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Elvis’ Ghost

13 Jun

Catalogue essay for the ISEA2013 exhibition at Verge Gallery featuring Ian Haig, Nandita Kumar and Raewyn Turner & Brian Harris.

The other day I saw Elvis on television. At least, I think I did. It was late at night. Rage, the long-running music video clip show, was in full flight and Suspicious Minds was beating out its up-tempo heart-wrenchedness. I was glued to the screen for the full four minutes and twelve seconds, not because I found any extra interest in the song (having heard it thousands of times on classic mix stations in supermarkets and elevators). What grabbed my attention was the deliberate attempt by Sony Music (the record conglomeration that controls Elvis’ music – and evidently Elvis himself) to blur the lines between past and present, reality and construction. The clip featured a ghostly silhouette of Elvis against a backdrop of dramatic stage lighting (primarily a large screen comprised of light-globe pixels). My fixation concerned its authenticity (and yes, this may sound naive, but it was late at night). It was sort of obvious that things had been a bit touched up or ‘digitally remastered’, but was any of this really Elvis (and does this even make any sense considering that whether real or fake, Elvis had been reduced to a series of ones and zeros and stored on a central digital server)? I imagined some young, pimply designer who’d never even heard of Elvis given the task of defining, and then animating the path around this distinct figure. Elvis, in this incarnation, may be no realer than Bart Simpson.

This small tale gets to the crux of Ian Haig’s ‘Night of the Living Hippy’. While there are other facets to the work (the most obvious being its abject nature), it works most powerfully as a metaphor for our post-medial (and even post-historical) culture where the dead (dead people, information and data), flattened and decontextualised by the disinterested process of digital storage, are brought back to life to serve whatever purpose the possessor deems fit (most often commercial or political). One of the most recent and interesting examples of this phenomenon is the rise of the internet fact checker (the Washington Post’s The Fact Checker or for instance) where dedicated political enthusiasts give real time feedback on everything spewing forth from politicians. The result is that history is compressed into the current moment. Our elected representatives are held accountable for everything that they’ve ever said, and if their current positions on matters are not totally in line with their histories they are (rightly or wrongly) labelled hypocrites.

A year or so ago, Diego Bonetto showed his fabulous weedy terrariums in Verge. These elegant looking cases were self-contained eco systems, lined with handfuls of soil from well known Sydney locations. Magically (once placed in the sun) they would sprout grass and weeds. Water would evaporate and condense on the glass, trickle down and hydrate the flora. Things would live, die, fertilise and sprout new life. Fundamentally, they were a combination of two things – matter (nutrients, water, air, seeds) and energy (in the form of sunlight). The collision of matter and energy brought life (as it had done countless times before throughout Earths existence). More fundamentally, both of these things are actually cut from the same cloth. As Einstein demonstrated in his famous equation E=MC squared, matter is comprised of energy.

Nandita Kumar’s eLEMenT: EARTH is an equally exquisite terrarium. Matter and energy, however, are replaced with another shaky dichotomy – that of natural versus human-made. This interactive work pits natural sounds (birds, animals and sounds from the earth’s core) against the more mechanistic sounds of human progress. In doing so, this dichotomy is challenged. When these audio waves overlap and intermingle, is it really possible to tell the difference? Furthermore, does it really matter if we can’t? This work speaks to the nature of technology and its ability to be internalised, to become natural over time. Technologies are like onion skins – they are rolled up and tucked into the very fabric of our being and are thus rendered invisible. Clothing, language and cartography are all examples of technologies that are part of who we are. Kumar’s work is a sublime and profound comment on our fraught relationship with our environments.

There are hearing aids for the hearing impaired, glasses for those of us who see the world as a blur, but where are all the bionic noses? As we have evolved, smell has become less and less important to the extent that most of us don’t even notice when our sense of smell begins to fade. As dogs without a sense of smell we would be pitiful creatures. As wild animals we would surely die. Downwind, by Raewyn Turner and Brian Harris, asks what does smell mean to us? Is it possible that neglect of this once-critical sense means that we are missing out? Turner and Harris draw our attention to the complex interplay of smells in our environment, smells that are contingent upon everything from deodorant to foods consumed to the fragrances of our technologies and natural surroundings. What becomes apparent when looking at and reading about this practical research is the subjectivity associated with our olfactory sense. We may be aware of our own smell (especially if we have just sprayed it on), but how often can we describe our humdrum background smell which surely changes from city to city, house to house? Turner and Harris aptly describe all of these together as the technological architectural fragrances of our civilization and time.

Turner and Harris also use the term ‘human plume’ to describe the smell that each of us leaves in our wake. It is intriguing that like the data trail that Haig’s dead hippy might leave behind, the plume is indicative of what we used to be (a bit like spotting stars in the night sky that have long since vanished). Our smell is not really of us, it is us disintegrating. Perhaps when we sense our disintegration (or when we smell) it could thus be described as us reinterpreting, reinventing and reconfiguring notions of who we once were according to personal and collective experiences. Not dissimilarly, Kumar’s  eLEMenT: EARTH creates mixes of natural and human-made sounds that cannot be unmixed. They do, however, create new combinations of sounds that realign our perspective on what is natural and what is of our own making. All three of these phenomenological works employ notions of disintegration and renewal to paradigmatically shift our perceptions of who we are and how we fit in to our fluidic environments.

Greg Shapley
Verge Gallery Manager

Download the entire catalogue here: ISEA2013 Verge Catalogue

Catalogue for Translations

28 May

‘Translations’: A Sydney Sacramento Exchange is a combined project between Sydney’s Verge Gallery, and the similarly named Verge Art Center in Sacramento. The project explores how communication through the internet can be misinterpreted by an individual’s cultural and social background.

Below is the catalogue for the Sydney leg of the exhibition:


A Transposition of Space – An essay by Esther Rolfe

21 Mar
Throughout February we had an amazing project happening in Verge called ‘A Transposition of Space’. It involved an art exchange with Concord (an art space in LA), but we also had sleep overs, dinner parties and dream analysis. One of the participants, Esther Rolfe, wrote this essay…

A Transposition of Space

Esther Rolfe

Like all landscapes, the urban space around us has been contoured by multiple layers of social, cultural and environmental history. Perhaps you can see the remnants of other eras, however, for the most part the everyday rhythms that have shaped the area around us are invisible.  Dissecting these multiple layers of history is akin to an archaeological dig. Artefacts in the shape of records, photographs, maps, memories and stories are unearthed and deciphered as we attempt to understand the surrounding urban fabric and our place within it.

