July 2007

Arts & Letters

‘Show Court 3’ by Louise Paramor, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, 20 April

By Justin Clemens

In a world overburdened by museums and monuments, by the claims of the past and the injunction to protect and save, what should we preserve? Everything! Transience has assumed real value in contemporary art. Instead of the object, the event becomes primary: its site, its performance, its participants, its disappearance. You can document it, sure, but there's no substitute for being there.

It was in this spirit that I rocked up to a place where I'd never otherwise go, the gargantuan complex that is the Rod Laver Arena, wearing my best white soft-soled shoes. The flat green surface of Show Court 3 was buzzing with brightly coloured plastic assemblages created by the Melbourne artist Louise Paramor. I descended to meet them as the sun set and the floodlights came on. Each assemblage was bizarre in its own way. Here, an upturned orange child's chair had been placed on a large yellow bucket, and the whole thing crowned with a slitted green bulb like a flower; there, a curved white funnel sat on a stool, which itself sat on a faded turquoise pool. There were over 70 of these things, built from recycled discards such as milk crates, baby baths, highchairs and hoses.

Paramor calls each assemblage a "jam session", like musicians getting together and riffing; but the term also connotes an infantile pleasure in the bright, sweet conserves produced by mashing stuff up. Like much contemporary art, these works are dense with allusions: to Martin Kippenberger's The Happy End of Franz Kafka's ‘Amerika', a collection of furniture in a fake indoor gymnasium; to the grids of modernism and minimalism, such as Mondrian's famous Broadway Boogie Woogie; to Jean Arp's biomorphic sculptures; even to the famous Tennis Court Oath that cemented the French Revolution. Because the objects Paramor collects are designed for the human body, above all for hands and arses, the jam sessions acquire anthropomorphic qualities, even characters of their own, at once innocent and faintly obscene. Together, for one night only, they transformed the court.

Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens writes about contemporary Australian art and poetry. He teaches at the University of Melbourne.

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