Saatchi Sunday of Luxury

I’ve been suffering from end-of-a-helluva-long-year-itis lately, so this weekend was dedicated to rearranging and relaxing — “refilling the well of happiness” as Brain calls it. Saturday involved a trip to IKEA, that mecca of flat-pack furniture lovers, which isn’t the first place most people would think of going to for relaxation… Oh, IKEA. Land of screaming children, tiny harridans who are dragged or pushed by haggard parents whose eyes gleam with equal parts madness and exhaustion as they try to convince themselves that an Ängsnäva bedspread really is the answer to their problems… So, no, IKEA in itself wasn’t part of the treatment, but was instead a means to an end.

We have a lot of books in our house. A LOT. So in an attempt to rearrange, Spring clean, and Get Things Sorted, off we went to buy ourselves three new bookcases. This was, surprisingly, the easy part of the day. The rest involved shifting hundreds (okay, thousands) of books off the shelves we already owned, moving them from room to room and off the floor and onto tables and onto the bed and back on the floor then back onto shelves (some of which we had just built, assembly-line style, in the bedroom and living room) until the house was Transformed As Tho By Magic. Menial, back-breaking magic, but magic nonetheless… For, lo and behold, there was carpet beneath those stacks of books! There was room to walk! There was space for us to dance, if we so desired, and so we did: after hours of work, we waltzed a bedragged, footsore, dustcovered waltz across our newly unconvered floor.

Daylight savings tells me that we slept until 11.30 the next morning, but I don’t believe it.

We got up, much earlier than 11.30 according to my aching muscles, and went to the Art Gallery of South Australia for our next installment of what I like to call the Sunday of Luxury series. For those of you playing at home, the Sunday of Luxury usually involves art, good food, nice wine, and a day spent soaking in all of the above. So, since the Saatchi Gallery in Adelaide: British Art Now exhibit is only gracing the AGSA’s lower level for a few more weeks, we headed into town to see what old Saatchi had to offer before it was gone.

Now, I’m not going to go into huge detail about the show because, unlike the Patricia Piccininni exhibit, which I raved about here, I was seriously underwhelmed by Saatchi. Caveat: I spent four years studying, creating, and writing about contemporary art for my Honours degree in Fine Arts, which has left me with a very low tolerance for Artistic Wankery (TM). My eyelid starts to twitch when I see artists proclaiming: “I re-use bits of commercial advertising in my photo collages” as if that is pushing boundaries that haven’t already been bent and broken, repeatedly and ad nauseum, in contemporary art; I feel rage boiling at artists’ statements like: “I use myself as my subject in order to challenge the conventional male gaze in photography” as if Cindy Sherman hasn’t already done so, decades ago, and in a much more impressive way; and “I’m going to put a bunch of IKEA furniture on a platform and pretend this is what future generations will come to museums to view as “artefacts” of our generation” makes me want to scream because, (a) what a cop-out; and (b) seriously, as if most IKEA furniture would stand a chance of surviving the end of the year, much less the century…


But there were two pieces in particular that rocked my world, both of which were in the final room of the exhibition. Walking into this final space, you are confronted first with ‘Madame Blavatsky’ by Goshka Macuga:

Madame Blavatsky

but almost immediately you see the second amazing installation on the far side of the room:

which, on first glance, looks like nothing more than this:

a stainless steel frame with glass panels, with some specks that look remotely insect-like from across the room. No big deal, except for the fact that there are people pointing and staring and taking photos (and the photos, btw, are all mine except for these two shots of the glass cabinet, which I found here and here):

But first, a bit about Madame Blavatsky. As the little placard for this work informed me, and as t’internetz confirmed, Madame Helena Blavatsky was born in Russia in 1831 and was the co-founder of the Theosophical Society: she was a spiritualist, medium, occultist and promoter of all things supernatural — and throughout her career (which involved travelling around the world and many controversial performances), Madame Blavatsky performed feats of levitation, which is what the artist is playing with here. What’s so interesting about this sculpture is the contrast between the “levitation” and the figure’s heavy wooden form; the woodgrain in her sleeping/dead face; and the obvious artificiality of the act — much like the ‘real’ fake levitations Blavatsky performed in her lifetime. Very smart, very simple installation, and I love it.

Back to the mysterious glass case, which did indeed house a collection of insects. BUT. Entitled ‘Swarm’ by Tessa Farmer, this work isn’t about a swarm of insects, but instead about the fascinating, freaky, wonderfully creepy faery pests that prey on the pests that prey on us. You practically have to press your nose up to the glass (thus practically — and willingly — submersing yourself in a swarm of nasties) to see the amazing little creatures Farmer has created:

OMG SO FREAKING COOL!! Made from dessicated insect remains, dried plant roots and other organic matter, these aggressive little fae creatures have joined forces to attack our garden-variety pests. I LOVE IT.

These creepy buggers have gone a long way to refilling the well of happiness, I must say. 🙂



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