Alex Wisser

photocentric

Month: April, 2011

The Lighter Side of Gravity

by Alex Wisser

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two weeks of anx­i­ety dri­ven explo­ration into the effects of weight­less­ness on the holy relics of aes­thetic the­ory cul­mi­nates in a sin­gle evening of per­for­mance as our dar­ing INDEX. direc­tors, Alex Wisser and Georgie Pol­lard attempt to put the uni­verse into motion through the use of scale mod­els and high school physics. It was remarked after­ward that the whole evening was like a soap bub­ble that rises fas­ci­nat­ing and iri­des­cent into the air before pop­ping in a ges­ture that seems to sug­gest it was never even there in the first place.

Advertisements

Review: Goran Tomic, “SEE SAW” at At The Vanishing Point – Contemporary Art, Newtown

by Alex Wisser


In the front gallery at ATVP, Goran Tomic has estab­lished a land­scape of tele­vi­sions .  Arranged at dif­fer­ent alti­tudes, each screen angles along a shal­low semi-circle that dis­tends into the room like so many facet planes of per­spec­tive. Ris­ing behind this slightly alpine scene, a sky of draped sheet plas­tic hangs from the wall.  The tele­vi­sions them­selves are mot­ley in size, shape, and con­di­tion, yet each, from its own unique posi­tion, and each pos­sess­ing its own tonal inter­pre­ta­tion, repeat a sin­gle image with a sin­gle per­spec­tive.  The image is taken from inside a cave or tun­nel look­ing toward the blind­ing white aper­ture of the out­side that flick­ers and flares, throw­ing pat­terns onto the walls of the tun­nel and the screen of the tele­vi­sion.  The gen­eral effect is one of dis­ori­en­ta­tion as your mind seeks to rec­on­cile the out­ward fac­ing or con­vex aspect of the dis­play of an image of con­cav­ity and inward­ness.  It feels a bit like the image of a cave pro­jected onto the face of a moun­tain.  The shape of the lit­eral space is in inverse pro­por­tion to the illu­sory space of the image.

I begin with this descrip­tion because for me it char­ac­terises the entire exhi­bi­tion.  SEE SAW con­tains a dis­parate body of work that projects out­ward toward the viewer an expe­ri­ence of inward­ness.  This sin­gle per­spec­tive repeats like an invol­un­tary refrain: the sub­ject, wrapped in shadow, peers out­ward across the dimly per­ceived inte­rior toward the oblit­er­at­ing source of its illu­mi­na­tion.  The inver­sion of the val­ues of light and dark that make up chiaroscuro reveal this sub­ject to be a native to these dark places.  For him, per­cep­tion is a prod­uct of shad­ows, and he gazes into light as we might gaze into dark­ness  – as the ter­ri­fy­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing aper­ture onto the unknown.  As des­o­late as his world looks, as lonely and iso­lated as it feels, its inhos­pitable aspect is at least qual­i­fied and par­tial, per­mit­ting a dimly per­ceived uni­verse, while the vis­age of light and the idea of the out­side present as an absolute, the veil of oblit­er­at­ing blindness.

Another work in the same room is com­posed of a nar­row cor­ri­dor pro­duced by semi-opaque sheet plas­tic hang­ing par­al­lel to the wall.  Above this cor­ri­dor, mon­i­tors hang face down, illu­mi­nat­ing the cor­ri­dor and those who walk along it.  The video in these mon­i­tors is of an open face flu­o­res­cent light that cycles through vari­a­tions in shut­ter speed and pos­si­bly aper­ture cre­at­ing a cycle in the image that runs from a dirty noise infested under­ex­po­sure that reveals the bulbs as it reduces the light they pro­duce and then cycles up again to com­pletely oblit­er­ate the image and lit­er­ally blind the viewer through over­ex­po­sure.  Again, the work vac­il­lates between the blind­ness induc­ing ideal and the fallen nature of a vision that depends upon the lim­i­ta­tion of light, ulti­mately cor­rupt­ing its object through the exag­ger­a­tion of that limit.  While I felt that this work was slightly under real­ized, that it needed to be longer or some­how more sub­stan­tially man­i­fested, it did have a rather mag­i­cal side effect.  It allowed you to watch the shapes of other view­ers from the out­side as blurry sil­hou­ettes pass­ing through the work like the sub­merged shapes of unknow­able ani­mals at a poorly kept pub­lic aquarium.

