Alex Wisser

photocentric

Emergency Display

by Alex Wisser

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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.

Going Somewhere

by Alex Wisser

by Alex Wisser

song of joy

Abstract/Object

by Alex Wisser

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artists: Adrian Clement, Alexander Jackson Wyatt, Andre Flament, Angela Stretch, Annalice Creighton, Anthony Bartok, Francesca Mataraga, Georgina Pollard, Goran Tomic, Hayley Hill, Josh Harle, Julia Kennedy-Bell, Muzi Li, Melanie E. Khava, Ro Murray, Susie Williams, Tom Isaacs, Zeo Ledux

CURATIORIAL STATEMENT:

Like an object, this idea is describable from several perspectives, three of which I will present here.

PERSPECTIVE 1:

Throughout the 20th Centry, art discourse has questioned and critically excoriated the context in which art is placed and displayed.  From a very broad perspective one might conclude that nowhere on this earth is there a space that does not somehow degrade, corrode, or diminish the artwork that it contains.  On the one hand there is the home of the collector, into which the artwork enters only through its conversion into commodity fetish through the process of its purchase.  Once there it must endure its humiliated condition as an object amongst other objects, functioning in the service of decoration and the symbolic production of status and prestige.  On the other hand, the gallery space is perceived as a sterile, negative space, scrubbed of any reference to or residue of the outside world, even to the point of denying the bodily presence of the viewer.  Abstract/Object is an attempt to superimpose these two spaces, creating a third paradoxical space in which the status of the object is made uncertain: at once challenged by its placement in a context permeated by the every day world, and at the same time a space abstracted and rarefied by its gallery status.

PERSPECTIVE 2

At the same time, the 20th century also saw the growth and agglomeration of mass media coalesce into an integrated, continuous plane of representation, virtualizing much of contemporary life.  Forced to question its own powers of representation in a world oversaturated with virtual content, art began to look outside the frame to the potentials of presentation, consistently challenging the boundaries between art and life.  In so doing art inverts its traditional role from the production of virtualities to the presentation of actualities, developing an array of strategies that emphasize the presence of the object, the embodied nature of the experience of art, and the object status of the work.  These strategies are diverse, and range between emphasizing the heightened presence of the object to obscuring the difference between the object and the everyday.  Abstract/Object is designed to challenge the audience to discern the difference between the objects of art (which won’t be marked as such) and the domestic everyday objects from my home.  At once, the art object is made to compete with the everyday objects while the everyday object is changed by its placement within a space that insists that it be looked on as art.  In this way, this show is intended to test the artwork, to show how it stands up as art in an environment permeated by non-art and to question the entire process.

PERSPECTIVE 3

This installation does not pretend to do anything new.  The tensions and conflicts it explores have predominated art production for as long as it has been called modern.  Abstract/Object can be considered a performance of these tensions, presenting these concerns through a condensed, unified platform that engages their historical dimension with local and contemporary practice.

by Alex Wisser

the consolations of science

  The Consolations of Science  explored the nexus between religion and science, looking at the capacity (and I would argue necessity) of science to absorb and engage the human need for symbolic, mystical or religious experience.  The baloons are “animated” by the rising heat of the candles that illuminate them.

Review: Joan Ross, “Enter at Your Own Risk” GBK

by Alex Wisser

Orig­i­nally pub­lished 2010-11-10 on carnivalaskew.com

Joan Ross’ “Enter at Your Own Risk” at GBK looks like the liv­ing room of a poor man’s King Midas.  The objects within it do not betray great wealth.  The room is a patch­work of styl­is­ti­cally diverse com­mod­ity cul­ture, kitsch, and cheap dec­o­ra­tive home-ware seem­ingly selected by a sen­ti­men­tal taste with a cheap sense of humor and a pen­chant for colo­nial themes.  Almost every­thing within it has received the trans­fig­ur­ing touch, not into gold but fluro or hi-vis yellow.

Per­haps this is how a poor king might live: in the fac­sim­ile of wealth, com­fort, and taste that our mod­ern com­mod­ity cul­ture has made pos­si­ble.  Such a world is informed by the poverty of its illu­sion and the cheap dis­pos­abil­ity of it’s val­ues and at the same time it is sus­tained by com­pla­cent priv­i­lege and a sense of sov­er­eign enti­tle­ment.  The aris­to­cratic cul­ture, and the his­tory of sov­er­eign colo­nial rule that informs much of this taste is degraded in sta­tion by the plebian mate­r­ial cir­cum­stances in which it finds itself expressed.  In mod­ern soci­ety, sov­er­eignty itself has become poor.

