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. Twin Peaks Was 30 by Matthew Taggart.
  2. Breaking News: It’s Rone! by Sam Beard.
  3. Look, looking at Anna Park by Amelia Birch.
  4. The Fan by Francis Russell.
  5. Follower, Leader by Maraya Takoniatis.
  6. Wanneroo Warholamania by Sam Beard.
  7. Death Metal Summer by Sam Beard.
  8. Players, Places: Reprised, Renewed, Reviewed by Aimee Dodds.
  9. Scholtz: Two Worlds Apart by  Corderoy, Fisher, Flaherty, Wilson, Fletcher,  Jorgensen, & Glover.
  10. Partial Sightings by Sam Beard.
  11. True! Crime. by Aimee Dodds.
  12. The Human Condition by Rex Butler.
  13. Light Event by Sam Beard.
  14. Rejoinder: Archival / Activism by Max Vickery.
  15. Access and Denial in The Purple Shall Govern by Jess van Heerden.
  16. 4Spells by Sam Beard.
  17. Abstract art, DMT capitalism and the ugliness of David Attwood’s paintings
    by Darren Jorgensen.
  18. Unearthing new epistemologies of extraction by Samuel Beilby.
  19. Seek Wisdom by Max Vickery.
  20. Something for Everyone by Sam Beard.
  21. Violent Sludge by Aimee Dodds.
  22. State of Abstraction by Francis Russell.
  23. Double Histories: Special Issue, with texts by Ian McLean, Terry Smith, and Darren Jorgensen & Sam Beard.
  24. Six Missing Shows by Sam Beard.
  25. What We Memorialise by Max Vickery.
  26. At the End of the Land by Amelia Birch.
  27. The beautiful is useful by Sam Beard.
  28. ām / ammā / mā maram by Zali Morgan.
  29. Making Ground, Breaking Ground by Maraya Takoniatis.
  30. Art as Asset by Sam Beard.
  31. Cactus Malpractice by Aimee Dodds.
  32. Sweet sweet pea by Sam Beard.
  33. COBRA by Francis Russell.
  34. PICA Barn by Sam Beard .
  35. Gallery Hotel Metro by Aimee Dodds.
  36. A Stroll Through the Sacred, Profane, and Bizarre by Samuel Beilby.
  37. Filling in the Gaps at Spacingout by Maraya Takoniatis.
  38. Disneyland Cosmoplitanism by Sam Beard.
  39. Discovering Revenue by Anonymous.
  40. Uncomfortable Borrowing by Jess van Heerden.
  41. It’s Not That Strange by Stirling Kain.
  42. Hatched Dispatched by Sam Beard & Aimee Dodds.
  43. Fuck the Class System by Jess van Heerden, Jacinta Posik, Darren Jorgensen, et al.
  44. Wild About Nothing by Sam Beard.
  45. Paranoiac, Peripatetic: Pet Projects by Aimee Dodds.
  46. An Odd Moment for Women’s Art by Maraya Takoniatis.
  47. Transmutations by Sam Beard.
  48. The Post-Vandal by Sam Beard.
  49. Art Thugs and Humbugs by Max Vickery.
  50. Disneyland, Paris, Ardross and the artworld by Darren Jorgensen.
  51. Bizarrely, A Biennale by Aimee Dodds.
  52. Venus in Tullamarine by Sam Beard.
  53. Weird Rituals by Sam Beard.
  54. Random Cube by Francis Russell.
  55. Yeah, Nah, Rockpool by Aimee Dodds.
  56. Towards a Blind Horizon by Kieron Broadhurst.
  57. Being Realistic by Sam Beard.



