Place and aura

Liz Bradshaw

Detritical Vibration

Detritical Vibration

The door to Artspace is obscured by a horse float (renovated), its internal mini-bleacher facing a TV screen, its distorted faux white cube annulling the pragmatics of its construction, both façade and delayed entry. The Trailer Project (Claude Leveque & Valerie Mrejen) suggested location and movement and it struck me that all the work in the exhibition was concerned with place, not only geographical or chronological, but the location of an aura, an auratic space.
The trailer, a strange, quasi-absurdist object, seemed elusive, to perhaps lose something in translation, in its dislocation from its own conventions. This tangible disjuncture and pause in signification, becomes a qualifier for the imagery on its internal screen, begging the question: where do we locate the work?

Detritical Vibration (Mark Brown) is complex: addressing the intersection of the object and the image; sound and sight; past and present. A flaky epidermis, peeled from some industrial site, and stirred by the vibration run through the apparatus like a soundtrack, becomes a metonym for architectural space and the span of time. The apparatus itself is seductive: tripod, suspended box, tiny camera on a mike stand; almost complete without the accompanying live feed to the opposite wall. The sound is the centrepiece. Distilled noise, its rhythm and tone reaches out, if in a minimalist way, to the sounds of Glitch, to percussive timbre, to the crash of construction. And I think percussion always bypasses the intellect in some way. This highly focussed installation is then transferred to a screen: an instantaneous movement and echo.

Terra Incognita (Maslen & Mehra), made of generic variations on the enlarged sections of map-like topology and giant white semi-transparent blades of grass, seemed to leave too little incognito. Lit at each corner by rotating coloured pulses, the light cast strong shadows on the walls and drew the space into the work, creating an ambiguous space. The pulses set up a rhythm, a heartbeat, a measure of time. The blue-white light made the work glow with an eerie, snowscape quality; this ‘making strange’ was its high point, lending it an almost sci-fi aura, and raising questions of location and belonging, artificiality and the real, what it is to be human.

When the pulses turn green or yellow however, a certain theatrical space dominates, a hybrid of stage set and Xfiles cornfields, falling toward kitsch in the best, most serious sense—an intense overcoding, leaving no room for the viewer to work with ideas of landscape (that already most loaded and overdetermined of Australian cultural objects). This overcoding suffers under the weight of its multiple signs, with too many and too similar interpretative clichés; as though grass was always green, and sunrise and sunset the warmest of glows; as though the island metaphor were animated by proprioception, or we could be mirrored or critiqued by the various body sized forms. The work relies on these metaphors to animate it, but there is something oddly representational at work that closes off the more provocative readings for which it held the potential.

Finally, the 3 ‘screens’ of Dead Flow (Adam Geczy & Thomas Gerwin) each present the viewer with the barest of narratives; the stylised edit of the passing of time and the entry and egress from the frame. A European train station, the no man’s land of departure and arrival, and its local counterpart—brighter and sunlit—recognisable if you are familiar with the city. The third: still images from a generic lake scene, its rippled surface filling the frame and punctuated by the occasional duck. The images fill the walls, the passing figures larger than life and strangely distant at the same time, our point of view almost a simulacrum of surveillance: all disjointed editing and repetition. Clearly, there is a nature/culture divide at work, a certain question of migration, and an almost interactive mobilisation of the gaze, no longer cinematic, but webcast.

Most engaging is its strange opacity: no minuscule reading of its pedestrian imagery accounts for its gestalt. It produces an eerie silence and emptiness, the manipulated sound at once familiar and legible, truncated and elusive: a ‘somewhere else’ that would not be a meaning ascription for the work, but an interpretative gesture, and a reanimation of the question of the filmic frame.

Dead Flow, Adam Geczy & Thomas Gerwin; Detritical Vibration, Mark Brown; Terra Incognita, Maslen & Mehra; The Trailer Project, Claude Leveque & Valerie Mrejen, Artspace, Sydney, April 4-27.

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. 24

© Liz Bradshaw; for permission to reproduce apply to

1 June 2002