Cover image of the review
Title image: Andrea Büttner, *Beggar* series 2016, installation view, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne 2019. Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens, London; David Kordansky, Los Angeles; and Galerie Tschudi, Zuoz. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

On Vulnerability and Doubt

10 Aug 2019
29 Jun - 1 Sep 2019

The unassuming first word in the title of On Vulnerability and Doubt is more telling than it may appear. With the apparent neutrality of an essayistic titling convention (“On X…”), it is a word that more or less disappears under the weight of the big ones that follow it. Yet “On”—as the disparate works in this exhibition curated by Max Delany suggest—institutes a gap between artist and “X”. This is an exhibition that is true to its word. The artworks it includes take distance from vulnerability and doubt, reflecting on them, rather than manifesting them.

On Vulnerability and Doubt features the work of eight artists who practise “across geographic and generational divides,” Delany writes in the catalogue, but who share “a sensibility perhaps, steeped in a sense of minority and deviation from the norm.” The show is framed without allusion to the now-ness of vulnerability in pop psychology, a referential exclusion that has not prevented the exhibition being received in these terms. Time Out’s plug for the exhibition reads, “Putting yourself out there—whether in love, work or friendship—is one of the most terrifying things a person can do, so it’s the perfect inspiration for the (…) winter exhibition.” Andrew Stephens of The Sydney Morning Herald reviews the exhibition with reference to the “hugely successful TED talks” of Susan Cain and Brené Brown, “recent champions of the power of expressing our doubts and vulnerabilities.” These champions make injunctions for us to be vulnerable and to lean into vulnerability. Their injunctions suppose vulnerability is something we can choose. They ascribe a positive value to it, so that vulnerability leads to power, and doubt—in Cartesian fashion—leads to its own eradication.

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