(DON'T) BE AN ARTIST
25 November - 18 December 2021
Gertrude Glasshouse, Melbourne
Using text- and fabric-based work, performance, and documentation, Kay Abude explores questions of labour, collaboration, and commerce, particularly in the context of the art world. (DON’T) BE AN ARTIST functions as a concise survey of her work and a response to the present moment. Abude reflects on the increased sense of precarity experienced by many artists, and especially early-career artists, as a consequence of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The show is marked by urgency, but also by humour and wit. ART IS NO FORTUNE comprises a bowl of fortune cookies (individually plastic wrapped in line with public health best practice), which evoke the fantasy of making a packet as an artist, and emphasise the low probability that anyone will be so lucky. Their predictions, derived from pop songs like ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child, are unrelentingly pessimistic.
BE CREATIVE REMAIN PRECARIOUS, a platform bearing that slogan, serves as a stage for Money affirmations, a series of spoken word performances. Donning a garment printed with the title of the show, Abude recites mantras reminiscent of those sometimes seen on social media—impotent attempts at ‘manifesting’ improbable successes. Photographic and video works featuring members of her family acknowledge their central role in shaping her interests in factory and production line processes, social art practices, and the ways in which different kinds of work are valued. Semaphore performances—carried out at Gertrude Glasshouse and a location near both Melbourne Airport and the family home—touch on diverse themes, including coordinated or cooperative activities, international trade, migrant experiences, and scepticism towards creative careers.
Taken as a whole, (DON’T) BE AN ARTIST testifies to a period of high productivity for Abude. She has been fuelled by a genuine desire to make work, but also by fear of losing the ability to do so—due to lack of access to materials, studio space, or opportunities to exhibit. Comfortable chairs upholstered with the well-known Abude phrase ‘LOVE THY LABOUR’ invite visitors to take a load off (without getting too close to neighbours), and nod towards collapses between spaces dedicated to relaxation and spaces dedicated to work. Of course, many artists have long worked from home or crammed artmaking in around day jobs. Many are all too familiar with the difficulty of drawing boundaries between ‘free time’ and work. As Abude observes with Shakespearian insight, ‘A FOOL’S WORK NEVER ENDS’. Perhaps the pandemic has made fools of us all.
Please note: as a result of COVID-related calendar disruptions, (DON’T) BE AN ARTIST coincides with a presentation of the same name by Abude on The Hotel Windsor produced for Flash Forward (see https://flash-fwd.com).
Kay Abude would like to thank Elizabeth Abude, Vicente Abude, Eloine Abude Huynh, Vu Huynh, Nathaniel Huynh, Noah Huynh, Stella Vo, Francis McWhannell, Olivia Cheung, Sophia Cai, Jessica O’Brien, Andy Butler, Dmitrii Kholiavskii, Kevin Leung, Sharon Yau, Nadia Husiak, Jason Cesani, Georgia Banks, Mia Salsjö, Sharon Flynn, Brigit Ryan, Tim Riley Walsh, Tracy Burgess, Mark Feary, and Ian Bunyi. A very special thanks is extended to Anthony Frazzetto.
Glasshouse is generously supported by Michael Schwarz and David Clouston.
(DON’T) BE AN ARTIST is generously supported by the City of Yarra, through the 2021 Annual Grants Program and the City of Yarra Small Project Grants.
All photographs by Kay Abude.