futuretext

Soapbox Gallery, Brisbane

It is only through the confining act of writing that the immensity of the non-written becomes legible ... Otherwise what is outside of us should not insist on communicating through the word, spoken or written: let it send its message by other paths.

 - ltalo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveller.

It is always difficult to review a group show, especially those without a strong curatorial position and even more so when most of the works point to the failure of communication between the author of a work, artistic or written, and the viewer (and reviewer). In the first instance the reviewer must try to focus on some of the more interesting works in the show rather than its premise; in the second they can merely state that all readings are personal rather than proscribed. The futuretext artists' introduction of text into the 'more' subjective 'other path' of art served to highlight the arbitrary nature of the written. Despite text's recourse to its definition, both art and text gain semiotic value through the viewer, and in this 'futuretext' is like 'past-text', just more fashionable.

Saul Kallio Edmond's work in this exhibition consisted of sixteen labels each stamped with the techno-babble sentence 'character text invalid please repeat', like printouts from another failed communication in computer/human interfacing (why does your computer never say 'excellent command or filename'?). Each label was testament to the viewer's and the artist's inability to proceed, even with the right password or key. The artist had attempted to move beyond the default setting and presented the trophies of the computer's denial as a mirror of the artistic process. Edmond's work possessed similarities with Glenda Pontes Despose's colourful cardboard cutouts printed with manga images and ready to be folded into boxes. However here the images did not attempt to pose its rejection of the viewer in such explicit terms. The bright colours and the bubbly mistranslated nonsense, with overtones of pop love and marketable joy, both attracted and repelled, like any sales pitch. Its supposedly meaningless key phrases did contain some element of doubt - 'to love/two love/trouble' - the viewer was led to wonder whether this arose merely from the cross-cultural shift of translation or from some deeper expression of discontent.

Any show named futuretext naturally must accept science as a framing condition. Mark Hoffman's assemblage contained graphics produced by computer conversion and automated sound cards which were more subjectively produced. This was an attempt at empirical evaluation which spoke more of the peculiarities of the interpretive mechanisms and the irrelevance of either method than of any equivalence between them. The 'results' of his scientific method were shelled in what appeared to be a travelling case more suited to convenience than display. Its pseudoscientific approach contrasted with Vanessa Haupt's somewhat ominous installation. Where Hoffman worked through science, Haupt attempted a classification masked in the sterility of the scientific method but without the rigour of the process. Frames containing a residue of a kiss, a fingerprint and a test-tube plant were hung alongside two old style typewriters which printed out Bush's phrase 'we have the technology' and, impossibly, a photocopy image.

The 'natural' was presented and was subdued through its isolation and containment both within the work and within the whitebox of the gallery space. Perhaps the most distinctive piece in the show was The Money or the Gun by Jane Gallagher - a large photograph of a graffiti covered and mis-spelt 'must be keapt clear' sign. The industrial tape attaching the image to the wall mirrored the 'grungeness' of the image and combined with its simple language to say 'fuck off' in that big city way. It seemed to propose futuretext as nothing more than newspeak-like statements, so anticipated they do not even require internal coherence in order to function. The perfect future language is not descriptive but merely a standard series of signs both easily understood and vaguely authoritarian. Doubleplusgood.