Nine collaborators unravel the elusive thread of art


The group exhibition Dug and Digging With presents the results of a 12-month collaboration between emerging curators Katie Barber and Stan Mahoney and seven visual artists, writers and theorists whose practices are process-based and research-driven: Matthew Bradley, Matea Gluscevic, Ray Harris, Matt Huppatz, Julia McInerney, Riley O’Keeffe and Tom Squires.

The project, which the curators say examines the “mysteries and paradoxes of being,” has continued to evolve over this time, and thus the artworks, diagrams and other ephemera document its processes and describe its own coming into being. Appropriately then, the results are unknown until the last minute.

This has led to a little anxiety on the part of the curators, who nevertheless celebrate the “poetry of the process.” Barber and Mahoney cite earlier curators, such as Harald Szeemann and Lucy Lippard, who took similar approaches to exhibition making in the 1960s and 1970s. This creative unfolding allows the unforced evolution of the work, which stands as a document of “the simultaneous nobility and futility of art making.”

Mahoney says artist Tom Squires writes on the futility of searching for the “constant thread of art.” The selected artists rose to this challenge, pulling the elusive thread to see how far it might unravel. In her practice, Ray Harris balances the courage and humour needed for such an absurd undertaking. Her sculptural spaces and videos explore universal conditions such as anxiety, desire and pain, often playing with the humorous flipside of these existential conditions.

Mahoney says the group had to train themselves to take risks, and artist Matthew Bradley’s experimental sculptural and performative practices helped introduce the idea of surrendering control to this curatorial process. Matea Gluscevic and Matt Huppatz’s diverse practices, including sculpture, installation, photography and assemblage, give them the creative credentials for courageous and nimble thinking. Riley O’Keefe’s practice also fits well in this project, as he examines ideas about time, perception, subjectivity and the agency of things. Julia McInerney’s work evokes “quiet curiosity.” Mahoney says, “her instinct for ambiguity and strangeness” makes her well qualified for inclusion in Dug and Digging With.”

Barber and Mahoney hope viewers will be struck by curiosity or “mild confusion” on entering the show, and that a state of quietness will follow. This year-long project, which charts its own crisis of becoming through selected artworks and a limited-edition companion book, should leave you wondering what it all means.

Dug and Digging With
Australian Experimental Art Foundation
22 July – 27 August

Preview Words by Zoe Freney