between you and me

Firstdraft, Sydney
31 October - 17 November 2007

A blurry face protrudes out from a red hat. Layers of scrawled black lines emerge on a screen. A man falls into a green paint can. A body is slowly enveloped by a beanbag. A pile of colourful masking-tape debris hangs awkwardly in a corner…

What initially appears as a series of arbitrary and disparate events is actually a selection of artists’ work that shares certain conceptual and methodological premises. Curated by Anneke Jaspers, as part of the Firstdraft Emerging Curators Program, between you and me brings together the work of five emerging artists, namely Sarah Jamieson, Paul Greedy, Rachel Scott, Ben Denham and Sam Smith. These artists share not only a concern for a self reflexive awareness of process—a referencing of the 1960s mode of Conceptual Art—but also an awareness of, in a broad sense, environment; whether it be real or virtual, private or public, interior or exterior, internal or external. The tension between these dichotomies is succinctly articulated in Jasper’s choice of exhibition title. between you and me is evocative; it implies a shared relationship, feeling or intimate knowledge of something secretive and private. In this instance ‘between’ stands for interaction. At the core of Jasper’s curatorial concern is the encounter between the viewer and the work of art. Noticing that art being made by her contemporaries was based on an interrogation of artwork-viewer-gallery participatory dynamics, Jaspers intentionally combined the disparate practice of these artists to explore how such dynamics function.

Ben Denham in no strings: pre-cursive (2007) uses potentiometers (sensors) adhered to his arms and legs, which, when activated through imperceptible gestures and micro-movements of the body, control the horizontal and vertical axes of two separate line-drawing computer programs that translate these movements into linear marks or indecipherable scribbled letters of the alphabet. Denham calls this computer-generated manipulation of language and drawing a process of re-writing. His performance/video encourages the audience to reflect on the relationship between the body and technology. Similarly, Paul Greedy explores how one’s actions and gestures can be manipulated and distorted using technology to increase an awareness of self. Brahma’s Echo (2007) (Brahma = Hindu Deity of creation) is a constructed sonic, visual and kinetic environment that explores sensory modes of experience. In an enclosed darkened room, a live video feed projects the action of its inhabitants onto a screen. One is asked to make noises into a microphone connected to a reflective interface of water that receives, filters then reconfigures vibratory frequencies which visually distort the projected screen image, thus heightening a consciousness of the senses and of one’s actions.

Sarah Jamieson explores the self in a private environment or encounter. The resulting artworks, such as coming to (2007) (a series of photographs of Jamieson wearing a red hat, which is then displayed on a plinth) and practice (7), practice (2) and practice (8) (2007) (three videos of Jamieson watching, editing and reviewing footage of herself interacting with a beanbag), are the documentation of Jamieson’s relationships with domestic objects. Her practice is a private, impromptu performance or experience. The artworks produced are therefore an attempt to re-present to herself the experience, locating herself outside of it to understand it. Jamieson’s body in this respect is a research tool used to explore concepts of interiority and exteriority, and what it is and means to be/exist. Works such as coming to imply a state of being; a personal and private existential journey/gesture made public.

The concept of the virtual journey, in particular the viewer’s escapism, is investigated in Sam Smith’s Tunnel (2007). Smith, using special effects and film editing techniques such as time jumps, spatial distortions and looping structures, creates hypothetical and imaginary sci-fi landscapes, portals into alternate universes and strange fantastical environments where time, matter and space are distorted. Tunnel is a smaller-than-life plywood mineshaft or structure that houses a projected video of a small man repeatedly sliding out of an upturned green paint can into the top of another can directly below. The paint can in question is situated on the gallery floor, and perhaps is a reference to a perceived ‘death of painting’ and the rise of the innovations of the video medium that allows people, objects and places to be transformed, added or removed as the real world appears manipulable or changeable.

Anneke Jasper’s curatorial concern with the work of art’s process of production can best be seen in the work of Rachel Scott, a multi-disciplinary artist, who created What goes up, must come down (2007), an ephemeral painting installation, and a video titled Climb every mountain (2007), in which she talks candidly yet elusively about goals. Somewhat confessional, the dialogue is imbued with notions of desperation, yearning, humour, failure, self-consciousness and self-awareness. What is intensely private for Scott becomes public for the viewer. Likewise in What goes up, must come down, Scott’s process is on view for the audience to see. Using masking tape as a guide, she created a floor to ceiling hard-edged, abstract wall painting consisting of vertical stripes of colour. Upon completion of the painting, Scott stripped away the bulk of the masking tape, leaving bare white stripes and thin streaks of residual paint on the wall. The pile of masking tape debris was then left hanging by a thread from the corner of the ceiling, thus spatialising the painting’s material surface and combining the disparate conventions of controlled geometric abstraction and spontaneous, expressionistic gesture. Such reworkings of the idea of painterly gesture indicate the fresh approach to process and interaction that Jaspers has achieved in this curatorial project.