Sub~Lingual is an exhibition of play and subversion through the pluralisms of language and translation.
From the Latin ‘under the tongue’, Sub~Lingual speaks with a vital breath, looks beneath the surface, and articulates the coded languages of club/sub/pop cultures, cyberworlds, and chthonic architectures.
Bringing together material language including painting, sculpture, video, and dance – new commissions together with existent works posits text and language as movements to dismantle existing power structures that govern our bodies, tongues, gender, sexuality, and desire.
Serwah Attafuah, ACT THREE, 2022, digital 3D render.
Serwah Attafuah, 4, 2022, digital 3D render.
Serwah Attafuah, ANGELS, 2022, digital 3D render.
Serwah Attafuah, ACT ONE & TWO, 2022, digital 3D render.
Serwah Attafuah and Charli XCX, 1700 B.C. (X.C.X.), 2021, digital 3D render.
Serwah Attafuah, ORACLES, 2021, digital 3D render.
Serwah Attafuah is a multidisciplinary artist and musician based on Darug Land/Western Sydney, Australia. Her work infuses ancestral and contemporary themes informed by her Ghanaian and Italian heritage, whilst referencing cyberpunk literature and films, such as The Matrix and Blade Runner, as well as music through anti-colonial death metal.
Trained as an oil painter, she melds stylistic expressions of traditional art movements such as Renaissance and Rococo, combined with an ever-evolving digital tongue articulated through 3D art and animation—mediums through which she is self-taught.
Serwah translates a distillation of narrative—or atmosphere—into a single gif. Her digital worlds are hyper-real dreamscapes pulsing with mythic forests rendered in technicolour, or the crumbling ruins of a failed metropolis. “Sometimes I think about the fact that I’m playing God in my programs…I’m building landscapes. I literally have to come up with sunlight,” she says.
Dubbing herself ‘West Sydney’s Finest Demon’ on Instagram—a sardonic poking at Sydney’s upper crust—Serwah's work subverts cultural hierarchies and challenges the binary languages of high and low, analogue and digital, as well as commercial and conceptual capital in artmaking.
Her works in Non-Fungible Token (NFTs) have sold through Sotheby’s, and her clients include Paris Hilton, Charli XCX, Genesis Owusu, and companies like Nike, NBA, and Mercedes Benz. In creating NFTs, a radical gesture infiltrates art commodification, and postulates how we consume and possess media. The art industry’s long-standing hostility towards the digital medium whilst vaunting traditional media such as oil painting and watercolours as high art—becomes de-hierarchised through the shareability and democratising power of online platforms.
Via the gifs presented in Sub~Lingual, Serwah animates surreal dreamscapes populated by Afro-Futuristic figures, inspired by cherubs, cyborgs, and abstractions of self-image at times deified with diaphanous dragonfly wings or goat horns. Her work is always character-centred, reflecting an inner world which may be traversed through the guise, or armour, of an avatar. By adopting the persona, or digital skin of a character, Serwah moves across terrains in a transgressive gesture, allowing an authentic-self to pulse and breathe in a glittering, neon-lit future.
Set amidst these heavenly wastelands and ruinous fields of late-capitalism, these avatars traverse landscapes inspired by the artist’s home in Western Sydney, reimagined as a virtual utopia. In Act Three (2022), a glitching city-scape glittering along a river at night; and in Act One and Two (2022) a fleet of spoiler-clad sports cars are suspended in the sky. Serwah’s work projects a future that recognises a social present that embraces a ‘soft energy’ for her home near Parramatta. This ‘soft energy’ is perceived as a positive energy for the artist, and illuminates a sense of hope and inclusion of the future; this ‘soft energy’ radiates against those aforementioned science fiction cinema and cyborg literature that paints the world ahead as a barren and scorched earth—as a scary dystopia.
Visaya Hoffie, Dying Currency, 2022, porcelain and silver.
Visaya Hoffie, If pokies players knew this they would never stop playing 2022 enamel, nail varnish, acrylic, and oil on board.
Visaya Hoffie, Nomadic Gastropod, 2021, wool and cotton.
Visaya Hoffie, Incubated fellow, 2021, perspex, wood, and nylon.
Visaya Hoffie, Scream bench, 2021, wood, metal, and kangaroo hide.
Drawing from the exhibition’s title and premise, ‘beneath the tongue’, artist Visaya Hoffie mashes up coded languages from various subcultures with mainstream idioms, in order to subvert visual conventions and art historical traditions. Based in Meinjin/Brisbane, her practice references places ‘high art’ may deem unworthy, such as bingo halls, suburban malls, pokie zones, and pubs. Of these places, Visaya says, “My belief is that these zones are as rich and layered and nuanced in terms of giving us clues about the culture we live in as galleries and museums and libraries are.”
For Sub-Lingual, Visaya’s installation comprises of five objects in conversation, including a psychiatrist’s couch, a painting, a ceramic piggy-bank, a rug, and an inflatable figure enclosed in a life-size vitrine.
The words emblazoned upon the painting, ‘if pokie players knew this they would never stop playing,’ have been extracted from click-bait that sets to spur online gambling addictions. Adjacent to this work sits a ceramic piggy-bank in the form of a weeping long-eared puppy, adorned with a collar-tag that reads, ‘Dying Currency.’ These works are in conversation, referencing both the on-going obsolescence of legal tender in a ‘post-pandemic’ world, as well as digital consumer markets, including commodities and online betting and gambling sites and applications.
The red-spotted inflatable figure hermetically-sealed inside the dome seems to be gasping for air as they inflate and deflate—vitrined for audience entertainment like some museal clown.
Athena Thebus, For Chloe, 2022, cow hide leather, metal studs.
