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Stacey Chan, Redemption (2017), powdered antidepressant, 11 x 5.6 x 5.7 cm 
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Stacey Chan, Masaho Anotani, Elliott Jun Wright, Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin pharmakon 27 May - 18 June 2022
Stacey Chan, Redemption (2017), powdered antidepressant, 11 x 5.6 x 5.7 cm 

Bodies are fragile things. The last year of pandem(-ic)/(-onium) has forced this sentiment into our collective conscience, our sociality withering to permit a new awareness of the individual. When the body simply is and we have nowhere to go, destinations are bounded by our minds. To escape isolation and dysmorphia, to transcend hopelessness, many turn to body-altering experiences to expand their limits. Self burned and searing pupils, we (re)turn to art to arouse emotions and to find that elusive thing to believe in when time seems have no beginning and no end. pharmakon (26 November - 18 December) attempts to explore the dysmorphic experience of self, rendered familiar to many post-pandemic. Dysmorphia, by definition, relies on the binary existence of two positions, with the self suspended in the awkward liminality between the two poles. This borderland is home to me - an Australian-born European raised in China and Korea - and to the artists I have asked to join us for this group show. Also common to our experience is a desire to transcend visual reality, physical limitation and national borders to venerate the spiritual through art. Stacey Chan is a Melbourne/Naarm-born, Hong Kong-based sculptor and installation artist who transforms pharmaceuticals and depression-generated detritus into objets d’art. Redemption (2017) casts powdered Prozac in the form of a Buddha figurine while Nerve Tells (2017) uses powdered aspirin as pigment in her structural recombination of the sacred and the profane. Masaho Anotani, a Tokyo-based artist, travelled around Alice Springs/Mparntwe in 2019 under the guidance of Aboriginal art expert and philanthropist Ken McGregor. With minimal English, Masaho attempted to transcend language to connect with local artists and to create artworks expressing his mystic experiences. Goodrugs (2019) was the result — a series of 100 fictitious medicine bags to be activated by the viewer to initiate transformations. Elliott Jun Wright is a Korean-born, NYC-based artist who finds the locus of identity to be our skin, our largest medium of contact while our greatest limit for identity. Intense Care (2019) and Nourishing Porcelain (2019) are part of his ongoing series of embellished, resin-encased skin-care masks. Through these pieces, Wright suggests that pharmaceutical enhancements are more than simply skin-deep. Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin is a Korean-Canadian artist, currently based in Brooklyn, NYC. Her/their installation pieces incorporate elements of Korean traditional ceramics, a discipline in which vessels are treated as bodies, and Korean folk medicine (hangyak). Just as these cultural industries are undervalued in our increasingly globalised society, Tiffany interprets this erasure to parallel the lived experience of Asian emigrants and their children. These four artists are physically distant and culturally disparate, yet their ability to traverse (corpo)reality through engaging pharmaceutical lore provides a pertinent and unifying theme to our medically (O)riented culture. pharmakon does not claim to cure or to poison, but I hope to (re-)open viewers to the potential of the body and the spirituality inherent therein.

Curator - Elle Anastasiou
This exhibition is a part of CAVES Guest
Curator Program 2021 - and made possible with
support from Creative Victoria.