Ghost stories with Adrienne Kenafake

Uniquely talented weirdo Adrienne Kenafake has been making quite a name for herself in the Gold Coast art scene over the last five years. Exploring the darker side suburban Australia, her work utilises the mundane but places it in the context of the paranormal, bizarre and occasionally the downright gross. And frankly, we can’t get enough. Fresh off the back of her confronting musical sculpture collaboration HOME SURGERY at punk venue Vinnie’s Dive, Adrienne is taking up a residency at one of the Gold Coast’s most exciting and innovative art spaces – The Walls in Miami. A match made in some kind of bizarro heaven, you might say. We shot her a few questions about her recent works, and upcoming piece DUPLEX.

During your residency at The Walls you are exhibiting a piece called DUPLEX which explores ‘the uncanny parallels between hyper normal suburban environments between Western Australia and the Gold Coast.’  What is the story behind this work and the connection between these two areas?

Project DUPLEX opens the door to a parallel universe, The Satellite Place, where you could be anywhere, everywhere and nowhere all at once. The exhibition (held at The Walls on Saturday 3 August) will be a multi-sensory experience that incorporates performance, sculpture, sound and installation. DUPLEX is the result of two back to back residencies, the first in Perth at the Midland Junction Arts Centre and now on the Gold Coast at The Walls. The project has been supported by the City of Gold Coast’s Regional Arts Development Fund Germinate program.

The work arises from my personal love/hate relationship with the Australian suburbs. An environment I perceive as presenting profound moments of human experience behind a facade of normality, sameness or overwhelming blandness.

Growing up I frequently visited Western Australia to visit my grandparents.  Even as a child I found the place incredibly stimulating for the senses. I have a great deal of fond memories and have always been drawn to the artistic community there. Geographically, Perth is also a nice reflection of the Gold Coast with the coast facing the opposite way and the sun setting over the ocean.  Late last year I went for a short trip back to Perth and found myself wandering the streets and seeing houses that reminded me of certain areas on the Gold Coast. I felt disturbed and disorientated – estranged somewhat from the close connections and familiarity one usually associates with neighbourhood.  Everything was familiar, but I was 4000km from home – Was I in a parallel universe??

On return to the GC I created a list of 12 everyday objects that I saw repeatedly in both places. The interrogation of these objects has become the basis of the works in the exhibition.

In many of your works you incorporate sound and performance with sculpture. Can you talk more about this, particularly with relation to DUPLEX and HOME SURGERY? 

To me, sound is a tool. It can set the mood; help you enter a trance and dissociate from the reality that is presented. I often walk long distances exploring suburbs listening to music. A conversation occurs between the track I’m listening to and the visuals I’m seeing as I walk.  The audio component of both DUPLEX and HOME SURGERY is a collaboration between George Hickman and I, a Brisbane based sound artist and DJ. We have a similar conceptual perspective on the burbs and use sound and music as a means of escape, relaxation and ecstatic celebration.

All the works are ritualistic in nature. My body and the participation of the audience is often directly involved.  To create the works I use the normal (object and experience) to conjure the paranormal in the hope of summoning myth and mystery into my own life and all those who participate in the performances.  HOME SURGERY was a collaboration of sculpture, music and performance, an experiment in ‘forced possession’. It featured the ritual dissection of a figurative sculpture to a live modular synth set.

From photos we have seen on Instagram, the exhibition looked incredibly interesting. For those of us who missed the live performance piece, can you tell us something about it?

HOME SURGERY touches on ideas of identity, shared ritual, possession and the spirit world. I wanted to leave the work fairly open ended. The real inspiration behind the piece was to give life to a recently deceased woman whose personal items I discovered in a roadside wheelie bin in Balcatta WA.
In the performance I stripped the clothes off a female form that lay prone on an operating table and sliced off her face using a kitchen knife. I wore her face as a mask and dressed in her clothes for the remainder of the performance – during which I disembowelled the body and revealed a chocolate cake inside the corpse. As the synth grew louder and more abstract the audience was completely consumed by what they were experiencing. At this point I climbed onto the table, placed the cake over my own belly and invited the audience to eat it.

Congratulations on Agents of Confusion being among those accepted into the HOTA Creative Developments program. How are you going with it, and what have been some of the highlights so far?

Agents of Confusion is the collaborative practise of both Tessa Bergan and I. We start our 10-day ​SPACE INVADERS​ residency at HOTA in early August. During this time, we will be working with Georgia Pierce, a choreographer from Brisbane to develop a fun new dance-based work. The finished, and hopefully outrageously cosmic work will be performed with one of our favourite local bands, Free The Genie on the outdoor stage on Saturday 17 August.

It seems the year is all go for you. What is the next year looking like?

Very soon I hope to be working on a joint exhibition with Paul Sutherland, an artist I met in Perth. I am also in the process of producing a new performance work for an upcoming underground electronic music event (aka rave).

Your work is provoking, and it stirs. It asks us to step out of our own thought routine, of what we usually like to see.  What stirs you to put things out in the world the way you do? What is your voice hoping will get heard?

I am often questioned about the macabre nature of my work. There is an undeniably dark and unsettling element to what I do and this has been present in my practise for a long time. I love bones, abandoned houses, roadkill, flies, soil, the shape of prone bodies – but I don’t consider myself a death focused artist. I’m curious about the inside of things and my work encourages people to look closer at the world around them. I also really like to delve into the things we can’t explain (hauntings, paranormal phenomenon, telekinesis, ufos, necromancy) to stimulate my imagination and that of my audience. I find mystery very exciting in a world where answers to all our questions are just a mouse click away. Art is just storytelling – and I like telling ghost stories.

DUPLEX​ exhibition runs Aug 3 – September 1 at THE WALLS ART SPACE Miami. Opening night is Saturday 3 August 5 – 8pm with performances from 5:30pm.

Interview by Nicole Browne

Story by Natalie O’Driscoll

IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography

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