POLIXENI PAPAPETROU

stelarc Suspension

source: stelarcorg

Ear on arm suspension
SCOTT LIVESEY GALLERIES

The 16 stainless steel hooks were inserted whilst the body lay on the Ear On Arm sculpture.
After the cables were connected the body was winched up approximately 50 cm above the sculpture.

The body spun one way and then the other for approximately 15 min. When it stopped spinning, and in the correct orientation, the body was then lowered down.

The installation was left in place for the duration of the exhibition with an edited video and an image authenticating the performance.

“The event was both a looping back to a previous performance strategy and simultaneously a looking forward to the Ear On Arm project, exposing the physicality of both”.

The performance occurred on Thursday 8 March as part of the SUSPENSIONS exhibition which was from 7-31 March 2012.

“The suspensions are experiments in bodily sensation, expressed in different spaces and in diverse situations. They are not actions for interpretation, nor require any explanation. They are not meant to generate any meaning. Rather they are sites of indifference and states of erasure. The body is empty, absent to its own agency and obsolete”.

THE EXHIBITION AND PERFORMANCE WAS DEDICATED TO NOBUO YAMAGISHI, THE DIRECTOR OF THE MAKI, TAMURA AND KOMAI GALLERIES IN TOKYO WHEN STELARC LIVED IN JAPAN. YAMAGISHI-SAN WAS ADMIRED BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY. HE IS GREATLY MISSED.
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source: daaolibraryunsweduau

Photographer, was born in Melbourne where she lives and works. Papapetrou originally trained as a lawyer, graduating with a BA/LLB, University of Melbourne in 1984. In 1997, she graduated with a Master of Arts, (Media Arts), RMIT University and in 2007 with a PhD, Monash University.

Papapetrou practiced as a lawyer between 1986-2001 but she began making photographs in 1987. From the outset of her practice, the themes of dress-ups, performance and the representation of identity have been a common thread in her work. Her first series, Elvis Immortal, made between 1987 and 2002, portrays Elvis Presley fans paying homage to Elvis on the anniversary of his death. Elvis Immortal was exhibited at the State Library of Victoria (1991), Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria (1997), Old Treasury, Melbourne (1998), Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne (2006) and RMIT Gallery Melbourne (2007).

A few years later Papapetrou turned to the figure of Marilyn Monroe in her series Seaching for Marilyn (2002). Papapetrou was drawn to the figures of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe because their image is so powerfully emblematic and instantly identifiable in contemporary culture. In Searching for Marilyn , Papapetrou visually explores a classic female icon that was as influential as Elvis Presley. Marilyn Monroe is probably the most well-known female of the 20th century but differed from Elvis in that she was the great female fantasy of an era and symbolized the way that society views specific gender roles – she was not only adored for her acting abilities, but also for her physicality and appearance. Rather than photograph fans and devotees as in the Elvis Immortal series, she decided to explore ideas about Marilyn Monroe as a Hollywood creation, existing only as a constructed identity and someone whose identity was constantly changing depending on what was expected of her. To portray this idea she photographed a female impersonator to show how he could become ‘Marilyn’. Marilyn’s sexual identity was based on dress, theatre and performance rivalling that of a drag queen. The image of Marilyn was positioned in a triptych juxtaposed with images from art history to explore different facets of Marilyn’s identity such as in the work, Muse, where Papapetrou used Jean Marc Nattier’s painting of Thalia, the muse of comedy, to evoke the idea of the filmic Marilyn archetype as the muse or inspiration for post-war American values, with all their reality and sexual fantasy. Searching for Marilyn was first shown at Monash Gallery of Art (2002) and Nellie Castan Gallery (2006).

Between 1995 to 2002, Papapetrou examined various constructions of identity based on body and dress. In Curated Bodies (1996), Papapetrou explored the biological and social constructions of gender in a suite of photographs of drag queens and female body builders. Curated Bodies was shown at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (1996). Papapetrou continued her exploration of the body by photographing body builders in depth in her series Body/Building (1997-2002). She was interested in looking at how body builders were able to transform their body through diet and exercise. Papapetrou placed images of body builders against images of neo-classical architecture found in Melbourne such as Parliament House and Treasury to make the connection between Classical Greek notions of the ideal body and architecture. According to Papapetrou, the Hellenic ideal of beauty, which identified perfection with a virile muscular body, well suited to sports, still dominates in our culture. The works were run together to form a frieze that assumed the rhythms of an ancient Greek architectural frieze. Body/Building was first exhibited at Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (1997) and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2003).

In Authority (2001) Papapetrou looked at how identity isexpressed through the fashion brand logo. For this series, Papapetrou photographed friends wearing T-shirts with designer logos printed on them and compared them to well-known images from the art history of royalty and the aristocracy to make the point that ‘fashion’ is the new royalty. Papapetrou explored the idea of brand as a metaphor for worship in contemporary society and made connections between how popular culture informs personal identity. Authority was first shown at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (2001)

Since 2002, Papapetrou has turned her focus to the subject matter of childhood. Whether she is drawing upon ideas about the representation of childhood from 19th century photography, such as in Dreamchild (2003) and Wonderland (2004), exploring the power of dress ups as in Phantomwise (2002), revisiting the experience of childhood in colonial Australia as in Haunted Country ( 2006 ) or reflecting upon a lost freedom and the regulated lives of children growing up in the world today as in Games of Consequence (2008), she is reflecting upon the different facets of childhood and presenting a picture of a more knowing child.

