On View: January 27
This Video Viewing Room features Brian Fuata’s of a house besieged (preposition tweaked) (2020), alongside a text written by Matthew Lyons.
This presentation is organized by Matthew Lyons, Curator.
Beginning in July 2019 and continuing for nearly a year, Australia’s worst fire season on record affected huge tracts of land with devastating loss of human and non-human life. As this climate emergency transpired, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and the uprising for Black lives reverberated around the globe with fury over systemic violence and disenfranchisement. It is against this unprecedented, destabilizing backdrop that Brian Fuata’s first video work came into being. With arts programming migrating to screen space in mid-2020, curator Isabelle Parker Phillips invited Fuata to create a work for an online exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales called “Hyper-linked” which looked at the “paradoxical fact that we are experiencing mass disconnect in an age of hyper-connectivity.” Fuata was given access to a gallery in the nearly shuttered museum to film an improvisation for the camera, and he brought to the project a short story he had long admired by the literary miniaturist Lydia Davis called In a House Besieged. (1) In just seven sentences, Davis describes a couple in their home trying to make sense of strange, possibly menacing noises outdoors; the woman guesses it could be from weather phenomena (wind or rain), while the man suggests it could be coming from human activities (hunting or the military).
For over a decade, Fuata has inhabited a ghost character in his live improvisations, with a white bed sheet placed over his head. He describes this as “an evasion of representation”–a strategy for avoiding having to perform Brownness or queerness, or a way to let identity not be shown visually but rather through affect, while using humor and informational signposts to let the audience in and give them some agency in their experience of the improvisation. In of a house besieged (preposition tweaked), Fuata appears as a shadow figure, silhouetted in front of a video still of the ghost in a 2015 performance entitled Untitled (a refit of the sheet) at Chisenhale Gallery, London. (2) Here, Fuata’s improvisatory action and nonsensical utterances contrast with his plainspoken introduction and the text on screen. As a kind of didactic guide, the text fragments were choreographed to complicate the univocality of single-camera documentation in several ways–they recall what Fuata was thinking about in the moment of filming, name images that only revealed themselves to Fuata upon watching the footage, and foretell images to come, simultaneously playing with present and future tenses. Marking a moment of transition in Fuata’s practice, of a house besieged (preposition tweaked) becomes an initial exploration of what he calls post-improvisation film.
Brian Fuata is a Samoan artist born in Aotearoa / New Zealand and based in Sydney, Australia. In addition to a live art practice of structured improvisation, Fuata has developed a unique method of remote performance through email correspondence and text message exchanges. Alongside his solo practice, he is part of the duo Wrong Solo with Agatha Gothe-Snape. In April 2022, Fuata and artist Latai Taumoepeau curated MONUMENTAL (working title), a weekend of multidisciplinary performance for the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s 150-year anniversary celebrations which was recently remounted as part of the Sydney Festival in January 2023. Fuata was the 2020 Winner of the ANTI Festival International Prize for Live Art, Helsinki. Past works include: Untitled (Intermission), 2022 ANTI Festival Helsinki and Singapore Biennale (2022), Five Columns, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2020), Apparitional Charlatan ~ Minor Appearances, Biennale of Sydney (2020); Care disfigurements (flowers), 4A Gallery Sydney for Hong Kong Art Fair, Hong Kong (2019); Broadloom, Murray Art Museum Albury (2019); IWMLDFS (or MINIBAR), Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2019); The Guest House, Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2018); All Nothing, Poetry Project, New York (2015); All titles, PERFORMA, New York (2015); Untitled (a refit of the sheet), Chisenhale Gallery, London (2015); Points of Departure 1-3, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2014).
CREDITS & FOOTNOTES
Video: Brian Fuata, of a house besieged (preposition tweaked), 2020. Single-channel video, 11:49 minutes. Courtesy of the artist. Commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales for Together in Art New Work, 2020. Supported by the Tindale Foundation.
Footnotes: (1) “In a House Besieged,” from Lydia Davis’s first collection Break It Down (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1986); available in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (Picador, 2010). (2) At the time of filming, Fuata was considering retiring the ghost, which has now happened with his performances at the 2022 Singapore Biennale.