The per­spec­ti­val con­tra­dic­tion between the artist stand­ing inside look­ing out and the audi­ence stand­ing out­side look­ing in, (even when the artist has given us the illu­sion of being inside) dis­rupts our capac­ity to iden­tify our way into the work and leaves us in that para­dox­i­cal state of simul­ta­ne­ously expe­ri­enc­ing both per­spec­tives at once. SEE SAW can be seen as one long attempt to invite us into a world Tomic knows he can­not share with us.  Two works in the back room evoke this best.

The first, “Gar­den, self por­trait as a Venus fly trap”, is a wry wink at Nau­man, embed­ding a video of the open mouth of the artist at the bot­tom of a length of foil duct tub­ing (this is actu­ally done three times, giv­ing the impres­sion of a gar­den or at least a clus­ter of plant life).  The result is a tun­nelling of per­spec­tive, a vague threat of ver­tigo and claus­tro­pho­bia at the bot­tom of which the artist’s mouth stretches and strains to open as wide as pos­si­ble in a ges­ture that sug­gests a reflex will gasp­ing and strain­ing to swal­low the viewer.  But there is another read­ing: the artist is stag­ing his desire to invite the viewer inside of him­self, that instead of attempt­ing to swal­low the viewer, he is offer­ing his open throat, and sym­bol­i­cally at least, the dark inte­rior of his throat, to our per­cep­tion.  This work is the inverse of the work described at the begin­ning of this review, as the artist acknowl­edges that he is the inte­ri­or­ity from within which he stands gaz­ing at the bril­liant aper­ture of the out­side — we, on this side stand gaz­ing at the dark aper­ture of the inside.

To con­firm this read­ing, the wall oppo­site “Gar­den” is com­pletely taken up by the pro­jec­tion of a video (Enter the Beast) made from the per­spec­tive of inte­ri­or­ity.  Again the sub­ject looks out from shad­ows across a dimly per­ceived space, this time at a large black cur­tain cov­er­ing the door­way.  The cur­tain flaps in the wind, snap­ping, open­ing and clos­ing like a mouth for­ag­ing for food in a men­ac­ing rup­ture through which we per­ceive only the chang­ing shape of a white void.  Toward the end of this video’s loop, sev­eral peo­ple, vis­i­ble only from the waist down walk into the space.  As they do so, the video is sped up, the cur­tain becomes vio­lent in its motion and the human legs dis­ap­pear as though eaten.  It is help­ful to know that this video was made at the entrance to one of the dis­play rooms on Cock­a­too Island at last year’s Bien­nale so that the peo­ple enter­ing and dis­ap­pear­ing have entered to view an art­work not unlike the one that sits behind you as you watch this one.

Both from the inside look­ing out and the out­side look­ing in, the desire is the same, either to pass from the inside into the out­side or to invite the out­side in.  From both sides the verge is rimmed with ter­ror and fas­ci­na­tion.  Goran Tomic implies the dif­fi­culty of over­com­ing the fear that pro­hibits pas­sage even while sug­gest­ing its impos­si­bil­ity.   Not only is it dif­fi­cult, it is also impos­si­ble.  This para­dox, or even redun­dancy works not in order to final­ize our pes­simism but to fore­ground the true sub­ject of these works which is the insis­tent, the inex­tin­guish­able desire to cross this bound­ary, to com­mu­ni­cate between these two sides.

Review: Heath Franco, “Fun House” at First Draft

by Alex Wisser

The gallery at the rear of First Draft is not that small.  It has high ceil­ings and enough room to accom­mo­date a medium sized lorry.  Don’t get me wrong, its not huge or any­thing, but it’s not a closet.  It is thus the first achieve­ment of Heath Franco’s work, “Fun House” that with noth­ing more than a few chan­nels of av and some pink flo­res­cent lights he has man­aged to cram it with enough sen­sory stim­u­la­tion to make it feel claus­tro­pho­bic.  He does this by con­dens­ing 5 video streams onto a sin­gle wall with 3 large wall mounted flat screens, a fourth sit­ting on the ground in the cor­ner and a fifth stream pro­jected across all of it.   Within this com­pressed field of noise and vision, absurd crea­tures super­im­posed against images of side­walks, pub­lic art and amuse­ment par­lors, dance and bob in loop­ing ges­tures of obscure intent, often chant­ing barely com­pre­hen­si­ble slo­gans that con­vey noth­ing but the generic will to influ­ence you.

