Natascha Stellmach »
Complete Burning Away
(The ashes of Kurt Cobain)
Exhibition: – 20 Oct 2013
Sat 14 Sep 14:00 - 16:00
Latrobe University Visual Arts Centre
121 View Street
VIC 3550 Bendigo
+61 3 -5441 8724
Tue-Fri 10-17, Sat, Sun 12-17
COMPLETE BURNING AWAY (The ashes of Kurt Cobain)
Exhibition: September 14 – October 20, 2013
Opening: Saturday, September 14, 2 – 4pm
The artist will be present.
To be opened by Kelly Gellatly, Director of The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, Australia
“Stellmach’s works are totally engrossing and the entire show is indeed kind of magic.” (The Australian, Ted Snell)
In 2008 Australian artist Natascha Stellmach installed a joint in a commercial Berlin gallery, containing hash and the alleged ashes of Kurt Cobain. An international call was sent out – via press release – inviting six volunteers to join her in smoking the ashes of the dead rock star, in a private, undocumented ritual, to explore commemoration and attachment.
Stellmach held no interviews and instead her press release to 200 selected journalists ignited a media-hype that spread across 58 countries, creating furor, public outrage and admiration, especially online. Before the term Shitstorm was coined, websites, blogs and chat rooms erupted with the news and threats were sent.
“I hope you die of the worst kind of cancer after watching your entire family die in a car fire” by Eric from Canada, or “It would truly hurt me if you are doing this only for art and not for Kurt” by Sabrina from Germany are two of the hundreds of unsolicited comments sent to the artist.
If the smoking of the ashes was the final act – then Complete Burning Away, Stellmach’s dramatic exhibition is the epilogue. The project boldly interrogates the public ownership of celebrities and critiques the role of the artist, the media and contemporary art in society. More than that, this exhibition is a reflection on suicide and tragedy and the artist’s chosen means to pay her respects.
The site-specific installation at Latrobe University’s Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo includes six of the ten works in the project and takes the form of videos, painted walls and objects.
As an introduction to the project’s history, a fast split-screen video, Overture, mashes up news broadcasts and user generated responses from YouTube and other online video sharing platforms. Painted across the 5m high foyer walls is Whatever Happened to Painting?, an installation of outrageous quotes questioning the ethics and merits of Stellmach’s project in relation to art: red for angry, yellow for supportive and blue for quizzical.
Amongst this text a battered left-handed 1980s Stratocaster style guitar, Commodity, is suspended from the ceiling to emphasize the absurd nature of dead celebrity auction rankings and the associated commerce – and becomes a sacred relic. One 2-wall video installation, Scream, offers an intense sonic requiem where the aforementioned guitar howls as it is punched and smashed against a wall by a shadowy figure until it ‘dies’.
“The video Scream is a disturbing metaphor and easily associated with the image of the mythic artist hanging by a thread and beaten into a corner by the adoration of his public.” (The West Australian, Donal Fitzpatrick)
Another 2-wall video installation, Who will smoke the ashes of Kurt Cobain? is an intimate play of monologues by six volunteers from Russia to Sweden who answered the call to smoke the ashes. They share their candid thoughts on suicide, death and commemoration and gradually the conversations overlap causing a Brechtian sense of rupture; reminding the viewer of the part they play.
A small silver case, Gone. sits reverentially in a spot-lit perspex vitrine and is on display without the infamous joint.
“Initially this project smelled like a weakly delivered act of fraud propositioned for dubious reasons. … There is poetry here. There is razor sharp commentary here. These works expand and contract and will not be forgotten easily.” (Artrage, Perth, 2010, Marcus Canning)
Complete Burning Away is proudly associated with the inaugural Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music. The opening on Saturday September 14 features an encore performance of Mauricio Carrasco performing Fausto Romitelli’s Trash TV Trance on electric guitar.
Australian artist Natascha Stellmach (b. 1970) lives in Melbourne and Berlin and works with image and text, across a range of media including installation and Happening. Her socially critical practice frequently examines human vulnerability, intimacy and notions of transformation, provocatively blending the personal with aspects of pop culture, history and fiction.
Stellmach’s work is held in international collections, she has been awarded grants and residencies from The Australia Council, Arts Victoria, NAVA and The Myer Foundation, and exhibits internationally, including recently at Documenta(13).
Natascha Stellmach is represented by WAGNER+PARTNER, Berlin: www.galerie-wagner-partner.com
See her photography next at UNSEEN PHOTO FAIR AMSTERDAM: www.unseenamsterdam.com