Monday, June 20, 2016

Sensitive Object

Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, photographer: Grant Hancock, courtesy of the artist
Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, photographer: Grant Hancock, courtesy of the artist

Animism: to be animated, life like, animal-like, person-like. But also, to blur the boundaries between life and non life; to fracture the understanding of what it means to act or to be acted upon. The subject of animism is attached to a long history, which bends, blends and folds around cultural practices (and the mainly imperial-colonial-anthropological study of them). Writing on the subject of animism for E-Flux journal, Anselm Franke states ‘that inanimate objects and things act, that they have designs on us, and that we are interpolated by them is a quotidian reality that we all implicitly accept- just as we accept, and indeed are animated by the very milieus and contexts in which we operate.’(1) Within the art world, the concept of animism often deals with the way that people relate to works of art (and their milieus and contexts). But more than that, animism also allows an entry point for interrogating how works of art do what they do. Within this piece of writing I would like to speak about animism via Affect Theory. I will be discussing the affective relationships that occur between objects of art and question what it means for an object to have force and agency that is animistic.
I want to talk about what happens in the gallery when there's no one there. Not in a ‘Johnson and Friends’ or 'Night at the Museum' kind of way, but in terms of the lives that artworks live when no one is looking. Animism is often related to objects imbued with spirituality, or spiritual significance; a totemic object that has the agency to act out an otherworldly life or task. What I am interested in is worldly, but not necessarily visible. I'm going to try to speak about it plainly, because that is what feels most comfortable for me, even though it feels difficult to explain.
When I walk into a gallery space, I am acutely aware of the pushing and pulling that occurs between the objects within the space. There is invisible energy that runs throughout. It's not about what works of art mean, but rather, what they do. What are they doing to each other? How does one thing stand next to another thing? How does one object unfold in relation to its neighbour, or in relation to the object on the other side of the room. Who is pressing against whom? Who or what is acting?
Affect theory has grown out of a psychological tradition that investigates how people are moved to feeling, or, how they are affected. Within the art world there has been some recent focus on the subject of affect from scholars including Susan Best, Simon O’Sullivan, Eve Meltzer and Brian Massumi. The theory shifts away from the idea that artworks convey ideas, or contain some kind of hidden meaning and instead focuses on what artworks do. Seeking to address what she considers a blind spot within contemporary art history, Susan Best’s Visualising Feeling (2011), presents a reinterpretation of art history via Affect. Best frames anthropomorphism and animism in art works as being ‘not about the attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects, it is a more general question about how subjectivity is presented and constructed in art.(2) Affect theory focuses on dynamic exchanges, bringing to the forefront relations between bodies.
In affect theory there is this idea that bodies press against each other. In their introduction to Affect Theory Reader Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Siegworth describe bodies as ‘human, non-human, part-body and otherwise’.(3) A body, within this understanding, being anything that has the ability to affect or be affected. A body being my physical lump of human flesh and beating heart and growing hair. But a body can also be just an object in a room. This idea, these objects in rooms, these are the things that I am interested in.
I think it is easy to recognise that works of art have the ability to move people (to press against the body, to make people stammer, gasp, laugh, sweat, stoop). And so, acknowledging that works of art have the ability to affect people, and understanding that affect is an exchange between two bodies, then it must be reasonable to posit that works of art also have the agency to affect each other. And surely they must do that whether a person is there or not. Things don't stop happening when you step out of a room. Simon O’Sullivan puts it eloquently, ‘Art, whether we will it or not, continues producing affects’(4) 
Sometimes the ability for objects to affect each other is obvious, tangible and real. Take jeweller and installation artist Dan Bell. His work, Condensense, shown in Pretty Air and Useful Things at Monash University Museum of Art in 2012, presented three vessels containing Kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage dish. Throughout the length of the exhibition the elements within the work were constantly in a process of fermenting, the raw ingredients act upon each other in a slow, almost imperceptible performance. The transformation creates an awareness of the processes that occur when no one is watching. An awareness that an exhibition is not a static space, where everything is the same at the beginning and the end. The Kimchi is breathing, fermenting, becoming-other. The work makes visible forces in action within the gallery space.
And it is in this process/performance that the work becomes animated (albeit a slow and unenergetic form of animation). Bell isn't the first artist to exhibit this kind of thing, but the alchemy of Condensense has a beauty to it.
It is more difficult to look at artworks where on first glance quietude, silence and static are at heart. No moving parts, no obvious event, no making-things-happen. But instead, a pointing towards the invisible energy, the magnetic pull, that exists between objects. A different kind of alchemy.

