In its most recent exhibition, The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre brings together over twenty artists to explore the complex issues relating to women and sport. The exhibition is the first of its kind amongst contemporary arts venues to deal with the sensitive topics of gender-stereotyping, sexualisation and femininity of women in sport.
The centre has kindly provided Right Now with a selection of images and wall text on display at the gallery.
10 Metre Platform is a performance video which involves Brincat attempting to lower herself over the ledge of the 10 metre diving board at the Alberca Olímpica Francisco Márquez indoor swimming pool in Mexico City. She intended to attempt to hold on for as long as possible until she no longer could, and would then fall into the pool. However, the anti-climactic conclusion to the video, when Brincat fails to complete her task, is demonstrative of the complex psyche of an athlete who is often confronted with a mixture of emotions, including adrenaline, fear and confidence as they undergo their own performances.
Lauren Brincat is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery, Sydney
Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont are multidisciplinary artists, producers and performers with backgrounds in dance and musical theatre. Their collaborative practice encompasses a range of artistic media including photography, performance, choreography, film, installation and design. Gill and Mata Dupont create highly stylised theatrical productions which are witty and satirical references to Hollywood glamour, gender stereotypes, popular culture and social realism. Their works in Onside explore historical uses of fascist propaganda and the cult of the heroic athlete in order to expose the gender inequalities inherent within the organisation and representation of Australian sporting culture. Mostly women, the characters in Gill and Mata Dupont’s images are primed and polished to perfection, even though they are supposed to be engaged in high-level physical activities. This stark contradiction brings to light the subtle differences between our social and cultural expectations of men and women in sport.
The artists are represented by Goddard de Fiddes, Perth
Ponch Hawkes is a Melbourne-based photographer who has been capturing elements of Australian culture, society and politics since the 1970s. Hawkes’ series Untitled (He never should have worn those shorts), presents sports as a dramatic set of theatrics involving physical performance and movement. The staged photographs reverse the gender stereotypes which pervade sports by presenting the sportswomen as powerful, violent and sexually exploitative – essentially emulating media representations of men in sport. These images draw the audience’s attention to many of the issues associated with sports, including gender inequality, representation in the media, violence and alcohol abuse in team sports.
Elvis Richardson, Field 2008, painted polystyrene, gold trophy figurines and metal stand
Elvis Richardson is an excavator of discarded remnants which symbolise the personal experience of their previous owners and/or the places where popular culture and society have been. Richardson repositions the found objects in order to imbue them with new meaning or hyperbolise their original uses. The Field is one such work. It is a seemingly haphazard assemblage of reused trophies – which once represented individual achievement – atop an inverted model of Mt. Everest, on an apparent ‘level’ playing field. Here, Richardson comments on the human need for recognition, striving for success and investment in victory. Found trophies, stripped of their symbolic individuality through the coating of a uniform gold spray, lose their function as identifiers of a single winner. Instead, the composition highlights the absurdity of the notion of winning, trivialising its rewards and asking the viewer to question their own ideas of victory.
Anne Zahalka, Play it in Sydney!, 2011/2013, type c photograph
Anne Zahalka’s highly staged and edited photographic works explore the nuances of Australian culture and its evolution from an Anglo-centric ethos to the melting pot of diversity and hybridity that it is today. The series Return to Homeground! reworks the classic beer advertisements which once adorned the walls of pubs from the 1930s to 70s, depicting ideals of Australian sport and leisure. The reworkings of these archetypes of Australian-ness – which placed sports squarely at their centre – appear in the now-characteristic hyper-real graphic design of advertising, and present a very different idea of Australian sporting culture. This series, along with the portraits in Playing the Game! reflect the shifts that have occurred in gender, ethnicity, physical activity and lifestyle itself. Sports for competition and leisure are no longer the domain of middle-class men, but are rather open to, and embraced by, a myriad of individuals who bring their own passions and interpretations of what constitutes ‘sport’.
Anne Zahalka is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne
Laresa Kosloff, New Diagonal, 2007, digital video, 3:00 mins
New Diagonal is a choreographed video work that combines various movements from fast track athletics, aerial skiing, high diving, cycling, and yoga. These movements are performed in relation to a three dimensional triangle, which provides physical support for the body throughout the routine. New Diagonal explores how movement and gesture translate into significance, extending my interest in the formal and conceptual dynamics of sport, abstraction and formalism.
Jenny Evans, Portrait of a Boxer 5, 2012, pigment print on premium photographic paper
In 2000, my trainer Alex Tui, a World Kickboxing Champion, and also the gym’s manager, painted the Aboriginal flag on the back of the gym. Alex wanted to help the local Kooris feel proud of where they came from.
Jenny Evans, Portrait of a Boxer 4, 2012, pigment print on premium photographic paper
Art, like boxing, gives you an outlet to be creative and proud, to express pride in your heritage. A mural painted by Aboriginal artist Jim Simon dominates the stairwell wall.