5 - 21 November 2009

Jamie Boys, Federico Joni + Kristen Phillips

The collective uses the idea of seven-year life cycles to demonstrate the effects of consumerism on the construction of an individual’s identity from cradle to grave. This third exhibition looks at the third cycle of life: 15-21 year-olds.

C.I.U.C.  S-3

2009 is host to the third annual manifestation of Cashmere if you Can – a seven-year project of art exhibitions initiated by Jamie Boys in 2007. With each passing year the C.I.U.C. group grows by one artist, so, that by the seventh year, seven artists have joined and continued with the project until its completion. Each year the newest artist of the group is performatively initiated on opening night via Cashmerie Sacred Initiation (CSI). This year’s ceremony sees Kristen Phillips initiated by the C.I.U.C. Fraternity’s High Priest Jamie Boys and last year’s inductee Federico Joni.

Pressure to ‘make it’ as an artist can steal its way into an artist’s soul.  Sometimes the pressure squeezes the best work out of you; sometimes it lies embedded, striating your practice like too much fat in your art-making muscle. One certainty is that the mirage-like, paradisaical island of ‘Made It’ is always a distant shore.  Artists are, of course, not alone on this journey – the pressure to ‘be someone’ is a major Western narrative and Progress is probably the single most influential idea to be fostered in the West1. In the face of this imperative many practicing artists stubbornly continue with their practise irrespective of who’s looking, caring or providing funding.  The circuit of yearly exhibitions wheels into the future leaving a linear trace of activity – work is produced, catalogues are written and further notches are gauged onto the CV.  Artists become more ‘professional’ as they go along, are encouraged to get an ABN, a post graduate degree or two, have their work collected by reputable institutions and to pack up their lives to do residencies in foreign countries.  In many ways this process, which is not dissimilar to any other career within a capitalistic context, parallels the growth of a human from cradle to grave with the cultural initiations that are interspersed at various times throughout life.

The artists in Cashmere if you Can – Series 3, (C.I.U.C. S-3) have interpreted the project’s central theme of the acquisition of raised status via competition and consumerism in individual ways but have been tempered by a shared secondary aesthetic strategy that also runs through the long term project – the astrological cliché of the seven year cycles. Each of their annual exhibitions has being assigned a bracket of seven years of human development. The first in the series, C.I.U.C. S-1, was a solo show by Jamie Boys that covered the years from birth to seven. In C.I.U.C. S-2, the marketing world’s goldmine of the tween and teenage years of eight through to fourteen were explored by both Boys and Joni. This current show is thematically tied to the tumultuous late adolescent years to early adulthood in which individuals ‘come into their own’.

Kristen Phillips uses the history and significance of objects to form a commentary on familial and social pressures imposed on the young. Her small sculptures are three dimensional collages.  Moulds were taken from family antiques as well as everyday objects such as balls and soft furnishings with the resultant wax impressions rearranged, melded and cast in bronze.  The mysterious intent that is embedded in the raw physicality of these artful conglomerates is, therefore, not distinguished from that which inheres to the everyday objects we feel compelled to consume. Sitting on plinths like a teenager’s collection of sporting trophies, these pop-rococo works nod to the shifting value of an object and its associated memories over time.

Jamie Boys is fascinated with the potential eccentric socialization of people who have inherited masses of wealth and luxurious lifestyles. Boys presents a large, seven sided, cut gem-like structure lined with fake-fur serving as an elaborate mounting device for seven manipulated photos of young people surrounded by a world of wealth in his installation Heir, Heir!  The young heirs are depicted with their faces obscured by absurd mask-like compositional elements that allude to the fantasies of haute couture design. What are these fictional rich-kids hiding? Perhaps, their anxieties about being written out of the will or the pressure to remain anonymous in a world perpetually interested in the minutiae of their private lives. Maybe the masks are just blatant displays of excess. Above the main body of the installation a rotating spoon of the proverbial silver variety hangs and directs visual traffic around the contraption lending a low level hum of anxiety to Heir, Heir!

Federico Joni describes his work, Easy Target, as collage installation yet not much gluing takes place and the installation factor is of a provisional kind.  The work comprises of cut-outs of heads of celebrities sourced from magazines loosely placed on a shelf. Peppering the glossy surface of the cut-outs are droppings from his budgerigar. The images spent some time accruing their markings whilst in the form of cage litter tray lining, further bird shit embellishments were gleefully orchestrated by the artist.  Easy Target can be seen as a meditation on the removed yet often passionate relationships that we form with celebrities and pets alike. Having undergone only slight alteration from being bird cage lining Joni’s work resonates with Massimillano Gioni’s insight that “Collage is a dirty medium, infected as it is by waste” and that it “appropriates residues and leftovers, trafficking with what is deemed to be valueless”2.

Jonas Ropponen - 2009

1. Nisbet, Robert. History of the Idea of Progress, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick NJ,1994. p.4.
2. Gioni Massimiliano, “It’s Not the Glue That Makes the Collage,” in Collage: The Unmonumental Picture, ed. New Museum, Merrell, NY, 2007. p.11.