tm/mf: thurston moore and marco fusinato

Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

The idea of exploring 'experience' becomes apparent in TM/MF, the first collaborative project between Melbourne based artist Marco Fusinato and American musician Thurston Moore (of 'Sonic Youth' fame). The relationship between monochrome painting and experimental music continues to connect art and 'reality' for Fusinato, as he stated in an interview with Ben Curnow in 1998, 

The idea is to approximate the realism that exists in my paintings. The reality of existing in the complexity of the 'real' world and dealing with that given situation; the chaos, the speed, the banality: a reality in terms of truth and positive action. For example, my paintings are produced as quickly as possible with what's at hand, whether it's a plastic bag, a coke can, a roller or a cheap brush where the hairs fall out. This process is primarily about energy, not equipment.

‘Experience' in the form of rapid production is the motivating force behind the concerns of both artists in the project. However for the viewer the experience of confronting this unrefined method of production can be quite destabilising. Positioned in the centre of the white space of the gallery is a musical roadcase upon which a television monitor is placed. On screen we see a video of Moore playing ten experimental guitar solos. These pieces are brief, loud and discordant, produced by using everyday objects which reflect Fusinato's painting style. Numbered in relationship with these experimental distortions are ten red monochrome paintings by Fusinato positioned to surround the space. Always painted red, Fusinato's monochromes extend his idea of the 'everyday' by using standard sizes of masonite and tins of paint poured onto the surface.

The design of the project as a performance has Fusinato painting each monochrome using ordinary objects within the time frame of Moore's musical pieces, the duration of each ranging only from one to four minutes. Walking around the space and comparing the painting with their musical influence, we are kept aware of the active angst produced by the time constraints of the project. I was unaware during my visit that the music and video were recorded in the United States by Moore and sent to Fusinato in Melbourne, where he created the paintings. Yet knowing this now, I am still not distracted from my initial experience of the realism of their immediacy and energy.

Fusinato's intentions are to experiment with the significance of realism in art. In 1998 he assembled ten artists (among them Mikala Dwyer and Hany Armanious) inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, to play guitars. The performance, titled 'Mono', involved each of these non-musicians playing one chord over for a period of three minutes, at maximum volume. The experience of this spontaneity demonstrates Fusinato's idea of 'realism' as an unrehearsed performance with an unpredictable outcome. lt continues in other aspects of Fusinato's practice such as his ongoing collaboration with John Nixon on 'Solver', a chain of impromptu recordings looking at the effect of chance on noise.

What interested me most about my experience of TM/MF is how the works, the concept, and the performance test the tolerance of contemporary art. The unconventional nature of the paintings themselves begins to break down preconceptions that associate monochrome painting and autonomy. In the spirit of the punk aesthetic, both Fusinato and Moore channel the 'energy' of music through the raw materials each use to make the final product. Each and every monochrome here retains its link to the kind of 'real' experience that both Fusinato and Moore wish to explore. The project, as a whole, invites the viewer to rethink the idea of 'realism' in art; to entertain the thought that real experience cannot be captured, that it can only be recognised in the outcomes of 'process' and energy.

Here the monochrome is reinvented in order to destabilise its associations, to clarify the position that an idea and its result emerge from two different directions. TM/MF becomes an encounter with one's take on 'experience', confronted by the fact that a 'real' experience can never be rehearsed or known until it emerges. There is something about this performance/installation piece that escapes categorization according to discourses of contemporary art; this is where Fusinato's realism rests. In a project where the collaboration takes place in two separate continents, and the catalogue for the show is a CD, the outcome is unashamedly 'real'. The project works from within that 'gap' between art and reality, playing a part in reinventing and mapping history. TM/MF both ignores and contributes to contemporary practice by creating 'new genealogies of the avant-garde that complicate its past and support its future.'1

TM/MF, 2000. Installation detail. 10 enamel on masonite paintings, video, monitor, road case. Paintings 122 x 91cm each. Courtesy Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney. 


1. Hal Foster, The Retum of the Real, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1996 p. 5.

For more on the work of Marco Fusinato click here.