In an art gallery, there is a small bungalow. And in this bungalow, there is the detritus of a lifetime: old magazines, tin cans, trinkets. There are plastic grapes on a side table, a steering wheel on a shelf, a video of a crackling fire playing on TV. And in the makeshift bed, an old man with white hair sleeps, his theatrical snores whistling around his cave.
This new artwork, commissioned from Jason Phu for the Australian Center for Contemporary Art in Southbank, could be his imaginary home from an uncertain future (the stuffed old man on the bed represents the artist himself).
It also houses a tangled network of references. It’s a cabin in the woods, that horror trope where Something hides. It’s a microcosm of our isolated lives, our withdrawal from each other during the pandemic. It’s an off-the-grid place, a refuge from the ubiquitous digital net. And it’s a meditation on the role of “things” in our lives: the objects we accumulate and keep around us, ultimately fungible but imbued with memories that only we can access, which makes them so hard to throw away when they form a messy wall. around us.
“I’m a bit of a hoarder,” admits Phu, 32. “But I think the hoarding comes from a place of nostalgia and love. It also comes from a place of fear, of losing people and memories and things – so you try to keep those things.
He points out the steering wheel: “You might see a steering wheel over there and be like, ‘Oh, that’s just a fucking steering wheel I can get for 50 cents.’ But it’s a gift from someone. It’s important to me.
Many things in the bungalow come from his house: “Mom wanted me to get rid of a lot of things that I left in my parents’ shed.” But it is complemented by items he has purchased, adding meaning, statues and animal models that reference the animism of Asian culture, the canned apricots and tuna he likes to eat. .
It’s a kind of sanctuary.
“This is my last home,” he said to himself. “A mausoleum, or a temple for myself.”