DAMP: HELEN ANDERSON, BEN ARMSTRONG, MARTIN BURNS, BRUCE CRAIG, NARELLE DESMOND, SHARON GOODWIN, GEORGE HUON, JAMES LYNCH, DANIEL NOONAN, KYLIE WILKINSON, BLAIR TRETHOWAN
DAMP is a collaborative group of artists who, since 1995, have presented a range of thought-provoking and risk-taking performances, exhibitions and events which seek to complicate the relationships between artists and audiences. At first glance "Punchline", involved a presentation of a ‘conventional’ DAMP installation of found and made objects. On opening night however, amidst a crowd of 500 people, a series of incidents were enacted by commissioned actors, as well as the artists themselves – the disturbance of opening speeches, a lovers quarrel, ‘accidental’ damage to the works of art, among others….
These localized and carefully scripted events escalated into a disagreement and apparent conflict between the members of the group which eventually – and alarmingly – developed into an all-in brawl in which works were damaged and the (false) walls of the gallery trashed. The mood of the gallery’s visitors during the opening shifted from discomfort to bewilderment to nervous relief once members of the public realized the constructed nature of the drama. DAMP subsequently introduced video documentation of the opening ‘performance’ into the resulting debris which formed the installation for the duration of the exhibition. A catalogue documenting the event underlined the group’s idea of enacting the artist’s worst nightmare at a gallery opening, and the investigation of fear as irrational, all consuming and when out of control, very ugly.