Richard Giblett: life-size

Bec Dean

Untitled, Richard Giblett

Untitled, Richard Giblett

Richard Giblett is a traveller, and as a practicing artist of 10 years he has moved through artforms as varied as landscape photography and ephemeral installation to detailed drawing and sculpture, his work largely informed by several years of nomadism, and exploration of predominantly Asian countries. Currently Giblett is preparing to transplant himself and his practice to Korea for an Asialink residency at Ssamzie Space in Seoul, the 4 month residency arising from the consolidation of elements in his work in 2 recent group exhibitions, Playtime at the Fremantle Arts Centre and Chiasm at PICA.

I had this impression that Asialink supported artists researching specific, traditional artforms…so I was surprised that you were chosen for the Korean residency.

The Korean residency really stood out at Ssamzie Space. Basically because it’s a new experimental art foundation in Seoul…a 7 storey building with about 3 gallery spaces. From what I’ve read it’s a fairly cutting-edge gallery situation, and they exhibit a lot of performance work, video, new media. It’s also located near a university, which forms a kind of cultural hub.

When you were studying at Curtin in the late 80s, the work you were producing was site-specific, documented installation…quite ephemeral. I still consider that your current practice is dealing with many of the same issues, of impermanency…only the materiality and scale is object-based.

I did a lot of work where I would gently intrude in an environment…that was probably a lot more popular back then, but it didn’t feel authentic because I didn’t live there. I’m working through those processes in a way, but using the urban landscape instead. If there’s to be an underlying theme to what I do, I suppose it’s all about the disintegration of things. So I did those initial works in the environment with natural materials which would eventually just disappear.

Giblett has spent the last few years redefining his position and practice within the urban landscape by developing work around the objects and imagery of the everyday. His most recent work has involved the life-sized replication in cardboard of a skip bin, an escalator and a set of security cameras, and the continuation of a series of intricately detailed drawings of urban and corporate environments including libraries, gaming arcades and views of the city from office windows.

In terms of material for my large drawings it’s difficult to find a space that really resonates, but I know it when I see it. So I’ll take a slide photograph, project the slide and work by turning the projector on and off, drawing from one corner, top to bottom. It’s quite a boring sort of exercise really…boring image of a boring space, but they’re environments that we all inhabit at some point. It was only after I’d finished the Tokyo Wars (an arcade game) drawing that I realised they were all representations of places where people sit in individual, enclosed areas. There is another drawing that I want to do which sort of deals with the same thing, but is a bit more gruesome in a way. In the new CTEC centre at the University of Western Australia, there’s a state of the art room where they basically dissect cadavers. I went down and took some photos. It’s just all of these tables with lights and high-tech computers everywhere…a really loaded space, just a place to look at the dead.

I was interested in the way that these works identified the physically isolating aspects of technology and over-designed environments, as opposed to the romantic discourse of unity and bringing people together that’s often used to promote them.

Isolation is definitely an issue I’m pursuing, and I think the idea is present in some of the other works…like the skip-bin and the escalator.

From working on a smaller scale, with vastly different materials, how did you come to commence this body of work with cardboard?

Basically I saw a skip bin one day down the end of an alleyway, full of cardboard boxes, and I had the idea to use it. There was something about the object, the thing, that I liked. So I just thought it would be great to transform the bin, and make the inside the outside. As I began working I realised it was a great material, you can do a lot with it, it’s free, very easy to cut and it’s quite strong and you can layer it like wood. The cardboard was obviously really important to that bin but for the other things I just wanted that uniform look. It becomes a model, only life-size, of the real thing. They’re works that are useless re-presentations of useful things…they just sit there.

The work is disabling in the context of the gallery because all the objects you have made sit so comfortably within it. Despite, or even due to, their imposing scale and the rigour of their making, punters will still leave their wine-glasses on them, try to mount them…or in the case of the security cameras, fail to even see them. I suppose…they expose the patterns of behaviour we develop to interface with changing technologies.

The idea of taking a banal object like an escalator, which for me is an integral part of your first experience of a new place, and re-making it expresses the experience of being both comforted and scared of it as well. The escalator somehow embodies modernity in a way…it’s basically just a set of stairs, which have been around for thousands of years, but it’s also something entirely different.

You will be moved…it forces you onwards.

A large part of my new work is about replication and the idea of super-modernism…where everyone wants to look the same, and the same things are shipped all over the world in this global commodity exchange. You could land in the middle of any city and you wouldn’t know where you were…eventually you would recognize difference through language, but in a department store you could be anywhere. I was talking with someone who’s been to Seoul a few times and asked him what it was like, and he just said “Oh it’s a funny place, it’s a lot like anywhere else really.” I thought that was great. It’s just a big modern city…which is what I was after.

Richard Giblett’s residency is an Asialink project supported by the Australia Korea Foundation and the Australia Council.

RealTime issue #41 Feb-March 2001 pg. 30

© Bec Dean; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 February 2001