Cover image of the review
110%, *Wet Nurse*, 2019, c3, Melbourne. Photo: 110%

110%: Wet Nurse

14 Dec 2019
6 Dec - 7 Feb 2020

Often we think about and experience art through the structures of cause and effect. Art, it seems, easily slips into being understood as an effect of some prior cause: the artist is perhaps the most basic causal beginning, and also—digging deeper—the artist’s intention, mental health, personal interests, social and economic biography, and even their presumed ‘bio-sexual’ status can also be brought forth in order to explain and understand the artwork. The artwork is then conceived as an effect of these causal structures. Another common strategy is to align the artwork within a socially accepted (and constructed) narrative: the long chain of art-historical connections, progressions and causes, effects, negations, explorations and critiques, which become part of an accepted drama within which formal qualities as well as conceptual tendencies can play a part.

While the ‘narrative arc’ within this drama becomes the most basic unit of the historical approach (‘History’—and the full breadth of this term is hard to overstate—is rendered into artistic style or tendency), it is harder to define the most reduced factor in the search for the artist as bodily, biological, and subjective cause. Art and the artist as an effect of history seems a fairly straightforward model, but is it possible to pinpoint a biological position whereby the artist, as perhaps a primary cause of the artwork, is defined by their education, or their class, or their parents, or their diet, or their psychology, or indeed their gut biome? What I mean is this: if we uphold that the artist is one of the basic causes of an artwork, can we also include the microbacterial and microfungal inhabitants of that artist’s body within the causal network that we impose? If not, why not? Where does an artist—who is, in spite of what they sometimes think of themselves, just another type of person—begin and end?

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