Steven Rhall

What do we make of the Treaters? Or is it The Treaters? While they were referred to as many things I’m pretty sure the label ‘post-punk apocalyptic disco group’—shared with me in an email exchange around initiating this text—is both fitting but also quickly redundant in the group’s eschewing of category and categorisation. I have a feeling that the label came from the group but given their mysterious nature, including the use of alter-egos, with subversion and subterfuge as the wellspring directing their actions, we might abandon that idea altogether. Are The Treaters dead? Well…

This writing could have almost begun as an autopsy. A detailed, delicate and respectful uncovering of the deceased to finally make sense of a once living and not quite understood departure. Asking what had happened during an initial state and what led to the state which followed.

All and sundry laid out for final scrutiny.

Given the circumstances around autopsies, we don’t happen upon the task too readily except most unexpectedly, denoting a sudden departure, but The Treaters deny us that also. With no announcement of demise, or current state, I’m reminded of long-dormant and seemingly abandoned website with the most recent edit evidenced of years ago however, still engaging us, ironically, by way of non- disclosure, i.e. no announcement of a ‘breaking up’ or the like. Despite this, this writing does purport to be an obituary. A less clinical and detailed explication of the deceased but again with a similar problem, the lack of extant ‘bodies’ or bodies of work to examine and further, a singular body—which traditionally aids both a focused ‘biography’ including an ability to speak about temporal and material absolutes.

The Treaters were never absolute except perhaps in embracing rejection—absolutely—in some sort of definition of themselves. In terms of the Blak arts scene, they were both needed and essential, not least in their unorthodox modes and materialities, simultaneously supercharging and challenging what might be considered ‘contemporary Indigenous art’. I’m sure there was a song about it. More ‘we’re not this’, than ‘we’re this!’ again though rejecting the usual framing devices that categorise—both in the world of Art and of peoples—including rejection of a corporeal basis.

Therefore, to consider the passing of The Treaters through the usual bodily lens of loss, does not feel appropriate either. Sure—and to borrow parlance from the field—‘For those that know them well’, we have three bodies forming a core, but even as bodies their contribution merely acted as further framing devices deployed in whatever way seemed fit for their array of enigmatic and sporadic actions, productions and provocations.

So lest, for this ‘obituary’, The Treaters conceptualised as a trio is kind of useful, helping form the bodily structure taken for granted, thereby allowing the denotation of a passing. Further, as a ‘name’, The Treaters (another framing device) suggests a plurality. Yet to my understanding, ‘The Treaters’ has a provenance more ambiguously located as an obscure reference.1

I can’t really recall, from my brief time around 2011 to 2013 in semi- merging with the Treater sphere myself, much ado about the name. That time is strangely blurry too. And I’m not saying The Treaters were nefarious, or a cult, but I felt their name was not something I really felt compelled or even able to ask about. As a label, and perhaps a necessary one as a means of participation in the ‘art’ world, ‘The Treaters’ seemed to just resonate beyond the more common descriptive purpose text. Just as Apple might not have an association with fruit for some, The Treaters in name—like as entity—took on a presence of its own coming to render the only literal associations to the un-associated. Pick your favoured treat and go from there.

The Treaters’ resistance and rejection of common modalities in (art) practice, and hindering the ‘obituary’ framework, observes time co- opted, and sucked into The Treaters’ black hole. An absence of time derailing the ability to measure the body or bodies to aid the formation of a biography.2

Interacting, intervening, disappearing. In part and in whole. Fragmented. Getting all around town, all active like then, like a switch, not. On the internet, on a wall, sounds. Video. How can we know of the Treater body where its constituent parts are constantly mobile and emerging mercurially in any form that suits, or suited at the time?

‘Interacting, intervening, disappearing. In part and in whole. Fragmented. Getting all around town, all active like then, like a switch, not. On the internet, on a wall, sounds. Video.’

One might be at the shops, the other? God knows where except
other than basing our exposure to ‘them’ via the artistic presentation. Invariably, the artistic presentation or exhibition, another tired point of reference dragged out for scrutiny, and as particularly, in the dreaded artistic bio. Presentations analysed to gauge and understand the currency and a capital of the deceased. The value of which legacy is often measured.

With The Treaters that’s maybe all there is. What we might be left with. Do you know or have record? I don’t ‘know’ who they were and, even, neither did they in actively eschewing selfhood. The Treaters were not aligned with these systems of value where via my brief dalliance, I can only recall some vague images from memory. Like that of a dingy St Kilda bar. Similarly Linden and earlier, at Incinerator. Treater ‘bodies’ reluctantly dragged and propped within, like marionettes performing across the range of bodily and other (often $2 shop) accoutrements. Modified flags. Multiple Monkey masks. Marshalls.

Per the trio of bodily frames, I’m not sure where the ‘presentation’ started and if there ever was an end. Consciously or otherwise, The Treaters flattened, removed, or through multiplicity rendered the ability to dichotomise, otherwise very useful in art biographies and as a contextual aid—here one minute gone the next—as part of loss and grieving. Their bodies perhaps just performing as a fulcrum for their ongoing concerns which seemed to centre around ‘contemporary Indigeneity’ but such an idea itself acting as its own juncture. If there had to be one juncture, ‘contemporary Indigeneity’ seemed to be a cursory location from which all the accoutrements and expressions would emerge.

With this undertaking, we might consider a three-dimensional space, allowing various points of an axis said biographer might use to attempt to plot a biography and associated outputs. This is an idea, but one would expect The Treaters to break, or reveal, through the fourth wall of a three-dimensional grid, and perhaps in the kitschest finery one could imagine, shutting down such attempts. And they may likely claim hitherto, in death as in life, the problematic nature in plotting, purportedly, specific concerns, for lest it seems to suggest alternate states. The non-fixative nature of The Treaters haunt me, resisting. Spectres. Forcing me to let go of conceptions. Breaking through…

*phone rings

Hello, Blak Metal.

Yes, who… who’s this?

It’s The Treaters speaking.

Uh… you’re uh dead…

In a way, yes. Now listen…are you still there?

I… I… I’m still here, Treaters… yes…

Come to the old house tonight. There’s quite a few people here who’d love to see you…

ha ha ha…

Stop it!
It’s starting all over again…

1. Editorial note: The core group of The Treaters are/were Anna Liebzeit aka Snake Eyes, Peter Waples-Crowe aka Monkey Man and Karen Adams aka Goth Treater. Writer Steven Rhall aka Blak Metal was an honorary member, via invitation, for particular projects which included installation and performance
2. Editorial note: The Treaters were known to be ‘active’ from around 2010–15.