14 September - 1 October 2011


Lyndal May Stewart + Madé Spencer-Castle

How Did It Come To This sees Lyndal May Stewart and Madé Spencer-Castle exploring identity, agency and perception. Their collaborative photographic works trace the borders between self and other, inhabiting a space of both literal and figurative transformation.

All forms flatten into their image or are reconfigured and packed into words. You are an imprecise, incomplete shape, but as a word, you are clear, contained, delimited — you begin and end. My mouth opens at the start of your name _____ and it closes after the sound has left my lips. A small trace of you lingers and then is swallowed. Gone.

As an image, your dynamic being is fixed. The liquidity of a moment with you is defined, rendered explicit, made precise; its sounds, its tastes, its duration, the whole animate universe shaking within it — all these things — collapse in upon one another, cancel one another out. An image points to that which it excludes; it traces an outline, stakes out a perimeter — paper thin, skin-deep.

You function as a sign. I am free to use you in a sentence, to cut you out of yourself and paste you somewhere else. I can take you with me. I can keep you alive long after your death. This is why in so many places, taking a photograph is a form of theft.

It was Lacan who spoke of the particularly human tragedy lurking in the mirror. Mistaking our reflection, we are lost to an interminable affirmation of the I in the external world. We spend existence earnestly completing the image we have of ourselves, stringing fragments together into the perfect noose. Captivated, I cover myself with my image. How can I possibly see with this image of myself bound so tightly to my me?

It is rare that we are offered a direct way of seeing the artifice of this blindness, and the work with which Lyndal May Stewart and Madé Spencer-Castle present us, is this opportunity. Me as You, Me as Me, You as Me, You as You acts as a diagram. It is a formula from which an intricacy logically unfolds. From the simplicity of its structure, complexity takes shape; from the detachment and interplay of each artist’s face, an incisive examination of selfhood and otherness, of sameness and difference, takes place.

What happens when a person assumes the form of another? We detect the edges of things automatically, so where is it exactly that you end and I begin? Is that yours or mine? In each encounter, we choose to maintain or ignore this boundary, time after time. What happens when someone re-inhabits their own form and actively wears themselves as a skin?

How did it come to this? How did we end up here pulling the self from the non-self? At the centre of this work is a fortuitous lapse in border control, an openness between two people that allows something else to occur. Mask making is a form of play. Here, it is a game of exchange, a sortie into another’s territory, an opportunity to try someone else on for size. A mask, however, is always a cover, sometimes a screen, sometimes a shield.

You are twice hidden — an image conceals an image. And behind this? From where you stand can you see me? In these photographs, you have two sets of eyes, but can I be seen? In this double vision, I am invisible. I am free.

- Craig Burgess, 2011