A Transposition of Space is an exploration of the past and present urban landscapes surrounding Verge Gallery, Sydney and Concord Gallery, LA. The artists, actors and writers from Sydney participating in this collaborative exchange are: Cecilia White, Kate Beckingham, Bartholomew Oswald, Heidi Abraham, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Justine Holt, Lucas Davidson, Penelope Cain, Fleur Wiber, Brigitte Gerges, Christopher Hay, Michaela Savina, Harriet Hope Streeter, Finn Davis, and Victoria Baldwin. Blending fact and fiction they have explored and dissected the multiple layers of history that Verge Gallery sits amidst, creating a series of artworks, artefacts, maps, stories, and performances that bring voices and ghosts from the past into a dialogue with the present landscape. Some of these works have been sent in a pass-the-parcel style package to Concord to be unwrapped, unfolded and deciphered. In return Verge Gallery received a package of items from Concord including films, historical and social background information, maps, posters and images from past Concord exhibitions, and a copy of the first edition of Concord Press. These articles were examined and interpreted; the meaning and stories drawn from them overlayed and intermingled with elements from the landscape around Verge Gallery to create a dialogue that spans the globe. Throughout the duration of the exhibition the conversation between Verge and Concord will continue through the exchange of stories, performances, questions and answers, and even dreams.

Dialogue and exchange are central elements of this project. Though perhaps this is true of all exhibitions, since the gallery is by nature a space that enables a discussion between the artist, their surroundings, and an audience. A Transposition of Space, however, also allows artists and audiences to enter into a dialogue with multiple urban landscapes, voices from the other side of the world, and whispers from the past.  Giving an in depth description of the works and performances featured in the exhibition is difficult at this time, since many of pieces are still unfolding and taking form as the process of exchange and collaboration between the galleries continues. Instead I will explore the dialogue that is at play between the artists and their surroundings by providing a brief overview of the landscapes these works and performances channel and reinterpret.

Verge Gallery sits between the suburbs of Darlington and Camperdown. Both have changed dramatically over the years and have been shaped by alternating periods of construction and destruction brought about by changes in land use and demographics. The traditional owners of the Darlington and Camperdown areas were the Cadigal people and the Liwura Gundidj people respectively – both clans of the Djargurd Wurrung people. With European settlement came land dispossession, starvation, disease, violence, and massacres, which decimated the population and forced surviving members of the Djargurd out of the area by the 1860s. From this time onwards the area became increasingly developed as factories and workshops were set up along the railway line. The influx of working class families were housed in rows of two storey terraces, which still characterise the area despite the fact that the factories are gone and the workers’ families have been replaced for the most part by students. In the 1850s construction began on the University, and in the 1880s the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was built. Since this time the area has been increasingly dominated by these two institutions. From the late 1950s onwards the University of Sydney expanded the campus into the Darlington area. This resulted in the destruction of around 650 dwellings as well as shops and factories, leading to community opposition and resentment.  One of the most recent clashes between locals and the University occurred in 2011 when a group of squatters occupied the long abandoned St. Michael’s College on City Rd in protest to the lack of affordable student housing. They were forcefully and heavy-handedly removed by the riot squad. The building was originally a Catholic hostel for the homeless but became a student residential college when the land was acquired by the University. It now stands empty. Fenced off from squatters and vandals it waits to be demolished, the slogans of protestors still visible on the walls.

Founded in 2011 Concord is an artist run space in Los Angeles. The artists participating in A Transposition of Space are: Arjuna Neuman, Marco Di Domenico, Eirik Schmertmann, Erin Schneider, Clifford Pun, Francisco Janes, Fabian Euresti, Elizabeth Wiatr, Annie Danis, Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, and contributors to the consortium of Concord press. Since none of the Verge artists involved in the project have visited Concord, our knowledge and impression of the artspace and area around it has come entirely from their website and the items they sent us.

‘Concord is a socially engaged art project with the goal of building and           bridging community(s) through art and ideas. We function as a platform            to promote culture where our dynamic projects act as research into        community, site-specificity and institutional critique. We are interested in       creating a self-reflexive art gallery and communal/public space.’

‘A few things about Concord are stable: it is a home and studio for      collaborating artists, it is an exhibition and project space that supports           emerging artists and experimental initiatives, it is a creative drop-in           centre for the underprivileged neighbourhood, Cypress Park and it is an       evolving story that accounts for the many things that go unaccounted for.’-

Like looking through a keyhole, our view of Concord does not allow an intimate knowledge of the space, however it does distil certain features and characteristics of it. From the above statements we can see the importance Concord gives to community engagement and forming a connection with the area in which the gallery is situated. Several items in the package we received revealed an interest in the local history and environment, as well as a focus on engaging audiences in a dialogue and knowledge exchange. Also in the package was a copy of the first edition of Concord Press, which is based on the concept of creating an archive of the gallery that blends fact and fiction. This exploration of the fluidity of history and narratives is also a key element of A Transposition of Space. Along with the items we received from Concord was a set of instructions detailing how each article was to be used. We were instructed to use the enclosed maps and images to envisage Concord gallery, and to then combine and align this visualisation with Verge gallery to create a sense of place that united the two spaces.

By exchanging and reinterpreting the histories and layers of meaning embedded around Verge Gallery and Concord, A Transposition of Space seeks to create a dialogue that spans not only the globe, but also reconciles voices of the past with the present landscape. A call and answer across the globe, we weave together our interpretations of the complex urban geographies around us, as we seek to explore our fluid understanding of space and our position within it.

‘Bending the Truth’ – greater than greatest…

7 Mar

Greg Shapley

For the last few years, Verge has held a Greatest Hits show. Comprised of works from the previous year’s degree shows at Sydney College of the Arts, the idea was to have an exhibition that showcased the crème de la crème of student works. As well-intentioned as this was, the use of such terms as greatest to describe artworks didn’t sit well with many (myself included). The shear magnitude of the degree shows meant that works were judged with a cursory glance and then placed awkwardly beside other pieces that were a testament, not to some objective superiority, but to the whim, fancy and taste of a select group. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t some merit or inherent logic in the selection, just that there were quite possibly alternate Greatest Hits (perhaps happening concurrently in some distant quantum universe). Another reason for the change in name, and methodology was to give artists the opportunity, not just to re-present works, but to extend, transform, blend and (occasionally) move on from their tortured projects into a more collective, supportive and welcoming reality. Just because certain pieces were deemed great doesn’t mean that they work well with other artworks either. Getting on with other art requires different skills. Artists have to be aware of their environment, of other artists’ intentions and sensitivities. Collectively there should be a goal to move beyond individual works where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.

