Subterranean Illuminations

Subterranean Illuminations
Photo by Priscilla Bourne

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rooted (or Zoe M. Robertson's Australia) Firstdraft exhibition

ROOTED (or Zoe M. Robertson’s Australia)

“Alienated labour reversed the relationship so that, just because he is a conscious being, man makes his vital activity and essence a mere means to existence.” 
-Karl Marx, Early Writings.

“With every purchase you are buying into systemic entropy.” 

FB invite blurb:
The free market shares its internal/its externalising logic with poetry (the oblique, the territorialising). Thus, I present to you mere reflections. This season’s range takes “The problem of Australia” as its aesthetic, in these times where the rationalisation methods employed by successive governments are being widely feted as world’s best practise, we are the aspirational, the anticulture. I am abandoning the distinction of the artisanal, abandoning the distinction implied by artist. I hope you will buy from me as much as you will take from me.

Middle of the night anti-curation murmurings in the bloodied dark, someone else’s vision for visual merchandising... I did the better part of a humanities degree before succumbing to the mental illness that is the will to art. The appropriately left wing students of history and philosophy around me in those days had a tendency to decorate their abodes with Absinthe posters or similar, and the irony of advertising posters lining the walls of the residences of sincere and dedicated socialists was never lost on me. Thus, in these times of disciplinary crises, being quite bored with sculpture that looks like sculpture and painting that looks like anything but, I felt like the logical thing to do was to go into the lifestyle market, rebranding myself as the outback entrepreneur that I always was at heart (even having consistently placed myself quite well as a serious artist with the potential to foray into the luxury goods market that is the art world). Capitalism is totalisation; our sense of identity is developed through what products we aspire to; the major galleries are becoming department stores and entertainment complexes; even artists require more training, or proof thereof (university transcripts) in order to enfranchise themselves. Essentially what I’m doing is utilising the soundtrack of my poetry and ideas in order to create atmosphere and make aspirational the products that I would sell, which I intend to be much more proliferate than what would normally be sold as art, something that can be engaged with on a number of levels and not deliberately elite (if likely oblique). 
I wrote all of Downunder: An Oral History when I was suffering from prolonged intermittent bouts of illness, crippled by social anxiety, isolated from society, the world of men. What strikes me about it, aside from the violence of my temper, and all the anguish, is all the things that I knew then that I couldn’t express that still form my (now somewhat more lucid) understanding of the world. I always had this problem with language, with the constructions of society being inherited by women from patriarchal systems. The only thing that I regret about my life up to this point is that I have worked so hard to redress these issues that I denied myself the humanity that I, at base, was fighting for, the human right to simple life; simple enjoyment and the cultivation of knowledge, rights that are denied by a system that fails if we do not continuously consume more. Still, we have no better way for organising so many people, for potentially sharing wealth, even basic living standards (and so I put my shoulder to the wheel...) 
I did all this research back through Australian history thinking that I needed a subject to write on, like other people do. Whilst I came to see the culture and the history of white settlement as the beaureacratic genius of the British Empire, successive revolutions (their failures) being in the name of basic social justice and distrust of authority... There was little greatness to hang a sense of identity on, the most rational of economies, the furthest from humanity, apparently the most sustainable. And then every time I went to speak to it I was writing about some fresh object of my desires, like a hopeless poet, without a cause, like an individualist. And I realised what I saw in the utter dependance of my own life, thinking to laugh at it, some attempt at externality from the inside.

Opening night social photos courtesy Charles Dennington: 
Palliative Style...

Dead Art Souvenir Posters, 2012-2013.
Mixed Media
Price: A3- $75, A0- $550.

‘Fauxhemian Fascist Bush Doof Raver Cape/Coffin Flag’ Cape/Coffin Flag, 2013.
Velvet, acetate lining, fabric paint, hi vis tape, pavement tape.
Price: $200.

‘New Cultural Policy’ raincoat, 2006-2013.
PVC raincoat, enamel, permanent marker.
Price: $45 ea.

