One of the things that interests me in undertaking this project is to explore the idea that people can improve their potential or extend their ability to engage with the world via machines. More particularly, I am interested in the ways in which people undertake this process in a DIY manner by building things in sheds or yards and testing them on themselves. This, to me, indicates the true nature of innovation and of invention.
Take, for example, the idea of human flight. This has been around for a while, beginning with our old mate Leonardo da Vinci through to the early successes of the Wright brothers. Who, by the way, were bicycle manufacturers in their day jobs. Human powered flight is another thing, though, perhaps better examined as unpowered flight that has reached particular resolution in forms of hang gliding and radical new wing suits. There are still those people out there who insist that they can build something in their very own garden sheds that will defy, or at least suspend, gravity for extended periods of time. This type of individual is referred to as a ‘birdman’.
They get together and jump off of things, over water, for the purpose of entertaining one another and masses of heaving, excitable crowds. These events are referred to as Birdman Rallies, one of the most famous Australian ones being that which accompanies Melbourne’s annual Moomba festival. There are also high profile global equivalents such as the UK’s Worthing Rally and the Japan International.
What does all this have to do with art making, portraits and bicycles you ask? Well, I believe there are a number of Australian artists who espouse the ideals of the birdman in elements of their practice. They take perfectly working objects and modify them in a way that further enables the objects real world and creative potential. They cobble things together in fantastic ways that give us glimpses at new outcomes and insights. This group is by no means exhaustive, but it does offer a sense of what is on my mind.
Firstly I would like to introduce Michael Meneghetti, a performance artist who creates various body extensions and personas with which to test ideas. A 2012 collaboration with Joel Gailer, presented at Fremantle Art Centre, titled Performprint yielded the particularly impressive ‘Harley Printmatrixson’ costume, pictured below. Check out more detailed documentation and a swag of other great things that Michael has done here - http://michaelmeneghetti.com/projects/performprint-2012/
Henry Jock Walker makes the list with his modified surfboards that become sculptures and also sites from which to make paintings (whilst surfing). There is a little vid below of some of Jock’s water borne creativity. He is currently touring around Australia using his van as a mobile studio. Whilst this may not sound that unique, Jock’s painting technique often involves the vehicle being in motion at the time. Check out more here - http://henrysmobilestudio.com/
HMS: Making boardart and Surfing Paintings from Henry Jock Walker on Vimeo.
Simon Pericich is another young man who takes everyday machines or tools and repurposes them for strange human extension. Often referred to as art that is dark, disturbed or dystopic, his works collate everyday objects into groupings and investigations that are not quite comfortable. Sometimes makeshift weapons emerge in fusions of tired cricket bats, Astro Boy’s head and some hastily fixed and very sharp looking screws.