Bending the Truth is this year’s attempt to present a more relative greatness, one that has been borne, not of divine selection, but of a sincere desire for connection and conversation with other artists, and, by extension, the audience. Works weren’t selected, per se: Verge invited all artists who exhibited in the degree shows to apply to exhibit. The only real criterion was a willingness to work critically and collaboratively with peers. The artists have met every week for the last few weeks. During this time, two overlapping nodes have emerged that seem to encapsulate everyone’s art.

The first is best described as non-representational (abstract)/psychedelic/surreal art. Suzy Faiz’s large, bright paintings and Ingrid van der Aa’s protruding, warped perspex sheets were a match made in heaven and, not surprisingly, the first connection to be realised. In the installation process Faiz decided to extend her works off the canvas and onto the wall, reaching out with coloured tentacles to van der Aa’s non-figurative figures. Other’s to be brought into this embrace include the playful, but cheekily impractical ceramic wigs of Allana McAffee and the fiery technological totem of Bryden Williams.

The other node (joined in part by the figurative usefulness of McAffee’s wigs) is art dedicated to cultural and social exploration and includes James Dickman’s distorted, (super-long neck) phallic beer bottles and RSL-style shrine to the Oz drinking culture and Andrea Srisurapon’s mediated exploration of her Thai heritage. Verses from the Quran feature prominently, perhaps incongruously, in the larger-than-life decorated lettering of Hanadi Saleh and Debbie Kim Nguyen’s organic clay figures complete this node with a grounded environmental message. Tenuously spread over the floor are the delicate aluminium can stalagmites of Emilio Cresciani, whose glowing photographic tributes to the repetitive nature of modern waste disposal look out over the courtyard.

The Re-Invention of Gravity – Review by Alyson Hewett

14 Sep

Whilst subject matter and media vary greatly throughout the exhibition, there are a number of common ties that draw it together. Anna and Bartholomew pulled nine works from the depths of the USU Art Collection and asked nine emerging contemporary artists to respond to the work allocated to them. Naturally some works are stronger and more poignant than others, but it was interesting to see how a visual artist working in a contemporary context could initiate a process of response and engagement with a work created in a completely different social milieu.

Of particular allure was Nicholas Greenwich’s The Meek and the Proud 2012, in response to a glass plate negative, artist and date unknown. At first I was unsure where to look; the glass plate negative or Nick’s beautifully haunting response.  Upon looking at the negative I assumed the image was devoid of human presence. However, at a closer look a lone man stood at the back of the change room appearing almost like a ghost alongside an incredibly eerie shadow.

The aesthetic links between the two works were apparent, yet left plenty up to the viewer’s imagination. Nick’s monochromatic image features hooks not dissimilar to those in the scene depicted in the glass plate negative; two faces hanging from hooks with their eyes closed and a pair of decrepit hands placing another face into what appears to be a paper bag. The mysterious use of lighting above the hooks creates elongated shadows of the faces, while the shadows cast from the unused hooks create shapes reminiscent of the profile of a human figure.

Nick’s work resonated strongly with me for its demonstration of enviable technical ability and aesthetic appeal. As a whole, the image evokes discourses of absence and presence. The lack of a full human figure and a face devoid of expression on the faces suggests an absence. Thus, creating a certain kind of presence. An aura, perhaps that can only be reached through this lack of emotion, identity and life.

Combined with successful curatorial decisions the pairing gave me a greater sense of this concept of reinventing gravity. Rather than two objects being pulled together, they have been allocated to one another; two works of art from opposing contexts, both unaware of their prior existence, brought together to create a contemporary twist.

'Yard 14 Revisited' by Vilma Bader, 2012

‘Yard 14 Revisited’ by Vilma Bader, 2012

Vilma Bader’s Yard 14 Revisited, (2012), in response to Imants Tillers’ Yard 14, (1970), was not only aesthetically intriguing but also conceptually challenging.  Upon learning the triptych created in 1970 was in fact by Tillers I was a little shocked. For me, it reverberated ever so slightly with his later works that I am more familiar with.

Tillers’ piece is filled with intricate black and white shapes appearing as an abstraction of a landscape, allowing the viewer to lose themselves in endless depths, tonalities and free-flowing forms. Before almost eluding reality completely, I turned to Bader’s Yard 14 Revisited. Significantly smaller in scale, Bader’s work communicates a number of techniques that demonstrate a strong response to and influence of Tillers’ work. It appeared more reminiscent of Tillers’ works known for his authorial appropriation and cross-cultural references.

Fifteen small panels are joined together to create a whole. Through the use of stark reds, black and a bold juxtaposition with white I assumed an aerial perspective with Bader’s intentions.  The overlay of text with phrases such as, “relationship between two events” and “a consequential relationship between two events. Reason a premise in support of an argument,” suggest coherence with the problems Tillers’ has often experienced in regards to the originality of his works, the use of appropriation and representation.

'White Out' by Richard Kean, 2012 (on Verge Gallery)

‘White Out’ by Richard Kean, 2012 (on Verge Gallery)

As a whole the exhibition was succinct and the curatorial choices made for an interesting play on the gallery’s spatiality.  The suspension of Shaun Gladwell’s Anonymous Figure…Left Leg Forward #4 (1999) out from the white gallery wall created a level of profound depth, while avoiding traditional white cube hanging conventions. Richard Kean’s interaction with the exterior of Verge Gallery was a very successful choice, adding an extra layer of beauty to the shell and forming a relationship with the façade of a building formerly not considered a feature of the gallery space.

The show has a lot to say about the re-evaluation of previous works of art and how they are still relevant to our modern day culture. However, it also situates emerging artists in the ever-evolving art world. I left the show without an apple falling on my head, but in the end I think I’ll leave gravity with Isaac Newton and its reinvention with Anna and Bartholomew.

The Re-invention of Gravity – Review

3 Sep
Verge Gallery recently put out a call for aspiring writers to review art works in upcoming shows. Shea Robert Cramer answered this call, attending the opening night for the The Re-invention of Gravity last Thursday and responding by writing two short pieces…

The Re-Invention of Gravity, Review by Shea Robert Cramer.

Nicholas Greenwich, The meek and the proud, 2012.

