Critics’ Picks

Heath Franco, VALLEY, 2019. Installation view, Cement Fondu, Paddington, New South Wales.


Heath Franco

Cement Fondu
36 Gosbell Street
August 3–September 29, 2019

With “VALLEY,” an exhibition of a 2019 walk-in installation of the same name, Heath Franco stages a bold physical extension of the video-based work for which he’s best known. Entering Passage, 2018–19, a carpeted A-frame walkway, feels like stepping into a sinister gated garden, a portal to a dark dimension. Indeed, artificial foliage at the tunnel’s entrance partially shields the viewer from a speaker that loops through a distorted greeting: “I’m not doing anything.”

The world one enters is a post-consumerist one. Franco has crafted a phallic pyre, which he calls Pile Circus, 2019, upon which he has stuck and sewn myriad brightly hued products: Dildos, masks, retro clothing, underwear, boxing gloves, wigs, toys, and fake glasses that once costumed actors in past Franco videos adorn the tower as if thrown onto the edifice ad hoc. Yet there is nothing flippant about this piece. Strewn with bits of kitsch, Pile Circus looks like the remnants of a debauched party that culminated in a thrilling exegesis of popular culture. The most prominent element of VALLEY, apart from its sheer size, is the outlandish masks that intermittently cover the pyramidal structure at its center. What might Franco be trying to conceal? “I’m not doing anything,” the voice-over reminds us. Au contraire—the otherworldliness within these sickly orange walls suggests that the end to our modern consumptive practices is nigh. What will replace them is unfathomable: No one would want to admit that they’ve been partaking in Franco’s dystopia all along.