Date: 26-Jun-2004 – 25-Jul-2004
Location: Contemporary Art Tasmania
Louisa Bufardeci’s use of statistical data inverts the perspective of solipsistic individualism. Contingency and difference is turned inside out and gauged instead, from an anti-ocularcentric stance, through a bank of global data. Governing Values is a series of digital prints of the world map where the areas of countries are re-positioned in a way that replaces the accidental evolutionary geography of landmass with contemporary demography. The profile of countries are maintained, but in proportion to the category of the title chosen for each map (eg. fertility rate). Each country’s area is then arranged on a grid determined by two different scales, one for each axis (eg. private health expenditure, public health expenditure), triggering a complex global portrait of social and political realities.
This data is the statistical equivalent of the optical data of the photographic, in that it appeals to our desire to submit to objectivity, for the abstract purity of it. Bufardeci’s abstraction, however, is a literal one of contextual removal in spite of its visual attractiveness. She makes it very clear in her acknowledgment of the sources of the data, that this appeal can insure that bias is overlooked. This isn’t the hysteria of conspiracy theories but rather a confession of her own bias as an artist. That we live in an out of sight, out of mind state, where interconnectedness is easily forgotten. The fact is that in a world governed by economic outcomes, our freedom is bought by the slavery of others.
Micah Lexier discloses subjective experience through the objectively determined systems of time and the mechanical trace. Both the works shown in this exhibition entwine conceptually and literally with a common history of space and time, beyond the specialised category of art.
CAST Gallery Hours is a performance piece, in which anyone visiting the gallery can take part. It comprises of 110 specially minted coins, one for each hour the exhibition is open. Within each of these hours a visitor to the gallery can take one away with them, as long as they sign for it with their initials on the graph provided. The gallery attendant places any coin not claimed, in a piggy bank, and that hour is marked with a cross on the graph. Lexier has repeated this work in other locations along slightly different lines. The collected graphs, eventually presenting a global cooperative work over the lifespan of the artist.
In taking the coin the participant becomes physically grounded in an historical process, allaying a fear of potential annihilation through the anonymity of time. By some remarkable coincidence (fate, destiny?) it appears that the individual is linked to the larger scheme of things, in not only symbolic but also literal time; anonymous and particular at the same time. In a reversal of economic logic, by participating in this relay artwork, you get to have it in the gallery and take it away. You are in a sense being paid for your hour in a currency of indeterminate value.
Wall Sculpture No. 1711 is similarly connected to a series of repetitive events over time. In a recent exhibition at Gitte Weise gallery in Sydney, True, True and related: True, True but Unrelated, Lexier presented a group of waterjet-cut aluminium line sculptures. Although not recognisable as such, they are objects modelled on the tracings by the artist, from fragments of photographs. The work presented for Free Time is a tracing from a template, of the position of the screw plugs needed to support one of the aluminium works. The piece as a whole is a process of faithful rendition, from machine to hand, back and forth many times over, in which the order becomes obscured. They are related to each other but unrelated materially, collapsing the past with the present.
Marco Fusinato’s 0_1 0_2 0_3 0_4 + REMIXES is an example of the uncompromising pragmatism that runs throughout his work. Works that affront the more decorous sensibility, utilising both physical and conceptual extremes at a point where the subjective and conventional meet.
This work consists of ten 12inch, vinyl records, manufactured by a record company to Fusinato’s specifications. All are recorded segments of nothing. The first is the maximum capacity of a record, ie, 20 mins; the second comprises of 33 grooves, ie, one minute. The third is divided into 4 tracks and the forth into 10. The remaining six are remixes of every possible combination of the first 4 records.
The most obvious question that arises from the segmentation of the sound of nothing is, can a particular period of nothing be heard? Alternatively, can a completely abstract segment of the recording of nothing be heard, or is it always the sound of the same particular present moment of electronic energy? Perhaps, ironically, reduction to the sound of technological excess, hidden in every recording. Recorded sound becomes the sound of recording, becomes the sound of listening itself. An act of substitution (of something in the past) is scored onto the records, reducing it to its material present – a refusal of a trace, incommensurable and untranslatable, stubbornly filling it’s own space.