Disembodied faces and hands attack our senses as this stark image leaps out at us from the white walls of the gallery, pulling us deeper into its murky aesthetic where it beckons the viewer to search for meaning and perspective in the shadow laden tableau. In The meek and the proud, Nicholas Greenwich presents us with a clothes rack where the disembodied faces of two people are hanging while another, I will argue, is being pulled out of a black bag by ghost like hands, ready to be hung up with the others. The hands appear to have control in this scene, but just like the faces it is hanging up, they lack the solidity of a body to ground them to a specific agency of their own. The faces are masks of identity, hung up at the end of a day of “work”. They have done their job of shielding the vulnerability of intimate persona and are now retired beneath a triangle of solitary light which illuminates the somewhat sparse and forlorn scene. This picture draws us back to the beginnings of modernity and an artist’s response to the shock of the industrial revolution. We instantly recognise the faces in a type of pareidolia and in searching for an empathic connection we soon realise they are all just masks who look away from each other in silence, trapped in the void that exists in that blank moment between emotions. We instinctually want them to come to life and speak to us. Perhaps one of the overlooked aspects of this piece is in its presentation. The large picture itself is nailed up. Hanging in abjection, pinned to the gallery wall, resigned and silent like the faces it depicts.

Anonymous Glass Negative, undated. Nicholas Greenwich, The meek and the proud, C-type photograph, 2012


Vilma Bader, Yard 14 Revisited, 2012

A road sign for art, but not to anywhere in particular. Yard 14 Revisited by Vilma Bader depicts a parting of ways that one can imagine goes beyond the surface of the artwork, which initiates a dialogue with the interconnectedness of pictorial art and to an extent phenomenal existence. The human mind is crushed by a search for meaning and reason. Where the byways and interplays of unknown causal patterns take form in a way that “I cannot tell you” and “That I don’t know” (phrases depicted on the artwork). The backing and façade of this piece is primarily made of chip board, suggesting a type of ready-made or worksite system of manufacture and mentality. Stamped letters and rough hand written text attacks the orange and black painted tiles that front the piece. While a white road or path in the shape of a Y cuts though the surface, commenting on the branched linguistics of artistic interpretation and the multifaceted causality of deterministic expression. A piece crossing over into pure conceptual art, Yard 14 Revisited is a cipher, demonstrating the unfathomable and unpredictable ways that art can manifest.

The Edge – exhibition essay and catalogue

19 Jun

As part of The Edge exhibition, artist and lecturer, Pia Larsen, wrote an essay talking about the collaborative processes of the artists. It is reprinted below, as well as in the attached catalogue…

