Robert Kinder

Simple Moments of Before and After
Michael Milburn Gallery, Brisbane

Simple Moments of Before and After is strikingly bleak. This is not so much because of the monochrome scheme of the assemblages as much as their coarse textures. These works are roughly hewn, deliberately exposing the varied media which form them. Wood, though painted, is unsanded; metal sheets bare welding scars; and the surface on which Kinder has drawn his charcoal images is clearly papier mâché. It bubbles and crinkles and reveals at its ratty edges the newsprint beneath. Robert Kinder is the antithesis of the artist who refines his presentation, hoping to bury the materiality of the work under the patina of careful craft. Rather, the brutally obvious materiality of Simple Moments is an essential element, an expression of Kinder's view of the world. And Kinder is reconstructing this world from shattered fragments; not refining out but building toward.

Which explains to a large extent the bleakness. The exposed materiality and the almost unvarying scheme of black and white reminded me of demolition sites or bombed-out houses. With these the spectator might dimly reconstruct the identity of the building from its exposed and smashed materials-the rubble of plaster, bricks, timber and pipes and the broken shells of walls. Similarly, standing before Kinder's art the spectator must salvage something from the wreckage and rebuild an identity from fragments

Certainly, "that which is omitted" is crucial to these works. The spectator is never given the entire story. In a statement released with the exhibition, Kinder writes of "the lure of gaps, breaks, splinterings, broken hinges" the non-existent content of art; its suggestibility. And speaking to Kinder about his work confirmed to me this commitment to the spectator's moment. He wouldn't be drawn to define his work, to reveal its identity, but preferred to withdraw to the position of being just another spectator filling the gaps as best he can.

If Simple Moments, then, is centred on the spectator's moment, it is a moment Kinder seems to wish to make as problematic as possible. His assemblages are hybrids of the representational, the conceptual and the abstract. Large scale representations in charcoal of what seem to be Seventeenth Century prints are set in relation to news headlines and to abstract forms of metal, wood and canvas. These pieces are resistant to a single thesis of interpretation; they require a piecemeal approach, in fact, a further shattering-that of the interpretive moment. One is made aware of the tenuousness of one's understanding. Even representational elements have been 'arbitrarily' cut. The images do not reduce to a simple whole, but rather suggest the existence of that missing fragment which would, if restored, supply the key to an understanding. One is forced to build on uncertain foundations.

Going further, Kinder links the spectator's moment with the construction of the spectator's own identity. Into a number of the collages he has incorporated small mirrors, but viewers are prevented a full view of themselves by the imposition of a black square at the centre of each mirror. Reflection occurs in strips along the edges. A few years ago, Kinder incorporated similar black squares into his work, but then they appeared in the centre of newsprint, ostensibly as a reminder of how information is editorialised against our will and interests. Our reconstruction of the world is from fragments, as is our reconstruction of art and, as Kinder seems to suggest here, our reconstruction of self—all three linked by the act of viewing.

For many years now, Kinder has been expressing a deep concern about the proliferation of oppressive power structures. His art operates intellectually and aesthetically against systems of suppression and domination, of media manipulation, of unrestrained police power, of torture and coercion, compliance and complicity. The fractured nature of his collages can be read as a resistance to authoritarian control and strictures, as answer to absolutist proclamations of the 'Truth' and as a countermand for ambiguity and subjectivity. His work mirrors the world around us, but first he shatters the mirror so as to reflect a world already fragmented by information media which give primacy to the most sensational reality by reducing complexity to the self-serving agenda of ideology. In 'harbouring thoughts likely to disrupt the public orderMEMORY BLOCK (Elimination) Kinder takes what seem to be stills from a television interview with a terrorist, his ideological rationale reproduced in part as subtitles, and juxtaposes stark images of a massacre, the results of such glib ideology.

Neither tell us the whole story—each is a shard of a complicated reality which we create as best we can.

And perhaps an effected coarseness and sombreness in the presentation is the only way to express a world containing such brute events.