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Matt Warren, Provocation Matt Warren, Provocation
photo Colin Langridge
TO USE TEXT WITHING AN ARTWORK (HOWEVER RANDOMLY) CAN IMBUE THE VISUAL WITH INEXTRICABLE EMOTIVE POWER.

Using the universal significance of text as a thematic springboard, curator Colin Langridge brought together seven Tasmanian artists who incorporate text in their art in Quote, an exhibition encompassing sculpture, video, installation and works on paper. Spread over the ample space of Salamanca’s Long Gallery, Quote presented a number of new works by some of the state’s most accomplished artists.

One of the highlights was James Newitt’s dual video projection Arberg Bay (2004 & 2006). Suspended in the middle of the gallery each video documented a road trip taken with and without friends to a remote coastline on Tasmania’s rugged west coast. Subtitled conversations and images of sweeping landscape created a surprisingly moving visual poetry that evoked the bittersweet experience of growing up. An artist reluctant to pin down his practice to one medium, Newitt has branched out from his formal training as a graphic designer to consistently experiment with video. While there is still some technical improvement to be made, Newitt is one of the more promising emerging new media artists currently working in Tasmania.

Inspired by Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, Matt Warren produced Provocation, a text and performance based work visually recording the execution of four tasks. Following instructions written on a small white card, individual performers were asked to do things like “At twilight, stare at smoke billowing from EZ Zinc works factory chimney whilst listening to Sigur Ros’ Hoppipolka.” Sitting onscreen with their backs turned to the viewer, each performer revealed their thoughts via a sound loop accessed through a pair of headphones. Voyeuristically meditative in style, experiencing Provocation was not unlike eavesdropping.

Surveillance cameras, spyglasses and monitors were used to explore aspects of remembrance in Tricky Walsh’s complex installation, The Memory Bank. Looming in the centre was a fence-like box fashioned from strips of perspex. As the eerie light from a nearby projector fanned across the surface, hand written words etched onto the exterior became momentarily visible. Hanging from the ceiling were tiny cameras beaming an image of the viewer across selected areas of the work. Every subtle movement shifted the direction of the light and revealed more or less content. Dissecting the fragments of memory left behind by the progression of time, Walsh’s work meticulously exposed the theatrics of intimate thought.

Sally Rees provided a simple yet effective sound work based on the disruptive tide of spam emails and relentless advertising techniques. In the act of reciting random scraps of information about Rolex watches, sex toys and stock portfolios, Rees created a form of disjointed lyricism that blended seamlessly with a background soundtrack of ambient chatter in Incoming (2006).

Working specifically with the construction and placement of words and information were Brigita Ozolins and Justy Phillips. Ozolins’ outdoor installation Still As (2006) used the historical account of an escaped convict to interpret the cold stone yard of Kelly’s Garden while Phillips’ Because of everything else I want it to be was a collection of mix and match cards featuring portions of overly sentimental prose. Banally determining the meaning of certain words through minimalistic fonts and flat colours, the sharp slickness of Phillips’ work generated a difficult distance between viewer and work.

Bill Hart’s kaleidoscopic Memetic Variations incorporates quotations from Noam Chomsky and Roy Harris using a software program to translate the text into 24 languages before reverting to English. Visually reminiscent of a matrix code, Memetic Variations investigated the cryptic nature of language and our inherent struggle with effective communication.

While suggestive of the depth and importance of text as a communicative tool and of impressive quality, the selection of works only brushed the surface of the aesthetic possibilities available for manipulating text into a visual medium. Focusing mostly on conversation, theory and prose, bypassing new developments in technology and language like blogging, SMS and graffiti, the experience of Quote was at times like being in a library when all you want to do is check your Blackberry.


Quote, curator Colin Langridge Long Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart, Aug 13-Sept 10

RealTime issue #76 Dec-Jan 2006 pg. 53

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

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