43 Minutes (2020)

[43 Minutes is an ongoing project by The KACA Projects in collaboration with Side Gallery, Red Hill…]

Painting Experience (17-20 March 2020)

Opening Night Performance (21 March 2020)

Employing signifiers of Capitalism, such as white paint and mass-produced building materials like plasterboard, ply, particleboard, MDF and timber stud, The KACA Projects invited members of the public to participate in painting a wall “1000 times” for an arbitrary 43 minutes.[1]

The project is experimental in that it intends to test out/explore and potentially oppose the major characteristics and effects of Neoliberal Capitalism, such as the metaphorical acceleration of time[2], the overproduction of objects[3], the economic rationalisation of social life[4], the emphasis on the individual and the promotion of personal responsibility[5]. The project asks:

1. Can we re-evaluate the meaning and purpose of social relationships?
2. What happens when we collectively subvert productivity to thicken time?
3. Is it possible to cede power to participants in instructional art practice (for example, artistic authorial power)?
4. Is it possible to produce a new kind of attention to the world and the people around us?

Although 43 Minutes was conceptualised and programmed long before the global COVID-19 crisis, the timing of 43 Minutes—unfolding as it did when the reality of COVID-19 was beginning to take hold—was critical to the way it has made meaning for The KACA Projects. It brought the world’s focus and dependence on money into sharp focus. We have watched as people have panic-hoarded toilet paper, and others have profited. The driving focus of Capitalism—and its malevolent successor, Neoliberal Capitalism—is money and profit. Under this regime, social connections that exist outside economic gain are often undervalued, even irrelevant. COVID-19 served to powerfully illustrate this—laying bare the precarity of social connections. For us, our supporters and participants, 43 Minutes revealed itself to be a powerful demonstration of possible small modes of being that are so valuable and necessary in times of adversity. Connections for which we should all uncompromisingly fight, for their existence, relevance and value.

During the opening night performance, The KACA projects formed into a production line and brutally cut, and then reverently shaped and polished the wall fragments into objects to be sold for economic gain. The brutality of the cutting became symbolic of the way social connections were being eroded by COVID-19. For this performance, we divided our activities into distinct parts to mimic a production line—which of course also signals Marx’s concept of alienation under Capitalism—a disconnection from the whole.

Of course, The KACA Projects are also a cohesive artistic collaboration, who come together at the end of the performance to lovingly stroke the outputs of their labour. Yes, we commodified the ‘painting experience’ for economic gain—an act which acknowledges and questions the group’s complicity in Neoliberal Capitalism, and also (sadly), the impossibility (even futility) of our intentions. But our sense of community—our coming together to lovingly stroke the objects—plus the community created in the ‘painting experience’ (symbolised by the way the objects are hung in association to their counterpart – the void) – suggests a hope that these connections will endure after the project is finished.

Next Stage…    Sideways (After 43 Minutes)

One of the questions The KACA Projects were interested in exploring in 43 Minutes (the original) was whether it was possible (through art) to produce a new kind of attention to the world and the people around us? We suspected that it would not be possible to do this because art is securely situated inside of society’s constructs—and the gallery is an extension of this context.

43 Minutes (the original) was conceptualised and programmed long before the global COVID-19 crisis. The timing, however, unfolding as it did when the reality of COVID-19 was beginning to take hold, was critical to the way it made meaning. In the midst of this global crisis, 43 Minutes generated a distinct level of engagement and reflection in the gallery during its tenurefacilitating us to ask whether this crisis could lead to a new way of organising society?

For Sideways (After 43 Minutes), The KACA Projects are thinking about the remnants of 43 Minutes (‘the wall’ and its ‘objects’) in terms of ‘attachment’. Objects of attachment that we all need right now—a means to lament perhaps? As ‘the wall’ continues to stand in honour of the 43 Minutes (the original) experience, a space for contemplation has opened up. A space (and an ‘attachment’) to rethink and reshape our world towards new possibilities?

For this next stage, The KACA Projects are interested in the way ‘the wall’ and its ‘objects’ have become signifiers for a new space that has opened up. A space we are thinking of like a ‘wedge’ or a ‘chasm’. A space that could conceive a social and political order where profits are not above people—one that generates a ‘new kind of intention to the world’.

Watch this space!

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[1] These materials were chosen because they signal what are generally considered to be instinctive human behaviours in contemporary life: the propensity to be productive; progress; increase status and wealth; to sell/buy/consume art and/or cultural experiences.

[2] i.e. we are all so busy, busy getting things done/moving forward—i.e. Capitalism sees us (apparently willingly and instinctively) trapped in a progress narrative.

[3] Needless commodities are produced, marketed, continuously desired for economic gain and status.

[4] For e.g. our work life largely determines our social relationships; nuclear families are economic units of production; we don’t as a rule connect with our neighbours or the environment but rely on the instruments of capitalism (consumerism) to survive, etc.

[5] If individuals are made to ‘willingly’ feel responsible (or make choices) for their actions, the state is not responsible. What this means is that the state has succeeded in breaking down (devaluing) collective action.

[6] For example, people are working from home; programs/work engagements have been cancelled or postponed; people have more free time because they are not commuting; have less social engagements to attend to; there is more boredom generally.

Photos: Leesa Hickey, Andrea Higgins