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Seductive unknowability

Diana Klaosen

A Place to Tremble is a site-specific installation which continues and expands the techniques, themes and philosophical preoccupations of Matt Warren’s ongoing practice. Warren is a reflective art-maker best known as a multimedia/new media artist. He is indisputably one of Tasmania’s most important young practitioners and has received numerous grants and awards, including many for international projects.

Warren’s work explores concepts such as spirituality, the soul and transcendence, ‘fragile’ topics for which there is little or no real evidence to support personal theories and opinions. A Place to Tremble works with memories and reports of experiences and encounters with the transcendental, the sublime and spiritual elation—in short, ecstasy.

As one enters the gallery space, there is a sensation of hypnotic calm. It is deceptively easy to apprehend the elements of the installation: 2 gauze ‘screens’ hang in diagonally opposite corners of the room and 2 projectors are placed so as to cast black and white handwritten and printed text onto the gauze, which billows slightly in the ambient air, somewhat distorting the script. A soft soundscape fills the gallery, consisting of snippets of different voices hardly intelligible over a rumbling buzz. The sound, Warren explains in his artist’s statement, can be seen as an attempt to induce the epiphany-like sensations of the spiritual: “a combination of well-being, melancholy, fear and elation; a strange, contradictory combination.” The text, shown overlapping, layered and backwards, is a mix of personal writing, quotes and interviews on the “otherworldly.”

The unknowability of the work’s subject matter is echoed in its presentation: minimalist installation style, the gallery obscured, the ambient sound difficult to pinpoint, the projected text mostly impossible to decipher. For this viewer, the work, with its ‘sensurround’ atmosphere, is not only entirely engaging but simultaneously complex and elegantly simple. The aesthetics of the work are masterful, the sheer, rippling fabric with its stark, white patterned text contrasting with the dark of the gallery space. The sound is both soothing and frustrating in its incomprehensibility. A Place to Tremble envelops the gallery-goer with its seductive allure.

Warren’s show was one of the many highlights of the recent, rather curiously titled Living Artists’ Week, a festival of open studios, exhibitions, demonstrations, talks and other special events. The major group exhibition [in]stall(s), in Hobart’s Long Gallery, featured another work by Matt Warren, which again used light, sound and ambient space (“a multi-CD installation”) to explore metaphysical considerations—this time the nature of truth and the fallibility of the mind. This talented artist does not shy away from the big questions, and the results are always intriguing.

Matt Warren, A Place to Tremble, Inflight Gallery, Hobart, August 7-28

RealTime issue #63 Oct-Nov 2004 pg. 54

© Diana Klaosen; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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