- an essay by Chris Chapman
30 May - 30 June 2001
our town to yours
Settled in 1836 on Kaurna land,
Adelaide was developed from a city plan devised by surveyor Colonel William
Light: a square mile of gridded streets surrounded by a parkland belt.
Just over one million people live in and around Adelaide, mostly on a
wide and narrow plain that hugs Australia's southern coast, looking across
the Gulf of St Vincent to where, in summer, the sun descends into the
ocean like the fireball it is, the sea still plenty warm enough to go
swimming at whichever stretch of suburban beach you like. Or you can soak
up the rays all over, at Maslin Beach, less than an hour from the city,
Australia's first legally nude beach.
This is just one of Adelaide's
paradoxes. It used to be refered to as the 'city of churches', and Adelaide
is still the brunt of jokes about its dullness, or its creepy underbelly
(the result of a spate of particularly psychopathic murders throughout
the 1970s). At the same time, the State Parliament initiated leading law
reforms recognising the rights of women, indigenous Australians and gays
& lesbians; and Adelaide has hosted a major international arts festival
every two years since 1960.
Adelaide is a changing city.
Our neighbourhood, the so-called sleazy West End, is being rapidly transformed
via City Council and State Government initiatives into a leading arts
and education precinct. The Experimental Art Foundation moved to a disused
factory in the area in 1987, surrounded by light industry. From our purpose-built
premises (opened in 1992) we are now a stone's throw from two major tertiary
arts institutions, luxury hotels and apartments, groovy loungebars, pubs,
streetwear shops, a skatepark, and an increasing population of students,
tourists and workers.
Adelaide is also a Sister City
to Christchurch. The Experimental Art Foundation has had an informal relationship
with The Physics Room for a while. And about a year ago we decided to
initiate an exchange project that has resulted in this exhibition of work
by new Adelaide artists. In return, a show of new artists from Christchurch,
curated by The Physics Room, will be shown at the Experimental Art Foundation
in June/July this year.
The original concept for this
exhibition was that the works included related to the aesthetics of contemporary
design, graphics and magazine culture. The conceit was that the works
were self-consciously stylish, that their content was their appearance,
that they acted like groovy showreels for themselves.
As curator, I invited a group
of artists to exhibit together at the Experimental Art Foundation with
the intention of the show being developed and presented via collaboration,
it would be workshopped and thinktanked by the team as it were. The artists
understood the codes of the visual media landscape, and some of the work
engaged directly with it.
Over drinks and informal dinners
the project took shape. It acquired a name, a graphic identity, and an
attitude. The work trades on a hip appeal but also slices through it.
The artists aren't interested in deconstructing media methodology, but
in altering the form via codification and poetics.
Kate Stryker's slide projection
work, for instance, translates ubiquitous urban neon signage into abstract
imagery more suggestive of a sunset than a supermarket. In the past Kate
has photographed details of 1970s fabric, or cream-coloured closeups of
domestic interiors so that they appear like minimal paintings. Using basic
techniques (like rapidly moving the camera while taking the shot), Kate
has produced images that suggest painting with light. Her use of slide
projector technology is not to evoke a lo-fi nostalgia, but to suggest
a temporal and measured sequence of imagery.
Light is important to Yoko
Kajio too. Yoko has used projected light and translucent materials to
create environmental works, sometimes involving digital processes. As
an exploration of modes of perception, her work might engage the focus
involved in looking closely at a small digital print of koi swimming in
a pond, or immersion in a space activated by saturating video projection.
Yoko's work in GLEAM is typically enigmatic: a large-scale video projection
shows in closeup a kind of scanning and zooming across sections of photographic
film. The imagery suggests digital paradigms: circuitry or synthetic regimes.
A glowing pile of photographic strips, materially artificial, is also
spookily organic and atmospheric.
Coding is big for Tim Sterling.
Using a system of word association, Tim is presented with a range of elements,
for which he sources illustrations. He then translates these into objects
by meticulously hand-sawing thin sheets of MDF. The elements of his work
for GLEAM include: a Mongolian hat, a necklace, and various plant structures.
These are propped on a base so that it is difficult to discern exactly
what they describe, and they become a network of graphic 3d forms. At
odds with the systematic approach to the creation of the cut-outs, the
object is grounded by a compacted strata of audio cassette tapes, lined
up so that the rows of holes form invisible rods. Two little birds tussle
with a length of rubber (like a worm) threatening to destabilise the whole
thing. The cut-out elements may be smoke, because the title of the work
- BOMB - implies a sense of compressed matter or energy.
James Dodd's enthusiasm for
the evolving graphic codes of urban culture have already resulted in the
creation of several large scale wall paintings, and numerous graphic and
other works that appear across a range of spaces and contexts. James'
work draws upon, and contributes to, the localised languages of skate
& BMX culture and street art. Add to that an interest in Japanese
text and manga forms, and corporate logoism, and his work can be understood
as responding to both local and global imperatives. James' hybridised
text-forms suggest a future language, or better, an existing one customised
by its users.
View GLEAM - curated by Chris Chapman - Essay by Chris Chapman as a PDF
This essay also appeared in
The Physics Room Annual
Published July 2002
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THE PHYSICS ROOM
Old Central Post Office Building
209 Tuam Street
PO Box 22-351
T +643 379 5583
F +643 379 6063
Wed to Fri 11-5.30, Sat 11-3, Sun 12-3
Lion Arts Centre
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South Australia 5000
PO Box 8091
Station Arcade SA 5000
T + 618 8211 7505
F +618 8211 7323
GLEAM was first shown at the Experimental Art
Foundation, Adelaide, in October 2000. The exhibition also included works
by Peter Harding, who is not participating in the tour. The presentation
of GLEAM at The Physics Room is assisted by Arts South Australia. The
Experimental Art Foundation is supported by the Commonwealth Government
through the Visual Arts Craft Fund of the Australia Council, and the South
Australian Government through Arts SA. The Physics Room receives major
funding from Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. Tim Sterling and Kate
Stryker are assisted by the Pat Corrigan Artists Grants scheme.