For the most part si ma va is a good egg, but in some regards, they are also spoiled . Even though the albumen that surrounds their core appears wholesome and transparent, there is plenty of ooze to sniff and ponder on once you reach their yolk. Indeed, si ma va’s work may seem bubbly and friendly, but it has been known to discharge some slime . For instance, while still an undergraduate, particularly during the university’s annual building audits, students were warned that if they don’t use their studio they risk losing it. In response, si ma va inspired two photos taken by visitors in their freshly stripped back studio. In the first, captioned “NOT USING MY STUDIO”, the artist is seen sitting on a chair in a contemplative but relaxed pose. In the second, captioned “USING MY STUDIO”, they are still sitting on the same chair albeit now atop their desk.
In the work’s title doubling as an anecdote, si ma va discloses that:
I was warned that if I don’t use my studio, I’ll lose it. I thought I was
using it but I guess I wasn’t. I didn’t want to lose my studio, so I tried using it differently. Returning later, I found people in my studio talking about the new installation. I hope I don’t lose my studio.
A few months later, si ma va gave up their studio, working without one ever since.
This is an example of how si ma va tends to upset and de-naturalize the conventions that surround artists and the objects they produce (or not). They are not a predictable bad boy with a dress code and a negative attitude however, they are just smart. Their tactics are not careerist either , they simply respond to stimulus from the outside world in a manner that is critical, contrarian and amusing. ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆ They often perform passive aggressive acts of negation, where they say yes (with a smile), when they mean no (with an evil smile), and let it be known in a loaded discharge of playful vile (with a self-pleased smile) . When confronted by symbols of authority, the good egg starts to smell funny indeed.
Thus, in my view, what we find in si ma va is an artist of a reactionary character that finds a methodology in their temperament. In fact, they’ve often described their tactics as bratty, which is in a sense accurate, as they appear to respond with mischief to the things that ◆◆◆◆◆ upset them. This is not to say that they are a brat, but rather, that this archetype has provided them with a model for their arts practice. Wikipedia defines a brat can be identified as “A child; especially one who is regarded as mischievous, unruly, spoiled, or selfish”. We could say that the brat is marked by excess, an overabundance of input (love, attention, care) and output (a destructive attitude). The latter often manifest itself in the form of the tantrum, as it is how the child tends to will the world around them. The tantrum is, on one hand, ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆ an effort to realise one’s ideal circumstances, potentially at the expense of everyone else’s. On the other, it is how the brat negotiates the intensity of their surroundings. One could think of art as an excess of history and the artist as trying to overcome this overspill of knowledge and super flux of forms.
However, it often seems that the tantrum is also just a way of relating to the world, and it is devoid of logic or reason: it simply provides the means to expend energy. There is a certain aimlessness to this recalcitrant spectacle indeed, as a brat tends to be erratic – what was important yesterday might not be today, and vice versa. In addition, a spoiled child always makes it clear that it is orbiting in its own axis, as everything outside themselves would appear to be of little consequence. The brat behaves like they are the most important thing in the world, yet, they are among the most insignificant  – just like us, contemporary artists .
Like a typical contemporary artist, there is a degree of nihilism to the brat, as they are in a continual process of devaluating and negating their surroundings. They are mean and lie without remorse because morals and truth are hyper-relative to them . But they are not entirely wrong, as their existence is just the tiniest dot in the world, utterly obliterated by everything that surrounds them. Their lies, screams and delusions don’t matter that much. In fact, it could be that these loud children act like that because their vulnerability brings them closer to the meaningless of life , as it is not difficult to imagine something that size cracking their head against the concrete like an egg – right in the sharp corner where it sends an adult to the hospital but a child to the cremation chamber .
The egg is an interesting figure in this regard as it simultaneously connotes a negation and an affirmation of life. Without fertilisation, it remains likely destined to satisfy another’s hunger for another day. ◆ ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆◆ ◆◆ Left to spend too much time in its shell, the egg begins to decompose, its meaning devaluating in equal measure. Once it rots, it shifts from signifying nourishment to disease. Consequently, the egg is trashed and just like that it becomes nothing (at least to us, perhaps everything to the flies). When the brat becomes an adult, it is like an egg that has spent too much time unused. It reeks of a sulfuric smell that exposes its rottenness and evil. Since we can’t quite trash people like a putrid egg, they remain around us to spread their fetidness. Most likely, to become contemporary artists. Like, you and I .
