 July, 1pm-3.30pm