Cover image of the review
Min Wong, Miss Boobs, 2022 and Twin Flame, 2022. Soul Seeker, Cement Fondu, 2022. Photo: Jessica Maurer Photography.

Soul Seeker

1 Oct 2022
Cement Fondu 13 Aug - 2 Oct 2022

I purchased Katy B. Plummer’s experimental oracle deck from the pop-up Witch Shop Cement Fondu. The deck consists of forty-eight delicate cards designed for “intuitive reckoning of uncertain times”, inscribed with cryptic, poetic scraps of advice in narrow handwriting. Two cards I drew multiple times were ‘A Broken Arrow’ and ‘The Great Calm Evening’. I interpreted the first card as signifying being stuck at a crossroads, failing to bring something to fruition, tangled in the process of orienting and re-orienting. The second was more ambiguous. I sensed the spectre of rest lingering somewhere out of reach, a place to let weary bodies sleep. At the same time, the impending calm felt ominous, foreboding. A deep, dark stretch of nothing from twilight into night. I started to think about the exhaustion of conflicting options and red herrings, muddling through toxic structures towards the (perhaps unattainable) promise of liberation.

These are the two paradoxical impulses underpinning the restlessness of Cement Fondu’s current exhibition, Soul Seeker. On the one hand, there is the pursuit of spiritual transcendence and salvation that aspires to a place of calm and peace. And then, on the other, there is the relentless commodification of that pursuit, sucked into the hustle and grind of aggressive self-optimisation. Soul Seeker is the fourth in an annual series of exhibitions pairing the work of a local early career artist with an established international artist. This iteration pairs local Sydney artist Min Wong with the California-based Shana Moulton, drawing out their shared engagement with “New Age” culture. As the show reveals, there is no single, homogenous New Age culture; it is better conceived of as a late 20^th^/early 21^st^ century bricolage of religions, spiritual beliefs, symbols and rituals. Wong’s sculptural and installation practice, for example, explores the visual language of esoteric traditions, drawing on Christian, Taoist, and neopagan influences, together with her investment in extreme and cultic forms of fitness, such as Bikram Yoga and CrossFit. Moulton works across video, sculpture and performance to offer a more surrealist engagement with self-care industries as a trap for women, composing vivid domestic spaces that are at once placating and claustrophobic. In a tale almost as old as time, the quest to escape capitalism is absorbed back into its coercive and exploitative logics.

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