Papering herself in images, Sydney-based artist Justene Williams gets inside photography and shakes it up through dance. Her installation of six new video works at the Art Gallery of New South Wales explores avant-garde performance and the history of image-making.
Williams’ dance training and a short career in cabaret helped inspire her ongoing interest in movement and gesture. Having studied fine art at the University of Western Sydney, Sydney College of the Arts, and the Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, Vienna, Williams worked primarily in photography before practising in video.
In her new works, Williams performs in a variety of costumes she has made from paper-based debris – newspapers, cardboard tubes, and hundreds of her own photographic prints. The works were made in the basement of the building she was living in while in the United States last year. In Headcam, we see the walls of the studio plastered with photographs; the video is taken from a camera mounted on Williams’ head as she surveys her surroundings, the camera jolting and swooping in an unsteady dance.
The six works are inspired by the do-it-yourself aesthetics of the early avant-garde art movements of Futurism and Dada, which originated in Europe in the first and second decades of the 20th century.
Williams casts herself in reinterpretations of the sound and movement performances that occurred in the Cabaret Voltaire - the Zurich club founded by Dada artists Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings. She enlivens historic performances that often exist only as written accounts; for example, Tauber guard freak mix references puppets created by artist and dancer Sophie Tauber-Arp for the Cabaret. Dancing in pictures, Williams is both the subject and animator of the camera.