This is the world that Joan Ross presents to us by paint­ing it fluro.  The color seeps into the creases that define this world, like the stain­ing agents that doc­tors use to reveal a malig­nancy, injury or dis­ease; this color also iso­lates, lift­ing into view, a qual­ity or dimen­sion that is oth­er­wise invis­i­ble beneath the unar­tic­u­lated sur­face of the world.  What you see are the objects, lifted from the obscu­rity and indif­fer­ence that famil­iar­ity shrouds them in, and ren­dered each as unique and res­o­nant depos­i­to­ries of those val­ues and rela­tion­ships that we inci­den­tally imbue them with.
Ross pur­sues this mean­ing relent­lessly, teas­ing it with dark humour, muta­tion and muti­la­tion that com­ment upon those val­ues and the absur­dity of their vehi­cles.  Strange growth, fun­gal forms, can­cer­ous and organic, spring forth, draw­ing con­nec­tions between the trite, sen­ti­men­tal­ized kitch object and the dark his­tory of which it is the prod­uct.  She does this not to lec­ture us on the vio­lent and crim­i­nal his­tory upon which we have founded our present world, but to mar­vel in par­tially hor­ri­fied awe at the absur­dity of it.  The fact of these arti­facts is that they are how we pos­sess our past,  our most heinous crimes are ren­dered ano­dyne to dec­o­rate our liv­ing rooms and impress our friends at din­ner par­ties.  Ross’ absur­di­ties accuse our world in a satir­i­cal alle­gory that reveals itself only when you real­ize that they are redun­dant — that the objects she has made are not nearly as absurd as the objects she’s made them from.

Stones of Summer

by Alex Wisser

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Decorating Loos was a show I co-curated in June 2010.  The curatorial statement can be read here.  My own entry was the text of one of my favorite novels written over 30 balloons inflated with helium.  The artist statement carries the rest:

This work attempts to deprive the narrative of its linearity by dispersing it in three dimensional space and at the same time render its dependence on the temporality of it’s support: the helium balloons which will slowly deflate over time, condensing the text and rendering it unreadable.  Through these disruptions, the work contemplates the nature of narrative and its relationship to identity.

Demonstration of Gravity

by Alex Wisser

 

“Demonstration of Gravity” is a development of the photo series, “How come when I hurt you I don’t feel it?”.  It resulted from the photo shoot of the man holding the cow’s heart in the middle of the city, which took a long time and we did many different setups.  The model began to complain that the heart was getting heavy, which I thought was so beautiful.  It occurred to me while reviewing the series of shots taken that the work would function better as a video.  The idea was that the video would last for as long as I could physically hold the brick.  In the end the video went for 40 minutes because that was how long the tape was.  Again, by placing myself in the existent context of the crowded street as a contrived disruption, the reality of the context would reveal itself. This time though, you could watch it emerge.  The difference in intensity between the subject and the ground became very important as the viewer’s gaze and interest shifted between the painful monotony of my ordeal and the tumultuous diversity of the city revealing itself as it quickly passed.  I would like to further develop this project by staging it in many different locations and showing the results in a single show, hopefully allowing for a comparison between the different experiences.

How come when I hurt you I don’t feel it?

by Alex Wisser

This is a number of photographs from a series I shot for my honours project at the National Art School in 2009.  These were printed up at a meter wide and really I would have liked to see them larger.

Artist Statement:

Inserting a contrived element into a ‘real’ or existent context causes a collision between the two. I then photograph the accidents this produces.  In this way I constrain the tendency to impose a conception onto the scene and instead invite it to reveal something I can’t expect.  What I’m attempting is to relieve the photograph of it’s supposed claim to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, without abdicating its ability to refer directly to the world.  By openly lying to your face, I am hoping we can get beyond the now tedious debate around the artificial nature of the photograph to look into the ambiguous world, at once real and unreal, it is capable of revealing.

