DEATH DRIVE is the product of deep collaboration and a shared interest in the baroque extravagance of survival after life-threatening periods. This research project – comprising exhibitions, events and a publication – will develop through multiple phases in different countries. The core group of artists and organisers – Rebekah Bide, Jennifer Boyd, Mariana Portela Echeverri, and Madeleine Stack – will be joined by new collaborators and contributors for each phase. DEATH DRIVE is currently supported by Outer Space, Arts Queensland and the Australia Council for the Arts.
Outer Space, Brisbane, Australia
25 January – 9 February 2020
This exhibition understands ‘death drive’ as an experience born from a fork in the road, where death is one possible destiny, but instead the other path is chosen. What spirals of euphoria does this choice release; what deathly-energy can drive life? That obscene whipped-up energy needs to find another outlet. The show consists of newly commissioned sculptural installations, video, and sound, by Rebekah Bide, Jennifer Boyd, Mariana Portela Echeverri, and Madeleine Stack. Whether through creating a proxy to be responsible for work and life decisions, building an erotics from the closeness of environmental catastrophe, a beached body turning to trepanation, or the uncovering of an imaginary lesbian cloister, the artists in DEATH DRIVE choose their own destiny, an exaggerated form of survival that refuses the inevitable.
This exhibition was accompanied by an event programme that included a screening of films by Lola Clavo, a panel discussion with exhibiting artists and Azadeh Hamzeii, two workshops on writing in times of crisis by Jennifer Boyd (one open to the public and one at Open Doors LGBTIQ+ Youth Services) and a listening party which included sound works by exhibiting artists as well as Aisha Sasha John, Rebecca Close, Hannah Regel and Yantan Ministry. Broadsides by each exhibiting artist were available with a donation to Firesticks Indigenous Youth, as well as a catalogue essay by the co-curators of this phase, Jennifer Boyd and Madeleine Stack, commissioned by Outer Space.
Glass with engraved poem, gelatine, silicone, burned sawhorse, mother of pearl
Copper wire, spiral shells, wax, pewter
Censer, brass, pulley, spiral, gas-filled bladder of pufferfish, police baton
the prayer falls to pieces in the mouth
Prawn antennae, wood, wax, hair
prawn aggregate shelf
Prawnskins, resin, seawater, saliva
Wax, seawater, floating bladders of bluebottles, steel springs from Rue Madame
Words call from the depths through engravings on gelatine propped precariously on a charred sawhorse, and the waving antennae of undersea creatures floating on a wooden church board. A censer pulled from the forge still smoking, and, inexplicably, dripping. A knife acting as ballast for an abacus of seashells and jelly. Weight and counterweight, thoughts and prayers, pull on cloisters, covens and other gangs, to create an installation of votive objects plucked from another time, and charged with touch.
DEATH DRIVE by Jennifer Boyd and Madeleine Stack
I pack a suitcase with vessels, take my cut of the miracles. first line of defence. cupping your pulse on the inside tugging at a thick ring mouthfaced to meat. once we leave for the night all bets are off. tarmac hot in the dark. turbulence in my geographical and emotional limbo has seen a need to change my daily meds. I need a way to organise myself, through the tapering and building process of different chemicals.
knox gelatin on my pubis so that hair shines high ball in the red sun. smokefall through pierced tongue hole. miasmic dove grey vape smoke that conversely stinks of strawberries. they are tryin to make me imbibe girl again. once pierced it is extremely difficult to stop the tongue from bleeding. clear bubbling saliva makes red blood run and run right to the boiling point.
we are night babies scrying for scrap, steel frames from Rue Madame fashioned into unwieldy haloes. one hell congeals over another. hair caught in the mechanism dragging her down down. creatures raise their antennae to speak warnings garbled by the weight of the depth. wrecked gilding tossed to the forge.
a box for your days reminds you to touch something. i helped her back up. take the meeting for me.
the psychedelia of non-accidental near-death. get us off the hook of truth. wax eating away at a face lit from the inside. spit slugged to the palm and wiiiiiiiiiiped down. a wet patch. incoming tide twined with outgoing current.
