Tony Schwensen is one of Australia’s foremost interdisciplinary artists and has made a long and distinguished series of performance works, often examining the underside of cultural life and notions of artistic value.
In the work Hamburger Boygroup 2000 Schwensen is seen dancing to the 1999 song ‘Keep on movin’ by the British boy-band Five. Distilling boy-band dance moves down to a single repeated step, Schwensen breaks down twenty-first-century pop culture to the essence of performance with particular reference to the physical exertion and endurance associated with much performance art.
Relaxed and comfortable – lamentation (after Mantegna) 2008 responds to John Howard’s decade-long conservative government in Australia and the former prime minister’s 1996 election campaign statement, which anticipated Australians being ‘relaxed and comfortable’ about their identity, their history and their future. Schwensen undercuts this phrase by using a supine pose drawn from the famous Italian Renaissance painting, Mantegna’s The Lamentation over the Dead Christ c.1480.
Rocking in the free world – Neil Young’s passport 2008 was made by Schwensen in the United States as a foreign resident during the 2008 presidential election. In the work, he considers the processes of democracy as they are played out in the US from a position of powerlessness as a foreign citizen — like Canadian musician Neil Young — from a rocking chair on a porch.