Fuel for Thought: oil, energy, conflict and art
Vol 28 no 1, 2008
How are artists responding to peak oil, the search for alternative energy sources and conflict over resources? Artlink goes global in search of answers. The issue includes artists who have used alternative energy or whose work reflects the negative effects of an oil-based economy, with some powerful imagery by artists from the Middle East, East Timor, Iraq, the Philippines, Australia, California and Chicago. Burnt out petrol bowsers share the space with artwork which looks forward to a post-oil energy scenario. A video animation by Chinese artist Qiu Anxiong offers a profoundly moving experience on mankind's disastrous love affair with industrialisation. Australian artists include Charles Green and Lyndell Brown as official war artists in Iraq, as well as Alison Clouston, Zina Kaye, Madeleine Kelly, Carmel Wallace, Pamela Kouwenhoven and more. Editor Ian Hamilton.
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[the space in between] Book projectSimon Gregg, Review
Curated by Tara Gilbee
VCA Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne
13 July – 4 August 2007
Sidney Myer Work on Paper Gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery
15 March – 13 April 2008
Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts
8 August – 14 September 2008
View Larger Image
Richard Butler-Bowden The Mouse and the Elephant 2007, photographs, Arabic typewriter, book, dimensions variable.
While many speak of the authority of the printed word, the allure of the book far transcends its mere containment of information. As a vestibule of hopes, dreams and the imagination, the book is an object of wonder that engenders a poetry independent of the printed text bound within. This made the challenge set down by curator Tara Gilbee in
Gilbee, whose stewardship of the project ventured beyond the realm of curatorship and into collaboratorship, posted books to artists that she had collected and, systematically, mutilated. Receiving the remains of these books in the mail, each of the thirty-two participating artists were invited to create a new artwork that addressed 'the space in between' – i.e. the negative space between the body of the book and those sections that the curator had surgically removed with a scalpel.
There were some ingenious solutions to the curatorial brief. Chris Bond, at the exhibition's entry, constructed a complex work that joined the separated elements by converging lengths of line, like a Da Vinci diagram materialised. Similarly Gabrielle Brauer's Plutarch's lives was so much more than its listed medium 'book and paper' becoming, instead, a fully formed dinner jacket composed of paper mache. Paul Irving also took the path of relentless deconstruction, by transforming his book into a fantastical sculpture – a kind of telescope designed for peering beyond the physical composition of his 'untitled' book.
As a habitual paper-cutter, Kate Cotching was an obvious participant. Her work Bridge revealed an acute dexterity, turning her pages into visual poetry and the illegible narrative into real form and space. Martina Copley's book, open midway, became a canvas for dense, black charcoal: a solemn paean for a volume denuded of function, while Andrew Goodman transformed his pages into wild, organic vines, bursting from his book covers in demented, ornate and exquisite cascades of foliage.
Aloma Triester was among those who took a more literal route with her work Shredded suggesting an unfortunate meeting between her book and a food processor, pursuing the theme of book destruction with vigour. Tracy Sarroff's compendium 'Radiotransmision' became lost in a forest of electrodes and diodes, while both Penelope Hunt and Ash Keating attempted to reunite the book with its components: Keating literally sticky-taping the sections back in while Hunt, with considerably more guile, replaced the lost section with an image of what was missing.
The most successful works were those that transcended both the curatorial stratagem and the formal aesthetics of their book: where the artist brought something entirely new to the project by considering the broader implications of the book as a subject of physical brutalisation as well as an art object – a use to which it is not typically ascribed.
Elizabeth Presa was alone in dispensing with her book entirely, presenting instead a series of photographs, capturing the slimy path of a snail across its pages. While the snail's literary dispositions are not known, it neatly summarised the investment of time that reading dictates. Mandy Gunn's concertinaed pages dissolved into a fictive transmutation of cloth and text, as visceral and sensate as these works came, while Greer Honeywill buried her book within the rafters of a skeletal house. The unknowable secrets of the book became locked away in the 'attic' of the unconscious.
On many levels the creative enterprise of this exhibition was unavoidably fraught, however as a wellspring of so many new ideas and potential channels of investigation, the Book Project was worthwhile as a means, if not always, an end.
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Articles in this issue
- Artrave: Artrave
- Editorial: Editorial
- Featue: Writing images with words: an inheritance of ambiguous faces
- Feature: A rusty sign at the end of a bloody empire
- Feature: Chance encounters: Pamela Kouwenhoven and Peter McKay
- Feature: Conducting Mobility
- Feature: Hyperlexic, desalinated but not scary
- Feature: Obscure dimensions of conflict
- Feature: Power and art in East Timor
- Feature: Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh interview
- Feature: The error of our ways: Madeleine Kelly
- Feature: The revolution will not be televised: the changing landscape of film and video production in the Arab world
- Feature: The whistleblower of Discovery Bay
- Feature: The winding way
- Feature: Watching as the enchanted land meets its end: Qiu Anxiong
- Feature: World tree: sounds of a bigger picture. Alison Clouston and Boyd
- Preview: Biennale of Sydney 2008: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
- Preview: Handling the Adelaide Biennial
- Review: Economy
- Review: Fierce or Friendly: Humans in the Animal World
- Review: from time to time one talks to the moon: Aldo Iacobelli
- Review: Making it Modern The Watercolours of Kenneth McQueen
- Review: Migratory Projects: The Drive Out Cinema
- Review: Of
- Review: ON' n 'ON
- Review: Our Lucky Country - (Still Different)
- Review: Replay: Christian Marclay
- Review: Robert MacPherson, Vernon Ah Kee and Jeremy Hynes
- Review: The Road to Here
- Review: Wonderful World
- Review: [the space in between] Book project