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In the Project | Eric Bridgeman
March 21, 2013 - May 11, 2013
Between the months of October and December 2011 Eric Bridgeman was artist in residence at the Gushul Studio in Blairmore, Alberta Canada, through a new International Artist in Residence program established by RMIT (Australia) and Lethbridge University (Canada).
Developed initially as a parallel study between Ice Hockey and masculine sporting culture in Australia, the concept quickly developed into a raw internal reflection on time spent alone, with only a toy golliwog for company, in the foothills of the famous Rocky Mountains.
Bridgeman reflects on this experience: “Virtually alone in this part of the world I decided to give in to my emotional extremes and let them take hold of me to see where they could take me creatively… an easy project because I was already living it.”
“I reacted strongly to the beige of the landscape, and so I began gathering the brightest, most extreme set of colours I could find. I collected my beer cans. I visited the National Salvage in Lethbridge and asked for three 44 Gallon drums to be crushed like coke cans by the claw tractor. I placed a makeshift sign outside of the studio asking for donations of wheelbarrows. I began painting and making noise. At this stage of becoming one with my delusions. I named my Golliwog friend Heath Ledger [a nod to Ledger’s role in Brokeback Mountain]. I engrossed myself in journal articles by Boris Groys, more specifically his publication titled Going Public published by e-flux in 2008, which was a parting gift from one of my mentors on departing Australia. I came to documenting my progress in the studio – speaking, working, and generally reaching out to the world in the form of ritualistic video diary entries. I made videos mostly out of optimism, in that they would someday serve the function of preserving this period of an artist ‘in the project’, whilst documenting the progression of an artwork aspiring to exist in the future.”
“During my stay in Canada, I received updates from my home in Papua New Guinea where my cousins had just completed building a house for me in the Highlands. I was also becoming more aware of the Indonesian occupation of West Papua through the media and social networking, and an awareness of the political relations between PNG, Australia and the rest of the world. Despite all of this new information and my sense of care, empathy, and awareness toward the world, the reality of my current situation was that I was a lone-man living with a Golliwog in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains thinking about art.”
“As my project developed, I was mostly unaware that while I was working I was channelling all of these problems, realities and questions through Heath Ledger. The racism and separatism in Canada was not unfamiliar to my own part of the world and the feeling of inadequacy as an outsider in Blairmore gradually became every day. My art practice came into form on this occasion as I decided to step into full gear and project myself as the artwork, and to act out these problems through the vision and guise of my Golliwog friend. By becoming the Golliwog, I found the ability to work through emotions ranging from anger, despair, love, and optimism. I gave in to being the best outsider that I could become. My use of red, white and blue became more than just coincidences of design between the Golliwog’s outfit, the West Papuan and Cuban freedom flags and my crushed oil drums. With all of these social and political ingredients combined, I wanted to create something that spoke broadly on how we make conscious decisions to self-design, to perform, and interact with one another as individuals and groups within the world – as artist, as political activist, as cult leader, as proud racist, as art collector, or as Big Foot living in the mountains. I staged numerous actions to capture my apparent enlightenment and personal discovery through my video diaries and photographic portraits, which may one day be judged a success or as failure.”