Home of the Brave I (2016)

This body of work was exhibited as a series on 12 August 2016 at The Laundry Artspace, East Brisbane. Exhibition essay by Dr Courtney Coombs.

Home of the Brave (2016)
Medium: performance (28 women)
Materials: condemned hospital linen, embroidery thread, baby monitors

In a fearless bid to disrupt the insidious performance of bravery saturating contemporary culture, on command from their leader/drill sergeant (of the female karyotype 46xx variety), and some strategically positioned baby monitors, 28 women (dressed in identical maternity-type costumes each delicately embroidered with pieces of text) perform an earnestly awkward (but very brave!) performance of bravery.

Brave Girl (2016)
Medium: Embroidered Tapestry on board.
Materials: Embroidery thread (allegedly) soaked in menstrual blood .
Dimensions: 96cm (W) x 79cm (H) x 4cm (D)

Brave Girl is a stylised motif appropriated from girl/boy guide badges. The work challenges the existing dichotomy for blood — female blood as shameful and male blood as heroic, and considers how, why and when labels like ‘brave’ get assigned to women, girls and to popular culture heroines.

Brave Girl Merch (2016)
Medium: t-shirt, mugs, teatowel, tote bags.

The punchline to Home of the Brave is the merchandise. Difficult and certainly taboo phrases have been re-imagined in unsettling ways on a selection of t-shirts, tote bags, mugs and tea towels. These items reflect an uncomfortable realisation that no-one would willingly (surely not!) wear a t-shirt with the words ‘I am so jealous my sister is pregnant’ scrawled across it. But. Women in particular, are endlessly confessing their all in books, blogs, magazines, on TV, on Facebook etc; for attention, validation or the right price. We are living in a culture where performing terrible stories has become the default position for women in the public domain.

Click to view range

Prophecy (2016)
Medium: Installation
Materials: white bathmats, projection

Still life with cherries (2016)
Medium: Installation
Materials: fresh cherries, stool, crocheted cloth.

With its historical nod to the Vanitas traditions of sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch still life painting, Still life with cherries (2016), consists of a cream enamel laundry bowl overflowing with ripe, fleshy cherries, balanced on a laundry stool. The work was positioned just outside the entrance to Prophecy (2016), a whole-of-room installation of a pristine white bathmat-covered-floor and video projection of a ‘blood moon’. The soft cream and stark white tones of a pristine domestic interior are juxtaposed with the imminent danger of something ‘shameful’ and ‘unmentionable’ seeping all over the place. Still birth, miscarriage or abortion viscera is no laughing matter and yet, the alarming playfulness of the title and its reference to still births and the certainty of mortality, attempts to reconcile the disturbing and distasteful with an uncomfortable and bleak humour.

The Pin Cushion (2015)
Medium: 13 medical needles, 12 cases.
Dimensions: 5cm x 5cm

Positioned just out of reach of eye-level, this measured clutch of medical needles discreetly yet provocatively protrude into the gallery space.

Whose voice is it (2015)
Medium: HD video (5:17 minutes)

This single-channel video work explores the pathologisation of the female body as incomplete, and the dehumanising quality of assisted reproductive technologies.

God help all of us (2016)
Medium: sound installation.

A strangely disjointed but perky collection of thoughts, questions, confusion, grief, anger, comfort and fear relentlessly pour from the headset while “doing your business” on the toilet. Listen to the sound here.

Pressure-sensitive (2015)
Medium: blu-tack
Dimensions: approx. 4cm x 4cm

Blu-Tack has been tenderly and intuitively worked into a series of intimate relief sculptures that are simultaneously playful yet unassuming; considered yet disjointed.

Photos: Alan Warren, Naomi O’ Reilly, Bonnie Melrose.