Interview :: Michaela Gleave of ARTBAR

March 21st 2013

Ever dream of leaving Earth to travel into space? Fed up of waiting for man to commercialise space travel? Don’t have as much spare cash as Oprah Winfrey? Well, now you can experience journeying past the Earth’s atmosphere… without even leaving Sydney.

A constellation of live ballerinas, edible gold, supernova cocktails and… paper bags over one’s head; visual artist and guest curator Michaela Gleave is leading guests into the cosmos for an other-worldly night at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s ARTBAR. Michaela had a quick email chat to The Flog about the exhibition, where we wonder what kind of Big Bang-like mind explosion occurred that made Gleave so damn creative.

FBi :: What kind of an experience can visitors expect when they visit ARTBAR?

Michaela Gleave :: I’m really excited about my program for Friday night. I’ve curated quite a varied selection of experiences for the viewer. Following the shifting meaning of the word ‘aether’ throughout history, beginning with the Ancient Greek ‘upper sky’ or heavens, the enlightenment concept of the ‘ether’ as the fifth element, the suggestion of vanishing or disappearance, through to it’s modern usage as a class of chemicals that dissolve solids

What tricks have you got up your sleeve to create something different from previous ARTBAR editions?

I’m bringing several different threads together as part of my ARTBAR; working with people from a range of disciplines. There are a number of scientists involved during various parts of the evening, I’ve commissioned a custom cocktail featuring edible gold, a composer has created a percussion trio especially for the evening, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for clear skies, as you’ll be able to get a snap of Jupiter’s moons on your iPhone from the telescopes on the roof.

Constellations of live ballerina’s are a feature of the night. What exactly does that involve?

I have a number of new works being created especially for the evening, one of them being a roving ballet by Elizabeth Reidy. Ballerinas in white tutus will be plucking stars from the sky, dancing in the formation to represent different constellations throughout the museum.

Did the astronomy classes you have taken influence your curatorship of the ARTBAR space?

I’ve always had an interest in stretching the viewer’s experience of reality, and so astronomy was a natural progression for me. I am currently an artist-in-residence with the CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science Division and I’m so excited that they’re coming to the party on Friday. I’ve been thinking a lot about knowledge systems and the shifts in how we value information over time, so I’m also including references to what could be considered outmoded knowledge and art forms. I think it’s important to keep a perspective on what society values and devalues during different periods of history.

Your installations often challenge perceptions. Will the viewer’s vision of reality be tampered with when they visit ARTBAR?

One of performance works, an interactive theatre piece by Joshua Tyler, will involve riding the elevator with a bag over your head.  Another component of the evening will be tours through the Anish Kapoor exhibition by the perceptual psychologist Kevin Brooks.  After a couple of ‘Supernova’ cocktails I’m guessing anything is possible.

Did your classical music background play a role in determining the music when curating ARTBAR?

I’m following various connections and knowledge systems based on my theme for the night, and I really wanted to have a classically influenced percussion work as part of the evening. Sydney-based composer, Amanda Cole makes really incredible works based on the science of frequency and she’s composed a new work for the evening.  She’s working with an ancient Greek scale that has 27 notes to the octave, all played on colour-coded wine glasses. I can’t wait.

In regards to your previous works, The Balloon Work project fascinates me. You blew balloons for seven hours.  How did you have enough breath or even will power to complete the project?

I didn’t find it as hard as I imagined it might be. The work was streamed live for the entire seven-hour period, so there was the urgency of a live audience to keep things interesting. My cheeks hurt for several days afterwards, I got a black eye from a balloon exploding in my face, and I do now have a latex allergy, but apart from that it wasn’t too bad.

The installations you create are often temporal. Do you miss being able to revisit previous works?

I really enjoy making temporal works. I think there’s magic in the fragility of these experience and the way they exist in memory after the fact. I think it can also enable one to respond more directly with a specific context and location. I do think sometimes how nice it would be to be able to go back and visit some of the works, but I remake works every now and then for different galleries, so really it’s a process I enjoy.

What have been some notable reactions viewers have shown when they are interacting with your works?

I have had people tell me my work has made them cry, I’ve had children howl with primal joy in my installations, and I’ve had strangers email me to thank me for the experience I gave them.  I generally aim to create sensations that bypass the initial layer of experience and affect people on a subconscious level, especially in my installation works. So all of these responses are great.

WHAT :: Party in space at this week’s ARTBAR curated by Michaela Gleave.
WHERE :: Museum of Contemporary Art. 140 George St, The Rocks.
WHEN :: Friday 22 March, 7pm
HOW MUCH :: $15-$20 booked in advance here. $25 at the door.


Photo credit :: Michaela Gleave courtesy Anna Pappas Gallery, ‘7-Stunden-Ballonarbeit/7 Hour Balloon Work’ 2010



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