Melbourne, Melbourne Fringe 2015, Uncommon Places 2015

Smashing aphorisms: an interview with Shane McGrath, Uncommon Places Melbourne Fringe 2015

0 Comments 14 August 2015

If you’ve flown into Melbourne from overseas recently, you’ve probably seen Shane McGrath’s work. He’s the artist behind the large-scale mural that lines the walls of the snaking corridors at Tullamarine Airport’s international terminal. It’s a piece that celebrates cultural diversity, depicting dozens of people from an array of backgrounds hurling a myriad of brightly coloured paper planes towards the terminal’s exit. It’s subtle, but it works, as it should: McGrath’s made a career of balancing politics and aesthetics in the public space, so much so that it’s become a primary concern of his PhD at Deakin University.

This year, McGrath is one of 18 artists selected to partake in the second iteration of the Melbourne Fringe Festival’s public art program, Uncommon Places. But while his airport mural invites the public to observe, his latest creation is about encouraging audiences to interact with and ultimately destroy his work.  It’s a piece rooted in the nebulous relationship between art and sports – specifically the AFL practice of players bursting through a fabric banner before the commencement of a match.

“I’ve always found it very interesting and bizarre, the idea of making a banner for your team and then they destroy it with this big brute force before the match,” McGrath says of the work. “But there also are similarities between that and art history with the Japanese avant-garde and Klein with The Void. I thought I could have a bit of fun and see where it went.”

But McGrath won’t be emblazoning his work with football sponsors. Instead, he intends the pieces to be a playful jab at the asinine aphorisms we see on the internet, in chain letters and in Facebook and Twitter memes. “It’s about you, but it’s really about me, like humblebragging sort of stuff,” he says. “These slogans would appear on the banners, and I just like the idea of intervening in the daily life of workers and people occupying the city during the week, be it Monday morning, Wednesday afternoon or Friday night, inviting them to come and partake in this art/sporting performance.”

The banners will appear at random, undisclosed locations throughout the city, with members of the public encouraged to burst through and destroy the work à la football players at the beginning of a match.

McGrath says the work emerged out of frustration with the lack of tangible outcomes in a public art piece he produced in Dunedin, New Zealand. In response to a proposed high-rise hotel development that drew mixed reactions from the public, McGrath suspended a giant yellow luftballon 96 metres in the air to demonstrate how the hotel would dominate Dunedin’s skyline.

“I was finding it difficult to gauge the success of the work when it was out in the public forum,” McGrath says. “There was no monetary way of gauging success through money or bums on seats; it was all through hearsay and bits of information that just kind of like trickled through after the actual intervention.”

For McGrath, the opportunity to witness the general public transform his Uncommon Places piece in a tangible and observable way is a welcome opportunity.

“Like all the performance and public art that I’ve done, whenever you invite the public to get involved, you never know what they’re going to do. So you can only plan to a point and then push it out and see what happens.”

McGrath’s Uncommon Places installations will be placed at randomly selected locations throughout the CBD during Fringe. The documentation of the performances will be featured at 123/129 Victoria Street, Melbourne, in the shop window of Market Sports at the Queen Victoria Market Food Court.

Share your view

Post a comment

Author Info

This post was written by who has written 8 posts on Buzzcuts.

Blog Authors

© 2022 Buzzcuts.

Website by A New Leaf Media