Exhbition Review Immediate 31 March- 11 April 1999 Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart Tasmania Curated by Leigh Hobba
An exhibition of works by six young artists curated by Leigh Hobba coincided with the ANAT summer school in New Media Curating and Theory held in Hobart over Easter. Immediate served as a masterful curatorial example. The works selected were diverse examples of new media practice. The objects were presented in an unpartitioned and virtually unlit gallery space, encompassed - but also visually separated - by darkness. Light emanated from the components of the show: the computer monitors, projectors and strobe lights. A fusion of sounds formed a fluctuating aural matrix. The holistic effect was stunning, like entering an underworld.
The atmosphere was charged, bordering on forbidding, like a dimly-lit subway or dungeon. It became enveloping. A slow but insistent undulation of bleeping, droning, tinkling, whirring and buzzing was pierced routinely by a distant, stifled moan. Seduced by the concentration of colour and motion at one end of the gallery, I subjected myself first to the combined onslaught of the works of Mark Cornelius and Matt Warren.
Anxiety, a computer animation by Mark Cornelius covered a sizeable section of wall. Large red dots expanded, converged and drifted over a uniform pattern of smaller red dots sliding diagonally down the wall. For a short time the formation worked decoratively, as a moving wallpaper pattern, a relation of the benign lava lamp. The innocuous effect soon wore thin. The moving dots gained menace. The size of them, coupled with their constant fluctuation was disconcerting.
Paradoxically, given their abstraction, they read as larger-than-life.
Matt Warren's Father Cannot Yell was a gruelling work. A slide projected onto a banner of gauze depicted two tiny boys, aged perhaps three and four, standing before a stretch of lawn before an Australian bungalow, probably dating to the late 1940s. Their sweet smiling faces beamed at the camera. Jarringly, they were dressed in soldiers' uniforms. A 45 rpm record revolved on a turntable in front of this image, the needle stuck in a groove merely crackled. Behind the gauze banner, three strobe lights flashed in rapid succession. They surround a video projected onto the wall: a twitching figure, its head bound in crepe bandage. Only head and shoulders were visible. The flickering effect of the editing gave the impression that the man was convulsing, being whipped or electrically shocked. It was impossible not to flinch at the strobe lights, which make viewing the jittering figure a masochistic act.
The bandaged figure, brute and victim, 'Father', could have been one of the dear little boys dressed in military costume. The bandages suggest a burnt or mutilated head, or are they a means of blinding and gagging him? Is his torture a retribution for patriarchal brutality? He may be the victim of his own undoing or the merciless retribution of others.
Central to the gallery space, Dianna Graf's Third Light provided a welcome mooring. An artificial moon projected from the ceiling cast its reflection into a square pool on the floor. The still, unperturbed moon provided a counterpoint to the disturbing presences in the room. A mechanical steel moth revolved on an axle from the ceiling, and behind, on a square screen on the wall, whirled a series of curious and charming circular video images.
One of the Macs effused a wash of sound from Graham Brown's exquisite sound collage Video et taceo. It consisted of a series of samples of Elizabethan music which were looped, and could be triggered by a pictorial grid. The sounds would merge with each other. It was captivating. The work was accompanied by a lucid, fascinating text about Brown's research into interactive composition.
Sean Bacon's interactive video installation Viewpoint consists of two metal frames, or cages which support ordinary surveillance video monitors and primitive little video cameras, and some switches. Two participants can interact with these devices. What they see on the monitors is projected onto the walls around them. I chanced upon the devices just as a young boy approached them. I found the ensuing interaction funny and rather embarrassing, as an image of myself - as seen by him - hesitantly fumbling with a switch, was cast onto the wall. I managed to inexpertly project a giant image of the folds of his sleeve. Two gazes interlock and play within the terms of this installation. It was confronting, confusing, and fun.