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Duty of Care

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In the art world and in wider culture, there is a new emphasis on care, focusing on gentle attentiveness and good works, and a fear of triggering hurt. Care has become a buzzword and is being used to reset policy and practice. However, too often, the complexity and troublesomeness of care are smoothed over by liberal good intentions.

Care is a murky notion. It is entangled with ugly feelings of obligation and burden, exhaustion and sacrifice. It is sometimes a mask for coercion and control. It is also co-opted by commerce as a marketing tool, rebranded and repackaged as ‘wellness’ and ‘self care’.

In this discussion, the ‘uncaring’ positions—libertarians and litterers, meat eaters and gas guzzlers—are regularly overlooked. Where do they fit into the practice of care?

An international group show, Duty of Care explores familial, institutional, and professional care; care and gender; care and race; care and medicine; artists as healers; extreme care; and more.

A partnership between the Institute of Modern Art and Griffith University Art Museum, Duty of Care encompasses two exhibitions and a symposium.

PART ONE
Institute of Modern Art
29 June–22 September 2024
Kathy Barry, Benetton/Oliviero Toscani, Joshua Citarella, Martin Creed, Julian Dashper, Florian Habicht, HOSSEI, Mike Kelley, R.D. Laing, Leigh Ledare, Teresa Margolles, Dani Marti, Dane Mitchell, Betty Muffler, Michael Parekōwhai, Tabita Rezaire/Amakaba, Michael Stevenson, Cassie Thornton, and Artur Żmijewski

PART TWO
Griffith University Art Museum
15 August–9 November 2024
Cem A., Jeamin Cha, Margaret Dawson, D Harding, Sally Mann, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Chia Moan, Tracey Moffatt, Michael Parekōwhai, Sam Petersen, David Shrigley, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, and Johan Joseph Zoffany

SYMPOSIUM
Griffith University Art Museum
Saturday 17 August 2024

CURATORS
Stephanie Berlangieri, Angela Goddard, and Robert Leonard

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Duty of Care is a partnership with Griffith University Art Museum. It is presented in association with Brisbane Festival and supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, the Australian Government through Creative Australia, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian Federal, State, and Territory Governments.

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1 HOSSEI

THUNDERBLOOM 2023
26 minutes
Composers: HOSSEI and Harri Harding. Performers: Nahid, HOSSEI, Beau Lai, Eugene Choi, Harri Harding, Jonny Ellis, Laren Booker, Madika Penrith, Maria White, Sidney McMahon, Tom Hungerford, and Valentina Penkova. Voices: Nahid, HOSSEI, Beau Lai, Eugene Choi, Harri Harding, Jonny Ellis, Maria White, Sidney McMahon, and Tom Hungerford. Videographer: Gotaro Uematsu. Editor: Tim Barretto.Needlecraft: Tanja Mijan. Graphic design: Alexander Tanazefti. Photography: Jacquie Manning. Crew: Clair Finneran and Tanja Mijan.

The visual album THUNDERBLOOM brings together nine songs centring on the artist’s mother Nahid. Written by the mother-son duo, the songs encompass a variety of styles. They range from the hypnotic ‘NAW (hid)’, positioning Nahid as a self-determined ‘New Age Woman’, to the crooning ‘Sea of Names’, a doo-wop tune listing Nahid’s daily medications and their dosages. Interspersed throughout are old Persian laments and love songs of special sentimental value. The pair are supported by a group of backing vocalists (thunders) and dancers (blooms) drawn from their extended circle of friends and community. 

2 Julian Dashper

Exhibition invitation, Teststrip, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland  1996

3 Cassie Thornton

The Hologram  2023
4:24 minutes
Director: Cassie Thornton. Producer and Editor: Jonathan Lee. Performers/Practitioners: Magdalena Jadwiga Härtelova, Julio Linares, Alice Yuan Zhang, and Philisha Kraatz. Sound: Giacomo Gianetta. Videographer: Jacopo Falsetta. Shot at Transmediale Studios, Berlin. Supported by Furtherfield, CreaTures, Cleveland Triennial/Front, Fonderie Darling, and Necessity Foundation.

he Hologram is a peer-to-peer health network that leverages the knowledge of non-experts to promote a holistic approach to care, grounded in our interdependence. Initiated by feminist economist and artist Cassie Thornton, it draws on an integrative care model developed in the Social Solidarity Clinic of Thessaloniki in response to austerity measures following the 2008 economic crisis.

