DEBUT XI 

18 February - 7 March 2015

Curated by Xanthe Dobbie & Kali Michailidis

Opening Night | Thursday 19 February 6-8pm   Artist & Curators Talk|Saturday 28 February 2.30pm 

Henry Madin, Simon Massey di Vallazza, Kendal McQuire, Emme Orbach, Genevieve Pikó, Georgia Robenstone + Jacqueline Stojanovic.

BLINDSIDE celebrates eleven years of Debut—an annual survey exhibition of new artistic talent of Fine Art graduates from Melbourne’s major universities. Committed to fostering new talent, BLINDSIDE presents Debut XI as a special feature of the annual exhibition program. This year’s edition brings together a range of performative and interactive artworks from some of the most exciting and dynamic local emerging artists.

BLINDSIDE celebrates eleven years of Debut—an annual survey exhibition of new artistic talent of Fine Art graduates from Melbourne’s major universities. Committed to fostering emerging artists, BLINDSIDE presents Debut XI as a special feature of the 2015 exhibition program. Including artists from VCA, Monash and RMIT universities, Debut XI brings together a range of performative and interactive artworks from some of the most exciting and dynamic local emerging artists. Common themes found across the graduating classes of 2014, and presented in this exhibition, include a questioning of collective memory, narrative, and human interaction, as well as a focus on the relationship between artist and medium.

In today’s media saturated society, the concept of collective memory is stronger than ever. The accelerated advancement of technology, from mass viewing of Television to user driven interfaces, has made for an incredible proliferation of information, which can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, at any time. In this vast pool of endlessly updating statuses, we find ourselves floundering, simultaneously more isolated and more integrated than ever before.

Collective, cultural memory and experience is a key theme in Jacqueline Stojanovic’s (Monash) installation My Colour TV. Throughout 2014 Stojanovic interviewed 17 immigrants, asking them to reflect upon their experiences adjusting to the culture of white Australia. The interactions were then transcribed and presented one word at a time on two TV screens – each word flashing for a fleeting 0.08 seconds. The viewer’s eye, as a result, struggles to keep up, and instead focuses on words that distinctly stand out to them. In this way, a collective experience becomes a uniquely tailored individual one.

Likewise, Genevieve Pikó’s (RMIT) work experiments with memory and narrative in her endlessly looping video, Screened By the Room. In this work, Pikó manipulates appropriated footage from British detective drama series Lewis (2006 – current) to investigate the potential of film as both an active medium and a repository for collective memory and narrative expectations. Simultaneously concealing and revealing, Screened By the Room torments the viewer, unable to grasp onto specific details within the infinite flux of shifting imagery.

As collective memory has been stretched and changed by the technological age, our means of integrating with other human beings has also been altered irrevocably. While our options for making contact have become seemingly endless, with new forms of social media continuously being erected in an enormous cyber-city, we continue, as ever, to grapple with attempting to understand one another.

The intricacy of human interaction was another major theme seen amongst the class of 2014. In Georgia Robenstone’s (Monash) work, I’m Trying, the complexities of adult relationships are combined with awkward teenage self-consciousness and embarrassment. This uncomfortable juxtaposition questions the politics of adult relationships in terms of power and intimacy. However, the light-hearted, humourous side of Robenstone’s work sees this presumed ‘failure’ in a constructive sense, where opportunities can be created for new understandings and attempts, or, to quote Samuel Beckett, “fail better”.[1]

Simon Massey di Vallazza (RMIT) also toys with ideas of failure and human interaction. In his performative practice, Massey di Vallazza conducts social experiments, placing both audience and circumstance at the centre of his process, with little regard for a necessary or predictable conclusion. In his subtle Untitled installation/performance developed for Debut XI, a mobile phone is placed within the space and is activated sporadically via an offsite computer. The calls, founded in anonymity, eliminate the non-verbal stimuli that inform and define our view of one another. Beyond the controlled variables of the phone and the computer, which performs as the antithetical Other, the result (or lack there of) rests entirely in the hands of the unsuspecting visitor.

Where Massy di Vallazza potentially alienates the viewer, Henry Madin (RMIT) aims to unite through acts of spontaneous collaboration and music. Madin’s work Ensemble, created with the assistance of Melbourne-based sculptor Brodie Wood, consists of three beautifully handcrafted percussive devises. The instruments, which abandon a traditional musical scale, aim to encourage and facilitate impromptu group performance, while removing the pressure of any prior musical knowledge. According to Madin, each act of music is fundamentally unique and unrepeatable. Ensemble focuses on the social element and process of creating music, urging participants to experiment unabashedly without an emphasis on the outcome of their performance. In this sense, the materials and instruments inform the audience’s experience of the work, and create unique, unrepeatable performances.

Natural and spontaneous approaches to materials continue as a central theme in Emme Orbach’s (RMIT) work. Orbach’s aptly named sculpture Chrystal Sphere utilises natural phenomenology as an artistic medium. Adopting specific, scientific residue-building processes, Orbach’s sculptures are a striking statement and testament to the incredible capacities of nature. Reliant on the natural growth of crystals, the work produces an aesthetic entirely unique and formed without interference from the artist’s hand. Orbach’s practice represents a true collaboration between artist and material, each playing an equal, though almost entirely separate role, in the creation of a larger project.

Contrastingly, in Kendal McQuire’s (VCA) videos, the familiar is made unfamiliar through awkward uses of common materials. In her videos Flat Forms Flex and Gold Run, McQuire presents a disjointed translation of two-dimensional images into three-dimensional objects. The absurd movements and poses of the yoga mat in Flat Forms Flex mimic those of its presumed owner, and become an anthropomorphised version of what is normally a stationary, two-dimensional object. In addition, Gold Run presents an ungainly transition between digital and analogue worlds, where a golden-cloaked runner is haphazardly superimposed onto a moving landscape. The runner becomes a kind of avatar in a real-world landscape, where the viewer is left to fill in the gaps.

The artworks presented in Debut XI represent an inquisitive, social and experimental mentality of current emerging artists from Melbourne’s art schools. Each of the artists selected demonstrate both proficiency with their selected medium, as well as an ability to contextualise themselves within a broader theoretical and sociological spectrum. They are bold and ambitious projects, and on behalf of BLINDSIDE, we would like to congratulate this year’s Debut artists, and wish them all the best for their bright futures.

Kali Michailidis & Xanthe Dobbie, 2015

[1] Samuel Beckett, Worstword Ho, 1983.