31 January - 16 Febuary 2008

Curated by Marion Piper

Santina Amato, Andrew Cerchez, Emma J Davis, Rosie Miller, Michelle Neal, Natalie Ryan + Abby Seymour

DEBUT IV brings together a Whitman’s sampler of new artistic talent from the recent Graduate exhibitions of Melbourne’s metropolitan art schools. Curated by Marion Piper, Debut IV aims to act as a bridging event for students entering the professional art scene by creating a forum for their work that is independent of the educational institution they studied at. Blindside, as an artist-run space, has the appropriate location and creative community to provide networking opportunities for these emerging artists, and at the same time creating relationships between the exhibiting artists and their peers.

A few words to the wise…
As Debut IV curator, I must tread lightly in the land of the catalogue essay, for it is not my job here to pin down the meanings of any artworks, but to draw your attention to the links and tensions between them. In some instances I have felt that the artists ‘say it better’ than I ever could, thus this document will ping-pong between my thoughts and their research. As a graduating student, I choose to treat this essay as a work unto itself, with all the glory and shortcomings it may engender. Enjoy.

Money or The Box?
Debut IV is a celebration of artistic achievement bursting out of the educational institution and into the gallery environment. The group of artists chosen represent a small sector of ‘what actually went on’ in Melbourne art schools in 2007, a party-mix of perspectives that can and should clash. However, what joins each artist in their aesthetic regurgitation of the world is an attention to the conceptual, something that reaches beyond the surface and into the cultural specificities that define them as creators from their predecessors. Colour and form are servants to the ‘idea’, travelling parallel to its questioning rather than dictating its direction. What we negotiate in this exhibition is not strictly bound by the sole conventions of any medium, for what echoes louder than the inventive use of materials are the voices behind the names. Within the acoustics of Blindside we are privy to what could be described as a round table discussion of what is most important for emerging arts, albeit an argument of the visual. Is it love, knowledge, pride, the mysterious, the uncanny? Or is the essential ingredient for Art the act or gesture of self-expression? We must endeavour to find our own place within this realm and consider what it is that we find attractive or repelling about these works and their contemporary counterparts.

Santina Amato, Tea Party, detail, 2007.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
– Albert Einstein

My first impression of Santina Amato’s Tea Party (2007) was indeed one of awe. I have experienced art in miniature dimensions, yet there is something almost otherworldly about the inside of a tea cup dancing in front of your eyes. In the tradition of Pipilotti Rist, the ethereal quality of the video lies in its iridescent colour and as the green pulsates, carrying the small spinning figure out of the cup and into my imagination, I am no longer in reality, but in some sort of Alice in Wonderland fantasy (the title reinforcing this even more). The scratched and weathered antique cupboard housing this mysterious ‘drink’ makes me aware of my own presence, as if I have uncovered it accidentally on purpose.
Symbolic and bizarre, I feel that Tea Party and Natalie Ryan’s Dead Hare belong together, for Alice follows the rabbit down the rabbit hole, which is a relationship most artists could relate to in their practice.

Andrew Cerchez, I wanna be a hero, 2007, type C photographs.

Rather than waxing poetic about the nature of photography or the tradition of artist self-portraiture, discussing the likes of Cindy Sherman, what struck me about this series of photographs were there inherent ‘Australian-ness’. Each portrait in which the artist disguises himself as supposed ‘heroes’ gives us a clue as to what some of our biggest influences are. The phenomenon of Justin Timberlake for instance can be read as the infiltration of Americanism onto our small nation, which is not a new fear but is becoming more and more integrated into our culture.
I wanna be a hero taps into our own desire for greatness, to never be forgotten, and to feel the glory of fame that is associated with hero status. Particularly from the male perspective, Cerchez allows us to indulge in these fantasies via his exploration that in feeling resonates with Michelle Neal’s work with its sense of urgency.

Rosie Miller, Paperbacks, 2007.
The book is an object with a designated function, which is to carry information, images, ideas, thoughts, etc. The form itself encourages a linear experience, as we generally read a book from beginning to end, with what is inside the covers being the sort after material. However, what Rosie Miller has focused on is the organic nature of the book, and its ability to replicate the most bizarre forms of nature.
These blob-like creatures could be seen as literary versions of a Piccinini sculpture, begging us to hold them, to read their words and embrace their form. Their sense of tactility is heightened by the patterns the printed words make along the precisely fashioned surfaces, like the lines on our skin or threads of our clothes.
Lying amongst Natalie Ryan’s Dead Hare and Santina Amato’s Tea Partty, these paperbacks enter into the strange land of art, where the inanimate is animate in its stillness.

Michelle Neal, The Power of Love, 2007, pvc tubing, domestic cleaner.

