Jeremy Hynes: Performances

8 December–2 February 2007

In November last year we were shocked by the loss of our friend, artist Jeremy Hynes. Hynes had been a key figure in Brisbane art in the early to mid 1990s, when, as a young man, he presented a series of audacious performance works. Many of these occurred at the IMA and at the artist-run space ISNT. Video was always important for Hynes. He used it to document his performances and in his performances, and went on to create an Aria-nominated computer-animated video clip for Regurgitator's pop song Polyester Girl. Hynes left behind a trove of videotapes. With help from Hynes's friends, Ben Wickes has created a compilation of recordings of his performances.


Hynes's performance work looked back to the logic and formats of 1970s post-object art while moving into more contemporary forms of interactive new-media theatre. It combined a belated punk aesthetic (Hynes was constantly burning and breaking things) and a New Age sensibility (with images of psychedelia, rebirth and cleansing). Hynes's favourite motifs included smashing mirrors, purgative fire, and rock'n'roll swagger. He seemed to tread a fine line between embracing these images and dealing with them as cliches. Although his smashing mirrors in I Am Genius, I Am God might be read as an attack on his self-image, Hynes certainly had a romantic idea of the artist as outsider. He cultivated a kind of James Dean attitude—he looked good smoking. Hynes was also critical of the artworld. He video-projected his face up large to deliver a menacing indictment of a local critic and, in The Cleansing, he dumped a truckload of water on the doorstep of the old Museum of Contemporary Art (he wanted to pour it into the gallery).


Hynes's work was confrontational. He was interested in exploring questions of personal space. He locked his audience into ISNT and menacingly swung around a lamp on a cord, pressing them to the edge of the room. In a later performance in the same space, he walled himself in, away from the audience, to live and work alone for three weeks. He also occasionally confined his audience in taxis, creating drive-in art. Surrealism was also a big influence. In his street-theatre piece Pigeons, Hynes lay on the ground motionless, as birds picked at bread held in a cage around his head—it was pure Magritte. As was his performance The Water Piece, where, in his trademark suit, he swam down a twenty-metre tube of water, cutting himself free, only to be washed away by the torrent he released.