SHAKE IT UP
A rebellious streak, fearlessness and curiosity for other cultures fuel the enigmatic art of Lauren Brincat.
A rebellious streak, fearlessness and curiosity fuel the enigmatic art of Lauren Brincat.
It was early winter when Lauren Brincat walked purposefully – and fully clothed – towards the ocean at a beach in Augusta, Western Australia, then disappeared under the icy waves. Brincat didn’t have a death wish; it was all in the name of art. For years she had been captivated by the idea of the invisible line that delineated the meeting of the Indian and Southern oceans and she was finally creating a video performance piece in which she walked through that invisible border. It only occurred to her later that she could have been attacked by sharks or suffered hypothermia, but danger has always held an appeal for this young Sydney artist, whose star is very much on the rise.
Not long after the work, Walk The Line, was complete it was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, along with Brincat’s 2016 Sydney Biennale work, Play It As It Sounds. It’s not only a dream come true, but also a vindication of sorts for a woman who was punished as a child for not being academically bright.
A first-generation Australian, Brincat grew up in western Sydney to European-Egyptian parents. She was always mildly embarrassed by her situation – weekends spent with her grandparents who grew vegetables on the riverbank, having to turn the lamb spit for hours with her great-uncles. When the family moved to the northwestern suburbs she was acutely aware of her otherness. “That was the first time I felt quite different and it was a bit embarrassing. Now I appreciate so much my cultural mash,” she says.
Like her art, Brincat is somewhat enigmatic. She is fascinated by the world around her and what happens when you don’t simply follow life’s rules. During a year-long residency in Mexico City, for example, she created the video Walk in Traffic, in which she strode down the middle of one of the city’s busiest streets, carrying helium balloons. “I like to do works that involve risk, because something real comes out of pushing your safety zone; there’s something quite empowering about it,” she says.
Brincat majored in painting at the Sydney College of the Arts and today her work – from video to performance, installation and sculpture – is held in numerous collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania. She doesn’t like to put herself in a particular artistic box and finds discussing her work difficult. “Art is like eating food, it’s such a necessity for me, it fuels the next thing …”
One subject that does fire her up is the underrepresentation of female artists. It inspired a recent work in collaboration with artist Bree van Reyk at the MCA, Molto Echo, in which one male and six female drummers created near-deafening music, celebrating the presence of female artists and challenging visitors to take note. Brincat hoped the work would shake up the status quo. She cites her gallerist Anna Schwartz and 2016 Sydney Biennale artistic director Stephanie Rosenthal as much-needed role models in this area.
Brincat plans to spend part of the next 18 months travelling with her husband and daughter Beatrix to Mexico City, and possibly Helsinki. She finds travelling inspires her creatively. “I enjoy being jolted into another culture and feel most inspired when I’ve travelled and come back. Otherwise it becomes quite still.” Lauren Brincat’s next solo show will be held at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, in late 2017.