Buried Not Dead (Fiona McGregor, Giramondo)
Outsider art, as critic Roger Cardinal once wrote, is ‘immune to the polarisations of culture and the copycat spirit of cultural art’. It’s fair to say that Fiona McGregor’s new essay collection Buried Not Dead exists in this realm. Written over 25 years, McGregor draws from her experiences as a performance artist, writer, queer and friend to introduce a book that is fiercely lyrical in style and diffusive in scope. It evinces what she refers to as ‘a coalitionist culture—what you’d call intersectional now’, utilising memoir, art criticism and reportage to evoke snippets of pre-gentrification Sydney, her own coming-of-age in the 1990s and the difficulties and contradictions that come with being a self-taught artist in the world. Through essays on performance artist Latai Taumoepeau, tattoo artist Bev Nicholas and musician Lanny K (to name but a few), McGregor is both witness and collaborator: as she charts her journey to find belonging among chosen family, she is championing the legacies of fellow outsider artists while also inviting their voices into the conversation. A lively and unpretentious book, Buried Not Dead is reminiscent of the work of Kathy Acker and Eileen Myles—a collection that does not indulge in misplaced nostalgia, instead recontextualising the past in hopes of a shared future.
Cher Tan is a writer in Melbourne.