3 August 2009

Todd McMillan: ague

Todd McMillan's new show, ague, opened at Grant Pirrie in Redfern, Sydney, on Thursday night. It runs through 22 August.

ague, the title-work, is a beautiful, meditative, continually-looping triptych of moving image. The first screen shows McMillan lathering himself up with Vaseline; the second him swimming and swimming and finally exhaustedly climbing onto a boat, about four kilometres into the English Channel; the third is a distant, yet constant view of the boat drifting along the sparkling water, presumably with Todd swimming beside, though he is invisible.

The work conjures a sense of loneliness and solitude, of inevitable failure, of acknowledging failure even before embarking on a journey, but embarking on it anyway.

Additionally, there is a series of still images in this exhibition, they are powerful documents of McMillan's performance, but also beautiful images in their own right. They seem to freeze the solitary process of failure evident in the films, rendering it - in a way that only still image knows how - somehow romantic and pensive. Thus, McMillan's trademark romanticism is present, not so much in ague but in the distillation and detachment of ague's moving, processional (though ever-looping) failure into six concise vignettes of that process; the swim series. This decontextualisation allows for a romantic detachment to the isolation present in the film and this is oddly comforting, a relief.

So, perhaps not so much an exhibition about failure, but one about the necessity of attempt, taking the plunge, as it were.

(Pic courtesy of GrantPirrie.com)


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