Agatha Gothe-Snape and Wrong Solo’s “Certain Situations”

Tara McDowell

July 16, 2019
Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
June 29–August 31, 2019

Double bill aside, the current exhibition at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA) is less a two-person show than a series of tentacular, prismatic relations and encounters that produce more relations, encounters, and situations, per the show’s title. Wrong Solo is an ongoing collaboration between Agatha Gothe-Snape (the ostensible solo artist here) and writer and performer Brian Fuata. Together, they debut a major new work, Five Columns, itself a collaboration with five interlocutors: Sonya Holowell, Ruark Lewis, Sarah Rodigari, Brooke Stamp, and Lizzie Thomson.

Five Columns occupies the most space—physically, but also emotionally, kinetically, and acoustically—in the exhibition. The first of its two rooms is an antechamber replicating the Sydney studio the two artists share, in which Five Columns was filmed, including lavender walls and royal blue carpet. Like a set or stage, the room conjures a sense of artificiality as well as propositional emptiness, a vacant staging ground charged with the sensation that something could happen there. Five screens hang in the center of the second room, each presenting a video that captures 10 minutes of a day-long improvisation session featuring Fuata, Gothe-Snape, and one of their five collaborators (or columns) as they move, stretch, talk, walk, engage, disconnect, film (the moving camera is held by videographer Gotaro Ometsu), and so on. The cumulative effect of the five videos playing at once is of simultaneity and occasional, accidental, synchrony. Although this is the only room in which actual bodies appear (other than those of visitors), the body and its encounter with other bodies in all manner of situations of art, power, patriarchy, desire, support, awkwardness, misunderstanding, regret, and yearning is the beating heart of Wrong Solo’s practice.

The prompt for this particular situation is a letter of invitation framed and hung on the gallery wall. It invites each collaborator to join Wrong Solo for one of five days of workshops, each dedicated to a different column, in order “to address the soft yet potent relations that continue to shape us.” Each person was invited to bring an impulse to initiate the day of improvisation, which Ometsu began filming at 4:00 p.m., turning the camera off exactly 10 minutes later (this activated viewers’ desire to know what each impulse was, as if that held the key to the intimate relations she is clearly interrupting). The videos were filmed in Wrong Solo’s lavender and blue studio, except Ruark Lewis’s day, which was filmed in the hospital where he is a patient. The nearby archival cabinet of printed matter from the workshops poignantly includes that day’s lunch menu. At a talk during the exhibition’s opening, Gothe-Snape referred to this filmed time as an act of violence: the violence of making the private public and the intimate institutional, no matter how complicit in that process one might be.

The intimacy of this show can feel a bit like being inside someone’s head, alternating between repetitive, rutted feedback loops or permutations and occasional therapeutic moments of stillness that occur in the repeated use of monochrome in other works on view. In the gallery preceding Five Columns, Untitled_16:9.pptx (2019) is a red-orange mural based on a PowerPoint projection scaled to the wall. Another example, in the same gallery, is the chroma-key green of the steel sculpture The Five Calls (2019), the site of an earlier performance titled The Five Unknowables (Dialogue Version) (2019) that visitors experience as an audio recording made by composer and sound artist Alex White (the auto-archiving of performance is a concern throughout). That performance was itself based on The Five Unknowables (2018), secret knowledge of art-making and truth (especially large-scale sculpture) passed on to Gothe-Snape by those in the know over the years, and unspooling across the gallery wall: “Something about it catching you unaware. Something about hanging your neurosis on a flimsy copper frame. Something about how sculptors don’t wear lipstick.”

To make the social situations that one encounters the subject of your art is risky business, walking a knife-edge between the deeply felt and the nothing at all. Fuata and Gothe-Snape’s attempt to hold this dialectic together even as it threatens to whirl apart is what gives their work its strength.1 Steeped for a lifetime in the moirés of art and what she once described as “the shadows of the canon,” Gothe-Snape’s practice flirts with failure and collapse, on the one hand, and the too-muchness of the world on the other.2 Fuata and Gothe-Snape edge into the realm of what Jack Halberstam calls the queer art of failure.3 “Under certain circumstances,” Halberstam writes, “failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world.” Certain circumstances, and certain situations.


T. J. Clark, The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 97.


Rachel Fuller, “Agatha Gothe-Snape in Conversation,” Ocula, October 19, 2015,


Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 2-3.

Installation, Sculpture
Intimacy, Collaboration, Failure, Video Art

Tara McDowell is Associate Professor and Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

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Institute of Modern Art
July 16, 2019

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