Mike Parr The Eternal Opening | Media Release 15 Aug 2019

From the 25th October to the 8th of December, 2019, Mike Parr, one of Australia’s most rigorous and respected artists will stage The Eternal Opening, an installation exhibiting an actual art gallery as an art object in a gallery at Carriageworks.  

In a reconstruction of Parr’s minimalist performance, LEFT FIELD [for Robert Hunter] (2017), audiences will enter a life-sized replica of the original space, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, to experience both the gallery and the documentation of the original performance as a kind of Eternal Return of the original occurrence. A series of new performances will accompany the work over the course of its exhibition and as a critical addenda to this program  Carriageworks will also present video documentation of Parr’s 2016 work BDH [Burning Down The House] in which hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the artist’s prints were methodically positioned in the Carriageworks traverser before being doused with petrol and incinerated.

Carriageworks Acting Director Euan Upston said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Mike Parr back to Carriageworks for the presentation of this major new project The Eternal Opening and to present for the first time in Sydney the full-scale documentation of BDH [Burning Down the House], an event which occurred here at Carriageworks in March 2016. Parr is an indomitable and uncompromising artist, whose commitment to interrogating art history and art itself has influenced a generation of practitioners. At Carriageworks, we are committed to presenting work that is ‘artist led’. This project is testament to that commitment.’

For almost five decades Parr has built a multilayered and critical practice that encompasses performance, printmaking, installation and text. Often using his own body as the principal medium – a relentlessly ongoing act of self-portraiture – Parr actively interrogates the trajectory of art history and the role of the artist.

In The Eternal Opening, the replica of Anna Schwartz Gallery will resemble a long white rectangular box, inside which video documentation of the 2017 LEFT FIELD [for Robert Hunter] performance will be shown. Audiences will watch on screen as the artist methodically climbs up and down a ladder, painting-out the white walls white with a roller. At Carriageworks, the set-like replica of the Melbourne gallery becomes the art object, and the sound of the recording from those who attended LEFT FIELD [for Robert Hunter] will reverberate throughout.

Anna Schwartz, Director and Founder of Anna Schwartz Gallery, commented: ‘Having worked with Mike Parr for more than thirty years it seems to me that the replication of The Eternal Opening represents the possible viewing of a lifetime’s practice as a single intensifying work. That it is occurring in Carriageworks has particular resonance given Mike’s history of exhibitions in this space.’

About LEFT FIELD [for Robert Hunter]:

Robert Hunter (1947-2014) was an Australian artist whose obsessive pursuit of minimal-abstraction is demonstrated in his white-on-white geometric compositions and white wall paintings. Embracing the statement of Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) that ‘Art wants to have nothing further to do with the object’, Parr’s tribute to Hunter resulted in an empty gallery, with the suggestion of work existing only through the form of video documentation. The obsession with Malevich’s work and the iconic painting Black Square, (1915) as the ground-zero of abstraction and twentieth-century art has long persisted in Parr’s practice. His pursuit of art-after-Malevich has frequently required his own body to become the key object of interrogation. If Black Square is the severed head of painting, the limits of the body in real-time are the future of art.

Carriageworks Performances:

  • On 24 October 2019, the opening night of The Eternal Opening at Carriageworks, Parr will undertake the performance Towards a Black Square – mark 2 (2019). This is a further iteration of a work originally undertaken in Hobart during June 2019, when Parr occupied a large empty gallery for close to eight hours, painting unseen black squares on the walls in a futile attempt to achieve Malevich’s transcendent Absolute. At Carriageworks, Parr will continue this work, climbing a ladder from time to time to continue painting his blind “squares” to reflect the enormous height of Carriageworks’ walls. Video documentation of this performance will be installed in the aftermath to accompany the gallery exhibited as an art object and the sound recording from both performances will play in overlap to create phase patterns in a continuous displacement of this memory of a monochrome as an ideal form.
  • In the early hours of the morning of Saturday 16 November, 2019 Parr is scheduled to undertake a closed performance session at Carriageworks. Location and details for this event will be provided by Carriageworks closer to the time.

BDH [Burning Down The House] (2016):

From Saturday 2 November to Sunday 8 December, visitors to Carriageworks will be able to see the presentation of video documentation from Parr’s performance BDH [Burning Down The House] (2016). This work was produced and presented by Carriageworks for the 2016 opening of the Biennale of Sydney exhibition at Carriageworks. In BDH [Burning Down The House], Parr set fire to an 18 x 12 metre grid of works from his print archive and their accompanying copper plates. Approximately $750,000 worth of the artist’s prints were methodically positioned in the Carriageworks traverser before being doused with petrol and incinerated. BDH [Burning Down The House] probes the role of art and the artist in a period where issues such as climate change and refugee policy have polarised communities and Governments globally. The artist says, ‘once you compromise the future, the past becomes unbearable.’

Mike Parr: The Eternal Opening is the fifth in the series of SchwartzCarriageworks major artist commissions that have taken place since 2015 including Katharina Grosse: The Horse Trotted Another Few Metres, Then it Stopped (2018); Daniel Buren: Like Child’s Play/Comme Un Jeu D’enfant (2017); Francesco Clemente: Encampment (2016); and El Anatsui: Five Decades (2015).

For further information and interviews please contact Julia Barnes, julia@articulatepr.com.au 0402 678 589 or Kym Elphinstone, kym@articulatepr.com.au 0421 106 139.