Dispatch Review respectfully acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands upon which we live, work and enjoy. We pay deep respect to Elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Reviews:

  1. At the End of the Land by Amelia Birch
  2. The beautiful is useful by Sam Beard
  3. ām / ammā / mā maram by Zali Morgan
  4. Making Ground, Breaking Ground by Maraya Takoniatis
  5. Art as Asset by Sam Beard
  6. Cactus Malpractice by Aimee Dodds
  7. Sweet sweet pea by Sam Beard
  8. COBRA by Francis Russell 
  9. PICA Barn by Sam Beard 
  10. Gallery Hotel Metro by Aimee Dodds
  11. A Stroll Through the Sacred, Profane, and Bizarre by Samuel Beilby
  12. Filling in the Gaps at Spacingout by Maraya Takoniatis
  13. Disneyland Cosmopolitanism by Sam Beard
  14. Discovering Revenue by Anonymous
  15. Uncomfortable Borrowing by Jess van Heerden
  16. It’s Not That Strange by Stirling Kain
  17. Hatched Dispatched by Sam Beard & Aimee Dodds
  18. F*ck the Class System by Jess van Heerden, Jacinta Posik, Darren Jorgensen, et al.
  19. Wild About Nothing by Sam Beard
  20. Paranoiac, Peripatetic: Pet Projects by Aimee Dodds
  21. An Odd Moment for Women's Art by Maraya Takoniatis 
  22. Transmutations by Sam Beard 
  23. The Post-Vandal by Sam Beard
  24. Art Thugs & Humbugs by Max Vickery
  25. Disneyland, Paris, Ardross and the artworld by Darren Jorgensen
  26. Bizarrely, A Biennale by Aimee Dodds
  27. Venus in Tullamarine by Sam Beard
  28. Weird Rituals by Sam Beard
  29. Random Cube by Francis Russell
  30. Yeah, Nah, Rockpool by Aimee Dodds
  31. Towards a Blind Horizon by Kieron Broadhurst
  32. Being Realistic by Sam Beard






Cactus Malpractice
James Angus, Grow Your Own, Forrest Place.


Last week City of Perth citizens defied all reason and logic by re-electing the mayoral equivalent of Doopa Dog, reaffirming that nowhere is safe from the seductive and reductive appeal of celebrity politicians (no matter how inconsequential or ineffective their policies may turn out to be). Public art is but one of the targets for our reminted footy commentator turned Right Honourable Mayor. Speaking to 6PRFM’s Gary Adshead on how the sculpture ‘represents an electrocardiogram or ECG and not a “cactus”’, Basil Zempilas suggested that ‘[w]e have two significant hospital precincts within the City of Perth… [m]aybe [the artwork] belongs as a prominent feature at one of those precincts because it is actually what happens in those health campuses. People being given life’. Our learned mayor continues:

If Forest Chase could be greener, with more trees, better access and more inviting space more of the time and that meant The Cactus being relocated to a hospital precinct, what would people think?

