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Dark flowering

Sasha Grbich is seduced and disturbed by Bloom’s beauty

Sasha Grbich is an artist, writer and producer working in installation and new media. She is currently a studio member with the Experimental Art Foundation, works as a project manager with Australian Network for Art and Technology and is one of the EPIC producers.

“Bloom” is a provocative choice of title for an exhibition developed for Adelaide’s decaying Queen’s Theatre. The artists have approached the site as though sneaking through an abandoned house; there are few lights and screens flicker against the darkness. Domestic objects take on the character of ghosts in a deserted space. Discomfort is the pervading tone; this bloom suggests uneasy birth.
Lisa Harms, flightpatterns_flocking 2006 installation (detail) Lisa Harms, flightpatterns_flocking 2006 installation (detail)
photo Joe Felber
Kaylie Weir, Lisa Harms and Anna Hughes have created installation works in response to notions of disease or perhaps dis-ease. Harms describes a process that involves “letting uncomfortable things well up” to inform the works. While the artists have distinct sensibilities and subject matter, there are formal threads and peripheral connections that keep the encounter of the exhibition a tightly constructed experience.

Anna Hughes uses the space most aggressively with the 4 distinct parts of her installation, Beside History, marking out a central square in a lighter, more open part of the space. In one corner an unhealthy proliferation of charcoal black latex nipples swarm on the surface of a vaguely physiological form. The installation title supports the suggestion of a medical mapping of bodies: a dominant male paradigm (his-story) encrusted with a plague of female body bits. In the opposite corner bodies, or things that might become bodies, pile up, like the outcome of a conveyer belt crash in a stick figure factory. These vaguely human forms are made from new pine, bolted at the joints and strapped haphazardly together by leather belts in a pile, the total resembling something between a collapsed house frame and a mass grave.

There is a calculated formality in the making of Hughes’ work; a deadpan delivery of highly subjective and emotional content. The work might also evoke a profound sense of futility, akin to the numbest part of loss, where mechanical movements take the wheel, creative activity becomes misdirected and wooden skeletons are repeatedly made only to miscarry before completion.

Kaylie Weir presents a series of tactile installation works made predominantly from screen works, plaster, toffee and hundreds of red shiny, rotting apples. She uses the highly charged symbolism of the fruit to signify knowledge and perhaps sex. If an apple is a single consumable unit of thought, then the sheer number used implies confusion and mental disorder, or to follow the path of temptation, uncontrolled opulence. The apples are crowded, disorganised and decaying. Alongside are fragile plaster and toffee casts of suitcases that suggest an attempt to control, compartmentalise or hold still this excessive, unstable mental state.

A strength of the exhibition is its diversity and sensitivity in the use of screen media. Weir photographs soft-edged painted scenes from a distance and projects them also from a distance—we are held at arms length, perpetually out of focus as though watching another person’s memories.

Lisa Harms displays a delicate sensibility in her video installation flightpatterns_flocking. The screens show related images and sequences, most featuring a young woman spinning at different intensities. In one we see a corseted torso as she spins giddily, in another it’s legs only as she turns in a circle, perpetually held on tip-toe by careful editing, impossibly teetering. Harms uses old furniture, bell jars, the ecstatic spinning and the old Queen’s Theatre itself to evoke women of an earlier era—‘hysterical’ women of the sort that might have fascinated and frightened Freud.

Harms’ work involves making and tracing patterns. The installation title might reference Deleuze and Guattari’s “lines of flight”, a term they use to describe a stringing together of movements based on intensity (A Thousand Plateaus). A large video projection shows bird flocking patterns overlaid onto an image of wallpaper. The freedom implied by the flight is juxtaposed with the tightly controlled editing and mirroring used to construct the ebb and flow. The overlaying suggests nature held still alongside a desire for release.

In a dark, dank space Lisa Harms, Anna Hughes and Kaylie Weir have explored rich and difficult subject matter, the sheer scale of the Queen’s Theatre allowing for ambitious installations. The exhibition suggests the potential richness of working outside traditional art spaces. While, like a delicate flower, Bloom tempts the viewer, it is equally unsettling. I leave feeling I have been handed a bright algal bloom; its beauty made dangerous by unstable replication.

Bloom, co-curated installation by Lisa Harms, Anna Hughes and Kaylie Weir, Queen’s Theatre Adelaide, April 29-May 21

Sasha Grbich is an artist, writer and producer working in installation and new media. She is currently a studio member with the Experimental Art Foundation, works as a project manager with Australian Network for Art and Technology and is one of the EPIC producers.

RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 pg. 44

© Sasha Grbich; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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