The same crowd never gathers twice according to the University of Melbourne, who have themed their entire Buxton Contemporary exhibition around that premise, featuring six leading international and Australian artists plus new works from a number of esteemed creatives.

Curated by the university’s Curator, Art Museums, Annika Aitken, the exhibition assesses the limits of the area; the setting where people come together to collectively witness and participate in public life. Each work within the exhibition – spanning image, sound, sculpture and performance – consider the social and structural architectures that bind these spaces.

As well as the social and structural architectures of an arena, relationships between performance and reality, audience and participant, and public and private will be explored. Each visitor will consider their own personal role in the art gallery, or arena, in this instance.

The exhibition features the premiere of the multi-channel film work RINGER by artist Cate Consandine, which reimagines roller derby as a site of violence between players. With a score by acclaimed composer François Tétaz, Consandine explores the physical expression of psychological and emotional states, focusing on the relationship between bodies and their contingent registers. 

South Korean-born, Aotearoa-based artist Yona Lee presents a new large-scale, site-specific installation at Buxton’s Heritage Gallery. Known for her sculptural works that engage with themes of public and private space, transit, and migration, Lee's installation uses stainless-steel tubing combined with furniture and functional objects to highlight tensions between public and private experiences, guiding and disrupting movement through the gallery.

New York-based multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon presents the sound installation Assembled Audience in Australia for the first time. This work, part of her investigation into public life rituals, broadcasts individual applause recorded at concerts, sporting events, and political rallies in Columbus, Ohio. 

Known as “Test City USA” for its demographic similarity to the nation, Columbus serves as a critical gauge for predicting political outcomes and testing new products. Assembled Audience merges recordings of diverse audience members into a single, simulated crowd, considering applause as a barometer of public opinion and highlighting techniques for manipulating public adulation, resonating with contemporary issues of digital fabrication and manipulation.

"We collected individual applause from every public event over a one year period — a Katy Perry concert, a Worship Awakening Conference, the Ohio Republican Party State Dinner, a conference on glass problems,” Simon says. 

“All these clashing politics, ideologies, and corporate affiliations are reassembled again and again into a single manufactured crowd. The objects of the applause — the singers, the basketball players, the politicians, the business tycoons — are all missing and interchangeable to the point of being irrelevant.”

Interdisciplinary artist Riana Head-Toussaint will showcase the video work Animate Loading: 1 and a new choreographic commission Guided Wrestling in July. Animate Loading: 1, the first film version of her site-responsive choreographic work, is a disability-led project filmed in a rooftop carpark on Darug Land, featuring performers who use diverse movement languages to activate the space and highlight its seen and unseen dimensions. 

The work serves as an embodied call to disrupt and change our relationships with public space. Guided Wrestling, emerging in response, involves performers moving through their emotions, inviting audiences to do the same. Performances are scheduled for 4, 5, and 6 July 2024, with bookings opening in mid-May.

The exhibition also features the recent acquisition of Body Loss by Sydney-based dancer and choreographer Angela Goh by the University of Melbourne. This iterative and evolving performance work responds to the gallery's architecture, testing the limits of both the body and its physical environment with a single vocal note looped back like a disembodied siren call. Body Loss has been exhibited in cities including London, Munich, Brussels, Texas, Melbourne, and Sydney. 

Additionally, the exhibition presents a collection of super-8 works by Melbourne artist Laresa Kosloff, produced between 1998 and 2010. Kosloff's practice examines representational strategies related to the body and the tension between cultural values, individual agency, and free will. Her work Trapeze 1998, from the Michael Buxton Collection, is showcased alongside later pieces capturing incidental actions in public spaces, highlighting the performative aspects of everyday life and the relationship between the individual and the collective.

A soon-to-be released range of live events and programs, including performances, talks, film screening and a symposium, as well as a concert curated in response to the exhibition by students from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, led by Joseph Lallo, will all form part of the wider exhibition.

Image: Yona Lee’s Upper-floor composition.