august 2005

I want to be Loieln Doolsn_1 
I want to be Lioeln Doolsn_ 2


Only one and a bit days to go

Mikala Dwyer
Darren Knight gallery, Sydney.
28 june – 23 july 2005

performed by Justin Butcha, Grzegorz Gawronski, Tom Isaacs, Jum and Ben Terakes

chapter Delirium selected by Bianca Hester
Melbourne, 2005

[download pdf [1.2MB] or read full text below]

Turning up to an opening can inspire a moment or two of presentation anxiety. Approaching the entrance you’ll do what you can with your hair, straighten clothes and hope there’s nothing stuck in your teeth. Crossing the threshold swells this hyped exteriority, the work suddenly a dim pretext for your arrival to play a part in the galaxy of interactions, signs, signals and social insincerities that greet an exhibition into the world of interpersonal relations on its opening night. Though the gears will change quickly, the moment you’re afforded to assess the situation (who’s here? who’s not here?) from its ‘outside’ swiftly collapsing as you’re swept into its overflow with a hello, an observation, an exchange. Becoming suddenly of and integral to the human context field of this artist, this exhibition, this gallery. Depending on how at home or in good company you feel inside this ‘inside’ there might be flashes back to that outer rim (glancing eyes, things said and unsaid), as a roomful of people go about interconnectedly generating and processing a meshwork of messages and meanings around, about or beyond the artwork they’ve come to see.

Funny things were happening at the opening of Mikala Dwyer’s ‘Only one and a bit days to go’. Planted into this given theatre of interactions seemed to be a cast of players acting at subtly externalising and frazzling these edges of personal conceit and consciousness. It wasn’t obvious at first, and remained slight enough to be unsettling even when you ‘got it’.

You’d come in, done all of the above (tempered by use of the bar), started looking at the work and noticed someone was looking at you. Two people actually and more like staring. Two of a number of young guys you half noticed weaving amongst the jam of people, all wearing cut-off jeans, bare feet and black t-shirts reading…

I want to be Loieln Doolsn

Unsure of this staring business (what do they want?) you give them the slip for the other room and hopeful safety of friends (what was that about? what were they saying?). But soon realise, doing some observing of your own, that as long as you’re in the room there’ll be no avoiding them and their curiously placed attentions. They’ll sidle up to you, admire and finger garments and bag straps, talk softly amongst themselves (ooh, it looks expensive… how much do you think she earns?), about you but not to you. Spooked by the proximity and scrutiny you’ll try turning the tables and spotlighting them, or holding the eye contact, staring them down at their own game. But it doesn’t help much. You feel self-conscious all over again, and likewise alarmed and amused that it’s taken this most featherlight of interventions to disarm and disrupt the very codified, prescribed and implicitly understood means by which a body of people of mixed acquaintance will behave in each other’s company at an opening.

Now you get it and you relish observing how others respond to these roving gestures and attentions. If any a room was ripe for social experiment it was this one – top heavy with dealers (keywords: ‘Venice’ ‘Basel’), leavened with students and soundtracked by rampant children. Men didn’t seem too fussed, finding it mildly unusual to be complimented on their dress sense. Attentively dressed women were ripe subjects left teetering between flattery and frustration, struggling to manage the elasticity of the boundaries these physical exchanges overstretched and realigned. A prominent collector recoiled in horror and pretended whatever it was hadn’t happened. Two women approaching a gauntlet-like checkpoint two of the boys set up by perching either side midway up the stairs seemed awfully confronted and asked someone else to charge through ahead for them. Whilst a hyperactive posse of young girls, recognising the guys sense of playful purpose, made it their business to chase and monster them in return – upstairs and down, running, squealing, weaving wildly between artworks and people in a raucous girl/boy pursuit.

Who’s ‘Loieln Doolsn’? An artist at the opening who’d gone to college with him and Mikala reminisced that Lionel Doolan was a memorable character from the first incarnation of Sydney College of the Arts. Apparently the ‘kind of guy’ who’d wear a velvet suit (with bare feet) in the height of summer. These days he’s living in China, and ‘I want to be Loieln Doolsn’ as we experienced it seemed to have evolved along a collaborative chain of command – from its remote devising by Doolan, in situ instruction by Dwyer and free interpretation by its performers. Meeting one of these performers at a different opening later that week as himself, it was curious to hear how the experience of the performance had been for them, and more so the extent to which they’d been instructed. The loose but central objective seems to have been to route attention away from Dwyer and the artwork during the opening, deflecting onto viewers the sensation of an intense or awkward visibility.

That these new pathways subtly heightened the patterns of exchange operative within the larger social body was fitting in a space dominated by Dwyer’s work ‘Superstitious Scaffold To Let’ (2005). A crazed ad-hoc superstructure of propped and lashed together poles and branches – part of which clattered to the floor on the night, that even more fittingly no one seemed to notice or mind – its chaotic propositional architecture effected a neat analogy to the tenuously aligned machinations of interconnectivity brought into play by ‘I want to be Loieln Doolsn’.

lisa kelly.
august 2005