Alex Prager and David Shrigley Media Call
I’m too lazy to work at the NGV. They’re going so hard, you get dizzy trying to keep up with all the new shows opening and closing. Last week it was the Instrument Builders Project, this week Alex Prager and David Shrigley and next week it’s Emily Floyd. All that on top of the monolith that is the Jean Paul Gaultier show that launched but a month ago. I almost have Art Opening Fatigue (AOF) and I’m not alone. The Arts Minister Heidi Victoria barely has a window left in her arts diary to get her hair done. She’s like: “OK. Enough already. I get it. ‘The arts have the power to change the way we look at-and connect with-the places we live’ (Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014 catalogue, page 12). Heidi continues: “Here Tony. Here’s an open cheque. You fill out the numbers you need to keep this ambitious programming going, I’m off to prepare for the week-after-next’s election. Laters.”
Alex Prager is a self taught Valley Girl artist who has tutored herself so efficiently, that she is an International artist living the dream of many. In 2012 she won an Emmy for a short film she made, that stars Brad (step aside Angelina) Pitt. Imagine. No American equivalent of a HECS debt. No eternal indebted servitude to a highly esteemed arts academic/lecturer who took you under their wing and showed you the ropes. Proof that there’s a plethora of ways to skin a cat and you don’t have to call them all Doctor. In her first solo show in Australia, Alex Prager presents photos and videos that riff on what’s around her in Hollywood. Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Cindy Sherman. There’s also diptych works that reference Warhol’s Death and Disaster series. Brightly coloured tableaux that draw you in and get you wondering what exactly is going on here. There’s crowd scenes too, from an unidentifiable recently past time, the fashion and hairstyle clues that point to era have been left indeterminate. I missed a 3-channel film in an annexed room off the main space, but heard it’s a corker too. Alex has collaborated with the NGV on an online publication that will flesh out her work and its motivations with more depth. I liked it a lot.
On the ground floor, prolific doodler David Shrigley (or Shrigo as we fondly refer to him down here in the colonies) opened a selection of newish works that he’s still excited by. He does an extended line in stuff to buy: cards and objects that deliver punch lines aplenty at reasonable prices. There’s even a General Store installation of Shrigo arty produce in the foyer near the water wall. In it you can buy his most recent publication Weak Messages create Bad Situations, A Manifesto by David Shrigley. He has a signage versus labels dialogue thing going on. He likes to control his own signs and not delegate them to some museum person he doesn’t know so there’s signs aplenty throughout the installations and a beautiful black to be kept shut gate, like a drawing in metal. Its silhouette really pops off the white gallery walls.Adding to an identifiable international craze, a couple of works can be referred to as shit art. There’s a bronze of a lady backing one out (or laying cable for Telstra) and a room filled with a very long turd that was first made in Germany, a country that really likes sausage.
I think you can draw strange comparisons between David Shrigley and Keith Haring. Both worked extensively in the public domain, Haring with his Graffiti, Shrigley as cartoonist for the Guardian and author of 40 books before (through the sheer force of their iconic visual language) being adopted by a Museum sector keen to engage new audiences. And that’s before you even consider the merch development element of the practices of both Haring and Shrigo. Even dinosaurs like the Rolling Stones know that’s where the real money is. It’s on the street in the hands of the punters, who want to buy their own t-shirt and identify themselves with that brand.
Alex Prager and David Shrigley show at NGVI until 19 April