By Renay Ringma
In 1969 founder and influential member of the arte povera movement, Jannis Kounellis, placed 12 horses in L’Attico Gallery in Rome. 41 years later a horse named Moose (and his handler, Jack) form part of Bianca Hester’s ambitious 2010 sculpture; Please leave these windows open overnight to enable the fans to draw in cool air during the early hours of the morning, at Victoria’s ACCA.
Despite the time and physical distance separating these exhibitions, the practices of these two artists share many similarities. Kounellis and other artists of arte povera challenged the idea of art as static, as a commodity. They questioned formal limitations, materials, the role of space and viewer. This is Hester’s starting point for challenging everything.
Bianca Hester (b.1975) graduated from RMIT in the 90s, returning to earn her PhD in 2007. A lecturer in Sculpture and Spatial Practice at Victorian College of the Arts, she co-founded a number of Melbourne’s most innovative artist run initiatives including OSW and CLUBS project. Writings reveal an artist who is prolific, inquisitive, intellectual and passionate.
While Hester draws from a number of rich theoretical veins and fields of practice, including arte povera, her work strongly defies classification, resulting in sculptures that are often complex, raw, and challenging.
Hester’s art is not for the passive; it demands engagement, participation and dialogue. This occurs between collaborators and with performers or participative audience members – Hester’s preferred approach to making art is as a collective activity.
In Hester’s ACCA exhibition a sign hung on the wall stating “actions will occur intermittently”. Invigilators were given activities to undertake periodically such as turning off the lights, lying down, kicking a ball or blowing a whistle. They were also asked to write down audience actions. These were then scripted and performed by others on a set day and time.
The inclusion of others such as invigilators, audience, collaborators and friends doesn’t mean Hester is absent from the work. Earlier sculptures such as Line Drawing (2008), Provisional devices for the production of a propositional living space (2007) and Project Projects (2006 and 2008), have seen her periodically working, performing and occasionally ‘living’ in her exhibitions.
According to friend and collaborator, Charlie Sofo, “…the human and animal bodies that appear [in Hester’s work]… are present as a constant test and as an ongoing dialogue and negotiation with the world”. For ACCA, Hester had originally envisioned her horse being unleashed to run through the Melbourne city streets. Containing the horse in the space however, with all the unpredictability that animals bring, ensured that the outside world was very present.
There is a certain vulnerability to Hester’s art. This could be attributed to the dichotomy in her practice. The act of creating sculpture that is political and theoretically challenging and at the same time playfully engaging could leave audiences confused. Her commitment to practice however shines through.
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2010, Bianca Hester: Please leave these windows open overnight to enable the fans to draw in cool air during the early hours of the morning [interview], www.accaonline.org.au
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2010, Bianca Hester, Please leave these windows open overnight to enable the fans to draw in cool air during the early hours of the morning [exhibition catalogue], Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: ACCA
Sofo, C., 2011, “The stack: Instructions for a text on the exhibition these circumstances: temporarily generating forms, improvising encounters”, Sarah Scout Presents [website], www.sarahscoutpresents.com