Death Metal Summer

It is hard to believe that there are over 140 photographs in the Deanna and Ed Templeton exhibition, Death Metal Summer. The selection represents nearly three decades worth of photography by the pair. Mounted in the Rooftop Gallery at The Art Gallery of Western Australia, essentially the show consists of three walls: two densely packed salon hangs, and a display of four portraits atop two prints that are wallpapered across the expanse of the wall.  The show is a motley mix of photographic brilliance, oddities, and mediocrity. But let’s not rush to the mains. First, the entree.
        Deanna and Ed Templeton have been photographing the skater and hardcore scenes for decades. The couple grew up surrounded by, met because of (at a Red Hot Chili Peppers gig no less), and built their careers around these scenes. They are scene kids through and through. In 1993 at the tender age of 21, pro-skater Ed founded Toy Machine, the skateboard company he continues to manage. Toy Machine soon began releasing skateboarding compilation videos that featured fellow skaters executing various tricks to an eclectic soundtrack of Fugazi, Marvin Gaye, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Rites of Spring, and Carlos Santana. Speaking of metal music, 1995’s Heavy Metal is perhaps one of Toy Machine’s best videos. The compilation features the likes of Josh Kalis, Jamie Thomas, and Templeton himself, along with a “slams” section full of bone-shattering falls and fails, set to a score of Metallica’s Whiplash. Toy Machine’s films are an interesting mix of scene documentary, brand development, and insights into what some consider the golden years of the Californian skater scene. While Ed came to photography through skateboarding, for Deanna Templeton, photography came first; she began documenting the Californian punk scene at an early age. Yet, while many consider Deanna and Ed Templeton to be the real deal, something in Death Metal Summer is amiss. 
        Take the central salon hang: this selection of both Deanna and Ed’s pictures—most about A4 size—are tightly packed, edge-to-edge, pinned to a matte black wall in a messy oblong shape. Observed closely, pictures include: young lovers, sunbathers, smokers, punks, nude bathers, bassists, train passengers, festival goers, cops, hospital patients, night life, adolescent snogging, bad tattoos, day drinkers,  a couple in bowler hats, a little girl with a handgun, Ed Templeton in a neck brace, Deanna Templeton in her underwear—the list goes on and broadens until one realises that the display is less about the art of photography and more to do with autobiography. Seen from further back, the oblong appears to be the silhouette of a skateboard. Is this by design? If so, this twee and cutesy detail is at the detriment to the photography. The clutter stifles what captivating images are to be found amongst the crammed arrangement. There’s a great photo of a shopper (or butcher, perhaps) looking back over his shoulder, eyes gazing up, a moment caught between apathy and curiosity. The image is gritty and thrilling—Roland Barthes would have had a field day expounding on the photo’s punctum. Nearby is an unremarkable image of Fugazi, perhaps selected for its “we were there” cred, rather than for any contribution the photograph makes to the exhibition. The resolution to the problem of the salon hang can be found on the verso of the central wall. There, four photographs are mounted atop two expanded wall-sized prints. It is a far more focused display—and, while these images lack the brilliance of the best in the salon hang, at the very least they can be distinguished.
        In search of a different opinion, I asked a friend who is an enthusiast photographer what he thought of Death Metal Summer. He remarked that what interested him most was seeing photographs that captured the rawness of the 1990s-2000s Californian countercultural scenes. To him, part of the appeal of the Templetons’ work is that it is seemingly exotic. And while there is no denying the pair’s place within their scene’s history, and that the work has an air of the exotic, there is also something dull about its familiarity—at least when seen en masse in this dense display. It is not a vision of the Californian underground, but the California of TV commercials. These are images of a counterculture subsumed by American advertising and post-Tumblr internet imagery. Oversaturated and commodified, the sun kissed Californian skater kid is at once model and idol. As contemporary life becomes increasingly complicated and chaotic, corporations utilise familiar “recent pasts” to encourage sales. Visions of simpler times become vehicles of commerce. Nostalgia is narrowed and redefined. In this sense, Death Metal Summer enacts the quintessential quandary for those operating within countercultural scenes: whether or not to sellout—or, to become “institutionalised”. Be it in the form of awkward punk rock reunion tours, indie clothing labels partnering with fast fashion, or anti-establishment artists succumbing to the appeal of the “major retrospective”, the line between well-deserved recognition and selling-out is wriggly and wicked.
        And in the case of Death Metal Summer, it is difficult to shake the feeling that an idealistic way of life has been re-presented as images of fashion and desire. The seductive pull of near-tragic nostalgia elicits the mood: “oh, to be young back then”. Or, quoting from the promotional material for the exhibition:

…the artists respond to the chaotic intensity and impossible beauty and sadness of life in a manner that seems that there is always something at stake.

And for both of them there always has been.

But what is ‘at stake’? The tightly arranged “mood boards” reveal that there is little more than the conjuring of an angsty teenage ennui at stake. It’s all blu-tacked bedroom walls with summer happy snaps of goofing off, fucking around, and wasting time. It is mood over merit. No melody. Just the weird conjuring of the ambient. These images present what we already know about California. My ambivalence toward Death Metal Summer stems from this very familiarity—if the “countercultural” that is presented here is ubiquitous and commercialised, then does it remain countercultural at all? What was this lifestyle for, and to whom? To fight back? Rise above? From what, and against whom? Death Metal Summer presents a vision of that fight lost, whilst confirming that some striking images were taken during the struggle.
        So, what might be a lesson for budding young photographers visiting AGWA? Just remember, if you hang around a good-looking crowd, who have the right tatts, take the correct drugs, wear the cool labels, and sober up just in time to make it big, then your house party photos might also end up in an art museum. 

Death Metal Summer runs until Sunday, 21 April 2024 at The Art Gallery of Western Australia.



Image credits: Death Metal Summer, by Deanna & Ed Templeton, at The Art Gallery of Western Australia. Photographs by the author.