The opening of FERAL 5 last week marked the closure and final ripening of the FERAL project at Articulate project space. Some works in the final iteration had a marked temporality appropriate to the progressive nature of the exhibition as the relentless cycling and changing of works and artists over the weeks had created something like an ecosystem within the enclosed hothouse of the project space. An online dictionary states helpfully that like spatial position, temporality is an intrinsic property of the object[i]. The idea that time is as intrinsic a quality as space for occupation by FERAL art objects is interesting to consider. Time is an active element addressed in many of the works, and it is also experienced in the organic serial evolution of the show from week to week. Each week, not just the artists but an audience of viewers returns to the space, armed with memory and knowledge, to view that which has replaced that which has gone before.
Time, and the action of time as human hair growth had revealed itself as an integral part of Veronica Habib’s work I Love What You Have Done With Your Hair between weeks 3 and 4. Thickening patches of hair on female underwear suspended at eye level suggested a body that had matured over time, gaining in confidence and assertiveness. The cruel machinations of time were also evident in the aging of Dominic Byrnes’ work, Trigger Warning. This work had altered dramatically between shows. Last week it was quietly unobtrusive, an inane white canister silently issuing pepper spray from its unobtrusive corner site in intermittent blasts of quiet aggression. As penance, this week its evidently unsafe actions had been encased in a plastic box which over time had become aged and scarred by the ejaculatory miasma, evidence of which had pooled within it, dripped down the wall and collected beneath in nasty brown stains.
In looking across these works we see time as a factor interacting with and upon the works in natural processes (hair growth) as well as unnatural processes (toxic waste containment), providing a commentary engaged with contemporary life, and more particularly, questioning our desire for a state of fragranced hairlessness. However, where the passing of time has the effect of inducing a familiarity with objects, a curious anthropomorphic response results. Viewers of Jeff Wood’s work Painting Machine exclaim over the mechanised toothbrushes once they start their stuttering painting action, and Jeff himself paternalistically ushers them gently back on to the painting surface when they vibrate askance on to the gallery floor.
21.10.2014 is a work about temporality on several levels: there is a performative aspect of the work unfolding in the present time, yet it is also the date on which a drawing was made and a death of a public figure occurred. Time is integral to the discipline of process by which the work was made. The text itself evokes collective social memory of a particular time in our history. Throughout the space on opening night, various people wore t-shirts depicting t-shirts declaring It’s time. This work is part of a time-based project by Maryanne Coutts[ii]. Throughout 2014 Maryanne made a daily watercolour work depicting only the clothes of a person appearing in a news report published that day. The t-shirt depicted carries the words of Gough Whitlam’s campaign slogan and the date marks the day of his death last year.
Memory and time, both personal and the ecological is evoked by Louise Morgan’s work Senescence. Louise is an artist concerned to draw attention to biodiversity loss and mass extinction as a contemporary dilemma.[iii]The title is a reference to the biological process of cellular aging and the work depicts an array of painted paper objects pinned to the wall in a poignant, saturated colour evocation of Louise’s childhood memories of the leaf litter of a forest floor. These fragile paper objects remind us of the immensity of evolutionary time.
Time is frequently described visually as a linear tracing of chronological action, and in FERAL 5 a number of installation works take the line into the project space. Remaining in the show from Feral 4 Sarah Fitzgerald’s Arch launches from the wall and into the space gracefully, its apparent motion arrested by a house brick. Fiona Kemp’s work Tumble Turn references the black lines marking swimming pools, which measure one’s progress up and down the lanes and continuing the analogy of time as motion in the form of the curving on-itself tumble turn. If time is represented by the linear form of Alexandra Sideris’ twisted and teased mild steel sculptures, it is not the as expected measurable stop-start linear progression but a unified loop, of bent circularity returning on itself.
Joe Wilson’s work Painting in transit is a timber installation in which a wheeled crate of treated timber is poised in an ambiguous state of stillness, counterpoised against a ramp, appearing to have just stopped moving. The pause and solemnity of the frozen moment of transit, of some unknown journey towards, or from, painting is a provisional, between-time concept. The gravity of paused time is enhanced by the meticulous craftsmanship of its construction.
The portrait tradition is one that traditionally explores with the notion of time by its memorialisation of subject. While photography is a medium by which this representation could be factually documented for posterity, James Needham-Walker’s work expresses a more elastic approach to time. Here, James depicts himself within the frame as ephemeral subject – as it is a still from a past performance – yet the highly reflective gloss paper print mimics the surface of a screen, anchoring us in a self-reflexive present where the individual is blurred into fleshy facelessness. James writes, The screen is translucent, homogenising everything, revealing nothing. There is no heightened understanding, rather, we are left with the reflection of our own gaze. We are our own witness.[iv]
An engagement with the temporal as well as the spatial possibilities of making, performing and presenting works has meant that much of the FERAL Exhibition has challenged the static gallery model for the display rather than interaction with artworks. At the same time, the curatorial model of communal studio has enabled an engagement between artists, viewers and the time in which we live.
List of Works
Veronica Habib, I Love What You Have Done With Your Hair, Underwear Brief, G-string and Dress, 2015, Suspended clothing, human hair
Dominic Byrne, Trigger Warning, 2015, timed air dispenser, home-made pepper spray
Jeff Wood, Painting Machine, 2014
Maryanne Coutts, 21.10.2014, 2015, commercially printed t-shirt
Louise Morgan, Senescence, 2015, watercolour on paper
Sarah Fitzgerald, Arch, 2015, MDF, acrylic paint, brick
Fiona Kemp, Tumble Turn, 2015
Alexandra Sideris, Supply 15, 2013, mild steel, microcrystalline was, pigment
Joe Wilson, Painting in transit, 2015, timber
James Needham-Walker, Witness #1, framed digital photographic prints on gloss paper, 76 x 76 cm
Images by Articulate Project Space and Lisa Sharp.