“Unlike the exposed nipples of humans and our closer kin, the mammary glands of dolphins and porpoises are concealed inside of abdominal slits.” Brian Palmer, Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC.org
When I was a kid, we had a pencil sharpener in the house that was really solid. The functioning sharpener formed a blue, cylindrical base from which a single rubbery dolphin leapt, as if from a wave. It was from “SEA WORLD” (logo on the side). My parents had acquired it on a holiday when they’d stayed in the Sea World on-site hotel in the early nineties.
The dolphin is the logo for Sea World, the amusement cum marine park. It could also maybe be thought of as a logo for the “Gold Coast” in general, the (quasi-)city that contains Sea World. Dolphin - a flashy, slippery icon.
Flashy, slippery cities seem like strange places for artists to take root. That’s not true. But it is a genuine perception when it comes to the Gold Coast. We know that “Porpoise Spit” is not a place where outsiders thrive. Or where anyone thrives, if 1994 smash hit and culturally iconic film “Muriel’s Wedding” is anything to go by. “Porpoise Spit” is the fictionalised version of the area of the Gold Coast in which I currently live.
The other day at the gallery a curator introduced me to someone who told me that “it was all true. The horrible father, the burned backyard…” He had lived in “Porpoise Spit” during the time events depicted in the movie had taken place.
And yet, friendship triumphs! At least it does in the movie.
But it also triumphs in the intentions of the artists I have met on the Gold Coast. Not least of all collaborative artists Grace Dewar and Sarah Lewis, aka ‘Dolphin Milk’. (I find out later that ‘Dolphin Milk’ derives from a forerunner of their original name ‘Porpoise Tits’, a playful reworking of “Porpoise Spit”). Their work is an assemblage of paraphernalia and deconstructed objects with accompanying video and audio that speaks to a Gold Coast suburbia of yesteryear (but that you still see today). The show Everyday Mysticism points to the aesthetics of nineties escapism as a form of domestic magic.
When speaking of the work Sarah Lewis says, “the friendship is the art”. It is a magic that forges connection. The spell is the creation of a space of safety, shared cultural phenomenon/nostalgia and an explicit invitation from the artists to take part.
While I have been writing on this, I have remembered a time in my early twenties when I owned a phone case that had holographic dolphins on it that I had gotten from the $2 shop to protect my phone. I had gone on a date with someone at around that time, and when they saw the case they’d said drolly, “Don’t tell me you’re a ‘dolphin girl’”. I said, “What the hell is a dolphin girl?”.
I think it was meant to be like a “horse girl” and the concept/accusation irked me. For further context, this guy negged me on a whole bunch of other innocuous stuff but in a way that made it seem like all a joke. Anyway, the phone case was nothing in comparison to the coveted childhood dolphin sharpener.
Dolphin Milk, a self-described “undefined feminist experience” is an antidote to this kind of memory. Their use of dolphin ornaments arranged in order to activate a “portal” takes ownership of gendered dolphin worship (if such a thing exists?????) with a heaping of humour and grace.
Words by Meg Stoios