02
Mar
10

Review: ‘Expedition’ by Shane Hulbert and Trish Morrissey (Ireland) at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 22nd January – 14th March, 2010

 

Shane Hulbert. 'Broken Hill Speedway' 2009

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian)
Broken Hill Speedway
2009

 

 

Two solid exhibitions by Shane Hulbert and Trish Morrissey at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy.

Shane Hulbert‘s series Expedition (2009) features nine large beautifully printed and framed pigment prints with prosaic titles such as Pit, Shooting Range, Spud’s Roadhouse and LED Sign to name a few. The work is at it’s most successful when it challenges the conventions of colonialism and undoes the mapping of ‘rightful’ possession of the land – usurping the space and place of occupation and memory – questioning how western cannot be seen as national. This goes against the stated aim of the project – to explore how the ‘Aussie adventurer’ lays claim to sites, locations and territories and how these constructed environments act as historical and contemporary markers for defining aspects of our national identity.

In photographs such as Broken Hill Speedway (2009, above) and Sculpture Garden (2009, below) the construction of the picture plane (with fences and gates acting as barriers, shielding our vision of the territory beyond) undermines our relationship with the land and emphasises our tenuous (western) hold upon it. In these photographs the images work to invert/disrupt/displace the historical and contemporary markers that Hulbert sees as defining aspects of our national identity. In these images ‘presence’ is contaminated, identity is contaminated. These are the strongest photographs.

In other more formalist images that have a spare aesthetic such as Shooting Range and Calder Park Raceway (2009, below) the marking of the land promotes a reterritorialization of (vacant) meaning within the constructed environment with a conversant deterritorialization or loss of original meaning. These images are not as powerful, as emotionally effective as the two previously mentioned photographs. The other five photographs in the exhibition seem less successful – perhaps too stilted in their lack of dynamic tension within the spatial landscape / formal construction within the picture frame to fundamentally address the notion of ‘expedition’ and our ongoing relationship with the land. Ultimately the series needs a more rigorous conceptual focus – on specific sites of contamination for example – for an expedition is a journey undertaken for a specific purpose. In the selection of these seemingly random photographs there seems to be no overarching narrative or pictorial holism; I believe that the thematic development that grounds the series, the ideas that drive discovery, need to be more clearly defined.

Trish Morrissey‘s body of work Seven Years (2001-2004, below) is the lesser of the two bodies of work in her exhibition at the CCP. Aiming to “deconstruct the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it … Morrissey functions as director, author and actor, staging herself and her sibling in tightly controlled, fictional mis en scene based on the conventions of family snapshots.” The seven years title relates to the age difference between the two siblings. Unfortunately, while the photographs are well shot with good framing and use of colour, the concept seems too contrived, the situations and clothes too laughable, the outcomes not challenging enough. The ridiculing by imitation leaves an odd taste in the mouth, the fictional simulacra neither a passable imitation of the family snapshot nor a pushing of the metaphor of self-efficacy, the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals.

The most outstanding body of work in both exhibitions is Morrissey’s wonderfully vibrant series of large format photographs titled Front (2005-2007, below). Featuring photographs of families on beaches in the UK and Melbourne, Morrissey insinuates herself into the hierarchical family group (usually as the mother wearing the mother’s clothes) with unsettling results. The photographs are wonderful, the compositions implicitly believable in their conceptualisation, technically brilliant with beautiful control of light, colour and space. As Dan Rule insightfully noted in The Age newspaper, “What makes Morrissey’s work impressive and convincing is its multiplicity. She doesn’t just comment on family and femininity and photographic mode; she steps inside and embodies the formal and cultural archetypes.”