the chorus reads from the proffered sheet, unseeing. I rub her arm, pushing the poison further in. the air is solid, the air has girth. choirgirls spread wide openmouthed for eternity.
strippers up from hell to entertain those in purgatory. their weapon is exhaustion. mercury, my favorite metal, it breaks to pieces when you come to close.
gyrating grating subway grate running some kind of liquid the air smells like bleach and ash we told you it was coming to you we told you we have what you want. air smells like raw meat the kind stacked in wads on a metal spike. car speaker falls facefirst out of the burning vehicle and keeps speaking. cords cut.
milky translucent tongues touch and melt upon contact with their kind. speaking a language only they can hear. so hot the rims melt into the dirt in long trailing tracks. her hair melts against concrete, making running stripes like algae with the tides. the soldered girl forges herself and learns to walk upright. I am going to touch you, whether you want it or not.
ent(w)ombed in alginate and plaster. made on life hiatus from red oxide in the earth, and coal. her pupils gape wide. twennytwo carat gold baked in the second brain. wax systems currently transmogrifying into recycled fine silver. we went to the beach together but only one of us got burnt.
black and blue flies circling a bowl of red caramel high on a window ledge. two crossed fingers a prophylactic beckoning luck from all sides, eyes in the back of the head, fingers indicating all directions at once. the mother finger and the father finger, the strongest charm there is. I sweat as I shower. The weather is permanently hot. the specificity of that kind of weather makes a specific kind of world.
a brain coated in bitchumen. a bulletproof mix of spider silk and goat milk. a beached body bag handling teen haunts changes colour. miraculous initiation into the rite. leave having comprehended nothing. all the great pestilences. gems, nuggets, feathers, tat. marmalades of entrail.
dig your fingers into the solid gelatin to reach your roots. rip them from the earth. a protein gained by boiling skin bone tendons and ligaments, usually from pigs or cows. don’t crush me to diamond pulp when I die plaster me on the heads of pre-teen synchornised swimmers. a trepan is a hole saw used to pierce the skull to release pressure, spirits and madness.
washed up weed languages, communicating that what we’ve got here is a heavenly kinda hell, an iridescent land mine. tuck your bellies away but leave your tongue out hanging. suck it up now.
searching for seaglass the same colour as century eggs, so their cartoonic eyes might lie in my palms. my strangely smooth freaky babies.
a freshly poured breastplate. at the foundry they’ve seen it all before, usually for cancer patients. the metal polishing tool scalped me, just slightly. a hole has to be left in the silver body in order for it to breathe.
she’s at the beach at night surrounded by the horrific screams of carnivorous seagulls. she crosses her eyes, leaves them white.
a baroque pillbox for antidepressants and a belt of broken casts hang off imported eucalyptus. making as a survival mechanism a prosthetic for her proxy.
authored by the offshore. it washed up overnight, the language in the flotsam. a beached body, languid and waiting. mouth cracking at the corners. they are the seer in the most casual of climates. she snuggles up to her own face and wiggles her own gilded joints. it’s more for social occasions.
a scrim of yellow muck lining the glass. weight and counterweight. dredged from the depths like that. one movement beyond temperament. the doll she shows what she sees. embracing in the dark. bringing something up to show for it.
if the preachers want to shout at us through microphones then let me tell you I am vile and I am walking among you. stare at us holding each other in the street all you like you can’t cream the top off our milk. we mist our genitals like lillies.
the children of these generations hang their bodies on little slips of paper, like, I am alive simply because the guard fell in love with her, simply because of a clerical error, when the archive skips a beat, when the neighbour enjoyed a certain meal she cooked and so was benevolent that day, I remember these stories when the bureaucrat writes the wrong country on her documents by an accident of translation and we laugh and distract to hide the mistake, when we register our friends in our district instead of theirs feigning confusion, when the vans pull up in the very early morning and one person happens to be awake to alert the others, awake before dawn as they were from a particularly unshakeable nightmare.