Micha Nussinov Exhibition, September 15- October 1, 2016. At Nussinov gallery, 56 Cope Street, Redfern, NSW, Australia
Mike Parr on Curating an exhibition of Micha Nussinov’s work.
I met Micha for the first time in 1977 as I prepared to begin work on the third performance film in my 1970’s trilogy Rules & Displacement Activities Parts 1-3. These were heroic times. None of us had any money, Australia Council and Film and TV Board support was equivocal and our prospects were imaginary rather than real. I think I might have met Micha as a result of enquiries that I made to Film Australia, but however it was, I can remember someone introducing Micha to me as a filmmaker of real talent & promise. Micha’s background in the film world of the 1970’s was in strong contrast to my own. He was a “filmmaker” and I was a performance artist who tried to induce people with 16mm cameras to work with me, but I can remember seeing his film “Balance” at this time and responding to the simplicity and acuity of his ideas. I was also very taken with the sensitivity and fluidity of his camera work.
By the latter part of the 1970’s I had become rather isolated by my work as a performance artist. The bureaucrats in the Australia Council and on the film boards looked at me askance, but the sympathy and understanding between Micha and me seemed immediate, strong and real. In those days I use to do performances in bursts or “sessions”. I was searching for a deeper unconscious necessity that caught up family, friends, the crew, people on the street [sic]… in a Grand Guignol of “acting out”. Micha threw himself into this process. He, along with Ian Stocks, who filmed my first performances at Inhibodress in the early 1970’s, was the most talented and significant cameraperson who worked on my performances in Australia in the 1970’s.
After the 1977 “session” Felizitas, Adrian and I left for Europe. We didn’t return until later in 1978. So that brief, very intense period in mid-1977 was the last I was to see of Micha for 38 years! 38 years? Yes I think that’s right.
I met Micha again last year. I was arriving at my periodontist in Macquarie Street as he was leaving. I recognized him immediately. Recognized the hat on his head, the laconic birdlike features and the deft irony and gentleness of smile. Very moving for me to see Micha again. I think I may have mentioned to our periodontist that we were relying on him to save the teeth of the Bohemian avant-garde.
Of course it turned out that Micha was still an artist, that he had given up on the film bureaucrats, that his studio was very near mine in Redfern/Alexandria and that he was going on with his art in a lonely self-willed and independent way that seemed familiar to me.
We exchanged studio visits, took lunch in the local Vietnamese restaurant and talked about the process of going on with art. I offered to curate this exhibition in his studio because I immediately recognized the sincerity and conviction that lay behind the work and because it’s a good thing to get it “out there”… to take that risk and shake things up a bit. It was a suggestion but Micha evidently saw it my way.
Micha is an Israeli living in Australia. I think isolated in terms of the Australian art world and it is memory, memory of other times, places and images that persistently, conspicuously is, the recurrent matter of his art. Matter, because again, representation is chewed up, masticated by his way of mentally glue-ing associations together, so every aspect is “thing-like”, while also being drawn, painted, object or altered photograph. The materiality of the process is everywhere much in evidence.
Now, declaratively, Micha’s stance and Micha’s works remind me of Outsider art that I’ve seen in Europe [only because I only ever see concerted exhibitions of Outsider art while in Europe]. Specifically, some of the work in the seminal collection bestowed on the Musee de l’Art Brut in Lausanne by Dubuffet, which I visited shortly after its inauguration in the late 1980’s and in more recent years the great shows done at the Halle Saint Pierre in Montmartre. Outsider art is everywhere of course and the quality is uneven, more or less inspired, more or less innately talented, but its urgency and rawness is invariably refreshing.
Micha’s work has a lot of the best qualities of such work. I particularly appreciate the extraordinary vitality of his “work ethic”, because Micha works in a compelled way across a range of media and he uses everything that comes to hand with unstaunchable ingenuity and invention. Who do I think of when I look at Micha’s work? A wide range of artists, none of them particularly Australian, none of them any kind of exact fit, but artists with whom Micha seems to share an attitude in common. Alechinsky, Chagall, Dotremont, Bruno Schulz, Pierre Tal-Coat. Europeans just before and after the Holocaust. Micha perhaps knows almost none of these artists. It doesn’t matter because Outsider art is not a matter of influences. We’re not talking about transmission in that way but something deeper than most “cultural” art.
To return now and end with the exhibition itself. It is an exhibition based on saying “no” to a lot of things on offer. I also insisted that Micha clear the space, that less is more in this context [I’m unsure about that dictum because cleaning up can be close to censorship].
I’ve made a tentative selection but it is also decisive in obvious ways, because I don’t want to let down the insistent repetitiveness of his strongest productions, but it’s a tentative selection because Micha has hoarded a great deal to be looked at over a long period of time and the nodal points require projection- induce projection, so I, as the viewer, am constantly stepping back in relation to myself.
I’m also finally intervening in a way that is essentially arbitrary given the insistence of Micha’s production. The work is strong in bursts. The Gothic accumulations and the Surrealism suddenly give way and stuff is dashed to conclusion. His carved wooden sculptures are immediately assertive and physically clear and representational bits are hacked into a kind of sardonic delay that resists patterns of established reception. I suggested that we park these sculptural objects on some white plinths already in the studio.
I think this is what I am undertaking here, in this instance, for this “show”… a provisional separating out of my response to Micha’s drawing, painting, sculpture, assemblage, photography [sic]…
I hope people in the art world will come.
The work deserves our sympathy and attention. It’s urgent and substantial, attenuated, ludic and filled to the brim with displaced, elusive memory. The only worry is Micha’s titling. I’ve asked him to write everything backwards.