photo gallerypublicationspartnersaboutcontact

Public diary of a curatorial girl...

by Deborah Turnbull on 03 MAR 2010


I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to participate in the EXPERIMENTA UTOPIA NOW International Media Arts Biennial, courtesy of KWON MILLER PRODUCTIONS and their fabulous art! Now might be a pertinent time to remind my avid fans <you know who you are...> that The Nauru Elegies @ Blindside Gallery concludes this Saturday 6 March @ 5pm.  Friday night we are having a huge blow out at Shed4 Warehouses, where Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) will perform the score to The Nauru Elegies with a live string quartet.  A VJ will perform both before and after Mr. Miller's concert, for those of us who need to shake a little booty! Tickets available at www.moshtix.com.au!

Below is my cheeky take on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, only a bit more formulaic and reflexive than Billie Piper's portrayal in the BBC adaptation of the blog and books of the British escort Belle du Jour. It's quite a bit less sexy though...


Sunday 14 February 2010

Well my new media-philes...it's Valentine's Day and it seems my heart, once again, belongs to new media arts installation :D I'm in Melbourne for the UTOPIA NOW Media Arts Biennial, EXPERIMENTA's major project that exhibits one year and tours the next, in fact, set to tour Australia over 2010. And why is this important to us, dear readers? It's because the DJ and the architect have made it into said Biennial with The Nauru Elegies project. I have decided to write a shorter blog post each day I'm in Melbourne to commemorate install week for my first (hopefully of many!) Biennials. <hope><hope>

Now normally I would insert a happy satisfied sigh here, but upon leaving Sydney this morning to install a quite significant exhibition for my wee venture, I actually realized that Aram, my usual tech and partner, was actually not coming with me. Now I knew this logically, but this morning as he slept in while I readied myself with the insane amount if things I had to do before I caught my flight at 1:15pm - with 6 mounted posters, 2 projectors, 2 projector plates, a forgotten knapsack from the sketch exhibition for the architect, and my own luggage in tow - I actually realized how terrified I was that he and his calm demeanour and enormous brain and infinite patience were all not going to be with me in Melbourne this week and I entered a sort of state of shock. Not because there aren't reasonably fantastic techies associated with a media arts biennial (particularly one hosted by EXPERIMENTA), but because mine wouldn't be there. It came to me in a shocking and violent epiphany just how much I've come to rely on Mr. Dulyan as an install force. So much so that I have sacrificed many a pair of shoes and beautiful dresses in the February sales to have him work on my last show with me; a seemingly break-through exhibition, and I so badly wanted him involved that I am still making payments to his boss for his time <hi Greg! Love you Greg!>.

Champ that he is, Aram then busied himself with the business of organising me. He carried bags to the car, bought parking passes, found out about airport parking, got us brekky, got me money, advised on how to re-pack my suitcase to better protect the smaller projector and short throw lens, performed HILARIOUS impersonations of airport luggage staff and how they would load my things on and off the plane, and then advised me to ring my friend Gracie to drive me to the airport to avoid a $300 parking cost (Aram never did learn to drive a stick-shift...). Amazing, right? And Gracie and the Fiance now have a car for the week...win-win! What I haven't yet told you is that when Gracie and I got to the airport, Aram was surprise-there to help me with my bags, the excess baggage fee, and loading the posters and projectors onto the over-sized items carousel. He then stayed with me in the airport at my gate telling me funny stories about how his boss' daughter plays hide and seek in such a way as to always let the seeker know exactly where she'll be when they're done counting to 10. This and other funny stories ensued while we waited for my plane to load.

Now, everything got here ok and it's all good and I had a lively evening watching a UTOPIA NOW film titled Second_Skin on the lives of Gamers and the different communities that crop up around them (both virtual and in the real world). Before bed I texted Aram to see how his day was and we had a discussion on a subtext within the film, the one where the virtual gold farmers in WOW have a physical reality in outsourced Chinese companies, with young folks literally working in physical sweatshop-like conditions; a conversation which was quite enjoyable indeed! I can now go to sleep with that satisfied sigh as, in fact, my techie is with me after all. <sigh!>
Monday 15 February 2010

Another day, another day of install! The gallery today was great, we got it painted largely; except for the edging which I'll go in early to do tomorrow. There's this outside gate that shuts at an as-yet undetermined time which makes staying late difficult. I should know, my bags were trapped there last night, victims of early Sunday closing time in Aussie-land. Thanks for the PJ lend Ms Needham! The staff and volis are lovely. We all did, though, tend to err on the side of worst case scenario (I think this is the wrong paint - ha! that was me! And it was! - there's something wrong with this projector, that wall needs edging and more board added to it, those posters look better, and you checked every one, right? those posters aren't hung evenly...). Now independently, these issues don't sound that bad, but continuously over the course of 9 hours and 2 tins of paint fumes later, there were so many little issues like this, that by the end of the day, it's as though a meteor was expected by all of us to hit only that part of the building, leaving a gaping maw of wires and charcoal paint; but then again, media installs are a tad stressful. Wasn't I the picture of immobilized shock at the week ahead just yesterday morning? Isn't my little research initiative about simplifying the install of technical artworks? My, my Ms. Turnbull, my, my. Sometimes this reflecting on my practise stuff is a bit of a sonofabitch!

