Experimenta's Orbital view

Anna Dzenis

Nicola Loder, Untitled

Nicola Loder, Untitled

Orbital was an ambitious exhibition of time-based media installations, simultaneously held in Melbourne and London. It featured 5 new media artworks by Australian artists Nicola Loader, Megan Jones, Nigel Helyer, Margie Medlin, Brook Andrew and Raymond Peer.

The first thing that struck me as I walked into the CCP gallery space (Gallery 1) was Nigel Helyer’s Ariel, a luminous lime-green and lemon interactive sound sculpture installation described in the catalogue as “a sensor based ecosystem of mutant jellyfish-like radio objects which respond to the physical presence of a human interface.” In the catalogue Helyer reflects on his work as “a sonic-mapping of voices lost in the ether, of song long settled in the dust.” Fugitive sounds, with all of their associated resonance, vibrated and echoed in this labyrinthine soundscape.

Voices speaking to each other were affecting in different ways in Nicola Loder’s monitor-based digital video installation. A wall of monitors simultaneously screened 5 sets of strangers interacting with each other in a neutral photographic studio space. This mise-en-scene of blank white background focused further attention on the people and their conversations. Each monitor had its own set of earphones which enabled a semi-voyeuristic listening-in to encounters which were variously polemical, topical, intimate, sometimes even indifferent. Positioned as an acousmetre, I had memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, in its invitation to multiple intrusiveness.

Megan Jones’ Sites of Interception, on the other hand, was clearly a work whose purpose was both educational and political. This multimedia installation invites viewers to look at satellite imagery of the Murray Darling Basin in the Sunraysia region of Victoria, to explore Quicktime VR 360-degree panoramic environments of the region. Megan’s CD-ROM was created in consultation with the Salinity Management Consortium as a SunRISE 21 Artist in Industry project and explores the sustainability of the Sunraysia region in the 21st century. The pathways through these topographical images, however, often transcended their informational function. There was at times a poetic feeling of place in the images of vastness and proximity, in the comparisons of the parched and the lush landscapes.

In the second gallery space there were 2 installations, one on each side of the room, a space enveloped in images, flickering constantly. On one side Margie Medlin’s monitor-based digital media installation, Estate, focused on the nexus between dance, film and digital media. A kinetic dancer traverses a montage of digital images of Australian and Asian cities. A dance of the figural, in the unlikely milieu of an ever-expanding urban vista.

On the other side was BIYT/me/I (BODILY INSTINCT YEARNING TECHNOLOGY/multiplying emptiness/Identity), a digital video projection-based installation directed by Brook Andrew and choreographed by Raymond Peer. The intention of this installation was to give Wiradjuri (Aboriginal) and Assyrian perspectives of an Australian landscape. A multiple madness of images is navigated through 3 Australian identities. These figures are an Aboriginal surveyor re-mapping a city landscape, an Assyrian business man locked in a twilight zone of a train station trying to scale the capitalist terrain, and a displaced German woman living out of a trolley filled with both European and Australian objects. These narratives intersect and parallel one another, creating a complex cityscape tableau.

Orbital’s accomplishments were highlighted in the different conceptions and visions of Australia represented: from the sonic echoes of the past to the hesitant meetings of strangers; from the vast and sparsely inhabited landscape to the bustling city streets and metropolises. The invitation of this exhibition was to reflect on the many ways that we have, and continue to, imagine ourselves in the many places that we live.

Orbital: visions of a future Australian landscape, curator Keely Macarow, Experimenta Media Arts, an associated event of the Australia Council’s HeadsUp Australia 100 festival, London, Lux Gallery, London, July 2-9; Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, July 6-29.

RealTime issue #39 Oct-Nov 2000 pg. 31

© Anna Dzenis; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2000