Here I want to describe the sensitive relations between objects within the work of Adelaide based artist Julia McInerney. Within McInerney’s practice objects (bodies) are arranged with precision. Her 2013 solo exhibition White Air Anatomy at FELTspace saw an installation of collected materials in dialogue. Avocado skins, mirror, marble dust, ash, foam were placed, hovering an inch above the ground, on panes of glass which had been painted white on one side. There is no obvious meaning imbued in the objects and nothing particular about the way in which they are arranged (McInerney describes the work as having been ‘arrived at’). But there is a visual presence; a space created by the complex assemblages composed between bodies. Gertrude Stein called it ‘pretty air’, this space that sits around objects and makes them breathe.

Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, courtesy of the artist

I remember being in the gallery and navigating the space, the painted white panels of glass filling much of the floor, creating a physical awareness of my own boundary as I walked around the work. The objects (bodies) pushed against each other with their physical force; a drying avocado skin hung from a string, floating mid air and reflected in a mirror below. Light, transparency, opacity, dust, ‘nerves, air, dust, sheets, layers, lung, well, wet, cold, north, remains, frozen, net, eye, black’.(5) For me, the interesting thing within McInerney’s work is the agency that the objects have on each other. White painted glass sits next to mirror and is forced to be opaque, non-reflective. White painted glass hovers above the ground and is visibly weightless, but also structurally heavy, fragile. On top sits rocks; rough, dense, dangerous. Watermelon seeds, coated in dust, arranged in a pattern; the artists hand made visible. These objects affectively relate to each other through subtle and sometimes invisible forces. Objects speak through material language, commenting on each other’s texture, form and surface. It is a non-human interaction, a kind of object-life without cognitive thinking. An object-life of feeling, proximity, force, receptivity and sensation.
Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, photographer: Grant Hancock, courtesy of the artist
Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, photographer: Grant Hancock, courtesy of the artist
In her review of White Air Anatomy, Linda Marie Walker discusses the idea that the objects in McInerney’s installation are in the act of waiting, she writes ‘it’s a proposition of fragility, of tenuousness, of temporariness, of passing – as if for a moment; a moment might manifest as this'.(6) The objects embody a quiet passage of unfolding, the act of waiting is something that they do. There are so many possibilities, and so many ways that the artwork could change. All of these potentials are part of the action. Gregg and Seigworth describe the promise of affect as ‘increases in capacities to act (expansions in affectability: both to affect and to be affected), the start of "being-capable", resonant affinities of body and world, being open to more life or more to life’.(7) In the act of waiting there is a build up of possibilities and agency to act. The ongoingness of the process of affect is presented as many virtual layers of possibility all stacked one on top of the other. In this, the objects are in a web of relation to the world and their bodies are life-like. 
I see Bell and McInerney’s artworks as bodies capable of participating and reciprocating in passages of affect. They are sensitive towards other bodies, environments and context. They push and pull. Sometimes they collapse and withhold. They enter into subjective relations with spectators, and subjective relations with each other. They open up possibilities and show difference. And in their agency, they make visible their irrefutable energy/force/life, which is non-human, non-animal, but exists in relation, somewhere between objects.

Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, courtesy of the artist
Julia McInerney, White Air Anatomy (detail), 2013, avocado skins and seeds, ash, foam, volcanic pumice, aluminium umbrella spokes, water, marble dust, rubble, plastic, plaster, dried leaf, watermelon seeds coated in ash, mirror, fluorescent lights and fittings, fan, 3mm thick panes of glass painted white (on one side), dimensions variable, exhibited at FELTspace, courtesy of the artist
Text: Copyright Adele Sliuzas,This article was originally published in fine print 
  1. Anselm Franke, 2012, 'Animism: Notes on an Exhibition' in E-Flux Journal, #36, July 2012, p.1
  2. Susan Best, 2011, Visualising Feeling: affect and the feminine avant-garde, I.B. Tauris, London, p.25
  3. Gregory J Seigworth & Melissa Gregg, 2010, An Inventory of Shimmers, Introduction to the Affect Theory Reader, Duke University Press
  4. Simon O'Sullivan, 2001, 'The Aesthetics of Affect; Thinking art beyond representation' in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities,, December 2001
  5. Tom Squires, 2013, White Air Anatomy: The (Given) Room / Before the (Same) Room / With (and Without) Dimensions: on a work by Julia McInerey, catalogue essay
  6. Linda Marie Walker, 2013, Writing on White Air Anatomy, Julia McInerney, FELT Space, February 2013
  7. Gregory J Seigworth & Melissa Gregg, ibid. p.12

written accompaniment for longboard sequence

This is a short piece of writing that I made to accompany Sundari Carmody's Longboard Sequence installation as part of CACSA Contemporary 2015 at SASA Gallery. 

You have been watching me for a long time. I have a beautiful body and you have never before seen a beautiful body like mine. And if you watch me for long enough, you might completely disappear.¹
Like dancing, Sundari Carmody’s forward movement through space in Longboard Sequence is an act of moving through an emotional landscape. The character that she plays is a body afflicted by feeling. It is a feeling that has come to flesh; a simple feeling embodied in a complex movement of limbs and skin and organs, inside a shimmering dress. She is solemn and she feels it in her body, using the action as a way to more deeply understand. It is a ritual for sensation, an emotional rhythm, a fleshy loop. The swing of the leather tassels, the pulse of the pole against the ground, the eternal turn of the black on black wheels act as a refrain within a song about feelings/emotions/loss.
The willful ending of the sequence suggests an endpoint, a destination. But, the endpoint is just a signal to return to the beginning (as in much video art, displayed on an infinite loop). Through repetition, the body’s gestures are abstracted. When the sequence loops back to the beginning, and plays out the series of movements again, it becomes a disorganization of time, a passage of sensation rather than a forward movement. ‘It is no longer a spatial or organized image of time, but time as the power of imaging² and so Carmody removes it from having any need for interpretation or meaning, and places the movement squarely within the realm of sensation.
Carmody’s solemnity creates within the film a sense of purposefulness and simultaneously, illusiveness. As if she is working towards something, but we are not to know what it may be. My own feelings aboutLongboard Sequence are seasoned by loss. What does it mean to sit with a feeling? What does my body do? What are my rhythms, my refrains? What rituals do I build as a way to create cycles of beginnings and endings- that acknowledge the end, and loss, as a part of my understanding and experience of time? I turned to Duras to think poetically about the body (and the rhythm of the body) encapsulated by loss. Duras’s prose is coloured by sadness, her writing folds and unfolds, revealing the way in which our bodies react to feeling and affect (‘Turn away. Walk on. Forget.’ 3).
In Atlantic Man, Duras writes about creating a film to honour the departure of a lover. Filming is a way to both remember and forget, ‘the film will remain like this. Finished. You are at once hidden and present.’4She speaks of memory and remnants and loss and finding essences, lapses and gaps. Time skips and pulses, her lover is present, but her loss co-exists within the same duration. Narrative is less present in Carmody’s film, but, like Duras, her purpose is to create space for sensation. The character marks out actions for feelings, creating images of mesmerizing intensity.
Beauty, solemnity, the shimmer of the dress.

Longboard Sequence, 2015
custom built longboard, hemp-silk and cotton lawn dress, custom leather shoes by BB Shoemaker, brass tipped Tasmanian oak pole with leather grip and tassel, brass brackets and fittings. 

