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Woodside
Visual Arts and Design2018

DROWNING

By Gemma Ben-Ary on 21 Feb 2018

The suffering associated with grief and loss is a universal human condition, and is delicately explored in this work through the artist’s own cultural paradigm, using motifs and superstitions from the Victorian Era, a time that perfected the pastiche of mourning and whose imperialist influence remains to this day.

Fringe-fed voyeuristas beware – do not come expecting a titillating burlesque, it is not that, nor is it a polished theatrical show, nor is it elegantly lit or sumptuously staged or costumed.

It may have a nudity warning, but it is sensuous rather than saucy. And it is a thoughtfully produced, sincere, and well-crafted experimental piece of performance art that has a gentle and subtle narrative arc.

There is a heartfelt sharing of some intense experiences and dark emotions, and there is something incredibly tender and honest in this performance.

I found myself seated uncomfortably close, and could detect many others in the audience bristle or soften depending on the artist’s movements.

I noticed that the audience was at all times following every nuanced movement and were captivated by the short performance, which at 45 minutes, is a succinct duration.

The presence of the artist was presented on a scale of one-to-one, and it is this proximity to the artist that allowed intimacy and insight into her pain and her grieving.

She oscillates between veiled, clothed and stripped bare, and is at all times unromantically lit under the glare of fluorescent lighting.

You will feel that you have trespassed into a young woman’s vulnerabilities and are witnessing her private ritual of pain and – ultimately – her healing.

In her attempt to heal and find a way to carry her burden of grief into her new life, having lost a loved one, the artist guides us through four stages of grief, with the help of minimal gestures, a simple printed hand out and handmade visual props, such as fabric, bandages, veils, and embroidery hoops.

This all underlines and emphasises her visual source material, the Memento Mori aesthetic of the Victorian era, which could be criticized as hackneyed, but it conveyed the message.

The final scene ends with a gorgeous and touching conclusion involving rose petals, which are used as a lesson for keeping a loved one close.

The work is personal yet universal, and draws our attention back to how we might remember someone in our own life who was loved and lost.

There is a quiet strength in this piece, it is at once captivating and sincere.

Ending
22 Feb 2018
The Common Room at Paper Mountain
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Gemma Ben-Ary

Gemma Ben-Ary

Gemma is the cosmic love-child of Indiana Jones and Jem™ who once jumped a horse over a Volkswagen for a dare. She is now an independent visual artist, writer and curator, a board member at the Mundaring Arts Centre, and the Executive Director of Ellenbrook Cultural Foundation. Gemma holds a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Art and Writing from Edith Cowan University. Gemma is a reformed glitter addict who spends much of her free time basket weaving and thinking about how she should do yoga.

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