As part of Ange’s submission for
a travelling scholarship for artists she has submitted two examples of
her video works. Both are partly removed from the concerns of her current
exhibition. Yet, the works through her alterations of heads provides a
link with 1956 Horsepower. The first video shows a naked woman
– wearing a mask shaped as a pig’s head – hopping into
a bath filled with food from Hungry Jacks and McDonald’s. This material
was collected over a week or so, with Ange visiting the fast food outlets
and collecting their leftovers: that which they couldn’t legally
sell. The woman in the plastic pig head bathes herself in a sludge of
fries, burgers and buns. She applies the material to her skin in a mock
act of maintaining her personal hygiene.
The second video is set around the streets
of the State Library and the RMIT sculpture department – where Ange
completed her honors at the end of 2008. The camera follows several of
her friends as they walk towards the venerable and popular State Library.
The figures carry long white masks, which they wear once at the lawns
and steps in front of the library. The camera shows the masked figures
walking slowly amongst the would-be library users. This performance in
the streetscape of Melbourne is less orchestrated than the pig-bath-junk
food act, yet poses questions of how performance takes place in public
space. Some pedestrians and library users stop briefly, while others mostly
keep on doing their business. These pedestrians, indifferent as they are,
remain a vital part of the scenes in the video work.
1956 Horsepower is a further
exploration of Ange’s interest in heads and the human form. Her
exhibition of collages at the RMIT graduate exhibition consisted of a
series of collages with various machine parts placed over a photocopied
self-portrait. These works are a result of an ongoing process well documented
in Ange’s notebooks. Some of the pages of the notebooks appear as
complete works, others merely indicative of the process she is working
through to arrive at more complete and clarified statements of the aesthetics
of movement, the human body and the dialogue between ‘human-body
as machine’ and ‘machine as a body’.
This exhibition also offers one of the gallery directors an opportunity for nostalgia – for he attended the Olympics in Melbourne in 1956. Over the period of fifty years, he has moved from observer of a sporting event, to facilitating a space where artists can provide their own commentary on the aesthetics of the body, sport and machinery. From this we can see a degree of generational change: what he enjoyed as a spectator has now become a historical document for a younger artist to use as a point of departure for aesthetic exploration. We can also consider the ideal of ‘the amateur’ as espoused by the Olympics. On the one hand, space for the amateur continues to diminish. Experts with their fancy titles and jealously held access to knowledge are increasingly dominant. Yet on the other, the presence of the amateur thrives through the seemingly endless possibilities available on the internet. In the work of Ange Leech, we see an artist who cares little for her possibly privileged position. Despite the complexity of the processes involved in her making, Ange’s work remains accessible and easily consumed. Ange’s flexibility of expression relates well to the ideal of the amateur who is capable of performing numerous roles, without being tied to one role in particular. An amateur, and amateurism, is less about the quality of work performed, but more to do with ideal of detachment and flexibility.