Longboard Sequence (video), 2015documentation of an actionsingle channel HD video,16:9, colour2 minutes 3 seconds

¹Daniel Kok, in Lisa Havilah, 2009, What I Think About When I Think About Dancing, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, p127
²Claire Colebrook, 2002, Understanding Deleuze, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, p159
3Marguerite Duras, 1993, Two By Duras, Translated by Alberto Manguel, Coach House Press, Toronto
Exhibition Review
Magic Object: 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art

Magic Object: 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art is a 21st century wunderkammer; a place where artworks act with agency, pushing up against each other, drawing threads, casting spells and connecting multiple sites for spatio-temporal-material investigations. Curated by Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Artistic Programs at the Art Gallery of South Australia, the exhibition sees a movement towards curiosity, ritual, shamanism and besoulement within contemporary art. The biennial exhibition features 25 artists and is this year presented across multiple sites, including the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art at UniSA, JamFactory, Carrick Hill and the Santos Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Slade’s large inclusion of Aboriginal Australians within the exhibition is of particular note, showing the formative contribution that Indigenous artists make to the discourse of Australian contemporary art.
The wunderkammer as a concept has formed part of Curator Lisa Slade’s curatorial concern for a number of years, extending from curatorial projects including Curious Colony: A Twenty First Century Wunderkammer (2010) and Strange cargo: contemporary art as a state of encounter, (2006), both presented at the Art Gallery of Newcastle. Seeing the wunderkammer as a curatorial methodology, Magic Object acts as a cabinet of curiosity for a group of artworks that are defined both by their enchanting connection, and their curious difference. Slade draws from the historical understanding of the concept, steeped in anthropocentric, colonial thinking, which privileges the curiosity of the collector (read powerful, white, colonising man). Through this exhibition she seeks to re-situate the meaning of the word within the contemporary, as space for aesthetic and philosophical contemplation, ‘a means of colliding the historical and the contemporary, art and non-art -- and for investigating our antipodean position in the world.[1] This is after all, the foremost survey of Australian art, and Slade uses the kammer as a place within which to present difference through non-western, cross cultural and boundary practices that are key to the landscape of contemporary Australian art.
The wunderkammer can be easily seen within the dispersed aspects of the exhibition scattered around the city; at the museum of Economic Botany, JamFactory Gallery 2 and at Samstag Museum. A perfect vitrine space, JamFactory’s Gallery 2 provides a cabinet within which Slade has displayed a collection of rarefied objects. Featuring works from Abdullah, Bond, Gill, Haselton, McMonagle, Moore, Nell and Swann the esoteric collection of objects is museological in presentation, and designed to inspire wonder. The works presented here push and pull between real/imagined, material/spirit is unsettling in its quietude. Similarly, the presentation of Bluey Roberts’ work, complete with glass vitrine cabinet, at The Samstag Museum reads as museological. Likewise, Tom Moore’s installation at the Museum of Economic Botany, Watching Glass Grow, situates itself as a meta-wunderkammer; a cabinet of curiosities within a museum collection within the botanic gardens, a space of living and growing specimens. Referencing nature, yet inherently unnatural in their mutations, Moore’s work comprises a group of eccentric glass objects; fronds of murrine glass grasses sprouting from unassuming mounds, anthropomorphised glass carrots that stare back at the viewer.

