'Amalgam' / Pink Lemon
Orchestrated by art and design collective Pink Lemon, upcoming exhibition Amalgam blurs boundaries between artistic mediums, presenting an alternate reality that hovers between the parched familiarity of the Australian landscape and a post-apocalyptic dystopia.
The multimedia exhibit aligns a constellation of artists, musicians and writers. The collaboration began from seven separate narratives revolving around a common concept: A looming cloud spreads across a drought-stricken landscape, grey and laden with moisture. Initially, it promises an end to a prolonged dry spell and respite from environmental catastrophe. As the cloud fails to precipitate, however, the inhabitants living in its shadow must reconcile themselves to an uncertain future.
The artistic responses to the prompt encompass the entire breadth of the human experience. They represent the tenderness of cross-generational friendships, teenage relationships stretched beyond their capacity for trauma, the absences that arise from the rupturing of family bonds, and the ties that are formed to compensate. Tensions ignite as environmental and societal collapse become immediate realities and social and familial structures crumble. Parental figures are noticeably absent. The characters cannot rely on traditional forms of guidance, and instead are left to form their own alliances. Although bleak in parts, there is a recognition of the endless resilience of the human spirit, and its resourcefulness. Whether this resourcefulness is in the name of self-sacrifice or selfishness remains in dispute.
The immediacy of the world depicted by Amalgam also owes itself to the familiarity of the sceneries inhabited by the characters. The landscapes and locales of the storyscapes evoke settings that are indisputably Australian. The narratives are peppered with eucalypts, cattle and rusted machinery. There are tents hatched on ragged coastlines and driftwood fires in tin barrels. They also feature more idiosyncratic aspects of Australian life; the backyard pool, an inflatable flamingo, memories of a Bunnings sausage with “perfectly caramelised onions” and a “perfect mustard to sauce ratio”.
There is something crude and beautiful about the customs and landscapes of this place that lends itself easily to both sentimentality and terror. Amalgam finds this equilibrium and contorts it into new shapes. Jemma Cakebread’s luminous, bloodied portrait of an animal that could be calf or kangaroo is both grotesque and captivatingly adorable. Tully Ross’ debauched tableau of a backyard party strips and sets alight any semblance of decency in a chaotic display that is both horrific and humorous. There is beauty in the brutality of it all, and those that fare best face chaos with glee.
Amalgam’s vision feels uncomfortably close to home. By most scientific estimates, we already live in a world perched on the brink of environmental chaos. By most cultural estimates, we are thoroughly debauched. Our capacity to squeeze meaning out of chaos, however, is entirely our own.
Words: Ronlee Korren
Title image: Lily Holmes