“I am interested in situations where the art historical, psychological, social, and physical worlds collide, and there is a thickness in these situations,” Agatha Gothe-Snape explains, when I ask her about what unites her new show, Certain Situations, at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA). It may sound like a broad description, but that is very much in keeping with the seemingly boundless scope of Gothe-Snape’s practice. Over the course of four rooms, visitors are invited to delve into the artist’s world, which contains everything from text works to sculptural pieces, moving images, PowerPoint presentations, oral histories and improvised performances. As I said, boundless.
Yet at the centre of Gothe-Snape’s solo exhibition, we also find collaboration. One of the main pieces in the exhibition, Five Columns, focuses – in both its form and theme – on exploring the idea of collaboration and rendering some part of these intangible relationships tangible.
The work began with Wrong Solo (Gothe-Snape’s longstanding collaboration with performance artist Brian Fuata), inviting five other collaborators, Sonya Holowell, Ruark Lewis, Sarah Rodigari, Brooke Stamp, and Lizzie Thomson, to individually visit their studio for a day. “We talked to them throughout the day, improvised, and then at 4pm each day cinematographer Gotaro Uematsu would film us for 10 minutes,” Gothe-Snape recounts. Again, if this sounds broad, it’s because it is. Each of the collaborators brought into the space with them distinct disciplinary interests. “Sonya Holowell is an incredible vocalist, she gave us a vocal score,” Gothe-Snape describes. “Whereas with Sarah it’s a lot more conversation, it’s an attempt to recount a text that we all read together that day.”
“It’s all different parts of our practices which are pulled apart and then come back together,” Gothe-Snape says. “For me, collaboration generates enormous energy and it is incredibly fun and joyful, but alongside that it is always full of struggle and antagonism and irritation.” It’s unusual to hear such candid descriptions, but by all accounts there is nothing ‘usual’ about the work. So, are the full spectrum of these emotions evident in the films? “They are! And that’s how I think the works move from a specific, set up situation into something with universal resonance,” she explains. “Because we all know what it is to perform – all of us! And I think in the video you see five people trying to get to something and it’s almost always unravelling as soon as it begins.”
I suggest to Gothe-Snape that the work sounds like the artistic equivalent of the Pompidou Centre in Paris: a building which reverses its architecture and reveals its internal functions on its outside. “That’s exactly it,” she affirms. “You see the scaffolding, the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities and the struggles.” And just like the iconic Parisian building, it is a work (and an exhibition) that by all accounts invites its audience to choose their own path and explore for themselves. “The viewer is allowed to make connections for themselves. It’s not prescriptive at all.”