A collection of work from eminent Melbourne art/noise chameleon MARCO FUSINATO is currently featuring at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA). He discusses his Fortitude Valley occupation with JAMES STAFFORD.
Whether teasing noise out of instruments on darkened club stages or examining cultural conundrums within gleaming white gallery walls, underground artist Marco Fusinato doesn’t seek to entertain. His craft is the subversion of ideas: conceptual juxtapositions, audience role reversal and sonic dissonance are all weapons in Fusinato’s creative arsenal, and all of them fire loudly in his current exhibition at the IMA titled The Colour of the Sky Has Melted.
Talking over the phone from Melbourne home, Fusinato explains more about the format of this particular exhibition: “In short, it is work from the last six years, selections of work from project to project, and each project is looking at a specific idea. The way it’s been set up at the IMA is that there is one project per room: there are five rooms and in each one there’s a different work, but although they may look quite different, there are similar ideas feeding through each one. The basis of it is that it investigates my interest in conceptual art crossing over with radical politics and the noise of music.”
Immediately engaging, the Aetheric Plexus piece is an interactive installation that is as elegant as it is startling. Curious observers are lured into place for a short blast of bright white light and loud white noise. While aesthetically appealing, as Fusinato explains, the intention is to activate the viewer: “I’m aware that when audiences go to a gallery they are usually passive — they walk around doing a lot of thinking, but physically its passive. I had this idea to make the audience active: to physically activate them, just to really make them aware that they’ve got a pulse, that they’re alive. The work at the IMA, for example, is 105dB of white noise with 30,000 Watts of white light, and when you get hit by that you realise that you have a pulse and that you’re alive and I think its important to remember that because a lot of the time we forget. With all the bullshit we deal with, to be shaken up is a really vital experience.”
Continuing through the other rooms reveals an artist who looks at life through a very different kind of lens. Fusinato grew up during a time of unprecedented cultural change: the punk ethos was surging and the influence of the counter-culture is clearly evident in his work. But of course, his interaction with the punk mentality was as unique as his approach to art, and he’s quick to correct any misconception that he grew up a punk rocker.
“I was never a punk rocker, I was into the music. When you’re young and searching for identity you gravitate towards certain things that you respond to, and I was a bit young for going out to clubs during that initial burst of punk, but I was buying records. It was the first music that came along that I could really admire or respect, and in retrospect it wasn’t even so much the music — I mean, the music’s great, but what I really gravitated to were the interviews. The bands I was into, like The Clash or Crass, in their interviews they spoke about social change and politics but they didn’t speak about girls and fast cars and I was really inspired by that. In their interviews they would mention something like the Situationists or Marx or terrorism and I would go and search these things, and that leads you onto other references so it was like an education.”
Fusinato goes on to explain how his interest in punk ideas lead to his discovery of noise-art. “What was really inspiring more so than the actual punk — because punk now just doesn’t make sense, it’s just silly, it’s awful, you know — but at the time, it was incredibly inspiring to get some information which would lead me onto further investigations. The music I gravitated towards the most was noise — where it was broken down even further than punk. Punk was about learning three chords and playing a song, but with noise you didn’t even have to learn three chords — you just plug in and make a sound, and the uglier the sound, the better, so I was more interested in that because I can’t formally play.”
Fusinato features regularly on experimental music bills, performs in a noise duo Poletopra with classical composer Anthony Pateras, has collaborated with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and is scheduled to support both Seattle drone act Earth and legendary doomsters Sunn O))) in Melbourne later this year — all of which leads him to muse on his place in the solar system: “I’m supporting Earth, and then a month later I’m supporting Sunn O))), so it’s kind of like I’m Mercury, you know?”
Having already launched the exhibition in Brisbane in early August, Fusinato’s sights are now set on an extended sound performance in the IMA gallery space in September. What might seem like a collision of careers is actually just an adaptation of his ideas in a different context.
“Recently in Glasgow, I did an eight-hour performance in a club that they opened up for me during the day — from 10 in the morning ‘til six in the evening. A durational performance which I found really fascinating, but you do transcend many things and you really do get lost in it and you have no sense of time, you’re fully immersed for such an extended period. I’d like to do more of these, so here’s an opportunity to do another one. This I have in a gallery context so we’re bringing in the gear, there’ll be a PA and some amplifiers, and I’ll set up in a corner and just play: get lost in it and see where it takes me over the course of time.”
While Fusinato takes comfort in getting lost in the performance, he once again subverts performance paradigms to generate a unique experience for both audience and artist.
“The beauty of it is the audience is free to come and go as they want — you can come for five minutes, ten minutes, you could come for five hours, and you can dip in and out. I kind of like that because there’s not the pressure of ‘entertaining’. But usually, if you’re on a stage and there’s an audience, there’s this expectation that you’re going to be, in some way, entertained. It’s prescribed that you’re going to play for x amount of time, and there’s going to be a certain experience — and before or after you there’s another act or something using that same format. Whereas with this really we remove any form of expectation or any form of entertainment, and I quite like that: you can come and go as you like and take it or leave it. I think it’s quite a pure way to perform.”
As discussion moves to the Japanese noise movement of the 1980s, Fusinato is excited to talk about the final event at the IMA before The Colour of the Sky Has Melted moves on to Sydney in October: “Really important, in fact, as part of this exhibition, I’m doing a film screening from my collection of ‘80s Jap-noise and my collection of riot films, and when you see the two together, they’re actually really quite similar.”
Art means many things to many different people, but striking, memorable art reaches out to affect our understanding of ourselves and expose some of the conundrums of existence. Marco Fusinato achieves this by subverting ideas, expectations and aesthetics. While beauty may be an incidental by-product, provocation is his real product — and it’s a product worth buying.
Curated by Charlotte Day, Marco Fusinato: The Colour of the Sky Has Melted runs until Sat Oct 6 at the IMA (free entry). MARCO FUSINATO returns for an all-day sound performance on Thu Sep 13 (running from 3–8pm) and winds up with a screening from his collection of riot films and Japanese noise on Thu Oct 4. For more information visit ima.org.au and marcofusinato.com.