In 1989 Greek/Australian filmmaker Adonis Klucic began a project that would consume him for the next five years. It would take him across three continents, alienate him from family and friends and ultimately leave him abandoned and on the brink of financial ruin and psychological collapse. Klucic’s quest to find and interview on film the last remaining leader of the militant arts collective QUINTO SESTO would become a case-study in frustration and thwarted ambition. The photographs, documents and objects in this exhibition are drawn from this ill-fated odyssey.
Below is a brief chronology detailing Klucic’s efforts to contact QUINTO SESTO leader Quinto Santo, regarding his intention to produce what the filmmaker described as a ‘Revolutionary bio-pic’ about him.
Australian filmmaker Adonis Klucic meets by accident (and unbeknownst to him at first) Jeannie Morecombe, one time member of QUINTO SESTO at Barons Nightclub, Kings Cross, Sydney.
Klucic has been more or less secretly obsessed with the little known activist/artist group QUINTO SESTO for years. Morecombe has been in India researching creative spiritual practices and had agreed to meet her ex-husband Quinto Santo while she was there.
Alerted by Morecombe of Santo’s whereabouts in Calcutta, India, Klucic contacts one-time QUINTO SESTO leader and radical Santo whose political ambitions and personality he identifies with.
Klucic, receiving no response to his first letter writes another in the hope that Quinto Santo will respond.
Santo does respond but in an aggressive and dismissive fashion. Klucic discovers that Santo has taken to calling himself ‘Ian’. He refuses outright to have anything to do with Klucic’s proposed bio-pic unless there is some financial reward. He incidentally mentions ex QUINTO SESTO member Tracey Cox with extreme disdain suggesting that they may have been recently in contact.
Klucic writes again to Santo detailing the extent of his ambitions as well as his ‘noble’ intention and denies any link with Cox. Santo responds brusquely while asking for an advance of US $200 for his participation in Klucic’s film.
After arriving at Santo’s hotel in Calcutta, Klucic learns that Quinto or ‘Ian’ has travelled to Bangkok, Thailand, on “urgent business”. Klucic follows. He begins shaping a shooting script for the film.
Klucic discovers the contact address he has been given for Santo in Bangkok is incorrect and spends valuable time and resources trying to locate him with the help of backpackers and local police. With only a single photo and uncertain what name Santo is currently using, Klucic is unable to locate his whereabouts. In desperation he writes to Morecombe in Sydney. His obsessive travels have exhausted his funds. He is left stranded in Bangkok waiting for money from his family to return to Sydney.
Morecombe replies to Klucic’s letter informing him that Santo had returned to Sydney and is uncharacteristically flush with funds. Klucic is incredulous and disappointed.
Klucic eventually returns to Sydney because he believes he can ‘work better from there’. After several months and with renewed enthusiasm for the project, Klucic meets up with Morecombe for information about Santo’s current whereabouts. Morecombe tells Klucic that Santo has returned to Thailand and has spent the last month in the area known as The Golden Triangle, on the Thai/Burmese border. She suspects he is involved in drug trafficking.
Klucic writes again to Jeannie Morecombe. He has saved money and claims to have finally found a producer for his film. Armed with an address for Santo, he expresses his intention to return to Thailand to interview and film him ‘this time in secret’. He takes new camera equipment he has recently purchased and an advance of US $300 to give to Santo. Klucic emphasises his excitement about the prospect of finally meeting Santo.
In Sydney, Jeannie Morecombe receives a desperate and distressing letter from Klucic. Klucic has been arrested in The Golden Triangle on suspected drug charges along with Quinto’s current partner Destiny Sharpe. He claims to have temporarily bribed his way out of his predicament. He has been beaten. His money and equipment have been stolen. He accuses ex QUINTO SESTO member Tracey Cox (also recently arrived in northern Thailand) of setting him up after being refused payment for her ‘part’ in his film and suspects her of the theft of his equipment. Sharpe’s fate is not mentioned while Quinto’s whereabouts remains unknown .
