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stars shine bright
From the outset I thought that Stars Shine Bright would be a risky business. By inviting forty artists of widely ranging expertise from the Brisbanellogan area to participate in an exhibition loosely based on the idea of stardom and/or fandam it appeared that curator, Julian Bowron, was pushing his luck. To make matters even more difficult Bowron asked participating artists to think laterally around the idea of what makes a 'star', to include works that were not simply based on personality cults and media fetishism but rather, on the broadly defined concept of admiration or reverence.
The result is rather like the 'reality TV' phenomenon which has produced a series of shows designed to take its viewers on a roller coaster ride from the awe inspiring heights to the abject depths of documentary voyeurism, ensuring that our eyes will not leave the screen for a moment. Interestingly, reality TV in all of its manifestations, has produced a celebrity based on unequivocal ordinariness. Stars Shine Bright also flirts with the ordinary and the mundane and herein lies its strength. lt is undoubtedly the works that question our preconceived notions of stardom which make this exhibition such fascinating viewing.
In Amy McDonald's 'anti-star' piece, Blonde ambition ... a search for glamour in the suburbs, she places herself in the spotlight-but this is not idle narcissism. Listing ten things she will be remembered for after she dies McDonald takes on the wannabe women who believe that image or beauty maintenance is life's ultimate achievement. Blonde ambition is an acerbic work which dares to suggest that 'great arse', 'slim, rich and famous' or 'contributed many funds to the study of enhancement surgery', are probably not among the things for which one should wish to be remembered. Regardless, both men and women continue to devote their energies and resources to the elusive quest for unblemished superficiality.
An unassuming approach to the idea of stardom can also be found in Cameron Stelzer's photographs of Play Mobil 'saints' captured in the throes of persecution. Tribute to the unknown martyrs, depicts saints as 'quiet achievers' rather than the exalted icons of old. Stelzer down plays the histrionics of the theatre of cruelty as these tiny disposable martyrs reference contemporary and topical tyrannies such as Mandatory Sentencing. In doing so, he suggests that much heroism is largely unacknowledged and further, saintliness by definition requires a modicum of humility. As such, any persecuted person has the potential for 'beatification'.
Angela Blakely also delves into the area of quotidian stardom in a series of photographs dealing with the tragic aftermath of youth suicide. In Bev's story, from the Keep passing the open windows series, we encounter a mother who has lost her son and in her grief, nurses his ashes. In many ways Blakely's work has a similar message to that of McDonald and Stelzer, that stardom need not necessarily be about fame, beauty, wealth and privilege. By concentrating on some of the popular issues of the day, issues which are the focus of much media attention, all three artists create milieux in which the realities of everyday life take precedence over the star system's rigorously constructed fantasy world.