James Curry

The exhibition makes, unmakes & remakes itself

HELD OVER EIGHT WEEKS AT THE AUSTRALIAN EXPERIMENTAL ART FOUNDATION (AEAF), GONE IN NO TIME (GONE IN NO TIME) DESCRIBES NOT SO MUCH A COLLECTION OF WORKS BUT THE UNFOLDING OF MULTIPLE PROCESSES THROUGH THE SUCCESSION OF FOUR SETS OF ARTISTS OR ‘ACTS.’

As a way of circumventing the static display of objects in a gallery space, each ‘act’ in the program was staged over the course of a fortnight by a pair of artists who actively produced work and also engaged with gallery visitors during opening hours. The work of each ‘act’ was left in the gallery for the succeeding ‘act’ as material to work with.

The teamed artists in gone in no time were, in successive ‘acts’, Annette Lawrence and Jacobus Capone; Yhonnie Scarce and Nicholas Selenitsch; Margit Brünner and Danielle Freakley; and Ardi Gunawan, Katherine Huang and Jason Sweeney with guest Fiona Sprott. A musical performance by AEAF director Domenico de Clario and Sweeney concluded gone in no time.

Given that one of the accepted assumptions of a gallery is that it divides, separates and binds discrete works of art within its neutral surfaces, gone in no time directly called this assumption into question, as objects were accumulated, erased, eliminated and transformed throughout its duration. At the same time, the ‘acts’ transformed the approach to making and exhibiting objects, as artists had to consider working within a dynamic and evolving field of relationships effectively collapsing art’s historical boundaries, such as object/ field, support/supported, close/distant, process/product. While within contemporary art circles this might not seem so unusual, gone in no time went further by dissolving the distinctions between the process of creation, creation itself and the life of the artist, making them one. It is therefore extremely difficult to write about individual works; rather, in discussing gone in no time it is more productive to describe the unfolding of a single project that multiplies space thereby extending the idea of the gallery in both spatial and temporal terms.

Three aspects of gone in no time are of particular interest. First, as indicated, the framework is noteworthy through its activation of time while enabling artists to engineer or intensify (or take up the option of) the accidental and the surprising and, in effect, to bring about a transformation of the space. This was made possible through the exhibition’s sequential revelation, which enabled gone in no time potentially to make, unmake and remake itself. Ardi Gunawan’s reconfiguring of movement through the gallery space, by repositioning and tilting the gallery’s moveable internal walls each day, altered the perceptual field of observers and their connection to the work, while Danielle Freakley (of Quote Generator fame) literally disassembled the space by destroying the work of previous artists, transforming the gallery into an infrastructure of various shifting micro–spaces. Similarly, Katherine Huang’s sensitive placement of an assortment of small mirrors, vents and air-conditioning tubing throughout the space both revealed and explored these spaces through strategies of framing and mirroring at micro scale. In an enjoyable pairing of artists, Huang’s exploration was on such a divergent scale from Gunawan’s that together they produced a cinematic effect, the observer continually negotiating the differences.

The second significant aspect of gone in no time was in its being primarily experiential. Objects matter less than the relations between them: everyone and everything moved either by increment or at incredible speed through the activation of the temporary, the ephemeral and the changeable. For the observer this meant that no single or coherent image or artefact independently embodied the totality of the exhibit. Rather, what one recalls is the multiple fleeting impressions, moods, atmospheres or the ambiences of the gallery space rather than individual objects. The atmospheric drawings of Margit Brünner, for example, both generate and are generative of part of gone in no time’s multiple moods. Collapsing the distinctions between object and subject, the sense and the sensed, the drawings consist of dense layers of delicately produced coloured lines applied directly to the wall by a range of drawing instruments, some up to three metres long. The instruments altered the artist’s relationship to the surface by extending the body, at the same time enabling her to extend what a wall can be. The drawings produced a new depth (as opposed to flatness) by absorbing the observer within a perceptual field that alters the one-to-one, front-to-parallel relationship the observer customarily has with a vertical surface. This field enables the observer to test various distances and positions from which to view the work, at the same time cunningly propelling the observer into motion. Similarly, a particular atmosphere is evoked through Annette Lawrence’s abstract calculations. But unlike the sensuous experiences evoked by Brünner’s drawings, her work depicts an abstract landscape of information made visible through number, pattern and iteration. Informed by the cycles of the female body, Lawrence’s work is both self-reflecting and self-neglecting, tracing the body’s movements through time and space and therefore through another possible dimension—the unreal or the virtual.

The third aspect of interest was that objects in gone in no time were ‘monstrous.’ Substituting promiscuous objects for autonomous ones, creates a deviation from what one expects to find in a gallery space. The stability and circumscribed nature of objects is cast aside for the materially and programmatically malleable, deformable, transformable, bendable and able to be destroyed—gone in no time is, after all, about ruin. Consequently these objects began to take on properties of other works, making it difficult to determine where one artist’s work began and another ended. Jacobus Capone’s work, derived from rituals of “futility, pointlessness, moments gone,” exhibited this monstrous capacity through patterns that slowly threatened to engulf the entire gallery space in continuous expansion. The patterns turned out to be an interesting trajectory to monitor through the several acts of gone in no time. The work took on a second life after Nick Selenitsch sought to discipline the work in Act Two simply by ‘cleaning it up’ only for the work to then undergo a third mutation after Danielle Freakley decided to do a brutal aerosol number on what was initially a delicate surface pattern in Act Three. All of this left Capone’s initial work in a state entirely ‘other’ than how it started out.

These three aspects of gone in no time—its micro-spaces, the monstrous nature of its objects and its varying atmospheres and moods—are provocative and can be extended by analogy with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s ideas of “minor language,” whether or not a conscious influence. If a succession of art movements, styles and artistic figures describes a “major language”—of both the art historian and the institution—then a “minor language,” according to Deleuze and Guattari, is marked by the unruly and heterogeneous, where titles, names and objects fall between stable categories while opening them up to networks of proliferation and connection. In this respect, gone in no time invites consideration in terms of the Fluxus ‘movement.’

While some might dismiss gone in no time as an experiment that overshoots its mark or as underdeveloped or misguided, such assessments overlook the questioning of ideal forms and stable categories that marks gone in no time’s complex relationship to both power and history. Now that all is gone the question remains: how to account for it?

A selection of images and movies which in part document gone in no time can be seen at www.eaf.asn.au/2009/goneinnotime.html

Australian Experimental Art Foundation, gone in no time (gone in no time), Adelaide, Sept 15-Nov 7, 2009

James Curry is a lecturer in Interior Architecture at the University of South Australia and a PhD candidate at the Faculty of the Built Environment, UNSW

 

REALTIME 95, Feb-March 2010