Morecombe, fearing the suicidal tone of Klucic’c letter, contacts the Australian Embassy and Australian Federal Police. Neither express particular concern although they claim they will look into the matter.
Australian and Thai authorities fail to locate Quinto Santo/Ian Sutcliffe. Adonis Klucic returns to Sydney to pursue a career in film/television production. His film Australian Revolutionary remains unmade.
Quinto Sesto: a brief chronology 1975-1976
The kernel of the pacifist group, soon to be known as ‘Quinto Sesto’, is formed. Its founders are Robert ‘Quinto’ Santo and Warren ‘Sesto’ Mitchell. The men meet at the University of Wollongong. They are both committed activists. Dismayed with what they see as the University’s ‘anti-progressivism’, Santo and Mitchell quit and move to Sydney believing that here they will meet kindred spirits willing to perpetrate anti-state actions.
With no money and no work, Santo and Mitchell establish a squat in innercity Newtown. Self-appointed leader, Quinto Santo marries long-term partner and fellow activist Jeannie Morcombe who henceforth adopts the moniker ‘Mad Dog’.
A fourth member of the group joins. Little is known of her background or specific activities. She is known only as ‘Head Girl’ already suggesting a level of internal competition within the group.
Santo begins writing Quinto Sesto’s manifesto stating their pacifist and anti-state aims. The manifesto remains unfinished due to Santo’s conflicted desire to produce both a local equivalent of the Communist Manifesto and a work of serious literature. While the tract is ultimately abandoned it provides the group with its enduring slogan ‘Fighting for Peace’: the structural paradoxes of Quinto Sesto are, even at this fledgling stage, fully evident.
‘Sesto’ Mitchell introduces lover Tracey Cox to the group. Cox is never formally admitted to the organisation. Santo in particular views her as a disruptive element especially once her taste for drugs becomes apparent. Tension grows between Mitchell and Santo.
Mitchell and Cox wanting the group to embrace a more creative outlook are ultimately indecisive and descend into drug dependency. Santo is infuriated by the ‘aesthetic turn’ the group is taking – as is the increasingly unpredictable ‘Head Girl’ – but fears the disintegration of his marriage to Jeannie who is open to it.
Quinto Sesto on Mitchell’s initiative, begin a series of rehearsals for a proposed ‘rock opera’ Fighting For Peace’. It incorporates fragments of Santo’s unfinished manifesto set to music.
Rehearsals for Quinto Sesto’s political rock opera are a disaster. Efforts to entice ‘socially aware’ session musicians fail. Santo is enraged and humiliated and returns to his militant ideals. Santo kidnaps Mitchell’s lover Cox and holds her for eight days.
Mitchell retaliates threatening Santo in broad daylight outside a local pub seriously threatening the anonymity of the group’s members. Following what was by all accounts a tense and lengthy group meeting, Quinto Sesto nonetheless reemerge cathartically, its members agreeing to a number of mutual concessions.
At first Quinto Sesto’s new political/creative direction appears promising. A number of activist theatrical pieces are rehearsed successfully. However, additional tensions arise when Santo’s interest once academic interest in Satanism assume a less than wholly ‘politico-academic’ dimension.
Santo begins to introduce a new disciplinary edge to group activities. Quinto Sesto’s ‘artistic’ members became more and more alienated. Betraying this mood, Jeannie ‘Mad Dog’ Morecombe also criticises Quinto Sesto’s ‘macho bias’.
Completely disillusioned by now by the dysfunctionality of Quinto Sesto, Cox leaves the group and Mitchell. ‘Head Girl’ vanishes without a trace. In a desperate last ditch effort to reassert his leadership and the continued viability of Quinto Sesto, Santo holds Mitchell captive for 36 hours in the same warehouse he had held his lover Cox. The organisation is finished. Santo takes Morcombe with him to Thailand to escape police prosecution.