Fader's ghosts

Maryanne Lynch: Fader, Metro Arts

There’s a just-vacated feel to the Metro Gallery the afternoon I walk in. A spooky sense of things in motion, time running on, but no flesh-and-blood body to explain the heavy presence of something in the air. Sun streams through the long windows and falls onto the wooden floor and a rumpled bed. A picturesque interior almost, but not quite. I am unnerved.

Moving further into the space, I hear as well as see and feel the resonance between the artworks comprising Fader, a show (curated by Sandra Selig) featuring the work of 5 young Brisbane visual artists. It is these works that inhabit the space, murmuring and whispering and beckoning to each other in a language that is familiar but again, not quite. This conversation is equal to its parts; it is compelling–chilling–seductive. It is the play of sound, light and space; it is the absence of set pieces and the weight of intangible connections; it is 5 artists who are refusing representation while presenting the unrepresentable. I feel as if I have stepped into a scene from Double Indemnity crossed with a time-and-motion study.

I am focusing on the collective effect because it hits me hard. Selig had this as her aim, although not in these words. She speaks in her curatorial essay of a desire to draw together different explorations of time, in particular technological times and the “more unpredictable bodily or conceptual durations”, and their relation to installation practice. Although she acknowledges this is her fit rather than the artists', I don’t think she is straining to make the point.

The first experience in the gallery is an aural one–the weird keening sound that gives the space such a palpable spookiness. This turns out to be from several sources, the nearest to the entrance being Mat Fletcher’s sonic installation, Interrupted Fields (on the stratification of the analogue), visually tagged as 4 small speakers hung from the walls at hip height. Out comes what might be the music of the spheres except that harmony is not the principal effect. Instead, like wind through telegraph lines on a big brown plain, the off-key ‘singing’ thins out and also fills up the space around it without leaving a trace. Here Fletcher turns away from the history of representation with one small movement. (As for the analogue reference in the title, that’s another discussion.)

Jess Hynd follows this idea through with a visual demonstration. Less is More includes a familiar motif of her practice, the ‘house-box’, in this instance constructed as a small house-shaped white object at an angle to a mirror. On an opposite wall sits a larger wooden cut-away looking like a doll’s house with upstairs and downstairs and the rest. In front of this interior is a chair, made of the same wood, situated at eye-level for the sitter. The two ‘house’ moments are separated but mutely speak to each other. It is as if looking should give up an answer to something but fails the task completely.

Hynd carries her work further into the space with 2 rumpled beds at either end of the gallery and a TV monitor in between. The latter is a little superfluous in that it describes what she has already depicted through absence. The screen shows her and another performer moving through the installation spaces without finding a ‘comfortable’ resting-place. Hynd emphasises this uneasiness with written text (Full or Loose/Move or Win) at one end of the gallery but, again, I’ve already had my fill of emptiness.

Domestic interiors are also a visual reference in Chris Handran’s open sky (2001). The most obvious feature is the installed white venetian blind, through which sun is falling as ideally as any Stepford wife might wish on the day I’m here. Another monitor, facing this, is blank but I suspect not intentionally–I am looking, rather literally, for my sky. (Later I’m told that I should be seeing cumulus clouds slowly floating by on a sailor blue background.) Again there’s nothing to hold onto here but nonetheless no space to move–I am inside this moment but it doesn’t exist. Another installation by Fletcher, sound, a circular speaker set in the wall nearby (with CD player on the floor underneath), shudders and thuds and sonically enforces this idea with its disruption of any sense of careful composition.

Around the corner, a constantly forming dialogue between video projection and speaker in quick long rhythms that never quite fulfil the promise. This is to by Chris Comer, and I am caught up viscerally in the scintillation of the aural and visual a/rhythms. The projection catches the attention, sliding across the wall at an angle and offering the occasional glimpse of a detail, but it’s not the detail that’s important, or at least that’s how it seems to me. I am distracted, situated, not sure. Palpable presence but what, where, when?

And finally, tucked away in a little space all of its own is the most perfect discovery to make as I am leaving: Krissy Collum’s sill–a tiny moment of caught time. White sand spills from a window sill into a white room, like light, like poetry. One of the 2 windows (not this one) is covered with what looks like rice paper–enough to obscure but not conceal the natural light outside. There’s a deliberate confusion of experience: I can see and (if I’m bold) touch this pearl of an installation but it trembles on the edge of being– I know, a bit overblown, but this is the effect it has on me.

Fader is one of the last exhibitions instigated by Metro Arts Artistic Director Joseph O'Connor before his departure in March of this year. Metro Arts is now working without a curated artistic program, and its activities are being watched closely by people in the arts concerned about the future of one of Brisbane's major alternative art spaces.

Fader, curator Sandra Selig, artists Krissy Collum, Chris Comer, Mat Fletcher, Chris Handran, Jess Hynd, Metro Arts Gallery, Brisbane, April 5-May 25

RealTime issue #43 June-July 2001 pg. web

© Maryanne Lynch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2001