Private fears in public places
A media art exhibition by Australians delves deep into the multiple layers of human consciousness and communication
For many years, Australia has presented a number of touring media art exhibitions at venues across Asia. Increasingly popular in this technological age is the use of digital media as a new form of artistic expression _ from video art to the manipulation of images _ and a new exhibition from a group of Australian artists explores this idea.
In October 2005, The Art Center, Center of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University, hosted an intellectually challenging exhibition in collaboration with the Australian embassy in Thailand. The show, titled "Supernatural Artificial", offered a new comprehension of contemporary photo-based art. Interestingly, the showcase evoked the audience's enthusiasm in learning about the new tools of the art world and the unique content supplied by the various techniques of image capturing and image making.
A new Australian exhibition, "Selectively Revealed", is currently on show at Chulalongkorn Art Centre. It is a roadshow programme that has already visited Korea and Taiwan. Bangkok is the show's last stop before it returns to Australia. The exhibition's carefully selected, compelling content questions the viewer's consideration of the parallel notions between private and public space in the 21st century. The obvious examples that manifest this idea include WikiLeaks, the proliferation of CCTV and reality TV shows, the cult of paparazzi, and the popularity of social networks such as YouTube and Facebook. All of them are vital in re-examining our new borders, behaviours and perceptions.
Fifteen artworks by 12 artists are on display in the show, and seven outstanding pieces are discussed here.
Kicking off with Angelica Mesiti, Rapture (silent anthem) uses a video camera to capture the audience's reactions ringside at a rock concert. Mesiti's visual vocabulary utilises the frame-per-second technique to create a slow-motion image that extends the fans' responses and appreciation by capturing their faces, eyes, beads of sweat and smiles. The meaning of the concert can be interpreted as the intersection between a private and public environment.
The work reveals unseen expressions that most people might not be willing to show in public.
Also using people and faces, in the work entitled Conversation, Anne Scott Wilson casts herself and her friends in an underwater performance. A camera is set up in a swimming pool to record actors delivering their messages and emotions in a self-conversational fashion.
The actors convey a sense of silence, affection, pleasantness, and even dissatisfaction. Air bubbles from the lips of each performer are metaphors for speech issued by the mind.
Wilson projects the image onto a deep-blue canvas, giving the moving-image a painting-like appearance.
Still concerned with self-portraits, the mythological Narcissus was claimed by Julia Burns' work, The Gaze.
Burns' installation imitates the private place of a youth's disordered bedroom. Two TV monitors are positioned opposite each other. Hidden under the bed are two sensors that function when an audience member blocks a signal.
When the sensor is triggered, the boy moves and says: "Please move, I can't see" (his own perfect body is shown in the other monitor). Beyond the physical realm, the installation seems to reproach the ego of youths in the 21st century as people who yearn for the celebrity spotlight given by TV. We should never forget that, in the myth, Narcissus eventually fell into the river and died.
One of Lady Gaga's little monsters stars in We Dance In The Studio _ Michael Zavros' video clip. The artist's daughter plays the role of Lady Gaga and performs in front of a mirror using her father's paintbrush as a microphone.
The video connects the role of being a dad with a painter's duty. Zavros entertains his daughter by playing Lady Gaga's Paparazzi. At another level, the artist is persuading us to come into his private moment. Humorous and cute, the work reminds the viewer of a funny home video uploaded onto YouTube or Vimeo _ a place where the private becomes public.
The most complicated production in the exhibition is Peter Alwast's Relics. Current issues such as urban development, megaprojects and climate change have inspired Alwast to create this digital animation. In his chronicle, unfinished buildings simulate a future living environment where people dwell in a big biodome. Alwast plays with various symbols, for example, MRI images of his internal organs, acoustic sound and chromium organic forms. By allowing the viewer to imagine what it is like to live in this environment, the artist makes people more aware of what life could be like for the human race in the near future. Since our consumption remains high, what will we become?
Using an interdisciplinary approach, Penelope Cain's video works, Survival Skills and Camouflage, are inspired by animal camouflage and urban people's behaviour. The two works are installed in one corner and project images in a similar size. The works seem to reflect and negotiate with each another on the familiar subject of how to keep away from difficult circumstances and of self-protection _ especially in the workplace. Cain attempts to simulate scenes that workers encounter in their office.
In Camouflage, a man uses pieces of A4 paper to cover his body and mimic the pattern of the building, just like an animal camouflaging itself in its natural environment. In Survival Skills, the actress uses huge piles of report documents to build a fort to protect herself from trouble that's coming her way.
At first glance, the quarter-circle shape of Isobel Knowles & Van Sowerwine's You Were In My Dream interactive animation installation can be considered a sculpture. Viewers can come and play with the work and take part in the artists' dream. There are various journeys and dialogues to select while becoming part of the animation.
A boy sleeping in forest is the first scenario. When the viewer clicks a mouse, it awakens the boy and enters the artists' fantasy story. Most characters in the animation are animals, such as a snake, a fox and a phoenix. This opening of the artists' inner minds constructs a way of sharing with others a part of their dreams.
A dream is able to interpret the concealed thoughts and personality of a person, and to mix dreams with reality is a way to invite strangers into the most private of spaces _ the human mind.
By Suebsang Sangwachirapiban
27 June 2012
Anne Scott Wilson’s Conversation
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