My favorite is the clown stand­ing in front of a burger shop, then in front of the flames of a fire, aggres­sively insist­ing, “You eat meat.  You eat meat.  You got the taste for it.”    When the cam­era zooms in, the glit­ter on his cheeks glis­tens like saliva and the red of his clown’s makeup looks like gris­tle and blood.  The mes­sage is so scram­bled that I can’t sep­a­rate the feel­ing of offense I take at his bully­boy insis­tence on who I am and the strange plea­sure I derive from being so rec­og­nized.  Yah, I do eat meat.  The over mas­cu­line aggres­sion of the char­ac­ter feeds both recep­tions: at once as a threat to my own sov­er­eignty, but at the same time offers it support.

The other char­ac­ters include a bird man, end­lessly impor­tun­ing, “Hey guys lets have real good time”, a fem­i­nized cow­boy rid­ing a bou­quet of fake flow­ers across desert vis­tas, a cir­cus ring­leader mutely invit­ing us into the screen or into his own bare chest, and another char­ac­ter who escapes descrip­tion other than that his face seems to be made of black fur, asks the audi­ence “What are you doing now?”  These char­ac­ters repeat and over­lay across the three screens and the pro­jec­tion on the wall, each equally iras­ci­ble and irri­tat­ing, each com­pet­ing fig­ure and voice blend­ing into a sin­gle wall of noise, a uni­fied field of sen­sory stim­u­la­tion that unhinges the gaze and sends it scur­ry­ing from dis­trac­tion to dis­trac­tion.  On one hand your atten­tion is con­stantly dis­tracted from any sus­tained focus by the demands of the other screens crowd­ing at its periph­ery, spruik­ing their own brand of non­sense.  On the other hand, the gaze of the viewer, while fas­ci­nated by the var­i­ous scenes, can­not sus­tain the visual assault for long, and seek­ing respite in the else­where of its neigh­bors, rest­lessly moves on.  The move­ment is sim­i­lar to the phe­nom­ena of chan­nel surf­ing in which the viewer who can­not stand the var­i­ous forms of crap on offer takes refuge in the space between chan­nels and the infin­i­tes­i­mal closed cir­cuit in which desire and dis­ap­point­ment are almost super­im­posed in a sta­sis of per­pet­ual tran­si­tion… almost.

To rein­force this expe­ri­ence, the fourth mon­i­tor sits on the floor con­tain­ing the char­ac­ter of a small child wear­ing a beanie and cling­ing to a toy bal­loon pump as he wan­ders around super­im­posed against video footage of an amuse­ment par­lor.  The child’s mood cycles from wide eyed excite­ment to con­fu­sion to over­stim­u­lated petu­lance, until finally he is sob­bing, and demand­ing to go home.  This fourth screen sits to the side, and like a Greek cho­rus, expresses and reflects the posi­tion of the audi­ence, per­pet­u­ally itin­er­ant and trapped within a closed cir­cuit of dis­trac­tion and stim­u­la­tion, end­lessly repeat­ing an emo­tional cycle that is as sin­is­ter in its pos­i­tive phases as it is in its neg­a­tive.  While the other automa­tons are indif­fer­ent to the eter­ni­ties to which they are con­demned, this sim­plis­tic emo­tional mod­u­la­tion allows for a rel­a­tive level of empa­thy and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the sub­ject even as the sub­ject retains its char­ac­ter as automaton.

The sim­ple inser­tion of a crude ‘sub­jec­tiv­ity’ into this field of screens, opens the vir­tu­alised pic­ture plane to the fact that it is more than sim­ply a screen — it is also a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of actual places.   (The screen with the child is the only video in which the back­ground is video — all the other back­grounds are still images).  While we instantly rec­og­nize the “fun house” as being any of the hyper kinetic vir­tu­al­ized spaces we have avail­able today, from tele­vi­sion to video games to the Inter­net, Franco has super­im­posed this vir­tu­al­ity over rep­re­sen­ta­tion of actual spaces, and the “fun house” can be rec­og­nized in any of those time­less, insom­niac places we have designed for our dis­trac­tion and our per­pet­ual pass­ing through: air­ports, hos­pi­tals, malls, casino’s, fast food restau­rants, amuse­ment par­lors of any descrip­tion.  That he suc­ceeds so read­ily tes­ti­fies to the fact that this is not a union of his mak­ing, but one he discovers.

