Reviews/Visual Art

In the face of waste

24 July 2018

Review: Brenton Rossow, Darren Tynan, Harrison See, Zhang Lianxi  and Rebecca Jensen, “Paradise’s Parasite III” ·
Spectrum Project Space, ECU Mt Lawley, 13 July ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

“Paradise’s Parasite III”, at Spectrum Project Space, is a group show that explores humankind’s parasitic relationship with our natural world. Created as a dialogue between Edith Cowan University and Shanghai’s University of Science and Technology, the artists featured – Brenton Rossow, Darren Tynan, Harrison See, Zhang Lianxi and Rebecca Jensen – all have connections with both China and Australia, creating a link between the two countries through their work.

As I was in the gallery, it struck me that Australia has a similarly parasitic relationship with China through the avenue of our own waste. Until recently, the majority of Australian household recyclables, particularly paper and plastic, were sold to China. However, a recent change in import restrictions has meant that this can no longer be the case, which has led to a reckoning within Australian local councils and waste processing factories; no longer able to conveniently offload our leftovers out of sight and mind, the efficacy of recycling and our impact upon the planet has been firmly placed back in the national conversation.

work by Brenton Rossow
The bits of waste that you want to recycle but are never quite sure if you are allowed to reappear in Brenton Rossow’s works. Pictured here is his Mushroom Chest, Found seat, wooden possum box, baby doll parts. Photo: Derren Hall.

However, it’s the bigger objects, not necessarily the everyday paper and plastic recycling, that tend to appear most prominently in this show, particularly in Rossow’s works. The bits of waste that you want to recycle but are never quite sure if you are allowed to – such as baby dolls, old kettles, ironing boards and fridge shelving – reappear. Sometimes they are repurposed in different ways to create new shapes, such as Ned’s Hideout, which recreates Ned Kelly’s hiding spot out of found tin (bullet holes included), an exhaust pipe, a mudflap and a truck windscreen wiper. Other items Rossow keeps as found, once-usable objects such as a kettle and a bedpan irrevocably distorted into twisted metal, removed from any form of use-value they may have once had.

The gallery is dotted with plinths and metal shelves displaying various objects in this way, somewhat akin to a junk shop full of other people’s trash (or treasures). In the back room, Zhang Lianxi’s video work shows a grasshopper on a road tarmac, the insect shuddering with the force of the wind as cars roar past, seemingly aware of the peril it’s in but unable to escape. In the background, Darren Tynan’s sound piece of crickets and other sounds of the natural world provides another layer to the interactions between man-made and natural environments.

Lianxi and Tynan’s works provide something of a respite from the numerous objects in the gallery space, which at times felt a little overwhelming and in need of paring back… but of course, this is precisely the way one should feel when faced with the proof of our own waste products, twisted and rusting in front of our eyes. No longer useful, the works show the inefficacy of our attitudes towards waste, recycling, global trade and consumer capitalism, and the ways in which our decisions about our own consumption ripple across cultures, environments and generations.

“Paradises Parasite” is showing at Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, Mt Lawley until July 26.

Top image: ‘Unstable Earth Sky VI, VII and VIII’, Harrison See, Oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

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Author —
Miranda Johnson

Miranda Johnson is a curator and writer who has worked for various contemporary arts institutions, co-founded Cool Change Contemporary and co-hosts Fem Book Club at the Centre for Stories. Miranda’s favourite aspect of the playground is getting the chance to meet as many dogs as possible.

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