The rituals of family gathering and holidaying are neatly skewered by Morrissey’s performative acts – as Roy Boyne observes in his quotation, “When self-identity is no longer seen as, even minimally, a fixed essence, this does not mean that the forces of identity formation can therefore be easily resisted, but it does mean that the necessity for incessant repetition of identity formation by the forces of a disciplinary society creates major opportunities for subversion and appropriation.”1

These photographs subvert the idiom of the nuclear family, where conversational parties possess common cultural references. In Morrissey’s photographs the family photograph has become a site of resistance, a contested site, one that challenges the holistic whole of the family, the memory of the family photograph and the idea that without family nothing cohesive would exist at all. The singular ‘body’ of the family is neatly dissected and parodied with great fun, wit and elan. I loved the series.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

    1. Boyne, Roy. “Citation and Subjectivity: Towards a Return of the Embodied Will,” in Featherstone, Mike (ed.,). Body Modification. London: Sage, 2000, p. 212

.
Many thankx to the CCP and Shane Hulbert for providing me the images below and allowing me to use them in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Expedition considers the significance of our ongoing relationship with the land and the identity of our nation. The exhibition is an investigation into the formation of our cultural psyche resulting from the ‘Aussie adventurer’ determination to discover and lay claim to sites, locations and territories. It is not based on any singular historical expedition, nor is it a cartographic exercise, but rather a reflection on the internal and constructed environments within the country, and how these act as historical and contemporary markers for defining aspects of our national identity. Of particular interest are areas within Australia which emphasise aspects of our western heritage, our origin, and the way this relates to our relationship with the land.”

Text from the Centre for Contemporary Photography website [Online] Cited 01/03/2010

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian) 'Calder Park Raceway' 2009

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian)
Calder Park Raceway
2009

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian) 'Sculpture Garden' 2009

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian)
Sculpture Garden
2009

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian) 'Shooting Range' 2009

 

Shane Hulbert (Australian)
Shooting Range
2009

 

Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967) 'September 20th 1985' 2004

 

Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967)
September 20th 1985
2004
From the series Seven Years

 

 

Seven Years (2001-2004) aims to deconstruct the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it. In the series, the title of which refers to the age gap between the artist and her elder sister, Morrissey functions as director, author and actor, staging herself and her sibling in tightly controlled, fictional mis en scene based on the conventions of family snapshots.

In order to construct images that appear to be authentic family photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, Morrissey uses period clothing and props, both her own and others, and the setting of her family’s house in Dublin. They assume different characters and roles in each image, utilizing body language to reveal the subtext of psychological tensions inherent in all family relations. The resulting photographs isolate telling moments in which the unconscious leaks out from behind the façade of the face and into the minute gestures of the body.

Front (2005-2007) deals with the notion of borders, boundaries and the edge, using the family group and the beach setting as metaphors. For this work, the artist traveled to beaches in the UK and around Melbourne. She approached families and groups of friends who had made temporary encampments, or marked out territories and asked if she could be part of their family temporarily. Morrissey then took over the role or position of a woman within that group – usually the mother figure. She asked to take her place, and to borrow her clothes. The woman then took over the artist’s role and photographed her family using a 4 x 5 camera (which Morrissey had already carefully set up). While Morrissey, a stranger on the beach, nestled in with her loved ones. These highly performative photographs are shaped by chance encounters with strangers, and by what happens when physical and psychological boundaries are crossed. Ideas around the mythological creature the ‘shape shifter’ and the cuckoo are evoked. Each piece within the series is titled by the name of the woman who Morrissey replaced within the group.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography website [Online] Cited 01/03/2010

 

Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967) 'Rachael Hobson, September 2nd, 2007' 2007

 

Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967)
Rachael Hobson, September 2nd, 2007
2007
From the series
Front (2005-2007)

 

Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967) 'Hayley Coles, June 17th 2006' 2006

 

Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967)
Hayley Coles, June 17th 2006
2006
From the series Front (2005 – 2007)

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 11am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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1 Response to “Review: ‘Expedition’ by Shane Hulbert and Trish Morrissey (Ireland) at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy”



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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: ‘Mask’ 1994

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