The Edge Catalogue

The Edge
In1960, six students studying architecture at the University of Sydney exhibited together in a show titled ‘Six Young Artists’, at the War Memorial Gallery, University of Sydney. That exhibition was to celebrate the use of the New Fine Arts Gallery by students. Fifty-two years later the Director of Verge Gallery was approached with a proposal to exhibit current work of the original group.
The 2012 show, ‘The Edge’, at Verge Gallery features pieces from five of the original artists, Lawrence Nield, Jon Crothers, Philip Cox, Tony Corkill and Tanya Crothers, (John Paynter died in 1987) and now includes Darrel Conybeare, who also studied architecture in the 1960s.
When Greg Shapley accepted the proposal for the show he recognised an opportunity for ‘intergenerational exchange’, and paired each artist with a student from the University; Three from Sydney College of the Arts and three from the faculty of Architecture, Phillippa Griffin, Jen Hou, Saffaa, Peter Nguyen, Rose Steedman and Pamela Maldonado, leaving it to each pair to establish the terms for the exchange.
The exhibition brings together students immersed in and formed by the post-modern, conceptual practices of contemporary art and architecture, with artists whose formative influences include the modernist aesthetic of the late 1950s and early 1960s, along with fifty years working in architecture and art amidst the cultural shifts and changes over this period. The students are at the beginning of their careers open to opportunities such as this exchange for developing their visual and intellectual language whilst the original group bring a lifetime of experience developing and synthesizing ideas through practice.
Of the modernist era Tanya recalls, there was ‘an accepted visual aesthetic, ‘…with few artists making political or social comment. ‘Subject matter usually drew on the artists sub-conscious or their environment. Prevailing approaches to painting included gestural abstract expressionism, formal, geometric ‘hard edge’ abstraction and ‘colour field’. Of particular importance for students in architecture were the art classes run by Lloyd Rees, Roland Wakelin and John Santry.
The shift in thinking and practice toward what is defined as post-modern practice began to take hold within institutions and the broader culture in the late 1960s, early 1970s. It was during the 1970s that the prevailing dogma within cultural practices in visual arts and architecture began to fundamentally change and the delineations between fields blurred into one another. Architecture students at the University of Sydney began to actively challenge the orthodoxies of the day through protest, to broaden what could be considered and assessed as architectural practice. For example, in 1972 the construction and operation of an Indonesian restaurant on campus was presented as part of a ‘Thesis’ within an independent research project1.
In 1976 Sydney College of the Arts was established, running courses firstly in Design followed in 1977 with visual arts students. The College was the first of its kind and provided an alternative to the National Art School, (then East Sydney Technical College) and ‘the atelier’ model. SCA became a faculty of the University of Sydney in 1990.
For most of the artists in the show drawing is fundamental to their practice. This reflects its resurgence as a medium of value in contemporary art and a long held conviction in its power to convey ideas through a simple sketch just as it can in a highly detailed watercolour.
What then differentiates the students from the original group? Primarily it is an awareness that art is created and interpreted within space and time. This includes the immediate and broader culture, art history, how the physical space effects the work and whether it’s framed or unframed. Each element matters and is integral to how we interpret and respond to the work.
Each pair established their own terms for the collaborative model, some allowing it to unfold over time others meeting once or twice initially and then working independently. The work utilises a range of media from drawing, printmedia, painting, digital media, photography and sculpture.
Darrel Conybeare and Pamela Maldonado (Architecture), discussed numerous aspects of the city environment and the forces influencing the changes taking place, as well as the capacity for art to interpret and articulate this process of transition. One of the areas they chose to focus on was the Cahill Expressway, as a structure that separates the city from the Harbour at the ‘edge’ of the Harbour at Circular Quay. In the image, ‘Cahill Aerial Park and Busway with Quay Railway Underground’ they collaborated on a re-visioning project for the First Fleet landing place transforming the road into a parkway walk and relocating the railway underground.
Darrel produced a number of paintings exploring sites around the Harbour from different perspectives and imagined juxtapositions with other structures from a history of each site. The images explore and traverse notions of change at the ‘Edge’ of Sydney Harbour, a place defined by edges, land and water bodies.
Pamela’s black and white digital image of a pixelated Opera House provides a harder-edged contrast to Darrel’s more whimsical studies of historic sites around the Harbour. The image sets the Opera House adrift amongst the clouds and reflections in the water below of another place and time.
Philip Cox and Saffaa (Honours, Printmedia), agreed to pick a common theme and settled on Feminism and Islam. Philip described his series of four paintings as illustrating the progress of a woman identifying with the traditions of Islam and the Australian Bush.
In the series, a Burka clad figure painted in dark grey leads the narrative, exerting a strong visual presence against the vibrant blues, greens, yellows and browns of the Australian bush.  The male gaze has been inverted by positioning the women in the foreground, observing the naked male figure in a muddy creek, waterlily lagoon and coastal headland with a Persian carpet spread beneath the gums. Until the last image in which she has moved into the frame, no longer on the periphery or in her Burka.
Saffaa’s work is underpinned with a strong belief in political activism that is manifest in the imagery she has created. As a woman from Saudi Arabia she well knows the pitfalls for women who agitate against laws that hinder women’s lives.
She has created two portraits of Saudi Arabian women activists, Manal Al-Sharif and Samar Badawi, to highlight their actions and acknowledge their bravery. Each portrait exploits the simplicity of black and white to render a graphic representation of each woman positioned at the top of a long scroll-like piece of paper. Arabic script and English text overlayed with vivid blues and pinks appear in defined areas below the portraits to illustrate that dialogue within and between cultures can be misunderstood and exploited by contrary forces.
Jon Crothers and Phillippa Griffin (Masters, Art Curatorship), established that the crossover between their practices lay in the use of metal and sculptural forms. Each has explored how metal can mimic and intersect with other materials to evoke discomforting and unexpected associations. These ideas also inform Jon’s 2D work on paper.
Jon’s floor sculpture Flame Trees, intersects three long, narrow and heavy sheets of rusted steel each with cut-out areas of positive and negative with ribbon-like strips of steel resting on the floor as the base for the 3D form. The watercolour titled Murrah Rocks echoes the sharp edges of his sculptural form through the jagged rock edges filling the composition and the application of shadow and light to accentuate the particular rock formations of the south coast of NSW.
Phillippa’s work exploits surprise to present the abject within an object redolent with nostalgia. At first glance the viewer may feel the desire to run their hand along the smooth timber, seduced by the material qualities and evocation of times past. However on closer inspection Phillippa has installed a very sinister fence of razor blades around the perimeter of each tray in the trolley, to remind us that there are less pleasant associations to be uncovered between memory, objects and everyday rituals.
Lawrence Nield and Rose Steedman (Architecture) established a shared concern for exploring materials, place and history as a series of overlays, through drawing for Rose, and for Lawrence high relief panels.
Lawrence has created a work that brings together five key elements that inform his architectural practice and philosophy for thinking about and creating structures within the built environment. Titled “Art and Architecture: Standing, Carving, Opening, Modelling, Casting”, the piece hangs suspended in the gallery window to be viewed from within and outside the gallery space. Lawrence’s use of the materials, acrylic and charcoal, carved plaster and charcoal, corrugated iron and concrete paint and charcoal and the ‘Opening’, suggest a language focussed on establishing a connection between past and present in the way we live and communicate our needs through the built environment.
Rose Steedman re-visited sketch drawings from her undergraduate degree to create a new work. The original project examined a proposed building as a post-industrial form that related to the industrial nature and wharf construction type of the site. Rose’s drawing uses symmetry and careful rendering to evoke a sense of monumentality in the detail of a much larger structure. The sensitivity and strength in the line-work and use of light and dark around the central form suggest an absorption in the act and process of drawing as an end in itself.
Tanya Crothers and Jen Hou (Printmedia) initially met and discussed the possibilities for working with a knitted blanket, made by Tanya, in terms of the grid pattern and textures in the woollen fibre.
In Tanya’s work, It’s all Connected, the grid has been broken open in an aerial view of Darling Harbour in which the looping freeways appear as an organic delineation around the harbour’s edge. Four bleed prints form the one image, the edge of each print connecting to the next through misaligned red and dark blue lines to reflect a city-scape in a continual state of re-invention.
In Jen’s drawings, installed in boxes on the floor of the gallery the grid pattern in Tanya’s blanket has been radically rearranged into a continuing state of collapse and creation. Jen’s drawings depict ‘an imagined architecture’ for housing, for those living in extreme poverty. Her drawings have a delicacy and tenderness that treats these temporary structures with respect and open enquiry. Collectively they work as homage to the people who create their homes out of materials to hand, in the knowledge that they are ‘subject to removal at any time’.
Tony Corkill and Peter Nguyen (Architecture), made a decision to focus on Coogee and the coastal edge as a place of tension between human development and the natural configurations of rocks constantly washed by the waves.
Tony’s drawings in charcoal and crayon render the environment in four states that reflect the ebb and flow of human encroachment on the coastal landscape. Each image focuses primarily on the beauty of the sea and the rocky coastline, treating the encroaching houses and people as peripheral within the composition of each drawing. Through the images Tony celebrates nature and seeks a more respectful relationship between humans and the environment.
In contrast Peter Nguyen’s images shift the view away from the sea to an area where the natural environment is imposed on by buildings and people. Peter has created a series of images using cut up negatives and collage to reconstruct aspects of the coastline emphasizing the delineation between the sky and the land and walkways that follow the coastal topography. Peter’s fragmented images expose the extent to which people have encroached on this area and draw attention to the diminished remnants of bush and open land that remain.
Twelve artists were brought together to make work predicated on generational exchange, architecture and art. The outcome is ‘The Edge’ exhibition that presents a range of art practice and responses to the project brief. The work engages with the social, cultural and natural environment within Australia and the wider world making connections across time and between people.

Pia Larsen
Lecturer NAS & SCA (University of Sydney)

1Glen Hill & Lee Stickells, Pig Architecture, Architecture Australia Vol 101, No 2, Mar/Apr 2012, p. 76

The Greatest Hits So Far: a mixtape for roughly ten performers.

22 May

Catalogue essay for the Greatest Hits show

by Dan Cape

Greatest Hits: Best of the Sydney College of the Arts Degree Shows gathers the cream of the 2011 graduate crop, including works by Georgia Banks, Nick Boerma, Donald Brierley, Erin De la Cruz, Matthew James, Thiago Reis Monteiro, Kristi Pupo, Bryden Williams, Christine Simpson and Sarah Mockford. As you might expect, such a show is less a curated exhibition than a collection of works judged on their individual merits rather than any coherent, shared relations. There is no theme, or at least none such was placed at the feet of the invited artists, though included with their invitation was the invitation to rework and reconfigure with the context of the present show in mind. Nevertheless it will remain to be seen, in the course of this short essay, and in the context of the ‘final’ installation whether such links impose themselves upon the body of work represented here.

