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Kate Mitchell: Art by Accident

Kate Mitchell
In Time, 2015
Film still
Image courtesy of the artist

The MAMA building is designed to host a number of art experiences outside the interior exhibition spaces, including the exterior walls, screens, and roller door. These spaces can be used to create unexpected art encounters for passers by on Dean St or in QEII square.

Art by Accident was Kate Mitchell’s takeover of MAMA’s accidental art sites. Mitchell brought a series of works to MAMA that challenged the process and purpose of making art.

The centrepiece to this project was Mitchell’s In Time, a 24-hr real-time video of a performance in which the artist clung to the hands of a human sized clock. The completed work was a fully functional timepiece that acted as a 'live' clock on MAMA's exterior.

In Time was QEII Square’s official timekeeper through to Sunday 1 October 2017, and counted down the minutes until daylight savings begins (or standard time ends). In Time is Mitchell told time with her body and marked its inevitable passing. She described it as ‘the biggest and hardest thing I’ve ever done – physically, mentally and emotionally it required everything of me’. Mitchell spent a full 24 hours 'on the clock' - She referenced physical-based labour workers in her choice of overalls, claimed that being an artist is no more or less important than any other job.

Mitchell often presentedas the archetypal fool– a character whose exaggerated or comedic behaviour perhaps highlights more complex issues. This comedic impulse was present across the works in Art by Accident that at first appeared to poke fun at the job of making of art.

In Hypnotised into Being, Mitchell attempted to separate conscious art thinking from subconscious belief. Initially sceptical that she could be hypnotised, the artist found herself induced into a semi-conscious state, and on film began to enact 'art' prompts that she had earlier prepared. The result was both entertaining and enlightening as we see the artist attempt to personify both simple and complex artist ideas.

On MAMA’s Dean St exterior two neon artworks replicated Mitchell’s brainwaves and showed the activity of her brain when she is thinking about art. These two artworks, What Thinking About Art Looks Like (2015) and What The Realisation That This Thought Is An Artwork Looks Like (2015), were presented as bright simple neon squiggles. These replications of neural oscillation demonstrated that art stimulates significant activity in the brain.

Mitchell took this demonstration further with This Art Exists in Your Mind, a text work on MAMA’s roller door and a series of announcements made over MAMA’s sound system. The text was generated by an artificial intelligence program inputed with texts from artists and theorists. Here Mitchell challenged us to embrace the absurdity of the text and imagine our own version of the artwork it described.

Kate Mitchell’s works in Art by Accident seemed to say that if the artwork makes us wonder, or if it simply reminds us that we exist, then it was worth the effort in making it.