12 - 29 March 2014
Opening Night | Thursday 13 March 6-8pm
Artist Talk I Friday 21 March, 3pm
This multi-media installation aestheticizes moments of extremity, intensity, and disorder that might emerge from life on the periphery. Defaced signage, fractured objects and enigmatic remnants of public/private disasters scattered from the untimely and terrorizing underworld of encounters. Evidence is a psychologically charged site; a scene showing the aftermath of a poetic and rebellious act inferred through a sequence gestural tears and materialist interventions.
Todd Johnson's Installation "Evidence" at BLINDSIDE from 12 to 29 March 2014 marks a renewed interest in the suburbs as an open subject for contemporary Australian art. The objects assembled here have been gleaned from the vicinity of his suburban Cheltenham home in nocturnal wanderings on sleepless nights. How apt that a stuffed fox hanging by rope holds centre stage. Can we read this as a self-inflicted wound, a self-abuse gravitating back to that too prevalent end-point; the death in custody hangings amongst young indigenous males of similar age?
The fox has certainly infiltrated the fringes of suburban awareness, through the railway and coastal corridors of these eastern beach suburbs. Similarly, the nocturnal bat can now be heard here and viewed as a fluttering shadowed trace in the dead of night. What is festering here in the suburbs? Well for a start, all those loose ends escaped from by earlier generations of artists staking their claim for immortality in the social energy of the inner suburbs and on the backs of the mobility their tertiary experiences provided, metamorphosing eventually into Fitzroyalty's political correctness and prestige. What was left behind has changed once again and on Walter Benjamin's cue, Johnson locates it in the rubble of 'progress' as the suburbs re-appear as an affordable alternative to inner city bliss.
Recycling is Johnson's initiating method here, scavenging those transitory midden heaps, appearing on suburban front lawns on council disposal collection days, themselves now further corporatized, disappearing from view. This material is further mutilated through scratching, burning, scraping, tearing and blistering to the verge of un-recognisability: the untraceable trace. The artist patrols highways, skate-parks and streets, sampling objects by moonlight at a time when the eye seems to operate perceptually as a unified field of peripheral vision. Is this the time and locale of the artist or the thief? Such 3 a.m. nomadic wanderings locates that insomnia and crisis of identity explored by Ingmar Bergman in Hour of the Wolf (1968) and the relentless puzzle solving and complicities in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (2002) performed by Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) that lurch him towards a bleached-out catatonia. In Nolan's 3 a.m. mid-summer Alaska it is still light.
There are connections here to the de-familiarized unease of Harmony Korine's cinema (Trash Humpers, 2009), and the festering activity at the base of David Lynch's manicured lawns from Blue Velvet (1986) and of course, Twin Peaks (1990-91), part of Johnson's suburban upbringing. Johnson's time is not the early morning or evening when the middle aged do their power walking and walk their dogs, although he may be interested in their trace, as Chris Windmill was when he painted dried up dog turds gold in St. Kilda in the mid-eighties.
Johnson's own cinema work (Screen Ghosts, 2013) rematerializes through abstraction the digital screen to discern moments of un-locatable trauma through a fractured, obscured incomplete retelling. It is what is 'not said' that has to be unpacked. There is something similarly presented here. An uprooted Neighbourhood Watch sign, smacked by a wayward car, speaks to a childhood safety now dismantled like some form of technological road kill. A patch of leaked oil reminds me of the layered blotches that grow in parking spaces everywhere and an archaeology, a palimpsest trace of the constant rotation of cars through Southland's parking lots. The oil spill, repeated in miniaturized form as part of everyday suburban life: we are all hard-wired into complicity through our inoffensive routines. There are also shards of an old local billboard sprinkled as dust on the floor, mutilated and peeled away late one night from an advertising sign of a woman on a couch holding a ball of America in her hand. Her face is peculiarly absent from the scene. This situation is reminiscent of those television shots of criminals or victims with their identities obscured, fogged, digitally erased faces or Chappele Corby's covered face, escaping from a media pack.
Magical things still happen in the suburbs. My neighbour Gary, with a young family, got four chooks a year ago. I got some eggs. They also wandered in and out of our back and front yards, welcome visitors. It was fun and relaxing watching these birds scratch about as we sipped our Lattes. Unfortunately, on one occasion two young boys walking past grabbed the chooks from Gary's front yard. He got them back but from then on they were fenced in out the back. A fox also got to them a few months later, killing all but one now featherless survivor. Gary got three more but the family now seems to be in constant mourning, and the children play less and less in the backyard.
In this exhibition Johnson presents something mysterious and magical, an intersection between dreams and the searingly real, witnessed through those degrading cracks offered up by everyday life but seemingly invisible to most of us.
- Dirk de Bruyn