The Hanging: Bongs and Commodores at ALASKA Projects
May 30th 2016
Ceramic novelty bongs alongside a looped video of a car doing mad doughies at first seems like a smug middle finger to the art world.
Upon closer inspection, it’s obvious that Nicole Breedon’s Bongs and Commodores exhibition at Alaska Projects’ carpark space is as much a critique as it is a glorification of Aussie bogan culture. Stoners and larrikins aren’t exactly being celebrated here – the bongs aren’t functional, two Commodore bonnets have been spattered with bullet holes in the shape of a Southern Cross, and the burnouts in the video never end – the car keeps circling around and around, the driver fist-pumping out of the window, shrouded in a haze of smoke that makes your nostrils twitch just watching it.
Breedon’s exhibition reminds us that while dressing like Kath & Kim and sporting an 80s mullet is back in ironic fashion, many pockets of Australia are still rampant with violence and racism, and with blind nationalism comes blind intolerance.
While the exhibition uses humour as a point of accessibility, what Breedon doesn’t do is stereotype. This exhibition is not a classist depiction of low-brow culture, it’s a genuine representation of the artist’s love/hate relationship with country Victoria.
Oscillating between being humorous and hard-hitting, the titles of the works offer crucial insight into Breedon’s conceptual rationale. I Am, You Are, But I Am A Bit More Than You Are provides a critical framework for the bullet-ridden Commodores, while the Christ-shaped bong titled Personal Jesus and priced at $420 is both a comical pop culture reference and a comment on drug abuse.
If $420 for a ceramic bong is out of your price range, you can always grab yourself a $10 Bongs and Commodores stubby holder, the font reminiscent of an ACDC logo – complete with lightning bolts.
Bongs and Commodores is an exhibition that makes you stop mid-chuckle and realise that the subject matter is more complex than you originally thought.