The premise is simple. Three participants, forming a ‘triangle’, meet regularly, digitally or in person, to ask questions about the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of a fourth—the ‘hologram’. The hologram then supports members of their care triangle to invite three people to support them, enabling the system to expand. This model ensures all caregivers are cared for, not by the same individuals, but through an expanded notion of reciprocity.

The Hologram is named for its intention to reveal a three-dimensional image of the individual at the triangle’s centre. It works against the dominant privatised model of care, advocating for a culture where caregiving and receiving empowers people to collectively transform systems.

4 Betty Muffler

Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country)  2021
Private collection

Following the displacement and deaths of her family members with the British nuclear testing at Maralinga and Emu Field, Betty Muffler grew up at the Ernabella Mission in the far north-west corner of South Australia. She is a ngangkari (traditional healer), having learned this practice from her aunties on her father’s side.

Muffler explains, ‘I’ve got an eagle’s spirit, so I can stay at home here and in my sleep I send my eagle spirit across the desert to look for sick people. Then I land next to them and make them better. Ngangkaris can see right through people to what sickness is inside, then they can heal them straight away.’ 

Her paintings offer an expansive, bird’s eye perspective of Country, including significant locations, such as waterholes, waterways, and healing sites. Muffler also works with NPY Women’s Council and medical practitioners to support Anangu to good health and through times of crisis.

5 Kathy Barry

Twelve Energy Diagrams  2015

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Twelve-Minute Movement  2016
12 minutes
Courtesy Bowen Galleries, Te Whanganui-a-Tara/WellingtoN

In 2012, the Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington-based painter Kathy Barry had a road-to-Damascus experience. She explains: ‘I softened my gaze. I felt energy, pulsating light-yellow energy, coming into me. I became aware of other presences in the room. They inhabited my body and showed me what to do.’ After that, she abandoned ideas of artistic agency and intentionality—the backbone of her art-school training—to produce work that is ‘100-percent guided’ by these external presences. ‘I took the visual language I was working with and infused it with something else, an intelligence that was beyond myself’, she says. 

Barry’s watercolours of fractured grids represent energy fields and are energy fields. She describes them as charts, teaching aids, healing tools. They are about conducting new energy, new consciousness, into the world. In addition to her paintings, Barry performs healing energy-activation work on herself and on others—all of it guided.

7 United Colors of Benetton/Oliviero Toscani

AIDS: David Kirby  1992
Photographer: Therese Frare

In the 1990s, the Italian knitwear brand United Colors of Benneton courted controversy with edgy, polarising advertising campaigns drawing on hot-button political issues. Their art director Oliviero Toscani often made ads using found press photos, including shots of a Christ-like David Kirby dying from AIDS in Ohio, the Mafia execution of Benedetto Grado in Palermo, a Liberian soldier with a Kalashnikov rifle holding a human thighbone, and a boat overflowing with refugees. By aligning the brand with social issues and urgent humanitarian crises, Benetton pioneered corporate virtue signalling. Many publications chose not to run the ads.

8 Mike Kelley

The Greatest Tragedy of President Clinton’s Presidency  1999

In this parafictional protest poster, Mike Kelley proposes a provocative public-health solution: establishing state-sponsored sex clinics staffed by elite celebrities to treat mass sexual repression across the United States. Kelley critiques the culture industry, portraying it as a grotesque substitute for a fulfilling sex life. 

In his mind, our obsession with celebrities can only be remedied through complete, unadulterated access to their bodies. To address the numerical disparity between celebrities and the general populace, he suggests offering free plastic surgery to ordinary people, allowing them to become ‘doubles’ of any celebrity they choose. This, he believes, will solve the supply-and-demand issue. Here, Kelley not only advocates the decriminalisation of sex work but envisions it as a common good. 

Produced in 1999, the work serves as both a general critique of the deprivation of American mass culture and a commentary on the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal.

9 Dane Mitchell

Remedy for Agoraphobia, Ataxia, Anxiety (AgNO3)  2016
Courtesy The Renshaws, Meanjin/Brisbane

Dane Mitchell poses a solution to the ailments of our late-capitalist era by dispensing a homeopathic remedy for agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), ataxia (impaired balance or coordination), and anxiety, on an industrial scale.

Homeopathic medicine emerged in Germany in the late-eighteenth century. It is underpinned by some fantastical ideas, including that dilution results in potency and that water has memory. Despite scepticism from modern science, its practices persist and have been integrated into the wellbeing industry.

​Mitchell’s tonic can be read as a scaled-up quick fix for managing the mental-health epidemic, much like the widespread use of antidepressants and other psychotropic medications. One can imagine bulk containers placed in public spaces in cities throughout the world, keeping distress at bay.