Indeed, during the early genesis of the exhibition, a form of intertextual play could not help but suggest itself. Nick Boerma’s exploration of “frustration and uselessness” has been created in the wake of graduation, subsequent unemployment and concomitant revaluation of values (colloquially, ‘figuring out what I want to do with my life’). In this case the work is presented as a reworking or extension of the work undertaken in the academic year. The occasion of Greatest Hits prompted Boerma, to seek out connections between his stated thematic and related literary and philosophical texts in the lead up to installation. Rather than scour the archives for an appropriate support himself, he instead invited his fellow artists to offer their suggestions. Invoking that (formerly) lowest of mass arts, the comic strip, stripped as it initially was of any written or verbal – discursive – support, his series of large scale and luridly coloured autobiographical ‘illustrations’ are mounted on the gallery’s external wall – or rather the window that marks the boundary of inside and outside. Such a position serves to reenact the tension between private and public space, a tension that so often insists its labour upon the confessional work. In fact, this work withdraws his project, previously focusing on public figures – a well-recognised ‘character’ that haunts SCA’s formerly institutional environs – into the domain of the personal remark, the self-portrait. As such, granting other minds, public minds – moreover minds committed to their own acts of personal creation – permission to ‘explain’ or ‘entitle’ such a personal statement amplifies this shift from public to private. This shift is in turn amplified and belied by the work’s dramatic presentation as a play in the margins of the sandpit of street art and the sanctified white cube of an art-space. These surprising ramifications number amongst those ways in which a representative piece manages at once to draw a net around itself and the body of exhibited work, if only by casting that net wider than expected.

And it is the accidental that informs the subtle, semi-covert surveillance piece mounted by Donald Brierley, one of a couple of interrelated segments arrayed about the gallery space. The first part of this segmented work doubles and inverts the image received by a CCTV camera mounted above the gallery entrance. Two monitors, juxtaposed so as to present the illusion of a continuous space, are raised near the gallery’s ceiling, like the omnipresent security monitors we see mounted in public spaces and on the public transport that shuttles us amongst such spaces, reminding us of our duties with respect to conduct, a command to watch ourselves and perhaps to ‘watch out’. In the case of the installation here, as we move into the purview of the camera, we see two figures whose trajectories seem to destine them for a close encounter, if not a head on collision. This encounter in what appears to be a continuous space, of course, does not and cannot occur. The doubling and inversion of a surveillance space produces an uncanny effect that disrupts recognition of ourselves. Yet nonetheless this flipped-out map – seductive in its ability to distract us from, and disorient us in, the actual terrain before us – produces the uncomfortable effect of a ‘being watched’ just as we are initially unsure of how this particular ‘watching’ functions.

Watching, watchers, and watchmen shade into blunt spectacle when we are invited to not only ‘watch’ the performance of an invisible band but to play a part, ourselves. Located in the centre of the gallery, Brierley’s ‘second unit’ repeats and playfully complicates the patterning of surveillance established more discreetly elsewhere. Here, a camera projects the presence of spectators who happen to intervene between a projection of the artist himself presenting his body, his breath, and oblique textual meditations. We find ourselves audience to, and stars of, a live telepresence of our own making. In a structure similar to Brierley’s twin installation, our image is doubled, inverted, and overlapped. Like two figures that may never, can never meet, we find ourselves unable to witness both Brierley’s image and our own images simultaneously. Under the mute gaze of our projected interlocutor, our attention, like our image and our relative positions as spectators, authors, or collaborators in the piece, becomes divided. Sandwiched between screens, a towering but silent speaker stack and a functionless, inactivated microphone (actually the soundless visual equivalent – a pair of lenses), what feels like an auditorium crossed with a hall of mirrors is rendered as a soundless space where only visual presences are found to remain echoing. Here, in a pattern of interference that produces a moment of substantial blindness, what remains tangible is a structure of style asserting itself, producing itself, meanwhile implicating us and inducing our collaboration in our own surveillance. We end up engaged in the production of our ourselves as magnum opus, our own greatest hit. 

Brierley’s take on self-presence in the purview of the ‘big other’ finds itself doing the twist in the monumental portraits of ‘self’ executed by Thiago Reis Monteiro. In this series of life-size or larger-than-life photographic portraits, Monteiro explores the hypocrisis of contemporary sexual identity ‘inverted’ in the signifying domain of fashion – these are indeed photos of hairy men wearing dresses. Why is it, Monteiro asks, that such an inversion has been naturalised for women while remaining ‘ignominious’ for men?

While the question remains moot, the issue of identification finds understated expression at the literal limit of Monteiro’s work. Quietly underscoring the primary thematic of sexual identity in these pieces lies a subterranean channel that begs the same question, but of identification in general. Identity is circumscribed here by subverting the place of facial recognition and facial expression – the eyes have it, it’s the ‘mood’ we’re in – in the very process of identification. Identities (those of the photographic subjects) are entirely foreshortened by framing the portrait with the lips as the upper limit. This foreshortening only serves to magnify the impact of these portraits of anonymous transvestism, their repetition only serving to underscore the question of difference. In the context of installation, these mounted portraits – if we can call these representations of amputated identity ‘portraits’ (from the Latin for ‘disclose’, ‘bring forth’ or, interestingly, ‘drag’) – are often fleshed out by models stepping, as it were, from the page and onto the gallery space made catwalk. This kind of juxtaposition of performance and the photographic establishes a kind of vacillation between identity granted (“I can identify to an extent this figure before me”) and identity withdrawn (“I cannot completely identify this figure”). In a sense Monteiro’s piece reenacts Brierley’s surveillance exercise – a play of what the data security experts would call ‘deidentified’ data, the partial set of information that sets up an uncanny flow between watcher and watched.

If Brierley and Monteiro present two forms of a playful, anechoic, and entirely scopic meditation upon oppositions of style and substance, self-presence and presentation, Kristi Pupo provides a soundtrack, writing a rejoinder to these voiceless gestures that is not merely warranted by virtue of proximity. Pupo literalises a meditative theme by presenting us with a kind of monastic wunderkammer, a balancing act playing off kitsch and reverential iconographies in a space teetering between visual rhythm and decomposition. A profusion of objects – bound and mutilated buddha, idiosyncratic earthenware, toys, Trolls, occluded calligraphic texts, assorted miscellany, incense and joss sticks – jostle for space on discreetly installed shelves that flow (yes, meditatively) around a space dominated by a large, low table carrying Tibetan singing bowls. In previous installations, seated performers have played these bowls. In their absence, a recorded soundtrack acts to denote both the function of these central objects and the absence of a human, actively devotional interaction in this shrine to ephemeral wonder. Still, the ephemerality of many of these objets trouvés (not all appear to be strictly ‘found objects’, it should be said – together perhaps we might call them objets perdus) seems belied by the solidity of the major chords in the structure, namely the massive table, the simple, sublime functionality of the singing bowls (played or not), and the powerful iconicity of the smiling buddha (whether his smile is erased or melted cannot, somehow, diminish the impact of his repose, though we may have the last laugh).

