#7 A Constance of Presence by Greg Lehman
#7 A Constance of Presence by Greg Lehman

#7: A Constance of Presence

Greg Lehman on Unspoken Rule

Archie Barry, Louisa Bufardeci, Liam James, Annika Koops, Roee Rosen, Artur Zmijewski

Curated by Stevie S. Han.

‘The world of the journey furnish(es) a symbolic text where each culture reads its own intentions.’
Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay, 1987.
1. The glance upwards.We are distracted from our internal geography by a heat we feel somewhere between our stomach and our head. A frigid heat that burns in precisely the same way that it simultaneously chills. It swirls around our heart, stimulating the vagus, sending a surge of adrenaline to stir a familiar gnawing. Half fear. Half hunger. You know this feeling? Of being watched? Questioned? Called to account?

We look up. A space opens where no space is tolerable. It is a vacuum left behind by deception; a lost lover, a dead child, or the realisation that you can no longer be who you think you are, or were, or want to be.

‘Suck, suck, suck’
We catch the eye of the inquisitor. Suspicious. Hung heavy with questions that have no honest sound. Like tears shed for their own deep sadness, and shot into the mist of communication; an interaction that quickly and mercifully bleeds into a disconcerting absence.Between lives. Between cultures. Between times. Between lines so well-rehearsed that we can neither forget them, nor utter them aloud.

Imagined as a human response to the most basic consequence of the journey, we reassure ourselves of shared humanity. Through space and time. The one we make all by ourselves, without consultation. Shifting our place from the known to the less known. Hiding.

‘No one wants to see the dirt – it’s disgusting.
I like to see the dirt accumulate’
Place is changed by the absence of what was ordinary, and the substitution of the unfamiliar. We conjure meaning and familiarity to restore a sense of placed-ness. Somewhere to hold on to our memories. Especially the ones that have hurt us. Or others. We ache for materiality, but are trapped in a space where all is muffled by an amnion that can never be split and spilled. We float. Feeling. Not understood. But alive for a while.We are gestating. Awaiting the birth we have already had and blind to the end that is already near.

2. Constance of presence.

The sense of the new only ever/also serves as a sign of absence. Perverse, it creates a dimension in what was once ordinary as something now new. Newness as an index that others might follow. Only to ask us to explain ourselves as a contradiction. Inevitable. Like dust.

‘Dirty is our cleaning’
We try to smile, and manage instead a stupid grin. Expressing our interest in what was, seeking a trace to the past; in this way, we dread what is to come.Finding ourselves involves finding this trace. To what was familiar, to where we believe our identity once was. Or might still be. This trace can be found in every sign, in every word, whenever we consider what they do not mean. In every word, there is a metaphor. Of us. It is our marker of difference. An index to the foreign land within, and at the same time, of traveling from what is, to what isn’t.

We look up with hope for the possibility of return from a journey we did not intend. Fearing, yet hoping to be noticed in our plight. This is always unspoken.

Unspoken Rule exhibited at Contemporary Art Tasmania 19 January – 24 February 2019

Greg Lehman is a writer of essays and poetry, and for actual money works as a Research Fellow in Art History at the University of Melbourne. He recently curated, with Tim Bonyhady, the National Gallery of Australia’s touring exhibition, The National Picture: the art of Tasmania’s Black War. For his sins, Greg is also an Indigenous advisor to the Museum of Old and New Art.

JOURNAL is edited by CAT Engagement Co-ordinator, Lisa Campbell-Smith.
The project commissions writers to create new text-based works that engage with the CAT exhibition program. The platform provides an opportunity for writers to develop work outside the structures of critique and criticism prevalent in art writing.

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