Dark room, lined with shelves, lit dark blue.
News, Reviews, Visual arts

How to find hope

Review: Moana Project Space, ‘It is a long time since this moment’ ·
Old Customs House, Fremantle ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

“It is a long time since this moment”, presented by Moana Project Space, explores the possibilities of care and connection in our current age of late capitalism and eco-anxiety. This show forms part of the “Unhallowed Arts” program, a series of Perth-based events organised by SymbioticA to celebrate 200 years since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published.

The Moana curatorial  team (Jess Boyce, Grace Connors, Miranda Johnson and Matthew Siddall) have taken Shelley’s text as an expression of scepticism over Enlightenment ideals, specifically those surrounding the concept of progress and mankind’s control over nature. In a gesture to Moana’s roots as an artist-run initiative, the participating artists are all emerging and experimental practitioners – with the show’s title also referring to the period since the closure of Moana’s CBD-based gallery space last year. The works examine our interactions with non-human entities, the natural environment and each other; questioning and testing the constructed boundaries that separate us from our wider ecologies within the context of the Anthropocene.

A video of a woman in bathers behind a row of pot plants
Marisa Georgiou’s ‘Afternoon Fountain Routine’ (2016) invites the viewer to act as a voyeur to Georgiou’s sensual bodily interactions with the greenery.

In Marisa Georgiou’s Afternoon Fountain Routine (2016), a playful and calming video that runs for almost 20 minutes, the artist uses their body to disperse water from a hose onto a balcony full of potted plants. It is an intimate action set against a familiar domestic backdrop, inviting the viewer to act as a voyeur to Georgiou’s sensual bodily interactions with the greenery. The artist’s movements resemble a meditative act of personal self-care (rather than any kind of effective gardening technique), perhaps revealing the performative nature of the relationships we have with our pot plants.

In another sensual video, Columba Livia (2017), the artist Nadege Phillipe-Janon slowly inserts pigeon feathers into their mouth, one-by-one, thoroughly caressing each feather with tongue and lips. This video provoked a visceral reaction for me – it was hard not to cringe while watching the feathers penetrate such an intimate bodily boundary (not to mention the taste). Intended as a comment on the undeserved reputation of the pigeon as a disease-carrier, Phillipe-Janon’s work encourages us to reflect on the human tendency to categorise and moralise the natural world, as we designate some animals as “dirty” and others as “clean”. Archie Barry explores how these evaluative tendencies are extended to people in Shutter utter (2018), in which the artist’s blinking is enhanced to super-speed to critique the power of the gaze.

video screen with a picture of a person holding a feather
Reflecting on the way we categorise the world: Nadege Philippe-Janon, ‘Columba Livia’ (2017).

After applying sunscreen or coconut oil (your choice), visitors can put on a head torch to explore the vault containing Matt Aitken and Mei Swan Lim’s installation Aqua Familial (2018). The framed photographs, plant matter and other trinkets in the bunker (defined on the room sheet as “various personal possessions from artists’ living room”) are accompanied by a soundscape playing on a record player. This private, and very relatable, collection of artefacts provokes an instant sense of nostalgia, despite the artists and their families remaining strangers (to me). It’s as if the artists have shored their emotional landscapes through the creation of the work, producing a place they can retreat to in times of crisis. Outside in the gallery space, the works of Red Slyme Incubator identify this crisis as imminent and specifically environmental; their elaborate assemblages react against “greenwashing”, instead encouraging pathos and rage-based responses to climate change.

These distinct works cohere in a thoughtful exhibition that encourages contemplation of our place in the Anthropocene – how we can find hope, understanding and other strategies to survive when the future seems bleak.

‘It is a long time since this moment’ plays Old Customs House until November 2. 

Pictured top: Matt Aitken & Mei Swan Lim, “Aqua Familial” (2018).

A series of tubes and vessels that look scientific, with red wires draped over the equipment.
Red Slime Incubator, ‘Erwartung (expectation)’ (2018): a reaction against ‘greenwashing’.
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Emma Buswelll @ Cool Change
Calendar, November 18, October 18, Visual arts

Visual Arts: October/November Exhibitions at Cool Change

26 Oct – 17 Nov @ Cool Change Contemporary ·
Presented by Cool Change Contemporary ·

Presented by Moana Project Space in Gallery 1, Project Space & Hallway, ‘Light as a Feather…’ is an exploration of the continuing cultural influence of the teen witch. The exhibition features the work of Soda_Jerk, Oliver Hull & Celeste Njoo, Lyndon Blue, Jack Caddy, Emma Buswell, Grace Connors, Sabina Maselli, and Eliza Gauger.

In Gallery 2, local artist Carla Adams presents ‘Heft’, an exhibition reflecting on her own identity as “a very fat woman” and how the public sees the fat female body. ‘Maybe it’s the weather’ is a group exhibition in Gallery 3 by Brontë Jones, Natasha Lall and Sophie Durand. The exhibition examines the processes and effects of interpersonal relationships, longing, and the overwhelming desire for love and intimacy.