Ben Booth relies on a similar literalism but rather than realising his work in the most economical way, each piece slowly evolves from a single unit of a particular material. For Booth the hours are too expensive for his methods of working to be anything other than recalcitrant. Rim comprises of hundreds of old garden stakes laminated together to create a hybrid form somewhere between the lip of a jet engine and a Baobab tree. Each process of construction is determined by the need to retain the integrity of the unit chosen and therefore each technical problem is solved as the need arises. Booth’s need to reinvent the wheel is driven by a lost sense of self-reliance in the face of technologies beyond his skills to maintain. Where placing trust in machines that you are obliged by society to use, when you don’t understand how they work, seems like a recipe for disaster. From this alienated position, Booth works to lessen the distance between effort and reward and between the symbolic and the material. Like the cabinetmaker, who never relies on external measurement to make a joint but traces one part to the other over and over, to make the perfect fit.
Elvis Richardson’s interactive video installation Before and After highlights a space of time in between, eg. work and home. On the one hand a precise hiatus between responsibilities to insure you arrive on time, and on the other, an opportunity for reverie. The split image of a train journey leads us there and back again, but simultaneously, so that distinctions between present, future and past collapse into one another. The viewer transforms the documentary style video into a more personalised experience by choosing the music to go with it.
Before and After combines the objectively determined and the subjectively experienced at its most disconcerting point. Despite the mechanical production of the photographic image, its mnemonic power elicits a sense of déjà vu, even if not directly related to the particular history of the person looking at it. Richardson’s fascination with the contingency of the photographic image extends to the material accidents of the film stock itself. An anonymous style belonging to a particular time, invisible in the recent image but induces (through its texture) déjà vu in images of the past. Whilst we appear to be looking at looking – at the impossibility of rendering conscious vision – we are collaborating in a technological collective memory
Hobart Portrait Group, Life Drawing Session 9.30-10.30 EST, 12.02.04 is what it says it is. John Vella was the model for the session, making the drawing group the model for his. The model escapes the prescribed static role by becoming the artist, who in turn captures an hour of other artist’s time for us, the viewers, to contemplate at our leisure. There’s a perverse humour in this work typical of Vella, using a documentary form in a way that almost asks for a wildlife commentator to reveal to us the intimacies of the artist in their natural habitat. Humour aside, the anthropological tenor emphasises the changes that have occurred in the way the artist’s role is perceived. The portrait group maintains the traditional techniques of drawing as essential training, seen now as fastidious technical boundaries that are no longer prerequisites. Whilst remaining in the realm of optical analysis, Vella leads us from an obscure art to real-time documentary.
There is a sense of nostalgia in this work, not as an appeal to a lost medium but rather for the uncomplicated self-reliance of doing something for itself. As retirees, the artists portrayed here are absorbed in making art that isn’t for exhibition; thus viewing the video is almost an infringement of this. For them it serves the purpose of therapeutic recreation, but is also a testimony to unconditional reflection.
Time masquerades as empty units, a dream of increments of nothing, to fill as we choose. In reality the coalescence of time with the abstraction of currency equates time with money, dividing up duration outside our control and shaping life into an equation balanced between the cost of labour time and the cost of living.
The labour of love very often escapes this economic rationale, upsetting the smooth operation of such a seemingly logical system. Unconditional work is an excess of time, a luxury or a gift of uncertain exchange value and etiquette. This separates amateur from professional labour. The former of dubious viability and integrity in relation to the latter’s legitimate status. The quality of amateur work is of little significance because of its parasitical relationship to a status quo whose conception of quality is regulated by predictable and sustainable production. What sustains the excess of non-professional activity (from stamp collecting to child rearing), is that it’s done in spite of its legitimacy.
There’s a long history within the arts of attempts to reduce the distance between art and day-to-day living. Free Time contributes to this debate. But rather than extracting material and elevating it to the status of art, there’s an undertaking to equate it with a more general notion of creativity, woven anonymously into the fabric of human endeavour. Emphasising the processes that surround works of art is an invitation to consider such common creativity. The protective professionalism of art becomes abandoned; suggesting that anyone could do this if they chose or more importantly, that they are already doing something relating to it, outside the confines of legitimate art. Artists are increasingly loosing faith in this legitimacy, in work that is validated as social exchange by its being regarded specifically as work for posterity. This being the case, it becomes caught between its subject matter and the hierarchy that strives to protect it. Artists such as those participating in Free Time work with the contingency and relativity of subjective experience and the anonymity of objective structures like time; the literalness of which undermines such notions of artistic provenance. This exhibition is of an applied conceptualism embedded within existing social structures. The works identify subjective experience from the objective, the singular from the abstract, collapsing the polarity of such distinctions in the hope of broadening the perspective of social cohesion.