I GREW up in Australia. It's a long a way away from, well, everywhere. You know the drill. In Australia we have ridiculously cool wildlife: kangaroos that hop around, koalas that look cute but are some nasty a** pieces and then all the super cute, innocuous animals like wombats, Tasmanian devils, sharks, snakes...wait!
Wildlife are some of the things that make Australia extraordinary. But, despite its distance from nearly everywhere else in the world, I don't want to be the one to tell you, but, a lot of Australia is actually ordinary.
Growing up in the seventies and eighties in Australia mostly meant growing up in a house with a backyard, a garage, and possibly a shed. These domestic spaces did much to reinforce certain types of activity. Children in the yard, women in the home, and men in the garage or the shed (if they were lucky).
Although this played out in a low rise, suburban fashion, amidst Eucalyptus trees and against the sight and sounds of Australian fauna and flora, the reality is that these were domestic hangups that happened everywhere around the world.
The man cave, as I like to call it, was like a shrine of sorts. A place where men in particular got fundamental work done. Cars may have occasionally been fixed there. Card games played. Tools neatly stored with love and respect. A Pirelli calendar to be stared at while contemplating the greater questions of life? Possibly.
These traditional male spaces were a global phenomenon before the majority of my generation and the one that followed realised we could free up all our time by just paying someone else to do the dirty work. They were serious and significant places for men the world over, and places that women on the whole dismissed as spaces where men simply wasted their time, tinkering away.
Artists Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis have re-imagined these mythical spaces for the kind of daily spaceships that they are/were with Armpit. It's an exhaustive mix of lo-fi and hi-fi technology. Think digital screens mixed in with roughly set, home built wooden spaces, in tribute to the ubiquitous if, quickly disappearing man-shed and that home made aesthetic that just ruled the domestic world back then (ie. back before we started paying everyone to actually renovate and do the work).
Those places that transported men into another world. Fertile grounds for the imagination, particularly in the old Soviet states where technical, hand skills were highly prized, and where isolation from much of the world's existing technology meant that invention was a solidly encouraged goal or objective to have.
I really loved this exhibit. I found that it was really creative and playful and that it said so much on so many different levels. Let's consider that like Georgia, Latvia is a reasonably small country that exists on the edge of Russia, and that it too is not immune from the geopolitics that Russia has been involved in of late.
Going back in time in the Pavilion to the Soviet era spaceships and a time in which autonomy had a time and place (in the domestic space) can partly be interpreted as a retreat from the politics that happen near the border today.
It's also an enthralling study on the changing face of gender, but gender is such a dirty word here in Italy right now that I'm going to leave you to draw your own conclusions.
What did you think? Did you love it as much as I did? Let me know in the comments.
One of my six picks at Arsenale. Loved it!
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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