Liam Houlihan's art practice responds, symptomatically, to his experiences in university and the associated (physical, social, cultural, financial, emotional) labour. After years of study, he feels burnt out - at times frustrated, at others apathetic - and totally disillusioned with the educational institution and its aims. Here, the student is conditioned (via an iterative conveyor-belt of labour) to be a desirable capitalist subject, i.e., compliant, efficient, dispensable, and content with their exploitation. Liam's work manifests as speculative "survival kits" - absurd, haphazard contraptions that try (and almost always fail) to resolve one's exhaustion and angst. He has a particular interest in the utopic/dystopic role of machines as surrogates for the human body - machines whose very existence imagine futures where automation displaces human labour, where employment is optional, and where work is conducted on the labourer's terms. He hopes his work resonates with the experiences of all students and young people. Liam lives and works on unceded Wallumattagal land. He is expected to graduate with a Bachelor of Science / Fine Arts in 2022.
Bad Writing Machine (2022). Pen plotter apparatus, computer set up, power source, table, pen, paper roll. height: 1.5m, depth: 1.0m, length: variable.
Writing lines is a punitive act (think Bart Simpson and his chalkboard). It is a banal, repetitive task handed out as a punishment in high school. Each line is written by the student, to the student; a disciplinary imperative directed to the self. And yet writing lines is also a generative act (think the recital of a mantra). It is a tool to manifest dreams and wishes, whispered over and over again. If repeated enough, maybe those wishes will come true. Bad Writing Machine tiptoes between this dichotomy; between punishment and salvation. Here, the artist is both conjuring wishes and disciplining oneself. The gesture is a survival tactic - a way of coping with the anxieties of the artmaking process, namely the fear of inadequacy. They write: "I will come up with better ideas". But - it seems that the artist has given up, or at least found a way to circumvent this dilemma. The labour of handwriting is redistributed to a machine: an intricate, automated Rube Goldberg contraption of wires, bolts, micro-switches, and servo motors - yapping and purring with electricity. Bad Writing Machine cannot complain, cannot yawn or sigh in exhaustion (or zip out the door on his skateboard). It works tirelessly and precisely, impervious to pressure. The work contemplates artmaking (and all labour) in the age of capitalist realism - where productivity takes precedence over physical and emotional wellbeing.