Grants: Finally finished my OzCo Run_Way app. We’ll See. I got a letter from Bus Gallery telling me that I have a show there in the first half of next year. Plants: My uncle’s lime tree has once again been ravaged by the possums. They are out of control. There are now about half a dozen. Musical Madness: Probably obvious to the more musically aware, but music makes me do good (and bad!) things. Maybe they were onto something way back when records were played backward for secret messages and the like.
Last Thursday night, I performed at Brightspace gallery in St Kilda as part of an evening called Intermission: the moments in between. It was my first performance in quite some – since Painting 264 from two years ago where I smashed 264 colour filled eggs at the Melbourne International Animation Festival. The concept for this performance was straightforward:
Ellipsis is the omission of something that is understood from contextual clues. The clues: location sound and a found object from the urban environment. The omission: your associations of experience to the clues. The ellipsis: the sticky surfaces of the object that catch the flow of light.
I had collected discarded water bottles from off the street in the city and around West Melbourne. Before picking them up, I photographed the bottle as it was found and then recorded some location audio. In the performance it would loop on numerous tape players placed around the space. With the bottle collected I would walk until I found another discarded water bottle and repeat the process.
The setup in the gallery was very basic. A video camera as my blind eye to examine and explore whatever I put under it, two dmx controlled LED lamps, five tape players and half a dozen cheap, small and bright LED ‘dot’ lights. The performance began with me placing tape recorders around the space and playing the location sound. I first saw Bruce Mowson do a similar thing years ago during one of his performances. There was no proper beginning. The setup was part of the act. After listening to part of the sound I emptied all the collected bottles onto the ground and lit some of them with small LED lights at the base. I took various bottles up to the table and then manipulated them under the camera and changed the lighting on the bottle. This went on for a bit and then I started to carry more bottle to the table top, attempting to make them pile up. Only they wouldn’t, they’d keep sliding down, until the end when all the bottles were once again discarded. It only went for about 20 minutes or so…but that was ok I thought. And it ended by me simply walking off… Not prissy rock star style – just going back to talking to people like at the beginning. I don’t think that bit worked.
I was pretty happy with the outcome. Fin Edquist – a director friend of mine – commented that he didn’t get it. He liked it but didn’t get. But there was nothing to get, other then seeing what was there: bottles elevated to a different plateau and rendered differently by light… I also really loved moving about the space, but the impact that physical intervention was really brought home to me watching Dirk de Bruyn and Steven McIntyre. Three 16mm film projectors, strobes, blinders, flapping mirrors, yelling…It was incredible. I was filming so couldn’t lie down to watch, but it was truly my first expanded cinema experience – one that didn’t require only looking forward.
The night was a huge success. There was quite a crowd and each act was very different. Jon Pak had set up a restaurant scene with everything on the table connected to contact mics and midi triggers. Keith Deverell and Corey Sans had a very intricate computer setup with for their piece which consisted of very film like loops.
Despite having a slightly 90s Hip Hop feel (hey, I am a product of that generation), Affective Urbanism is the overall name that I am dubbing a lot of my past and current research. My aim is to explore our (namely my) emotional engagement with the urban environment. It might seem at odds with my recent interest in nature and the natural landscape, but it is actually because of this that I have become more conscious of the city’s influence. Of particular interest is that when we are talking about affect, nature and the natural are not far removed from the city and the synthetic. When I drive through the certain parts of Melbourne at a particular time of day, the feeling that is conjured and almost always repeated is the same (for me) as walking along a track through dense busland and then emerging to see a huge valley in front of you. What is different, is the duration of these feelings. The city is fragmented and fleeting, while outside of the city the feeling can be maintained. Well, I feel that I can maintain it.
And the best thing about having an overall name for my particular line of enquiry? It’s totally loaded with Delueze, who I’m totally into.
It is difficult to not feel just a little bit overwhelmed by the number of incredibly amazing and talented people who are producing work right now in the world – let alone those who have come before. I am the sort of person who’s emotions get all twisted as they rebound between awe and appreciation of other’s to insecurity and trepidation of being comfortable in developing my own practice all because I too may have tapped into some zeitgeist. My (probably) ego-centric desire to call something my own and to reject my own ideas as pitiful derivatives the moment that I see a work whose similarity in execution is only vague at best reflects firstly, a concerning state of mind(!) and secondly, that I have failed to dig deeper in uncovering whatever it is that I am trying to explore. Interestingly, (to me anyway), this is often the difference between techinque and art and technique as art (I have some thoughts about this that I will write about later). In any case, I’m now trying to dig deeper.
