Review: Howl by APHIDS

Where: Art Gallery of South Australia
When: 12 – 14 March
More info: here

If you’re reading this, I’m sorry. You’re too late. You’ve missed one of the big highlights of the 2020 Festival season, right as the season is coming to an end. But I can tell you about it.

APHIDS are an experimental, artist-led arts organisation from Melbourne. They are known for being intersectional and feminist, funny and angry. They create experiences of meaningful exchange for audiences, often through unpredictable public encounters. First presented a couple of years back, APHIDS have adapted Howl a third time in 2020 for AGSA’s 2020 Biennial, Monster Theatres.

Howl takes 15 moments from art history and presents them in what is part-parade, part-protest. These works have been chosen because they have been meaningful. Often known for being controversial, these moments have generated strong public attention, demonstrating the way that society can be so deeply impacted by art.

Some of the audience will know all of the moments, some will know none. But I imagine you’ll likely be aware of one: We Are All Flesh by Berlinde De Bruyckere, or the horse sculpture that you see as you enter AGSA. When it was first installed back in 2013 there was extreme public backlash, with letters to The Advertiser claiming the work is “the product of sick and evil minds” [1]. The gallery continues to receive angry letters about it, in fact.

These moments are re-imagined as floats and set to a backdrop of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor and music produced by Sascha Budimski. The result is a somewhat wacky but unnerving procession, the performers’ bodies often becoming the site of the re-imagining.

Taking part both in the Elder Wing and outside under the stars, Howl is highly well produced and performed by local artists. It’s a powerful performance. The contrast of having these works re-imagined specifically in the Elder Wing is so special. APHIDS are asking who decides what art is worthy, and being in state institution to ask this question feels pertinent.

Howl finishes up with Paul Yore’s Everything is Fucked. The banner is lowered ceremoniously from atop a scissor lift. After a day of constantly refreshing the (increasingly worse) news, it makes me snort. It’s tough to feel good when everything is bad, but then you see something like this. Art that’s powerful and funny and relevant, and it makes a difference.

***

Howl was presented as part of Monster Theatres and was co-presented by APHIDS, Art Gallery of South Australia, RCC and Vitalstatistix.

Natalie Carfora

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