Let the Healing Begin

The idea that art makes us better people, that it heals our souls, is an anathema. In the art world, 'art therapy' is the butt of endless jokes. Nevertheless, contemporary art is riddled with therapeutic subtexts and strategies. Let the Healing Begin features works that address therapy. Some of the works endorse therapeutic imperatives, some satirise them, others are undecided.

Art Exhibition previously on at IMA - Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane precinct, Queensland, Australia.
From Saturday 05 March 2011 to Saturday 30 April 2011

Untitled XV from Smudge. image Bananaman. image Map of Nowhere  image Portrait of M and F  image AAA–AAA  image

Published by Institute of Modern Art on Monday 14 February 2011.
Contact the publisher.

The line-up is a mix of local and international artists.

The show was prompted by the work of Melbourne artist Stuart Ringholt, who is known for his autobiographical book Hashish Psychosis: What It’s Like to Be Mentally Ill and Recover. He is represented with a selection of works, including portrait mirrors with circles painted on them and collages of faces, which suggest problems in recognising and relating to self and to others.

Therapy is all about making and unmaking—restoring and repairing—one’s self. The show features a self portrait by Grayson Perry, the Turner-Prize-winning cross-dressing potter. Inspired by the Mappa Mundi, Perry created a fanciful map of the social forces that made him the man he is. Polly Borland’s Smudge photographs, however, are about people unmaking themselves through carnivalesque gender-bending dress-ups. Change is good, but not always. Ronnie van Hout offers a tiny sculpture of a man turning into a banana, who carries a sign which says ‘HELP ME’; another sculpture, a self portrait as twins, Doom and Gloom, presents both sides of his personality.

In his political poster The Greatest Tragedy of President Clinton’s Administration, Mike Kelley argues that America’s primary health issue is the low self-esteem induced by celebrity culture. He suggests that celebrities be forced to work in sex clinics, servicing members of the public. The flip side of this modest proposal is a compilation of newspaper articles regarding the attempted rape of Steven Spielberg.

Videos of performances loom large in the show. The earliest work is Kardinal, a 1967 film by the Viennese Actionist Otto Muehl. (With a background in psychoanalysis, Muehl led a notorious therapeutic cult in the counterculture period.) In one video, Marina Abramovic and Ulay take turns to slap one another across the face; in another, they scream. In his notorious Cathartic Action, the one-armed Mike Parr chops off a fake arm, has it replaced by a woolly knitted ‘sock’ arm, then proceeds to explain what this means to him. In his video diptych Bacon’s Dog, Dani Marti provides a sixty-year-old virgin with his first sexual experience. Meanwhile, Matt Mullican makes art under hypnosis through his regressed persona—’That Person’.

The show also features work by Julian Dashper, Robin Hungerford, Rose Nolan, Tony Oursler, Grant Stevens, Peter Tyndall, and Gillian Wearing.