HYPEerTEXT

Mark Webb
Bellas Gallery, Brisbane

In Mark Webb's recent installation titled HYPEerTEXT the words 'HERE & NOW' confronted the viewer as he/she entered the room. The text, carved out of polystyrene and painted an acidic yellow hue was mounted across almost the entire length of the wall. Although it was not immediately apparent, the large letters (100cm high) protruded from the wall considerably (approximately 40cm). To the right of this yellow strip of text, on a shorter wall, was mounted another cliched phrase 'sooner or LATER' painted in a lavender hue. On the opposite short wall facing 'sooner or LATER' was 'dead+ buried', in a pale red matt paint. Mounted on the long wall, through which one entered the space, were two sets of carved black polystyrene brackets on either side of the doorway. The wall behind each phrase was painted in a rectangular field the same colour as the text.

Webb's text was painted with flatly applied 'home decor' colours, and perhaps indicated a Pop sensibility. It suggested that art is a convention, but also that this interpretation of art is prone to submergence in a painted field or Painting field –an interpretation indicated literally by the illusionistic disappearance of the text, from some viewing angles, into the colour field behind. The protruding letters, however, were considerably larger than those which one might usually encounter intimately, a fact which encouraged viewers to move to the sides of the text, thus revealing its abjectness and exposing the 'disappearing' mechanism as an illusion. This might have suggested a minimalist or phenomenological notion of meaning in which the art object is considered in relation to the body's moving perspective, exposing at the same time formalist painting's reliance on optical illusionism within the bounds of a picture plane.

Similarly, in these works the submerging or disappearing effect of the text was dependant on where the viewer was physically positioned in relation to it, but perhaps it was as dependant also on ideological positioning. Nonetheless, as perhaps indicated by the two pairs of empty brackets, whether one chose to be submerged in the painterly illusion of art, or to acknowledge a symbolic or phenomenological reading was not entirely the issue. Rather, as Webb eloquently articulated in HYPEerTEXT it was that multiple readings proliferate.

The references to minimalism in Webb's works were accentuated further by the corporeal but (perhaps ironically) quite intimate effect of the colours. For example, the matt-yellow acidic colour of 'HERE & NOW' seemed to seep into the skin of the viewer more than it reflected towards the eyes. But unlike the sting of an acidic substance on skin it exuded the kind of fizzy sweetness that one might have received from a taste of powdery lemon sherbet. When this 'colour' experience along with the references already mentioned, was folded upon further significations in the 'list of works' that accompanied the installation, one became acutely aware of the complexity of meaning weaved in this Webb.

The list of works divided the 'installation' into 'individual pieces' via titles, situating it somewhere between the two modes of exhibition. The way in which meaning was catapulted in different directions by the various indicators in the work, was exemplified in the seemingly conflicting combinations of words in the titles which also mimicked the way in which hypertext operates on a computer screen.

The title for 'dead + buried' was HYPER SENSITIVE "corinthian ", of which the lower case text indicated the name given to the colour of paint used; the upper case word for each title used the prefix of hyper. On a computer screen hypertext is highlighted text that when activated by a user sets off a variety of different paths and destinations which, like the various cross-references of a dictionary, weaves meaning in a non-linear way. Shrewdly, the word 'hypertext' was also fractured, the emphasis being on the word 'hype' in the exhibition title and list of works, denoting perhaps that this installation was a highly activated site.

In these works a number of meanings could be activated at any one time which might account for one's feeling of being buffeted by it. Like a corporeal version of too many hits slowing an internet site, HYPEerTEXT down-loaded onto the body of the viewer hits of signification. For example, the style with which the cliches were written resembled journalistic headlines, which related the experience of being buffeted by cliches with that of reading or listening to the daily news. The choice of cliches was such that one could imagine them being uttered in an interview by almost any bureaucrat. This also made the sugary sweet colours of the text metaphoric indicators for the way in which cliches, such as these, are often used to cover up sour or foul tasting information. Of course, whether this is reflected in the artist's personal experiences of late was not indicated in any specific way, but it certainly seemed as though Webb was urging us to 'read the writing on the wall '.