The main protagonists in her work have been her two children Olympia (born 1997) and Solomon (born 1999). Papapetrou started making pictures about childhood because she wanted to communicate ideas about our culture that are best expressed through the symbol of the child, but more importantly, she is fascinated by the world of childhood. Her first body of work made with her daughter was Phantomwise in 2002. Olympia was four years old when they embarked upon the project. In Phantomwise , Olympia wore a series of masks that concealed her face from above the nose, but allowed her mouth and ears to be revealed. The eyes, eyebrows, and forehead are fully drawn in the mask and there was a small eyehole in place of the pupil that enabled Olympia to see. Papapetrou was interested in the performative nature of the mask and how it could be used as a device to move Olympia and the photograph from the ‘real’ to the ‘imaginary’ – both body and photograph were transformed by the mask. Phantomwise was first exhibited as Olympia Masked Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (2002) and curated in Photographica Australis , Sala De Exposiciones Del Canal De Isabel II, Madrid, Spain (2002), National Gallery of Thailand, Bangkok (2003) and Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2003). It was also exhibited at Stills Gallery, Sydney (2003) and Monash University Gallery of Art, Melbourne, (2004).

Following Phantomwise , Papapetrou made Dreamchild (2003), a series based on the 19th century photographs of Charles Dodgson, more commonly known as Lewis Carroll, the genial author of Alice in Wonderland . She was drawn to re-staging Dodgson’s photographs because his portrayal of dress up games – the games that children play in everyday life and have often performed for the camera – typified the boundary-crossing experience that occurs in photography. She photographed her daughter Olympia in a variety of dress – Oriental, Middle Eastern, Victorian and other exotic costumes. The works raise questions about how Olympia presents herself as a female child and how she and the mother/artist explore the boundaries of her identity, through her dress-up performances before the camera. Dreamchild was exhibited at Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2003), Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria (2003) and photographic, New York (2003), Stills Gallery, Sydney (2004), Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2004), Nexus Gallery, Adelaide (2004), Johnson Gallery, Perth (2005), Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (2005) and ‘Le Mois de la Photo’, 9th Montreal Photography Biennale, Montréal (2005).

Following Dreamchild , Papapetrou looked at how Lewis Carroll portrayed the girl figure in the character of Alice from Alice in Wonderland . In her series Wonderland (2004), Papapetrou explores the psychological and physical presence in the fictive role that her daughter steps into. While Olympia remains distinctively child-like – acting the part of a child – her girl’s presence latches onto a famous hallowed story, assuming a larger-than-life stature, and through the performance, Olympia’s self is challenged as much as it is celebrated. In staging the photographs for Wonderland , Papapetrou created a fantasy world to mirror Lewis Carroll’s dream where imagination and reality are almost mystically equated. She borrowed from the tradition of theatre and used scenic backdrops (as she had in some of the images in Dreamchild ) . The backdrops set the scene and dramatized the movement from reality to imagination as in theatre. The scenic backdrops were based on the illustrations that appeared in the original publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland made by Sir John Tenniel. The large canvases measuring 3m x 3m were painted by Olympia’s father, Robert Nelson. Wonderland was at shown at Stills Gallery, Sydney (2004), Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2004), ‘Le Mois de la Photo’, 9th Montreal Photography Biennale, Montréal (2005), Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, New South Wales (2005), Monash University Gallery (2006) , Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Victoria (2006), Te Tuhi Gallery, Manukau City, New Zealand (2007), Roger Williams Contemporary, Auckland (2007) and Warnambool Art Gallery (2008).

In 2006, Papapetrou moved her work from the realm of fantasy into the natural world. This seemed an appropriate move as the children were growing older and their experience of the world was shifting from the imaginative interior world of dress-ups and make-believe into a more pragmatic experience with the world beyond the home. Her series Haunted Country, (2006) was inspired by nineteenth century real and fictional accounts of children who went missing in the Australian bush. To make these photographs, Papapetrou went to the sites of the most notorious disappearances including the Wimmera, Daylesford and Hanging Rock, where she staged scenes proposing what the physical and psychological circumstances may have been like for these lost and wandering children. Haunted Country captures feelings about the Australian landscape and our history to it, but also about children and their eternal vulnerability in both the natural and social orders. The landscape seems to act metaphorically, almost a resonant backdrop for a social ‘distancing’ that can occur with children lost in other senses. Haunted Country was exhibited at Foley Gallery, New York (2006), Johnston Gallery, Perth (2006), Williams Contemporary, Auckland (2007), Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne (2007), National Arts Center, Tokyo (2008) and included in many curated exhibitions in Australia and internationally including the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego (2007) and Aperture Foundation, New York (2007), De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts (2008) and the McClleland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Victoria (2008).

Making Haunted Country caused Papapetrou to think about the type of childhood she experienced compared to that of her children. Sensing that that the process of growing up in the modern world had changed and that her children – the subjects of much of her work – were growing up, the exploration of personal individuality seemed a natural next step. Games of Consequence (2008) is based on Papapetrou’s childhood memories of play, incidents that happened to her and feelings that she experienced growing up. By exploring her memories of play that occurred in places beyond the home, she wanted to reflect on the freedom that children of her generation enjoyed in these arcane spaces. To tell this story, Papapetrou ventured back into the landscape, but stepped outside the idea that the Australian bush equates with mortality (as in Haunted Country ) to consider the landscape as a medium in which she could explore ideas about the changed social landscape of childhood. The landscape is not portrayed as menacing as in Haunted Country, but some of the works hint at an undercurrent of danger in the air, which may be psychological rather than physical. In this series, Papapetrou uses the depth and complexity of the natural world as a backdrop in which she explores some of the idyllic and darker aspects of growing up. The land is represented as a space without constraints and a place where children can attempt to define their individuality through their surroundings. The series was first shown at the National Arts Center, Tokyo (2008), then Johnson Gallery, Perth (2008), Foley Gallery, New York (2008) and Nellie Castan Gallery Melbourne (2008).