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Inflight’s new Project Space is one of Tasmania’s few public art spaces offering visitors the chance to see works in progress and take part in their evolution. Specifically catering for experimental work, the Project Space offers a relaxed arena for artists wanting to test and develop their ideas. The compact, intimate space (located in a small room just off the main gallery) also acts as a prime location for projections, video and sound work.
Deborah Pollard & Matt Warren, Apparently Nothing Deborah Pollard & Matt Warren, Apparently Nothing
photo Kevin Leong
Amongst the first to make the most of the Project Space were Deborah Pollard and Matt Warren. Presented in late March, their collaborative video/sound installation, Apparently Nothing, explored aspects of absence and memory associated with loss. Part one of a 2-part exhibition slated to conclude at Inflight in November 2006, this version of the show included a 5-day home video diary and a recorded phone conversation describing the dread associated with impending loss.

Curtained off from the main entrance to accommodate for low light, Apparently Nothing transformed the Project Space into a sparse dining room. Positioned in the middle of the room was a table set for three. Four chairs beckoned the viewer to choose a place. Once seated, it became apparent that the plates were clean and the cutlery unused. Seated by yourself at the table, a pervading sense of loneliness and isolation began to creep in. The absence of others was clearly felt.

Breaking the desolation of the room was a dual video projection of Warren and Pollard appearing at separate intervals on the outer walls. Like the initiator of a pre-dinner discussion, Pollard appeared first and began to speak (in past tense) about an inspirational colleague. The tone was conversational yet neutral. As the video unfolded, Pollard gradually revealed more about her subject’s characteristics (the way he laughed, his gift for storytelling and meals they shared) and spoke about the effect he had on her life. Aided by the darkened space and the personal conversation, the experience of watching and listening became strangely hypnotic.

After several minutes, Pollard faded into black and another projection located directly opposite began. Similar in style to Pollard’s confessional, the second projection captured Warren reminiscing about a childhood friend. Again the details were esoteric. Hints of departure, change and the passing of time were scattered through Warren’s story yet the disparate nature of the narrative made it difficult to fully comprehend. What happened to his friend? Was he still alive? Is he invited to dinner?

At sporadic points during the projections the speed of the frames became slower and caused the speaker’s facial movements to appear drawn out and distorted. During an unnerving slow motion blink, Pollard’s eyes rolled back in her head as though momentarily looking within. At times, the emotional impact of the recollections caused the performers’ speech to stall and their eyes to become dewy. For the viewer, there were more questions than answers.

To further accentuate the sense of absence and mystery, spliced in between the video monologues was documentary style footage of uninhabited domestic interiors. An unmade bed, a messy lounge, an empty kitchen—the air was thick with the shadows of the past. A muffled voice spoke off camera about people and events associated with the interiors. The dialogue was often difficult to hear and seemed deliberately shrouded in secrecy.

Cracking open the uncomfortable experience of loss, Apparently Nothing forced the viewer to assume the position of silent witness. Like being the unintroduced guest at a dinner party listening to fragments of conversations about unknown people and places, Pollard and Warren created an experiential void that threatened to swallow the viewer whole. Without the flickering light of the projections or the subdued voices emanating from the speakers, silence engulfed the space and emphasised the social alienation felt while sitting alone at the table with only one’s own thoughts and memories for company.

Citing the influence of John Cage’s task-based scores and performances as well as the work of UK performance artist Tim Etchells, Pollard and Warren construct affecting collaborations that lucidly dissect the nature of communication and emotive experience. Part 2 of the exhibition promises to extend beyond personal accounts to include a group discussion of the absent figure and a real-time meal daily attended by 4 performers.


Apparently Nothing, Part One, Deborah Pollard and Matt Warren; Inflight Gallery (Project Space), North Hobart, March 23-31, www.inflightart.com.au

RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 pg. 45

© Briony Downes; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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