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what the world needs now
With the pearlescent wink of a sea of ivory invitations glinting under the glowing bulb above the doorway, a relaxed yet stylishly clad crowd mingled in the lounge room cum gallery of Sarah Ryan's inner city flat. Brought together for What the World Needs Now (WTWNN), an exhibition of new work by Tasmania's brightest young things, Sarah Ryan and Kylie Johnson, WTWNN was a casual, clandestine affair of chilled sophistication with all the compact delights of home. Held in conjunction with the launch of a corresponding publication featuring the literary exploits of a handful of Australia 's best known artists and writers, the exclusive one night only event was eagerly anticipated by those lucky enough to have scored an invitation.
Cleared of furniture to re-create the minimal white washed scene of a gallery, the art space was like a sparsely decorated jewellery box flanked by the closed doors of bedrooms and bathrooms. In the adjoining hallway, luminescent goldfish swam over the shiny surface of black river stones and a door slightly ajar revealed the porcelain cheeks of a loo. Gaudy gestures and loud smiles bounced off the walls as clusters of perfectly wind blown guests picked their way through generous servings of canapes and wine. The television was on and knee high photographs of grey interiors leaned sleepily against the walls. Perhaps slightly perturbed by the domestic setting, the crowd soon trickled down to conclude and converse amongst the moonlit shadows of the roof garden.
A self confessed addict of glossy magazines, Sarah Ryan's work blissfully celebrated the slick banality of the 'infotainment' industry. Referencing an advertising style favoured by Prada, Versace and Saba, Ryan's digital lenticular photographs skimmed the surface of superficiality with a refrigerated sweep. Minimal interiors played host to nameless figures while willowy young girls haunted the corners of meagrely outfitted rooms. In the recent Outside Time 2001 , the neutral sheen of a freshly painted wall bordered by a slim glimpse of domestic flotsam, contrasted with parasitic industrial pipes clinging with listless enthusiasm to the outer surface of the building. Viewing Ryan's work was not unlike the shivery sensation of pressing one's hand against a frigid metal surface. Swimming in solitude in the middle of the opposite wall and as loaded as a twin barrel shot gun, the minute billboard magnetism of Trust 2001 hit straight between the eyes.
With the enigmatic style of one striving to document the contradictions between public and personal, Kylie Johnson went looking for the boots of Hugo Boss. With a video camera tucked beneath an arm, Johnson scoured the streets of Melbourne and Hobart for Hugo Boss stockists in a painstaking effort to try on men's shoes and record the experience on film. The result was screened on Ryan's television as 'He wore Hugo Boss boots' 2001-a child 's eye view of anonymous waists, immaculate French manicured hands and hesitant voices regarding Johnson as either a threat or curious visitor from afar with genuine intent. Once allowed to enter the store, Johnson nonchalantly placed the camera on a seat or the floor to give the impression it was not in use. Kneeling on the floor, amicable unknowing sales assistants divulged tales of old flames, acquaintances and memorable events as Johnson paced back and forth in shoes slightly too big, searching for the essence of an elusive identity borne of urban fantasy and supercilious advertising. Produced to coincide with the exhibition was a simply bound publication showcasing the varied and inspired talents of (amongst others) Pat Brassington, Jane Rankin-Reid and Edward Colless. Given the phrase 'What the World Needs Now' the contributing writers were asked to contemplate the personal significance of these words. From Rankin-Reid's sardonic questionnaire on the meaning of artistic life to Brassington's eloquent musings on everyday ventriloquism, the catalogue was a pearl of colloquial pop at its best.
WTWNN was as much about the experience as it was the art. In an age when perving on dirty laundry in an art gallery is not a new thing, the public and the private space are no longer easily distinguishable. WTWNN had all the trappings of a funky new art spacewhite walls, great guest list, a fresh bunch of art, yummy food, a tasteful selection of wines- but with a slight twist. Here, there were places you could not go. Doors barred and locked with lacy curtains on the windows. The public framed by the private. lt was hard to shake the feeling of being in another's home sweet home. lt was not the neutral space of a commercial gallery but the crisp clean room of an art space with warm fuzzy edges. Unlike a gallery, this was a place you could not claim. Tomorrow, domesticity would reclaim its rightful position and just as these boots were made for walkin ', that's just what we'll do.