Inside Out, Scope Galleries November 2014


Last year, Liza McCosh, Director of Scope Galleries, generously invited me to exhibit my video work “Gaia is Symbiosis as Seen from Space”. I took this as an opportunity to develop some of the thinking contained in the video as well as to further develop my installation processes. Inside Out marked an important step forward in my thinking about my specific research as well as my broader understanding of how art produces knowledge. I came to realise the extent to which this video work is very much in conversation with the work of colonial landscape painter Eugene von Guerard and his observations which sought to understand the landscape as an interconnected ecosystem. I also came to realise the important role art plays in not only observing and critiquing our relationship to the world but also how crucial it is in proposing new and alternate ways to imagine this relationship.

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I was fortunate to share the gallery with an exhibition titled Embedded produced by Andrea Radley, Gareth Colliton and Karen Richards. Embedded was an acclaimed exhibition of works made during a residency in the Emergency Department at South West Health Care Warrnambool. You can read more about their work by following these links:

I reworked my footage from “Gaia is Symbiosis (…)”, slowly it down and playing it from end to start so as to let the viewer work backwards back to the ground. I also set this footage to a very simple soundtrack, a recording of my washing machine as it works through a wash cycle, occasionally thumping as it spins itself off balance. The spinning footage and the sound of the washing machine were a perfect complement and worked to draw together the sense of the ordinary domestic with the sense of the “bigger picture”. I made a series of sculptures that imitated water hung out on my clothes horse and my ironing board. As a happy coincidence the smell of the running data projector was almost identical to that of a hot iron.

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The following is the statement that accompanied Inside Out:

Through PhD research at the Australian National University Canberra I have been examining the overlap of body and environment as an “aesthetic subjectivity”. This way of understanding subjectivity emphasises how embodied consciousness is embedded in and emergent from its environment- an environment that we primarily experience aesthetically as the combination of sensation, emotion and meaning. A creative practice led inquiry into my domestic environment has centered this research. From this point I have attempted to make sense of and plot my relationship to the larger world in which I exist. I have used photography, drawing, sculpture, written reflection and sound and video recording in this continuous observation of my relationship to space.

Inside Out is a fragment of a larger body of practice that reinterprets my 2013 video work Gaia is Symbiosis as Seen from Space in order to imagine continuity between our ordinary domestic world and the larger social, ecological and cosmological realities we share.

Focusing on the aesthetic nature of our connection to the world has provided me with a way to imagine the materiality of our continuum with time and space. My aim now is to create spaces that convey this to others.

The video Gaia is Symbiosis as Seen from Space was originally created as part of “The Kitchen Table Art Expedition”, an Arts Victoria Artists In Schools Program held at Macarthur Primary School in 2013.

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Memory Flesh

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I have been getting back into my PhD studies over the last few weeks. The main focus of this research is to investigate and develop my notion of Aesthetic Subjectivity. This model of subjectivity looks at the human, or the self, as an enfolding of body and environment, always absorbing and processing (metabolising) the external world in the process of forming its conscious image, drawn from sensory inputs and body states (synaesthesia), of its self in this relationship. Said in another way, looking at how we process the intersection of our inner and outer worlds to interact within “the world”.

I began my PhD in February 2012 by focusing on my relationship to the environment. This took in my childhood and adult geographic environments as well as the socio-historical lineages of these environments. That first year of my research was mainly spent surveying that vast contextual field. A vastness that turned out too overwhelm my core research aims. I was advised by my supervisor, Head of the ANU’s Sculpture Workshop Wendy Teakel, to narrow the aperture of my focus to my immediate domestic space. I was resistant and sceptical to this idea at first and the shift from the theoretically and geographically broader landscape to the absolutely localised space of my immediate world was an at times painful transition. But at my heart I am a good girl and I could see potential in Wendy’s suggestion so I did what I was told to do and set about observing my domestic space through visual diary format.

