Melanie Oliver – 2 June, 2012
From Katy Perry and her cherry chapstick to the infamous Topp Twins, various perceptions of female same-sex attraction were reviewed, debated, processed and then returned to the street, serving to question, parody, dispute and circulate alternative representations of sexuality within everyday life. Playful yet direct, this was an explicit reply to hetero propaganda and the lesbian stereotypes that mainstream media usually depicts.
All the Cunning Stunts
Edited by All The Cunning Stunts
Full colour, softcover, full cover
48 pp, including cover
Coining the spoonerism of the century, All the Cunning Stunts is a collaborative project that focuses and reflects on contemporary queer culture in Aotearoa New Zealand. This collective of four women artists, Liz Allan, Clare Noonan, Rachel O’Neill and Marnie Slater, was initially brought together by curator Mary-Jane Duffy, who invited the team to create a series of works for the large light boxes on Wellington’s Courtenay Place. SO GAY! is the publication that documents this first public outing, but it also shares the process behind the installation, providing insight into the Cunning Stunts discursive practice and wittily elaborating on their approach, extending the life and scope of the project as a print iteration - now available through Clouds.
The public art project was designed to coincide with the 2011 Out Games and Duffy challenged All the Cunning Stunts to explore contemporary homosexuality. Their response appropriately embraced, analysed and critiqued popular culture. From Katy Perry and her cherry chapstick to the infamous Topp Twins, various perceptions of female same-sex attraction were reviewed, debated, processed and then returned to the street, serving to question, parody, dispute and circulate alternative representations of sexuality within everyday life. Playful yet direct, this was an explicit reply to hetero propaganda and the lesbian stereotypes that mainstream media usually depicts.
All the Cunning Stunts expanded their treatment of this public art commission to meet the current understanding of public space as both physical and virtual, incorporating references and the language of cyberspace as an integral feature for the light box panels. Their accompanying blog, ‘Life in Light Boxes‘, was both a practical working tool for the collective and a public discussion forum, offering a deeper level of engagement and support for the work while also operating as an independent component. This enabled the project to traverse physical and online communities, brought together again in the publication.
There is a constant acknowledgement and subversion of the blurring between public and private, a notion that is more complicated when considered in terms of social media networks and contemporary communication. All the Cunning Stunts draws out the relationship between sexuality and the Internet, and the ability to lurk, participate, or come out in multiple forums. SO GAY! includes a transcript of the blog as a central insert, capturing the threads of conversation and conceptual background of the project, and thereby preserving what is usually ephemeral and transitory.
The interconnection of web and print is carried over into the publication design. Instead of sequential numbers, pages are navigated with the terms ‘older’ and ‘newer’, and there are text box windows and formats adapted from desktop publishing programmes. Designed by The International Office, the A4 magazine is uncharacteristically riotous and colourful, continuing the self-proclaimed ‘street-savvy image & text extravaganza’ that the light boxes displayed, as well as riffing on forms of amateur advertising.
Around the time that the light boxes were launched, advertising in Wellington city seemed to have reached a point of desperation: human billboards were popping up on nearly every corner, as though media saturation meant only a real person could possibly have an impact. Intervening into the ridiculous world of publicity and signage that was at this moment literally centred on the body, All the Cunning Stunts brazenly interrupted the proliferation of marketing on this particular strip of Courtenay Place. Encountering a vibrant celebration of queer culture while wandering along or waiting for the bus must have been strangely disarming, not least for the slow realisation that there was no product actually for sale here. Well, nothing but a perspective on life: something refreshing, critical and LOL, for contemporary art and society alike.