On the upside, I wasn't immobilized by shock even once today, and I also had to shift 3 plinths, 2 rolls full of posters, and a didactic poster very susceptible to wind currents down 6 crowded city blocks. Thank god for Daine Singer and Blake the voli is all I have to say :D I was, in fact, delightfully reminded of my voli days at the Grafton Regional Gallery, when I helped out with installing touring shows like Art Express and the Archibald Prize (the one where Craig Ruddy won!).

So after a few more paint fumes were inhaled we all decided to chill and disperse about 5pm. I went to the gym and then met the architect for dinner. The gym was in one of those labyrinth malls that I didn't think existed outside of North America. I seriously found the way to my Northcote accommodation in the dark 35 tram stops from the Melbourne CBD and 3 blocks in not knowing the address or street name and I could not find my way out of this mall! I had to ask a barrista for directions...mortifying! The workout was amazing, but dinner in a dicey dumplings place whilst plotting the Asian leg of the Nauru Elegies tour was an even bigger adrenaline rush...oh it's grant time people! So many ideas, so little time, even less money!

More tomorrow... Now, I sleep! Xx
Friday 19 February 2010

Well obviously it was a bit ambitious to think I could write something witty and intelligent each day when I'm doing 10-11 hours days on install, attending talks and having dinners, dinners everywhere. Pfft, I hate respecting my limitations.

Let me sum up the last few days:

1) tape and paint a white gallery charcoal (I annoyingly kept calling it blue, eep!)
2) cover windows with plastic, then cardboard, then marvel at the builders construct MDF walls = gallery transformed
3) bring ladders, plinths, posters, sculptures and mini-catalogs from disparate parts of the Melbourne CBD often in heavy foot traffic and following Blake the super awesome voli quite closely
4) go to the gym - breathe, breathe
5) go to the architect's talk and meet all sorts if interesting people - hi Ester! Hi Helene!
6) paint the gallery some more
7) cut and construct cardboard covers for the interior gallery windows- thanks for saying back to help me Annie Annie!
8) finishing touch ups of paint, wipe the walls and skirting boards free of dust, sweep and mop the floor, re-adjust the spots ever so slightly...and we're done!
...9) oops, pick up ice!

Ok, so now we know why my body is tired and why I consumed a LOT of food over the past week! I even got ladder legs, which the builders empathetically let me know happens to everyone; it's not that attractive to have bruising all cuts all over your legs at shin level from leaning on various ladders, but good thing I brought my R'n'R jeans with me, very suitable to wear under my Marni mini-dress for the launch!

A few things that have stayed quite pronounced in my mind are the questions the artist (and architect) asked me over the course of our few days here:
1) is it normal to have 3 assistants helping me assemble my models? - my answer: probably not, but what a wonderful perk!
2) why were we selected when the program was already set? - my answer: because you're work is outstanding, the collaboration between an architect and a DJ quite interesting, the subject matter very timely, and the opportunity to do a large scale concert with said DJ too good to pass up
3) what are the internal politics of the art world in Australia? - My answer: ...errrmm, more wine?
4) what other funding can we apply for while the work is touring with EXPERIMENTA to grow and change the project, so we can get it into Asia? - my answer: I have a few grants I'm looking into that include a tour of Asia..." CUT TO OPENING night with my lovely colleague Melinda introducing Annie and I to her artist Michael...funnily enough, they are doing some shows in Asia....hmmmmmmm....

See my fellow new media spies? My networks are far-reaching indeed!


Hysterical fatigue...a by product of the superwoman stereotype?

by Deborah Turnbull on 02 FEB 2010

Wow, I'm tired. Are superwomen allowed to be so?

The show by the DJ and the Architect I hosted over December and January have scored me all sorts of contracts and I'm so busy, I can barely help organize their new exhibition in Melbourne; Experimenta's UTOPIA NOW! Media Arts Biennial...how cool is THAT?!?! As happy and as grateful that I am in my recent successes (I was also able to garner an audience with PHM Director Dr. Dawn Casey to discuss <assistant> curatorial opportunities at the museum...whoo hoo!), I just can't seem to side-step my numbing, hysterical fatigue that makes me scream at security guards that won't let me park at my own work and boyfriends who grab my stomach chub (sorry guys, sorry Aram).

<how was THAT for an opening paragraph? How can you NOT read on...>

Amidst all this activity, and the wonderful day I allow myself each week to clean my house, do my laundry, watch television, and go to my favourite happy dance class at the gym; I've noticed that there are a lot of interesting things happening on TV.  <Now when I say TV, I don't mean the one at my house with rabbit ears...I mean the TV shows that Aram downloads and we watch on the big screen at the studios...its wicked fun!> The dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and class full of grown men & women attempting to do hip hop are all pretty much the same.

It's not the only thing I've been doing lately, watching TV, but the few things I've watched have been quite intriguing; ranging from head-scratching, to spot-hitting, to hilarious, to being so socially reflective that I can't believe Joss Whedon's shows keep getting cancelled 1 season in <I miss you Firefly!>. Perhaps he should cut out the cheesy romance segues and focus on his critiques of how technology has become tantamount to breathing in contemporary society...eh? EH?

