Visual artist Rebecca Baumann likes to get a reaction from her audience. In her performance and installation based works she explores the spectrum of emotions associated with celebration and evokes violence that often accompanies wild happiness. Using mechanical tools such as fans, ball-throwers, flip-clocks and detonators her vibrant displays literally pop and erupt in a sequence of uncontrolled events. Baumann’s recent works are known for being highly choreographed and meticulously planned and for using eye-catching materials like confetti, tinsel, streamers and smoke.
Chosen by Curator Anna Davis to participate in the Museum of Contemporary Arts’ Primavera 8 September – 13 November 2011, the Perth-based artist is presenting two works for the show including; Improvised Smoke Device, a coloured smoked display, and Confetti International, a work that disperses glittering confetti into the air.
“The more time you spend with it the more exhausting it becomes,” she says of the work Confetti International, a performance in which viewers get to add glitter to a moving conveyer belt that heads the confetti straight toward an electrically powered fan.
The 28-year-old Perth-based artist admits that while she loves working with these colours and materials sometimes her artworks can be quite exhausting. “It kind of wears you down after a while. It’s so beautiful, but it’s also endless,” Baumann says. “One guy came up to me in the gallery and said that the work was ‘monstrous’. I kind of had to agree with him – it is monstrous!” Baumann says.
Confetti International (2007) Industrial fan, conveyor belt, coffee table, 12kg confetti Dimensions variable Old Berlin Photography: Tomasz Machnik
Critically acclaimed for ability to whimsically unpack the dichotomy of emotions associated celebration, Baumann says she hopes her next body of work will evolve in an unexpected way. “Change is so constant I never know what’s coming next. Last year I went to Udaipur in India for the Holi Festival – also known as The Festival of Colours,” says Baumann of her inspiration for her current body of work.
“It’s a Hindu festival held at the beginning of spring and basically it’s a festival using coloured powder. There is a night of giant bon fires designed for warding of this evil demon and then the next day everyone goes out and put colours on each others faces and bodies… by the end of the day you are just covered in colours and dye from head to toe. “It’s so beautiful and such a nice way to celebrate something like Spring, but it also kind of gives you that feeling of being a little out of control, like of something a bit frightening might happen. It felt to me that there might be a threat of violence,” she says.
“This work is not so much a representation of the festival, but more about how it affected me. I am interested in the element of beauty, but also in the risk of it getting out of control,” she says. “It’s like when we have Australia Day and people go to the fireworks and then they get drunk and then it gets violent. I am interested in that edge, that dichotomy I guess between celebration and violence – and in particular in those uncontrolled elements,” she says.
To see Rebecca Baumann’s Confetti International in Sydney visit the courtyard of DFS Galleria, 153-155 George Street, The Rocks on 23 September 2011. Other artists taking part in The Primavera 2011 include Eric Bridgeman (Queensland), Brown Council – Kelly Doley, Frances Barrett, Diana Smith, Kate Blackmore (New South Wales), Tom O’Hern (Tasmania), Jess Olivieri and Hayley Forward with the Parachutes for Ladies (New South Wales), Keg de Souza (New South Wales), Hiromi Tango (Queensland), and Tessa Zettel & Karl Khoe (New South Wales).
Improvised Smoke Device (2010) 825m3 coloured smoke, aluminium, foil, wire, black powder, quick match fuse, detonator 5 minute performance Perth Cultural Centre Photography: Bewley Shaylor