Thursday night, as Thursday nights tend to do, hosted a couple of interesting openings in Sydney. The first I attended was Artspace's Between Site & Space exhibition of six artists from Australia and Japan. The second, at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP), showed Sandy Nicholson's 2nd Place and Denis Darzacq's Hyper, below.
Between Site & Space is a collaboration between the Tokyo Wonder Site (TWS) and Artspace, Sydney. Three Australian artists, Alex Gawronski, Gail Priest and Tim Silver completed residencies in Tokyo in 2008, and were exhibited with Japan's chosen artists, Exonemo, Paramodel and Hiraku Suzuki, at TWS's Diorama of the City show. This year, the exhibit comes to Artspace to symbolise an ongoing relationship between Tokyo and Sydney.
The works are different here than they were in Tokyo, as the brochure and Artspace website reveals, and the space itself suggests; they have been "elaborated". I wondered as I wandered through the space if they felt more cohesive in Tokyo. Because there is a certain sense of ad hoc-ness, perhaps even a sense of dislocation, here in Sydney. Maybe this was the intention, the paradigms of location/dislocation in relation to place were mentioned in opening speeches, but I felt overall a little lost by the lack of cohesion between works and the way they had been displayed.
This is not to say the works themselves aren't interesting. I found Hiraku Suzuki's silver wall-painted 'Road Sign' truly beautiful and Tim Silver's 'Shooting tadpoles at the moon', three screens playing slideshows of a series of Manga-esque horror-movie-like stills, a fascinating way to depict still image while imparting a montage-like effect upon the viewer (see install-shot below).
Exonemo's wonderful installation 'Supernatural' explores the concept of time as a construct and subverts the restrictions it has placed upon us all by live-feeding footage of themselves (Kensuke Sembo and Yae Akaiwa) at home in Tokyo alongside live-feed of the Artspace gallery in Sydney. The two screens are bisected horizontally (that is, through both countries) by a large spoon. I very much like this notion of spooning with people who are in another country. This work lifted the exhibition with its literal embodiment of the concept, claimed by the organisers, of "facilitating contact" between Tokyo and Sydney.
Though, I must note, this contact was achieved rather hilariously when I accidentally kicked one of Paramodel's installation pieces, a toy truck, and it went driving across the room. This certainly fascilitated conversation when I had to apologise to Paramodel's Yasuhiko Hayashi and Yusuke Nakano for my clumsiness.
A still of Exonemo's 'Supernatural' installation:
Sandy Nicholson's 2nd Place at ACP was a lot of fun. His works show lightly ironic portraits of second-place getters beside images of them in action or close-up and large still-lifes of their trophies. The secondary 'portraits' contain printed text of a quote from the subject describing how they feel about coming second. These quotes shed insight onto the photo itself, which isn't often enough to decipher what the competition in fact was. For example, Bryan Bennett (pictured below), who came second in the Rock Paper Scissors World Series, says, "I knew I had lost before the final throw".
The juxtaposition of humorous competitions such as world gaming championships (that is, video gaming), hot-dog eating and nail-painting championships, with the serious demeanours of many of Nicholson's subjects creates an amusing and affirming exhibit of the people who aren't winners, something I think we can all relate to in one way or another.
Denis Darzacq's Hyper is a much more concise exhibit. It depicts young people hovering mid-air in public spaces such as supermarkets. Their bodies seem to hang as if by invisible string or by superimposition. But a video documenting Darzacq's process reveals it is all 'real', these young men and women are experts of the sport called Parkour or Free Running. Their immense physical skills, the ability to throw themselves into the air, flip, land in unusual ways and live to tell the tale, is diverted in Darzacq's photos, however. His images show only one moment in the intricate parkour move. So what we see, more than examples of astounding physical ability, is what looks like human helplessness in front of bright, shiny consumerism.
This reading is perhaps deep, but for me these limp, seemingly out-of-control bodies, hanging lifeless or possessed in shopping aisles, is representational of our overall lack of control, lack of escape-route, when it comes to consumerism. As a result, these images are incredibly powerful.
Three exhibits, three very different approaches. Another Thursday.