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An Introduction to Monologue

MONOLOGUE deals with the aesthetic, performative, and political significance of the voice from the vantage point of four First Nations artists in reply to Ryan Presley’s exhibition Fresh Hell at ACE Gallery.

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Focussing on the voice of the story-teller, MONOLOGUE is a series of site-specific moving image responses to the conceptual details of Ryan Presley’s paintings. Through deep reflection on both the subject and site of these works MONOLOGUE centers on the agency and performativity of the voice. Emphasising narratives of resistance, the disciplined and unreserved; we witness the act of story-telling in a unique collective form—voicing those that are heard and those that are not.

Fresh Hell is a bold and layered statement examining power in all of its multifarious forms. Full of visual references and speaking to numerous ideological themes Presley’s paintings warrant appraisal. Wrestling with subjects of power and dominion; traversing western religion, the renaissance and present-day suburbia Presley positions young Aboriginal people as the key protagonist in many of his works. Taking on superhero form Presley’s idols wage a singularly driven war for their own collective good. Informed by the individual spirit of these main characters, fine print was inspired to investigate the significance of a singular response to the accumulative pressure felt across many of these works.

Utilising two backdrops and sites of interest—the exhibition space and the landscape of Presley’s birth town, Mparntwe-Alice Springs—these films explore both the rhythm of oral story-telling and the experiential response to known and unknown environments. Offering rich insight into the personal experiences of First Nations artists relationship to Country, the fight for equality and the unmatched connectivity to histories and potential futures, the topic of power and fighting to have one’s voice heard is central to each film.

These films use the form of the monologue itself to explore, through content and form, the coming together and the pulling apart of story and object, of speaker and site, of the dramatised present and the fictional currents of past and future tenses. Presence and absence run throughout each film with bodies walking through the gallery space, voices overlaid paintings alongside baron landscapes. These stories speak to commonalities embedded in Presley’s paintings—an avowal to undo what has been done and to recognise and respect Aboriginal voices.

fine print would like to acknowledge and thank contributors Declan Furber Gillick (Arrernte, living in Mparntwe Country), Nat Harkin (Narungga, living on Kaurna Country), Latoya Aroha Rule (Wiradjuri/Māori, living on Gadigal Country) and Thomas Readett (Ngarrindjeri/Arrernte, living on Kaurna Country). Accompanying MONOLOGUE are three written responses to the films and exhibition from Mparntwe based writers, Ahmed Adam & Hannah Kothe, Harry Hayes and Spandana Pillarisetty further conceptualising the location where many of Presley’s paintings are inspired by.

— Rayleen Forester for fine print