Stadium is on show at PICA from Friday, September 3, ’til Sunday, October 30. Performances of Ever Higher will be staged on September 2, 16, 30, plus October 15 and 28. Find out more at pica.org.au.
The Perth Institute Of Contemporary Arts will be converted into an old school gymnasium come Friday, when Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont combine the realms of sport, the military and art for Stadium, an extensive survey exhibition that looks back on the duo’s fruitful creative partnership. Since first meeting while studying Visual Arts at Curtin University many years ago, Gill and Dupont have gone on to produce a considerable and critically praised body of work which spans genres such as photography, performance, installation and film.
The pair’s early collaborations were primarily concerned with Australian identity and folklore but these days Gill and Dupont are more interested in the links between sport and war, which is demonstrated in a number of their works, including Gymnasium, a four minute video which scored the pair the covetable Basil Sellers Art Prize, and is on display once more for Stadium “Gymnasium is about aligning the ideals that are valued in sport as being akin to those in the military,” explains Gill ahead of the exhibition’s opening. “We looked at Lenni Riefenstahl and the works she made over her lifetime.”
A photographer and filmmaker, Lenni Riefenstahl was labelled a fascist by more than one art critic for her work that idealised war and death, a notion which intrigued both Gill and Dupont.
“She started off making Der Heilige Berg where she would climb mountains barefoot without a harness or anything, and those films were about people in the mountains supposedly being purer than people in the valleys and the high ideals of the Aryans,” begins Dupont when questioned about Riefenstahl. “Hitler became interested in her because of those films. Then she was assigned by the Nazi Party to make propaganda films, so she made Triumph Of The Will and Olympia about the 1936 Olympics. After the war she went to Africa and started making films about the Nuba, who are a tribe obsessed with war and death. She only photographed the young, beautiful men and the young, beautiful women.”
Their own take on Riefenstahl’s propaganda films, Gymnasium is a nostalgic look at the Australia of the past, featuring toned and terrific men and women demonstrating their athletic prowess. An extension of Gymnasium, Ever Higher is a new performance work that will be on show as part of Stadium, featuring a bevvy of cheer leaders chanting fascist catchphrases.
“The cheerleaders represent the masses following the leader so to speak,” Dupont says of Ever Higher. “It’s great because cheerleaders are so cheery, you can get them to cheer anything and they still sound happy, even when you’re getting them to chant Nazi slogans.”