multi-channel digital video, colour, sound, 12 CRT televisions, synthetic polymer paint on wooden pallets
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2011
Crutch Dance is part of a cycle of work by Justene Williams that pushes lens-based imagery into painterly, performance and sculptural realms. This work relates closely to a group of moving-image works in which Williams creates overwhelming environments constructed from detritus, photographs and suburban props. In the case of Crutch Dance, Williams has used a salvaged treadmill. The bizarre environments that the artist makes become the stage for increasingly odd actions built around repetitive, collaged movements – running, dancing, ducking and weaving like a punch-drunk three-dimensional painting. Here, a futurist figure vainly does battle with the treadmill, jerking with movement akin to a futurist or cubist dance and invoking Umberto Boccioni’s famous sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913).
This delirious choreography in its fabulist setting has the aura of voodoo, with the artist channelling a period from art history in an effort to reconstruct the essence of forgotten images. Through the physical collaging of materials to construct her complex sets and costumes, and the digital collaging and editing of video, Williams invokes the ghosts of artists past. The work itself has a sculptural presence – it is displayed on teetering accumulations of television monitors, placed on top of hastily painted wooden pallets. The monitors remind us of their own obsolescence – they are big, bulky, black boxes that are disappearing fast – as opposed to stylish, thin plasma screens. Williams’ embrace of both high and low art, history and salvage, painting and video, results in a hypnotic new form of recycling – a curiously ‘carbon neutral’ method of image production.
I use wastefulness left in the world as a tool in my creative work. I try to respond to the symbiotic relationship that exists between humanity and its material environment.
Justin Patton, Justene Williams, Sarah Cottier Gallery review, Frieze Magazine issue 140, 1/6/2011
Born 1970, Sydney. Lives and works Sydney.
Justene Williams’ early work revolved around photography and utilised the ad-hoc nature of disposable cameras and one-hour printing labs. The locations for these early photographic projects were sites of public recreation: shopping centres, car shows and strip clubs. In recent work she has constructed elaborate sets and costumes made from collaged paper and a variety of waste or refuse materials. In these complex and fabulous environments she performs absurd actions in an attempt to reconstruct the essence of lost images (both from her personal archive of photographs and from the annals of art history).
Williams has been exhibiting since the mid-1990s. Recent solo exhibitions include The Curtain Breathed Deeply, Artspace, Sydney and Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2014); Handbag Hammer Meditation, La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, Montréal (2013); Turnstile Heaped on Pour Down, St Paul St Gallery, AUT Auckland University (2012); Hot Air Hillbilly Weekend Workshop, IMA, Surfers Paradise (2011); Berlin Burghers Microwave Monet, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Emu Plains (2010); Femmzoil, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2009); BIGHEAD GARBAGEFACE GUARDS GHOST DERR SONATA, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2008); Blue, Green, Red Foto, Mori Gallery, Sydney and Kunstlerhaus Passage, Vienna (2005); and Williams & Walter, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Emu Plains (2002).
Selected group exhibitions include New Acquisitions in Context, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Emu Plains (2011); NEW 11, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art Melbourne (2011); Before and After Science: 2010 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2010); WINDOWS, Mobius, Boston (2009); Antipodes – Video Screenings, AREA 405 Gallery, Baltimore (2008); Girl Parade, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (2007); INPORT Video Art Performance Festival, Tallin Estonia (2006); and Shangri-La Collective, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2004).
Williams’ works are held in numerous collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
A monograph, Justene Williams: The Curtain Breathed Deeply, was published by Artspace, Sydney in 2014.