images: Quinto Sesto; ‘Fighting for Peace’ part 2; documents, artefacts and memorabilia
(installation views + details)
Quinto Sesto; Fighting for Peace (1975-76) - In June 1975 Quinto Sesto, an unregistered pacifist group, was formed in Sydney. Little is known about the activities of this collective. They were listed as a subversive organisation by the NSW State and Federal Police although their actions broke few laws and failed to capture the imagination of the public or indeed, other 70’s peace groups. In fact, Quinto Sesto were more generally written off as a public nuisance not to be taken seriously.
The group, whose core comprised four members and a ‘guest’, were activated by the general political and social tumult of the era. Like many, they were deeply angered by the Vietnam War as well as outraged by the summary sacking of the Whitlam government in November 1975. Furthermore, they were inspired by those they viewed as international fellow travellers like the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Black Panthers as well as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, to name a few.
However, unlike most of these organisations Quinto Sesto harboured artistic aspirations. One of its founders Warren (aka. Sesto) Mitchell, also wrote poetry, song lyrics and plays. Such ambitions culminated in the group’s attempt to encompass their political aims in the form of a rock-opera partially inspired by the The Who’s ‘visionary’ enterprise ‘Tommy’, also released in 1975. Unfortunately, Quinto Sesto’s own aborted production ‘Fighting for Peace’ like most of the group’s activities, barely got off the ground due to lack of collective coherence and talent. It exists today only as series of musical sketches and some crudely scrawled, heavily derivative lyrics. By mid 1976, Quinto Sesto, a failed activist and artistic entity, finally imploded under the combined pressures of internal bickering and excessive drug taking.
In this exhibition at Ocular Lab, the Institute of Contemporary Art Newtown presents documents, artefacts and memorabilia associated with Quinto Sesto on loan from one of its surviving members. Included also are recreations of some of the events associated with the group’s attempts to write and perform a genuinely ‘political’ musical. Instructive for what happens when ambition exceeds ability, Quinto Sesto remain a significant, if under-recognised entity emerging from the dim recesses of Australian political and artistic ‘folk’ history.