Control and Creativity: Julie Rrap’s unsettling new exhibition ‘Remaking the World’

Julie Rrap ‘Remaking the World’.
Until November 15 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne.

Rrap continues to explore her career-long themes of objectification and manipulation of body in her latest exhibition, Remaking the World. The exhibition also extends Rrap’s ouervre to consider the conception of creative thought.

The exhibition is staged in two cavernous black rooms; the walls are black, the lights are off, and pitch-dark claustrophobia is palpable. Rrap has trapped her audience, burdening them with her own self: an imposing video of her eyes gazes over the scene, which contains bronze casts of her own hands. The artist is omnipresent in this discussion, a creator watching over her works and gazing at her audience. Her body reminds us artistry cannot be divorced from art; the creator is not dead.

In the first room, thirty rectangular video screens hang precariously from the ceiling in clusters of four. On each screen is a sleeping artist; Rrap invited them into her studio and filmed them as they slept. We intrude into the artists’ private spaces, straining our necks to scrutinise their dreams. We are voyeurs, watching while Rrap films these sleepers, all upside down, stripped of power. But then Rrap is not simply studying the objectification of the artists, but the moment of creative inspiration, for it is in sleep that we most vividly conceive art and creative thought.

In the second room, Rrap takes us into her own mind, into her subconscious dreamscape. Stepping into the room is a sensory overload. This is the interior of Rrap’s own mind, an insight into her own artistic genius. The room contains yet more video screens, alongside aluminium casts of Rrap’s own hands. “They’re all called instruments,” Rrap said in an interview with Sydney Morning Herald. “They’re my hands … they’re like characters in the show who are also spectators. There’s one peeping and spying. They’re quite performative so someone can go up and peep through it.” Rrap is omnipresent in the discussion, a creator watching over her works. Her body reminds us that the artist cannot be divorced from their art; the individual creator is not dead.

  Presiding over the entire room is a huge video installation of Rrap’s eyes, whose irises change in colour from brown, to orange, to black. The change is accompanied by a jolting, shocking sound: Rrap is unsettling us, controlling our reactions. Lining the walls, enormous black screens show Rrap’s lips blowing an endless, swirling whirlwind of tiny dancers. The dancers are powerless in the dense cacophony that has entrapped them; they are set to endlessly travel around and around in the vast space. The dancers are objectified, devoid of identity. As each wears a primary colour, they all blend into three large, homogenous groups; none is individual, all are objectified.

A sensory overload and a troubling gallery experience, Remaking the World by Julie Rrap is a must-see exhibition. 

Until November 15 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne.