Posts Tagged ‘mutation

10
Dec
11

Review: ‘Lionel Bawden: Pattern spill’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 23rd November – 17th December 2011

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Double Vision' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Double Vision
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 23.0 x 26.0 x 7.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

In the self contained world of commercial “art to go” galleries, this exhibition is the apotheosis of that form. The work is astonishingly beautiful, refined and self contained. Drawing on references to Islamic art, Brancusi (Endless Column), stalactites, wafting sea sponges and the changeable camouflage patterns of sea creatures, the sculptures are perfect in visualisation, creation, contemplation and containment.

Sitting on coloured perspex shelves the patterns spills of coloured Staedtler pencils explore “themes of flux, transformation and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world.” The titles of the work hint at such an exploration: Double VisionTrance-muterSecretionLosing Containment, Pattern Spill.

How I wish, long, crave to own one and I am not alone: on the opening night nearly all the sculptures were already sold! Obviously people recognise the uniqueness and beauty of this work.

And yet …

.
Part of               me

longs
for    a
      broken
pencil,
a
snapped           t/wig,
something
                                           out of place
that puts
pattern to
shame.

 

For only in mutation is pattern given relevance (and this is what the irregularity of ‘spill’ is supposed to be about). The flow of the Pattern Spill sculptures are the only ones that get close to this mutation and that in a pretty, ordered way.

“What happens in the case of mutation? Consider the example of the genetic code. Mutation normally occurs when some random event (for example, a burst of radiation or a coding error) disrupts an existing pattern and something else is put in its place instead. Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation … Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction…

The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”1

.
Instead of pattern “something else is put in its place instead.” I don’t get that here. Yes, these are beautiful, contemplative sculptures but one wonders how they will go on revealing themselves over months and years. I yearn for the prick of their imperfection.

.
Many thankx to Karen Woodbury Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp.30-33.

 

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Trance-muter' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Trance-muter
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 32.0 x 26.0 x 7.5 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Secretion' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Secretion
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 31.0 x 25.0 x 17.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 45.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Losing Containment' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Losing Containment
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form 1: 31.5 x 24.0 x 12.0 cm
Form 2: 33.5 x 33.0 x 26.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 120.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

Lionel Bawden’s exhibition Pattern Spill will comprise of a range of small-scale objects created from vibrantly coloured pencils that are fused and sculpted together. By working with hexagonal coloured pencils as a sculptural material, Bawden is able to reconfigure and carve a range of amorphous shapes that convey movement and process. Bawden explores themes of flux, transformation and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world.

This new body of work deals with ideas of control and collapse, surface and interior and organic patterns and energies through static three-dimensional objects. Bawden’s sculptures explore larger ideas beyond the work and relate to societal and natural systems, cycles and structures. Through his work, Bawden communicates macro ideas through micro detail. The works in Pattern spill become vessels for contemplation.

Alongside the sculptures there will also be a range of small meticulous drawings of vast hexagonal cells included in the exhibition. These drawings will act as companions to the sculptures, assisting to convey Bawden’s oblique explorations and meditations of the human condition.

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Pattern Spill' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Pattern Spill
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 30.0 x 23.5 x 33.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Patttern Spill III' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Patttern Spill III
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 31.0 x 23.0 x 34.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Secretion III' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Secretion III
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 35.0 x 26.5 x 15.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Elevation' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Elevation
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 42.5 x 15.0 x 7.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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08
Apr
11

Review: ‘Antony Gormley: MEMES’ at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th March – 23rd April 2011

 

Anthony Gormley. 'MEMES' 2011 installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne Photograph by Tim Griffith. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEMES installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne
2011
Photograph by Tim Griffith
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

The size of the figures surprises the viewer on entering the gallery.

Then observe the figures engagement with the gallery space.

The tensioning points between figures, wall and floor are fantastic.

“Placed directly on the floor they become acupuncture points within the volume of the space, allowing the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his/her own mass and spatial displacement as s/he moves around and amongst the works.” (Antony Gormley text, see below)

The figures lean, are lopsided, collapse, pose, are reordered and reconfigured.

They teeter on the edge of cracks in the gallery floor (perhaps a metaphor for humans standing before the abyss).

They form yoga poses.

They are Transformers (some of them remind me of the Star Wars ‘AT-AT’ Storm Troop Carrier, the ones that look like deadly mechanical elephants).

The figures self-replicate 27 communal blocks in different assemblages.

There seems to be a (metaphyiscal?) connection between the figures, through gesture, across space.

“A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.” (Wikipedia)

They mutate, much as the human is mutating into the posthuman.

“The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.” (see below)

.
PS. We were down on our hands and knees looking at the figures (just like some of their configurations) and this gave a whole new perspective to the work.

 

“What happens in the case of mutation? Consider the example of the genetic code. Mutation normally occurs when some random event (for example, a burst of radiation or a coding error) disrupts an existing pattern and something else is put in its place instead. Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation. We have seen that in electronic textuality, the possibility for mutation within the text are enhanced and heightened by long coding chains. We can now understand mutation in more fundamental terms. Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction. It reveals the productive potential of randomness that is also recognized within information theory when uncertainty is seen as both antagonistic and intrinsic to information.

