Review / Experimental venture leads to ‘intriguing performance’

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Modelling ‘Panopticon’. Photo: Sarah Vandermark.

“Panopticon”, Katy Mutton, for Contour 556, at the ANU Drill Hall Gallery, October 17. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

ON October 17 and as part of the Contour 556 festival, a live happening, “Panopticon”, devised by artist Katy Mutton, took place in the forecourt of the ANU Drill Hall Gallery and within its “Lightworks” exhibition.

The catalogue described “Panopticon” as a “reactive wearable [artwork] devised as a tool for counter-surveillance movements”.

The envisaged environment in which the wearer was moving sounded sinister, and Katy Mutton drew our attention to the emergency powers governments are bestowing on themselves and how we must be aware that some of these powers are breaching our privacy. We must remain vigilant of the implications post pandemic.

Dress under lights. Photo: Sarah Vandermark.

Using a 3D printer, Mutton created tiny square polymer tiles – probably millions of them – and stitched them to a gown for a female. The male wore a coat with his own personal alarm system, which he could trigger at will.

As each of them moved, they were able to trigger music and sounds, depending on their proximity to the audience and to each other. He also had buttons on the back of the coat which could be triggered by someone giving him a – currently illegal – hug, or pressing his back.

The gown was held out from the female’s body by a ring, and the tiles caught the late evening light and later the gallery lights. She also moved in one of the galleries which was in darkness and the two bodies moved together.

Photo: Sarah Vandermark.

The sounds from the male body included music and a young woman coughing – surely an ironic sound in the current pandemic climate.

Sound and light emanating from a human body is still quite experimental and Mutton’s venture is still a work in progress, and these humans gave an intriguing performance.

The creation of the tiles was a major achievement.

In 2018 at the CAPO Awards, the Rosalie Gascoigne Memorial Award, partly funded by Bates & Pickering, went to Mutton to help her produce work exploring counter-surveillance movements.

And in this year’s arts activities (formerly project) funding round, Mutton received $14,632 to undertake a mentorship in the USA on camouflage strategies for counter-surveillance art.

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