AC/DC Homage Continues To A Kilt-Wearing, Hellraisin’ Bon Scott


May 2, 2008

Some art curators would consider late AC/DC singer Bon Scott too lowbrow a subject on which to base an exhibition.

But not Jasmin Stephens. Despite neither being a fan of the singer nor his band, she was curious enough to commission 19 artists, including fashion critics and Archibald Prize winner Adam Cullen, to explore notions of masculinity, remembrance and rebellion by deconstructing the charismatic rock star.

Ms Stephens says the Bon Scott Project exhibition aims to prove there was more to the diminutive singer than a powerful voice, tight pants, showmanship and sexually suggestive lyrics.

Ms Stephens assigned artists that knew little about the band. “The project is not intended to be sycophantic because those results would tend to be cliched,” she said. “I hope it will offer new ideas and perspectives. I wanted to create an exhibition with a wide range of platforms that will interest different people.”

Interest in Scott keeps surging 28 years after his drink-induced death just as the band was hitting its prime. British magazine Classic Rock has named Scott the greatest ever frontman, ahead of Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant.

The Melbourne City Council has named a laneway after his band, his birth town of Kirriemuir in Scotland unveiled a Caithness stone slab in his honour and money was raised to erect a bronze statue of him in Fremantle, Western Australia.

The new exhibition is part of plans by Fremantle to reclaim its favourite son. Scott grew up there, and is buried there — his National Trust-listed grave is the most visited in Australia.

“Bronze statues are generally associated with bishops and governors,” Ms Stephens said. “I feel that Bon has always relished his outsider status. He’s always been a bit of a rascal and hellraiser, like a Ned Kelly figure, so I wanted to look at other ways we could celebrate his life.”

Some of the works include personal letters, photographs uncovered from the late Rennie Ellis’ collection, Bevan Honey’s Apparition installation, which is visible only in certain light, and a blog written by Lucas Ihlein about the cult of Scott.

“I feel that a blog is public art, and I wanted people from all over the world to participate in the project, because Bon has more fans in the northern hemisphere than he does here,” Ms Stephens said.

They will even wheel out fashion critics to analyse “the ugly/sexy factor” — Scott’s allure despite his not being conventionally handsome.

“By wearing kilts and dressing up as a schoolgirl, it’s clear Bon had an intuitive understanding about how to play dress-ups,” Ms Stephens said. “And yet he was admired so much for resisting the pressure to go glam — he was a denim man through and through.”

Ms Stephens expects the exhibition will appeal to a broad audience. “I’ve met very high-profile movers in the corporate world and government who adore his cheekiness as well as his music.”

The exhibition opens at the Fremantle Arts Centre on May 17, and organisers hope it will tour eastern Australia. The Melbourne Arts Centre also plans to present exhibitions on AC/DC and Peter Allen.

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