We are now in a position to understand mutation as a decisive event in the psycholinguistics of information. Mutation is the catastrophe in the pattern/randomness dialectic analogous to castration in the presence / absence dialectic. It marks a rupture of pattern so extreme that the expectation of continuous replication can in longer be sustained. But as with castration, this only appears to be a disruption located at a specific moment. The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”

.
Hayles
, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 30-33

 

Many thankx to the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney.

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXXVII' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXXVII
2011
Cast iron
37.3 x 9.3 x 7.8 cm
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

A Meme is a cultural analogue to a gene. Forms that are transmitted in thought or behaviour from one body to another, responding to conditional environments, self-replicating and capable of mutation.

The miniature or the model allows the totality of a body to be seen at once. These small solid iron works use the formal language of architecture to replace anatomy and construct volumes to articulate a range of 32 body postures. The ambition is to make intelligible forms that form an abstract lexicon of body-posture but which nevertheless carry the invitation of empathy and the transmission of states of mind.

Displayed widely spaced within the architecture of Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne, the works interface with the architecture of the gallery. Placed directly on the floor they become acupuncture points within the volume of the space, allowing the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his/her own mass and spatial displacement as s/he moves around and amongst the works.

This will be the first time that the Memes series, begun in 2007, will be shown together. The space of art as a reflexive test ground in which the direct experience of the viewer becomes the ground of meaning is a continual quest in this artist’s work and continues the exploration of scale seen in the expanded dimensions of FIRMAMENT at Anna Schwartz Gallery Sydney in February 2010, and the miniature scale of ASIAN FIELD, seen in the Sydney Biennale of 2008.

Antony Gormley

Text from the Anna Schwartz website

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXLI' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXLI
2011
Cast iron
4.5 x 9.5 x 36.4 cm
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXXIX' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXXIX
2011
Cast iron
10 x 7.7 x 29
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 12 – 5 pm
Saturday 1 – 5 pm

Anna Schwartz Gallery website

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03
Apr
11

Review: ‘NETWORKS (cells & silos)’ at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 16th April 2011

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition 'NETWORKS (cells & silos)' at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan's 'Colony' (2005) in the foreground

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition NETWORKS (cells & silos) at the newly opened Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan’s Colony (2005) in the foreground

 

 

This is a vibrant and eclectic exhibition at MUMA, one of the best this year in Melbourne. The curator Geraldine Barlow has gathered together some impressive, engaging works that are set off to good effect in the new gallery spaces. I spent a long and happy time wandering around the exhibition and came away visually satiated and intellectually stimulated.

The exhibition “explores the connections between artistic representation of networks; patterns and structures found in nature; and the rapidly evolving field of network science, communications and human relations.” (text from MUMA)

Networks connect – they describe (abstract) connections between people and things. Networks map simple or complex systems and can be real or an abstract representation of those systems. Networks form a nexus, “a sort of concentrated nodal point among a series of chains of markers” that reveals the centralising structure of networks (such as Facebook and Google). Robert Nelson in his review of this exhibition in The Age notes, “Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter [in their catalogue essay] describe the way networks paradoxically disorganise you, creating a disempowering messy grid of protocols that colonise your headspace … It’s commonplace to celebrate networks because they stimulate excitement about belonging, about extending your reach and joining in. These hopes are as pervasive as the networks themselves. But in structural terms, networks are also insidiously colonising and hierarchical, built on the principle of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming more dependent.”1

I believe that networks can also be altruistic and non-heirarchical, offering a horizontal consciousness rather than a vertical one: points of view and perspectives on the world that open up these (virtual) spaces to fluidity, mutation, transgression and subversion. Catherine Lumby observes that,

“The contradictory, constantly shifting nature of contemporary information and image flows tends to erode the moral authority of any social order, patriarchal or otherwise. It is this very collapse which has arguably fuelled social revolutions such as feminism and gay and lesbian rights, but which equally disrupts attempts by some to ground them in identity politics.”2

Critical to understanding the construction of these constantly shifting networks in contemporary society are the concepts of weaving and intertexuality. Intertextuality is the concept that texts do not live in isolation, “caught up as they are in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network… Its unity is variable and relative (Foucault, 1973)3. In other words the network is decentred and multiple allowing the possibility of transgressive texts or the construction of a work of art through the techniques of assemblage (Deleuze and Guattari) – a form of fluid, associative networking that is now the general condition of art production.4

Infection of the network (by viruses for example) disrupts the pattern/randomness binary and may lead to mutations, ‘differance’ in Derrida’s terminology, spaces that are both fluid and fixed at one and the same time; neither here nor there.

.
On to (some of) the work.

Masato Takasaka’s series of fibre-tipped pen and pencil on paper, Information Superhighway (2006-07), are wonderful, kaleidoscopic works – inventive and fun, full of rhizomic, multi-layered dimensionality. Nick Mangan’s mixed media sculpture Colony (2005, see photograph below) is a spiky, totemic, figurative creature made of axe, shovel and hammer handles and riddled with holes like driftwood that looks like a bizarre, Medieval torture instrument.

Bryan Spiers paintings Shadowmath and New descending (both 2010, see photograph below) are excellent, puzzle-like reinterpretations of delicate, Futuristic movements. As he describes them, “I think of my paintings as puzzles or visual toys. They are images to be manipulated by the viewer; reconfigured, recomposed, expanded upon. Trajectories of change are implied by repeated shapes and graded colour transitions. They describe a continuum to be followed to its logical conclusion outside of the picture plane. This leads to the dissolution of the image, proposing new images yet to be made.”

