17
Jun
09

Review: ‘Blight’ photographs by Josephine Kuperholz at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd June – 27th June 2009

 

Josephine Kuperholz. 'Themognatha pascoci' 2008

 

Josephine Kuperholz
Themognatha pascoci
2008
Woven hand coloured silver gelatin photographic image

 

 

Josephine Kuperholz presents a beautifully engineered set of photographs in her exhibition Blight at Gallery 101, Melbourne. Featuring hand coloured silver gelatin photographs of endangered Australian insects sourced from the Entomology collection of the Victoria Museum, Kuperholz literally weaves multiple narratives into the photographs. The execution (an apt word for the circumstances of extinction facing these insects) of these images is fastidious, the weaving superlative, almost clinical.

The layering of the photographs disrupts their surface tension. There is a disjunction between the dead specimen and the singular photograph of it, a disruption of the smooth surface of the photograph by the hand colouring and a further fragmentation of the original photograph by cutting and weaving. Through these processes the photographs become intertextual in their construction, assemblages, creating new tissues of past citations: animal, colour, silver, artist, text, photograph, environment. At their best the work subverts the concept of the text as self-sufficient and hermetically sealed, blurring the outlines of the fixed image, “dispersing its image of totality into an unbounded, illimitable tissue of connections and associations, paraphrases and fragments, texts and con-texts.”1

Kuperholz’s mutations, ‘differance’ in Derrida’s terminology, produce spaces that are both fluid and fixed at one and the same time; neither her nor there. Though the original specimens and photographs are already narrativised, already textualised, Kuperholz disrupts this marking, the continual reiteration of norms, by weaving a lack of fixity into her objects; in her reconceptualisations of space and matter Kuperholz redefines the significations of the body of the animal in the fold of inscription, through a process of materialisation. Kuperholz attempts to ground these re-inscriptions through the naming of these disrupted surfaces, equating the images back to the scientific labels for the original specimen, Trapezites eliena for example (see below), and through the box frames surrounding the work that are much like museum cases. Unfortunately I found the constant reference to the habitat of the insect, it’s Latin name inscribed in pencil under the images and the use of plain brown box frames somewhat irritating. These tropes are not necessary for the work is strong enough to stand on it’s own without having to tell the viewer what to think.

The singular beetles (as seen above) are beautiful images and the multiple images where the weaving intermingles, the self decentred and multiple, fluttering and vibrating like the strobing of a time lapse photograph caught in three-dimensional space, are fantastic. Other photographs are less successful: the reflected beetles are a little passe, while the grid photographs of insects lack presence and intensity (see bottom installation photograph below). Where the concept works it is pushed hard, the fragmentation and interweaving causes an anxiety of identity and a meditation on the problematic nature of existence, revealing the changing sizes, shapes and rhythms of space and structure.

Perhaps a loosening of the rigid structure surrounding the works (the text, the frame, the incantations) would have let the photographs ascend into the ether, further releasing the work from the constraints of author, text and earth. It will be interesting to see future developments of this work. Perhaps the incorporation of gentle, subtle physical elements into the photographs (through the sowing of patterns, through the sowing of objects directly onto the photograph?), will elevate these already beautiful photographs to an-other plane of existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Josephine Kuperholz. 'Trapezites eliena' 2008

 

Josephine Kuperholz
Trapezites eliena
2008
Common name – Eliena Skipper

Woven hand coloured silver gelatin photographic image

 

Josephine Kuperholz. 'Dryococelus australis' 2008

 

Josephine Kuperholz
Dryococelus australis
2008
Common name – Lord Howe Island Phasmid
Woven hand coloured silver gelatin photographic image

 

Josephine Kuperholz 'Blight' exhibition Gallery 101 website text

 

Josephine Kuperholz Blight exhibition, Gallery 101 website text

 

Josephine Kuperholz 'Blight' exhibition installation view at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Josephine Kuperholz 'Blight' exhibition installation view at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Josephine Kuperholz 'Blight' exhibition installation view at Gallery 101, Melbourne

 

Josephine Kuperholz Blight exhibition installation views at Gallery 101, Melbourne

 

 

GALLERY 101

This gallery is now closed.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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