Take, for example, some of the fluffier competition. How about a show close to my own heart: Cougar Town. Have our imaginations seriously ceased to evolve in the romance department so much so that the hottest fantasy we can come up with for women is being in our 40s, divorced, collagened up, not as smart as generations previous, and panting over younger men? I saw an article in the Sun Herald this past weekend that had sourced the careers, neighbourhoods, and haunts of said demographic in Sydney. Apparently they hang out in my neighbourhood (well, just up the road actually)...and a quoted speed dating service was cited as having said that their Toy Boy night is the hottest selling product with a 95% sell out rate. Eep...isn't my boyfriend 7 years younger than me? Don't worry, I'm apparently not a Cougar ‘til I'm 40 (8 blessED years away :D). The funniest thing about this show are the supporting characters, these emasculated men who hang about waiting to score with the one eligible woman in the neighbourhood who isn't the stereotypical dumb blonde. They score with her a lot...

Now about Mad Men, how beautiful is Christina Hendricks? And I'm not just saying that because she is a voluptuous red head who's character has done more than a little for my self esteem this past year...she's actually pretty seriously and fabulously bad-ass. As for the show, this is a show about when men were expected to be aggressively male and women who are expected to be coquettishly female. If it's historically accurate, in America these identities were intrinsically tied to an economy which grew out of advertising. These men! They earned the household wage, ruled their homes with a firm hand, shagged about on the side, drank and smoked to deal with the pressures of being the sole wage earner (often at work), in fact they are the very embodiment of why the Women's Movement in the West reared it's feminist head when it all got out of hand. Funnily enough, the one character with feminist leanings <played by Elisabeth Moss> is not cast as pretty; she's wicked smart though, that cunning kind of smart that seeks out the weakest man in the herd, messes with his head, sleeps with him before any of the other secretaries arrive for the day, and scores copywriting assignments on the DL saving more than one account for the firm.  She is one of the best things about the show, and at best she's considered interesting by her male colleagues for donning more stereotypically masculine characteristics.

Some of the other female characters smoke and drink wine while pregnant, or use the washing machine for activities other than washing clothes, some of them even have affairs...but on women in the 50s, these actions are not portrayed as attractive or powerful, and at this point the show becomes rather didactic <yawn>. On the upside, there's also so much antiquated technology scattered about the set, it's enough to make me form a fist and grasp it to my chest while grinning. Give me a Bakelite radio, a fan over an air conditioner, and a typewriter over a laptop any day (well...at least on set...I'm not sure I could technically live without my iPhone at this stage!)!

It's also rather brow furrowing to consider a workplace where women would go to meet a husband rather than earn a career. Seriously, the characters in the show are hanging to take a man's name, rather than earn a name for themselves...are there other options to life that working for a living? If so, je ne comprend pas. My dad never taught me that part while we got up at 5am to do my paper route from age 9, and my mum left it up to me always saying I should do whatever makes me happy. After all she did; and she was trained in secretary school from age 16 and met my dad on a beach while vacationing with her friend...5 years after her first husband died of a heart attack when she was 21. Then she travelled from England to Canada and America, bearing my father 7 children and keeping us all relatively sane before embarking on a retail career at the age of 58. She's pretty damn amazing if you ask me, with one of her most famous quotes being, "life's never boring, dear." She still has a Manchester accent :D

Amidst the snooty wit of Frasier; the sex, violence, drug/people trafficking and drunken disorderliness of The Wire, and the married, comfortable humour of How I Met Your Mother, Joss Whedon's DOLLHOUSE has some relevant things to say about contemporary society. Clearly it's fractured and emotional because its lead by strong women who are able to dominate, subvert, and control their male counterparts into protecting them in their fight for survival while simultaneously working for a feared male figurehead. The most intriguing part of the show is how people become the vessels for emergent technology. Errant members of society are wiped of their personalities (which are backed up on hard-drives) and programmed with docile space-holding personalities that paint, do yoga, sleep, shower, and occasionally keep falling in love with each other no matter how many personalities you submit them to. They're kind of like well-behaved zombies that thrive on "treatments" (the personality transplants) rather than braaaaaaaaaaaaaains!

The personalities are decided on by corrupt clients (a dominatrix here, a wife there, a toy boy over there, an assassin further over there, no no, to the right...) and the trysts are facilitated by the vile Rossum corporation whose R&D department are interested in the active architecture of one's brain and what it can survive in any given situation. On each job a "doll" goes out on, they are guarded by a male handler, whom for the female dolls, become father, brother, and lover figures. Though there are female handlers, the storyline between them and their charges aren't explored.

It is no coincidence that the female protagonist is the only character able to multi-task to the extreme, breaking down the boundaries of her cranial compartments and allowing up to 40 personalities at one time, including folks with homicidal, sociopathic, and martial arts tendencies. After all, of the two genders portrayed within the show, women are the ones who display more aptitude for multi-tasking. Echo, said protagonist, is cognizant of each personality at all times and can switch them about at will. She is a fully functioning schizophrenic with no need for medication. In fact, her malfunction makes her stronger, better, well-rounded, and more heroic for being conveniently flawed. Is she a better role model than the femme fatale portrayed by Christina Hendricks? Hmmmm....it seems a weakness is still required for her to be desirable, though she never does tell her handler how she feels about him. <poor hot hot Paul>. Well, her second handler, after the father-figure one betrays her and she moves on to the lover lover...typical!

