“AS a concept it’s a great idea: to break the continuity. Good art does that; you’re going along and great art ooh! gives you a shock and it makes you think again and question your values.”
The architect Penelope Seidler is referring to British artist Michael Landy’s idea to put a bend in the enormously straight Eyre Highway.
It captures both the sense of spontaneity and fun and the artistic mission of It All Started With A Stale Sandwich, which explores the Kaldor Public Art Projects through 50 years and 34 projects of public art in Australia.
It all started in 1969 with Wrapped Coast, when Hungarian migrant and textile designer John Kaldor collaborated with European artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to wrap Sydney’s Little Bay coastline in one million square feet of fabric.
Consider that in 2019 we are seemingly captivated by a rugby player’s belief that homosexuals are damned to eternal hell and you get a sense of how radical Wrapped Coast might have been in 1969.
Moreover Kaldor is a refugee with a keen sense of displacement and the uncomfortable nature of placing people and things in unusual surrounds, a sense he shares with many of his collaborators, with symmetrical experiences of the post-war period.
In 1973 it was Gilbert & George who brought their Singing Sculpture to the Art Gallery of NSW.
Explaining how they unearthed a gramophone recording from the rubble of East London of Underneath The Arches which became the basis of the performance, the impeccably and similarly dressed old gents suddenly conjoin in fulsome song. It was a precursor of Queer Art.
There’s the almost unimaginably striking and monumentally lovely Puppy (1995) by Jeff Koons before he was Jeff Koons and well before he was a different Jeff Koons again. It’s now at the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
The interaction with Australian artists Agatha Gothe-Snape and Tea Uglow has a certain sweetness, as Kaldor’s ‘daggy dad’ with limited understanding of online technology opens himself to the possibilities of a ‘reverse exhibition’ in an empty space populated by the spoken names of each ‘viewer’, using mobile phones.
Kaldor and his vision to bring art to the people appears to be going on, with the same playfulness and audacity. Thankfully, it’s not a wrap.
It all started with a stale sandwich (E)
Directed by: Samantha Lang
In cinemas: August 10-11,13
Reviewed by: Martin Turner