10 R.D. Laing

from Knots  1970
© 1998, Routledge, reproduced with permission of Taylor and Francis Group

Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing was known for his alternative approach to treating schizophrenia, strongly influenced by existential philosophy. Although associated with the anti-psychiatry movement, he rejected the label.

Laing’s 1970 book Knots presents recurring patterns he observed in his clinical work, described in its introduction as ‘knots, tangles, fankles, impasses, whirligigs, binds’. These dialogue-scenarios resemble poems or short plays, capturing different facets of human relationships: love, dependency, uncertainty, jealousy, manipulation, and miscommunication.

In them, we read interactions between lovers, parents and children, therapists and patients, with which we might feel a sense of familiarity or recognition. This extract, from the book’s third chapter, depicts a couple’s struggle for understanding.

11 Martin Creed

Understanding  2016
3 minutes
Courtesy Michael Lett, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland

In his characteristically deadpan style, Martin Creed delivers a commentary on the complexities of intimate relationships in this music video. The English artist multiplies into a cast of oddball versions of himself, sporting an array of quirky outfits and hairdos. 

The song vacillates between opposing positions with declarative statements like ‘I’m understanding’ and ‘I’m the victim’, appearing to mock our infantile nature and inherent self centredness. 

The video questions whether our attempts at mutual understanding are genuine or performative, suggesting that our social interactions may be driven more by the desire to ‘win’ petty arguments in an attempt to gratify our individual egos.

12 Michael Parekōwhai

Acts II  1994
Collection Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Meanjin/Brisbane

Māori artist Michael Parekōwhai monumentalises children’s toys and models, presenting them on an adult scale as adult problems. With Acts II, the old English game of Jack Straws becomes an allegory for colonisation. The object of Jack Straws is to carefully extract individual pieces from an entangled pile without moving the others. The pieces include a gun, a cannon rammer, a sword, a saw, a ladder, a crutch and a walking stick. These suggest the tools of a colonial past, with violence now being inflicted in more insidious ways. 

Parekōwhai’s title nods to the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament, and, by extension, to Aotearoa/New Zealand’s early colonial missionaries, who ‘came to do good and did very well’. In this iteration of the game, the pieces still sit within their moulding frames, suggesting a gun rack. The work asks us to ponder what tool we might choose.

13 Teresa Margolles

Lengua/Tongue  2000
Courtesy Peter Kilchmann Gallery, Zurich

Teresa Margolles’s art developed out of her day job working in a morgue in Mexico, where she confronted the consequences of injustice, poverty, and the drug wars. Many bodies that entered the morgue went unclaimed, because families couldn’t afford to bury them. 

When a young man was murdered in a street fight, Margolles offered to pay for his burial in exchange for his tongue, wanting to exhibit it—or a photograph of it—as an object lesson. She explains, ‘the mother, of course, was indignant, something completely normal. My job was to convince her that her son’s body would speak of the thousands of anonymous deaths that people don’t take into account.’

14 Artur Żmijewski

Repetition 2005
39 minutes
Courtesy Peter Kilchmann Gallery, Zurich

In 1971, Professor Philip Zimbardo conducted a notorious psychological experiment, dividing volunteers into prisoners and guards. The Stanford Prison Experiment was supposed to run for two weeks, but had to be interrupted after just six days, as both groups started manifesting pathological behaviour: sadism, violence, humiliation. Decades later, the Experiment remains a source of inspiration for psychologists, sociologists, and filmmakers.

In 2005, Polish artist Arthur Żmijewski
re-enacted Zimbardo’s experiment in Warsaw. Seven prisoners and nine guards were selected and offered forty dollars per day for their participation. Rooms were equipped with one-way mirrors and the experiment filmed. However, the results were different. Żmijewski’s ‘warden’ became alarmed at his increasing sadism. Concerned about his personality changing within ‘the job’, he persuaded the guards and prisoners to join him in terminating the project, forgoing their payment.

15 Joshua Citarella

All the Wellness Products Americans Love to Buy are Sold on Both InfoWars and Goop XII and XIII  2023

These photographs were inspired by a 2017 online article by journalist Nikhil Sonnad published in Quartz. It identified ingredients used in alternative-health products, natural medicines, and supplements being sold both on the far-right platform InfoWars and on Goop, the wellness and lifestyle brand founded by American actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The ingredients—including Bacopa, chaga mushroom, colloidal silver, Eleuthero root, eyebright, maca, selenium, and Zizyphus—are purported to offer health benefits ranging from improving sexual function to lowering cholesterol. Their safety and effectiveness are supported by varying degrees of scientific evidence.

