Mouths of Illusion BEYOND THE MACHINE

Courtenay Studios, 37 Courtenay Place, Wellington

29/02/2020 - 15/03/2020

NZ Fringe Festival 2020

Production Details

Video + Physical Installation

Wellington + Sydney video artists, musicians, sculptors, writers, actors NICHOLAS KEALEY and NICHOLAS FROST explore BEYOND THE MACHINE.

Where public space for art is narrowly competitive, cliquey or tendentious, we critique the character of MACHINE – the technological, consumerist, medial, cultural, spiritualist paradigms and propagandas of this culture.

Cut-through soundbites – MANTRAS told by big-brother guru faces – soothe a world of minimum attention-span, instant body-soul gratification, conformism to utopian beliefs, need to be ‘liked’, want for continuous superficial happiness without its necessary opposites.

Big-scale VIDEO plus text, sculpture and sound deliver obsessive repetitive MESSAGING. Sensory-emotive-intellectual lures deliver the ironies of HYPNOSIS and alienation.

Gratify your transcendent wanting with hypnotic wise cool propagandist dystopian machine MANTRA THERAPY.

Courtenay Studios, 37 Courtenay Place, Wellington  
Saturday 29 February to Sunday 15 March 2020
10 am to 10 pm every day. 
Price of entry: Your expectations

Wellington + Sydney video artists, musicians, sculptors, writers, actors NICHOLAS KEALEY and NICHOLAS FROST

Theatre , Multi-discipline , Performance installation , Music ,

Rich, weird, multi-layered

Review by Claire O’Loughlin 01st Mar 2020

Mouths of Illusion: Beyond the Machine is the kind of confronting, weird, intense, free art installation work I want to see in the Fringe. Located at Courtenay Studios (37 Courtenay Place: up the stairs just past Cha restaurant), everyone should pop in for 5–10 minutes or however long you want — it is open 10am–10pm every day until 15 March – and experience this rich multi-media work by collaborators Nicholas Frost and Nicholas Kealy.

When I enter the space, Nicholas Frost and his partner are there hosting, and I learn that, tragically, Nicholas Kealy passed away suddenly two weeks ago. He put his heart and soul into creating this emersive, multi-layered installation, including producing all of the video footage. My entire experience in the work is with the knowledge that this dedicated, passionate artist is no longer with us and that, in a way, this work is his final message to the public.

To me, the message seems to be: confront yourself and society, and move beyond the limitations of both into a place of ‘un-limitation’ – freedom.

The work is meditiative, repetative and intellectual, and too much to process on an intellectual level all at once. Meanings are everywhere – in images, text, figurines, golden toilet bowls, music and film. It is enough just to absorb what you can in the time you spend in there.

Dozens of plastic baby dolls hang from the ceiling on fishing wire, each clutching a cellphone with provocative questions and statements taped on to them. The walls are plastered with giant sheets of printed text of existential poetry and theory. Also stuck to the walls, over the text, are dozens of baby buddha figures – a symbol of peace, but here repeated over and over again, showing how ‘peace’ in itself becomes consumerist, part of ‘the machine.’ Further into the room, mannequin body parts hang from the ceiling, some pink-flesh coloured and some painted gold.

A large cyc wraps around two walls, with repetative, mantra-like videos playing. On the floor, there are black mats printed with repetative text mantras. These are my favourite part of the installation – if I go back to this work (and I do plan to), I would hope to find some time to sit quietly on one of the mats and just absorb the work around me in a sensory way. Because, as they warn in one of the programme/handouts, it is definitely sensory overload.

The one element of the work that doesn’t quite gel for me is the use of Barbie doll figurines and Eve symbolism, in the form of a hanging mannequin arm holding an apple, and also in some of the videos. It translates clearly as a critique of the materialism of young women today, and I do find this symbolism a bit tired, and one-sided. Some Ken dolls needed to balance it out perhaps? 

Overall though, my recommendation is for everyone to pop in and see this strange, intense work. It’s right there on Courtenay Place, super accessible, and it’s free. An incredible amount of thought and effort has gone into it. It is clear that for the late Nicholas Kealy, art added huge depth to his life, and the two Nicks together have created a rich, weird, multi-layered offering.


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