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Reviews/Visual Art

Giving new meaning to DIY

26 May 2020

Looking for a post-lockdown dose of art? With its focus on the ways we occupy our living spaces, Mark Parfitt’s playful exhibition ‘Overhouse’ feels apt, writes Jenny Scott.

Review: ‘Overhouse’, Mark Parfitt ·
Gallery Central, 8 May 2020 ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Seeming to pre-empt the current necessity of art being created at home, Mark Parfitt’s solo exhibition “Overhouse” documents the transformation of the artist’s own house into the site of a participatory art project.

In April 2019 Parfitt invited participants to embark on a communal expedition across his roof, using reinforced ladders to clamber up and over his house, obstacle course-style.

These ladder structures, built to fit into Parfitt’s front and back yards, have since been transported to Gallery Central where they stand as sculptural assemblages. They are joined by a scaled-down model of a corrugated metal roof, featuring the same yellow footholds as those installed by the artist to mark the path over his house.

Accompanied by a small series of beautifully rendered plans and drawings, these works evoke the world of DIY renovations. However the “home improvement” in Parfitt’s project is experiential rather than aesthetic, as it facilitates new ways to physically appreciate the structure of his house – by rising above the gutters, traversing the landscape of the roof, viewing the surrounds from the top of the building, and inviting others to join him.

Beautifully rendered plans and drawings. Photo: Paul Sutherland

While the event was held in pre-pandemic times, this exhibition takes on a new and interesting poignancy as the implications of “staying at home” have changed.

The absence of the artist’s house can be keenly felt in the gallery space. Removed from their original domestic context the extended ladders now lead to nowhere, denying any would-be climber the joyful pre-pandemic “Overhouse” experience and allowing them only to balance precariously, alone.

The exhibition also includes a film work. Viewed within our currently inescapable COVID-19 context, the film resembles a nostalgic home video, remembering a time when people could gather in a crowd, touching things and each other without fear (of anything more than perhaps falling off a roof).

This video is especially entertaining, evoking a playful sense of classic Aussie larrikinism as participants slide down the tin roof wearing improvised safety gear, form a human chain to pass around frisbees and tennis balls, then finish with drinks on the verandah.

Seen through the lens of these uncertain times, the show prompts us to consider ideas of safety and shelter, communal experiences, how we occupy our living spaces and how we may (be forced to) adapt. Parfitt himself has since adjusted his own artistic practice to the pandemic, as seen by his most recent work – “Drive-In Roulette” – which offers a socially-distanced viewing experience outside his house.

With West Australian galleries set to re-open to the public within the coming weeks, “Overhouse” provides a fun and particularly fitting destination for post-lockdown gallery-goers.

“Overhouse” opens June 8 and runs until June 22, 2020 at Gallery Central, North Metropolitan TAFE.

Pictured top is one of Mark Parfitt’s scaled-down version of a corrugated metal roof, complete with footholds. Photo: Paul Sutherland.

Viewed from our current perspective, the exhibition’s film is like a nostalgic home video. Photo: Paul Sutherland

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Author —
Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) from the University of Western Australia, and has spent the past ten years working and volunteering in the arts sector on Whadjuk Noongar boodja. She has fond memories of the dangerous thrill of the playground roundabout.

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