What I love about Joss Whedon, is that he'll take a story line that's working well to the ultimate extreme. He's no stranger to strong women in lead roles; Buffy, Faith, Willow, Cordelia, Fred (and her fab demi-god, alter-ego Illyria) Zoe, Inara and River spring to mind across Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. God, he's so much fun when he goes off the deep end, how could he not do the same thing when it came to the tech theme in DOLLHOUSE? The pinnacle moment is when the genius in the show finally creates a tech so all-consumingly fantastic that it makes EVERYONE a violent butcher doll! Well, everyone except the few fat-cats who want to control the wasteland the Earth becomes. <The zombies get braiaaaaaaaaaaaains afterall!>

In this global community of enforced classicism, it's no surprise that there springs to life an underground faction who fashion a symmetrical input devise onto their faces, hack tech and upload it into their brain at will; removing any skills they don't need in that given moment, wearing their pride around their necks on USB keys that look alarmingly like trophy teeth. This tech allows them all the skills of a ninja with none of the practise or discipline; all the dialects of every language without immersing oneself in the culture or learning the verb tenses; it's a life achieved by shortcuts, and the humans trying to keep up with their addiction to technology are exhausted.

Now, the analogy is clear. I get it. I feel the exhaustion myself. But there has GOT to be a balance to how we gals are portrayed on screen, so that we can navigate our lives with said balance with our plucky side-kick, technological gadgetry! <must we be heroes ALL the time, gentlemen?>

... and Cougar Town cannot be it.

WATCH THIS SPACE for further updates on the life/technology balance...

This just in...a month in the life of Deb.T.

by Deborah Turnbull on 23 NOV 2009

I fear my blog posts are becoming too long.

As such, I thought I would just update you on my happenings and include a sort of photo diary.

This blog = visual learning...I love it!

Since last post, I have:

1) bumped out Spring & Asura - Disturbance from the ATVP ( insert raucous applause and general worship at a successful show ... )

2) submitted a book chapter with Aram on the roles of the curator and technologist in interactive art to the CCS research group ( don't even ASK about submitting the bios and abstract...late, late, late, some shouting on my part, some wide eyes from Aram...oh me, oh my, oh Aram...). Wow, I am NOT attractive when I'm angry...why is Aram still adorable when he's scared/annoyed?

3) flown to Melbourne to meet a new client ( subsequently I've had teleconferences with said client's associate in New York and contracted IxC to design - Hi Greg! - and code - Hi Aram! - the interactive elements in league with the new clients...fun fun fun! ). Hysographics and bathymetrics and political and financial associations and film clips and a classical score ... oh my ... here We COME!

Oh! And while I was in Melbourne, I went with said new client to the Peter Greenaway projection at the Melbourne Art Festival and got some amazing shots (yea, the above ones...) ...well, before the voli caught me, knocked my arm (that's the last shot), and said quite sternly, "AbsoLUTEly no photography". It's for my blog held absoLUTEly no weight...boo. <insert new client snickering here>

4) had a meeting with Mr. Connell and Mr. Zerbib at Wasabi Digital re: future collaboration opps. for EPIDEMIC (or in French, EPIDEMIK...with a distinctive -ique sound at the end!).

5) installed a new show at Beta_space as <returning> guest curator ( is that a category? ). We launched PEGASYS and had artist talks yesterday...FUN!

6) planned the grants applications for the Newington Armoury Memory Flows exhibition next year with the CMAI Director ( the other research group I belong to :D )

7) organised and executed a curator-led basement tour for my staff at the PHM (thanks Mr. Brace! Thanks Mr. Connell!) - my fave objects were the Bakelite radios and gorgeous photographic plates (which, when we were in front of them, I reminded <read nagged> Aram not to use the flash on the camera for them and panicked a bit when I saw the orange light...turns out he was focusing, and I got a mini-lecture in front of everyone that he knows what he's doing...whoops...girlfriends are annoying too, I guess! <who'd've thunk it, eh?>. I made it up to him by saving his life when Matthew tried to squish him between the rotating shelving system ...who says I don't love him, hey?). Oh, and Gage-y has invited Mr. Connell to contribute to her next issue of Ampersand Mag, a photo essay on old school typewriters...exciting!

8) Next week training encompasses a trip to the Sydney Observatory! Sometimes, I really love my rent paying job...my boss is great, it's uber-interesting, and they actually let me drive company cars...if only I didn't have to wear a uniform (or sensible shoes...although at the minute, they are black and pink Asics Tigers...schweet!)

9) photographed the PHM education department's latest venture...demonstrations and discussions on global warming, a key feature of which is a giant block of ice melting out in the forecourt (psst...that's Ali Gordon on the left and she's wearing the Tiger Asics!).  Next week a different EPD officer will be hosting Tibetan monks for Compassion Month. My colleague has been updating us with the joys of making firm arrangements with such a Zen crowd, and there was much giggles at the morning briefing at setting them up a chill out zone ... see what I mean about my rent paying job? It's PRETTY COOL!

Wow, NMC and its redheaded Director have had a busy month! This week, I will be applying for exhibition love from the RMIT Gallery...cross your fingers that a conference on digital drawing will be interested in what I am proposing...

Other than that, I have been:

1) hanging with Aram, who took me for GORGEOUS dinner at the Brasserie last week, thank you bebe! I really need to stop shrieking at him all the time... Above is a pic of us there last March taken by Florian Schaeffer (partner to Conny Dietzschold). I fell in love with the fancy decor, and Aram fell in love with the steak Tartare. I've since developed very strong feelings for the escargot...