Heath Bunting’s 3 panel work from The Status project (all 2010) features interrelated data sets that reach a “level of absurdity in attempting to relate radically different but inter-related information.” This mind mapping schematic of connections (coloured connections with labels, markers and legends) based around Bristol, England has some unbelievable entries if you look really closely:

  • A1072 Able to provide natural person date of birth 2010
  • A1073 Able to access the Internet
  • A1003 A terrorist
  • A1047 Providing instruction or training in the use of imaginary firearms such as sticks
  • A1088 Providing training in leopard crawling

.
Aaron Koblin’s beautiful video Flight patterns (2010) offers a mapping of thousands of plane journeys across the USA over time (based on East Coast time) so that the explosion of their frequency becomes like a fireworks display. Andrew McQualter’s fantastic acrylic paint wall drawings Three propositions, one example (2010-11), painted directly onto the gallery wall show various people, isolated from each other and from the viewer, talking and listening to their iPhones. As Robert Nelson comments, “They’re isolated individuals, all on their own plane, presumably doing social networking or communicating. If you walked past them, they wouldn’t respond because, with heads bowed, they’re absorbed in another reality. Their hands and minds are busy with a reality elsewhere.”

Present but not present, (not) here and there at the same time. This is a critical debate in contemporary culture: do these type of networks lessen our ability to build friendships and connections in the real world or are they just another element in our rhizomic network of associations that help with our interconnectivity: utopian or dystopian or equal measure of both? Does it really matter?

From the UK Kit Wise’s large digital print on aluminium series (including KTM SEA MOW RUH 2010, see below) are effective, offering solarised, negative, brightly coloured collages of seemingly atomised cities (the titles refer to the cities airport abbreviation codes). Mass Ornament (2009) by American artist Natalie Bookchin is one of my favourite works in the exhibition. In a horizontal panel of wall mounted screens play videos of people dancing in their bedroom. Bookchin has gleaned these gems from uploaded personal videos on YouTube – there are handstands, contortions, tap dancing, all manner of performances (some then deleted by the performer) – then collated by the artist and set to a Broadway-type music number. Mesmeric and amazing!

Koji Ryui’s spatial constructions Extended network towards the happy end of the universe (2007-11, see photograph below) are made of bendy, plastic drinking straws of different colours, encased and moulded into cellular shapes (reminding me of the white of the Melbourne Recital Centre exterior). Trailing off these structures in different colours are airborne-like filaments similar to the plant Old Man’s Beard. “Ryui repeats and arranges these objects in space to create peculiar environments and accidental narratives. In his installations, relationships or spaces between objects are equally as important as the objects themselves.” Wonderful.

Last but not least my favourite work in the exhibition: heart of the air you can hear by Sandra Selig (2011, see photographs below). The photographs do not do the work justice. Made simply from spun polyester, nails and paint this Spirograph-like construction is beautiful in its resonance and colour, captivating in its complexity. Built into a corner of the gallery the work floats at eye level, twists and turns and changes intensity of colour when viewed from different angles. From the front it looks like a spaceship out of Star Wars woven by light!

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There are many other excellent works in the exhibition that I have not mentioned. Some of the work disrupts the continual reiteration of norms by weaving a lack of fixity into the network’s existence. Other work visually makes comment on and reinforces the structure of such networks. Whichever it is this is a truly engaging exhibition that no single body, let alone a networked one, should miss.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Nelson, Robert. “Networks, Cells and Silos” review in The Age newspaper. Melbourne: Fairfax Media, 23/02/2011 [Online] Cited 23/03/2011
  2. Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, pp. 14-15
  3. Foucault, Michel cited in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 01/04/2011 no longer available online
  4. “To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp. 169-170

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Many thankx to Monash University Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Kerrie Poliness. 'Blue Wall Drawing #1' 2007-11

 

Kerrie Poliness
Blue Wall Drawing #1
2007-11

 

Hilarie Mais. 'The waiting - anon' 1986

 

Hilarie Mais
The waiting – anon
1986

 

 

An interview with the curator: Geraldine Barlow

Where did your interest in networks come from?

I’ve long been fascinated by network maps of human relationships – the graphical representation of something seemingly so complex and multi-layered. The structure of the brain and how this relates to theories of mind is also an area of personal interest. Our society, bodies and relationships are all made up of different kinds of networks, and artists have long been interested in mapping out these structures. I realised some time ago that the visual representation of networks might make for an interesting exhibition, from this point on I collected and ‘tested’ different ideas of what the exhibition might include.

How is this explored in the exhibition?

Human relationships feature in some of the works in the exhibition, but not all. I hope the exhibition offers a wide variety of links between people’s familiar world and daily experiences on the one hand, and more abstract ideas on the other.

There are a number of works from the Monash University Collection included in the exhibition. Can you tell us about these and why you selected them?

The Monash University Collection is a great source of inspiration, it is a wonderful collection, but also, I think any artwork considered closely and over time opens up in surprising ways and offers unexpected insights, working with the works in the collection over a period of years allows me to think about them in a long and slow way.