Oh, and si ma va of course. However, unlike you and I, he puts its to good use. For example, he pitched his most recent for ‘to the end of the line (thanks)’, ◆◆ ◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆ si ma va’s proposal reads:
“I would love to do a show at Bus Projects about buses. It’ll probably address things like plans, timing, etiquette, the journey, the destination, stopping, starting, small talk, averting the gaze, the wheels going round and round, sitting up the front, sitting up the back, getting off, public vs private, rules, fines, getting hit by a bus, life in the bus lane and more.”
This brief paragraph typifies the artist’s approach to practice. Non-committal and stylised with the ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ naivety of a child, their works are encoded with a sense of hyper-niceness that conceals a great deal of cynicism . One can scroll through their website and observe how their art is often produced in reaction to the shortcomings of the “contemporary art code”: the arbitrary conventions that assign meaning and value to the various entities and activities that comprise the art world.
In this instance, the ritual of writing a proposal is partly deprived of its customary speech, ◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆ ◆ ◆◆◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆ ◆◆◆◆◆◆◆ They note no medium or form, simply a list of preoccupations and while some of them are evocative of art lingo (such as “journey”, “destination”, “gaze”, “public vs private”), the majority are of a more vernacular tone (“stopping, starting, small talk” and “the wheels going round and round”). Even though the artist is projecting a picture of naivety, there is a greater implication that renders their actions with legible intent. That is, the fact that getting a show is supposed to be kind of a big deal, an important line on an artist’s CV. Or at least, a meaningful response to the often dreaded yet frequently asked question: “what are you working on at the moment?”
It’s all a bit odd however, considering that success in the art world often seems measured in a scale of how-fucked-up-you-are-not as opposed to a state of non-fucked-up-ness. There is rarely an absence of failure, just a lack of its immediate presence. This is where si ma va comes in handy , as their current exhibition proposing a moment of reflection on the circularity of this journey, where we always seem to be waiting for something, like an abandoned dog on the highway, or an artist waiting for a bus in Northcote to see ◆◆ ◆◆ ◆◆◆◆ a show about buses at Bus Projects.
1. How? Are we talking privilege?
2. I get it’s poetic license at play here but I can’t own this. This portayal of being rotten or ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇ or ◇◇◇◇ or whatever feels hokey
3. What were we talking about the other day? Something about artistic labour (or any effort to work autonomously) being inherently akin to a neoliberal middleclass? ◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇ ◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇... ◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇. I guess what I hope for is a kind of de-professionalisation, a break from the insidious default - to what end we're producing or performing or not. ◇◇ ◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇ ◇◇ ◇◇ ◇◇◇ ◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇ ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇. Maybe this is a question of balance insofar as maintaining momentum without becoming... ◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇? ◇◇◇◇◇? hungry?
4. lol… really? Or is this something I should be owning?
5. Is this brat archetype a generalisation or is it referring to me / my work? Examples would be great either way.
6. This kind of seems like an ironic paradox. Like, irony alone is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? The old 'song-of-a-bird-that's-come-to-love-its-own-cage' scenario. Then conflating that paradox within another? That's verging on sadistic, isn’t it? Or is it masochistic? I don't know. Does accepting futility somehow infer that there is a right and wrong way to be? Isn’t that against both our sensibilities?
7. see comment 5.
8. Are you suggesting that artists’ efforts are a symptom of such criticism or that they are themselves irrelevant?
9. Is that a Humpty Dumpty reference?
10. Alright, here I am again stuck on this. Am I missing something? Like have I completely lost my sense of humour? I can’t help but feel super naïve or vanilla or whatevs, thinking this is so cynical...
I just realised it’s probably because this whole time I’ve been believing in and faithfully trusting all of this… lol. FFS. Here I’ve been weighing myself and everything else for its value. Therein the ostensibly useless / worthless lies resistance against dominant ideologies, something in favour of independent interpretations of quality, value and discourse. So yeah, sure. What’s someone that believes in their criticism but denies it? ;-)
11. Maybe, but it seems too easy to leave it at that. Who actually wants to be cynical? If my work presents that, it’s in spite of my best efforts otherwise.
* edits and comments by si ma va.