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Ten Days on the Island

March 23 - April 1 2007

 Da Contents H2


maintenance of social solidarity: getting to the source

magdalena grubski

We live in a world of make-believe. We access more information than ever before but the technologies that make this possible can also blur our vision of reality. We are under the misconception that information is knowledge. We become insecure and, as we struggle to connect a constructed view of reality with our own lived experiences, ours is no longer a shared reality but a shared ‘dis-reality.’

The strongest point of audience engagement with et al.’s Maintenance of Social Solidarity appears to be in unpacking the theories it presents. The exhibition notes present six introductions to the New Zealand collective which investigates our systems of belief and defines our current state of disconnection. Etal suggests our freedom is at stake when we can no longer choose what we see and hear, perversely distorting our image of the ‘real’ world.

The room is set up like some self-ordering information bunker. The walls are gun-metal blue and a high wire fence encloses a large projected image of the Google map search engine, constantly scanning city to city around the world. As we zoom in on landscapes (bunkers, airstrips and military installations) devoid of any cultural detail, a computer animated voice tells us where we are. This sense of removal is a reccurring theme in the work. Through various technological means (headphones, projectors, laptops etc) we are reminded that ours is a constructed reality that we do not control. Political jargon and religious discourse rather than geography keep us distant from other peoples and lands, generating a sense of us and them and consequent insecurity.

A section of the space is set up with a series of easels to which are pinned large printed posters that have been defaced by a variety of packing and adhesive tapes. Each easel has a set of headphones attached. Some have a mouthpiece so you feel like a scud missile launcher when you put them on. But the mouthpieces don’t work and so the potential of dialogue becomes monologue as computer enhanced male and female voices speak in what first appears to be a familiar media discourse. It soon becomes apparent that the information we hear is mumbo-jumbo. Suddenly I feel angry, as if my time has been wasted listening to a distant rhetoric that pollutes my reality.

At the foot of each easel is a pile of street press style publications which you can take away with you. They are filled with abstracted imagery of sun-spots and quotes from George W Bush, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein relating to God, freedom and change. Selected words in each quotation have file paths attached, abstracting them and making them seem computer generated.

Sporadic musical chanting is a reminder of our need to connect for more than just information exchange and heightens awareness of our isolation in a room full of technological equipment and computerised voices. Without being culture or gender specific, the Maintenance of Social Solidarity suggests that these notions of isolation and shared dis-reality are everyone’s concern. We are collectively, not individually, to blame for the displacement of our culture. By creating an awareness of how media and political middlemen make meaning for us we become aware of just how distorted our world view may have become. It makes me want to get straight to the source: to have a cup of tea and conversation with someone across the other side of the world and to hear about their reality.

et al., Maintenance of Social Solidarity, curator Bryony Nainby; Contemporary Art Services Tasmania, Hobart, Ten Days on the Island, March 21-April 22

© Magdalena Grubski; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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