Music

boom. boom. boom.

Despite the general consensus that our fair city lacks feel, soul, vibe, essence, depth or any other variation of the overused term that starts with C, there is actually a pulsating little community of creatively inclined cats slowly simmering beneath our crane filled, industrial skyline.

What would happen if their world suddenly crossed over into Perth’s production, consumption and profit world... what would it look like?

Maybe like that South Park episode with imagination land, or the preview of the new Harry Potter movie, or perhaps... Jumanji...?

Depending on how much daytura you just huffed it may look like all three, but in reality it might look something like boom. This was a particularly understated exhibition held last month at the Spectrum Project Space on Beaufort St.

Organisers Steph Kretowicz and Katie Lenanton initially came up with the concept during the so called –  “economic boom’, when they felt Perth’s young art community was being ignored during times when it should be benefiting. Steph tells me their idea was to raise the creative community’s voice above the anti-cultural re development that was occurring.

“Some artists felt frustrated by the disregard the city’s decision makers had for the talent and concerns of a vibrant fringe community, while others felt indifferent to the economic wealth and its effect on their everyday life or lack thereof; beyond high rents, fewer venues/exhibition spaces and more hasty construction.”

Steph goes on to say that by the time the exhibition got off the ground the financial crisis had hit which altered the direction of the project.

“A new, more interesting approach came to be, regarding Perth’s boom time history and it’s state of flux; grand ideas, which essentially proved underwhelming.”

A step inside the exhibition revealed not a huge collection of pieces, but rather a concentrated shot of our beloved –  “dullsville’ with an artistic chaser, on an eclectic range of canvases. In describing such an idea or visual/aural enticement as boom., it’s impossible not to use those analytical high school English Lit terms like juxtaposition or irony. It’s also extremely tempting to use those cultural studies terms like (gasp!) post modernism.

I’ll save you the effort of rolling your eyes (this is Fasterlouder, not The Monthly), but I will say that the very thing about Perth which suppressed/s any significant artistic voice it might have (the –  “boom’), made for some intriguing artistic interpretations from 18 of Perth’s young creatives. To put it in Steph’s terms:

“boom. and other innovative endeavours like it, were a reaction to those adverse conditions, thereby inadvertently supporting a reactionary culture that the economic boom could just as easily have destroyed.”

Gian Manik and Jacob Ogden Smith were making a clear contribution to this –  “reactionary culture’ in their untitled piece upstairs of the exhibition. This was an eerie take on Perth’s obsession with trash consumption and the sense of impending doom it has brought and continues to bring. Playing on a loop in an isolated makeshift theatre, the confronting drone of the film’s soundtrack spelt imminent disaster.

A lone globe with feminine legs, which walked unsteadily across the screen, seemed to indicate Perth’s isolation and its struggle to find identity. With no dialogue in the film, the viewer was left to mull over the actions of a heavily exaggerated bimbo as she played with her obviously fake hair and caressed the kitsch products draped across her presumably fake cans. As a double vision played of her demanding on the arm of a ute loving mine worker and a more refined type- perhaps an office worker, the relations to Perth hit you in the face like a Chanel clutch from an offended photo whore who’s had too much bubbly.

Jacob tells me how the piece wasn’t necessarily focused on Perth:

“I like your reading of the lone globe being Perth, but it’s not something we had intended, I think our use of metaphor was far more basic than this.”

“The globe represented the earth: –  “Mother Gaya’ and its generosity, which is exploited more and more as the video progresses.”

“The project started as a selection of disparate issues, points, images, icons, etc. that we felt summed up the situation at the moment and how it came about, then we structured them into loose narrative.”

“Gian and I have both lived in WA our whole lives so it is definitely more Perth then anywhere and as far as the boom and excess goes; I guess it is WA and Queensland that have really benefited; from what I’ve heard there are a lot of similarities between what is happening here and in Queensland both culturally and economically.”

Downstairs the barrage of boom/crash imagery continued, with photography of decaying Perth blocks, poetry arranged around sheets of architectural plans and a puzzling video/display involving a wolf, by Gemma Weston and Jamie Macchiusi, which could only really be explained properly by the artists themselves.

In the middle of the room, a mysterious television set flickered and a DVD player and chair was set up which beckoned to be sat at. No, there wasn’t a creepy lady brushing her hair on the screen and no one rang and whispered –  “seven days’ after watching it, but what was playing was one of the more original musical endeavours that Perth has seen in recent times.

Director, Ben Stewart’s, collaboration with local psych-metal outfit CEASE, was a fascinating 20 minute account of what happened when a drummer, guitarist and diesel powered generator took to the streets and ambushed the commuters with some psychedelic conviction. Filmed at the front of the defunct Entertainment Centre, the DNA Tower at King’s Park and atop the Perry Lakes stadium clock tower, the reactions of the unsuspecting passers-by said an incredible amount about Perth’s attitude toward innovative creativity.

CEASE’s Nick Odell (-  “nikel arse’ as his email address proclaims) fills me in on the inspiration for such a project.

“We’ve been wanting to use a generator for some time now, get out of pubs/venues & not have to worry about fuckwit staff, over-priced drinks & playing times!”

“Mainly to be able to do whatever we want, wherever we want…..shake it up a little!”

It doesn’t get much more in your face, than two wild-haired banshees, one in bare feet and sperm count reducing black slacks, constructing a wall of hypnotic, drop tuned, tribal cog grinding around you (itunes might call it sludge metal) as you attempt to go about your own version of a hypnotic (daily) grind.

“I guess our band isn’t so easy to digest & the thought of taking CEASE to the public & getting in their faces was very much appealing, so when Steph & Katie approached us to be a part of boom, this was an idea that we thought fitted in perfectly.”

The average commuter would be forgiven for being a little bit intimidated by CEASE on the streets, especially in our sheltered part of the world, but the video captured a surprising public embracement to it all.

This is where its mystique seemed to lie- everyday citizens of a city renowned for conservatism becoming absolutely intrigued by this spot fire of music, which is anything but easily accessible, occurring in the midst of their daily routine.

Odell seems just as mystified by the public reaction in the video:

“The reaction we got from the public was totally positive, especially at the DNA Tower where we had kids joining in & tourists asking when it was happening again.”

“What was surprising was the total LACK of interest from the police or authorities.”

“We played for quite a while at The Entertainment Centre & it was pretty loud but nobody said shit; very encouraging.”

Encouraging is exactly what it was and in the context of boom., –  “encouraging signs’ seemed to represent everything the exhibition was about. Perth’s planners might ignore the artistic community, but it was encouraging to see when a project like boom. gives it a voice, there’s a significant amount of Perth people who are all ears.

If you missed the exhibition and want more about it than my attempt at a description, the website is still active and there’s also a book available.

Steph and members of the boom. crew, are currently organising further promotion of Perth’s creative community with Clare Wohlnik who is launching a Pier St store called Coastal Shelf on August 29. The launch will present a group exhibition of photocopied editions (zines and the like) from 30 local artists.

If the CEASE guerrilla gig scenario sounded appealing to you, Fasterlouder will be going along to the next one so stay tuned...