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101 Ways to Stare at a Wall | Sharmila Nezovic

101 Ways to Stare at a Wall | Review by Georgia McKenzie. Saturday 22 May, at Elements Collective Venue. Presented by Sharmila Nezovic.

It was coherent… and yet chaotic. Not to mention some of the most fun I have had in a very long time!

As Sharmila Nezovic began to speak, the room was humming with eager audience members adorned with blue latex gloves. The artist speaks to us formally from a script as the environment slowly begins to evolve. A soundscape of urban landscapes becomes increasingly invasive to the point where it is extremely difficult to concentrate and decipher Nezovic’s words. She moves to a new location and the crowd disperses across the space; unbeknownst to me, the artwork had already begun to emerge the moment we stepped into the space.

Inspired by John Cage’s chance music, the artist behind 101 Ways to Stare at a Wall used dice to determine how her live art would be performed. She describes urban walls and spaces in and around Brisbane’s CBD using various expressions and performing certain actions. The spaces that motivated the piece are presented as photos on a slide and as a soundscape which overwhelms the room. While Nezovic speaks, the participants surround her and create their own additions to the art piece.

We were provided with dice, large pieces of paper, various materials (such as newspaper, magazines, tea bags, plastic, foil, etc.), scissors, glue, and sticky tape. Above these materials, on the wall, were a set of guidelines for creating our individual works that corresponded with a number to be rolled on the dice. The first throw determined what material to use; the second told the shape that should inspire our work; the third dictated the size; and the last throw determined the colour of marker to use. However, the further into our hour of art we went, the further our art became from a structured form.

What I find wonderful about art like this is watching the way in which participants interact with a set task. At first people are cautious, sticking to the set rules. As the art unfolds and Nezovic becomes increasingly destructive, the ‘rules’ disintegrate and participants start to push the boundaries. I questioned how far we could go; was there a limit? People began joining in others’ artworks as the piece converged and became an increasingly collective process, rather than individual creations inside a larger artwork or collage. We slowly began to fill more of the space and were eventually no longer confined to the paper that we had been given. Some took to the floor, making little piles of shredded magazines. Some began to frantically stick torn paper to the furniture. Some took a seat to watch the chaos unfold before them.

I’m sure that everyone would take away something very different from this experience and I can only speak for my own engagement. However, it seemed clear looking around the room that everyone was having a lot of fun. While destroying one material, as participants we could create something new and beautiful as we were inspired by the chaotic, unpredictable, and loud urban space. It reminded me to embrace inspiration when it strikes and to act on instinct for creative outlet. Due to the frenzied energy and cacophony of sound vibrating loudly throughout the room I literally couldn’t hear myself think straight; this led to a rare moment where I acted on pure impulse and did not feel as though I needed to create something perfect. This was such an insightful moment and I hope that I can carry this momentum into my own future creative projects.

As this was a one-night-only experience, I recommend looking at Nezovic’s website and Instagram to be notified about her next performance art endeavour. If you look at her Facebook you can find information about her art classes. In the meantime, I encourage you to take the time to stare at a wall and really engage with it, because you never know where brilliance may transpire.

1 Comment

  1. Sharmila Nezovic on May 24, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks so much for these words, Georgia! A great night. And such a beaut outcome for my first attempt at an immersive work, aimed to include the collective creativity of all participants in the final unknown resolve of the piece. Most grateful to all.

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