The exhibition UNBOUND presented the works of four artists as part of the 2012 Kings Emerging Artist Program. The show was not tied up with a curatorial brief set in advance; it presented four productions as the result of the research and endeavour of artists focusing on their own practice and area of enquiry.
Celebrating the publication of the catalogue, I remember the advice my collaborator Yvette King and I were given when talking about the introduction we were writing, to write about “not knowing”. Confident about the result of this project, we did not know exactly how the works would eventuate and how they would come together as one exhibition. This was part of the experiment.
Flicking through the images of the catalogue, I am reminded of how the exhibition unfolded well while focusing on individual practices. The works revealed a discrete narrative that touched upon the symbolic meaning of landscape and its transformative aspect. Each work triggered in their own way thoughts on our relationship to the world and its objects, the nature of their materiality, and the meaning they can carry.
Daniel Price and Michael Conole’s collaborative work The Entire history of you was centred on discussions prompted by pre-historical artefacts found by Conole in Cambridge, UK. These artefacts show intentional actions to create shapes and markings of aesthetic nature that suggest they may belong to a category of “art” objects. Presented on a concrete block, the work by the two artists retained the feel of an archaeological find. Coming from a drawing practice, Daniel Price has followed his collaborator, Michel Conole, into object-hood and a research on materiality. The silver and bronzed rings, wood carved pieces, glazed ceramic objects and their residues, carry a shifting meaning that spans from archaeological artefact, pieces shaped by nature such as found wood while reminded us of their status as manufactured art objects. When considering their materiality, texture and shape, they led us to think about the possibilities for objects to relate to traces of life and human beings.
The relationship between objects and the human world is based, for Conole on the idea of a civilisation as an impenetrable forest (or Silva Hercynia as it was described in Roman texts by Tacitus and Caesar). At first Silva Hercynia described a geographical area, a forest which started at the south of Germany and became a mythological entity. It was the starting point for numerous tales. Silva Hercynia points to the human capacity to impose symbolic meaning upon the landscape. An impenetrable forest holding memories resonates with great significance in Megan Cope Toponymic series as the artist projected the aboriginal names of places on landscapes and cityspaces in the Melbourne area. The artist chose sites that have am important significance in marking the history of Victoria and its inhabitants. The impenetrable forest in Cope’s work is the dangerous and unhospitable bush conveyed by the mythology of ‘empty land’ (terra nullius) at that grounded colonial occupation and became the basis for the formation of aboriginal missions.
For Brad Lay, who works ‘in, around and about the ocean’, setting his studio on a cargo ship for two weeks was a very productive period. The artist used the movement of waves, materials such as oil patches and textures of the boat to generate drawings, and produced a series of photographs and a video. Prior to his departure Brad Lay asked peers in his greater network on Facebook to update his status for him every day, writing about what he would be doing or thinking during his journey. These comments revealed expectations and ideas we have about the sea, which the artist carefully selected and imposed on his photographs. A script from these writings was performed by the artist who composed layers of discourse to create a sound track for the video showing views from the boat and actions performed on board. These bribes of thoughts became incredibly poetic but also created a shift that is similar to meta-fiction, a style of writing that makes the reader aware of the structure of fiction as he reads, opposed to enter make-believe situation. The influence of the fictional on the real (often historical) narrative is revealed clearly. In that way, considering the works as one series, one’s ideas on sublime and romanticism are pierced by thoughts of material culture and awareness on environmental issues. A Model for a Sensitive Iceberg is a sculpture that is modelled on a container that merges from the gallery floor.
Although largely present in his video installation Three Red Herrings, Dominic Kirkwood’s interest in the landscape is not for its natural and mythological features. The artist is rather interested in its use as a prop that supports narrative in feature film. The slowness and rhythm of the video reminded me of the scene in Humphrey Jennings’s Listen to Britain (1942) where two figures are watching a sunset over a coastline. The camera moves to reveal the figures screening the horizon for the enemy. This scene exemplifies, for Jacques Rancière, the two poetics at play in the image: ‘the one that wants nothing’(the straight shot that only records) and fictional narrative within the film that became its strongest attribute. For Rancière, the two poetics that constitute the moving image are not opposed (as documentary and fiction seem to be opposed) but are put into dialogue to create new forms of fictions. Dominic Kirkwood deconstructs the moving image as a medium by rethinking the balance between image, narrative and sound. The three channels projection comes with an intriguing, sometimes cacophonic soundtrack that follows three characters in the separate projections. Looking closely one could see that the characters never meet, tending to walk backwards.
Anabelle Lacroix is an independent curator, writer and is also a committee member at Kings ARI . Below she reflects on the exhibition UNBOUND, which was supported through the Visual Arts Board by the OYEA Artist Run Initiatives grant round.