Athena Thebus, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN THIS WORLD IS MINE, 2018, neon light.
Athena Thebus is an artist who uses sculpture, drawing and writing to explore notions of Desire. Based on Gadigal Land/Sydney, Athena’s practice is driven by the desire to generate an atmosphere by which queer life is sustainable. Part of this exploration manifests through sculptures and installations that employ materials connotative of capitalism’s excess, nuanced with past shame and queer hope.
The material language articulated through her previous and on-going works speak of intimacy and shared queer spaces—such as clubs or share houses—incorporating chains, personal lube, studs, leather, and textile prints of decaying concrete and black mould rings of aforementioned share houses. Furthering this exploration, Athena incorporates collaboration—at times, with fellow artists such as Marcus Whale, Ainslie Templeton, Akil Ahamat, or with partner Chloe Corkran (see Drippy Rock, 2019). The gesture of collaboration sees a collective futuring, surrounded with eroticism and fantasy, and with queerness steered towards the horizon. Within Athena’s work, the gesture of collaboration speaks to hope amidst the failures of individualism and capitalism.
For Chloe (2022) is the fourth in her series of large-scale hand-studded leather hides. While previous hides have included the phrase ‘POWER FUCK,’ a wilted daisy engulfed in flames, or in Bunny, presented at Carriageworks for the exhibition No Show (2021), a chubby-cheeked black and white cartoon rabbit stands in as a symbol for the horny innocent of the animal kingdom—a libidinal duality that is both the cute and fluffy mascot, and the sly bunny of chaos that animatedly fucks the world.
For Chloe is a love letter and an ode to the artist’s partner.
Emblazoned upon the surface of the cowhide is an undulation of studs that reads ‘Chaos Reigns.’ Chaos, being a complete state of disorder and confusion, postulates the failing state of the present, through consumerism and capitalism, seen through the symbol of the hide. Yet it dually speaks of the unrestrained rebellion, kink and liberation through queer love, where leather-clad bodies in clubs become classic symbols of pleasure and desire—here, chaos reigns.
As Athena says of the work, “For Chloe is in dedication to my forever muse, Chloe. She is an agent of chaos, a true clown, my confidant, my best friend, my silly little rabbit.”
Woven within the text is a wave of rivets that manifest into a large ribbon, a symbol of decoration and adornment that altogether plays between binary notions, such as pretty and hardcore, beauty and chaos.
Sitting above For Chloe, the neon artwork Everything Beautiful in this World is Mine (2018) again plays with the coded language of materiality and text. It radiates like an aphorism of reclamation, of identity, of queer hope, gender and cultural identity.
Alexander Powers, The myth, 2022, floodlights, speakers, sound.
Alexander Powers is an artist residing on Wurundjeri Land in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia. Her work spans experimental performance, electronic music, DJing and event organising.
As a DJ, performing under the name Female Wizard, she has gained national and international recognition, having played at festivals including Golden Plains, Dark Mofo, Boiler Room, Soft Centre and Hybrid, created mixes for Discwoman, NTS and Boiler Room’s Hard Dance series, and holding down a five-year long residency at the cult underground queer night ‘Le Fag’.
Her choreographic work has been performed at Brunswick Mechanics Institute, The Immigration Museum and most recently in video form at Foundation Fiminco, Paris. As a dance performer, she has most notably performed in Luke George’s work Public Actions as part of Dance Massive Festival 2019; as well as in What Am I Supposed To Do? by Rebecca Jensen and Sarah Aitken, 2019.
For Sub~Lingual, Alexander has produced a new choreographic piece that melds together references from Plato’s The Republic (375 BC), cinematic scores, and classical music, and will culminate in a closing event performance.
The Republic as a text brings together discourses of poetry and philosophy in the dialogues of civic spaces, especially concerning justice, a just-state and just-personhood. The dialogues circumabulate ideas surrounding hypothetical cities, utopian city-states and a philosopher-ruler. Furthermore, in Book X: The Myth of Er, the idea of chthonic states—meaning, underground—and the myths surrounding perception are especially drawn upon in Alexander’s installation. The fundamental theory echoing within Book X of The Republic is that artists have no such place in a just city for they are wielders of illusion and confusion—artists create things but they are only different copies of the idea of the original. "And whenever anyone informs us that he has found a man who knows all the arts, and all things else that anybody knows, and every single thing with a higher degree of accuracy than any other man—whoever tells us this, I think that we can only imagine to be a simple creature who is likely to have been deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he thought all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyse the nature of knowledge and ignorance and imitation."
“And the same object appears straight when looked at out of the water, and crooked when in the water; and the concave becomes convex, owing to the illusion about colours to which the sight is liable. Thus, every sort of confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human mind on which the art of conjuring and deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenious devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic.”
The installation within Sub~Lingual consists of several flood-lights and speakers that intermittently blast light and sound respectively. The score plays classical music from the Baroque period, and is translated by the artist as a cinematic movement, like an ‘establishing shot’, wherein audiences enter the stage. Moments of perceived ‘silence’ between the score are filled with the audience’s collective breathing, demonstrating a shared language of air.
The myth: Alexander Powers
Saturday, 26 November, 1-2pm
The Myth of Er is a reincarnation myth told in the final pages of Plato's book The Republic. This myth is the basis for a new choreographic process from choreographer and musician Alexander Powers, which sees her expand her interests in exhaustion and duration into an exploration of the essence of human experience. Birth, life, death and rebirth fall in on each other as two dancers rub up against gravity, breathlessness and each other, finding new experimental momentums through time.
The myth is choreographed and performed by Alexander Powers, with performer Gabriella Imrichova .
This is a free event, and bookings are essential.
Please note that this event will feature loud sounds.