UTS Gallery – Sydney
October 28th, 2014 to November 28th, 2014
Curated by Isobel Phillip
In the circus sideshow, spectacles were hidden from view and enclosed in tents. From the 1840s until the 1940s, sideshows would travel from town to town and peddle human curiosities. Biological oddities, ethnological case studies and novelty acts were toured as exhibition displays. Placed on podiums within the sideshow tent, they dramatized the seductive pull of the exotic and the other.The architecture of the sideshow tent amplified the distinction between audience and spectacle. Obscuring vision, the walls of the tent would tease the viewer and stimulate their curiosity. Only by entering the tent’s darkened interior could the punter satiate their desire for shock and awe. Sideshow re-stages this architecture of spectacle and surprise by erecting a series of tents within the gallery space. These tents house five micro-exhibitions that bring the work of 13 contemporary Australian artists into close proximity.
With practices that range from photography and painting to sculpture and video, these artists offer a warped rendition of the visceral grotesquerie that the sideshow harbored. While none of the artists appropriate the circus or the freakshow as a direct thematic or aesthetic proposition, each re-imagines the body-as-spectacle.
Navigating these five micro-exhibitions, the viewer is confronted with a profusion of mutilated, abstracted and screened bodies. As they move amongst the tents they negotiate the division between the hidden and the exposed. Isobel Philip