Cover image of the review
Club Ate (Justin Shoulder, Bhenji Ra, and collaborators), ANG IDOL KO / YOU ARE MY IDOL (still), 2022. 2-channel digital video, HD, colour, sound. Image courtesy and © the artists

Ultra Unreal

17 Sep 2022
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 22 Jul - 2 Oct 2022

We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) on the opening weekend of Ultra Unreal. We were immediately greeted by Pootopia, a live performance by the Tokyo-based artist Saeborg. Dancing to a musical medley by ABBA, performers in inflatable latex dung-beetle costumes scurried around the relatively small entrance foyer of the MCA, throwing inflatable latex mounds of faeces into the claustrophobically gathered audience.

Within eyeshot of the performance were Saeborg’s installations Slaughterhouse (2021-22) and Pootopia (2020-22). In Slaughterhouse, anthropomorphic latex pigs populate an “explicit” farmyard scene which included a pig-tailed laborer holding a sign for “Frozen Sperm”, cartoonish inflatable trees, and a sunny backdrop of blue sky as one pig mounts another in an act of fornication. Pootopia is in the other corner of the room with latex dung-beetles propped up against the gallery’s garishly-painted yellow walls, alongside mounds of faecal matter resembling mountains. Saeborg’s use of latex and rubber is inspired by her involvement in Tokyo’s fetish club event Department-H, known for its rubber festivals. However, while Saeborg’s performances at Department-H are inherently part of Tokyo’s underground fetish subculture, the context of the MCA rendered the uninhibited nature of Saeborg’s performance as spectacle. The bombast of the performance was overwhelming and is indicative of the exhibition’s curation which after multiple much-needed visits, seems to be a competition of spectacle. Is spectacle a condition of speculative exhibition making, needed to make us pay attention to what the future can hold? Or perhaps is spectacle an unfortunate consequence of shallow institutional engagement with speculative world-making?

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.