The exhibition as a single entity

Chris Reid, Bloom—Space, AEAF; Roy Ananda, CACSA

Julian Day, Requiem, 2012, (detail)

Julian Day, Requiem, 2012, (detail)

Julian Day, Requiem, 2012, (detail)

A musical performance can be like a chess-match, as Sydney-based composer, performer and broadcaster Julian Day and Adelaide-based artist Riley O’Keeffe showed in co-improvising a sound work on the opening night of the Bloom—Space exhibition at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation.

Day and O’Keeffe each used two keyboards and took turns to activate the keys by placing weights to hold them down, responding to each other one note at a time. Over 20 minutes they built up a powerful, layered drone of complex chords. Day has performed solo in a similar vein (RT106), and O’Keeffe combines musical performance with visual art (E-dition,17July, 2012), but here the two performers build intuitively on each other’s sounds. Adding vibrato of different speeds creates phasing between the keyboards, producing shifting rhythms overlaying the chords and creating an effect similar to piano harmonics. The sound becomes very dense, though never overwhelming, always retaining musicality and elegance.

This collaborative approach set the scene for Bloom—Space in which emerging Adelaide-based curator Adele Sliuzas teamed Sydney-based artists Carla Liesch, Will French and Day with Adelaide’s Lisa Harms, Roy Ananda and O’Keeffe to catalyse moves and countermoves in each other’s art practice.

Carla Liesch’s Landscape Painting, a mound of lawn in the centre of the gallery on which people sit or lie, becomes the exhibition’s focal point by creating a relaxed, approachable viewing position (in contrast to the vinyl or timber benches typical of art museums). Next to it stands Ananda’s Aether drift, a tilted plane constructed of hundreds of timber hexagons, each about 40cm across, suspended by two huge aluminium ladders. Sitting on the lawn, I feel as if I’m on a hill overlooking the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge poking up through the afternoon fog that floats into San Francisco Bay. Comprising building materials, Aether drift can also suggest a complex molecule, the infinitude of a fractal and biotechnological manipulation. Audience members at the artists’ talk, sitting on the grassy knoll, felt they were looking at clouds, yet Ananda’s evocative work might have weighed 50kg or more.

Contradicting the scale and authority of Ananda’s ladder-supported plane is Will French’s Doubled Up, Fingers Crossed, two precariously inverted timber A-frame ladders, with pencils wedged underneath to balance them, located on the opposite side of the knoll to establish symmetry with Aether drift and contrast with Liesch’s organic, growing lawn. Sliuzas stated that her intention with the exhibition was to demonstrate the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect,’ but what came through strongly was the physical and conceptual relationship between the artworks and the way they aggregated into a composite whole.

Lisa Harms’ intriguing work, Script for a_____Song (with no proper name), comprises a long roll of paper lying across and under a table, bearing text like a theatre script, beautifully crafted, with great visual power and tactility. A pre-recorded tape of voices like a vaguely overheard conversation emanates from the table. Nearby, partitioned from the rest of the exhibition, are two videos, one of a concrete floor projected onto the wall, the other of ornithological illustrations projected inside a small cupboard. Harms’ combination of sound, text, video and installation seems to propagate the entire exhibition.

Julian Day’s contribution to the exhibition, Requiem, is also in a partially enclosed space—two keyboards wedged between partition and wall by horizontal pipes that activate the Fs and Cs, creating a droning chord heard continuously through the gallery, and competing with the rising and falling voices in Harms’ audio. Day’s installation is as precarious as French’s inverted ladders.

Collaboration between artists is commonplace, but Bloom—Space demonstrates the potential for group responsiveness, and, with its multiple symmetries and inversions, how an exhibition can function as a single entity.

Roy Ananda, The Devourer

Roy Ananda, The Abomination of Abominations, from The Devourer

Roy Ananda, The Abomination of Abominations, from The Devourer

Roy Ananda, The Abomination of Abominations, from The Devourer

At the Contemporary Art Centre of SA, Roy Ananda’s engaging and extensive solo exhibition The Devourer is a multifaceted exploration of popular culture through sculptural form. His Hideous Climb through the Unfashioned Realms represents the curvature of space-time using a block of moulded plaster painted to look like an astronomical map. From the Gulf of Space to the Wells of Night is a wall of beautiful drawings on graph paper that depict 3D space in a 2D grid, defying conventional perspective and questioning how human perception functions.

Ananda is well-known for his elaborate, large-scale and miniature sculptural works constructed from industrial equipment and building materials that establish a characteristic language of form and process. In The Devourer, he demonstrates his interest in the impact of horror and science fiction genres, and HP Lovecraft in particular, that pervade contemporary culture through games, cinema and literature. His The Abomination of Abominations is a tall wooden frame through which snakes a long sheet of paper printed with a grossly oversized black and white image of a centipede. His interest in model-making is evident in the small-scale shelves of tiny figures and objects depicting in physical form the kinds of games popular in virtual reality. Ananda’s exhibition simultaneously addresses our predisposition to fantasy and the nature of materiality, questioning what is subjective and what is real.

Bloom—Space, curator Adele Sliuzas, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, 3 May–1 June; Roy Ananda, The Devourer, Contemporary Art Centre of SA, Adelaide, 26 April–26 May

RealTime issue #115 June-July 2013 pg. 50-51

© Chris Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

6 June 2013