Dorothy Braund’s work Christ with the disciples listening 1966 was given to the University in 1974. It is a very beautiful formal painting of a series of shaded circles and ellipses. At first glance it is simple and seems to represent a ring of figures, their heads and bodies gathered together. On closer examination it is not so clear where one figure ends and another begins, as a whole the clustered forms seem to operate more like a cell. Historically this cell of men and the ideas attributed to them has had a profound impact, in their day they might have been seen as a kind of terrorist cell.

Through the sensitive composition and balance of abstract form, the artist has created a complex representation of the relationships between people: the ways in which we are both connected to each other, and yet might also circulate ideas in a tight ‘Chinese whispers’ type circle. This work was painted in 1966, long before our current awareness of social and telecommunications networks, but it can still offer us insights in our contemporary world and the way we relate to each other.

How did the new gallery space affect the installation of the exhibition?

The exhibition was slowly forming in my mind, even as Kerstin Thompson’s wonderful gallery space was being designed and built. The gallery has offered a wonderful armature and character for the exhibition to work with, hopefully in the manner of a conversation. Kerstin was been very interested in understand and reflecting the essential structure of the building, not building over what was pre-existing. The exhibition like-wise has an interest in structural models, geometries and patterns – in finding a balance between the regular and the slightly warped. In the central corridor which runs down the spine of the gallery, Thompson has chosen to leave the mechanical services exposed, to allow the essential structure of the building to be a form of ornament. Many of the artists in the exhibition also have an interest in the relationship between structure and ornament.

 

Sandra Selig. 'heart of the air you can hear' 2011

 

Sandra Selig
heart of the air you can hear
2011

 

Sandra Selig. 'heart of the air you can hear' 2011 (detail)

 

Sandra Selig
heart of the air you can hear (detail)
2011

 

Koji Ryui. 'Extended network towards the happy end of the universe' 2007-11

 

Koji Ryui
Extended network towards the happy end of the universe
2007-11

 

 

The connections between artistic representations of networks and the rapidly evolving field of network science are the subject of the latest exhibition at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA).

Presenting the work of Australian and international artists, NETWORKS (cells & silos) reflects the organising principles and dynamics of our increasingly networked society, and related patterns found in organic, social and engineered forms.

MUMA’s Senior Curator, Geraldine Barlow conceived and developed the exhibition as a way of continuing the dialogue about the role and effect of different networks in society.

“Art and aesthetics are often treated as very separate enclaves from science, physics and mathematics,” Barlow says. “But art offers us a way to re- contextualise our associations and interactions with the networks around us and look at the effect they have on us. I hope the exhibition will prompt people to think about the networks in their lives and how they mould and shape us.”

A key inspiration for the exhibition was Annamaria Tallas’ documentary, How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer, which features the work of network scientist Albert-László Barabási.

“The documentary explores the thesis that all networks – both natural and man-made – conform to a similar mathematical formula, with the same patterns emerging over and again,” Barlow said.

The artworks featured in NETWORKS (cells & silos) explore networks as diverse as those found in urban planning and cities, biology, organisations, travel and of course social networks, as well as the dual qualities of hyper-connectedness and isolation that technology has heightened in modern life.

Extending the dialogue about the possibilities of networks is of great interest to MUMA Director, Max Delany, particularly in the university context.

“Within a university we have a vast array of specialist disciplines – science, technology, humanities – all having conversations about how the world is and where we want to be heading,” Delany says. “Often these conversations are held in isolation from each other, but considered together, and from the standpoint of artists, the possibilities of collaborative networks become very exciting.”

This collaboration can be seen in Kerrie Poliness’ work Blue Wall Drawing #1 (2007/2011). Students from Monash University have created the piece, following the formal and conceptual guidelines set out by the artist. Each version of Poliness’ work creates unique patterns and networks as the collaborative team choose how to implement the drawing rules which are structured to allow a different outcome in each space where they are applied.

The exhibition’s accompanying publication contains essays from curator Geraldine Barlow, network and social theorists Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, and science documentary filmmaker Annamaria Tallas, all exploring the exhibition’s theme. Digital and hard copies are available on request.

Press release from the Monash University Museum of Art

 

Bryan Spier. 'Shadowmath' 2010 (and) 'New descending' 2010

 

Bryan Spier
Shadowmath and New descending
both 2010

 

Kit Wise. 'KTM SEA MOW RUH' 2010

 

Kit Wise
KTM SEA MOW RUH
2010
Digital photograph

 

 

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
Ground Floor, Building F.
Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
Phone: +61 3 9905 4217

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 12 – 5 pm

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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09
Nov
10

Review: ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar’ by Taryn Simon at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 15th October – 12th December 2010

 

Taryn Simon. 'U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kendedy International Airport, Queens, New York' 2005/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kendedy International Airport, Queens, New York
2005/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl

 

 

African cane rats infested with maggots, African yams (dioscorea), Andean potatoes, Bangladeshi cucurbit plants, bush meat, cherimoya fruit, curry leaves (murraya), dried orange peels, fresh eggs, giant African snail, impala skull cap, jackfruit seeds, June plum, kola nuts, mango, okra, passion fruit, pig nose, pig mouths, pork, raw poultry (chicken), South American pig head, South American tree tomatoes, South Asian lime infected with citrus canker, sugar cane (poaceae), uncooked meats, unidentified sub tropical plant in soil. All items in the photograph were seized from baggage of passengers arriving in the U.S. at JFK Terminal 4 from abroad over a 48-hour period. All seized items are identified, dissected, and then either ground up or incinerated. JFK processes more international passengers than any other airport in the Unites States.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

 

This is an exhibition of large format colour photographs by Taryn Simon which features a body of work titled An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2006). The work investigates the hidden spaces, places, artefacts and rituals of American cultural warfare (here I mean warfare in the sense of good vs bad, natural vs unnatural (or mutated), safety vs danger, death vs life for example). The photographs are very much like opening a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ where the photographer is attempting to challenge the categorical boundaries of environments and objects, things that are yet to be defined and fixed in place. Some of the photographs work very well in their attempts to categorise, to index; others are far less successful.

