Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What becomes a legend

Mike Parr cuts a huge figure in contemporary Australian art and he’s also gone for a few outings in NZ. The most recent would have been Inhabiting Space this year at Victoria University’s Adam Art Gallery. Parr even made it over to talk at the City Gallery as part of that show. All this meant that when we heard we could get to see the one-armed legend we did the hour on a train thing to Campbelltown on the outskirts of Sydney to watch him perform On Manus Island

It started off well enough with about 30 of us sitting round the entry hall of the Campbelltown Arts Centre looking at a small table and chair. The table was covered with large syringes. Parr turned up the requisite 20 minutes late striding in from the back of the room. He was closely attended by a videographer and a photographer and it was then it became apparent that we as an audience were peripheral to the proceedings: this was about sourcing documentation. He sat at the table and a woman began methodically taking blood and squirting each syringe when it was full into a stainless steel pan on the floor. It was hard to look away if you were squeamish as the whole process was projected on a large screen. At first there seemed to be the possibility that Parr would take the full on endurance route (this is the guy who wound cordite mining fuse around his leg and touched a match to it) and lose enough blood to put him on the floor. Didn’t happen. Instead a moderate amount of blood was taken from a number of syringe lines. Parr then got up, dipped his hand in the blood and imprinted it high on the wall. And then he was off with his camera team making bloody handprints as he went. Still at least we got to see Mike Parr.