Copyright © 2019 Steven Bellosguardo - All Rights Reserved

CULTCHAFUKER, 2019

Praxis Artspace, Adelaide

Poorer than our parents

Essay by Saskia Scott

As a country, we fetishise the quarter-acre block and the Hills Hoist. Ours is a nation divided into ‘homeowners’ and ‘people desperate to become homeowners’. In a culture de ned by economic crisis, most of the homes built are designed for a standardized citizen: box apartments; project homes.

In Seeing Like A State, James Scott describes ‘high modernism’, a system of beliefs that arose in the nineteenth century which saw urban development and social planning as governable according to scientific laws. Scott describes the ways in which “officials took exceptionally complex, illegible, and local social practices...and created a standard grid whereby it could be centrally recorded and monitored” (2). The effect of this development program was the massive destruction of the multifaceted, multicultural, and multigenerational complexity of real human lives. To make cities and their inhabitants easier to quantify and govern, developers posited “standardized citizens” that, “for the purposes of the planning exercise,” had “no gender, no tastes, no history, no values, no opinions or original ideas, no traditions, and no distinctive personalities” (346).

 

It is within this context that Steven Bellosguardo’s CULTCHAFUKER emerges. Here in the Western suburbs — a historically industrial, affordable, and proudly working-class region — the city is changing. First the artists and the poor students, then the developers. We are poorer than our parents. This drives the demand for cheap housing and feeds the developers leveling the western suburbs to make way for the new.

Here on Kaurna land — land that was stolen but never ceded — James Scott’s critique is apt. When we think of Adelaide, with its parklands and city square, we think of Colonel Light standing at Monte ore Hill. The statue, Light’s Vision (1906) by Birnie Rhind, is the quintessential image we hold in our minds. Light looks down towards the River Torrens and lays out the grid that will become the city of Adelaide. He takes a multilayered landscape of history, tradition, and cultural complexity; renders it ‘structured’, ‘simple’, ‘quantifiable’. Erasure, first, and then the drawing of lines. This pattern for a city was later transplanted to Aotearoa and used to build the city of Christchurch. There, as in Adelaide, the First Nations Peoples, and their relationships to country and culture, were displaced.

Bellosguardo develops a visual language of construction, development, and gentrification. Presenting two large-scale works, Median Strip and Crane, CULTCHAFUKER invites you to reflect on your relationship to ongoing colonisation and environmental destruction. Born in Adelaide in 1988, his own history is tied up in this complex legacy of construction. Trained as a Stonemason, Bellosguardo was the third generation of his family to apprentice in the trade. He brings an intimate experience of the construction industry to this critique of rapid, disposable development.

 

Bellosguardo completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Sculpture) at the University of South Australia in 2016, and this new body of work is a departure from the steel public artworks for which he is best known. The aesthetic shift reflects the artist’s growing concern for the state of the planet in the face of the climate crisis, as well as deep concerns for people left behind in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘development’. In CULTCHAFUKER, we confront the issues directly. We nd ourselves in a crisis. Bellosguardo’s language — both symbolic and actual — is necessarily candid.

 

Median Strip is an assembly of waste, tetris-ed together to form a half a metre-high plinth from which dead ornamental plum and pear trees ‘grow’. The introduced plants were chosen for their widespread use as decorative green space in the development projects Bellosguardo worked on across Adelaide. Median Strip draws attention to the cost and residue of our perpetual pursuit of newness, upgrades, and development.

 

In Crane, Bellosguardo tackles the cultural concerns tied up with fast-paced construction and development in Adelaide’s West. A black steel crane arcs up from the Gallery floor, bursting forth from the mound of soil it excavates. A circular reference to our reciprocal relationship with the natural world, as well as the cycles of construction and destruction in an industry unconcerned with longevity, sustainability, or quality, governed only by a legal minimum standard.

 

Both works blur the boundaries between the ‘natural’ and the ‘constructed’. Bellosguardo demands that we recognise the extent to which the logic of cookie- cutter planning and development extends across all domains: colonising, transforming, and destroying natural and cultural worlds.

 

Saskia Scott

 

I acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional owners and custodians of the Adelaide Plains. This land was, and always will be, Kaurna Land. I pay my respects to Kaurna Elders past, present and emerging.

all my friends are dead, 2019

Fontanelle, Adelaide

Essay by eDuard Helmbold

Look in the mirror and say:

Candy man

Candy man

Candy man

Candy man

Candy man

Horror films have warned us time and time again that the summoning of ghosts should not be taken lightly.

When we summon the ghosts of our pasts their haunted histories are summoned too.

Summoning ghosts means risking being possessed by (as in: to belong to) their histories; the heralded AND the haunted. Consider for instance the work of Constantin Brancusi; he revolutionised figurative and modern sculpture, but also appropriated art and aesthetics from non-European cultures.

Contemporary art is all too aware of this. Many contemporary artists tend to be paranoid about the rather-not- known, so they slap their historical influences with a dash of irony as a spell to keep the ghosts and their haunted histories at arms length.

Bellosguardo’s work is not that.

In Living with Ghosts: From Appropriation to Invocation in Contemporary Art Jan Verwoert writes: “The one who seeks to appropriate... must be prepared to relinquish the claim of full possession, loosen the grip on the object and call it forth, invoke it rather than seize it.”

Over the past three years Steven has invoked the ghosts of Brancusi, Calder, Hepworth, Noguchi and Flugelman, not in 

an attempt to claim their work but instead being open to being possessed by their spirit and their histories.

Instead of paranoid, Steven Bellosguardo’s work materialises hope for a people that does not disavow a less than promising past, instead they succumb to a moment of courage and vulnerability.

all my friends are dead invokes the ghosts of modernists and formalists, people of privilege and oppression and presents work about that awkward state of being a human with histories.

Is not to possess a spectre to be possessed by it? To capture is, is that not to be captivated by it?

Brancusi. Dead.

Calder. Dead.

Hepworth. Dead.

Noguchi. Dead.

Flugelman. Dead.


Throughout human cultures, rites of passage have played an important role in celebrating community members manifest changes of identity. French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep framed these rites around regeneration as law of life. Central to this law is death.

 

It is in his studio that Bellosguardo wrestled and danced with the ghosts of Brancusi, Calder, Hepworth, Noguchi and Flugelman.

 

There has to be death for there to be regeneration.

In his text The Rites of Passage Van Gennep goes further and connects this process into an ongoing cycle consisting of three stages:

 

Separation: Ties between the (old)-self, previous community and ways of being is ruptured leading to a loss of identity. Also known as pre-liminal stage.

 

Segregation: The In-between stage where the old identity has been lost but new identity not yet formed. Marked as a time of confusion, education and testing. Also, known as the liminal-stage.

 

Integration: Person moves out of isolation into the community where “new” identity is celebrated and recognised. Also known as the post-liminal.

 

all my friends are dead can be read as Steven Bellosguardo’s experience in the liminal space of his studio. These sculptures materialises moments of isolation, connection and the awkward spaces in-between. It is in this studio-as-liminal-space where Steven honed his skills of bending, welding and grinding. But the liminal space is more than a mere space of refining skills and disciplines; it is also a space where one is visited by the ghosts of those who came before.

It is in his studio that Bellosguardo wrestled and danced with the ghosts of Brancusi, Calder, Hepworth, Noguchi and Flugelman.

 

We have to agree with Derrida, Steven now belongs to them.