The Block, QUT, Brisbane
24 July - 8 August 2009

Curated by Stephen Danzig of IDA projects, ‘Transverse’ asks questions about how digital media intersects, creates and transforms cultural identities. What part does digital culture play in breaking down social and artistic barriers? The landscape of digital media engages with our imagination, memory and human experience to interact and transform our sense of belonging and identity. A persistent motif throughout Transverse was the notion of place, particularly as it concerns displacement, disorientation and the distortion of the visual field. The manipulation of visual reality is seldom striking; nowadays it is both fully expected and anticipated. Its success in transforming our derived notions of cultural identity and place is determined by how far it stretches our psychological framework into new realms and experiences.

Transverse opened with a live performance by ‘Pink Twins’, two brothers, Juha and Vesa Vehviläinen from Helsinki, Finland. The duo boasts of once performing in a Mongolian disco with a hardcore metal band. Their VJ performance tightly interwove threads of audio and visual stimuli, like a booming particle accelerator crunching atoms into pixels. Splitter began with a multi-coloured satellite image which became manipulated with streaming watery effects. Pulse + originated from a satellite photo of a Siberian glacier, which gets transformed into the throbbing convulsion of an extra-territorial onslaught. Defenestrator demonstrated the duo's skill for morphing architecturally designed interiors into a hypnotic, space shattering experience.

Stepping into Stephen Danzig and David Sudmalis’s Un_Place, one was surrounded on all four sides by projections of an empty blue sky. The throbbing tension built until we momentarily glimpsed a figure falling inexplicably out of the sky. The experience recalled common notions of nightmares about falling. On witnessing the figure dropping out of nowhere, the viewer whirled around, disoriented and in a state of vertigo. Where did it come from? Where did it go? Danzig and Sudmalis’s uncertain landscapes evoke psychological terrains in which illusory versions of ourselves grapple with phobias, isolation and acceptance.

Kira Kim from Korea presented Co-ordinated - It’s your around. In a British park, the filmmaker quite simply took off his clothes and rolled towards a fixed camera. For this humourous stunt he was reputedly taken back to a police station for questioning. By contrast, Kim’s Scream was raw and intense in its grainy portrayal of a man on a high rise rooftop, twirling and heaving his briefcase in a cathartic release, and a business woman on a bridge, making agonising screams at the unrelenting traffic. This outpouring of anguish, frightening in its intensity, was immediately conveyed despite the cultural barriers. Almost all of us, in some form, contest the daily torments of modern existence.

Seldom does one see an R-rating classification at a gallery space, but Frenchman Edouard Salier’s Making of Flesh stood out as boldly provocative. Now that September 11 has been mythologised, satirised and every possible conspiracy theory played out, can it be eroticised? The animated Making of Flesh begins with a single jetliner crashing into the WTC, setting off naked porn stars which gyrate over the building’s walls. It quickly evolves like a jihad-inspired computer game: the more planes you can crash into the New York skyline, the more virgins will gyrate to your fantasies. Salier has an obvious fascination with shock and the ease of digital manipulation. Bloggers contend that beyond sensation and titillation it does not really have a point; or is such a criteria perhaps only applied to what irks us?

Leung Mee Ping’s Out Of Place garnered attention for its direct, no-tricks approach. The filmmaker secretly followed complete strangers as they wandered, sometimes aimlessly, through the busy streets of Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan. The resulting work becomes exceptional when the artist comes across a broken-down individual, hunched over an old cart in the gutter, seemingly exasperated and unable to go on. Running alongside the road is a red banner that reads, ‘Olympics is good for China, Olympics is good for you’. The propaganda and the reality could not be more starkly contrasted.

Journey From Pinsk, by Australian Magda Matwiejew, evolved like a lush fold-out menagerie. The digital animation of still images pieced together fragmented memories of her mother’s life in Russia. Matwiejew’s transition from painting is evident in her arrangement of intricately woven details. Teapots, ornate gowns and idyllic gardens, mingling with ethereal folk-pop, were contrasted with scenes of grief, snow-clad graves, crows and Nazi symbols. The nostalgic fairy-tale journey beautifully pieced together magical, cherished and macabre imagery.