Review: Agatha Gothe-Snape – The Outcome is Certain, Monash University Museum of Art (VIC)

Through text, colour and technology, Gothe-Snape’s retrospective considers how the canon is written, rewritten and unwritten.

The Outcome Is Certain is the first retrospective of Agatha Gothe-Snape’s more than 10 years of artistic practice. The exhibition brings together performance, text, wall drawings, PowerPoint displays, and close collaborations with her group of artist peers, together at the cutting edge of Australian conceptual art practice. 

The exhibition, which shares a name with Gothe-Snape’s show at Australian Centre of Contemporary Art (ACCA) 10 years earlier, brings together key works from Gothe-Snape’s oeuvre that have only been shown alone or in group exhibition contexts. The new exhibition, at Monash University Museum of Art’s architecturally interesting and innovatively curated gallery, mediates with text, colour and technology concerns about Western canonicity, the temporal and material perspectives of performance and its echoes, and digital technology and its ability to capture and erase. 

The interrogation of these themes is evidenced by two juxtaposing art works that attest on the one hand to the palimpsest of technologically enabled artistic statements, which write, rewrite and erase like the lines in the sand created by waves on the shore, and on the other hand to the permanence of the idea of artistic authority in the arts, creating a monument to celebrated artists in the Western canon. 

In what the American intellectual Shoshanna Zubroff calls ‘the age of capital surveillance’, the first piece is particularly bold. Staged in collaboration with Google Creative Lab, Wet Matter has viewers strap themselves into a harness which holds a mobile device and includes headphones. The viewer then walks over a series of sensor-enabled blue ‘X’s which prompt an audio recording of a reflective statement. This piece occupies the biggest room in the gallery and features a three=tiered series of steps that enable the viewer to see the whole room. While engaged with this piece, I thought again about the impermanent nature of digital communication, endlessly inscribing and reinscribing the intensely personal experience of interacting with the world in the digital age. 

The Every Artist Remembered series from 2009-2018 was, if anything, the opposite of the work I previously described. A number of handwritten lists, drawn in texta on butcher’s paper, feature the names of artists whose work has propelled them into a state of permanent veneration, or whose singular status in relation to the artist make them worth memorialising. I found myself thinking that the medium which Agatha-Snape chose to memorialise these artists suggests that the process of canonicity is also a form of impermanence. 

Overall, I found this exhibition provocative, stylish, compelling, and poignant.

4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆

Agatha Gothe-Snape: The Outcome is Certain
Curator: Hannah Mathews

8 February-9 April 2020
Monash University Museum of Art, Caulfield VIC

Vanessa Francesca
About the Author
Vanessa Francesca is a writer living in Melbourne. She has an Arts (Honours) degree in English Literature. She has previously written for community papers and interviewed guests on community radio. She was a writer and producer for The Melbourne Model Musical, which ran for two seasons at the comedy festival. She is currently a fiction reader for Overland, and a Literary Associate with MKA: The Theatre of New Writing. She is working on a novel and a collection of short stories.