Presented on glass shelves suggesting medicine cabinets, the products are bathed in the crimson glow of a red-light therapy device, used to treat skin conditions, heal injuries, and improve chronic pain. Within increasing political polarisation in the United States and around the world, Citarella locates an unexpected site of consensus: the wellness industry. Whether conspiracy theorist or yoga mum, all factions are united by the common desire to control and optimise their bodies in an unstable world, where the burden of care falls squarely on the individual.

16 Leigh Ledare

The Task  2017
118 minutes

The Task documents a three-day Group Relations Conference in Chicago, where twenty-eight participants and ten psychologists trained in the Tavistock Method engaged in psychodynamic discussion. The group was given the ‘task’ of forming a temporary institution to study itself. Participants examined the identities, roles, desires, and biases they imported into the group, as well as evolving conscious and unconscious group dynamics. The Method hinges on the imposition of specific constraints, including refraining from any clear topic of discussion.

Over the course of the conference, assumptions about authority are defined, questioned, and transgressed. The presence of Ledare and his camera crew adds a complication, making participants grapple with the effects of external social and technological forces. The work invites us to consider the implications for care when the specificity of individual circumstance is forgone in favour of abstract group dynamics.

17 Tabita Rezaire/Amakaba

Amakaba: A Vision for Collective Healing  2021
4 minutes
Director, Cinematographer, and Editor: Boris Rezaire. Producers: Boris Rezaire, Justine Shivay, Cedric Simoneau, and Yann Espern. Sound: Irma Nejando and passing birds.

Tabita Rezaire withdrew to her paternal ancestral home in French Guiana, seeking respite from the demands of the art world and a means of unifying the various aspects of her artistic and spiritual practice—as a devotee, yogi, doula, and farmer. In 2021, she founded Amakaba, a centre ‘for the wisdom of the earth, the body and sky’ in the Amazon rainforest. It is home to an agroecological cacao farm and offers solstice and equinox celebrations, astronomical observations, yoga classes, and doula support for new parents.

Rezaire’s cosmology is deeply informed by decolonial theory and what she calls ‘womb wisdom’—seeing a continuity between the womb of the mother, the womb of the earth, and the womb of the cosmos. With Amakaba, the artist conceives of care in holistic terms, where physical, social, mental, 

18 Michael Stevenson

How Much Can You Take Before You Give? South Pacific Television 2004 Mental Health Telethon Supporters Aid  2022
Courtesy Fine Arts, Eora/Sydney

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How Much Can You Take Before You Give? South Pacific Television 2021 Mental Health Telethon Supporters Aid  2022
Courtesy Fine Arts, Eora/Sydney

In the late 1970s, when Michael Stevenson was still a child, Telethon was the biggest thing on Aotearoa/New Zealand television. The twenty-four-hour live fundraiser screened on South Pacific Television—a short-lived second channel—to draw peak audiences. The entire country stayed up all night glued to the box, watching this clumsy variety show, expressing national solidarity for a good cause. Fuelled by physical and mental exhaustion, Telethon galvanised the nation like nothing before or since, gamifying giving and transforming care into a competitive sport.

The 1977 Telethon raised funds for the Mental Health Foundation. The accompanying graphic—representing mental wellbeing from infancy to maturity—became Telethon’s official visual identity. Stevenson uses it as the basis of a body of works 

20 Dani Marti

Notes for Bob  2013
21:40 minutes

Dani Marti makes documentary video work about sex work. For Notes for Bob, he sought out a blind man and agreed to pleasure him in exchange for permission to film their encounter. On the one hand, as the client, Bob has the agency. He guides Marti in singing specific notes for him, to which he masturbates; he also records these notes and plays them at night, getting lost in the beauty of the human voice. On the other hand, the work raises ethical questions. Being blind, does Bob understand what he is consenting to? Perhaps Notes for Bob is less about the transaction between the two men than how it confronts the viewer with images of intimacy, desire, and need, and tests our own sympathies.

SCREENING ROOM

21 Florian Habicht

Spookers  2017
90 minutes
Courtesy Madman Entertainment

Documentary maker Florian Habicht went behind the scenes at Spookers, a horror theme park located in the Kingseat Hospital, a former psychiatric institution in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Its cast of outsiders dress as scary clowns and zombie brides to terrify visitors in the notoriously haunted premises. 

For these employees, Spookers has become an unlikely sanctuary where they can be themselves, allowing them to open up about their mental health and sexual identities. Behind the buckets of fake blood lies a compassionate therapeutic community, ironically fulfilling the site’s original mission, perhaps with greater efficacy.