1 July - 8 August 1999 Nexus Gallery, Adelaide curated by Elizabeth Fotiadis
The exhibition piVot, curated by Elizabeth Fotiadis is the first of a series of events organised by Nexus Gallery which takes as its starting point a paper by Nicholas Tsoutas - These Anxious Moments, These Anxious Times . . .
As a verb, the word pivot describes movement around a central point, a fixed and necessarily limited orbit. It simultaneously implies a ceaseless whirling (worlds turning, dervishes, spinning tops) and a certain irrevocable revolutionary stasis (ecstatic, calming, stultifying, or annihilating - depending on your point of view). As noun it announces that single, privileged (causal?) point upon which the whole affair is impossibly, precariously balanced. At this end of the millennium, the pivotal points, the central tenets around which both cultural and individual subjectivities maintain their status quo are variously shifting, dissipating, and vanishing into the ether...
In her introduction, Fotiadis posits an anxious competition for the perception of relevance from various viewpoints battling within the Australian psyche. Stephanie Radok expands the point in her catalogue essay Ways of Being, questioning what it means to be Australian and suggesting that, given the patchwork of ethnicity that makes up the fabric of the nation, an Australian identity might become self-less, without a single pivot. An identity whose delineatory boundaries are permeable, not watertight. Both propose a dialogue across boundaries - an osmotic recognition of both difference and mutuality. The work of five artists comprises the body of the exhibition. Each speaks in an idiosyncratic manner, creating both tensions and resonance across the spaces between.
Penny White fills one long wall with a collection of 30 variable objects. Dismembered dolls, guns, bullets, sideshow prizes, gaudy plastic, religious icons and antique family photos; all collected from elsewhere, pilfered she suggests. A hall of mirrors which unsettles identification; iconic images reassembled so that almost every mirrored surface is obscured, every chance of recognising one's own face in the images resisted. Gazing back instead of saintly, or studio portrait smiles are dolls' faces, their expressions ranging from manic to tearful. In the centre, a small doll's limp cloth body hangs by the neck in a coffin/shrine. The death of innocence, of the past: not so much an ironic parody it seems, as a gesture of defiance. In the catalogue White describes herself as a "bower bird indulging in semiotics.. unpicking, re-doing over & over again. Making souvenirs of the times."
Sylvia Stansfield also offers souvenirs. Photocopies of family photos, and a tree, which she identifies as Araucaria chilenisis, native to her country of origin Chile and an endangered species, sandwiched between a dark slate base and a cover of the kind of reinforced glass used in bathrooms, preserved at a cool, sanitary distance - laid out separately like test slides ready for examination. They are flanked by a trio of small, open sided glass pyramids sheltering a collection of aromatic spices, carrying the different scents of physical recollection. Catherine K sets out a series of petrie dishes, also evoking an objective distance, an experimental attitude. She fills them with tiny fragments of various languages, cut up, sorted, folded, crimped, rolled and variously re-packed.
Jane Ruljancich, a jeweller, seeking (she claims in the catalogue) to erase the boundaries of distinction between her craft and that of public sculpture, also admits to the anxiety engendered by their blurring. She contributes a strangely compelling pair of miniature settings in the style of architectural models (Urban and Rural) for two crafted silver rings. In this scale, the rings appear as sculptural monuments that reduced in size, one might walk around and yet, judging by the relative size of the trees in the Rural setting the neat grass on the bulging hillock would surely be waist high and the ring, uncomfortably monolithic. This quiet little model exudes an unquiet, uncanny air... a slice of roadside nature underneath which a buried fertility strains. Its Urban pair is neat and ordered in comparison, a raked path, an avenue of trees, a pleasant empty setting. These undersized landscapes, are situated diametrically opposite the work of Elizabeth Kelly, Bocce, a collection of luscious glass orbs more reminiscent of monstrously oversized marbles. The strange slippage in scale exerts, for me, an almost magnetic pull between the two very disparate works and between them a weird unsettling of my own imaginary scale.
The glass balls draw attention to themselves. Raised on a low, circular white plinth, they glow seductively but effectively deflect attention, with tiny vignettes of the surrounding exhibition reflected in their mirrored surfaces. Huge marbles, or small separate worlds, they sit, weighty and perennially still. Their naming suggests a game, each player knocking other balls out of the way in a competition for the centre - their physical nature suggests instead; waiting, watching and a quiet attention.