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Review | Worktable gives you the tools to discover something new

Worktable | Gallery Central | til 3rd Mar | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Brussels-based artist Kate McIntosh has collaborated with North Metropolitan TAFE to bring an exciting and introspective interactive art installation to Perth Festival – and it’s a smashing good time.

The piece takes audiences alone through a number of rooms, guided by simple instructions taped to the wall. We know from reading the synopsis of the festival attraction that there will be an element of destruction – but what comes next is left to your imagination.

Upon entering Gallery Central, participants are greeted by a number of bookshelves laden with miscellany. After being instructed to choose just one object from the eclectic selection (including vases, an Andy Williams record, an adorable duck figurine and a single high heel) – my companion and I began to sweat over our decision. The assistant was tight-lipped about what we’d have to do with the object as we progressed through the doors – was there a trick up their sleeve? What would our choice of object reveal?

Realising we were running short on time, I gravitated toward a VHS copy of The Sound of Music. It was certainly the most camp item on the shelves, and for the sake of full disclosure, I could do without hearing about what Maria ‘can’t face’ ever again. My pal picked up a ukelele, following a similar thought process. We were certain we’d have to be taking the items apart, but the assistant’s silence had us second guessing.

The tension had us split between excitement and apprehension as we were led into separate rooms. There we were greeted with a worktable loaded with safety equipment and a variety of tools we could use to take our item of choice to pieces. Being left alone let me shed any inhibitions I might have had performing before a crowd, and I gleefully smashed up the VHS tape with the hammer and chisels, pulling the tape from the reels – but choosing to leave Julie Andrews and the cover art in tact. She deserves that much.

The electric tension propelled me through the rest of the exhibit – I can’t say much more about what comes next, but the experience evoked a child-like curiosity that had me hurrying to find out what was around the corner. How many more rooms were there? What would the next set of instructions be? Am I about to be made a fool of?

The freedom to play without peering eyes, and the wonder of what’s to come was just plain fun – what’s brilliant about Worktable is the the simplicity of the concept, and the finesse with which the team have executed it. Each step had me analysing why I was making these choices, fearing repercussions if I didn’t interpret a rule correctly or worrying I would miss out if I moved too quickly – but I couldn’t wait to see what came next. My companion took his time, spending about 15 minutes longer navigating the labyrinth than I – we were told someone had even spent five hours at the Worktable. 

At the very least, Worktable is a cathartic reprieve from the day-to-day. At most, the simple experiment will have you looking within, asking questions about your relationship with the temporal and the tangible. So what will you find at the Worktable?

Worktable is being held at Gallery Central until Sunday 3rd March. Tickets and more information available from perthfestival.com.au

Leigh Andrew Hill

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