Words – Sheena Colquhoun

Photos – J Forsyth

Gertrude Contemporary 200 Gertrude Street Fitzroy

Gertrude Contemporary is currently showing ‘City within then City’ which is the strongest show I have seen at Gertrude in a long time. It’s a group show and it takes over the whole gallery which is transformed into a new space of varying sizes and dimensions. Largely video based, the show takes you on a journey through various responses to notions of city and the metropolis through a contemporary and idiosyncratic engagement.

The notion of a city and what this means to its dwellers capacity to understand spatial and interpersonal relationships is a concept that appears again and again and again in pretty much all avenues of discourse. ‘The City’ ‘Utopia’ and ‘The Metropolis’ and similar themes are discussed ad nauseum, and so I was slightly concerned when I saw the write up of the new show. However I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the show that it was diverse and engaging on multiple levels.
Ash Keating has taken over the front window with a tongue-in-cheek play on the ever gentrifying geographic context of Fitzroy. Appropriating the visual language of architects and development agencies which plaster utopic renderings of what could be over building sites to create an imagined future, Keating has temporarily renamed the gallery ‘Gertrude Modern’ and has made it appear as though the building is right on the threshold of being re-developed, tapping into that anxiousness that most buildings in Melbourne are in fact just on the verge of being changed forever, that no where is sacred.

The show is co-curated by Gertrude Contemporary and Artsonje Centre, Seoul, South Korea. So with that in mind, much of the work focusses on a South Korean context, and what is means to be in that space or place. Not knowing a huge amount about that context is by no means a disadvantage, as much of the imagery is familiar, and you start to find common themes in the work regardless of where they are set. These common themes are at ends with the place-specificity of many aspects of the works, and it is from this point of friction that the shows finds its point of interest.

The video work of Alicia Frankovic shows the movement of bodies in space enacting potentially choreographed movements as part of an obviously fake fight scene. The slow pace of the bodies in combination with circulating camera movement positions the movement somewhere between playful jostling, dancing, performance and amateur acting.

Minouk Lims ‘New Town Ghost’ creates an off kilter rhythm, showing a subject rapping with a partner on drums, on the back of a ute moving through the city. The clash of the central subjects passionate raving and the unsure unease of the onlookers speaks of the alienation of city and place.

Upstairs in Studio 12 is Hanna Tai’s ‘Vertigo, or no return’ which is another great show. For those of you who didn’t know there was an open studio space upstairs at Gertrude, I don’t blame you, but I encourage you to venture up there. Tai’s show looks at her experience of vertigo in an unstated and interesting way. A mix of video and sculptural installation, the show is funny and interesting and a great use of the quite limited space.

Not having nearly enough space in the word limit to talk about all of the works at this show, I highly recommend you get along to see this one. Allow some time to sit down with the videos, and understand the space. It’ll be worth your while.