I cannot speak for all people, but I can certainly tell you what this art critic thinks of the proposed relocation. To create this site-specific commission, James Angus won an international design competition, selected from 202 other contestants in 2011. Site-specificity means that an artwork is conceptually inspired by and/or physically determined by its context. In other words, in site-specific art, an artwork’s surroundings or environment are integral to its meaning; works are informed by or explore their locale. In this format of making, the relationship between creation and place is significant.
        The result is Grow Your Own, the bright green hollow-cast aluminium 11.5 x 3 x 6.5-metre “biomorphic form” that we all know and love (to hate). A more generous critic may ask “if this work is moveable, is it still meaningful?” This less-than-generous critic might reply: “what good does shifting a site-specific eyesore from one CBD location to another really do?”
        Shifting Angus’ representation of the ‘heartbeat of the city’ to a hospital seems oddly consistent with many of our Lord Mayor’s suggested social strategies, such as his 2020 plan to forcibly remove the homeless from the CBD.[1] Perhaps a better location for Angus’ “ECG” is Council House, where it can be a fittingly ironic site-specific motif for the kind of heartlessness we have become all too accustomed to from our duly elected representatives.
        Zempilas’ biggest mistake in his recent artistic commentary is not even in thinking that green space, artwork, and public access are mutually exclusive in the Venn Diagram of what makes a vibrant and thriving CBD—it’s his staggering display of ego. The Cactus has been a long-critiqued work, dating back to its initial installation, and I am not here to defend its intrinsic artistic value. However, the selection of this work was the result of a juried process—a competition titled Situate—occasioned by then Western Australian Culture and the Arts Minister, and judged by a panel of professionals in the fields of art, architecture and urban design. The criteria for winning the $1 million Situate commission included that the work “must have a civic presence, be original, and respond to urban, environmental and pedestrian context”. The winner, whilst not to all tastes, is a “marker for the city and a colourful focal point of Forrest Place”. A 2020 boorloo aesthetics poll, when faced with the then-very-political question of “tear down the cactus?” resulted in 5% “yes”, 8% “no”, and the winning 71% responding “Make it BIGGER”.[2]
        The criteria that resulted in the award of the Cactus commission seem antithetical to those one might consider appropriate for a hospital artwork—a site unfriendly to tourists, meandering pedestrians, and office lunch-goers, instead accessed by individuals affected by or supporting those with illness, trauma, and/or recovery. Hospitals are public places, but they are private spaces. If shifted to a hospital, who is the cactus for? The doctors and nurses? The patients? Their visitors? Or Basil’s ego?
        Grow Your Own’s sheer scale and physical investment is not to be lightly plonked at a hospital simply because its material form loosely represents a three-dimensional graph of a human heartbeat. Public art has public responsibilities.
        Ascertaining whether or not our health service organisations are prepared to hire a curator knowledgeable in large sculpture, reserve a public art conservation budget to maintain this work, or heck, even want the thing, surely are among the first of these priorities. It seems that unwarranted gifts from our Lord Mayor continue to abound, like that time he offered a $100 voucher live on radio to any caller who ‘has a penis but is a woman’. But don’t fret—Basil was only transphobic because he ‘forgot’ that he was the Mayor! [3] Luckily, this time round, Zempilas has remembered his mayoral duties upon re-election to the role, and turned his attention to the hotly contested and most urgent first issue of unnecessary sculpture relocation on his own creative whims.
        To add further insult to site-specific-injury, James Angus has also made a host of other site-based works—including for hospitals. Take his sculptural work Mobile, at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. Mobile is a beautiful, Calder-esque, large-scale installation that transforms a familiar domestic object into a new setting, and ‘provides an optical experience that can be alternately relaxing and stimulatory, scientific, and playful’.[4] If first consulting the artist on repositioning the work before inviting the court of public opinion doesn’t fall within Zempilas’ remit, perhaps he can learn the alternative lesson available here: knowing your brief, and doing it well.

Everyone who lives in Perth knows that the civic heart of our city is flatlining. Cities change, and so too should their public art. This rebuttal is not a defence of Angus’ long-debated Cactus, nor is it denouncing the possibility of relocating or reimagining public art when genuinely required. But perhaps the most useful transplant here is not of the Cactus but rather of Basil, out of public office and back to the footy box.



[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8853365/Basil-Zempilas-forcibly-remove-homeless-people-Perths-city-elected-Lord-Mayor.html
[2] https://www.facebook.com/groups/145648992726100/search?q=cactus
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/31/forgot-i-was-mayor-basil-zempilas-apologises-for-transgender-comments-saying-he-forgot-his-position
[4] https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/going-to-hospital/family-services-and-facilities/arts-at-the-hospital/art-collection/mobile



Photo courtesy of the ABC. May 27, 2020. ABC News: Gian De Poloni.