This precarious balance is pushed to the edge of both structural cohesion and tangibility in the assemblages of Sarah Mockford. Necessitating the caveat ‘dimensions variable’ more than any other ‘piece’ in the collection, Mockford’s spiderweb of bold planes, laminar stacks, filaments and strings threaten to ensnare the gallery space as a whole or push outwards into that zone addressed by Boerma’s public-facing mural. Yet at the same time, these elements – that would prompt many of the more distended projects of arte povera to diet – offer a sense of humility to counterpoint the more imposing works that surround, nest within or stand adjacent to these shy and homeless materials. Discrete but interconnected, these elements are often as unobtrusive as Brierley’s semi-covert surveillance. However, rather than foregrounding the procedures of vision, Mockford presents the enigma of objects unmoored from any determinable system of recognition. While Brierley’s re-presentation of the spectator induces a kind of disorienting uncanniness, Mockford’s objects withhold such (self) reflection, serving to disorient the desire to anchor meaning as much as Brierley’s installations cause vision to carom off surfaces. As such, they manage to be little, speak little, but say as much as they retain. In this, they seem to function as a kind of bedrock (however friable) for the exhibition as a whole, a riddling substrate or mycelium that nets and indexes the gallery space and its diverse contents.

A certain mute but – unlike Mockford’s objects – monolithic aura surrounds Christine Simpson’s striking sculptural exploration of heat. A manifold in every respect, Simpson’s piece is a towering, contorted membrane comprised of stitched-together air filters, themselves fans of accordioned paper sealed or opened out according to the degree to which they are contorted. The effect is one of incredible mass but incredible lightness, a buoyancy effected by the play of light through these membranous envelopes. It is as if, in the extraction of these elements from their functional context, they have transcended their role as the transmitters and purifiers of air to become translucent organs of light. Of course, this luminal effect relies heavily upon the specificities of their situation, but nevertheless, the involuted structure of difference in the same sets up a manifold moiré patterning that shifts and twists as the spectator apprehends the piece from different positions. These subtlties inflect a static piece that, as a composite, lends itself to scrutiny from multiple perspectives. This becomes apparent when one leans closer to peer into the work’s concavities, and then further into the acute interstices of the folds within the folds. One realises that not only does this monument open itself to the play of light, acting as a filter to the heat of day, but it also insulates against sound, offering a deadening of the sonic imprint of the surrounding gallery space (populated as it is by a tapestry, a manifold, of sound sources).

One of the more affronting of these sound sources, as opposed to the gentle resonances of Pupo’s singing bowls or Bryden Williams’ ambience, which we shall come to later, emanates from Georgia Banks’ nine-screen video installation. In a loosely formal sense, this piece reprises, in its stacked ranks of video screens, the repetitive sculptural structure of Simpson’s folded photo-thermo-statuary. But here a play of light looses far more of its violent, confronting potential. Based upon Elfriede Jelinek’s novel The Piano Teacher, this is not the first adaptation of this narrative to a visual medium. However, while Michael Haneke has presented a feature-length adaptation, Banks’ piece here manages to manifest Haneke’s preoccupation with mediation and psychosexual drama in the context of an art installation. Taking The Piano Teacher’s thematic of the collision of eros and violence as inspiration, the work explores, in discontinuous loops, nine different aspects of this tension. A mother and daughter shout in one frame, kiss in another, bodies are alternately caressed and impaled in others. All this is set to a discomfiting soundtrack that evokes the heavy breathing of an unwanted caller, replete with the distortions of an auditory system unable to cope with the task of mediating an overbearing flow of non-linguistic (yet still ominously significant) utterances. With our attention split nine-ways, this work begs us to bear witness to this highly personal bare-all, and begs us to ask ourselves, ‘how can this be borne?’, ‘can we bear it?’.

The affectual overload of Banks’ video installation is mirrored by Matthew James’ piece, where it is our perceptual system that is enervated – provisionally stimulated and underfed. James explores light as epistemological necessity in works that skid on the surfaces of science and perception, with an index raised in the direction of Manichean & Platonic philosophies in orbit around light and dark. Having created a novel phosphorescent film James provides a meditation on transience and knowledge, the secret life of light, in a series of ‘phosphorescent light boxes’. At the time of writing James had kept his project shrouded in mystery, remaining as it were a photo-technician machinating under the camera’s hood. Desperately gambling on an invocation of fellow light magician James Turrell, we may as well take this obscurity as fundamental to his project – darkness as the birth and resting-place of lucidity, of light.

If James takes the limits of ‘the light’ as his ‘system’, a step to the side takes us towards a piece that again addresses systems at their limits and the incursion of the technical into the organic domain. Bryden Williams’ ‘techno trees and beehives’ provide what would, superficially, appear to be a tranquil oasis – another meditative space in the gallery. Operating not in terms of a psychosexual imbroglio but in terms of an ecosystem (though could we not propose an ecosystem of the psyche?), Williams’ explores interconnectedness rather than violent schism. Yet all is not as it seems.

What Williams presents us with appears to be a tripartite series of fertile biospheres, a handful of cultivated environments quoted from the conservatory of an avid botanist, intent on sustaining life in spaces otherwise untenable. But it is precisely the cultivation, the deliberate and technologically supported sustenance of these living systems that underlines Williams’ exploration of symbiosis and prosthesis. Willows, salices, that most implacable and Occidentally revered of trees, have become pests in terra Australia incognita. Williams began his project with several attempts at containment of the plant – placing one in a kind of terrarium, which it soon outgrew. This micro-ecosystem stands somewhat alone from the others: another plant, seemingly dead, was found to transform its artificial habitat – a small illuminated pond fed by a water pump – into an apparently stagnant but actually vivid ecosystem of its own, a micro-marshland of larvae and new growth from what seemed to be a lifeless and rotten cutting. The last totem in the chain is what Williams calls his ‘dream house for bees’. Rather than being, on the one hand, a mostly autonomous greenhouse (albeit one which has failed to remain hermetically sealed from the broader ‘system’ outside) or, on the other hand, a system sustained by an artificial heart, the beehive presents nothing that we would immediately call living. Instead we see a video of the workings of a bee colony, whose ‘hive’ supplies solar power to the willow’s watery ecosystem. The whole is tended by an ‘apple Apple’, an iPod in a blown-glass apple, uniting these thirds, each more ‘prosthetic’ than the last, with a soundtrack culled from the environments of rivers and apiaries. What seems to be at stake here is the degree to which symbiosis and prosthesis – interrelations between Nature or physis and technology or techne – tend to exchange their roles. Counterposed to this is the strange irrepressibility of the organic order: if the perfect technological ecosystem is to endure, it must not admit one cell-sized speck of the Natural, lest it be overrun.

