Cultural Product

Cultural Product
Serving Suggestion

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Elastic archive show

At Cross Art

Elastic Projects was invited to put together a show for Cross Art, run by Jo Holder. Elvis Richardson, Lisa Andrew, Anne Kay and I curated this show of works made in the context of archives.

I curated a video programme, and wrote a booklet. I also invited people to my home for tea.
Installation view by Regina Walters
pictured; Liz Day, Liz Pulie, Elvis Richardson
The Gallery as Archive 2005

I identify with collecting for a number of reasons, but mainly because I admire other people’s collections. As a child, my family moved countries a number of times, and with each move, more things would get lost or broken. The notion of hanging on to something for a good long time was unknown. Even the most valuable things can disappear. When I returned to Australia, nearly 20 years ago, I only had two suitcases with me. It’d been my policy to be able to move myself, requiring only a taxi. Since then I have been able to stay put and bring home as much as I can find, within reason. My partner PJ and I trawl the streets for throwaways, collecting what others don’t want. Neither of us can believe what good things people put out on household rubbish collection days.

Collecting and Ownership
I remember being awestruck by giant mountains when I was young, and felt more than a sense of wonder. I felt a desire to own those mammoth things, to contain them, and somehow have access to that majestic beauty forever. Short of climbing them and living there, I felt some satisfaction by doing a drawing, and then I felt like it was in my heart, or at least in my sketchbook. My home and studio space are my archive, and are constantly in use and being improved upon.

For the Elastic archive show I wanted to assemble a collection of video works that dealt with collecting. I liked the idea of using the minute storage facility of the DVD to serve as such a fantastic recording device, holding potentially loads of information. This contrasts so heavily with my work, and my home, which serves as my archive.
The Gallery as Archive show initiates my quest for video works that deal with collecting in some way. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of an archive of video works that attempt to catalogue the notion.

The pre-occupation with gathering together, archiving, storing and collecting seems inevitable. Relatively little from the distant past remains, so we seem to be on a mission to preserve remnants, souvenir our culture, to the death! Who decides what is kept, and what is thrown away? Bart Simpson nearly killed for a comic book. A giant air controlled hangar filled with Sydney 2000 Olympic records exists! I’d prefer to see a museum filled with snapshots taken at Olympic events, by visitors, actually. E-bay acts as the largest catalogue collection in the world. Sci-fi writer William Gibson observed this obsession with thrift-shop hunting and picking may be a sign of “some desperate instinctive re-configuring of the post-industrial flow, some basic mammalian response to the bewildering flood of sheer stuff we produce”.

Regina Walter’s video ‘IN’ is a collection of images of women taking a puff from a cigarette. The camera acts casually, outside a plaza and often there’s an embarrassingly candid gaze of the smoker, as you’re watching them inhale. Magnifying through repetition. The simplicity of gathering together groups of sames appeals to me psychologically seeking order in chaos, but also because it makes you look at those moments with a different concentration. After analysing something, you are much more involved with it. In ‘Smithfield’, the idea extends to asking passer-byes to say “Smithfield”. The random choice of people, and their genuine personalities, as well as their enthusiastic, almost ritualistic boredom makes me feel glad. I see some reflection of myself in those residents, and their quintessentially Australian dynamic is apparent.

Kutlug Ataman’s Küba, shown this year at the Argyle Centre served as an amazing installation of Istanbul resident’s stories. I loved seeing the work, for it’s obsession with tragic stories, fringe residents (they looked like my kind of people), and also it’s physicality. The collection of well-worn Salvation Army armchairs, old televisions, and TV tables had to be experienced, to be believed. The warmth and cosines of those very domestic objects, all varied, making a giant living room out of the old wooden wool store building, and eerily one chair per monitor, all facing South-East (?).

Liz Day’s work The Origin of Ideas is an ongoing inquiry into these places where thought processes meander. An interdisciplinary archive of notebooks showing the intimate working processes of people working across arts and sciences. She records random sequences of sketchbook pages, and as you watch, the sense of following each artist’s neural pathways is evident and delightful. The translation of paper through to video is quiet and fluid. The assemblage of people’s works, and just a taste of a few of their books have a sensibility that achieves so much through passive contemplation. I felt the seminal act of creation was evoked, and made the ordinary quite beautiful. Private jottings and notes are scanned as quickly as a complex drawing or configuration. I watched my own with trepidation, but feel honored to be included. She has been working with other people’s notebooks since 1997 and has a further work planned for later this year, in Tasmania.

Che Guevara’s image lives on in Raquel Ormella’s zines Che 2005. This document of his ever-increasing popularity demonstrates a fortitude, commitment and readiness to record each and every image of Che that came her way over 10 years. The revolution seems to have only begun and his face is everywhere! I think she even culled her collection to keep the costs of printing down. If only Gandhi was as photogenic… The pre-occupation with the subject seems devotedly fan-like, as that’s what is required for a collector. Time is of the essence when you’re collecting. You can go to e-bay and purchase a ready-made collection, but marking time through you pursuit historicises a life’s journey.

When I invited Luke to do something for the show, he wanted to display some aspect of his collection. Mark wearing my t-shirt collection 2005 reminds me of Brigid Berlin’s substantial pile of identical Lacoste© t-shirts from the Pie in the Sky documentary. It didn’t matter how ragged they were, they had done their time and it was integral they were there. Luke’s photographs document a devotion to interesting t-shirts, handsomely modeled by Mark. I admire obsession. It is the commitment that keeps the collection alive. The devotion over time seems somewhat religious to me, I know how enthralled I am, when I find a thing that compliments my collection. Once I have a number of similar items, and they really start mounting up to something, I pore over them with pleasure. Accumulating a substantial collection can make a person famous; someone I knew, knew someone who sold their ABBA scrapbooks to The Powerhouse Museum for $10,000. I wonder if anyone will ever want my collection of tobacco-related paraphernalia!

A couple of years ago I was given some watercolours and I embarked on a series of paintings of packaging I’d amassed. I filled a book with quaint paintings, in the hope that I wouldn’t have to keep all the empty packages forever, that the painting would serve as a record, and that was enough. Unfortunately, when I looked at the paintings on their own, they weren’t as interesting as when they had the object next to them. At art school, studying painting, I was confounded by the length of time it took to paint something reasonable. I moved into photography, where capturing things on film takes a millisecond, but stills weren’t enough.
[2] I went back to the objects themselves.
So, for my own work, I would like to invite visitors to my home, open by arrangement in November.
‘In perpetuity’ seems impossible as I consider our population, era, environment, and history.

[1] William Gibson, “My Obsession”, Wired, January 1999, 102
[2] The removal of the object through photography, and the distance created between the viewer and that original object seems distorted to me. The interruption, or lie of the lens is an easily manipulated tool. How to display photographic works dictates their interpretation. It can be an expensive medium.