Interview :: Grand Chasm
November 9th 2011
Nick La Rosa
“File in. Be amazed. Leave quietly.”
So reads the Grand Chasm media release that just hit my inbox. It's the latest offering from sometime-collaborators William Mansfield, Kenzie Larson and Eddie Sharp. Usually not being one for leaving anywhere quietly, I was intrigued. What possible wonderment could have such a stupefying effect? It almost sounds like a challenge.
Challenge or not, Grand Chasm certainly managed to grab our somewhat limited attention here at the Flog. First, the concept is great: looking at man-made intervention in natural wonders. You know: the cheesy blue lights they shine on particularly stand-out stalactites in caves, the model Mississippi River built right next to the actual Mississippi River—that kind of thing. Love it. Second, the people involved are all pretty great. Mansfield collaborates with Tsubi and Modular; Larson has a righteous personalised, hand drawn t-shirt business, and Sharp is responsible for much of the Late Night Library goodness of late. Suffice to say, all these things combined basically make for awesome.
We caught up with the trio in the lead-up to Grand Chasm’s opening to find out what’s what.
FBi: You've guys have collaborated before on a few different things – where'd the idea for this show come from? How do you work to develop the ideas together?
Grand Chasm: For our last project we were working on a theatre show that was exploring a wide pool of ideas we were interested in, a lot of which fell by the wayside. We wanted to explore this B-material and all the set and prop devices to create an art installation that lent itself to a more open-ended narrative. In the theatre you are working with linear stories and we wanted to have the chance to explore a state without having to explain it or rationalise it. This work is a continuation of a lot of the ideas we were working with in our theatre shows: comedy, kitsch, the supernatural, tourist attraction, memory and nostalgia.
We wanted to create a theatrical experience in the static space of the gallery and somehow make the viewer the performer.
It's a great concept—the man-made/natural blend and the sites that occurs in. Do you have a favourite attraction you've drawn inspiration from?
We got very inspired by St Marys Cathedral [in Sydney]. Church-going is a kind of public interactive theatre. So we decided to create a majestic mystical experience, which led us to looking at tourist attractions such as the Jenolan Caves and the Grand Canyon. The interesting thing about those places, for us, was the ways people dramatise it with unnecessary lights and effects and also monetise it with lines and entry fees. We don't really see ourselves as being for or against this; it's just an interesting piece of public theatre.
Given the subject matter, have you played with the exhibition space at all? What's it going to look like physically?
We have transformed the space as much as we possibly could. We wanted a sense of adventure and exploration. A lot of the artists we like—Callum Morton, Guy Benher, Dan Moynihan—really make the work another world in itself. We wanted it to feel grand, and like you've momentarily stepped into another world.