Leigh Bowery was a fashion designer, a performance artist, a nightclub entrepreneur and a muse -“ to artistes as varied as Vivienne Westwood and Lucien Freud. He was a sensation in London and New York but widely unknown in his country of birth, Australia. Curator Gary Carsley intends to reverse this situation, beginning with Cerebellum, an extraordinary exhibition now on as part of the Gay Games cultural festival.
Leigh is regarded abroad as perhaps the most significant white Australian artist in the last 25 years -¦ Carsley told Sydney Star Observer. He was excluded wilfully I think, because of the nature of his work -¦
Bowery’s work included a series of grotesque, identity-transforming costumes and body piercings, and performance art both live and on film/video. One of these films, Teach, is featured in the exhibition, a 1992 video made by filmmaker Charles Atlas. In the film Bowery attempts to lip-sync to Aretha Franklin’s Take A Look with pierced cheeks while engulfed in a padded body costume.
Carsley’s job was to find artists’ work that had sufficient authority with respect to queer film and video which responded to Bowery’s oeuvre. Dividing the twin art galleries of the Performance Space into a cerebellum, Carsley then placed the work of Sydney-based artist Monika Tichacek and The Kingpins (video and installation artists Emma and Katie Price, T?a Noble and Angelica Mesiti).
It’s beautiful, smiles Carsley about the final result. Carsley’s obvious passion for Bowery makes me ponder his definition of beautiful, although the exhibition is undoubtedly startling and mesmerising.
It was a privilege to work with these artists, and the Performance Space has a consistent position in the promotion of queer cultural practice.
Cerebellum runs until 30 November at the Performance Space, 199 Cleveland Street, Redfern. Admission is free.