Julie Rrap: Body Double

Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

www.mca.com.au
30 August 2007 - 28 January 2008

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

This major exhibition of the work of Julie Rrap, one of Australia’s most prominent artists, brings together photography, video, sculpture and installation from the past twenty-five years of the artist's practice. Thief, vixen and mischievous impostor, Julie Rrap has forged an oeuvre that seeks to disclose and unravel the ways in which the human body has been defined throughout western history and culture. She does so with a beguiling wit, an outward display of pleasure, and a determination to match the gaze of her audiences. Deeply ensconced in the story of the body, yet always a surprise, the art of Julie Rrap presents an enlivening journey over a twenty-five year period. The surprises result from a native ingenuity that aligns with a feminist strategy to continuously seek and present the unpredictable and unanticipated.

Julie Rrap has worked as a kind of ‘trickster’, by literally ‘occupying’ the work of some of western art’s most famous paintings. During the 1980s, Munch, Moreau, Baltus, Magritte and Degas provided vehicles for Rrap’s exploration of the ways in which the female nude had been represented through the history of art. “The historical paintings”, she explains, “were really stepping off points for me to do a performance”. By mobilising these well-known images, Rrap unravels the condition of woman as ‘other’.

Throughout the 1990s until the present day, Rrap has used her own body in various postures through shadow play, masquerade, mirror and mime. She performs as a ‘body double’ for the still and moving camera. Drawing on the notion that gender is in itself a performance, Rrap has forged the theme of the stand-in, a prosthetic body double, and her works often invite viewers to imagine themselves in such a role. She comments,

I see myself as talking from the third person, not as a self-portrait … I use my self-image in a more disembodied way. I am having a conversation with the female body: I am in two positions at once as model and author. The use of the self is almost like a ruse.
Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Julie Rrap: Body Double exhibition

Increasingly, Rrap represents a body in pieces, inevitably raising ethical and aesthetic issues in relation to how we depict, interpret and understand the human form. Such issues have been discussed both in broad social terms (for example in relation to the Abu Ghraib photographs or in connection with genetic engineering), as well as in the field of art. For Rrap, the body is porous, excessive and oozing with a sense of tease and trickery. This body oversteps the margins of comfort, taking us into the zone of transgression. It is, however, always in the company of a foil that more often than not, allows us to laugh out loud with the artist. A major book, Julie Rrap: Body Double, with text by Victoria Lynn and co-published with Piper Press, is available at the MCA Store and at Piper Press, Sydney. http://www.piperpress.com.au