'On Spirituality' t, in 'White Wash', 'Virgin Red', and 'Poet's Heart'.
Lycra t-shirt, acrylic, fabric fixitive.
Price: $40 ea.

Saddy o’ Cultcha, 2005-2013.
Sandwich bag containing exhibition catalogue and sound work transcript, with bonus CD of sound work.
Price: $15 ea.


Plonk Gate (Goon Sack Bloodbath), 2013.
Red goom, rock salt.

‘Life’-sized coffin, 2012.

Downunder: An Oral History, 2005-2013.
Sound work on CD, Duration: 29:00.

Special thanks Charles Dennington, Andrew Haining, Pamela Mahoney, and Firstdraft.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Unsuccessful Proposal to 55 Sydenham Rd.

Talitha Klevjer, Zoe M. Robertson and Giselle Stanborough


As you may well be aware "petite mort" or "small death" (my translation) is the French euphemism for the female orgasm.
Though art need not be either defecatory, nor an embodiment of wasted ejaculate or the opposing menstrual tissue, language thus forces us to anthropomorphise generic expressions of our basic difference of opinion regarding roles passively imposed by the body politic, which engender the feminine as THE political body (the vessel for the ejaculate). While recycling such terminology we also wish to maintain our own awareness that the language itself is powerful only insofar as it is adopted as another arbitrary assertion of empiricism and the observation of other creatures. Even so, in line with the equalisations taking place in art by the beneficiaries of recent capitalist development, we wish to register the distinction between the masculine "genius" and the feminine "synthesis" where apparently enfranchisement as the so empowered "other" (them what are empowered as an alternative and so subsumed by a system of ludicrous architects) we must collectivise as the white female distraction from countless real wrongs where there is no place for us to behave "like men" as we are frequently told that we do.

Talitha Klevjer will be dealing in the sculptural realm with works pertaining to the phrenological, utilising men's clothing and body odour. Zoe M. Robertson is interested in creating a sound/prose poetry performance in the foreground in front of 55, to be accompanied by large scale wax anatomical foetuses. Giselle Stanborough will be making an animated digital collage with performative elements looking at techno-fetishism and the erotica of touch screens. (Sculpture/video/performance). All three will also be collaborating on a self-reflexive critical artwork accompanied by a home brew orgy.


PROPOSED DATE: May 2013 (negotiable).

Examples of images and artist practice available at:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Proposing on Bacchanalia

Photo JD Reforma, 2013.


Zoe M. Robertson, Poster #1, 2012. Acrylic and Spray paint on Eco Ply, image (not including surrounding board) A3 (297 x 420). Exhibited in SCA Graduation exhibition 2012.

Zoe M. Robertson, Poster #2, 2012. Acrylic on Eco Ply, image (not including surrounding board) A0 (841 x 1189). Exhibited in SCA Graduation exhibition 2012.

Zoe M. Robertson, Poster #3, 2013. Collage with Analog Photos Acrylic, Enamel, and Texta on Eco Ply, image (not including surrounding board) A3 (297 x 420). 

The Wasted Convenience of Pleasure, Peloton Performance Month, November 2012


You’ve probably all read this before, but it’s the promo so I’ll repeat it, that’s the nature of advertising…





To begin, I have no inclination to either write this in the third person or have someone else speak for me. The artist bio belongs to the bureaucratic dissemination of the arts, via institutions and galleries linked to the machinations of corporate capital underpinning culture, which must either directly justify itself as economically rationalisable or go through the university system, which is increasingly and ultimately subject to the same checks and balances. Ultimately the discussion of this is the art, as was it ever: portraits of the wealthy. This is what I make/do.

In the interest of promotion, this year I've done this at ARTSPACE, Alaska Projects, Mop Projects and as part of Serial Space's Time Machine Festival (among others).


