The unboxers

Hyper-linked is an exhibition for the digital realm, presenting new projects by seven contemporary Australian artists. Each artist is alert to the almost paradoxical fact that we are experiencing mass disconnect in an age of hyper-connectivity.

Like her peers, Justene Williams examines the role the internet plays in shaping our lives and the ways in which we communicate, bearing witness and paying tribute to our networked selves.

Justene Williams

born Sydney 1970. Lives and works Sydney

The unboxers 2020

video performance, sound
Courtesy the artist

An Art Gallery of New South Wales Together In Art New Work 2020 © Justene Williams
Supported by the Tindale Foundation


Early in our discussions about this project, Justene Williams sent me a link to a YouTube clip from Bob Fosse’s 1979 semi-autobiographical film All that jazz. It’s a split-screen compilation of the protagonist, theatre director Joe Gideon’s morning routine. Listening to Vivaldi, he stands in front of the mirror and gives himself a performative pep talk: ‘It’s showtime, folks’. He smokes and coughs up phlegm. Jazz hands.

The demise of Gideon’s health haunts the film. He continues to choreograph major musical numbers (even if they’re nothing but a dream sequence) yet his body fails him. The film ends with an abrupt cut to his corpse being zipped up in a body bag.

There are lots of ‘body bags’ in The unboxers. Because I guess a house is a kind of body bag? There’s a snail’s shell, a door, eggshells, a Kinder Surprise, a full-body oven mitt. All kinds of enclosures.

In the home, we shield ourselves from the outside world. Ffff—ffff—fffragile. We retreat and we recharge before we return and face the music. Because all the world’s a stage and all that (jazz).

Gideon pops a soluble Alka-Seltzer at the start of his morning ritual. Justene double-doses Berocca.

— Isobel Parker Philip