A KIKASS review by Matto Lucas.
“On a hot, sticky, Summer evening, I made my way to the “Company Of Men”exhibition at Bright Space Gallery in St.Kilda – another Midsumma exhibition opening.
As the title may suggest – “Company Of Men” celebrated the male form through photographs, illustrations and performances from a range of different queer artists.
While the subject matter for each of the artists was the same -the male body- it is in the technologies and method that we see differences in how these artists aim to approach the subject. From interactive, old-school 3D glasses that bring the photographs popping off the wall in a retro-chic way to video and installation pieces that blur kitsch with ‘high design’ to Rogan Richards’ performance installation at the bottom of a ‘pit’ in the gallery – “Company Of Men” is an exhibition full of eye-candy, bright colours and fun. Not taking itself too seriously, and with tongue-in-cheek cheekiness, the exhibition presents the male form for our visual digestion.
I do have to say personally – and perhaps it is because I am moving more into performance work within my own practice – but Richards’ performance was the stand-out piece for me. Voyeuristically, the crowd gathered at the top of the pit to look down upon him – his nest filled with two mirrors (Narcissus staring lovingly back at his own perfect, naked form) some weights and a bench press. Various pop songs blasted from the bottom of the pit as Richards’ donned a blue wig and matching tiny underwear – having previously been completely naked with erect penis, writhing and rubbing himself over the mirrors – danced manically and exploded in a cloud of glitter to Madonna, Lady Gaga et cetera.
What I liked about this Pavel Petel-esque performance work, was that not only did it challenge notions of male identity and sexuality, but it brought various elements of queer society(ies) together; the pit, or dungeon, the wig and glitter, drag, the hyper-masculine, muscular naked man, porn culture, voyeuristic culture, body-building and gym culture, together in a bright, ‘fun’ and explosive manner. It was as fun to watch Richards as it was to watch the crowd leering down at him.
There is an interesting conversation happening between Richards’ career as a porn performer, his dabbling within art and the connection between porn consumer, art audience and the overlap between them both. Does this pit of glitter and mirrors and weights and wigs and pop-dance music with us staring down at him represent his existence? What is it like to have the world know your body so intimately? What does that do to the perception of your own body? What does Richards’ perfect male physique do to the consumers of such material as well? All interesting things to consider through the flamboyantly fun interaction with Richards’ performance.”
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