Alex Wisser

photocentric

Tag: goran tomic

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.

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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.

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.

Decorating Loos

by Alex Wisser

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artists: Adrian Gebers, Alex Pye, Alex Wisser, Audrey Newton, Clare Johnston, Crystal Skolnick, Emma Anderson, Francesca Mataraga, Georgie Pollard, Goran Tomic, Huw Lewis, Kate Mackay, Laura Gamio, Mamadada, Pineapple Park, Susannah Williams, Todd McCoy, Victoria Waghorn

Dec­o­rat­ing Loos explored the aes­thetic impulse through the prism of one of its most basic forms – the desire to embell­ish the lava­tory walls with the mark of our dis­tracted fancy.  It did this quite lit­er­ally through the con­struc­tion of 15 toi­let cubi­cles in the gallery, each of which was given to an artist to “dec­o­rate” accord­ing to their prac­tice.  The result was 15 immer­sive envi­ron­ments, each draw­ing on dif­fer­ent medi­ums, gen­res, and sub­ject mat­ter – from video and per­for­mance to instal­la­tion, paint­ing and draw­ing – each a dis­crete world of imag­i­nary prac­tice, and all exist­ing in intense prox­im­ity to one another.  The instal­la­tion was intended to inter­ro­gate the value of aes­thetic endeavor by super­im­pos­ing advanced con­tem­po­rary art prac­tice onto the much den­i­grated act of pub­lic toi­let van­dal­ism, ask­ing what is the rela­tion­ship between these two activ­i­ties?  Are they so dif­fer­ent, and if so how?

At the heart of its enquiry is a wry ref­er­ence to the Mod­ernist archi­tect Adolph Loos, who equated dec­o­ra­tion with bar­bar­ity and the progress of cul­ture with the grad­ual erad­i­ca­tion of the orna­men­tal from cul­tural pro­duc­tion.  He wrote stri­dently against the dec­o­ra­tive urge.  He con­sid­ered it to be a prim­i­tive cul­tural prac­tice that moder­nity strove to over­come in its progress towards a ratio­nal, effi­cient, and orderly soci­ety adorned only with the clean lines of func­tion and the smooth planes of rea­son.  At stake is the sense of authen­tic­ity, of the capac­ity of art to carry the unadorned truth of its sub­ject, to give us some access to it’s real­ity, free from the signs of an explicit inten­tion to influ­ence or seduce us in it’s appre­hen­sion.  Dec­o­rat­ing Loos makes no attempt to resolve the ten­sion between the artis­tic and the dec­o­ra­tive, but only to stage it’s con­flict and ask what it might mean in an era that is no longer the high moder­nity of Loos, but is also no longer the post-modernity that attempted to super­sede it.

Decorating Loos was a joint curatorial project by Marrickville Art Lab (Alex Wisser and Georgina Pollard)

NO PEOPLE – Curatorial Statement

by Alex Wisser

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artists: Damian Dillon, Ella Dreyfus, Georgia Blackie, Georgina Koureas, Goran Tomic, Hayley Hill, jason White, Jenny Evans, Jon Reid, Kurt Sorenson, Lena Obergfell, Marcela Vilaplana, Marieka Walsh, Melissa Howe, Melissa Verschelde, Polly Thornton, Alex Papasavvas and Clare Devlin-Mahoney, Rachael Everitt, Sarah Versitano, Sue Storry, Thomas C. Chung, Yvette Hamilton, Zachary Handley-Garben

The idea for a show of pho­to­me­dia that excluded the human form came out of two related frus­tra­tions I have with this medium.  The first is the dom­i­nance of the human fig­ure within the com­mer­cial and pop­u­lar pho­to­graphic indus­try and the sec­ond is the self-congratulations with which much con­tem­po­rary the­ory and some of the art based in it reach unthink­ing, almost absolute con­clu­sions on the anthro­po­mor­phic nature of pho­to­me­dia.  The two issues are related in that the for­mer insists within a mate­r­ial eco­nomic and cul­tural con­text upon the impor­tance of the human fig­ure while the lat­ter insists within a the­o­ret­i­cal and dis­cur­sive con­text that the human fig­ure is not essen­tial as every instance of pho­to­me­dia is itself an expres­sion of anthro­po­mor­phic pro­jec­tion and con­cern.  I find myself trapped between two posi­tions, nei­ther of which ade­quately describes my own rela­tion­ship to the pho­to­graphic — a rela­tion­ship I find to be pro­foundly ambiva­lent, uncer­tain and paradoxical.

