TOPSY Exhibition coming!!!!


Opening Wednesday 5 September 6-8pm

Artist Talk Wednesday 12 September 6pm

Exhibition 5 – 22 September

Metro Arts Galleries: Gallery 1

Metro Arts Galleries Program 2007

topsy turvy turns the world upside down as it cancels conventions, social codes and hierarchies to create a liberated, utopian space; or is it a safety valve for popular discontent and a subtle form of social control? topsy turvy features wordplay, excess, parody, inversion and the grotesque.


Roll up Roll up! Gather around and watch what we’re gonna do. It’s all free and it’s starting right now! This is the one you’ve read about, you’ve heard your neighbours talking about it. And here it is, all live, right here and starting now!

We’re gonna bring out the prehistoric monk, the mule-faced man, the unwooded Pinocchio who would become wood if he could…watch the doorway, here they come, we’re gonna bring ‘em out here, all free, so you can see what they look like, …watch the doorway, so stubholders¨ keep your eyes wide open, you don’t want to miss any of the acts, and it’s all free…

1. Prehistoria is the Order of the day in David Spooner’s exhibit. Step right up. Step right in. Are they from another world? Watch the skin of the monks fossilise in front of your very eyes as they meditate cloaked in their growling cowls. Witness their souls escaping their petrified bodies and slip through the fabric of time. ST Dimetrodon of the Savage order is one roughneck monk- a Sailor and Tailor. A seasoned traveller, and covered in the shed skins of the prehistoric creatures he tames. If you’re lucky enough you will also see plush³ prehistoric animals stampede out of the shrine/time portal.

2. Now, behold Alice Lang’s photographs of anatomical wonders. Yes, we have it all here! See the photographic evidence of people with their insides on the outside. People who have mutated from a normal state to one of post-human; from familiar to unknown, from form to formlessness -the ‘grotesque body’ ladies and gentlemen! You will stand in wonderment as you try to explain your empathy, your attraction to something so repulsive (or repulsed by something so beautiful). This body is unfinished and extends beyond its boundaries at every orifice during sexual excitement, childbirth, consumption of food, defecation and rogue cells that grow with disease.

3.Send in the Joey*s. We get to now see more of the carnival’s participants: Ray Cook’s clowns and Pinocchio. Their camp attitude suggests that the meaninglessness of life abounds but urges you to become liberated by the absence of this meaning. They tell you to invert good taste, value the overlooked, relish absurdity and childishness, express a heterodox view of the mainstream. Pinocchio thumbs his nose¶ at anyone outside the carnival who doesn’t get the ironic value and opposition of the status quo from a camp aesthetic.

4. In the next stall we are standing before Grubbanax Swinnasen’s fordigraphic caricatures of the scholastic carnival. There’s the ogrish librarian, the ogling P.E. teacher, the brutish punks† etc. With all the billingsgate language and comic verbal compositions scrawled on the cheap paper. All this and more! With the methylated pages should begin a chemical trigger recall to all of you over the age of 1 score and ten years. The outsideness of the bullied kid marginalised by a dominant ideology can now yell out in purple prose to announce not only that he has a voice (now that it’s carnival time) but also to say something about the ideology that sought to silence him.

5. Boom. Boom. Boom. Next, is a part of the fairground spectacular itself: a huge opulent arm covered in beads and flickering lights. Drawing you in, but what exactly is it? Is it a relic from a prosperous bygone era? Does it now reside in a land tipped downside-up, a wonderland without the wonder? I wonder. You will too! The fabricator, Eleanor Avery, says that she is “interested in the point where something changes status”. It’s been inverted from its original orientation that was displayed at Black Lab to the one here. Not only that; when you stand before it shifts from an object, to a sound, to a location and back again.

6. To the big top construction of Kim Demuth. To witness it is to realise that we’re both inside and outside the carnival. We stand looking at the container of what we are all participating in. What is going on inside that tent is what is taking place right here, right now! The circus is a symbol of identity, human relations and belonging to a place, and it shows the ephemeral nature of these concepts. The concerns of life are played out inside: adversity, comedy, love, illusion and danger. It is a mirror of life, perhaps a concave one as nanty« goes wrong in there. It is the space for the imaginary, the instant, the temporary and the extraordinary. Because of its mobile nomadic life it is never forever; it is always momentary. It is a sojourner in the environment, not resident of it. It does not belong anywhere.

7. So is it all out and over^? Do we start tearing it down and move on to somewhere new? Bakhtin says that there is no beginning or end in carnival; that it is outside of time and a permanent feature of society. He also would like to point out the difference between the carnival of old and the carnival of today, that carnivalesque today pales with the endless bingeing, rampart orgies and physical mutilation of days past. He obviously hasn’t seen Big Brother, watched Idol, read Who Weekly or visited the biggest carnival of all: the internet. There’s a place in cyberspace called myspace where the idiot is hero?, there’s YouTube where the amateur is king¤ (or the king is amateur – see the PM’s attempt at social networking?) and PornoTube or yuvutu where people indulge in a celebration of bodily excess or just piss-fart? around – quite literally! So, the carnival isn’t over or existing as a paler version. It penetrates into everyday life and language with its reversal of rituals (what is normally high is low, what is taboo is compulsory) and with its democratic vision of every individual becoming one in the carnival square. “The carnival offers the chance to have a new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that exists, and to enter a completely new order of things” (Bakhtin, 1984, p.34).

Goodbye, Grubbanax Aloysius Swinnasen¢

8. Note to the gilliesª:- I have used Parlari¤ or Ciarzarn² in the writing of this bible° essay. Definitions below:

¨ The audience.

³ Stuffed animals.

*A clown. Derived from Joseph Grimaldi a famous English clown 18c.

¶We know from psychoanalytical research that the nose is a male phallic substitute, see: Karl Abraham, “The Female Castration Complex” (1920), in Selected Papers of Karl Abraham, edited by Ernest Jones, translated by Douglas Bryan and Alix Strachey, Hogart Press, London 1927, p. 351.

† A child. Also a stuffed animal on a ‘knock ’em over’ game.

« nothing

^ End of the performance.





¢ a Robin Marks£

£ Sort of “utility name” when a carny wants to give a false name for himself.

ª A gilly: anyone not connected with the circus, an outsider.

¤ (or alternatively Polari, Parlare, Parlary, Palarie, Palari, Parlyaree) a distinctive English argot in use since at least the 18th century among groups of theatrical and circus performers and in certain homosexual communities, derived largely from Italian, directly or through Lingua Franca

² Carny slang.

° Souvenir program, catalogue.

Journal Comments

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