Facebook invite.
I wrote the last one hurriedly, I'm sorry for that, it was no good.
I had a nightmare last night about having to write an artist's bio.
It conspires that it wasn't a nightmare- only a memory.
I wrote an artist's bio:

To begin, I have no inclination to either write this in the third person or have someone else speak for me. The artist bio belongs to the bureaucratic dissemination of the arts, via institutions and galleries linked to the machinations of corporate capital underpinning culture, which must either directly justify itself as economically rationalisable or go through the university system, which is increasingly and ultimately subject to the same checks and balances. Ultimately the discussion of this is the art, as was it ever: portraits of the wealthy. This is what I make/do.

...For the purposes of Peloton's Performance Month 2012 I will be making do with what I have suggested above, speaking/sounding to THE WASTED CONVENIENCE OF PLEASURE.

It will entail a one-off performance.


Been reading this book called “I Love Dick” by Cris Krauss, it's not as good as it sounds, but has it's moments. There was this line in it, an idea for a book title: “Does the Epistolary Genre Mark the Advent of the Bourgeois Novel?” Natch I had to look up the word “epistolary” and almost immediately came across Aphra Behn, which was fitting...

The Wikipedia definition:

An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived through Latin from the Greek word ἐπιστολή epistolē, meaning a letter (see epistle).
The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story, because it mimics the workings of real life. It is thus able to demonstrate differing points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator.

It certainly marked the advent of femininity, which in turn invented feminism in support of its existence. That's why I don't want to be a woman, it's so bourgeois. To fool yourself that you could be contrived by your own love letters... How utterly abject.

...I wrote that in a love letter once...

It seemed like the only subject was itself.

For years I had astral-projected myself to a place of cold solitude, just never before was it someone else's. This, I suppose is the distance between making and being made by art. So utterly hopeless to be compulsively making, putting it all on the line, and hopeless if it's anything else. There's nothing worse than insincerity on the part of artists, except those whom never suspect it of themselves. Insincerity must be employed. As we all must be. That's the age we live in, more than we ever are.

Who can say why things are? They are very little beyond the empty fact of their existence. Portraits of the rich, art or love letters, whatever.

Past my last five shows, which came too close together I really couldn't tell if the come-down was due to... past my last five shows, past my last five dates, which came too close together, I really couldn't tell if the come-down was due to the shows or the dates. I think that's why I dress like a prostitute from the 1970s. 

I wrote an excerpt from my life, unaware of the inspiration, an excerpt from a letter I emailed, projected onto someone else's solitude. I wrote:

The past few days have been like coming down off of hydro, paranoid, afraid of my own shadow, abandoned. Misplaced sleep catching me up in odd, listless fantasies, misplaced appetite answering for my appearance, with wan, adulterated serenity apparently only the more becoming for all the wasted convenience of pleasure.

I couldn't sleep or eat. I lost weight. I drank too much. I was gutted. I thought I was diseased. My symptoms were echoed within and without. Mostly without. Mostly the lack. Near to anthropomorphic analogies like some ludicrous man. That echo without. I thought I'd take –that which I had no right to- with me. Story of my life.

Speaking of which, something earlier and unreleased:

Soothed by the strains of another's snoring unconscious conversation. You uttered dull puppy sounds of reinforced masculinity. We never needed to touch, we filled the whole room like weak candlelight. And when the sun came up, we were alarmed in exactly the same way. Alarmed by church bells, turning off and dropping out and sleeping through the few present moments of winter daylight, that there might be a time to turn over to you, turn it all over and lay it on down, down the line. Nightside, rudely awakened by enlightenment. We were alarmed in exactly the same way. You wore a watch and couldn't tell the time. And in embodiment I left time behind. And you made sense of the space between us. And we were alarmed in exactly the same way. Don't let it get away.

