the C word

The Old Ambulance Station, 25 August to 24 September 2022


Culture, Crisis, Comfort, Confusion, Cloak, Concealment, Cocoon, C …

The C word has as many understandings as the individuals who encounter it. Kim Schoenberger takes this ambiguity and melds it into forms and structures that interrogate the societal stasis wrought by a global phenomenon.

In reflection on our contemporary zeitgeist, the C word investigates the prominence of remembered fears, anxieties, and recurring motifs that surface when faced with uncertainty. Rather than avoid the power of these emotive forces, Schoenberger embraces this energy and unpacks the challenges, opening an experience that juxtaposes imagery with a personal understanding of our current disposition. The intangible becomes tangible, artefacts provoke a visual collocation for the audience, what we define as ugly, disturbing, or uncomfortable speaks to us with a new voice and as a vehicle of discovery.

Catalogue essay
the C word is a raw and personal exhibition for Schoenberger. It explores the depths and murky waters of lived experience, however it lands in the light of celebration and liberation.

First exhibited at The Old Ambulance Station, the C word is an installation exhibition. Featured in Gallery Two is Scar Tissue, it comprises two suspended artworks and a sound projection. The first work is a quilt that is suspended so it can be freely viewed from different angles. The quilt is made of latex and imagery printed on tea bags. A 1960s black and white film is projected onto the reverse side of the suspended quilt, to intentionally highlight the latex threads that hang in disarray, as in peeling skin. The footage can still be viewed from behind which is the ‘right’ side of the quilt, enabling the audience to view the images in more detail. The projected film captures three minutes of the artist’s childhood as living as one family unit, it also unpacks the artist’s experience of a broken family unit. The film was edited to include 56 seconds (the artist’s age) of white frame to the end of the footage which pulsates to the rhythm of the artist’s heartbeat for 83 beats before looping back to the beginning again.

The second component of Scar Tissuesuspended closely positioned to the quilt, consists of 56 latex-coated calico strips with more family imagery embedded onto latex-coated tea bags and attached with baby safety pins. This work stands in a kind-of suspended animation allowing the viewer to look closely at the work.

Also in Gallery Two is We All Have Wings, Cocooning I, II & III, and Caulbearer.

We All Have Wings, a large ornate golden frame with three moths protruding and leaping out at you, approximately one metre from the frame. Embedded and concealed in the frame are three cocoons, each of which has a thread that connects to one of the three moths. The narrative behind this work relates to the ‘recurring motifs that surface when faced with uncertainty’ in Schoenberger’s didactic. For Schoenberger, the Case Moth is one such recurring motif – on a surface level, the female Case Moth’s full purpose is to reproduce, lay thousands of eggs, and then die. She also remains in her woven silk larvae case as a caterpillar and never develops wings and cannot fly, while the male emerges from the case and can fly, which, as the title We All Have Wings suggests brings about a balance of the scales, for both sexes.

Cocooning I, II + III, the title is self-explanatory and is made of wire and several layers of latex. It can also be read as body armour enveloping in several protective coatings in a comforting way.

Caulbearer, is made with two sheets of moulded rawhide sewn together with sinew. The rawhide shell resembles that of a cicada exuviae, while three strips of latex-coated muslin hang in succession from its inner casing in a dripping effect – approximately 80cm in length. Below and a little off-centre to the suspended shell lies a flattened cloak, also coated with latex, a shedding of the shell. This piece is a 3D body cast of the artist in a fetal position.

Gallery One showcases a collective of framed and object based artworks that relate to each other so were placed in the vicinity of each other. For example, the two triptychs, Crypsis and Controlled Benevolence.

Crypsis I, II + III embodies what Controlled Benevolence is revealing. Crypsis is a type of camouflage – a survival mechanism for adapting or blending into one’s environment. It is framed and concealed. Family photographs have been printed onto the Manila hemp and are coated with layers of latex to conceal what lies hidden within.

In contrast, Controlled Benevolence I, II + III exposes what is hidden in Crypsis, the cocoon figures are now visible for the audience to see, however the work still remains protected by the golden triangular forms that hug them from above and the acrylic cover that sits on the plinth. The collage sheets showcase the family photographs seen in Scar Tissue, however the photographs have been manipulated into ghostly figures with blurred-out faces – into apparitions, if you like.

On the adjoining plinth and standing alone is Controlled Benevolence Jnr. It continues the narrative, however now the collage sheet is removed and the work finds strength and independence on its own.

Ponytail conjures (either fond or uncomfortable) memories and lived experiences for women and girls of having their hair tied back too tightly by a parent or guardian – most commonly a mother-type figure.

Ealdwif is an extension of Ponytail and has come of age. The vintage silk threads are torn and tattered but come with wisdom found within the fragility.

Two other works in Gallery One are Je ne sais quoi and Qualis [of what kind]Je ne sais quoi is a reflection on the unknown and the known. A cocoon-type figure is suspended in front of three connecting oval mirrors, reflecting its image. However when standing in the right position, three reflections are revealed – an otherworldly portal – three parts of the same person lie on the other side; they are all there but not there, and remain connected.

In proximity to and relates to je ne sais quoi is Qualis [of what kind], however the definition of qualis used here is in context of ‘of what kind or what (he/she) is like’, the unknown or an experience of something that is perhaps unattainable.

A six-page catalogue is available upon request.

“Walking through the exhibition with Kim, I see some of the pieces use images from her family photo albums. What Kim has done is to take those images and layer those memories and events in a very personal way, to explore the history of the family and the artist. This can be a comforting and confronting experience.” – Dr. John Waldron, the C word Guest Speaker and Former Exhibitions Curator, The Old Ambulance Station.

“Kim Schoenberger’s the C word exhibition is a big powerful show, a carefully realised aggregation of thought which subtly inserts itself into your awareness as you move from one piece, or one set of pieces, to another. They say that birds’ nests are artefacts of behaviour. In the same way, I think we can frame Schoenberger’s objects as instances, in time and space, of fluid states of affairs, together forming a forest of entangled experiences that she invites us to enter and share. While the exhibition responds critically to lived pain and anguish, it’s much more than a therapeutic exercise. Rather, it offers us visions of a pure form of compassion – literally, the sharing of suffering, which in the sharing affirms and revitalises us.” – Michael Doneman, Former President, Management Committee, The Old Ambulance Station.

A special thank you to the Old Ambulance Station for hosting my exhibition and the Horizon Festival for inclusion in their 2022 events program.

the C word is proudly supported by Sunshine Coast Council’s grants program and proudly sponsored by Nerada Tea


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