Dan Rule in The Age sees the photographs as “slick, high-definition visuals … photographs [that] defy their gritty, documentarian sensibilities. Capturing an ominous vision of Bush-era America, her expansive series … doesn’t merely unearth a sinister vantage of the nation’s underbelly, but renders it in shocking clarity and detail … it ‘s a fascinating and troubling portrait. However, it’s not so much the subject matter but the luminous, hyper-realistic orientation that gives these images such resonance.”1

I see things differently. Where Rule sees luminous photographs I see photographs that are very formal and dull, photographs that are rather lifeless and maudlin. Printed on grey pearlised paper (meaning that the base colour of the photographic paper is not white) and placed in pale grey frames, these A3 high definition, large depth of field photographs possess limited photographic insight into the condition of the spaces and objects being photographed. My friend rather cuttingly, but correctly, noted that they were very National Geographic drained of colour (note: the images in this online posting have far more life and colour than the actual prints!).

This is photography as documentation used to disseminate information, documentation that reinforces the indexical nature of photography (the link between referent and reality) as a form of ‘truth’ – hence the ‘Index’ in the title of the body of work, a taxonomic ordering of reality. Even then some of the photographs have to be validated by text for them to have any meaning. “The visual is processed aesthetically and then redefined by its text” trumpets the wall text. Yes sure, but here the photographs are formalistically visualised, some to very limited effect, and what the text is really doing is semiotically decoding an image that has little meaning (until we are told) through words, words that are about memory, reminders of what we call and know of a thing.
When the photograph tells us very little in the first place, when we do not have knowledge of a thing and cannot construct memories from the photograph but rely solely on words for meaning this can lead to photographs that are intrinsically and inherently poor. An example of a poor photograph in this series is the image of the captured Great white shark. Another example is the photograph of a decomposing body at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (see photograph above). Compare this to Sally Mann’s photograph of the same subject matter: the resonance of Mann’s photograph is powerful, confronting yet ambiguous with an amorphous aura surrounding the body, that of Simon’s almost as though the artist was afraid to really approach the subject; there seems to be an obsequiousness to the subject matter. Hidden is hidden and this photograph is definitely not “transforming the unknown into a seductive and intelligible form” (wall text).

Simon’s photographs are not visual enigmas that approach Atget’s The Marvellous in the Everyday, where he experimented with “the variable play between nature and art through minute changes in the camera’s angle, or as functions of the effects of light and time of day.” Nor do they possess that quality that I noted in my review of the work of Carol Jerrems – spaces that make some room for you in front – some room that would allow you to look forward, and maybe even walk into that space. Despite their ‘hidden’ and ‘unfamiliar’ context these photographs are very dull spaces. Simon’s camera angles are by the book. So are most of the photographs. Of course, I understand the revealing of meaning in the photograph by the text and the surprise this entails but this simply does not dismiss the fact that some of these works are just poor. In fact I would say only about 50% of these photographs could stand alone without the validation of the text. Does this matter? Is this important? Yes I think it is, for some of these works are just deadpan photographs of entropic spaces that are only given meaning because the photographer says they are important things to photograph (see my paper ‘Spaces That Matter: Awareness and Entropia in the Imaging of Place’, 2002). Even with text some of the photographs still have no resonance.

When the photographs do work they are astounding. There is delicious irony in the depiction of a Recreational Basketball Court in Cheyenne Mountains Directorate, Chamber D, Colorado Springs, Colorado (2006) a dark, oppressive print of a nuclear bunker with basketball court or the incongruous nature of Death Row, Outdoor Recreational Facility “The Cage” (2006), a barred metal cage situated inside another building for the recreation of death row inmates. Shocking, disorientating. My personal favourite in this human built, human-less world of Simon’s was one of the simplest photographs in the exhibition, a photograph that cuts away the surroundings to picture a labelled flask sitting on a non-descript background. A concise visualisation of a labelled flask given extra meaning when you read the accompanying text: Live HIV, HIV Research Laboratory (2006). Pause for thought. The photographs when understood aesthetically are like snapshots of an alien culture, almost mundane but disturbing. I believe the best photographs in the series combine the presence of the space or object, an understanding of the condition of that space or object without having to read the text. The text then supplements the visual interpretation not overrides it.

Human beings are secretive, unstable, paranoid creatures that are exclusory and fearful of Others. Fear is palpable in these photographs. Here is evidence of the human need for control (through the surveillance of photography) over conduct – control of contamination, death, disease, threat and Other. We investigate and document something in order to control it, in order that science can control it (think Foucault’s disciplinary systems of the prison and the madhouse). These photographs excavate meaning by bringing the shadow into the light in order to index our existence, to make the hidden less frightening and more controllable.

