Cover image of the review

I hope you get this: Raquel Ormella

9 Jun 2018
Shepparton Art Museum 26 May - 12 Aug 2018

Raquel Ormella’s artworks have been included in a number of thematic exhibitions exploring the relationships between art and activism in recent years; examples include Direct Democracy, at MUMA in 2013 and See You at the Barricades, at AGNSW in 2015. These exhibitions showed her series of trade union style banners I’m Worried This Will Become a Slogan, 1999–2009, and her series of “reworked” flags like This Dream, 2013. The banners are made using felt letters stitched onto wool. On the one side, they describe an act of protest carried out by an individual activist, and on the other, they convey an anxiety that is ironically expressed in a slogan like: “I’m worried I’m not radical enough”. They lean against walls on dowel supports, so that one side can’t be seen and only their stitching indicates that there is more text on the other. The artwork’s sentiments combining anxiety and dark irony convey a general atmosphere that came about during the 2007–08 financial crisis when governments were forced to bail out investment banks. This Dream entangles nylon flags of Australia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The fabric has been snipped away to leave herringbone and pokerwork patterns and a message: “this dream on the other side of the world”. The caustic allusion to the Australian Government’s policy of processing asylum seekers in offshore detention centres is clear. Nevertheless, the exhibitions that included Ormella’s work were self-consciously questioning the assumed efficacy of such polemics in art. Influenced by new institutionalism, agonistic theories of democracy and dilemmas about the forms of direct action used by anarchist, environmentalist and alter-globalisation movements, Ormella and the other artists in these exhibitions seemed to be reasserting art’s capacities to engage with activism. They may have been protesting the bailout of banks and the crimes of Manus, but at the same time Ormella and company were broadening the scope of their engagement by foregrounding the open-ended, and thus aesthetic, character of their politics.

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