Monday, 25 February 2002

The Race to Create: Shire of Nillumbik Ephemeral Sculpture


February 23 to March 4, 2002
Tony Beilby's perspex box is at Dynamic Vegies shops 2 & 3, cnr Beard St & Main Rd Eltham Open Mon-Fri. 8.30am-6pm, Sat 8am-2pm
Writer: Kate Herbert

If you are confused about the term ephemeral art, you are not alone. Ephemeral art has a limited shelf life and artist Tony Beilby takes this idea literally.

On February 23 a big, fat porker of a sausage in a plastic package with a use-by date of March 4, was placed in a small, sleek airtight perspex box, 25 centimetres square  at Dynamic Vegies store in  Eltham.

It is part of "The Race to Create", an Ephemeral Sculpture show mounted by the Shire of Nillumbik.

The criteria for the exhibition were, " To create, on the 23rd February, a three dimensional sculpture which can exist and survive in the environment for 10 days."

This work is more eccentric because Beilby is not in the country. Although from Melbourne, he directs it by remote from Berlin where he works.

Shop owners, Greg Martin and Sam Staley  provided the location. Beilby's brother placed the sausage into the cube and delivered it. Everybody became a contributor.

"The box arrived on Saturday.  Six minutes later I got a call from Berlin from Tony checking whether it was there," says shop co-owner, Greg Martin.

There was one last minute problem. The original cheese sausages were accidentally eaten before installation. Oops. The new, very meaty snag has a further irony in an organic vegie shop.

Beilby jokingly describes the work as "a virtual-retro-interactive piece."  

A vital component is interaction with the viewer. Visitors to the shop are invited to write responses, thoughts, and criticisms on the perspex with black or white marker pens provided.

Greg Martin observes, "Some just look. Others boldly grab the pen and write on it."

"I am hoping", says Beilby, "that the comments made will slowly obscure the original object......As the number of comments and critiques grow, the artwork will become obscured and, at this stage, the comments themselves will form the artwork."

Voila! You become part of the artwork.

On day three, a flock of people fluttered around it. Written comments were funny, poetic, rude or gently critical.

'Poor sausage.' 'Silly sausage.' 'Art lives but does the sausage?' 'Is this Art?' and my favourite, 'Curly penis', a rather accurate reference to the shape of the big curled banger.

Beilby calls the piece a 'ready-made', referring to the term coined by French artist, Marcel Duchamp  early this century. The object already exists and is used for another purpose in an artwork.

Duchamp said it was possible to declare something an artwork even if the artist was in another country and had not seen it.  Curator, Chris Marks  and organiser Sonia Turnbull,  said Beilby's absence would be no problem.

"I often use the external constraints of a festival as the starting point for an art work", Beilby says.

"One piece which hung in the Berlin Underground wasn't allowed to stick out more than 2.5 cm from the surface. Here I covered the entire 4X2meter surface with about 90,000 strips of typewriter ribbon, all cut to 2.5cm lengths."

Sixteen artists are represented in parks and public locations around the shire. Stephanie Mew's,  outside Eltham Library, is a pile of books that were to be trashed.

 "Excited people are walking by and discovering the work and getting involved and wondering what's going on," says Chris Marks.

So do we get to eat the big snag on March 4?

By Kate Herbert

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