In a sense, and this sense cannot help but be limited, the model of the ecosystem is a good model to conceptualise the collection of works gathered here. As was intimated in the introduction, to essay at any length about such a heterogeneous body of work first consists in identifying what we can of this body understood as a whole, from what one might call its scattered remains. This perhaps holds for this type of exhibition in general – a graduate show, a group show with no theme to act as caption, legend, or ultimately external frame – and so it is in generalities we must speak. So, generally speaking, we have tried to tease out the threads that unite all of these accomplished pieces, without diminishing their relative autonomies, even as some of the bodies (homunculi within a body) of work here suggest themselves to an implication of their neighbours, their spectators, to humble or accusative gestures that point beyond their bounds.

To mark an appropriate coda to the Greatest Hits’ cabinet of curiosities, we’ve saved Erin de la Cruz’ contribution to last. Not least, for her piece brings to bear that inimitably Latin-American celebration of the circularity of life-in-death and death-in-life, represented in a less-than-traditional piñata that seems once more representative of the show in toto. As a work of nostalgia and anamnesis, it ‘points back’ (not without pain, for its surface must be broken) to the surrounding works. Colourful but mournful, transformational and fragmentary, a whole containing parts of others that exceed containment, it’s as apt a figure for the techno-ecosystem – of identities and precarious balances, of creation, autopoiesis and (auto)destruction, of the mythical and the social, of play and participation, as apt an evocation of verticality and heat, blindness, sense and senses, as any other piece in the collection. And so, as a breathless coda, in order, to finish, it seems apt to extend an invitation to you to get blind and folded, step up, and unleash your greatest hits.

Until next year.

Greatest Hits Artists’ Talk

16 Mar

On Thursday March 16, Verge Gallery hosted artists’ talks for the ‘Greatest Hits: Best of the SCA Degree Shows’ exhibition. Artists Georgia Banks, Donald Brierley and Christine Simpson all talked about their intriguing works. These are presented below.

The Lovers by Georgia Banks – talk

Question Why by Donald Brierley – talk

Carbon Waves III by Christine Simpson – talk

Storytelling – By Benjamen Judd and Matt Watson

26 Oct

As part of the ‘Storytelling: Tales from the Union Art Collection’ exhibition we have asked students to write about the amazing works in this show. This text, in turn, has been used to creatively decorate the front window of Verge Gallery. We are also publishing a selection of these writings on this blog, the final installment of which contains more works by Benjamen Judd and Matt Watson.

Please note that we would love to publish the images along side the stories but in most cases we can’t due to copyright restrictions so please come along to the show and see them for yourself (See!


BILL HENSON, (dark haired woman crossing street)
By Benjamen Judd

(She had started taking walks late at night, letting the concrete of the city comfort her. Streets and alleys would open their arms in deep embraces, leaving trails of wet litter on her arms. Dead ends – silent – were kisses on cheeks pinched pink by the night air. Often, she would affect an accent when she spoke to strangers. She could be French, Italian, German. She was sometimes blind and then the smell of the city would overpower her and make her palms itch. She thought that she would be lonely. That leaving him had been a mistake. But she was wearing lipstick again, would wear it on these night time walks with the city. She only ever carried around her keys and enough change to buy a coffee –  nothing that had her name or her address. That way, she was sure to be never who she was, only ever her at that moment.)

“When will you be back?”
“In two days,” she lied.
“Will you call when you get there?”
“Yes. As soon as I get there.” She packed her make up and a bracelet that she had been given by her father when she was twelve. She had enough clothes for four days.
He shuffled his feet. The bed, which she had made so neatly only moments before, rumpled around him as he sat on the edge, looking up at her.
“We have been invited to dinner with my sister and her husband when you get back.”
“Ok. That would be nice.” Her fingers touched her passport, hidden beneath a woollen skirt and her favourite blouse. Next to it laid a sock filled with money.  “I’ll make an apple pie for dessert if you like?”
“Sure. That would be good.”
The sound of car horn made her jump. “That’s my taxi.”
“Ok. Have a good time then.” He got up to embrace her. When he kissed her cheek, it was smooth, almost chilled.
“I’ll call you when I get there.” She pulled away, giving his hand a gentle squeeze and, grabbing her suitcase and handbag, turned towards the door.
“Bring me back some cigarettes?”
“Sure.” She didn’t look back. No point. He would look the same as he had on the day they had met.

Into The Rain
By Matt Watson

Inspired by the work by Trent Parke, taken from the Dream Life series
            The slushing of rubber moving through water, spraying it up at people, vehicles, and whatever else may lay in its wake. The tapping of water hitting the shelters, hundreds, maybe thousands of times every moment, drumming into the silence like a marching band. A whirring sound and heavy, desperate breathing emanating from a fitness freak who misjudged the weather what seemed like mere moments earlier. The metallic ping of an uncooperative umbrella followed swiftly by cursing drowned out and never fully heard. That empty, soulless sound of water hitting water, hitting the street, filling the air, cutting off one sound from another, separating them, everything merging into one wet squelching sound.
            The shiny mist that covers the air, that blinds and stings the eyes, making them squint and turn away from each other as if embarrassed. The surging, tiny waves upon the surface of the road, unwilling to release the bright light that blurs the lanes, that causes metal to crunch into metal, rubber to screech against tarmac, that causes hesitation among people and machine alike. The beauty of water drifting through the air, hiding up above the chaos of the ground level, for those daring enough and curious enough to consider looking sky-bound. The attempt to move forwards, or anywhere, hindered by drizzling uncertainty, each on their own, separated by the rain.
            The caress of the breeze against the hairs standing up on the goose-bump covered skin, droplets of water wandering their way downwards. The swollen sickly feel of soaked socks and shoes from a puddle a few metres back. The feel of water in the hair on top of the head, like being sprayed over by a fine mist, the water not quite travelling all the way to the scalp. The smell of damp everywhere, from the pavement, from clothes, from the people around, from the air itself. Hearts sink, tempers flare, panic rises.
            But it’s only water, he thinks, as he walks through the haze, the chaos, the splashing and squelching, straight into the rain, into reality, into life.


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