Review: Damian Dillon “Jailbreak” at Artereal

by Alex Wisser

Damian Dillon’s work involves defac­ing doc­u­men­tary pho­tographs of banal sub­jects, insert­ing crude human ges­ture into the aus­tere dis­tance of the pho­to­graphic pic­ture plane.  The results have always been unnerv­ing com­po­si­tions of pow­er­ful effect that I could appre­hend intu­itively, but have never quite under­stood.  I knew that I liked them but I could never locate why.  While this expe­ri­ence was not some­thing I minded, it was a wel­come sur­prise to find in his new show at Arte­real gallery, Jail­break , a level of res­o­lu­tion and cogency that allowed me to bet­ter grap­ple with the forces he puts into play with his process.  What was not sur­pris­ing was that these forces took on the nature of contradiction.

This is per­haps best illus­trated through ref­er­ence to the odd­ity of his names.  Though the show is called Jail­break, all of the works in it are named Real Estate .  The log­i­cal dis­cord of this nam­ing strat­egy is strangely off putting, the two terms belong to com­pletely dif­fer­ent realms of dis­course and their con­junc­tion is awk­ward, unsta­ble, even trans­gres­sive.  Yet, when the ques­tion of their rela­tion is allowed to set­tle, the terms res­onate, draw­ing fas­ci­nat­ing, asym­met­ri­cal con­nec­tions between them.  The con­ti­nu­ity, for instance, between Australia’s con­vict past and it’s cur­rent obses­sion with real estate, or the oblique par­al­lels that run between hous­ing estates and pris­ons – begin to make a kind of sense that is only gen­er­ated through such transgression.

This same strat­egy is at work in Dillon’s pho­tographs of hous­ing estates in Great Britain and Aus­tralia.  Rough frag­ments of these two worlds are brought into abrupt con­junc­tion and marred by shapes crudely drawn in Pho­to­shop or made directly onto the pho­to­graph using an indeli­ble marker.  Dillon’s inter­ven­tions into the pho­to­graphic pic­ture plane have the qual­ity of van­dal­ism, con­tain­ing within them the destruc­tive expres­sion of the desire to break, dis­turb, and dis­rupt the inescapably grim con­ti­nu­ity of the real­i­ties they refer to.  This destruc­tion though is essen­tially cre­ative, seek­ing to decom­pose the rei­fied form of bleak, con­crete and fatal cer­tainty, releas­ing the forces of pos­si­bil­ity con­strained within them.  The cre­ative ges­ture is left crudely incom­plete, trac­ing the child­ish out­line of a human house from of the inhu­man forms that make up its prison.

The effect of all these dis­rup­tions though is one of unex­pected con­ti­nu­ity.   Ros­alind Krauss once observed that the mute­ness of the pho­to­graphic index derived from the implaca­ble con­ti­nu­ity of its pic­ture plane: that it could not be artic­u­lated into dis­crete units of mean­ing, as lan­guage can, gave the pho­to­graph its unspeak­ing aspect.  I was sur­prised to find that despite Dillon’s many dis­rup­tions and break­ages, the con­ti­nu­ity of the pic­ture plane remained, or per­haps closed over its newly dis­uni­fied con­tents, envelop­ing them in its ret­i­cent tes­ti­mony.  This was due, I sus­pect, on the pre­dom­i­nant use of Pho­to­shop to make his marks, which leaves the sur­face of the pho­to­graph intact.  The occa­sional inter­ven­tions onto the lit­eral sur­face, act in con­trast as strik­ing, almost vio­lent accents break­ing the illu­sion of break­age he has cre­ated for us within the pic­ture plane – at once shar­ing the same impulse and ori­gin as the Pho­to­shop marks and yet tak­ing place in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent dimen­sion and thus remark­ing upon and encap­su­lat­ing the entire van­dal­is­tic process in his art.

These works are ulti­mately an expres­sion of hope; a hope sus­tained by the desire to shat­ter or trans­gress the impla­ca­bil­ity of the world as it is, so that some­thing, any­thing might be cre­ated from its ruins.  This expres­sion, though, is itself entrapped in the world it attempts to tear down.  This hope is as fatal­is­tic as the world it bright­ens.  It does not offer us utopic vis­tas or pris­tine Arca­dias or any of the other dreams into which we might escape real­ity. It offers us only pub­lic hous­ing estates, these habi­tats of poverty, fear, and extreme despair and yet, within that world, as a native to it, hope and a wil­fully cre­ative urge dwell as the impulse of run­ning water in a frozen place.