Cover image of the review
Shelley Lasica WHEN I AM NOT THERE 2022 commissioned by Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council and the Art Gallery of New South Wales support partner Atelier © Shelley Lasica. Photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

Shelley Lasica, When I Am Not There

3 Jun 2023
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) 22 May - 4 Jun 2023

The evening after visiting Shelley Lasica’s performance-exhibition, I carved out some time to finally read Ocean Vuong’s new-ish book of poetry, Time is a Mother. Vuong writes with this simmering intensity that brings a juxtaposition of meanings into line with an unlikely ease. I get caught on this line: “How faithful the memory of a shadow, you think.”

How faithful the memory. How faithful the archive. How faithful the body, I think. Remembering the way Lasica and her dancers seem to play the archive, memories of shadows, un and re–remembered in moments of synchronicity.

A rather unlikely thing happens in Lasica’s durational performance-exhibition. Rather than the contemporary art–coded space of Monash University Museum of Art, the home of the previous iteration of the work, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales the piece is actively enmeshed in the messy world of a monumental state art institution. The piece is slightly awkwardly positioned across two spaces, between the lurid green walls of the Young Archie—a classically hung exhibition of portraits by children inspired by the ever-popular Archibald Prize—and the thumping, boxing-inspired soundtrack of the installation What do We want? by artist Reko Rennie (Wurundjeri/Boon Wurrung Country) in The National 4. Add in a serious-looking guard and an overly keen gallery volunteer, and you have the setting for a highly porous, slightly jarring set of performance parameters.

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