Existential hitch-hiking

Jaye Early on Human/Machine/Landscape

By combing the working processes of 2 traditionally opposed mediums, documentary filmmaking and visual art, Simon Price and Simon Terrill have set out to challenge perceived divisions. Their exhibition thematic becomes: Where does the seamless conduit of a freeway and its implied utopia lead us? Their answer? To a world where space is a transition zone and identities become less grounded and more anxious. By adopting the distinctive perception of hitch-hikers, both artists embarked on a deliberately lateral journey from Melbourne to Darwin and along the way recorded their random experiences. The exhibition reflects a space where the 3 zones of the highway (human, machine and landscape) meld together to create unique relationships and multi-layered realities. The result is an exhibition divided into 3 rooms comprising sound, sculptural kinetics, the still image, a diorama—and the formation of an anxious reality.

Entering the first room you are greeted by a speeded up monotone voice describing casual encounters of the everyday…a cigarette…a dog…a car. A hurried succession of flashing vertical lights project onto a cube-shaped construction made from metal. Thin opaque material hangs in the cube receiving a succession of vertical lights. These seem to correspond to the pace of the voice. The work creates a chaotic and disjoined reality, by describing an uncertain narrative that weaves its way through a unknown landscape.

The second room consists of a video recording of 2 men projected onto a large wall space. The film is muted and plays in slow motion—its manipulation creates an eerie almost sinister atmosphere. Afigure sits in the foreground while another engages in a game of table tennis. Both are oblivious to the gaze of the camera recording, in detail, their every move. They appear to be detained, locked in a serious bout of navel gazing. The identities of the men are unknown and the viewer is left to form their own narrative of their reality. (The film is in fact of two British backpackers passing time whilst attempting to find relief from the intense Darwin heat.)

The third room consists of film, a diorama, and sculpture. One screen captures the ambience of the silent roadside vigil of hitch-hikers eager to be picked up—an exploration of the roadside universe takes place. What we see is a roadhouse late at night as a truck passes without any consequence, its headlights illuminating a kangaroo represented in large sculptural form. This image is then sharply juxtaposed with one on another screen of what appear to bespectacular blue glowing intersecting lights from an LSD trip. The camera slowly tracks to hundreds of frantic insects drawn to a roadside light. Situated inconspicuously, towards the back of the room, is a miniature 3D diorama replicating an aerial-map view of a fibre-optical landscape dissected by a piece of road implicitly symbolic of the exhibition’s journey theme.

The exhibition succeeds in creating a particular, anxious reality where the concept of space—both the literal floor space and gestalt of the hitch-hikers’ point of view—becomes a transition zone left open to audience interpretation. Or, as Simon Price explains, “ A zone where people can build their own narrative.”

Human/Machine/Landscape, artists Simon Price & Simon Terrill, fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne, Next Wave; May 17-26.

RealTime-NextWave is part of the 2002 Next Wave Festival

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. 4

© Jaye Early; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2002