Rosie Deacon’s sculptural installation Stuffed Species: The Gentle Art of Interior Fauna re-stages interior objects, coercing the form of the souvenir to bear witness to humorous examinations.
Central to Deacon’s practice is the spectacle of obsession, for this installation the gallery space of The Egg & Dart itself becomes a spectacle of interior fauna and of kitsch. Deacon’s own obsessive playful artistic imagery in this installation speaks to the weight of our cultural obsessions. Tourist souvenirs manifest as the auspicious objects central to exploring the complex intersections and capacities of Australian imagery.
The kind of paraphernalia that Deacon re-imagines is reminiscent of the kind found at Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets, Circular Quay, and any given op-shop. The grotesquely cute form of a souvenir becomes a comical investigation into status and identity in this body of work. Deacon’s works are paraphernalia twisted with camp pastiche; the spectacle of sculptures fashioned in an abundance of pom poms, sequins, and glitter make this immediately apparent.
Yet the playful and spirited allure of the installation becomes uneasy as half of the works emerge as a hybrid of taxidermy, pelt, and faux fur. This is first noticed in the piece Snakaby affixed and protruding from the wall. This sculpture takes form as an amalgamation of a crocheted snake and taxidermy wallaby. Its taxidermist’s eyes and plastic googly eyes both demanding and disturbing.
Stretched across the opposite wall is Sting Ray a sculpture made from Kangaroo pelt wearing huge googly eyes and Flatsie Foot Swamp Wallaby Wall Decor ornamented with pom poms. Playfully modifying the taxidermy and hide in this way made me no less uncomfortable with the grotesque form. But it did foster an ambiguity of feelings, a curiosity fluctuating between the cute and the shocking.
Hanging on the walls like a traditional portrait is the eccentrically ornamented Kangaroo Kitchen Meat & Greet Tea Towel a difficult to decipher kangaroo amongst a cluster of sequins and plastic gemstones. And appearing as a fictional landscape of Circular Quay populated by an abundance of kangaroos and koalas is the Opera Fun House Koala Bridge Climb Tea Towel. Looking at these works made me posit that the souvenir object operates as a communicative object, intended perhaps to make the acquaintance between person and place. This opens up questions as to what cultural images we are offering up as testimonials related to place.
Towards the back of the gallery is Happy Koala Trophy Wife, a tall column of coloured sand, tinsel, and confetti. It is a trophy that is attention-grabbing and exaggerated. The work placed emphasis on the way the collected object can function as a determiner of both personal and broader cultural forms of status.
The allure of colour and kitsch, along with the materially rich playful nature of the work made me reflect on my own urges to display and collect. I thought about all the mementos and trinkets in my own home, and how the practice of displaying assembles and re-assembles different portraits. The installation revealed the capacities of spectacles, particularly as they manifest in their most extreme, or kitsch, or absurd. Yet more broadly Deacon’s parodying of celebrated tourist souvenirs pressed me to ask what these objects are serving to testify for; urging me to reflect on how our cultural visual language for producing souvenirs can determine the narratives and weight of our national identity.
Audrey Pfister is a current student at UNSW A&D undertaking a Bachelor of Art Theory.
Rosie Deacon’s ‘Stuffed Species: The Gentle Art of Interior Fauna’ ran from 15th September to 7th October 2017 at Egg and Dart.