Cool hunter predictions: Kate Mitchell - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the Cool hunter predictions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Kate Mitchell, Fall Stack, 2012. Video still, 5 channel HD synchronised colour video. Courtesy: the artist

The readymade and its legacy in conceptual art have done much, in a material sense at least, to make this particular strain of contemporary art appear effortless. But in Kate Mitchell’s performance- driven practice, the full efforts of her labour are explicitly traced, with her work presenting a comprehensive and at times sadistic portrait of the inescapability and inane repetitiveness of the work-life cycle.

Although principally working with performance, with the artist always the central subject, her work never manifests in a live form but through carefully staged documentations of her actions.

There is a plaintive absurdity to many of the works. In the 2008 work
I am not a joke she methodically saws a circle around where she stands to eventually fall through the floor. Similarly, one of her most recent and ambitious works to date, Fall Stack, documents the artist descending through a series of five shop awnings. The installation is configured as a column of monitors so that she seems to slowly, repetitively and endlessly plummet.

For an artist whose work so frequently alludes to possibilities of failure – in both outcome and production, for her works are only performed once and documented in a single take – there is always a high degree of humour in Mitchell’s work. It owes a great deal to the comedic schadenfreude of Looney Tunes cartoons, in which no-one is ever harmed with any severity or permanence despite the impossible and ridiculous events that take place.

In the past year alone Mitchell has exhibited in almost every major institution for contemporary art in Australia, including a solo project at Artspace in Sydney (where this author works) and in numerous significant exhibitions around the country including
NEW10 at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; Contemporary Australia: Women at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane (her work also features on the cover of the exhibition catalogue); and most recently in Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
Primavera curator Anna Davis comments: “I think she’s a really exciting young artist whose work is tackling universal ideas in a very personal and unique way. Kate has an ability to create these layered, poetic images that are accessible to people on an intuitive bodily level.”

Next year will maintain much of this institutional interest in Mitchell’s work as she develops new projects to be presented in Sydney at the Performance Space and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It seems that nobody can get enough of Kate Mitchell’s relentlessness.

Mark Feary

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