Emergency Display

by Alex Wisser

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

artists” Alex Wisser, Coza Thomas, Gary Smith, Georgie Pollard, Goran Tomic, Jeff Hamilton, Kate Mackay, Ken Simpson, Kristine McCarroll, Kurt Sorensen, Lena Obergfell, Luke Nguyen, Melanie Foster, Michelle Cao, Patricia Mado, Peter Fyfe, Peter Mcguiness, Rachael Everitt, Rene Sinkjaer, Renee Falez, Sarah Breen Lovett, Sarah Nolan, Tom Loveday, Yang-En Hume, Zoe Johnson
AT THE VANISHING POINT — CONTEMPORARY ART
565 King st. Newtown
20 May to 30 May
Open­ing 6:00pm Thu 20 May

The emer­gent in art is usu­ally con­sid­ered in terms of indi­vid­ual tal­ent or intel­lec­tual and aes­thetic trends. Emer­gency Dis­play instead attempts to sur­vey and remark upon a region of our city that seems to be emerg­ing as an impor­tant locus for the pro­duc­tion and exhi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art: The Inner West.  The con­di­tions for such an emer­gence are first eco­nomic.  Such a dis­trict must be afford­able for artists to live and work in.  Much else must hap­pen, but first the mate­r­ial fact of hav­ing a roof over one’s head must be seen to.  To per­vert Brecht inex­cus­ably, shel­ter first, then art.  This is what hap­pened in Sydney’s East­ern sub­urbs in the 80s and 90s, as it has hap­pened in var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods in the major cities of the world.   Per­haps the scale of com­par­i­son is larger than I should like, for I am not inter­ested in com­par­ing Sydney’s Inner West to Soho or Mont­martre, but have in mind a far more hum­ble hypoth­e­sis:  That the mate­r­ial con­di­tions for the emer­gence of such a dis­trict, make pos­si­ble cer­tain poten­tials for devel­op­ment, inven­tion, and risk tak­ing in art.

The imme­di­ate advan­tages of such an envi­ron­ment are already well known.  The con­gre­ga­tion of a large and diverse com­mu­nity of artists liv­ing and work­ing in rel­a­tive prox­im­ity makes pos­si­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lec­tive action, dia­logue, and com­mon dis­cov­ery and devel­op­ment.  There is another advan­tage though, one which is less com­mented on.  The appear­ance of such a com­mu­nity pro­vides a con­text for art pro­duc­tion that acts as an alter­na­tive to the art world of com­mer­cial gal­leries, offi­cial acad­e­mies, and tra­di­tional, estab­lish­ment insti­tu­tions.  Within it, artists are free to make work that does not need to take into imme­di­ate con­sid­er­a­tion the social, cul­tural, or eco­nomic neces­si­ties that dom­i­nate the Art World.    Dis­card­ing the worldly con­sid­er­a­tions of mar­ket, career, and even art his­tory and the­ory, the artist is free to explore those val­ues con­sid­ered neg­a­tive to the exist­ing order.  In a sense it detaches itself from the given, from what’s already estab­lished and makes room for alter­na­tive aes­thetic and con­cep­tual orders.  The only impor­tant judge of the work is other artists, who prize hon­esty, courage, and inven­tion over sal­a­bil­ity or rel­e­vance. The artist is free to take risks that muse­ums and estab­lished com­mer­cial gal­leries could not con­done — mostly because of the mas­sive weight of eco­nomic, his­tor­i­cal, and cul­tural cap­i­tal invested in them.

This show is not meant to declare the emer­gence of the next great phase in mod­ern art, but only to cel­e­brate the par­tic­u­lar fecun­dity that we are expe­ri­enc­ing in Sydney’s Inner West — to note its sin­gu­lar­ity and if pos­si­ble to raise its pro­file, to remark upon it with the hope of mak­ing it that lit­tle bit more coher­ent to itself and to the rest of what we call the art world.  The per­cent­ages will remain the same.  A few artists will make it into the gal­leries and on to the museum.  Many will quit and work in adver­tis­ing or tele­vi­sion and oth­ers will per­sist qui­etly in their spare bed­rooms, in the garage or in the shed, occa­sion­ally show­ing here or there to an audi­ence of friends and fel­low trav­el­ers.  After all, we aren’t really talk­ing about a place, but a time.  And if all indi­ca­tors are cor­rect, soon even Mar­rickville and New­town will be too expen­sive for the artist to live in.  The com­mer­cial gal­leries and the estab­lish­ment insti­tu­tions are already here.  Soon, the artists will pick up and move West to Can­ter­bury per­haps or Bur­wood, or Strath­field.  Wher­ever the rents aren’t too expen­sive and the ware­house space is plen­ti­ful.  But that is the future.