The Physician

Kunst Angst sufferers are everywhere, but gather en masse beneath the bright fluro lights and in front of heavy explanatory labels of contemporary art galleries. The Physician offers a vital public health service to galleries and their visitors, offering one-on-one consultations which promise to rid visitors of conditions such as Acute Indifference Disorder, Metaphobia, Mild Conceptual Perturbation, and Severe Relational Efficiency. This often takes the form of a healing ‘pneumatic ritual’ using a set of handmade, blue-baize equipment. The ritual often takes place in public, in or around gallery spaces—as directed by the patient.

The Physician is a live-art project in the guide of a public health service, undertaken by Melbourne-based, New Zealand artist Jason Maling. His residency at City Gallery took place over twelve days during the International Festival of the Arts, when art anxiety reaches pandemic levels. He consulted with over ninety patients. Some of the rituals took on the gallery or specific elements of exhibitions. One patient crafted a protective head piece so she could bang her head against the wall in frustration. A shorter patient constructed a set of stilts to provide an elevated view of the art on display. One family put felt discs under the works they considered boring. Some of the rituals were highly creative, others protective—devices to block out distractions or other visitors proved popular.

The Physician embeds itself within the gallery infrastructure. The front desk became a doctor’s reception, the Gallery boardroom became a consulting room, the Gallery phone number a helpline. Art is offered as a service rather than a product. But who or what was really being diagnosed?

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