Art & Surveillance
vol 31 no 3, 2011
Guest co-editors Virginia Fraser and Natalie King.
This issue of Artlink approaches the prying curiosity of surveillance, scopophilia, and compulsive and clandestine looking. Texts by artists, curators, writers and academics alongside images by artists who use photography, video, film, electronic networking, installation, performance and painting reveal some of the social implications of watching and the way that watching is framed. From surreptitious encounters to self-exploitation, they uncover the uneasy questions about who is looking at whom for power or pleasure. What is clear is that people love to watch! Including Judy Annear, Geoffrey Batchen, Djon Mundine and Adrian Martin.
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Amy Joy Watson's new world order is a little less lonely than her original outposts, heralding a shift in her practice that celebrates creation itself as geographical journey. The artist has loosened the earthbound shackle and floated off into a troposphere filled with glitter and gobstoppers where gravity has better things to do than hang around.
There is something genius about Watson and it’s hard to fathom that she graduated from art school only a few years back. It seems Watson has traversed every inch of the universe in her twenty-something years and has kindly come back to tell us what this world is made of. Somehow I imagine this artist in her studio like a magician, sitting cross-legged on the floor casting works/spells into the atmosphere, and for some reason this seems more plausible than the reality of stitching together pieces of balsa wood. Though, I realise that the maker’s hand is undeniably present in these works, my mind seeks to push this knowledge to a deeper recess, preferring to collude with enchantment instead.
The intimacy and tenderness Watson creates from such hardened and often geometrical materials and aesthetics begs applause. The works appear as though they might have been soft once-upon-a-time, languishing in her hands until they see the light and are cooled and petrified by their new surroundings. I feel I am privy to some new landscape, or perhaps it is ancient, nevertheless it seems I am intruding upon their party and when I vacate they might continue with their games - spinning, synthesising, morphing, coalescing, exploding or imploding. The delicate touch of watercolours used by Watson on each piece of wood demonstrates careful attention and consideration, her palette every bit as particular as that of a painter. The choice of such a delicate stain on the surface imbeds its stiffness with lucent humanity, and upon closer inspection the bleed of colours only adds to this sensation.
Most of Watson’s work uses balsa wood, watercolour, stitching and glue; a minimal set of options for any studio samurai, yet the artist’s imagination is her secret weapon and by adding a couple of new elements such as helium balloons, glitter, acetate and glow-in-the-dark thread, she has managed to create a minefield of fantasy. A giant, colourful prismatic asteroid erupts and ejects the contents of its equally colourful insides straight up into a stick-like structural mass. Near-by, a balsa bow stands positively prized on its ends defying any number of the rules of gravity. Across the way a pink helium balloon blimps its way towards the ceiling, robust and taut, maintaining a delicate balance for the poised prismatoid below, which touches the floor with a single pink point. Further on, a bursting balsa clam, blanket-stitched to perfection, lays open, its gobstopper patina tempting you to steal its candied pearl.
In 2009 Watson completed a two month residency at Takt Kunstprokjektraum in Berlin and made the statement: "In my recent art practice I have been thinking about real and imagined worlds co-existing... Here spaces collide with rock vessels birthing new landscapes and jewels and meteorites cracking open to reveal magical worlds within…In these worlds, the slick and plasticised qualities of contemporary society are erased and replaced with an aesthetic reminiscent of aged photographs or shots from a 1940s set of encyclopaedia (rich resources for me). This aesthetic, in combination with delicate hand-stitching and slow-made segments of finely cut balsa, suggests a nostalgic re-valuing of customs and pastimes from our times past."
Overall Watson’s work generates an unending sense of wonder, excitement and inspiration; something that can be difficult to conjure in a post-modern practice, yet for her this seems effortless, natural or even innate. There are no 'cigarette trees’ or ‘little streams of alcohol’ amongst Watson’s Big Rock Candy Mountain, but the tantalising trip is worth it just the same.
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Articles in this issue
- Exhibitions to watch
- The Sagawa/Hartevelt feedback loop
- Artrave: Artrave
- Exhibitions: Forthcoming exhibitions on surveillance
- Feature: A Job for the dogs: the ASIO pictures
- Feature: Are you being watched? Who are you watching?
- Feature: Art on the run: Ubiquitous Mobility and the Camera Phone
- Feature: Batesian mimicry and Urban scarecrows
- Feature: Clinical and Critical: from Von Trier to Haneke
- Feature: Contemporary Chinese Art
- Feature: Don't go kissing at the garden gate
- Feature: Gaze without subjectivity: Kohei Yoshiyuki and Yoko Asakai
- Feature: How to catch a Rooman: Fleur Elise Noble
- Feature: Inside the museum: surveilled
- Feature: It's rude to stare: Bill Henson revisited
- Feature: Neighbourhood watching
- Feature: Night vision goggles
- Feature: People love to watch: From Mr Rumbold to Julian Assange
- Feature: Surreptitious Pictures
- Feature: Surveillance art: Genre and Political Action
- Feature: Surveillance was not the artwork
- Feature: The way you look at me
- Feature: Three secrets
- Feature: Treading the fault-line of inter-cultural relations in Alice Springs
- Feature: Visibility: a survey of major recent exhibitions and publications on surveillance art
- Feature: Why photograph people? Sousveillance from Hippolyte Bayard to Sue Ford
- Review: Bad Angle
- Review: Big Rock Candy Mountain: Amy Joy Watson
- Review: Enrique Martínez Celaya: The Cliff
- Review: Evolving Identities - Contemporary Indigenous Art
- Review: Imaging Interiors
- Review: Inconstruction: Colin Story
- Review: Out of Site: Tracey Cockburn, Brady Denehey, Elizabeth Lada Gray, Sarah Maher & Nigel Farley, Shaun McGowan, Alyssa Simone
- Review: Photosynthetic: Carolyn Lewens, Same River: Peter Annand, glacies lux: Peter Charuk, Breath: Vivian McLatchie, Submerge: Carolyn Lewens, Asmund Heimark and Tim Catlin and Voicing Concerns
- Review: Singapore Biennale 2011: Open House
- Review: Synthetics (and analytics)
- Review: The Nature of Things
- Review: Urban Realities: Landscape Urbanism 3 Day Design Challenge
- Review: Vernacular Cultures and Contemporary Art from Australia, India and the Philippines
- Review: Zones of Exception: Art and Asylum Seekers