Solo exhibition at ARNDT Berlin
21 September 2013 - 2 November 2013
Opening: 20 September 2013, 6-9 pm
“The multimedia-based working artist Mike Parr from Australia is one of the most radical representatives of the Body Art with extremely auto-aggressive performances, but nevertheless he remained relatively unknown in Europe.” (1) In Australia well established, Parr (born 1945 in Sydney) has only recently been honoured with his first retrospective in Europe titled “Edelweiss” at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria.
ARNDT is proud to present Parr’s first exhibition in Berlin during Berlin Art Week with a premiere of his most recent video work “Fresh Skin like a Baby”, which he was working on for the past three years, and a selection of seven impressive large-scale works executed in print, drawing, etching and painting.
Testing the limits of his physical and mental endurance, Mike Parr has cut, branded, stitched, burned and nailed his body in the pursuit of his art. (2) In his oeuvre his visceral performances are being accompanied by sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography and video, through all of which he examines his identity and major political and cultural conventions of the 20th century, ranging from his disability to Marxism, from the refugee crises to the structure of language.
“I grew up in the backblocks. In the fringe zone beyond the reach of the big cities these are peculiarly ambiguous areas with a high proportion of misfits, religious fanatics and down at heel no-hopers. A lot of the disturbance in my work, its expressionistic irony and its solipsism, dates back to my experience of the backblocks in the late 1940’s, 50’s & 60’s when our family moved from one rundown farm to the next.”
By 1966 he started as an artist in Sydney - strongly objecting to the war in Vietnam, he refused to register for the draft. The climate of anti-war protest instilled Parr with a sense of being an outsider challenging authority. During the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s he voraciously read the work of 20th-century intellectuals such as German philosopher and sociologist Herbert Marcuse and Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, absorbing their accounts of authoritarianism, exploitative behavior and the restricted nature of liberty in Western societies.
The performances he staged at this time were unique and groundbreaking refutations of the status quo of the Australian visual arts scene. He fused his fascination for the structure of language with his performance work. “I wanted to turn words into things,” he says. “I actually think my first performances were some sort of bizarre attack on language.” However, the attacks on language soon gave way to shocking performance pieces that made his body and the limits to which he could push it the focus of attention.
Self-portraiture has been a consistent element in his practice. He has produced thousands of drawings and prints over the last three decades. “It’s a sort of start-again situation, an attempt to know the unknowable,” he says. Ever since the early 1980s, he has begun his self-portraits in a conventional manner, looking at himself in a mirror and trying to capture a likeness. As the drawing progresses it triggers a memory of a time, a place or an idea, and Parr lets his pencil or etching tool run free in an attempt to record a concept related to the work. “The self-portraits show this crucial problem. I labor away intensively with the interesting possibility of a portrait emerging and then I start to remember something and it will come to me in the entanglement of line.” For Parr, the process of perception is indistinguishable from that of remembering, and the struggle is in how to reconcile the workings of memory, sight and thought.
(1) Matthias Reichelt, KUNSTFORUM International, Bd. 220, März – April 2013
(2) Michael Young, Art Asia Pacific, 2009
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