Canadian artist duo Hadley+Maxwell have used existing figurative sculptures found throughout the city of Sydney to create several new sculptural pieces exhibited at Carriageworks for the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire. Manners, Habits, and Other Received Ideas (2014) is an assemblage of sculptural impressions extracted by pressing Cinefoil – a matte black foil normally used in theatrical lighting – into parts of these existing monuments and statues. This process enables an imprint to be made; a physical memory of form.
Figurative bronze and stone statues, especially of royalty and influential historical figures, hold a special relevance in the individual and communal recollection of history. The forms appropriated from these sculptures include repeated prints of hands and feet, facial features, arms, torsos, and other body parts that indicate poses and gestures assumed by these symbolic figures. Also of interest are the accoutrements, the symbols of power and culture worn by or adorning the figures – sceptres, crowns, hats, books, musical instruments and wreaths.
Separated from their original narratives and returned to the public as a kind of grammar of available signs, the foil imprint acts as an inventory of these emblematic markers. From this taxonomy a new series of figures is produced – surreal characters built to populate the exhibition. Constructed as they are from parts of familiar public monuments, but reorganised and recombined to create new, unfamiliar creatures, Hadley+Maxwell’s sculptures produce an uncanny recognition for Sydney visitors, and indeed any visitor who shares a similar history of colonial, imperial and Anglo-invented places.
Inherent in Hadley+Maxwell’s process of assemblage is the ability to collide and reinvent histories through their juxtaposition. Manners, Habits, and Other Received Ideas aims to reactivate the role of public sculpture in the imagination of passersby who encounter them every day.
Hadley+Maxwell work across a range of different mediums including film, sound, drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, often incorporating several methods of practice into multifaceted exhibitions with a strong conceptual focus. The artists explore the correlation between the social and the personal, examining the relationship between public perception and private life. An example of the artists’ investigation of the boundaries of public and private space can be seen in ‘The Décor Project’ (2002–06), an installation series in which Hadley+Maxwell reconfigured the personal environments of curators, art collectors and gallerists. Guided by their research and a purpose-specific questionnaire, Hadley+Maxwell temporarily redecorated the homes of their subjects, creating 12 ephemeral, site-specific installations.
For their 2011 exhibition ‘Who That Happens’ at Or Gallery in Berlin, the artists grouped together a strange assortment of found figurines, slicing away a section of each at random to reveal the heart of the material beneath. The resulting sculptures became a surreal and fantastical hodgepodge of beings with arbitrary openings and modified identities. The works fall into what the artists call ‘Improperties’, an ongoing body of work in which Hadley+Maxwell explore new meaning attributed to objects when they are removed from their ‘proper’ context.
Hadley+Maxwell both attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, Vancouver, completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1998 before graduating with a Master of Arts at the European Graduate School, Switzerland in 2004. Selected solo exhibitions of their work include ‘If You Were Me, I Would Think Twice’, Jessica Bradley Gallery, Toronto (2013); ‘…Um’, Or Gallery, Berlin (2011); ‘The Idiots’, Every Letter in the Alphabet, Vancouver (2010); and ‘Improperties’, SMART Project Space, Amsterdam (2010). Recent group exhibitions in which Hadley+Maxwell have participated include ‘The Intellection of Lady Spider House’, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton (2013); ‘Living With More Art’, Reinhard Hauff Galerie, Stuttgart (2013); ‘Material Information’, Permanenten Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum, Bergen (2012); 4th Marrakech Biennale (2012); ‘The End of Money’, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2011); and ‘Invitation to an Infiltration’, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2010).