Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Elements of Refusal

Kelly’s Garden Curated Projects #21 and part of MONA FOMA 2015

An installation and performance
by Brendan Walls

This sound installation uses an assemblage of tuned wires to tap into the tonal dimensions and frequencies of Kelly’s Garden.

Brendan Walls is a Tasmanian composer and performer, and this work will launch the 2015 Kelly’s Garden Curated Projects, curated by Sean Kelly.

“In Paris there is a machine created by Jean Tinguely. It creates drawings. It never tires, and because it is maintained, it never stops. Perhaps it is a sculpture according to the need for definition, but that is merely one of its identities. Tinguely also created another machine, the sole function of which was to destroy itself. Birth and Death were conflated in this construction and its brief but spectacular existence forced us to through irony to seriously confront and consider notions of control and Entropy. It was essentially a conceptual artwork which existed to activate considerations of control, power, purpose and permanence.

Humans create arbitrary and contingent conceits in order to operate (in) the world. The desire to slice Time into usable units is one such conceit, the desire to section land and claim ‘ownership’ of it is yet another. Humans also have a deep-rooted anxiety about Chaos. For many years Velikovsky’s theory that the Dinosaurs and much of life on Earth were obliterated by impact with an object from space, most likely a meteor, were ridiculed, and for one primary reason – aversion to the acceptance and incorporation of the concept of catastrophe and chaos. To accept the random chance of chaos is to accept that in the final analysis we have no ultimate control, that our existence is due to accident and can be terminated by the same agency – a possible route to Nihilism inevitably beckons…

All systems, are contingent but systems fail, the things we create are fated to break down, to return to their constituent elements, a process which begins at the point the objects and systems are created – ‘for in Life there is Death’. The beginning is also the beginning of the end. That is why, over the duration of the life (and death) of this installation it will change as elements ‘fail’, which is to say, collapse, break, and wear out as a function of their internal nature as well as the operation of external forces. Ironically this enables the work to ‘grow’ even as elements of it may cease to operate. Change is the only constant in this work.

Nature also allows recombination and this too is a feature of this installation. The elements that produce the sounds of which this experience is comprised add their own sounds to those of other elements and create an interaction which cannot be predicted or controlled. Chance is therefore given the primary operative role. Walls believes that if the exact outcomes were entirely predictable there would be no point for him in creating the work, that it would be a ‘dead’ thing. Where Duchamp allows and welcomes chance as a vital factor in the making of an artwork, Walls actively builds it into the work from the outset and it is from this that much of the dynamism and development of the work is driven. Just as the relation between the fixed constructed elements is open, the other drivers of the work are also unpredictable. These are natural forces, earth, air and water which provide the signals which trigger the ’mechanical’ or functional aspect of the work. Again chance plays a role as the presence and relativities within these natural forces constantly vary in relation to each other. Two visitors, only minutes apart may experience a different sonic environment which constantly evolves throughout the period of its installation.

While these conceptual and even I suppose ‘metaphorical’ aspects of the installation are deeply significant it does not resemble pure conceptual art in any other way. It is a dynamic and powerful sensual experience and deeply ‘immersive’ in its capacity to engage and activate sensorially. In that it may be considered ‘sublime’ taking Thomas Weiskel’s definition of the Sublime as a state in which all known relations are suspended. This is an environment which engages the visitor in a total manner, which defies translation and interpretation, which has no narrative and no sequential or rationally predictable development. It frustrates the desire to seek order, it subverts the very notion that order is anything other than the desire for comfort.

The title of this installation derives from the writings of John Zerzan which broadly refer to the refusal to be complicit in the systematic way in which humans, have come to believe that systems they create are something real, something other than invented, contingent and artificial constructs. The Punk ethos also underpins this work – refusal to accept, to submit to a dominant hegemony. Much of Walls’ earlier work has been directed by the same position. To grow as an individual or a society is to question, and art is a space in which questions are constantly being posed. Many of these question art itself but also allow questions to be asked from any ‘discipline’ – for art is not a discipline any more, it is a holding ground for modest and extreme proposals.

’’Good art makes you nervous’’ is how Susan Sontag described it. This takes us back to the Burkian sublime which contends that we are most ‘alive’ when we are confronted by an overload of sensorial input and a key condition which may operate in that environment is fear. Nothing suspends known relations like the fear of imminent death, as Turner felt when watching an avalanche in the Grisons. Punk Music in the seventies engendered a similar sensorial response, as well as its intellectual aspect which engendered the fear of anarchy, chaos and a ruthless desire to smash current hegemonies and received beliefs.

You have been warned…”

– Seán Kelly, Curator

Thursday 15 – Sunday 17 January 2015
10:00am – 5:00pm daily

Monday 18 January – Friday 27 February 2015
10:00am – 5:00pm weekdays

Get ready sound lovers… our favourite sound artist Brendan Walls is cooking up three more sonic experiences in Kelly’s Garden. Sally McIntyre (NZ), Matt Warren, Michael Fortescue and Greg Kingston will join Brendan over three weekends, to create extraordinary sounds responding to Brendan’s installation in this historic space. 

Saturday 31 January 2015 @ 5:30pm
Sally McIntyre (NZ) – short wave radio, field recordings, electronics
Brendan Walls – wires
5:30pm  – guitar

Saturday 7 February 2015 @ 5:30pm
Matt Warren – drums
Brendan Walls – bass and wires
Greg Kingston – guitar

Saturday 14 February 2015 @ 5:30pm
Michael Fortescue – bowed wires and metal
Brendan Walls – wires
Greg Kingston – guitar


Kelly’s Garden Curated Projects is an initiative of the Salamanca Arts Centre and made possible through the generosity of Aspect Design and fundraising from SAC’s Supporters at the SAC Quiz Night. This Project was assisted through Arts Tasmania by the Minister for Tourism and the Arts. Supported by Arts TasmaniaCity of Hobart and Aspect Design.

Kelly's garden logos basic   mofo_monafestivalpage_475x366

Image Credits: Fiona Fraser

« All Events