Cover image of the review
John Brooks and Audrey Tan, *Swamp Breathing*. BLINDSIDE, Narrm/Melbourne. Photo: Nick James Archer.

John Brooks and Audrey Tan, Swamp Breathing

24 Apr 2021
BLINDSIDE 7 Apr - 24 Apr 2021

John Brooks and Audrey Tan’s current exhibition, Swamp Breathing, is located in BLINDSIDE’s main gallery in the Nicholas Building. A set of large windows overlook the massive Metro Tunnel construction site, which on the day I visited was in full action. The sounds of drilling and hammering drifted up to the gallery’s seventh floor location, an aural cocoon that comforted me with the simultaneous proximity and distance of the space to the city below. These sounds accidentally lend to the experience of viewing Swamp Breathing. This is an exhibition that tries to carve out a small respite from the disarray of late capitalism and its offspring—particularly consumerism.

John Brooks and Audrey Tan, Swamp Breathing. BLINDSIDE, Narrm/Melbourne. Photo: Nick James Archer.

The exhibition is comprised of a myriad of small sculptures that address the logic of what Tan calls “reborning objects”—taking mostly very banal objects and re-formatting them in curious combinations. They dot the walls, floor, rafters and windowsills. A quiet dissonance is present in each of the works, due largely to the way in which the artists have combined organic and human-made materials in Frankenstein-like patchworks. Pebbles and polystyrene make odd bedfellows, as do lint, date pips and metal shards. Despite this, the works are soothing. I can’t quite put my finger on how this tension between dissonance and comfort manages to uphold itself—but I think that is maybe the quiet power of Swamp Breathing.

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