2) helping Gracie plan her wedding (oh for the love of VERA WANG, I've been promoted to Maid of Honour!). Above is the dress I get to wear from JCrew! HOT!

3) visiting little j and the lime baby as much as I can (I WENT TO THE FIRST ULTRASOUND TODAY AND SAW THE LITTLEST j ONSCREEN!...disguised as Jimmy's sista of course!!).  It was amazing! All fingers, toes, limbs and little profiles accounted for and a strongly beating heart! FABU!

4) trying to have civilized late night confabs with Ms. Dias, so that the neighbour lady suffering from dementia doesn't scream through my front door that I'm making too much noise in the hallway.

It's a busy life, isn't it?

Good art, bad art: a redhead's guide to the gallery

by Deborah Turnbull on 09 NOV 2009

Brendan and ChrisSo it’s the day before my next show. We’re mid-install, it’s hot as summer outside, I’ve got a gallerist hanging off a ladder hiding wires with conduit, technologists working on the guts of a system that is 4 screens welded together and an install guy that knows how to do a fantastic grid hang, mount an LCD and put up a poster mounted on gator board without blinking an eye.  It’s been a good day so far and I only got to the gallery at noon (was writing my opening speech, chasing the guest speakers, advertising, liaising with print services…OH! And I went to the gym…I officially rock!).  The flyers AND posters are ready, so I am geared up to paper the city with announcements for my show. For anyone who knows anything about install week, I’m in the throws! So today…TODAY… is the day my boyfriend of 18 months tells me he wants to blow off work and go to the beach…I can’t believe it! For 18 months I have been trying to get him to go to the beach, and in those 18 months he’s been dragged along exactly twice and wouldn’t go in the water either time.  He loves the mountains, what can I say?

Yea, so I wrote the above in an attempt to capture a snapshot of the stress we go through during install week.  It was also an attempt to not shriek at poor Aram down the phone in front of the entire crew, a not so professional act that occurred once before when he was accidentally 2 hours late to an install (I know your internal clock is different than mine, honey, and that in share houses you do have to wait your turn for the shower, and god bless you for being so relaxed, but you know my motto during install week: DON’T MESS WITH ME!).  So instead of using the F@&$ word again in front of two surprised artists that later praised the dickens out of Mr. Dulyan, this time I just said I was busy working and I hoped that he would enjoy the beach.  He did, he sent me updates via text.  Not that I don’t want to support my boyfriend’s ever evolving personality (go babes go!), I guess everyone can and does change…but, y’know, the timing couldn’t have been worse.  It’s kind of how I feel about everything that’s going on in the art world lately.  Juuuuuuust when I have the busiest schedule humanly possible, there’s all sorts of fabulous things going on, and quite a few not-so-fabulous ones as well!

Just prior to crunch time for getting Spring and Asura.02 – Disturbance up and running at Brendan Pentzer’s At the Vanishing Point, I was invited along to Conny Dietzschold’s 20th Anniversary show: When Ideas Become Form.  As I used to be her Gallery Manager, used to work for one of the exhibiting artists (hi Ernest!), AND had just shown a slightly different version of said artist’s work in my UTS show, I wasn’t about to miss it.  Plus, Aram really enjoys art openings, and can be unbelievably buoyant about getting difficult exhibitions up and running (and difficult curators for that matter <smile>), which he had done a few weeks prior for said artist, who is also his thesis advisor. Ah what a wonderful web we weave! It’s pretty cool, actually.  But wait…I digress…

Shard DanceThe CDG 20th Anniversary show was nothing short of amazing.  Conny had recently converted her Multiple Box Studio, adjacent to the CDG Gallery, into an online gallery effectively doubling the size of her physical exhibition space.  She now uses this space for invited curatorial projects (exciting!).  At centre stage between the two galleries is an enormous Shard sculpture, and we were treated to an interpretive dance performance involving that very sculpture.  All around us were some of the strongest works of some of her top artists: Chun, Kwang-Young; Daniele Buetti, Ernest Edmonds, Pollyxenia Joannou, David Thomas, Claudia Terstappen, Venske & Spaenle…and believe me, the list goes on! Of course, I was a huge fan of the only “interactive work” in the room and made sure to tell Ernest that in a room full of outstanding art, his certainly stood out; a compliment which he received very well actually.  Aram was a huge fan of Chun, Kwang-Young and picked Aggregation07-D120, 2007 as his must have in the room.  Too bad it’s $110K buddy, but if nothing else, my boyfriend has taste.  It is absolutely stunning though, and is comprised of intricately folded Chinese paper.  The result is a variant landscape Chun, Kwang-Youngof sometime colour that is surely heavier than its materials would suggest due to the sheer size of it.  In close contest was the Anne-Karin Furunes portrait Eyes, 2004; and the entire Buetti wall comprised of 5 light boxes, the Joannou painting and chair installation, the Liz Day triptych, the Lisa Andrews sculpture, the Rosa M Hessling objects…I mean I really could go on and on.  There are days when I sorely miss being surrounded by beautiful objects all day long, and today was one of them. Too bad I was crap at selling…I had this thing where I always wanted to talk about the art…funny that. Oh, and the subsequent celebration dinner following the launch at La Brasserie was also delicious, and we got to meet Lisa Andrews’ partner, Stephane Zerbib, Executive Producer at Wasabi Digital…my do we have plans for him!

