Getting to know you, putting it my way, but nicely

Mark Shorter Renny Kodgers Tino La Bamba in conversation

We live in a world of mutable identity play; from the numerous online avatars we might create and inhabit through to the roles we adopt and conceal as we navigate the spaces between our public and private lives. Within this distended identity-scape a desire for the authentic experience of self is often attempted. In The Artist is Present (2012), Marina Abramović sat across from her audience, unguarded and exposed for 736 hours, and in 2015 Caitlin Jenner revealed the intimate details of her personal journey in a ‘tell all’ article with Vanity Fair. But in this environment of hyper-honesty is an authentic expression of self truly possible? Or are such expositions merely adding to the number of mutable identities we desire to occupy?

Mark Shorter
Big Pinky 2016
Hardwood, steel, aluminium, eggshells, plaster, resin
180 x 150 x 90 cm
Artbank collection, commissioned 2016

For instance, I often think: “What would Renny do?”

Mark Shorter’s practice addresses such concerns through the multiple identities he has inhabited over his career. From the lewd country lounge singer Renny Kodgers—who speaks in a broad Southern drawl and drips with a dirty fake tan—to the itinerant quixotic journeyman Tino La Bamba, a madman who takes on impossible and mythic challenges such as digging through the centre of the earth. And let’s not forget Schleimgurgeln, the guttural, non-verbal landscape painting critic who traverses two thousand years of imagined antipodean space and time. These characters reflect an approach to art making where the identity of the artist is slippery, unfixed and malleable, like a bad Andy Warhol interview it can’t be pinned down. But if we call out the alter-egos as theatres of the self, identities not to be trusted it makes you wonder: What if Shorter’s most effective fictional creation was himself as the artist behind these inauthentic beings? In a rare three-way interview, Melbourne based artist Mark Shorter goes toe-to-toe with Renny Kodgers and Tino La Bamba in an attempt to flesh out the true authority on his practice. One question remains: which of his many selves can truly be trusted?

MARK SHORTER: It is strange. I don’t think the three of us have been in the same place at the same time together. Of course, the two of you are with me all the time, you are in my thoughts, you are strategies or implements that I use to make art. If I have an idea I often consider you guys with respect to it. For instance, I often think: “What would Renny do?”

RENNY KODGERS: When I received this invitation to meet with the Great Tino La Bamba and his creator, Your Royal Highness Mark Shorter I thought to myself, are they trying to get me on the down-low? Is this some kind of perverse three-way-hand-tuggin tight conga-line-touchyfeely lubricated exchange? So I brought some duck fat.

TINO LA BAMBA: I do not agree with this assertion, the notion that this Mark Shorter is some kind of creator-at-large. It makes this a hierarchy, an uneven platform of exchange. It puts us all on different niveles. You come before me and I after you. This idea makes no sense to me. If only it was nonsense then it may be something I might subscribe to. The way I see it, why must K come before L? Why can’t L come before K? And if L does come before K, what might that make you!

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Tino La Bamba
Tino La Bamba: A Spaniard’s Journey to Lismore (2009)
Performed across regional NSW
Production still. Photo: James Brown