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SecondLife Dumpster, Eteam, 2007-2009 SecondLife Dumpster, Eteam, 2007-2009
THE EXPANDED EXHIBITION FORMAT, NOT JUST COMBINING A RANGE OF ARTIST TALKS AND EVENTS BUT AN ONGOING PROGRAM, IS PECULIARLY UNDER-DISCUSSED AS ONE OF THE DISTINCTIVE MOVEMENTS IN THE PRESENTATION OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA WORK. FOR THIS YEAR’S BRISBANE FESTIVAL, THE SHOW TOTAL NOWHERE EMOTION EXPANSION AIMED TO KICK UP SOME COUNTRY DUST BY COMBINING AN ONLINE EXHIBIT AND A TRAVELLING GALLERY.

The online exhibition format of a Flash animation of a truck with video embedded on the sides, echoes the in situ experience. The actual Total Nowhere Emotion Expansion truck travelled around south-eastern Queensland, taking in such art hotspots as Yeronga and Marsden, in the manner of a Big and Really Intense Media Art Day Out.

Curator Vivian Hogg’s assemblage of video and interactive work was marked by a sense of humour and vitality; no droll discourses on materiality, no staid framing of the new.

There is something of a connection in the curatorial impulse that ties to the 2008 project The Last Vestige, in which Hogg took part. In that scenario, a boat floating up the Mekong with unusual dreamlike performances and works by artists (all female) arrived at an electronic dance party. An art vehicle emits more than fumes, trails more than noise, but without seeing every performance and program element of Total Nowhere Emotion Expansion, visitors to the Brisbane Powerhouse might have felt that the real action had happened on the road.

Alongside the artworks, screened a short Flash animation made by students of the Brisbane Youth Education and Training Centre and the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre—a rapid-fire dayglo parade of flags and sports imagery. Rather than being a neat social activist adjunct, this piece oddly sets the primary tone of the exhibit—unruly, uninhibited, unconcerned.

The terrifying and hilarious world of Philadelphia-based Ryan Trecartin’s I-BE-AREA series is often described as parodic and sarcastic; but in situ, out of the confines of the internet, there’s little space for any framing. It is simply as if alien intelligences were told what a soap opera was and how it was constructed, and went about making one that bore no relation to our own. The conceit of an entirely independent, internal, formal language makes I-BE-AREA literally compulsive; characters snap fingers and smack their hands, grimacing for the camera and for each other.

Grant Stevens’ The Wandering (Australia, 2009) has the ambiguity of his other recent work, using a production encased in solemn neutrality to build a sense that everything is going to be alright because the world is ending. Here, dream recollections found online are set against simple clouds and MIDI music—but the scenario is anxious, even noxious. Stevens’ previous video work liked to toy with anxiety; The Wandering drips with nuance and precision by making us perform the work of reading/wandering.

Darren Sylvester’s Don’t Lose Yourself in Tomorrow (Australia, 2004) sits alongside Trecartin and Stevens by adding his own sense of staccato weirdness; the apocryphal Pokémon narrative of epileptic children in front of Pikachu’s lightning bolts is inverted. A boy entombed in a merchandised bedroom is watched by the sentinel Pikachu along his shelves and sheets, waiting for the gift of sound and vision. Olaf Breuning’s Old Homepage of 2003 is precisely that; a revisiting of his famously tedious website in which a sequence of dorky collage and sketchbook images would prompt you to type in the next URL.

Jemima Wyman’s video Whakem’all (Australia/USA, 2006) expanded the range of her paralysing colour vortices to the edges of perception by introducing the dialogic stutter of a massive-headed costumed character (see article). Wyman’s images have always been striking, but in video form (or rather, character-video form) waves of disquiet pass over you, making the colours all the more undulating. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s 2006 work Bangkok Tanks was by far the most serious of the works on offer, despite sniggering and jokes from the people watching media coverage of Thailand’s 2006 coup.

Eteam’s Second Life Dumpster (New York/Mannheim, 2007-2009) is one of only a handful of works that mounts any form of effective resistance to the overwhelming awfulness and banality of the Second Life environment. A kind of two-world digestive tract spits out garbage items from random users, which during the course of the work became unmanageable and corrupted. This ‘garden of errors’ aesthetic was perfectly suited to the decaying collective fantasy of Second Life itself. As the few users not funded by arts organisations evacuated Second Life by 2008, Second Life Dumpster was a kind of world in miniature.

Fitting within these manic and comic works was New York-based Brody Condon’s DeResFX.Kill(Karma Physics < Elvis) of 2004, a pink infinity where several Elvises (or should that be Elvii?) twitched and gyrated, powered by the Unreal game engine, in which Condon produced several interactive and video works. His talk during the exhibition program was called Known Planes of Existence, a layered reference to his new age and cult-influenced childhood, and the ongoing deployment of planar metaphors throughout the works themselves.

While Condon was apologetic about his own confusion and the nature of the presentation, a seamless retrospective/contraspective made deeply natural links between divergent works. Early work in computer game modification linked through to sculptural elements, linked through to performance installations, linked through finally to Twentyfivefold Manifestations, a mass-scale performance ritual and sculpture garden that is by far Condon’s most elaborate and confident work. The internal logic of Condon’s occult sensibilities is never used to disengage from art history, but rather to insinuate natural and unnatural superstitions that tie Bruce Nauman to Dungeons and Dragons, Bauhaus to the Branch Davidians.

Since Condon’s presentation only had a handful of audience members, some psychic acceleration took place by way of an extended discussion on generative performances. A world is organised and planned, rules established, a community built, footage collected. Just as Condon references the Abyssal Plane, the macroscopic relationship is irresistible; the exhibition’s mutagenic qualities and travel itinerary lent it a generative, open quality. At once almost infuriatingly simple in tone, but irresistibly high in stakes and hopefully influential as a result.


At the time of going to print, works in Total Nowhere Emotion Expansion could still be seen at www.totalnowhereemotionexpansion.com

Brisbane Festival, Total Nowhere Emotion Expansion, curator Vivian Hogg, exhibition opened Sept 13; Brody Condon Artist Talk, Sept 18; Truck and Brisbane Powerhouse

RealTime issue #94 Dec-Jan 2009 pg. 29

© Christian McCrae; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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