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online e-dition june 26: next wave 2012


over the horizon

scott wark: next wave at gertrude contemporary

Scott Wark is a young writer and researcher based in Melbourne.

Slow Art Collective, Tony Adams, Chaco Kato, Dylan Martorell, Double Happiness B&B 2012
Slow Art Collective, Tony Adams, Chaco Kato, Dylan Martorell, Double Happiness B&B 2012

TO ENTER BELLOWING ECHOES YOU HAVE TO SKIRT THE CURVE OF A TALL WOODEN FRAME OBSTRUCTING THE GALLERY SPACE. THIS STEP TO THE SIDE STARTS A DETOUR THROUGH PAST TIMES AND OTHER PLACES BY WAY OF FIVE IMAGINATIVE INSTALLATIONS. IT’S NOT EXACTLY TIME TRAVEL, BUT THE EXPERIENCE IS SUFFUSED WITH THE QUIXOTIC FANTASY OF LEAVING BEHIND THE EVERYDAY.

The first work you see is a purpose-built installation by Slow Art Collective (SAC) made of things collected on foraging trips around Gertrude Contemporary. Cane mats and suspended bits of bamboo cordoned off a little structure hung with chains of dried fruit and bags of aromatic spices. The space is designed to engage the senses: it’s lit with different colours and animated with little heaps dancing and rattling on exposed speakers. The objects SAC combine to make this fabulous aviary cum Asian beach hut are hard to characterise. They couldn’t be called junk. They aren’t kitsch either. Rather, it’s that innocuous stuff that circulates around the world before finding its way to the shop down the road, slowly accumulating in our lives.

Bringing this stuff into the gallery makes us aware of its movement, of the kind of littoral drift that deposits it nearby. But we’re also invited to think about the wandering movement of SAC’s combing trips through the neighbourhood. A double movement of things and people informs the recombinant realism of Double Happiness B&B 2012. On the exhibition’s performance day, SAC served up stir-fry from a little portable stove in their installation. With this gesture of sharing they invited us to stop for a moment—or for a while—and to think about global flows of bodies and things populating our environments.

Jess Johnson, For Protection Against the Modern World, 2012 Jess Johnson, For Protection Against the Modern World, 2012
courtesy the artists
Leaving this installation brings us to Jess Johnson’s For Protection Against the Modern World, which transforms an alcove at the back of the gallery into a subtly ominous interior. Its tessellating carpet of blues, greys and greens ends abruptly, as though supernaturally spliced into place. The wall’s diamond pattern is too decorative to be domestic, seeming eldritch or occult. But this wall is also hung with a series of painstaking drawings that belie their contemporaneity. Their Lovecraft-meets-comic-strip aesthetic melds runic patterns and lines rendered with meticulous obsessiveness with day-glo accents and drawings of cartoonish aliens or lunar landscapes. Slathered across each drawing is an obscure slogan alluding to a personal crisis. This mise-en-scéne holds viewers at the threshold of a fantastical and paranoid world, the secrets it hides in plain sight resisting our entrance as they keep us tantalised.

On a pair of plinths between Johnson’s and SAC’s installations sit Tessa Zettel and Karl Khoe’s Land-escapes, two mishmash masks made of bark and ephemeral objects scavenged from city streets. Each mask has a View-Master, an old optical toy used to view three-dimensional images, grafted where its eyeholes would be. Peering through these salvaged devices offers glimpses of natural landscapes: monochromatic forests in which a masked figure stare back from the trees. These vision machines introduce momentary hallucinations of the natural into the gallery space, their fetish-like character connecting them to age-old ceremonies used to set the imagination free.

Anna Kristensen, Indian Chamber 2011 Anna Kristensen, Indian Chamber 2011
Courtesy of the artist, KALIMANRAWLINS, Melbourne and Gallery 9, Sydney.
Placing Land-escapes facing Anna Kristensen’s Indian Chamber on the other side of the gallery can’t have been accidental. From the outside, Kristensen’s work is a large, plain wooden drum. Within, we’re presented with a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree painting of the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains. Kristensen’s rendering of these marvellous natural spaces flirts with the fantastical to unworldly effect. Entering this work is like momentarily stepping into the congealed time of the dream, an ou-topia or non-existent space flush with enigmatic significance. Land-escapes and Indian Chamber use natural scenes to dissociate the senses from time’s forward movement, if only fleetingly.

A flimsy piece of circular card painted half red, half yellow sits on an ad hoc stand outside of Indian Chamber. Its centre is split with a black line and looks for all the world like a kid’s attempt at a racing stripe. It faces a flat, penetratingly blue surface suspended in the angle of a corner. The disc is hooked up to what looks like a cheap toy motor, wobbling as it revolves lazily in space. There’s a relation between these two elements that I don’t understand at first. It clicks into place when I enter the space between them. There’s a tiny pair of wings pinned to the wall on the other side of the installation. When I keep both disc and plane in view, that impression you get when an aeroplane finishes banking and gravity reasserts itself overwhelms me.

These parts represent an abstraction of flight. Not flying, but that turn-of-the-century quest for flight that’s called up by the Wright brothers. For me, what Marcin Wojcik ekes out of these simple elements is that barely-conscious sense of coming back to earth after having left it behind for a little while. That moment when the flight’s over and you’re landing again, the experience of weightlessness receding into a mental space accessible only during rare moments of credulity and nostalgia. V-Glider (Fawkner Park) wonderfully realises an unsuccessful flight that Wojcik attempted in his own homemade glider, coaxing the audience into the process of a heroically failed enterprise.

Curators Marcel Cooper and Bronwyn Baily-Charteris took the story of George Arden, who founded a newspaper called the Port Phillip Gazette in 1838, as the point of departure for these excursions. By accompanying the exhibition with a new edition of the Gazette filled with playful artworks, Cooper and Bailey-Charteris reached back into a peculiar part of Melbourne’s early colonial past to fashion its future anew. This counter-document intercedes in Melbourne’s history, introducing eddies and tributaries into its flow. The theme linking these works is a sense of wonderment, an abiding but not uncritical conviction that possibilities exist just over the horizon or outside of the normal flow of time. Bellowing Echoes induces us to believe that the right combination of elements might just bring that elsewhere within reach.


Bellowing Echoes, curators Marcel Cooper and Bronwyn Bailey-Charteris, exhibition artists Jess Johnson, Anna Kristensen, Tessa Zettel and Karl Khoe, Slow Art Collective (Tony Damas, Chaco Kato and Dylan Martorell) and Marcin Wojcik, publication artists Bindi Cole, The Holy Trinity Collective, Kirsty Hulm, Sam Icklow, Laith McGregor, Sonja Rumyantseva, Carl Scrase, Hannai Tai and Annie Wu, publication designers Naasicaa Larsen and Geoff Riding from CopyBoy, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 16 April – 26 May, 2012, performance day 19 May, 2012.

Scott Wark is a young writer and researcher based in Melbourne.

RealTime issue #109 June-July 2012 pg. web

© Scott Wark; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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