Lately, I've been working in Fischer until my laptop battery runs out, so fully integrated... from 3am writing on my iPhone, cutting and pasting to the FB where I reckoned some dude need be told that he were “consciously manipulative” and that I thought that it was great... not witless enough to look for an objective moral reality. Later I had to email the notes to myself that I might edit them more thoroughly. I sat in the stacks at Fischer in a lament for their closure, so ironically tuned in, unplugged enough without power points. People used to make out up there, but now the whole place will go the way of computer rooms with their meat-smell human air conditioning, bizarre how reminders of actual humanity are that much less attractive sexually then dusty old thoughts. It was that thing again: the indiscriminate.

Allow me to elaborate by way of another excerpt:

In the renewed spirit of clarification, I always found that the walking fucking quadriplegics were the ones having the most sex, more liable to comport themselves in a manner befitting the needs of the mass rather than an individual. Promiscuity is a condition imposed by the conservative logic of the democratic state, virtue is in pleasing everyone. It's why women conform to the aesthetic of pornography (which is incidentally diametrically opposed to my aforementioned mammalian oils).

…And there were things I never described… waiting like it was the 19th century. The sounds of soft torment that I might offer in a lilting hooked and baited breath, not as actress, but finally, directorial debutante, brief static feedback to a rather more rhythmic masculinity, his or your fruitless systemization, in heady tension with the predatory grace of the birds.

You know these things are really a drafting process, this performance of things/life.

I wrote that the following was a soft copy once. I like the idea of that- soft copy… I should really be reading this from my iPhone, but I needed the physicality, amounting to some comfort. Thesis excerpt:

I had to abandon such bourgeois attempts at externality like the 20th century fashions that they are: consumer culture. When it first occurred to me to become fully integrated, I remember I managed to shock someone by talking about how all decisions are inherently aesthetic and there- fore political, even the decision of who to love. It never occurred to me that I might not have seen the full picture, only that my increasing objectivity was making me increasingly ruthless. I found someone that understood for a little while, and, by existing somewhere in the eighteenth century, he reminded me that what I was talking about, all of this, was only literature. After all, it was only a disparity of perception, like to that between my own two eyes, the perception of depth, the performance of life and literature. It occurs to me that my taxes are a work of art. I want nothing that I can’t use. I am nothing beyond political. There is not a single part of me that does not belong to the capitalist imperative. I am a primary producer, I am the means and end of my own production. Every conversation belongs to a drafting process that is the entirety of this process-based work. I am certain. I am nothing. I am certain I am nothing.

It came out of this:

I suppose that you happened upon me during the Scandinavian summer of my soul, disorienting, nauseating, utterly exhausting illumination. Came to me like the disparity of perspective through my own two eyes, without which there would be no way to perceive depth. I think we both knew enough to see what we wanted in the world and then create it, and in that way we became our own manifest destiny. And you knew more than me to have reminded me that it was literature. I'm hardly the first poet to have taken exacting and calculating care in dressing up (art) to go courting, as though it were a way to collect souls. Reeling and knowing less of you, less of myself in the name of keeping things interesting, a kind of entrapment without which there is no reason for capitalism and it's scientific theories of the universe that would find it finite: expansion and contractions, operations of scarcity that are much easier overcome than come over. I learnt this while losing sight of a star through one eye behind the windowsill, while to the two of them it hadn't moved at all. All things can come into your life for a reason if you so choose it, and it does seem to be the only way to break the routine, the cycle of lust. The only way to break the cycle, one eye open, one eye shut, the stars depending upon the visions of another 3am writing to you. The lone star that managed to penetrate the fluorescent dome of the sky in the finite world of enlightenment, in the city I can't leave.

Finally, and in actual terms, to begin with there was circular logic, and to begin with there was this:

Abandon yourself to the limits of structures that impose control. Abandon yourself to lust and to grief and to the kind of resilience that will see you vilified like the counterpart of the insane. For the changing definitions of insanity, evolving with humanity, will have that spending time in the furtherance of a belief and not to self-promote is contained as the prerogative of the socially marginalised. The capitalist nightmare, the night- mare of a consciousness independent of humanity is nothing if not the nightmare of a humanity independent of consciousness.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Fetishisation of Poverty, ARTSPACE Gap Year Exhibition September/October 2012

First Part of Video:
Kind-Ling Man-Kind
Available at:

Second Part of Video:
Rampant Agency Cage
Available at:
Third Part of Video:
Humus and Posthumous
Available at:

 Fourth Part of Video:
Schizogenetic Baptismal 
Available at:

Images: installation view, Artspace, Sydney. Photo: silversalt photography.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


ABOVE: Proposal "Radio/Flesh/Horror", each proposal in the exhibition was hand-stamped (each single letter individually). Photo: Penelope Benton.