Personally, I prefer my world to remain the mutation that is the catastrophe in the pattern / randomness dialectic. I like the chthonic darkness of difference and the rupture of pattern, the dislocation of identity and the challenge of mutation. Even though these photographs address the context of the hidden and unfamiliar there is nothing in the least unusual about them. Here is the paradox of these works: their (ab)normality vs their lack of humanity. The photographs in this exhibition all too easily confirm our prejudices and limit our understanding of difference through their need to document, label, order and exhibit the fear of (in)difference, all the better to control the mutations of disturbance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Rule, Dan. “Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” in The Age newspaper A2. Melbourne: Saturday, October 23rd 2010

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Many thankx to the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Institute of Modern Art and the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © 2007 Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

Taryn Simon. 'Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Decomposing Corpse, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee' 2003/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Decomposing Corpse, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee
2003/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl

 

 

The decomposing body of a young boy is studied by researchers who have re-created a crime scene.

The Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, popularly known as The Body Farm, is the world’s chief research center for the study of corpse decomposition. Its six-acre plot hosts approximately 75 cadavers in various stage of decomposition. The farm uses physical anthropology (skeletal analysis of human remains) to help solve criminal cases, especially murder cases. Forensic anthropologists work to establish profiles for deceased persons. These profiles can include sex, age, ethnic ancestry, stature, time elapsed since death, and sometimes, the nature of trauma on the bones.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled WR Pa 59' 2001 from the series 'What Remains'

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled WR Pa 59
2001
from the series What Remains
© Sally Mann. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Taryn Simon. 'White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation, Eureka Springs, Arkansas' 2006/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
2006/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas, on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to this deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, cross-eyed, and knock-kneed.

2006/2007 Chromogenic colour print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

Taryn Simon. 'Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida' 2005/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Hymenoplasty, Cosmetic Surgery, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida
2005/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

The patient in this photograph is 21 years old. She is of Palestinian descent and living in the United States. In order to adhere to cultural and familial expectations regarding her virginity and marriage, she underwent hymenoplasty. Without it she feared she would be rejected by her future husband and bring shame upon her family. She flew in secret to Florida where the operation was performed by Dr. Bernard Stern, a plastic surgeon she located on the internet. The purpose of hymenoplasty is to reconstruct a ruptured hymen, the membrane which partially covers the opening of the vagina. It is an outpatient procedure which takes approximately 30 minutes and can be done under local or intravenous anesthesia. Dr. Stern charges $3,500 for hymenoplasty. He also performs labiaplasty and vaginal rejuvenation.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

 

“Inspired by rumours of weapons of mass destruction and secret sites in Iraq, American photographic artist Taryn Simon focuses her lens on the hidden and inaccessible places in her own country.

An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2006) takes the viewer behind closed doors to uncover some extraordinary things inside places usually hidden from the public’s view. Ranging across the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion, Simon’s photographic subjects include glowing radioactive capsules in an underwater nuclear-waste storage facility, a Braille edition of Playboy, a deathrow prisoners’ exercise yard, an inbred tiger, corpses rotting in a Forensic Research Facility, and a Scientology screening room.

Shot over four years, mostly with a large-format view camera, the images in this fascinating exhibition are in turn ethereal, foreboding, deadpan and cinematic. In examining what is integral to America’s foundation, mythology and daily functioning, the Index provides a surprising map of the American mindset and creates a vivid portrayal of the contemporary United States.

Inspired by rumours of WMDs and secret sites in Iraq, Taryn Simon decided to address secret sites in her own country, photographing hidden places and things within America’s borders. Ranging across the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security and religion, her subjects include glowing radioactive capsules, a braille edition of Playboy, a death-row prisoners’ exercise yard, an inbred tiger, a teenage corpse rotting in a forensic research facility, and a Scientology screening room. An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar explores a dialectic of security and paranoia that is distinctly American. Offering a heart-of-darkness tour of Bush-period America, it also reflects on photography’s role in revealing and concealing.

In his foreword,1 Salman Rushdie writes ‘In a historical period in which so many people are making such great efforts to conceal the truth from the mass of the people, an artist like Taryn Simon is an invaluable counter-force. Democracy needs visibility, accountability, light. It is in the unseen darkness that unsavoury things huddle and grow. Somehow, Simon has persuaded a good few denizens of hidden worlds not to scurry for shelter when the light is switched on, as cockroaches do, and vampires, but to pose proudly for her invading lens, brandishing their tattoos and Confederate flags.

Simon’s is not the customary aesthetic of reportage – the shaky hand-held camera, the grainy monochrome film stock of the ‘real’. Her subjects… are suffused with light, captured with a bright, hyper-realist, high-definition clarity that gives a kind of star status to these hidden worlds, whose occupants might be thought to be the opposite of stars. In her vision of them, they are dark stars brought into the light. What is not known, rarely seen, possesses a form of occult glamour, and it is that black beauty which she so brightly, and brilliantly, reveals.’

  1. Salman Rushdie, ‘Foreword’ in Taryn Simon, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Steidl Gottingen, Germany, 2007, p. 7.

