MICHELLE HAMER: Are You Having a Good Night?
29 January to 21 March 2021
Are You Having A Good Night? is a new body of hand-stitched and drawn works by acclaimed Australian contemporary artist Michelle Hamer. The works explore the prevalence of threatening language around us, and particularly towards women.
“I have been particularly disheartened hearing of women, who feeling solidarity within (recent) protest marches face this same ‘casual misogyny’ from ‘allies’ and by-standers alike while making their way home. Even socially distancing, dressed in protective wear, amidst a protest for equal rights and a pandemic, the language is so embedded, there is no escape,” laments the artist.
For some time now, Hamer has been documenting the language found around us; on the streets and in everyday interactions. These works have become a social archive of our daily interactions.
“The intimidation and power play that some men impose in public spaces – in what are otherwise safe, and even idealised, environments – is familiar to so many of us. This behaviour is often justified as innocent and harmless yet is engrained in the way we navigate spaces.
I wanted this series to reflect the utter everydayness of threats, embedded power, the roles we play in it and the irony and complexity of language. The language we use matters.”
About Michelle Hamer
Michelle Hamer is a Melbourne based artist who uses signage and language to reflect the restrictions, shame and mixed messages we all experience at some point in our lives and that she negotiates everyday. Corbett Lyon, director Lyon Housemuseum, describes her as an ‘urban flaneur’ – someone who observes society. It is these delicately timed personal and political observations that she brings to her arresting visual, tactile and vibrant artworks.
Hamer graduated architecture (RMIT University 1999) but gave up her career to navigate EDS – a connective tissue disorder (like Australian pop singer/ songwriter Sia). While living with a chronic disability forced constraints on her ability to thrive in her chosen profession, it also led to reimagining herself and an accidental career as a visual artist.
Endlessly confined at home, time felt slowed with only the escape of drives to medical appointments. She spent hours painstakingly hand-stitching the freeway signs that appeared to be personally warning her through the darkly humorous undertones of urban and suburban landscapes.
“I began photographing the glitched signage from freeways because the glowing messages felt like they were just for me. The more I translated them into stitched works the more I noticed the language around me also reflected global issues. Its always both personal and political.”
Over time Hamer’s works take on new meanings as once optimistic bank ads are re-read with heavy irony in a financial crash, missile scares collide with the #metoo movement and system glitches play out the language of climate emergency.
Hamer’s work is poignant, insightful, witty and cutting. Her primary interest is in how language in the urban environment impacts us – often not in the ways it was originally intended.
ENTRY TO THIS EXHIBITION IS FREE
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Main image: Michelle Hamer, I’m Just Being Friendly 2019, hand-stitching, mixed yarn on perforated plastic, 51 x 198cm. Courtesy of the artist.