Lover not a Fighter

By Laura McLean

About this Curation

Sparring partners and queer cultures collide in this collection of works by Aaron Bradbrook, Ray Cook, Jenny Pollak, Ben Sexton, and Christina Simons.

In Pollak’s work 'The First Lovers', declarations of love scratched into bamboo at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens are superimposed onto silhouettes of Dürer’s Adam and Eve. This origin myth of lovers expelled from Eden stands in as a metaphor for the dispossession of the real first lovers in the area where the Gardens now grow – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

Going back to the garden and getting up close and personal, Sydney-based drag performer Betty Grumble, captured in Bradbrook’s striking portrait 'Emma Maye Gibson is Betty Grumble, Edinburgh', posits Earth itself as a lover. Through her playful approach to sensuality in her ecosexual performance practice, Grumble advocates for a 'give and take' relationship with the Earth.

An early lesson of respect for the agency of the ‘Other’ is captured in Simons’ photograph of 10 year Cristóbal Arenas Moncayo fighting a similarly young bull. At this age the bullfighter has already learnt that in fighting 'you are always afraid but this is normal, it makes you stronger and helps you to take control of your fear… from that point you move ahead'.

In a different kind of battle, Roller Derby players give as good as they get in the spectacular full-contact women’s team sport documented in Simons’ 'Derby Girls in Flight', where girls play rough with attitude to burn.

In contrast, Cook’s boxer 'Aaron' looks more vulnerable than intimidating against a starry, stained curtain that has seen better days. Much of Cook’s work depicts the male figure and uses sideshow figures to think about generational change, particularly in gay culture. His work 'Unsolicited Testimonial', drawn from the series 'When My Ship Comes in I’ll be Waiting at the Airport', was produced in the late 80s and mid 90s as a response to the AIDS epidemic which had gay men fighting for their lives.

This collection of work ends with Ben Sexton’s 'Untitled' - crumpled paper or ruffled sheets, twice, the same, together. Reminiscent of key works in the oeuvre of Félix González-Torres, the twin diptych speaks in this context of synchronicity, action, and absence.

About the Curator

Laura McLean is a contemporary art curator and writer based in Sydney. Holding an MFA (Distinction) in Curating from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a BVA (Hons 1) and MVA from Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, Laura has worked at some of Sydney and London’s leading arts institutions, and has curated exhibitions for galleries and biennales throughout Europe and Australia. Her writing has been presented by journals and publishers including Arena, Photomediations, Frame Finland, and The MIT Press. She currently sits on the boards of Cold Cuts and Runway Australian Experimental Art journal.