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Text from the Melbourne International Art Festival and the Centre for Contemporary Photography websites

 

Taryn Simon. 'Cryopreservation Unit, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan' 2004/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Cryopreservation Unit, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan
2004/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

This cryopreservation unit holds the bodies of Rhea and Elaine Ettinger, the mother and fist wife of cryonics pioneer, Robert Ettinger. Robert, author of The Prospect of Immortality and Man into Superman is still alive. The Cryogenics Institute offers cryostasis (freezing) services for individuals and pets upon death. Cryostasis is practiced with the hope that lives will ultimately be extended through future developments in science, technology, and medicine. When, and if, these developments occur, Institute members hope to awake to an extended life in good health, free from disease or

the aging process. Cryostasis must begin immediately upon legal death. A person or pet is infused with ice-preventive substances and quickly cooled to a temperature where physical decay virtually stops. The Cryonics Institute charges $28,000 for cryostasis if it is planned well in advance of legal death and $35,000 on shorter notice.

2004/2007 Chromogenic colour print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

Taryn Simon. 'Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Chernekov Radiation, Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy, Southeastern Washington State' 2005/2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Chernekov Radiation, Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy, Southeastern
Washington State
2005/2007
© 2007 Taryn Simon.
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery/Steidl.

 

 

Submerged in a pool of water at Hanford Site are 1,936 stainless-steel nuclear-waste capsules containing cesium and strontium. Combined, they contain over 120 million curies of radioactivity. It is estimated to be the most curies under one roof in the United States. The blue glow is created by the Cherenkov Effect which describes the electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle, giving off energy, moves faster than light through a transparent medium. The temperatures of the capsules are as high as 330 degrees Fahrenheit. The pool of water serves as a shield against radiation; a human standing one foot from an unshielded capsule would receive a lethal dose of radiation in less than 10 seconds. Hanford is among the most contaminated sites in the United States.

2005/2007 Chromogenic color print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113cm), Ed. Of 7

 

 

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

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

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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01
Nov
09

Review: ‘Nocturnalians and Shadow Eaters’ by Vera Möller at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th October – 14th November 2009

 

Vera Moller. 'Rabinova' 2009

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Rabinova
2009
Oil on linen
82 x 76cm

 

 

“I am interested in this border between the real and the imagined, the constructed and the natural.”

.
Vera Möller quoted in The Age newspaper

 

 

There is a lot of mutability floating around current exhibitions in Melbourne at the moment. At the National Gallery of Victoria we have the deathly, eloquent freeze frame mutability of Ricky Swallow; at Tolarno Galleries we have the genetic hyper-realist mutability of Patricia Piccinini; and at Sophie Gannon Gallery we have the surreal, spatial mutability of Vera Möller.

In this exhibition the real meets the imagined and the constructed encounters the natural in delicate sculptures and beautiful paintings. Coral snake and mutated striped hydras float above Phillip Huntersque backgrounds, looking oh so innocent until one remembers that hydras are predatory animals: the stripes, like the strips of a prisoners uniform not so innocent after all.

These ‘portraits’ (for that is what they strike me as) emerge from the recesses of the subconscious, rising up like some absurd alien fish from the deep. The sculptural forests of mutated specimens waft on the breeze of the ocean current. This detritus of biotechnology, living in the dark and the shadow, emerges into the light and space of the gallery – genetic recombinations in which a strands of genetic material are broken and then joined to another DNA molecule. In Möller’s work this chromosomal crossover has led to offspring (called ‘recombinants’) that dance to a surrealist tune: genetic algorithms that use mutation to maintain genetic diversity from one generation of chromosomes to the next.1

Spatially there is a lightness of touch and a beauty to their representation that brings the work alive within the gallery space. However, Möller’s recombinants are as deadly as they are beautiful. I really liked these creatures narcoleptic shadow dances.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to Sophie Gannon Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Definition of mutation (genetic algorithm) in Wikipedia.

 

Vera Moller. 'Martinette' 2009

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Martinette
2009
Modelling material, acrylic and enamel paint, MDF, perspex cove

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986) 'Veronium' 2007

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Veronium
2007
Oil on canvas
167 x 199 cm

 

Vera Moller. 'Shapinette' 2009

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Shapinette
2009
Oil on linen
101 x 101 cm

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986) 'Telenium' 2009

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Telenium
2009
Oil on linen
165 x 135 cm

 

Vera Moller. 'Rubella' 2008-09

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Rubella
2008-09

 

Vera Möller. 'Bureniana' 2008

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Bureniana
2008
Modelling material, acrylic and enamel paint, MDF, perspex cover
60 x 61 x 61 cm

 

Installation photo of 'Nocturnalians and Shadow Eaters' by Vera Moller at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

Installation photo of 'Nocturnalians and Shadow Eaters' by Vera Moller at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of Nocturnalians and Shadow Eaters by Vera Möller at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Interested in the boundaries between the real and the imagined, Vera Möller creates paintings and sculptures by placing fictional hybrid plants in existing terrains. Bright colours and patterns, coral-like and succulent-plant forms and toadstool shapes describe her depictions of dreamt-up specimens that evoke the natural world. Möller’s ‘fantasy specimens’ demonstrate the way in which her science background and art practice have steadily converged.

After training as a biologist in Germany, Möller migrated to Australia in 1986. She later completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts and a PhD at Monash University. Her work has been exhibited in the USA, Japan, Finland, France, Germany and the UK, as well as throughout Australia.

