Stonewall & Mythos (2008-2009)
10 screens (2 installations): Surround
Stonewall is a video installation that was configured for two different venues: Art Centre d'Marnay in France and, in an expanded form and accompanied by a second work, Mythos, for PICA in Western Australia. Whilst the French exhibition preceded the Australian one, the dramatic architecture of PICA’s central gallery presented an ideal venue to show this work and the work was conceived and developed with this space in mind.
Stonewall extended my investigation of the dynamics of monologue and environmental performance. The largest projection component, shot in Queenstown, Tasmania, is anchored to the gallery space and punctuated by a ‘site-specific’ double projection work created at PICA. The large projection shows me engaged in the futile and endless task of ‘talking myself up a hill’. As I climbs through this harsh and barren terrain I recount a winding narrative that cycles seamlessly back on itself over ten minutes, the ‘loop’ is completely concealed in both the text and editing. The title is derived from the idiomatic meaning in which “to stonewall” is to withhold information by distracting or delaying. In the exhibition, the term also takes on a reference to the rock-strewn environment that he negotiates but crucially it also refers to the elusive quality of the story I relate; promising significance yet consistently failing to deliver narrative ‘closure’.
At the opposite end of the gallery I fall through a video trompe l’oeil, two screens which depict, or double, the space they occupy. Both components activate notions of 'site' in different ways, bringing into relief the ‘non-space’ of the contemporary art gallery and contrasting it with the very specific experience of negotiating a 'natural' environment. The endless sysephean rise and fall created by the works register a futility and dark humour that engage with, and question, our endless ‘making sense’.
Mythos is the second video installation created for PICA from work across three years and a number of environments. The work marks a greater shift in my practice, ‘into’ the landscape. It brings together site specific performance works and landscape studies from across a variety of locations in Australia and Finland to engage not only with very particular environments but also this history of our understanding of place. It is an ambitious work using 8 different screens across 3 gallery spaces with soundtracks from each room bleeding into each other and drawing audiences in.
Taking as its structure a form of simple creation myth, Mythos allegorises a transition from the verdant European environment to the arid Australian interior. In so doing it searches for means to engage with the complex history of Australian European settlement and its relationship to our engagement with, and understanding of, the natural environment. It is a truism of Australian art history that the landscape genre has been key to the evolution of non-indigenous Australian identity. It is a truth so unfashionable, familiar and problematic as to be rendered banal. However it remains one of the chief cultural means by which we have come to understand who we are: through imaging, and thus attempting to understand, where we are. With its slow and forensic scoping of plants, dead animals and human detritus, the work attempts to counter the collapse of space and time; in the words of Mywon Kwon, ‘re-particularising’ the landscape by re-inflating space and re-inhabiting time to find contemporary means of engaging with this tradition.