Greek mythology is vast with opportunity for reinvention in contemporary culture. Such rethinking allows for deeper speculation on the universality of the human condition and belief systems. Award winning Sydney based artist and UNSW Art & Design lecturer, Gary Carsley, has selected one of the epics of ancient history as the foundation for his latest installation. It’s a story of propelled by deceit, betrayal, profound yearning, obsession, and ultimately much death.
It is of course also one of the greatest love stories in the Western tradition; the story of a Trojan prince, Paris, and the deal he strikes with the Goddess, Venus, to award her the golden apple for ultimate and unmatched beauty among the gods in exchange for the love of the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen. Never mind that Helen was contentedly married to someone else. She was destined to become the abducted lover of Paris, while her husband’s desire for her return would unleash the Trojan War and the death of many great heroes.
Fabulous subject matter, and Carsley, not shy in dealing with complexity, contradiction, and taboo, takes it on with aplomb. Scenes from the Life of Paris is Carsley's reinvention of this sweeping tale. It’s a single-channel video installation that collapses artistic and social hierarchies and blurs cultural forms.
The installation is visually defined with a backdrop of floral wallpaper, inlayed with a video screen. The lone monitor projects two animated busts – one of Paris and one of Helen – by Canova, the eminent Italian neoclassical sculptor. The dialogue between the two lovers is wholly scripted by Carsley and employs a decidedly digital-age rhyme and repetition. The voices have been created with computerised speech program using Australian accents. Paris says, “Promised to me… you be… my dear,” and Helen offers various replies, such as, “married… already am I” and “I’ve come to know… in the after glow… of his midnight show… and tell.”
Carsley says, “It’s a strange ventriloquy as the past and present meet within a queer(ed) architectural context where different narratives collide and collude – the real and the fictive, authenticity and mimicry and the grand and frivolous are re-mixed to compellingly humorous affect.”
Carsley is an artist, curator, cultural commentator and academic. In addition to projects for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Museum of Art And Design in New York and Kunstvereins in Ulm and Stuttgart, he has participated in the Singapore Biennale (2008) and 2nd Animamix Biennale (2009) in Shanghai. Curatorial projects include Cerebellum (2002), Performance Space Sydney, Take A Bowery (2004), MCA Sydney & the Venice Biennale (2005) and more recently, Its Timely (2014) at Blacktown Art Centre. He has regularly contributed to Art India, Eyeline, Photofile and Broadsheet and has written extensively on the practices of emerging artists. He is represented by Thatcher Projects, New York and Torch Gallery in Amsterdam; and his works are held in the permanent collections of more than 30 Museums including the National Gallery of Australia and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
Scenes from the Life of Paris is on display at H Project Space, Bangkok, Thailand from June 29 – December 25, 2016.