Text from the Sophie Gannon Gallery website [Online] Cited 03/05/2019

 

Vera Moller. 'Benthinium' 2008-09

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Benthinium
2008-09
Oil on linen
140 x 220 cm

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986) 'Tokyana' 2009

 

Vera Möller (Australian, b. 1955 Germany arrived Australia 1986)
Tokyana
2009
Oil on linen
137 x 107 cm

 

 

Sophie Gannon Gallery
2, Albert Street, Richmond, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Tues – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Sophie Gannon Gallery website

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08
Oct
09

Review: ‘Between Lines’ by Kim Lawler at fortyfive downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 29th September – 10th October 2009

Curator: Amy Barclay

 

 

Kim Lawler 'Between Lines' #4 2009

 

Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #4
Aerial Photograph, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia
2009

 

 

I finally made it to Kim Lawler’s exhibition Between Lines at fortyfive downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne and, in many ways, the trip was well worth it. Lawler presents 12 prints from her eponymous series, aerial photographs taken over Western Australia.

Eschewing the essentially topographic state promoted in the “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” of 1975 that have influenced so many photographers in recent decades (including the hyper-real photographs of the West Australian landscape by Edward Burtynsky where there is an emotional distance between the photograph and the viewer), Lawler instead mines the depths of abstraction in landscape photography.

These are visceral photographs – in #4 the river and surrounds almost become vascular and cellular; in #13 the synapses and electrons infiltrate the highway reminding me of bomb craters from a Second World War landscape. In #7 the shrubs, unlike the precision of the New Topographics, become feckless dots, the landing strip a scar on the body; in #12 the toxic unsutured wound bleeds across the surface of the skin, white scar tissue surrounding it.

In these atypical mappings Lawler employs a taxonomy of disorder. The photographs are very soft in focus, soft in printing, big in the grain of the film and there is very little depth of field employed – in other words there is really nothing in focus at all, nothing that the eye and the mind can fix on. These are interstitial spaces (i.e. gaps between spaces full of structure or matter) and the title Between Lines is entirely appropriate for the work. The photographs contain beautiful textures, colours, surfaces.

This is their strength but also their weakness. The eye and the mind longs for something to hold onto, perhaps just a small fraction of the image to be in focus, so that the disorder plays off the order (for one cannot exist without the other!). Mutation only exists if their is something to mutate against. The other two small problems I had with the work were a matter of semantics and others may disagree – personally I found the size of the prints neither here nor there and they could have done with being about 2-3 inches larger and the white frames were too heavy. That is a funny thing to say about contemporary white frames, that they are too heavy for the work, but this is entirely possible: the moulding was too thick and the depth of the box frames to deep for my liking, detracting from the print itself and making the works darker than they needed to be.

Overall then an excellent exhibition that offers a positive variation on the cliched narrative of aerial photography of the Australian outback, one that questions the munificence of human habitation of the body and of the earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to fortyfive downstairs for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #7 (Landing Strip)' 2009

 

Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #7 (Landing Strip)
Aerial Photograph, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia
2009

 

Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #8' 2009

 

Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #8 (Jones Soak, position approximate)
Aerial Photograph, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia
2009

 

 

“Beyond romance or nostalgia, Lawler’s lucid visual studies reveal the aesthetic beauty of the stories being written and rewritten onto this responsive and at times fragile environment.”

Amy Barclay, curator

 

Between Lines comprises a series of aerial photographs taken in the Kimberley, far north Western Australia. This remote area is embedded with stories of Indigenous and non-Indigenous inhabitants, transitory visitors and scarred by multinational companies resource development. The artist, Kim Lawler, is concerned with markings, both natural and constructed, that tell stories of places, transitions and interruptions that occur within the landscape.

Between Lines is informed by Lawler’s experience of living in these regions and local perspectives on the displacement of people and their consequential relationship to the land that has taken place. It is also informed by the opposing qualities of abandon and connection that occur as the stories within these landscapes continue to unfold.

Competing demands for natural resources, and the resulting impact upon transitional landscapes, resonate with the stories of many generations of people that continue to flow through or inhabit each region. Attuned to the markings on these landscapes, it is these residual narratives ‘Between Lines’ seeks to record.

The imagery seen in Between Lines extends from Lawler’s previous artwork that interrogated additional Kimberley locations including: the remote Buccaneer Archipelago; the isolated far northern reaches of the Kimberley Coastline; Cockatoo Island iron ore mine and resort and; inland regions such as Warmun Aboriginal Community on the periphery of the Great Sandy Desert.

“Lawler’s eye is arrested by markings, natural and constructed, that trace and recount places, transitions and interruptions; the signifiers of change in a landscape millions of years old.”

Amy Barclay, curator

Text from the fortyfive downstairs website

 

Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #12' 2009

 

Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #12
Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, Northern Kimberley, Western Australia
2009

 

Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #13' 2009

 

Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #13
Great Northern Highway, Kimberley, Western Australia
2009

 

Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #16' 2009

 

Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #16
Cockatoo Island Cyanide Settling Pool, Yampi Sound, Western Australia
2009

 

 

fortyfive downstairs
45, Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 11am to 5pm
Sat 12pm to 4pm

fortyfive downstairs website

Kim Lawler website

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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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