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The first thing one noticed in John Wailer's Random Access, a survey of Brisbane artists using photocopiers and computers, was its impeccable use of gallery space. Each work appeared as a mini-installation, enjoying maximum clarity and isolation.
As exhibition curator, Wailer notes the exhibits here can be broadly categorised as both explorations of the new cybernetic and photographic media, and as predominantly 'Brisbane' artifacts, defined by their creators' co-presence - or recent co-presence - in Expo City. Significantly, Wailer adds a third category to these considerations, noting that these works all also tend to reach 'beyond the technical into social and spiritual dimensions'.
This factor becomes particularly evident in Wailer 's own assemblage of photocopied and photo-mutated images in his epic Study for an untitled landscape (1988). Stepping to and fro before this vast, mural-like composition, one glimpses horizons, tress, sentences, words and hieroglyphics in a complex web of images and inscriptions drawn from such sources as historical accounts of explorations, and photographs taken by Wailer's father.
Exploring even more personal iconography, Jane Richens' portraits and self-portraits offer mysterious, slightly out-of-focus glimpses of her subjects, generating an impact somewhat akin to that of early photographs, as flowers and facial features loom onto adjacent planes. Richens' huge working study for PORTRAIT OF B.D. (1989), typifies her capacity to register deeply moving stasis and monumentality.
Hiram To's Still Life in Mobile Homes (1989) characteristically combines a sense of cool surface with amusingly irrelevant domestic detail, within a lattice-like structure made up of twenty wooden panels. To's use of laminated laser copy on galvanised iron wittily juxtaposed 'soft-edge', slightly blurred imagery with metallic, 'hard-edge' surface, and organic wooden 'frames'.
David Moses' installation incis/vis/precis/ion (1989) cleverly exploited three-dimensional illusion and superimposition. A cruciform constellation of projected and photocopied facial and body images, this piece simultaneously invited conceptual analysis of trompe l'oeil composition, and other, rather less cerebral responses to its thematic ambiguities. Once again, a sense of highly personal content combined with technological, 'mechanical ', virtuosity.
David Crouch exhibited two computer works; one relatively formal; the other more polemical. His computerised 'plotter' drawings generated patterned compositions reminiscent of some of the early 'typestracts ' made by the concrete poets. By contrast, his other untitled installation invited one to ponder a series of theoretical clichés regarding the merits and demerits of institutionalised concepts of language. I found the ambiguity of this piece disconcerting rather than advantageous. Crouch's projected critique of the 'alien aesthetic' of commercial discourse seems to require more clarity to attain effective impact.
Finally, the sixth exhibitor, Adam Wolter, presented the computer piece Work Code 999 (1989) ; a dazzling rubic-cube syncopation of graphic, photographic and typographic images, exemplifying the 'juggernaut' scale that he associates with computer-art. Wolter's ability to orchestrate vast quantities of images within the Amiga's 'inner-space' continually hovers on the edge of visual overkill-a concept which he would probably dismiss as 'fear of fact', insofar as one of the computer's most challenging traits is precisely its capacity to overwhelm the uninitiated spectator.
Wolter's art modifies this initial sense of panic, as the dynamics of his imagery become more familiar, and their connotations gradually invite calmer contemplation. The figurative content of Work Code, for example, permits such implicit questions as the screen's observation: 'One of these things is not like the others'. Rather than mesmerising the viewer, Wolter's work leads one through the computer's 'looking glass', into his world of whimsical allusion, as one slowly adjusts to the accelerated pace of the screen's wonderland.
John Wailer and M.O.C.A. are to be congratulated for organizing a fascinating survey of high technology, low technology, and idiosyncratic introspection. As Michele Helmrich 's catalogue essay suggests, the works in Random Access revealingly 'celebrate the accessibility and democratisation' of technological art. At the same time- or so it seems to me - these works also reassuringly exemplify the different kinds of potential individual, social or spiritual 'aura' inherent in such mechanical means of production and reproduction.