Cover image of the review
The Killing, 6-Pack, 2022. Mixed textiles and synthetic fibres.Image courtesy of RMIT Gallery. Photo: Tobias Titz

Agent Bodies

30 Jul 2022
RMIT Gallery 6 Apr - 14 Aug 2022

Curated by Mikala Dwyer and Drew Pettifer, Agent Bodies at RMIT Gallery seeks “to enable a better understanding of what a body is”. We “live inside our bodies every day”, the catalogue says, but “how often do we stop to consider how entwined they are with our identity and our world?” Considering the breadth of the practices represented, the answer it seems is very often. However, something far more subtle and pertinent emerges in the meeting of works in Agent Bodies—a revelation of the ambivalence of discourse regarding illness and otherness and its symbolic life.

Lucian Freud, Portrait of Leigh Bowery, c. 1992. Etching. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Tobias Titz

Scattered around the exhibition spaces are large plush toys by artist collective The Killing. With their malformed limbs, elongated appendages and exaggerated expressions, the plushies are cutsey but chaotic. They resemble 3D realisations of the menacing humanoid figures of Jean Dubuffet or cartoon characters from Adventure Time (2010). On my visit, a giant plushie resembling a humanoid bull, donning a torn checked apron, is lying supine on the gallery floor. The plushie resembles a child, with its stubby limbs, large head and cartoon eyes. A lone wooden chair sits by its side. To my mind, these cues conjure ominous associations with the childhood bedroom and abuse. The chair is, however, part of a separate artwork by Sam Petersen. As an artist who uses a wheelchair, Petersen is interested in the everyday spaces we occupy and the way we share them. In Just Sit (2022) Petersen invites gallery visitors to sit on a chair fitted with a plasticine seat. Sitters leave their individual butt print, contributing to a changing form as a collaborative act of sitting and shaping.

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