I found myself back at Danks Street when doing my flyer drops the same day I wrote the above introduction.  Conny showered us with VIP invites to the Affordable Art Fair, too bad they were launching on the same night as S&A-D.  She apologised she wouldn’t make it along, but I said that’s ok, I wouldn’t be able to make it to her launch either. Besides it kind of clashed with my case of extreme poverty at the minute, so really it would just be torture.  Sweet beautiful torture, but torture nonetheless, yes?  A. and I also stopped in to visit Dominik Mersch and Gabriella Roy to see if they would like to come.  Gabriella (director of the Aboriginal and Pacific Gallery) was happy to see us and wished us well with the launch, but wouldn’t be able to make it.  There was something on at the Art Gallery she must attend.  She was particularly happy to see Aram because he networks their computers and is generally lovely to them, so she was asking him a bunch of questions about her home computer and the new one she wanted to buy and how it would affect the gallery computers, and so on and so forth.  As I caught site of Dominik’s gallery, I started to inch away from the computer talk and towards the clicking of a projector and the thickly layered oil paint on the canvases of Clemens Krauss.


I walked into the Dominik Mersch Gallery and my jaw dropped. Stunned and affected is a hard look to pull off when you’re in (what I call my Madonna addidas) trackies, hot and sweaty from install, wearing no make-up, and with your sunnies on your head. Not only was I entranced by the bird’s eye view portraiture of Krauss, which are extremely beautiful by the by, but I was completely blown away by the working installation. The portraiture is all the more stunning in their execution, their layered complexity, but it is more the removal of subject matter from its environment that immobilised me. The perspective of the painting is one of height and void and is completely and positively arresting.  The film installation Wandlungen, meaning conversions or metamorphosis, is a new work this year and the first version (or might I say iteration?) of this piece.  It took up the whole room (2 galleries, and so not a mean feat!), is comprised of 2 old-school projectors (like clickety-clack projectors from health class in grade school), 16 mm film strung all over the gallery by a (yes indeed ladies and gentleman) miniature pulley system, and finishes off with wickedly sensuous projections of nude flesh. Now I never saw a nipple or naughtier, but they were sensual enough that I likely don’t have to tell you where I found Aram once he was finished chatting with Gabriella.

Filled with buoyancy, I returned to the ATVP with more zest and made a vow to myself to visit the MCA on my next day off.  Now that didn’t happen until 10 days later, but I can tell you what I found when I got there.  I found Primavera and Making it New.  Now I usually go on these excursions with my friend Michael (who consequently, is letting me fit out his new apartment with contemporary work IF he ever buys one…hi Michael!), but he’s been very busy lately, as have I.  I also work on weekends (booooooooooo!) so we usually count on evening excursions.  This trip to the MCA took place at a lunchtime after I saw my friend Gracie’s new engagement ring (boo-yaka The Boyfriend, is all I have to say!), and after crying and gushing over the beauty that is her newly adorned ring finger, I told her repeatedly that my ex-husband would rue the day he messed me about.  I’m supposed to have forgiven him by now, I can tell from my girlfriends’ voices when we discuss him that this is so; nonetheless, I found the time to text the following to Gracie when she was in a life coach meeting: RUE! which MIGHT be the reason why I walked the wrong way to Circular Quay and wound up very close to the 6 lane entrance to the Harbour Bridge.  Whoops!

I retraced my steps and found the MCA eventually.  Quite smug (incorrectly enough), I entered the museum amidst fluttering jacaranda petals and a bustling harbour.  What I found inside was not so fluttery.  It’s my fault that I expected an exhibition called Making it New to be about new media, it’s just the way I think and I know it; but I was very disappointed regardless.  After that let down (totally my own fault) everything was tainted, so the fact that I was met with a mixture of textually rendered politico banners, airplane mobiles, constructivist sculpture and paintings, and a VERY strange room comprised of blown glass chickens lost in shallow ponds didn’t thrill or captivate me. They made me kinda grumpy.  I cheered up considerably after seeing the end result of that last room (which was a hiLARious stop motion animation by Tom Moore featuring a large pecking chicken).  What I had seen was apparently the set for said hilarious stop motion animation, so I forgave it a little.  It was still a bit kitchy for my taste, and had it not been for the projection by Khaled Sabsabi titled You, 2007, I might still have stormed out, just stopping along the way quickly first to see Primavera :D.

Sabsabi_YouYou, though, is amazing.  One walks into a built room, and when you open the door, you are blinded by dual projections and deafened by the roar of incessant chanting.  As you rub your eyes and wheel around, the wall, including the door you just came through, is covered in a checkerboard projection of the same image repeated on an alternating light and dark grid.  Occasionally the face of the middle-eastern subject is illuminated out of focus (like how we Christians would recognise Jesus if he ever visited us…this one is for you, Aram: did you know that you can’t see His or any other angels faces, or yours will melt off in shock…apparently…), only to return in more stark contrast than previous.  It turns out that the subject was Hassan Nasrallah, the now leader of a Lebanese paramilitary/social justice movement called Hezbollah.  Turns out he was elected after the last leader was murdered by Israeli factions in the early 90s.  It also turns out the chanting was compiled of crowds of people all saying ALLAH HO AKBAR! (God is great!) again and again and again, while Nasrallah smiles and is illuminated and contrasted, and smiles and is illuminated and contrasted.  Turns out that along with running hospitals, Nasrallah’s pro’s list is pretty much topped with chasing Israel out of Southern Lebanon and brokering the freedom of a BUNCH of prisoners on both sides of that skirmish including getting his own son’s body back from Israel, so they pretty much love him there.  Hero. As a Sydney audience member, I was edified, humbled, and blinded with my own advantage.  WIN!

