FEEDBACK: exhibition essay. 2011
Who are the others that approach a work of art; audiences, visitors, viewers, participants, collaborators, clients, customers, users? The experience of contemporary art is underscored by scripts and roles that dictate to a large extent both the reception as well as the creation of artwork. Feedback features the work of Sydney artists Scott Barnes, Biljana Jancic, Gianni Wise, and James who have created artworks that subtly reflect on the conventions and performativity that underscores the experience of art. In so doing they all question what it is to be present in the gallery space, both for the encountering subject and art objects themselves. What does it mean to present? What does it mean to behold?
Today, the pervasiveness of media, surveillance and documentation within society has eroded the space of reflection and criticality in favor of constant spectatorship and exhibitionism. As a strategy for turning attention to the layers of registration that underpins experience, Wise has appropriated commonplace, electronics store, surveillance technologies to create his piece Willing Participant, 2011. The first of his interventions for Feedback is a sensor located at the doorway entry to the gallery which counts the number of bodies that pass through the doorway and records this number on a small digital counter located opposite the entrance to the gallery space. The other aspect of Wise’s intervention is a more sinister and covert system featuring surveillance microphones that populate the gallery space. Their recordings are then treacherously whispered back through a discrete speaker in a corner of the gallery.
Gallery is a territory governed by rules and etiquette that preside over inclusion and visibility within its domain. As a way in which to echo this aspect of the gallery experience Jancic has created a large scale wall drawing, it’s all about you, 2011, based on a skewed and distorted floor plan of 55 Sydenham Road, including both the gallery and the adjacent (and concealed) studio spaces. The title of the drawing points to the site-specificity of the drawing. However, the title also refers to the mirror effect of the aluminium tape of which the drawing is constructed. The drawing subsumes the presence of moving bodies in the space as well as the glow of other works and spotlights which illuminate them, therefore as the title proposes; the piece is all about everything that surrounds it.
On the opposite side of the gallery the bells toil. The campanologist in charge of these custom produced bells built from reshaped aluminium fire extinguisher nozzles is a laptop computer. It follows the logic of the self-patterning program designed by Barnes with the software, SynthEdit. The system according to which the piece functions is laid bare as a tableau of techno-wares arranged on the floor, cordoned off by industrial warning tape. This piece, (n)haiku, 2010 insists on its presence, it wants to show us what it is, however, rather than offering a simple message it opens perception to impossible questions; what is seen, what is heard, what is understood, what is communicated?
Adjacent to Barnes’ still (kicking) life is a less insistent still-life oil painting by James, the Anglicized, adolescent and long since abandoned alter-ego of the director of 55 Sydenham Road, Iakovos Amperidis. He has grazed the local industrial landscape to source the flowers for his site-specific flower arrangement. The piece is a homage to the area of Marrickville where Amperidis grew up and where he now lives but it is also a reference to the late work of the revolutionary Russian constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. Following the rise of Stalinism in the 1920s within the newly formed Soviet Union, Tatlin had to abandon the radical avant-garde practice for which he is remembered within art history. However, he chose to continue to work as an artist, concentrating on conventional and politically mute flower painting.
Feedback offers a diverse range of perspectives which variously dramatise, exploit, reverse and negate the performance involved in the experience of contemporary art.