YOU ARE DOING IT AGAIN by Zoe Brand is an exhibition where general musings about an unprecedented time are put front and centre, multiplied, divided, made colourful and offered anew. Part antidote, part lucky charm and part warning to those closest to us, Brand offers up a series of wearable works that straddle the line between the comic and the tragic.
Zoe Brand’s work can be viewed on many levels. At first encounter the work might be read as a banal collection of words and phrases. However, the seemingly glib statements that populate Brand’s work are a larrikin façade. The work and words are carefully considered. Brand is a collector of words, statements and language. She is interested in how language works (in and) out of context. How a statement, a word taken out of its place of origin can be read in multiple ways. Brand invites you to look deeper into this work, to think beyond the first impression of the throwaway phrase. Collected here is a deeply moving and insightful mirror of personal and collective emotion. Behind these bright circles and squares with their pop sensibility there is deep thought and rumination. Brand meditates on these words. On their presentation, their placement, the shape, colour and scale of each work. In Brand’s hands even blankness is potent (and never actually mere absence); she draws attention with space, and with words worn to the unspeakable.
Brand’s works have a quiet singular power viewed on the wall; this is more potent when placed on the body. The liminal space between the wall and the body is where she says “the power lies”. Collectively the effect of this work is devastating. Installed to be read as a piece of prose, each individual work is a moment, a reflection, a push back.
These texts from previous works still move me, years later, in ways that is it difficult to express.
Here is all my sadness
I know too that the text contained within this exhibition has the power to do the same. Let’s think about the first work in the exhibition, this first line:
It wasn’t always this way
As I unpack it, I imagine this text on my body, in my mind I place it there. The weight of the words are greater than the acrylic they have been engraved upon (although that act of cutting into the acrylic has a potency of its own). I am at once burdened by these words, but in a strange way, I am also set free. Contained within that movement of taking the work from the wall and placing it on my body there is a tacit acknowledgement of the truth of the statement, I absorb it and let it go. But then, what is “it” in this statement? Is “it” the same for you? Will “it” always be the same for me? “it” changes, “it” is amorphous. Is “it” the forbidden “it” of Monty Python’s Knights who say “Ni”? “it” could be anything and “it” is everything.
The work in this exhibition is at once deeply personal and reflective of broader collective sentiment and experiences. The significance of language is always in flux, however in 2020 it seems the meaning and resonance of language, or words and phrases is changing daily. Words that signified one thing when Brand started making for this exhibition have rapidly shifted and continue to do so. I encourage you to not only read the works in this exhibition collectively, as a text; but also to pause and reflect on each as a moment in our/your time.
Melinda Young, Contemporary Jeweller and Craftsperson.
This essay was first published by Craft ACT as part of the exhibition YOU ARE DOING IT AGAIN in 2020. Go to Craft ACT for more information here.
Image: Zoe Brand, BRUTAL RECOGNITION OF FAILURE with SPACE (set of two pendants), 2020, Photo: Marshall-Brand Studio.
Image: Zoe Brand, YOU ARE DOING IT AGAIN, Craft ACT, Photo: 5 Foot Photography.