LEFT: Fig 1. Glenn Barkley, Iznik Ignatz Potz, 2015, RIGHT: Fig 2.  Nell, The Wake (detail), 2014–16,       
A cheeky nod to his former career as a curator, Glenn Barkley has chosen to display his work as a room within a room (a kammer within a kammer, if you will). The partition of space is an architectural act of blocking off and making separate, creating a distinct inside/outside. On the exterior the dingy plywood construction references unfinished exhibition furniture, complete with spack-filled fixings. Inside the pod there is a sense of intensity, purpose and energy. The doorway is a portal to a highly organised and animated world. The works are grouped closely, saturating the plinth with a miasma of art historical references, paying homage to the studio ceramics movement, the decorative arts, and thousands of years of material culture as told through the history of vessels.
Animism is key to Slade’s Magic Object. Many of the works are transformed from simple and uncomplex objects into anthropomorphised beings through the addition of legs, eyes, appendages and voices. Faces and body parts appear in a majority of the works, some connected and others abjectly displaced or trans-fused. It may be possible to consider these objects as being besouled, a concept where objects in a gallery act on the level of bodily empathy.[2] The role of the artist in the act of besoulement displayed within in Magic Object is not stable. While there is an understanding that the artists have, at the very least, colluded with the materials of their artwork in order to create spiritual agency, there is no ownership declared over these souls, either by Slade or by the artists. Viewing the artist as a colluder instead of a creator is a concept that can be seen in Roy Wiggin’s room at the Art Gallery. The darkly painted space is hung ‘salon-style’ with ilma, or dancing rods. These are hand-held spiritual objects that have been informed by the spirits of the unborn and the deceased and are conjured as songs as well as objects which are also used within dance.
Heather B Swann’s Banksia Men present simultaneously as costumes for ritual, and objects inhabited by souls. Their physicality and material presence, though unanimated in the gallery space, is occupied by the uncanny, hovering spirit of the Banksia Men. Nell’s body of work fits easily within this animistic tendency, with her ceramic objects using facial features and body-like-parts as a way to empathetically communicate with the audience. Slade has brought these concerns to the forefront of the exhibition, including an essay from Gemma Weston in the catalogue that develops theory around Magic Object’s many animistic tendencies. Weston writes about understanding animism ‘as a system of exchanges and relationships between human and non-human subjects with their own agency, where natural, cultural and spiritual worlds reciprocally bring each other into being’[3] The works and bodies of works have a reliance on the affective realm of art, and their relationships amongst each other (pushing, pulling, rubbing against each other in virtual/affective space).
Despite this theorisation of relationality on the most part, especially at the Art Gallery of South Australia, there is a clear separation of bodies of works into distinct rooms or spaces. This is a curatorial decision that appears to value the distinction between bodies of work over relation. However at Samstag Museum, the groupings of works flow into each other, creating a richer audience experience and allowing for works to be read against each other. Here the works speak together to present an other-worldly experience. Juz Kitson’s hanging sculptural works, which combine pristine Jingdezhen porcelain with materials including hide, horns, wax and plant material, reference living bodies, specifically alien-like egg clusters (Fig 4.). The perfect and smooth surfaces of Kitson’s porcelain contrast with the sprawling, uneasy, gothically-over-decorated, ceramic works by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran. Upstairs at Samstag works act as portals into other spaces/dimensions/magical planes. Tarryn Gill’s deities form a ritual circle of magic beings, inviting the viewer to step into the circle and become the object while the beings stand around and meditate over you. Garry Stewart’s interactive media installation goes further to transport the viewer into another space/world/temporal dimension. The work places the viewer in the position of the subject and performs the body with algorithms of visual reverberation, splicing and delay. Danie Mellor’s round prints provide a glimpse into a hyper-callibrated, highly saturated, natural world; some kind of Australia that you’ve never seen before. Slade writes “Mellor draws on Western traditions and indigenous cultural perspectives to create imagery that suggests multiple ways of approaching the conceptual space of our environment.”[4]

IMAGE: Fig 3. Danie Mellor, On a noncorreolationist thought I–XIV, 2016,

Materiality and material deception also come into play within Slade’s rationale for Magic Object. Many of the artists selected have a deep connection to their material of choice. Louise Haselton’s body of work honours the innate and somewhat alchemic qualities of domestic materials, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah’s sculptural works show a deep connection to materials honed through hours spent making. In Michael Zavros’ and Jacqui Stockdale’s work however, there is an element of material deception. Zavros’ hyperrealism presents as photographic image, where it is in all actuality a painstakingly produced oil painting. In the adjoining room, Stockdales series of images, The Boho, create the opposite illusion; hand painted landscape serve as backdrops for photographic portraits. Robyn Stacey’s camera obscura prints also twist the logic of visual perception, taking the familiar and flipping it on its head. Through this Slade suggests that artists play a role in questioning our perception of the world, and do this through magical reorganisations of the way in which we look.
Generous in content and presentation, Magic Object provides many entry points for the viewer. Through simple gestures such as anthropomorphic memisis, and objects that operate with body-like empathy, Slade has curated an exhibition that is easily accessible. The exhibitions engagement with the concept of the cabinet of curiosities, conjures idea of works of art that can be read against each other within the same space. This is perhaps where the exhibition becomes weaker, as on the most part the objects and bodies of work are kept in distinct rooms. Through wall text and the accompanying catalogue publication focus is kept on the agency of the objects, their ability to act, to be be-souled, and in this aspect the exhibition succeeds in creating a space where works can be read for what they do rather than the viewer searching for a misplaced and antiquated ‘meaning’. As a survey of Australian art, Magic Object offers a refreshing view into contemporary practices, and contextualises current tendencies in Australian art for a diverse audience.