Sprigg_Mechanical NuisanceI’m a little more familiar with Primavera’s mandate, so I knew to expect installations and the glowly lights shaped like taxi cab signs that I’d seen in SPECTRUM the previous week.  Where I didn’t really understand the pie/photograph OR circular chair installations that greeted me, I was completely lulled by Michaela Gleave’s Raining Room (seeing stars), 2009.  I’m telling you I almost didn’t go in because of the raw exterior and obvious water pump recycling system.  I thought, huh…weird sculpture and was about to carry on when I saw someone pop out the far side.  As such, I went around and investigated further, finding to my delight, a darkened enclosure with a wall of illuminated rain falling just so.  It was beautiful and meditative and natural as well as being built.  I loved it, but didn’t know how it would fit in my apartment as it was the SIZE of my apartment.  Still, I wondered about a model size…hmmmm. Other honourable mentions within Primavera include Roderick Sprigg’s Mechanical Nuisance, 08-09 which featured very ghostly and ethereal projections of farmers onto Perspex, and Ross Manning’s Sad Majick, 2009, which alluded to early projection tricks via shadow puppetry with stamped prisms and a pen light. 

I would like to finish with a couple of other consolations within Making it New (Yeah!). Along with Sabsabi’s You, I also very much admired Alison Alder’s screen prints and Archie Moore’s Graphics Trompe L’oreille…Finally!, 2006; the former because of it’s repetitious colour and gridded order, and the latter because it was made of mirror paper and included the slogan I AM A BANKER! on the bottom.  I’m not…so obviously it was hilarious!

Visit the CDG 20th Anniversary Show: When Ideas Become Form until today, Dominik Mersch Gallery’s Krauss exhibition In Situ until last Friday, 7 November 2009 (though I’m sure he’s still got a few around…I so LOVE the way he has a mini show after every exhibition of the works before he puts them away…it’s fabulous really) Making it New until the 11 November 2009, and Primavera until the 22 November 2009.  Please note that Making it New is NOT A NEW MEDIA SHOW!

Surveillance, forensics and hive minds: contemporary social consciousness is cool!

by Deborah Turnbull on 18 OCT 2009

Do you ever feel like technology is against you?  Last month, the month before the rego on my car was due, I had to take it in twice for servicing due to the sad little sound it made when I tried to start it (oooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwoooohhhhh). I am now the owner of a brand new $185 European battery.  I own a 1993 Dae Woo…tell me why the fancy battery?  Then, once my Woo was running again, I came home to a crashing symphony in my kitchen that turns out to be my fridge humming at a much higher frequency than normal.  The crash at the end before the motor turns off indicates that it may have left the muffler a few kitchens back…sigh.  During months like these, I feel as though perhaps my electronics are in cahoots.  Not the laptop, iPod or wireless modem; but the older appliances…the iron, the fridge, my car, the clock radio, and sometimes even the antennae on my box TV set.  Are they all in it together…are they surveilling me?...waiting for the opportune moment to accept their engineering blueprints as obsolescent objects and just settle into the scrap yard with all the other old appliances?

Hmmmmmm. I received a happenstance invitation to a performance along this vein last month.  Happenstance in the event that my tech manager was called to their aid at the last minute to find out how to correctly trash a Windows 3.0 system so that it could be used in subsequent performances.  Sometimes, I love our world and the artists that inhabit it (other times I don’t, but I’m trying to do this Complaint Free World thing, so I am keeping my complaining to a minimum…sigh).  The artist was Julia Burns and the location was the Cleveland Street Theatre (the old Performance Space).  I knew Burns work through our collaborations at Beta_space, and I had seen her installation prowess in works such as The Gaze and Drifting (the latter a Beta_space prototype that garnered her funding from D/Lux Media Arts to develop and tour the finished product).  I also can’t say her last name with thinking of Mr. Burns from the Simpsons and tapping my fingers together while saying “egggggggggggggcellent!”, but that’s another story.

tvAram and I arrived right on time, and were greeted by Julia, offered wine, and introduced to her collaborators. The first objects for our perusal (and subsequent analysis) were a small television with a quartered screen atop a non-descript table. This television depicted the image of a man working at a computer in an enclosed space.  This space was one of 3 we were moving through, the 2nd of which we were about to enter.  This room was set up almost exactly like any surveillance room from a 70s-inspired tv show.  There was large electronic equipment like suitcase-sized recording devices, a reel-to-reel playback system, multiple rows of beige filing cabinets…even moldy pizza.  Too excited to listen to the content of the reel-to-reel, I explored the photos plastered over whiteboards and got as close to the old-timey equipment as I could.  There were even cigarette butts in an ashtray, this room was authentic!

The next room we went into was an intermediary one, almost a storage area fit out with a tv screen boasting footage of another performance work of Julia’s.  Shown in black and white and stretched to further evoke a hurriedness associated with a quick set up, there were benches strewn about.  The space had the smell and feel of storage unit, even down to the artist placing personal objects in it to ensure the space was realistically rendered (plus, I’m always happy to see that we have the same wallet made out of recycled jam tins and purchased at the PHM gift shop).




