Reviews/Visual Art

Slip inside someone else’s reality at Goolugatup Heathcote

30 March 2022

Two artists take viewers on candid journeys through their respective day-to-days, as they navigate a world designed for the able-bodied and neurotypical, writes Jaimi Wright.

Body Shots, Bruno Booth & ‘I mean; you could try the ladder?’, Ailsa Waddell ·
Goolugatup Heathcote Gallery ·

Empathy is a critical human emotion, and right now it feels like we need it more than ever.

That’s why the two exhibitions currently on display at Goolugatup Heathcote feel not just touching but pertinent. Artists Bruno Booth and Ailsa Waddell navigate their experiences, with disability and neurodiversity respectively, inviting the viewer to understand life through their perspectives, their bodies and minds.

I have had the pleasure of reviewing Booth’s artwork before, so seeing his visual vernacular evolve and unfold in his new work Body Shots was exciting. The Fremantle-based artist’s arresting 2021 experiential piece Tightness Times Toughness – exhibited at the 2021 Fremantle Biennale – puts the viewer in the position of navigating the city in his wheelchair.

An installation shot of Bruno Booth's Body Shots. Nine screens are placed on a network of frames (almost like a climbing frame), each depicts a different scene.
Bruno Booth’s ‘Body Shots’, 2022, 4K, nine channel, nine minute video with audio. UHD panels, Raspberry Pis, coding, speakers, cabling, meranti, steel, rubber, fixings, shot bags and acrylic polymer paint. 6285 x 2800 x 1500mm. Photo: Daniel Grant and Goolugatup Heathcote.

Body Shots is an abstracted extension of this concept. Booth juxtaposes different areas of Perth with his body in order to evoke the uneasy struggle of traversing Perth as a person who uses a wheelchair. An ambitious 4K, nine channel, nine-minute coordinated video with audio installation, Body Shots stitches together footage of Booth’s lower body radiating out from the edges of each of the screens, creating bizarre, adjoined entities that extend across different times and locations.

Appearing between Transperth transport, bushland, local coasts and roadsides, these snippets of his body seem to say, “no matter where I go, the ordeal is the same”. A jarring soundscape with a rumbling base and harsh metallic tones accompanies the visuals, making for unsettling and yet engaging viewing.

Body Shots combines the strange visuals of a surreal reality, while also grounding you in Booth’s candid day-to-day.

A painting featuring abstract ladders that curl against a green background of what looks like abstract bushes
Ailsa Waddell’s ‘Open the door; make yourself toast’, 2022, oil on canvas, utility cord. Photo: Daniel Grant and Goolugatup Heathcote. Photo: Daniel Grant and Goolugatup Heathcote.

Ailsa Waddell’s exhibition “I mean; you could try the ladder?” explores the complexity of living with ADHD, expressed through unusual material combinations and symbolism within ladders.

A detail of a sculpture. In the background is what looks like branches made of clear acrylic, bound in one place by fluorescent thread. Fluoro pink threads are scattered in the foreground and hang off the sculpture.
Ailsa Waddell’s ‘Option 2’, 2022, mould of glue and borax from a garden hose, builders line, painters tape. Photo: Daniel Grant and Goolugatup Heathcote.

A contemporary artist based in Boorloo/Perth, Waddell uses two distinct visual methods of mapping their mind. The first is a series of pieces in oil on canvas held up by red utility cord. One example of this series, Open the door; make yourself toast (2022) depicts curly ladders in blues, greens, yellows and reds amid a water-stained background of the same colours. The effects resemble DNA floating in a petri dish, eccentric and dream-like.

The second method of depiction is an abstract installation, composed of a mould of a garden hose made of glue and borax, held aloft with red builder’s line and fluoro yellow painter’s tape. Pieces like Option 1 (2022) create sinewy shapes and cast thin shadows on the white walls, held together in a delicate balancing act.

Together, the two kinds of creations explore both the structure and fragility of Waddell’s experiences of living with ADHD. The exhibition is an eloquent allegory that makes Waddell’s negotiation with their brain visible, a thoughtful window into their everyday struggles.

Booth and Waddell generously and thoughtfully invite the viewer to see and experience the world from each of their perspectives and, in doing so, develop more of that much-needed empathy.

Body Shots and “I mean; you could try the ladder?” continue until 24 April 2022.

Pictured top is a detail from ‘Body Shots’ by Bruno Booth, 2022, 4K, nine channel, nine minute video with audio. UHD panels, Raspberry Pis, coding, speakers, cabling, meranti, steel, rubber, fixings, shot bags and acrylic polymer paint. 6285 x 2800 x 1500mm. Photo: Daniel Grant and Goolugatup Heathcote.

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Author —
Jaimi Wright

Jaimi Wright is your friendly neighbourhood art historian. She has just completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) at UWA and dabbles in curating, local arts writing, and 19th century French history. Her favourite piece of play equipment is the roundabout even though her stomach should know better.

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