Burning Light

November to December 2016

Curated by Leslie Eastman


Leslie Eastman, Emily Yuting Chen and Steven Rendall

These works selected for Burning Light intensify introspective methods in the production of video as an end in themselves and as propositional metaphors. The various approaches explored in these works generate new horizons of meaning by turning light, image and medium back upon themselves in a combustive process - a burning of the medium.

PLAY2 is an offsite extension of BLINDSIDE PLAY, a video space which is dedicated to showing contemporary experimental single-channel works from local and international artists. PLAY2, is presented in partnership with Federation Square and screened at the Big Screen as part of Fed TV.


Steven Rendall 147, 2016

Emily Yuting Chen, Mimicry and Alchemy, 2015

Leslie Eastman, Heliotrope, 2012

These works intensify introspective methods in the production of video as an end in themselves and as propositional metaphors. The various approaches explored in these works generate new horizons of meaning by turning light, image and medium back upon themselves in a combustive process - a burning of the medium.

Emily Yu-Ting Chen’s videos document, in a blunt, evidential manner, the imaging process of the photographic scanner. Lovers literally displays the scanner scanning another scanner in a mirror image or mise en abyme of interrogative regard. The term mise en abyme (to place into the abyss) is used to describe the experience of the mirror reflecting the mirror, the picture within a picture, the play within a play. This approach abounds in Chen’s work. She relentlessly investigates the process of scrutiny and representation through pushing visioning and projecting machinery to breaking point. The process is studied, forensic even… and at times impatient: the light burns, the representation, suspended momentarily, breaks. In Lovers, the mechanized movement of a scanner beam punctuates the darkness as it appraises its own kind. This is not a case of positive and negative, rather a double negative. Darkness engulfs this subterranean process. The rhythm is unsure, stalling, tentative, then determined. Light intended to reveal the subject of the gaze; the light of the scanning line reveals only a further scanning line. Light in Chen’s work does not clarify and reveal, instead it confounds and echoes meaninglessly. It is impossible not to project a human reading onto these vision machines given the work’s title, but the intensity and urgency also suggest the needs of other life forms, suggesting an alien regard at work here.

Intensities are sublimely amplified in Mimicry and Alchemy.  The vision machine again is incorporated into this work but the heart of this work is caught in the spectacular 

deluge of molten glass poured onto an upended light globe. The light globe is an image and metaphor for illumination but in this case the broken globe is ruthlessly drowned in burning light, so violently hot that it disappears. The surrounding glass casement is shattered within the space of one frame - a twenty-fourth of a second of video footage. This is a burning liquid light that vaporizes another light, in the most abrupt alchemical furnace, instigating a purifying inferno.

In Steven Rendall’s work another mise en abyme is to be found in the labyrinthine exchanges between digital and analogue video, in the closed circuits of camera to screen to camera to screen and back again and again. Rendall’s method involves persistent recording processes that fluctuate from analogue to digital, from screen to camera, from camera to screen. The recording machine and screening machine are pitted against themselves in an extemporized exchange that is used to coax new audiovisual compositions into life. Rendall’s work plays with the possibilities of basic digital editing software (QuickTime Player), compounding the digital copy with feedback and noise (visual and audio) as compositional devices.. Numerous transfers of digital recordings to video tape and back again, often performed as in the case of Clear Voice with a handheld camcorder, lends the work a bodily motion and traces of physicality. Information is inverted, reversed, repeated, multiplied.

The process is a sublime form of visual and aural feedback, the pulsing of sound in these video works derives directly from the cascading imagery. Clear Voice might echo the qualities of a previous era’s music video, with colour bleeds reminiscent of David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes (1980, directed by Bowie and David Mallet), but Rendall’s work seeks an acoustic and visual signature at the edge of recognition.

Rendall’s 147 honours the lossless perfection attainable in the game of snooker. A 147 break is the perfect score possible in snooker (See Ronnie O’Sullivan’s performance in the 1997 World Championship). Rendall’s 147 multiplies the frame of this perfect break so that a repeated grid of snooker tables forms a matrix with small gestures and movements cascading across the screen as the player circles the table. The commentators’ voices expand and echo through volume modified feedback loops, released from their referent to become an otherworldly drone.

Leslie Eastman’s contribution to this takes a more contemplative turn. In his videos, surface is placed in conversation with context, with environment to suggest an enigmatic momentum and exchange. Light does not so much burn, as generate, resonate, animate.

Eastman’s Rain places images and watery surface together in the apparently endless flow of liquid.  The translucent can become both image and surface consorting to create secrets. How things seem and how things are, are not the same. Eastman invokes Jean Cocteau’s highly reflective liquid mirrors (Orpheus, 1950) where the reflection works to show us the far and near simultaneously as one layer. This enigmatic surface is the hinge between the underworld and the celestial canopy. Eastman’s Heliotrope documents a Radiometer (designed by William Crooke in 1873) that responds to light and heat to create differential yet invisible intensities within its vacuum sufficient to rotate the vanes of the device.  Light in this context becomes the animator of time. Eastman’s video works are formed by a translation of their context embedded into the nature of the receiving surface.

Leslie Eastman, 2016