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Reviews/Visual Art

A galaxy of ideas in sci-fi show

6 August 2019

Review: Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, ‘Other Suns: Cult Sci-Fi Cinema and Art’  ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Miranda Johnson ·

Embracing the non-human, the historical, the retro-futurist and the impossible, “Other Suns” imagines alternative futures through an examination of the science-fiction genre.

An expansive exhibition featuring works from 20 local, national and international artists, “Other Suns” is curated by Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, and continues as part of Revelation Perth International Film Festival’s 2019 program, which otherwise wrapped up last month.

With a particular focus on the alternative, undiscovered or unfamiliar narratives of science fiction, “Other Suns” places the limitless bounds of artists’ individual imaginations at the centre. This shines through in the exhibition, with a broad range of different worlds created through each artwork that feel exciting, fresh and accessible, regardless of the viewer’s knowledge or interest in sci-fi.

Jess Day and Joanne Richardson’s geodesic half-dome is a playful examination of what space exploration might mean, and who it might be for. Expanding notions of space travel beyond masculine tropes of conquering other worlds, the work is filled with thoughtful eccentric details and embellishments regarding the pleasure of exploration for its own sake. Revelling in the excitement of the unknown without needing to possess the outcome, the journey and the experience are pushed to the fore, rather than the navigators’ glory or personal gain.

Soda_Jerk’s 4-channel video installation ‘Astro Black’.

In a similar manner, Sydney art duo Soda_Jerk’s Astro Black interrogates who and what space exploration, science fiction, and other futures might encompass. Their video cycle samples a diverse range of video and music sources, pointing to an Afro-futurist world. Elsewhere, Dan Bourke’s work presents sentences from cyborg scholar Donna Haraway printed on T-shirts, propagandist slogans that sit alongside the works of key sci-fi writers from curator Jack Sargeant’s personal collection. The personal, private worlds of these books is writ large across objects made for bodies, a literal embodying of the possibilities of alternative ways of living, or of being in the world.

Alongside the range of other works in the exhibition, including the hand-decorated rocks of Oliver Hull – remnants of the natural world reframed as alien beings – and the large-scale installation of Lisa Sammut, whose work A Monumental Echo leverages planetary exploration to remind us of the hubris of anthropocentric thought, the “Other Suns”‘ revolutionary possibilities become clear.

Whilst some people may not feel that sci-fi is for them, everyone can understand the exciting horizons of new worlds, alternative systems, and different futures. When these prospects are harnessed to critique, re-imagine, or simply enjoy, the possibilities are endless.

Also on show at FAC is Stuart Elliott’s new solo exhibition, whose centrepiece, Fremantle 1988, is an imposing cabinet of horrors which takes visitors on a “fakeological dig” through 200 years of recent WA history. Fremantle 1988 was recently donated to the City of Fremantle Art Collection by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre.

“Other Suns” and “Fremantle 1988” are showing until September 14.

Pictured top: James Doohan & Bianca Sharkey, ‘Ascension’ (from ‘Astro Morphs’), 2018, single channel video, 11:50.

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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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