Jim Allen
News & Poetry for Chainsaws

3 Jul – 1 Aug 2009

Above: Jim Allen, 'Poetry for Chainsaws', installation view, Artspace, Sydney, 2009. Photo: Silversalt.
43–51 Cowper Wharf Roadway
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Sydney Australia

In 1976 Jim Allen made a number of performance works in Adelaide during a period of residency at the Experimental Art Foundation, including on one night in April both Poetry for Chainsaws and Newspaper. At the time Allen was a crucial figure as artist and educator in the development of ephemeral, post-object practices in New Zealand. He subsequently spent a decade in Sydney as founding head of the School of Art at Sydney College of the Arts and was a central figure in the foundation of Artspace.

More recently Allen, based again in Auckland, has been developing new work alongside occasional restagings of some of the 1970s works increasingly recognised as central in the history of experimental practice in both Australia and New Zealand. Poetry for Chainsaws - which consists of the artist reading Allen Ginsberg's Howl amongst three chainsaws left running on the gallery floor around him - was restaged in 2006 at the Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland, and in 2007 at the St Paul Street Gallery, Auckland. Newspaper has been repeated several times. Allen sits on an ordinary chair holding a daily newspaper in front of him leafing through the pages. With a sudden impetuousness and intense vehemence he crumples the newspaper to a paper ball. Then he unfolds it again and starts reading again, before he crumples it up again as if taken by a new outburst of rage. More and more paper shreds reel to the ground, the newspaper deteriorates more and more and in the end is all but a rag whose leftovers curl around Allen's feet.

Here Artspace exhibited filmic records of these works operating as new iterations of the original pieces, as independent works in and of themselves, and as manifestations of the potent currency of the recent past in contemporary practices located in the insistence presentness of the restaged event.