Fig 4. Juz Kitson, Outside the symbolic order of things (creation and the mortal), 2014 
Fig 5. Jacqui Stockdale, The Offering, 2015

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Mouths and Meaning, Bronwyn Platten, Sarah Coggrave and others

Review: Mouths and Meaning, Bronwyn Platten, Sarah Coggrave and others

by Adele Sliuzas
Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide
1 February-2nd March 2013

Blurring the boundaries between art, art therapy and biographical practice, Bronwyn Platten's recent exhibition Mouths and Meaning emphasises the current role of social engagement in contemporary arts practice. Mouths and Meaning is a multidisciplinary collaborative art and research project that extends beyond the gallery space. The exhibition pieces together paintings, performance, video work and installation that explore relationships to the body and dislocations between mouths and meaning.

Originally from Adelaide, and now working from Manchester, UK, this solo exhibition sees Platten return to the AEAF ten years after her previous exhibition in the space. Her work explores the body, in particular experiences of identity, sense and communication as highlighted by the exhibition’s title. The project includes a body of research and multiple collaborators, moving between the fields of art and health.

Within the gallery Platten has created an affective space, encouraging the viewer to engage and respond on a corporeal level; the works make you feel within your flesh. The mouth is presented as a site to be explored and to be embodied. As a threshold between the inside and outside of the body, the mouth is a liminal space. It is the site of pleasure experienced through tastes, sensations, speaking and laughing. Equally, the mouth is the site of horror and betrayal; spitting, slurring, saying the wrong thing, eating too much, or not enough. Platten invites the viewer to become aware of their perception of their mouth as an entry to the body. In Anatomical Sense, a cluster of small oil paintings, Platten fragments the body, dissecting individual sense organs and inviting the viewer to consider the materiality and mechanics of their senses one at a time. 

The subjective experience of one’s own mouth is brought to the fore within Platten’s Untitled (Mouth Drawing). This collaborative series shows drawn images of interpretations of the inside of a mouth. Collaborators were asked to slowly drink a cup of water and record the sensation; movements of the tongue, the taste, the feeling of liquid pushing up against the cheek and teeth. A multisensory experience, some drawings describe the mechanics of the mouth, others describe ideas of closeness, wetness or tongueness through abstract lines. 

The feeling of embodiment within the mouth is again raised in Body To Brain and Back Again. The work sits across two platforms; a video of a performance by Platten, alongside a series of flashcards with words stencilled on their surface. Within the performance, Platten appears in a nurse’s uniform, with shoes on her head and books crudely strapped to her feet. Humour and childhood playfulness are a way for Platten to contemplate dysfunction and describe experiences that are personal and difficult, but that art can transform. She acts out all of the words in the dictionary from the entry "Body" to the entry “Brain”, corresponding to the flashcards on the floor. Just as in Untitled (Mouth Drawings), this exercise allows Platten to actively consider her mouth, feeling the words and the movements of her anatomy. She questions what the words do and their physicality as they turn from concepts within the brain to actions by the body. In response the viewer questions their own body and feels impelled to experience the sensation.

