Current Issue #487

Meet Your Maker:
Ray Harris

Best-known for her darkly playful performative videos, multidisciplinary artist Ray Harris, as the protagonist, inflicts real-time experiences onto her body such as compulsive hair-shampooing, vomiting rainbow glitter and endurance cuddling life-size ice and dough bodies.

Her work is coated with a saccharine-pop aesthetic which makes room for the exploration of uncomfortable nuances of the human condition in connection to trauma and loss, while also engaging with feminist concepts relating to the abject, cleanliness and beauty. In doing so, the artist creates vulnerable virtual spaces, providing opportunities for the viewer to engage intimately with her themes.

Harris was awarded the opportunity to make new work for the 2020–21 iteration of The Guildhouse Collections Project in collaboration with Flinders University Museum of Art (FUMA). Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, she has been supported to continue her research-based residency at FUMA to explore its collection of Australian and international conceptual art of the mid 1960s and 1970s.

Developed by the late art critic and theorist Donald Brook, the collection is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in Australia and features early works by pioneering artists in their respective fields such as Marina Abramovi, Sol LeWitt, Stelarc and the like.

Harris says the “collection is incredibly rich with stimulating works, some that have been part of [her] past research and have an ongoing influence, but never in this immediate, accessible form”.

Harris’s new videos take cues from works by Australian artists Ken Unsworth, Graeme Davis and particularly Mike Parr and his 150 Programmes and Investigations (1971–72), which feature typed instructions for actions, with some texts enacted in well-known performances such as Hold your breath for as long as possible (1972) and Light a candle, hold your finger in the flame for as long as possible (1972).

Harris’s interpretation of Parr’s directive, ‘chain yourself to the destiny of a tree’, is a video of the artist hanging inverted in a tree, swaying with the wind until her legs nearly give way. This work relocated the artist beyond her studio set and onto the stage of the great outdoors, where she is currently developing a suite of videos in which the subject (Harris) is either consumed or cleansed by Mother Nature.

Harris’s The Guildhouse Collections Project exhibition will be presented at FUMA in February 2021. Visit guildhouse.org.au for further details

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Guildhouse is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting South Australia visual artist, craftspeople and designers to develop and maintain sustainable careers.

The Adelaide Review is a media partner of Guildhouse.

Nic Brown

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Nic Brown is a Collections Curator at Flinders University Museum of Art.

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