'THE' essay...
The works displayed on the walls are a retrospective of the proposals I have written over the years. I have long intended to display this work as the act of proposal writing is now a necessity for artists as it is the only way to be given exhibition space. Unforttunately the process can be so mechanical and outcome-based that it often leads to writing of the least creative order. My early frustrations often lead to writing proposals of the most extreme and obscene nature as an attempt to point out the standardisation that comes with acts of bureaucratic elucidation, where palatable proposals predict the work, and there is no longer any space for difference. Alexandra Clapham was the first person to ever give my work space in an exhibition, after years of rejection. I chose to display this work alongside hers to honour her for the patience and tolerance that civilised me and made me feel safe in a world I had always felt outside. The same attitude brought so many others to Kudos Gallery during our tenure, making it a place where people could feel supported in their experiments no matter how mad or haphazard.
I do not write like this anymore, which is not a reflection on the merit either of the way I wrote before or the way I write now, but that now I intend to gain greater agency by asserting the base meaning that I once sought so vehemently to debase. I still feel most at home with the great poets of abjection, though I know suffering to be a comedy. I feel no different about the world than I did as an outsider, if anything the experience of being finally allowed the space to disseminate my ideas after years in the wilderness has made me more convinced of the power of the cult of mediocrity. I am utterly amoral under the rules of this society, the more so now for being better understood than back when I wrote with the violent perversion you see before you, the more so now for being emancipated from niceties and from an ego or overarching idea of self as anymore than a refrain in a maelstrom of constant consciousness. I was asked this very night why if i write do i not just write, why make art? Art was a dream of manifestation, away from the turgid structures that make film now bankable by the star power and not by anything resembling art. This is an equally fitting assessment of the publishing industry. Art was allowed some space outside the machine by its very location in space. Space is an abstraction of time, it is what is so generously allowed of the art world when the places of our lives are never our own investment but another's, in the name of security. I will sing it again, that old refrain, that our parents are slumlords and ouf inheritance complicity. What is rarely understood is that the poets were the first time-based artists. Poetry is now called a lost art, this is because it is now the only art. The stock market is poetry because it is utterly meaningless and yet it rules all. Poets are best placed to speak to economics for being utterly irrational under it. We may overcome the governance of the unthinking only in thought, in taking back the space of our bodies through taking back time, that we might question everything and constantly fight mediocrity. I was also told this evening that my last work was not readily understood by some of those that saw it, and indeed the performance was by some measure it's explanation... I meant it to be taken on any level because that is what life's like, a simple image can be enough or you can make an effort to find out more and you can get more out of it, but I will not do the work for you, and Neither will I present work that is footnoted ad absurdum. This is what I mean by poetics. Poetics that does not necessarily entail paleonymy (outmoded formal understandings of language and form) or obfuscation, but does necessarily entail there being layers of meaning, and the self-knowledge that there is none.
Changing definitions of insanity, evolving with humanity, now using your time in the furtherance of a belief and not to self-promote is contained as the prerogative of the socially marginalised.
Timing like a sixth sense- from my engagement with the spatial characteristics of time, I can tell how long I will be talking just by looking at the amount of type.
A sense of time not listed as a sense- quite hierarchical and pertaining to the royal sciences, a bit dumb, basically. We live in times when a true aesthete know themself as a sinaesthete, sin-aesthete- back to the confessional, sin-aesthete sin.
When there is no more waste I will not have the materials to be an artist. The new morality.