More than just art therapy, Platten’s practice is relational, creating meaning through experience. Exchange and collaboration form an essential part of the dialogue. Working with emerging artist and recovering anorexic Sarah Coggrave on video performance Untitled (The Party), Platten engages humour to discuss the dynamic relationship the two artists have with food. The performance is a social intervention as much as relational artwork. Despite its bright childhood colours, playfulness and humour, it isn’t easy to watch. There is absurdness in that no food is ever seen entering the mouth. Cream fills gumboots into which the artists put their feet, feeling the sensation of the fatty, squelchy cream against their skin. Pockets are stuffed with cakes. The anxiety and tension is high, and through their laughs and struggles, the performance opens them up to experience the joy, horror, power and control exerted by the mouth/food dynamic. 

Originally published in Artlink Volume 33, no 2, 2013  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Analogue Lab Show: Alternative Photography on paper, glass and metal

The Analogue Lab Show: Alternative Photography on paper, glass and metal
The Mill, Angus Street
Launch 5pm

In the early years of photography things were very different to how they are now. Developing film and photographs was, and remains, a laborious and dangerous chemical process, an experiment where light meets emulsion in scientific laboratory. To some, analogue cameras seem nostalgic, but to others, like the artists who run the Analogue lab, alternative and historic photographic processes are exciting, even magical.

The Analogue Laboratory is a photographic studio run by a group of Adelaide based photographers within the new Mill complex. The artists are interested in the photographic methodologies of the past, but their practices are not anachronistic. They are attracted to the procedure as much as the result, and to the many processes that go into producing a photograph. The creative passion of this group of artists is one of their greatest assets, equaled only by their skills as photographers. This exhibition is an introduction to what the Analogue Lab can do and features work by Vera Ada, Alex Bishop-Thorpe, Alice Blanch, Aurelia Carbone, Andrew Dearman, Tony Kearney, Leanne McPhee, Amalia Ranisau and James Tylor. This exhibition puts the emphasis on the alchemy and magic of the analogue photograph, showing multiple ways that an image can be constructed. 

Text: Copyright Adele Sliuzas, originally published on The Thousands

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Darren Siwes, Mulaga Gudjerie / Santiago Sierra, Destroyed World

Darren Siwes, Mulaga Gudjerie
Santiago Sierra, Destroyed World
Greenaway Art Gallery
Opening May 15th 6pm
Runs till 23rd June

Santiago Sierra is an artist and a self confessed anarchist. Inherently political, his work touches on topics that aren’t easy, often navigating blurry and indistinct areas of 21st century ethics. His practice brings into focus the power relations between the privileged and the disadvantaged, and ideas of submission and domination. Showing alongside his monumental project Destroyed World, is Sierra's work 160 cm Line Tattooed on 4 People. This work is particularly confronting, Sierra has tattooed a line across the back of four heroin-addicted prostitutes in exchange for a shot of heroin. The documentation photographs open up more questions than they intend to answer, presenting an ethical dilemma about the role of the artist as perpetrator.


Darren Siwes photographic series Mulaga Gudjerie is equally political, depicting an alternative contemporary narrative that sees our head of state replaced with His and Her Majesty, the indigenous Queen and Prince of Australia. Siwes acts out what he calls ‘hypothetical realism’ within the photographs, an embellished possible future that, again, questions our 21st century ethics, particularly in regards to hierarchical power. The subjects of the photographs are strange and powerful, their waxy whitened skin and regal outfits are enough to make you feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. As they sit together and blankly stare directly into the camera, the two royal subjects begin to make you reconsider the way that power is organized within our country. 

Santiago Sierra, Destroyed Word, 2010-12, 5 by 10 montage, photographic prints, 180 x 200cm, edition of 3 + 1 A/P

Santiago Sierra, LĂ­nea de 160 cm tatuada sobre 4 personas, 2000 /160cm Line Tattooed on 4 People, 2000, photographic print, 100 x 148cm each, triptych, edition of 3

Darren Siwes, Northie Kwin, 2013 (from Mulaga Gudjerie series), giclee print, 120 x 100cm, edition of 10 + 2 AP, courtesy the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery

Darren Siwes, Jingli Kwin, 2013 (from Mulaga Gudjerie series), giclee print, 120 x 100cm, edition of 10 + 2 AP, courtesy the artist and Greenaway Art Gallery

Text: Copyright Adele Sliuzas, originally published on The Thousands