On the one side I wanted to mount a show that explored and cel­e­brated the scope of poten­tial within con­tem­po­rary pho­to­me­dia for mak­ing mean­ing in the absence of a human sub­ject and on the other hand I wanted to exam­ine the capac­ity of the pho­to­graph to sus­tain the deci­sion, desire, or will of its maker as well as to resist and defy the human motives and invest­ments that went into its mak­ing.  The ques­tion I sup­pose I am ask­ing is “How human is a pho­to­graph?”  Is it as human as a paint­ing say?  To what extent is a pho­to­graph no more than the sum of the deci­sions, invest­ments, pro­jec­tions and sub­jec­tions of the human being either mak­ing or view­ing it?  And if it is more than a trace of the will and desire of its maker or viewer, what is the nature of that “more”?  Is it any­thing so unspeak­able as the “world”, or “real­ity”, or “truth” or is it just another means of weav­ing fic­tions?  If the cam­era is not, as we have dis­cov­ered, “the pen­cil of nature”, does that auto­mat­i­cally mean that it is the pen­cil of man?

The para­dox of the pho­to­graph, and by exten­sion pho­to­me­dia at large is that the image pro­duced is ulti­mately an index, a phys­i­cal trace of sur­faces reflect­ing light in the world pro­duced through the func­tion­ing of a machine.  At the same time, this machine sits in the hands of a human being, guided by the human eye, manip­u­lated by human intel­li­gence, and finally inserted within a con­text of con­ven­tional sig­ni­fy­ing prac­tices.   Ulti­mately, the cam­era is a por­tal device, exist­ing some­where between the sub­ject and the world.  Its prod­uct is derived from both, but in what mea­sure can­not be deter­mined.  This, for me, is its essen­tial mys­tery and its tran­scen­dent value as a medium for art: it belongs to the unknow­able bor­der between our selves and the world and in rare instances can speak pow­er­fully on this rela­tion­ship, if only to make us expe­ri­ence our own inabil­ity to dis­cern one from the other, fact from fic­tion, idea from man­i­fes­ta­tion. The fact that the premise for NO PEOPLE is neg­a­tive meant that the show would hang together on what it was not rather than what it was, and left it open to a wide field of sub­mis­sions.  I attempted to rep­re­sent this scope by cre­at­ing as broad a sur­vey as pos­si­ble, includ­ing works that I felt var­i­ously sup­ported or chal­lenged the ideas behind the show.  And yet, despite the broad field, there was also a fas­ci­nat­ing cohe­sion (with notable excep­tions) to much of the work that seemed to cen­tre around the fig­ure of the house in a con­tin­uum that pro­gressed from the domes­tic, and inte­rior toward the indus­trial or urban and nat­ural exterior.

The fact is that you can’t take a pho­to­graph of a gen­er­al­ity: you can’t take a pho­to­graph of the gen­eral con­cept: house, you must take a pho­to­graph of an actual, par­tic­u­lar house (how­ever that might later become gen­er­al­ized). Most of these works are of a sin­gle city, and beyond that a sin­gle coun­try.  I like the nec­es­sary nature of this con­stric­tion because it is par­tic­u­lar to pho­to­me­dia.  No mat­ter how an artist may ren­der their work imag­i­nary, the nature of this medium means they must traf­fic with the actual, the par­tic­u­lar, the real.  While this dia­logue is to be found in all art, the index­i­cal nature of the pho­to­graphic ren­ders it par­tic­u­larly acute — dra­ma­tiz­ing the con­flict that rages between the imag­i­nary and the real and con­fronting us with our need or desire to know one from the other.  For me, to reach one con­clu­sion is the same as reach­ing the other — I much pre­fer to wit­ness the para­dox­i­cal com­merce that passes between the two sides.

I would like to thank the par­tic­i­pat­ing artists for all that they have taught me through the gen­er­ous pur­suit of their prac­tice, and for the oppor­tu­nity they have given me to indulge my obses­sions and explore the objects of my fas­ci­na­tion on a field far larger than I could pro­vide for myself.