‘Relax, We’re Doing Great’ by Michelle Hamer

‘Relax, We’re Doing Great’ is a new exhibition by artist Michelle Hamer on view at MARS Gallery from 2 to 27 March.

Her work explores the rhetoric of instruction and advice we have become familiar with in the pandemic years. She deploys phrases and commands such as ‘strong together’ and ‘maintain social distance’ that we see flash up on digital road signs and billboards, and that have perhaps started to pierce our inner dialogue.

However, while Hamer’s slogans are quick, changeable or even glitchy in real time, in these works they are rendered in a slower and more ‘analogue’ medium, being hand-stitched onto perforated plastic. The process and product is tactile, time consuming, and she weaves in some interesting binaries to explore. Each of Hamer’s images holds the potential for us to consider; mass dissemination versus a unique art object, the digital and physical and, what is an order or provocation.

Michelle Hamer, 2020
This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria; The Australia Council for the Arts; City of Melbourne & Nillumbik City Council

The artist is prompting the viewer to pull finer focus on the jargon we allow to wash over us as we drive to work or school or hear repeated in the media. What are the words telling us? What do the words say about how we’re feeling? They are literally ‘signs of the time’, so what do they say about our beliefs?

Hamer is asking the audience to be present when, weirdly, time is abstracted and yet the world seems to move at break-neck pace. It is also a prompt to consider reality; for example, ‘Relax, We’re Doing Great’, was said by a former US President over a year ago, when many experts thought the worst was yet to come.  

The gallery and artist share that ‘these works connect into the hand-made, digital and 24/7 news cycle coping mechanisms – for fears and uncertainty – of this pandemic period. The power and importance of language is highlighted when experienced en masse with the repetition and irony culminating in the appropriation of the works into the Wheel of Fortune slot machine style video artwork.’

Hamer shows herself as driven to record and reflect on this historic moment in time and is an artist who encourages us to do the same.