Ultra Unreal at The MCA
A Filipinx trans idol emerging from the body of a crocodile, larger-than-life-size latex dung beetles feasting on faeces, a farmer milking sperm, and a space satellite that just wants to be an artist make up some of the action on level one of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Ultra Unreal, the museum’s latest exhibition, is a wild ride.
Drawing on mythology and contemporary cultural practices, the six artists and collectives involved have created fantastical worlds inhabited by gender-fluid characters and hybrid creatures, with each tackling issues like climate change, gender and sexuality, artificial intelligence, gaming, religion, consciousness, death and spirituality.
Thai-born artist Korakrit Arunanondchai’s 48-minute film Painting With History in a Room Filled With People With Funny Names explores the practice of “ghost cinema”, in which films are projected into the forests at night in parts of north-east Thailand.
Each of the artists has some connection to underground club culture, or, in the curator’s words, “nightclub ecosystems”. Local art collective Club Ate (pronounced ah-tay) draw on Filipinx folklore and Sydney’s nightlife scene in their video installation and immersive soundscape, asking, “In the face of an uncertain future, how do we, as queer communities of colour, cultivate hope and create possibility?”
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the installations is Tokyo-based artist Saeborg’s Pootopia. In this technicolour latex dreamworld, Saeborg explores the concept of kimo-kawaii – when something is scary and cute at the same time. The artist’s practice has evolved from the queer club scene in Tokyo, where they began creating latex body-fitted costumes to wear to transform themselves beyond their own bodily limitations the expectations of society.
The museum had to find performers small enough to fit into the suits that Saeborg, who describes themself as an “imperfect cyborg – half human, half toy”, made to fit their own body. It takes an hour for each performer to get inside the intricately made suits, which are peeled back during live performances to reveal bones, guts and other innards.