Two incredible artists that caused my knees to go weak and my stomach gooey are Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher. I came across them while simultaneously researching conferences to attend, residencies and other opportunities over at rhizome.org. They have been creating ‘electro-mechanical installations’ some of which ‘generate live video sequences using small mechanized surveillance
cameras than pan and zoom over tiny automated sets resembling moving
Hollywood miniatures hidden within masses of audio-visual equipment’ [via]. Naturally, I would have normally felt myself plunge into the depths of despair were it not for the incredible conversations with Kirsten over the past few weeks and (more randomly) with Jeremy, who helped me to see the frivolty of such reactions and how they can help nurture my own work. Assessing the body of work that is already “out there” in any given field is integral to any kind of research and development. I am not and island. So as I unpack Jeff and Jon, I inch my way closer to unpacking me. And I know…I still haven’t actually said anything about that yet.
Some people believe that every seven years, your life goes through an overhaul. The cosmic and quasi spiritual equivalent of a stockmarket correction. While I don’t particularly subscribe to the idea (ok, a little bit), there is little doubt that over the past month and in the shadow of my 29th birthday, I am undergoing a number of personal changes that are causing me to reassess my own art practice, in particular, my process.
What brought on this bout of self-analysis is my decision to apply for a run_way grant from the Australia Council which offers up to $5000 to artists under 30 to travel to anywhere in the world so as to attend a conference or a residency or anything that will assist their artistic development. The questions are simple enough – what do I propose to do, where do I want to go, how will the grant help me? Describe my practice, my process – in short, me and everything I want. It’s not quite an existential art crisis, but it could be. Like always, I’ve jumped back and forth while writing this. It’s long. Probably boring. But it’s for me. And I’m writing this here, last (even though it’s here and not at the end) because I haven’t even scratched the proverbial surface. Disjointed, nodal paragraphs – it’s lucky that you know me.
When ducks hatch from their eggs and the first thing they see is their mother, they are imprinted with their identity. They are a duck. And they quickly learn how to walk and quack like one too. If I consider my “career” so far, I have been imprinted over and over, taking on many of the characteristics of any given mentor at any given time. Does this mean that I am too easily influenced? I feel that I’ve taste tested a lot of things and am now making up my mind.
I began as a maths and science student in high school and there were only two occasions that I thought that my future might hold something other than computer science for me. The first was when a past graphic design teacher wondered why I never continued with it, while my physics teacher, Neil Champion, suggested that I might be more interested in the theoretical and possibly philosophical ideas that physics throws up. I travelled to Bolivia as an exchange student, and it was there that I discover art, principally photography, which becomes my passion for years to come. Just how I switched to film is unclear, but by the end of my university studies, I had begun vjing because the immediacy of a so-called ‘live-cinema’ (this is a complete misnomer) satisfied me immensely. My first exhibition was at Linden Gallery as part of Vision, an event under the umbrella of St Kilda Festival…
It’s tricky to summarise everything that I have done over the past seven or eight years, let alone explain the key influences and motivations for moving through the different areas that I did. Almost every commercial job or artistic project had a crossover point, which usually meant that I put everything through the business. The business, at that time, was the product of a creative collaboration with Sean Kelly in a bid to secure government income support for twelve months. The strategy seemed good. Then. In hindsight, the quest to find commercial work (mostly vjing) seemed lucrative (it wasn’t) and the quibbling over hourly rates for content generation distracted from actually exploring a more legitimate art practice. Legitimacy as in galleries, not clubs and sound artists rather than djs. There were some sound artists there, but not in the gallery! But I digress. The point here is that my experience during this time is not easily read as discrete components (it is not easily read!), but rather the sum of its parts in an ongoing ungoing flow that had become rigid and that I am now breaking apart.
When I think about my ad hoc professional commercial and artistic life, I cannot escape the feeling that I am no more than a jack of all trades, master of none. I was very pleased to discover today that this cliché is in fact only half the story and that the rest of it matches my sometimes over enthusiastic confidence – jack of all trades, master of none, though ofttimes better than master of one. In fact, I’d dare to say that in the 21st century it’s almost always desirable – I always know who to bring in on a project. A walking, talking outsourcing company. Naff, isn’t it?
I had what might be called an epiphany the other day while talking with my friend Jeremy Yuille. We were discussing technique and art versus technique as art when I began to explain an idea that I am exploring although, at the moment, it is almost entirely grounded in a technique. It involves recording three passes of the same scene using a red, green and blue filter for each pass and then recombining each pass into a single clip. At a superficial level, the work draws on Lefebvre’s rhythm analysis and renders the regular movement of people at different times in singular colours while the static, ever present background is recognised to be in its natural state. It is very photographic, as I am coming to realise that much of my work is, but it was when Jeremy pointed out to me the very straight forward process the I could use (and know precisely how to do) that I realised that am not techy. I am not technical. Not in the way that other digital artists program pressure sentive triggers to control some aspect of something else. Not in the way that designers modify their css on their blog and borrow php scripts to turn a WordPress blog into a fully fledged Content Management System. I am not a tech. My mind processes things in a very analogue fashion. It needs experience. I need the moment. It’s only after the fact – and through discussion with other rather brilliant people – that I discover a more technical and possibly simpler approach. What’s more, I realised that my first imprinting, that of photography has stayed with me and emerges in all of my work.
I haven’t really written about my process at all.