From alleviating anxiety to getting fit at home, our current moment has been a time of seeking wisdom. The advice from artists at Cement Fondu? Don’t let yourself go.
From alleviating anxiety to getting fit at home, our current moment has been a time of seeking wisdom; of taking any advice we can get about how to live right now. Creatives aren’t immune to being queried about our current moment, and the overarching answer from artists at Cement Fondu? The online exhibition and ‘self-help guide’, Don’t Let Yourself Go.
With advice as humourous, poignant and philosophical as its title suggests, Don’t Let Yourself Go threads responses from 13 artists, collated in a digital scroll-through. While Kenny Pittock advocates for trips to the grocery store to buy ‘denial donuts’ and ‘acceptance apricots’, Radha takes viewers on a cooking class. As the Motel Sisters talk us through Zoom hangouts, Mechelle Bounpraseuth Barilla delivers a delicate look at maternal giving across generations. There are questions on technology, such as Giselle Stanborough’s critique of how Tiktok alters our sense of self-worth, and explorations into domestic concerns, seen in Kawita Vatanajyankur’s endurance performance (she becomes a human sponge) that considers how household chores are often gendered labour.
Yet the show is self-reflexive: it thinks through questions of self-care and how we can reach out to one another, while acknowledging that having the time and space for self-care is a sign of privilege. “In the midst of shared emotional angst and collective isolation, it felt important that our digital programs would be uplifting and offer a sense of togetherness,” explains Josephine Skinner, director at Cement Fondu. “Don’t Let Yourself Go’s self-help guide format offered a way to find brevity in our coping mechanisms while softly critiquing the privilege experienced by many of us in Australia that meant we could even think about self-care and self-improvement at this time.”
During the initial commissioning phase, each artist was assigned a self-help theme to interpret and create new work from. Collectively, the coinciding responses show the complexity of isolation and how we’re adjusting to our ‘new normal’. “We have something to learn from each of the works,” says Skinner. “If not in the realm of self-help, then about those things that COVID-19 revealed about ourselves and the nature of human beings.”