“The domestic cleaner (more often than not female) often occupies one of the lowest levels of occupational worth both within the household hierarchy and society at large. It is this mundane and small picture that I am concerned with – exploring that which is often seen in people’s lives as insignificant and acknowledging how, when multiplied, it ripples out to create the world.” – Michelle Neal

When I first saw Michelle Neal’s sculptural piece The Power of Love (2007) I was seduced by its subtlety and fluorescent green glow. It does not shy away from its purpose and does not pretend to be anything other than what it is: a factual demonstration of a physical phenomenon.
However, once we actively read the materials, a slightly more detailed look into the small and overlooked can be gained. This work extends beyond its punch line, into both the domestic and the political. ‘The Everyday’ is not a new topic, as it really is the small details that make up the bigger picture, which Neal explains above. Yet in this work, we enter into a chain of understanding that begins with the title and flows through to the mechanics of the art. There’s an old saying, something about elbow-grease, that triggers every memory I have of scrubbing, polishing, wiping, dusting and washing some part of my house. In the same way, The Power of Love, as a type of warped advertising, makes me see this green liquid as an immense force, reminding me of my duties in this world.

Natalie Ryan, Dead Hare, 2007, Artists hair, silicon, synthetic fibres, prosthetic eyes.
“Dead Hair, (2007) is an exploration of the ever-changing body. By using the trace element of my hair, I wanted to draw attention to the continual state of flux the body is in, how we shed hair in life and how it continues growth in death. Using the corpse of a hare as a signifier for the human body allowed for an uncanny play on language, which I believe opens the work for further interpretation.” – Natalie Ryan

The Dead Hare lies limply on its pedestal, each rib visible through its dark brown fur. It is uncanny in its reality yet beautiful as an object. What is at play in Dead Hare is much more than anatomical fact or pun. In a similar way to Santina Amato’s Tea Party, this piece quietly invites our understanding to circle itself and question the more philosophical and mysterious aspects of life.
As Ryan briefly mentions above, it is about the body, but much more than that it is almost a syntactical puzzle: the hare performing much in the same way as Magritte’s famous work This is not a pipe. However, this is in fact a dead hare, or, dead hair, and it is a replica of a living animal. Magritte would probably commend Ryan on her gusto, for she does not explain in words what so obviously lies before us, she rather bluntly slaps us in the face with it.
The body is in constant change and motion, yet Dead Hare is not, therefore I believe this work is trying to suspend the body once it ceases to be a body and begins to function as an object. Is the ‘corpse’ an object or still a significant part of the body-as-every changing? When does a corpse stop being part of “the Body” and start being an object?

Abby Seymour, Dripping with Crystal Clear Identities, 2007, architectural drafting film, acetate, black ink, white paint,  graphite, fishing wire, shadow directed lighting source, dimensions variable.

“A useful mechanism for my art practice is to reveal the ‘other’ the ‘hidden’ and to position the self in composite architectures. Such an activity extends, reflects off the self and into the experience of the viewer. I acknowledge artificiality and the ability to decode ornament and decoration as being representative of a particular culture. 
My aim is to unravel and reveal the perception of the complex issues of the fragmentary self through repetition, the exposure of multifaceted layers, highlighting the fragility and instability into easily mutating states of being.” – Abby Seymour

That lovely time in Art history known fondly as Postmodernism (are we there yet?) has complicated the nature of identity formation for what seems like an eternity. Abby Seymour’s piece is no exception, as it visually and physically demands decoding by the viewer. Appearances can be deceiving and this is perhaps the most intriguing element of this work, for if you don’t actively seek out the work, you walk away with a one-dimensional reading.
The suspended paper jungle architecturally performs as a person, letting you see certain things from certain distances and angles. It systematises the “art” into spatial segments, the ‘hidden’ wearing the mask of the ‘visible’, and vice versa. This breaking down of the self can be seen in Emma J Davis’ work, also subscribing to this method of reveal. Where Seymour lets you attribute your own code to the decorative elements (for example, a circle equals a particular personality trait), Davis offers you a flexible choice of categories.

Emma J Davis, Take, 2007.

My Desire to have Everything that is Worth Knowing ‘On Call’

Like Dan Graham’s ‘Poem Scheme’ the text [19.10.2007 and Workbook] is not to be read through the ‘main’ text only, but the periphery, through the bibliography, the images, the notes, the quotations, the references, the thoughts that you have when you navigate through the links and connections.
[Index 1] [Index 2] Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 15:45 by emma j davis in Practice, Network, Language, Drawing, Keywords, Machines, Mapping, Open, Knowledge, Hyperlink, Relationships [non human] | Post a Comment

‘The ties that bind’ is a phrase that lingers in my mind when I enter into Emma J Davis’ ‘rhizomic’ world. It is not net art, nor is it solely communication via technology, although these two things function as signposts for Davis. The work Take absorbs key words listed by participants in a dating website on their profile for other users to see. ‘Naughty’, ‘outgoing’, ‘mysterious’, ‘open-minded’, etc, scatter the profiles of millions of avatars in cyber space. What I have always found disconcerting about these labels is their actual function, for they are used to attract potential partners and describe the ‘real’ person, yet all we seem to do is to accrue them ourselves. I want to be ‘sexy’, therefore I put it on my profile and I am. I can also make my best friends ‘sexy’ and collect a desirable identity for them too. Davis highlights the addictive nature of this type of language and act by allowing us to indulge in this virtual activity within the gallery space. Furthermore, the plethora of relationships between the key words creates a conglomerate of information that is hard to shake off.

Catalogue text by the artists and Marion Piper 2008.