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From Yia Yia’s song, Kate Murphy (with Basil Hogios), 2010, Digital video still, Multi-channel HD video and sound installation From Yia Yia’s song, Kate Murphy (with Basil Hogios), 2010, Digital video still, Multi-channel HD video and sound installation
Courtesy Kate Murphy and BREENSPACE, Sydney
“ONE OF THE ASPECTS OF COMING INTO THE SPACE FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT’S REALLY EXCITING FOR ARTISTS IS ITS SCALE AND ITS DEPTH OF HISTORY AND THE WAY THINGS RESONATE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT.” PERFORMANCE SPACE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR AND CURATOR BEC DEAN IS TALKING ABOUT CARRIAGEWORKS, THE VAST AND LABYRINTHINE POST-INDUSTRIAL BUILDING THAT HAS BEEN THE LONG RUNNING ORGANISATION’S RECENT HOME SINCE 2007.

By now this admittedly atypical exhibition space is a familiar one among the Sydney arts community. But as I sit down with Dean to hear more about their upcoming visual arts program, Nightshifters, it’s clear the company’s commitment to finding new ways to engage audiences with the space remains strong.

An exhibition of moving image works from eight of Australia’s leading video and media artists to take place over 10 days in November during the Live Live season including the four days of the LiveWorks Festival (p35), Nightshifters may just prove Performance Space’s most ambitious installation on the site to date. For the first time, the exhibition will be geared around evening viewing, capturing “the idea of the night shift, the changeover of stewardship and the replacement of one set of realities with another,” as Dean describes it. “Sometimes I feel privileged to wander around this building in the dark when everything is closed down and I guess I wanted to share that with audiences.”

For Dean, this means not only extending viewing hours but also getting visitors out beyond the usual spatial confines as well as offering artists an opportunity to create new site-specific works. “I was interested not so much in that wallpaper technique of video on architecture but actually having the artists engage with all facets of the site,” she says. As such, artists are responding to “the environment of the former Eveleigh Railyards, its histories and its manifestation in the present,” according to the program’s media release. However, Dean is quick to point out the site-specificity of the program isn’t intended to produce literal responses.

insect life

“I haven’t been didactic or prescriptive about that at all, it’s not a heritage project. So some artists have consciously made an engagement with the site’s history while other artists have worked with the transformation of the site as it is today. Angelica Mesiti, for example, has developed a project that has really engaged with how nature has taken over quite a large part of the Eveleigh Railyards, and so she is looking at making a work that is kind of like an epidiascope. She’s researching a way of attracting insects and bringing them into a real time, light and shadow-based work rather than a pre-edited video. So she is consciously working in a different way to the practice that she is becoming well-known for and taking a chance on an experiment, which is very exciting for me.”

Mesiti, who also works as a member of collaborative art group The Kingpins, is set to join a cast of artists who variously blur the boundaries between performance and the visual arts. Cinematographer Cordelia Beresford, video artist Sam James (p54) and the now Australian-based Belgian artist Alexis Destoop, for example, each bring with them strong histories of engaging with dance and experimental performance in their work. Kate Murphy will be collaborating with composer, music producer and sound designer Basil Hogios on Yia Yia’s song, which will contain multiple audio channels and is intended to be unsynchronised so that it can be experienced as a different score each time. A floor-based multi-screen projection by Eugenia Raskopoulos will poetically intertwine culture, history and language while John Tonkin and Dominic Redfern are set to imaginatively respond to architectural features spanning narrow passageways and mechanical drive shafts.

in the cracks

And where some, like Mesiti, are casting a glance well beyond the CarriageWorks interior others will transform close-range observations of the site into performative translations. “Sam James has done a lot of work with us over the years as a videographer, so it is really great to be working with him as an artist in his own right,” says Dean. “He has really focused in on these tiny spaces, the imperfections in the material of the space, the intersection of cracks in the concrete with train tracks and other parts of the environment that have that layered age to them. He is working on a multi-channel work and none of the images will be more than 45cm wide, so audiences will have to seek them out in this huge space. Collaborating with Georgie Read, who is a performer and has worked with Sam on many occasions, he will be bringing a figurative dimension into these tiny spaces and apertures.”

nightworkers

With a growing number of arts venues across Sydney now being housed in post-industrial conversions, it is easy to become cynical about the apparent fetishisation of these spaces. Yet this neglects the significant mediating role architecture has to play in our culture, especially when built structures are among the few tangible remnants of a past that still demands to be grappled with. One of the first artists Dean approached for this program was Cordelia Beresford, who will be exhibiting a work filmed at Cockatoo Island, a site that shares some affinity with the CarriageWorks space. Titled Night Shift, the film follows a security guard on the island portrayed by Indigenous performer Djakapurra Munyarryun. The synopsis sets out the action: “in the dead of the night he does his rituals. He listens and observes the space; aware of its history, seeking a conversation with what remains.”

reawakenings

This impulse to connect with the past arguably becomes easily submerged in everyday life and requires reawakening. And while daylight brings with it a rush forward to greet the future, evening offers pause to reflect. The spaces around us can become vehicles for such reflection, provoking an awareness of evolutions and accretions over time, something Dean has experienced first hand from her own observations of the Eveleigh site. “Since I was successful in finding the funding for this project, a lot has changed onsite. More spaces have been bulldozed or fenced-off.” Dean feels that Nightshifters is an opportunity “to try to engage with the place before it is changed irrevocably.”


Nightshifters, curator Bec Dean, artists Cordelia Beresford, Alexis Destoop, Sam James, Kate Murphy, Angelica Mesiti, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Dominic Redfern, John Tonkin; Performance Space, CarriageWorks, Sydney, Nov 4-14

RealTime issue #99 Oct-Nov 2010 pg. 51

© Ella Mudie; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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