The Multi-Disciplinary Art of Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy

Essay by Luke Foster

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” Edward de Bono

I have known Claire and Sean since art school days in the nineties studying in the medium of sculpture at College of Fine Arts in Sydney. Sean and Claire were always helping each other with their sculpture and installation projects and then after a gap year in Japan teaching English, they returned to COFA to do their masters and it was during this time that they started collaborating on ambitious installation projects.

Early collaboration works included: Location to Die For, The Cordial Home Project and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a reoccurring theme was their desire to buy a home but the high price of real-estate in Sydney and the inability for artists like them to get a mortgage and buy their own house.

The Cordial Home Project was an installation at Artspace in Sydney, and they got a complete house for free house in the Trading Post newspaper and demolished it and cut it up into pieces and reassembled it as a block in the middle of the gallery space. It was a breakthrough work for the pair and is the first of many works where all sorts of things are dismantled and assembled in gallery spaces including caravans, aeroplanes, and cars.

The Cordial Home Project won the pair the prestigious travelling art scholarship and they went to Berlin, and they said it was great for their art but were living on a shoestring as the pair had to share the forty-thousand-dollar scholarship, so finances were tight.

The pair went on to live in Berlin for eight years and their work matured with amazing installations such as Deceased Estate, a huge bundle of detritus that was left over when disgruntled artists of a large studio complex were evicted from their space in Weil am Rhein,.

I started writing this essay and then had a nap for a few hours as Sean and Claire’s art is so complex and epic that I didn’t know how to approach it as the essays I usually write take about twenty minutes, but their ideas are more complex than what I usually write about.

They have made so many complex installations, but other memorable ones include The Paper Trail that was shown at the Art Gallery of New South Wales which featured a yurt and palettes with boxes of government files and a trailer with complex geometric forms.

This is a brief explanation of the installation from their website:

 “Paper Trail is a continuation of our investigation into Nomadism and Globalism. Hitherto we had thought of modern nomadism within the boundaries of gentrification, international labour needs and generation lonely planet.

Our understanding of the relationship between Globalism and traditional Nomadism greatly changed after attending a seminar by Matthew Stadler in relation to the transportation routes established by Native Americans prior to the urbanization of the West, reading Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, Pure War by Paul Virillio and various texts on the Black Plague.” Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy

Another complex and large-scale installation was called Lifespan and was shown at the 53rd Venice Biennale and comprised of a tower of redundant VHS tapes. The tapes if played end to end would take up a person’s whole lifespan as an average of life spans when VHS tapes were created.

 The most interesting of their installations in my estimation is called Luck Exists in the Leftovers and was shown in Setouchi International Art Festival: Japan and featured a dinosaur skeleton propped up on IKEA furniture and lashed together with orange rope. I find it visually so striking and mysteriously evocative of museum displays and prepacked furniture which is found all around the world so also evokes globalisation.

Of more recent artworks the public commission Place of the Eels at Parramatta Square was a cast aluminium bus standing on its end and is the bus the Parramatta rugby league football team used to train in for  their games.

Sean and Claire are also fantastic video artists with videos like The Drag where a mechanic literally cuts in half a car.

For me the most notable exhibitions of theirs to name a few are in the Venice Biennale, a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney and several installations at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

This is the conclusion of the essay, but I feel I haven’t done Sean and Claires work justice for the pure volume and complexity and as such is just the tip of the iceberg. For further images and ideas about their art, you should check out their website which is amazing and my favourite artists’ website now.

The Paper Trail at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Life Span at the Venice Biennalie

Luck Exists in the Leftovers, Setouchi International Art Festival