This process of continual observation has proven to be a rich venture yielding insight into that overlapping of self and space that so enchants me. It gave me the platform that I needed to ease myself back into the production of art itself. I can see a strong little body of works emerging that embody my research concerns. This series of small sculptures considers the way in which we interact with everyday domestic and familial objects, ingesting there physical forms and patterns as our muscle memories form the habits of their use. Through observing myself and my family in our ordinary space I have come to believe that these habitual actions provide the canvas for our social interactions, the shared moments through which we model behaviour and modes of organising emotion, communicate and gesture our believes and values, and so critically yet often so unwittingly imprint each other in shared experience. I use fabric in these pieces as a loaded medium. To me fabric conveys something of the material body, the weaves and intersections and connections of neurons, nerve fibres and muscle, the intricate braids of DNA . It is also temporal, it conveys “social fabric”, the “rich tapestry of life”, the weaves that extend from one generation to the next.

This series of works is titled “Memory Flesh”. I can envisage a kitchen full of these items, the inanimate made aesthetically animate. The work at the top is called “Memory Flesh #3, Unfold Me”. I borrowed a lyric from a beautiful, vulnerable Sia song “Breath Me” . I put this piece up for auction at the recent F Project fundraiser for the Artery and believe it was bought by one Mr Gareth Colliton. I am using a combination of textile work, painting and poly resins to create these expression of the body. I am quite excited to see what else comes through this creative stream.

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Social Schema… this Interwoven Flesh

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This image should be floating around as a free art card in Warrnambool anytime soon. I was still breastfeeding my 9 month old son when I began this painting in 2009. I embroidered a maternal figure, nursing her infant into the canvas after I stretched it. The frame is the base off our old queen size bed, the canvas gathers in the corners and the are sections where the fabric buckles and pulls. This painting had lingered in my imagination for years, when I undertook my Bachelor of Arts Honours through Deakin University I allowed it to finally come through.

I used this Honours year (or year & a I/2 in my case) to examine questions that had perplexed me for sometime- all around the relationship between our internal and external experiences of reality. Was it possible that the external world was somehow a reflection of our internal self-consciousness, perhaps our unconscious too? This research lead me to investigate the history of “substance dualism” best known as the mind-body split and to trace the history of this dualism through Western intellectual traditions and practices. Having recently borne my third child my own maternal body and contemporary Western culture and medicine became a nucleus for this inquiry.

That period of research was rich and formative, it produced the notion of aesthetic subjectivity which drives my current practice led research. I made a number of sculptures, abstract paintings, a video and this painting which all became the womblike installation space Maternal Interstice.

I have always found it frustrating to be a passive witness of news, of world trauma and global changes. I also cringe at the phrase “as a mother” which is mostly used as a qualifier for nappies and paracetamol. This painting, Social Schema, is the confluence of those two: as a mother passively witnessing world trauma. It was influence by my deep reaction to the Little Children Are Sacred Report in 2006, the on-going anxiety, frustration and grief I feel regarding our destruction of the environment, Australian media’s and politics’ misconstrued representation of asylum seekers. This painting was produced over about twelve months, I drew from Australian artist’s Jeffry Smart and James Gleeson as influences and “as a mother” I found it significant to be referencing great Australian, male painters. I grappled with a lot of questions through the making of this image, parts were challenging technically and this was often mirrored on a philosophical level. I probably began this work from the basis of an “us” & “them”, I was critical of how “they” were screwing up my world- gouging it out in open cut mines, shipping meaningless consumer items across  oceans, starving ecosystems and filling the atmosphere with that contentious, choking gas. The on-going wrestle and dance persisted on the canvas and in my body, in my muscles and nerves: how many items in my home were once afloat on the ocean, how much CO2 had I put in the air on behalf of my precious babies?

This painting became a process of accepting that interfolding between body and world; it gave me an insight into the complexity of this interfolding- we overlap our world views and realities building the familial, communal, socio-political, global, perhaps even spiritual spaces that become “the world”. Many ideas germinated through my honours year- this inquiry into the co-productive relationship between space and consciousness has become quite loud in my current  work….