The final room held a live performance.  The gentleman sitting at the screen was clearly anxious.  There was a security camera pointed directly at him, solving the mystery of the quartered image on screen in the first room.  The walls were lined with sheets of paper depicting line after line of code, internet searches, and Google results.  Something was starting to fall into place for me in terms of understanding the spaces and how they fit together.  Someone was definitely watching this man. 

Julia then came up to me, asking for feedback.  Now I don’t know about you other curators out there, but this is always a tricky situation.  This time it was made even trickier by the fact that I had been talking to Fee Plumely when Jules approached, a colleague I knew when she worked at ANAT. She  had recently moved up to Sydney from Adelaide to work for the Australia Council as the Digital Arts Officer.  In layman’s terms, she decides which new media artists get funding and she lives and breathes technology enhanced arts experiences.  She’s pretty cool actually, and I’m honestly not saying that with dollar signs in my eyes.  Now, my feedback for Julia was this: I love it, it’s fantastic, how did I not even know you were doing this? Why didn’t you ask me for help, I could have done some running around for you, or worked out some signage.... and it went on like this for a little bit while she stared at the wall waiting for something useful she could take away with her to improve her work, boost her reputation and garner representation (her current ultimate career goal).

fb forensics2With Fee also trying to make sense of my ramblings, Julia interrupted me to ask me point blank if I understood the overall theme.  Yes, I think so. It’s about surveillance of the gentleman in the back room. At this point she said, “Did you ENTIRELY miss the fact that this was about Facebook and online surveillance?”  To which I answered, well, um yes. “But what about the reel-to-reel dialogue?” Jules demanded.  I was too excited by the installation to listen! There was moldy pizza in there! I replied.  “But what about all the edited photos, they’re cropped, like you do on FB all the time, didn’t you realise?”  I thought they were regular surveillance photos of suspects or stalking targets, I answered again, pleased with my last minute, quasi-intriguing analogy (cough, cough, ahem!).  Fee’s eyes darted back and forth. Julia declared: “Deborah, please tell me you realised WHAT the gentleman in the back is up to…” at this point, her eyes pleaded with me so badly, I took what I thought was quite an educated guess.  Well he’s clearly done something illegal and he’s trying to cover it up. Is he the one the missing blokes in the first room are after?  “How did you know that?” Jules asked sharply, sensing a kindness in my reply.  Because he’s nervous, and his agitation is increasing, and because Aram told me he’s going to trash the computer. I was trying to make her laugh with that last comment….“Didn’t you READ any of the code covering the wall?! “ she said slowly and purposefully in what was her last attempt to hope that I had tied all 3 rooms together.  Not all of it, there was a lot.  “Goddammit, I should have done labels,” Julia sighed deflated.  Next time, call me and I will do the labels, I said, putting my arm around her shoulders.  Wine? I asked.  She nodded gratefully, “Yes please Deb, red. I haven't slept in four days.” Ooh, I'd better hurry then...

frenzyfrenzy2When I came back with a tumbler full, I heard her talking to Fee about her performance work in Martin Place.  It was a Twitter based work, in which she set up an installation in Martin Place that looked like her lounge-room and Twittered.  This was fed back to the general public, much to their interest actually, on a large screen behind Julia. Aside from being a fantastic art work, Julia also gleaned new rights for performance artists from the local council. As it turns out they previously only gave licenses to buskers.  Well not anymore, I tell you! As I handed the wine over, things were starting to heat up in the back room.  Julia melted into a wall to watch the reactions of the audience, while Fee and I joined Vasili Kaliman (already in a front row spot) to watch this person melt down, taking all his frustrations out on his hard-drive.  As the videographer dodged motherboards and errant chips, said actor took out an exacto-knife and started cutting up the wallpaper of coded paper.  In a frenzy he tore at the sheets, pulling them down, sweating, cursing, and spitting.  He even cut himself by accident and bled on his own shirt!  It was more than a little exciting, and in my own frenzy, I dodged out to the first room to have my experience mediated by the quartered screen, suspending my disbelief and inserting myself into the installation as one of the surveillance cops.  Very. Exhilarating. Indeed!

juliaI tell you, I was well pleased with the evening, especially as I also had an outstanding conversation with Vasili about how FB is one of our new forms of public consciousness. Well, actually I said it was a hive mind, like the Borg in Star Trek Next Generation, but Vasili talked me round to agreeing with him about the public consciousness (apparently it's only MAYBE a huge cybernetic organism that relies on us to exist...).  It’s also where people go to find out news, be entertained, and share in a contained form of public expression.  It really is akin to heading on down to any news station and joining in on the morning/evening newsfeed while simultaneously sharing thoughts on photos of your sister’s new hair style (it’s pretty awesome, Ness!).  I was a little jealous when Vasili told me he had over 800 friends (I’ve always been quite proud of my 300+ status), but he is a well known art dealer who does a lot of his promotion through online social networking tools, expressly Facebook and Twitter.  He’s told me previous that without it, he might not have made it through our recession (or he would have, though not looking so dapper as he usually does!).

Check out Julia Burns' very timely works: Facebook Forensics and Cached Evidence.




Pages: 1 2 3