Cover image of the review
Installation view of Michael Stevenson, *Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183*, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2019. Photo: Andrew Curtis

Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183

1 Jun 2019
22 May - 6 Jul 2019

Serene Velocity in Practice: MC510/CS183, recently opened at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), is the first major exhibition by the Berlin-based New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson to be held in Australia in some years. Since his survey show at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art in 2011, Stevenson has generated a new body of work that demands a shift in the way his practice is understood. I was struck by the physical, experiential and frankly bodily quality of this installation by an artist who is primarily known for his research focus.

Stevenson's typically large-scale sculptures and installations are based on fine-grained archival investigations into often obscure recent histories. The artist's long-running interest in New York gallerist Tony Shafrazi, for example, occasioned an exploration of the 1978 Iranian revolution and its intersection with the New York art world. Other topics that have come in for Stevensonian scrutiny include New Zealand's short-lived effort to develop and market a locally-produced car, the Guatemalan banana industry during the disastrous CIA-led coup of 1954, and Australian artist Ian Fairweather's incredible sea journey from Darwin to Indonesia on an alarmingly rickety raft he constructed entirely from found objects and beach debris. It's easy to understand why Stevenson's work has been seen as content-driven: audiences have responded to narratives that are cinematic in scope and rich in comic irony, feature multifaceted characters, and draw in the full dramatic sweep of high-level international politics and economic relations.

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