Opening of Friday 26 October
Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 6pm

More info:
W: coolchange.net.au/exhibitions/
E:  hello@coolchange.net.au

Pictured:
Emma Buswell. ‘WITCH KIT: DIY Devices to assist young teen witches (I Asked the Cosmos for Advice and it Told me to Concentrate and Ask Again)’ (detail), 2017, Textiles, yarn, fake gemstones, found objects, and acrylic.

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It's a long time since this moment
Calendar, November 18, October 18, Visual arts

Visual Arts: It is a long time since this moment

13 Oct – 2 Nov @ Old Customs House, Fremantle ·
Presented by Moana Project Space ·

‘It is a long time since this moment’ is a speculative imagining of how we might understand our relationships and ways of being in the world against a backdrop of rapidly shifting ecosystems, capital and labour. These changes can no longer necessarily be called ‘progress’. As our environment deteriorates, so too does humanity’s constructed notions of the body, the self, and the human as distinct from our ecologies, our technologies, and other creatures. The artists featured examine how interrelated systems of bodies—human and nonhuman—may interact and inform one another. In this way, they reimagine our relationship to the past, present, and future of the world.

Featuring the work of Matt Aitken & Mei Swan Lim (WA), Archie Barry (VIC), Marisa Georgiou (QLD), Hannah Hallam-Eames & Samuel Jackson (NZ), and Nadege Philippe-Janon (TAS), ‘It is a long time since this moment’ explores our anxieties around the survival of life on Earth and our future possibilities of connections with other beings, objects, and environments.

‘It is a long time since this moment’ is curated by Moana Project Space’s Jess Boyce, Grace Connors, Miranda Johnson, and Matthew Siddall. Proudly presented as part of Unhallowed Arts Festival, with support from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Artsource, and SymbioticA.

Wednesday – Sunday 11am-6pm
Official opening Thursday 18 November 7pm

More info
W: www.moana-ari.com
E:  info@moana-ari.com

Pictured: Hannah Hallam-Eames & Samuel Jackson, Algae #2, Slime and Shine (detail), 2018, The Honeymoon Suite (VIC). Photograph by André Piguet

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Features, News, Opinion, Visual arts

The interpretation of [downstream] dreams

An essay about Tom Blake’s “Downstream Dreams”, exhibited at Moana Project Space, 17-19 November 2017 ·
By Belinda Hermawan ·

Within ten minutes of arriving at the opening night of Tom Blake’s “Downstream Dreams” at Moana Project Space, I find myself standing next to an old schoolmate of Tom’s, the two of us looking inward at the space with our backs to the entrance. I, too, am a former classmate of Tom’s – we met at university, studying law.

There seems to be a moment of shared awe at Tom’s works. The ubiquitous Wi-Fi signal – a familiar circle from which curved lines radiate outwards – has been deconstructed in playful yet thought-provoking ways. New patterns form on blue backgrounds and on mirrored surfaces. Our own reflections are reflected back at us, and a hitherto banal symbol that we had all, arguably, taken for granted seems to be prompting us to think about connectivity at a personal, as well as technological, level.

The schoolmate remarks that he always thought Tom would end up as a hotshot lawyer and/or a judge, and that this artistic genius is a pleasant surprise. I concur wholeheartedly. We discuss possible meanings of some of the motifs. The use of blue is deliberate, we decide, reminding us of water, an integral element of life (probably the way most of us would class the internet as well). This aquatic sentiment is echoed in the blue silk towel adorned with a freeform Wi-Fi symbol that hangs on a chrome rack on one wall, diametrically opposite a chrome tap installed on another wall and spilling the internet from up high. It is a daily ritual to immerse ourselves in, and consume, streams of online imagery and data, to the point where doing so is largely unremarkable.

And then, like a fleeting encounter on an internet messageboard, we disconnect politely and I never see the schoolmate again.

Tom Blake, ‘downstream dreams’ (exhibition view), 2017. Photo: Jess Boyce.

Prior to the opening, my last vivid memory of Tom dates back eight years. I sat opposite him at a special luncheon at the University Club at UWA, with Justice Gummow of the High Court presiding over our table. Tom’s intellect was neither boastful nor ordinary, and I remember thinking how relieved I’d been to have held my own in the casual conversation about U.S. constitutional law.

So to reconnect all these years later is a treat. Tom is excited to hear many of the insights being discussed in the gallery space. I mention that many of us are reminded of the blue branding of social media, as well as the blue light emitted from our electronic devices. I ponder out aloud, is it a surprise that we are so addicted to the internet? What does this mean about our present and our future?

Indeed, depictions of the future in film, television and print media all seem to involve the evolution of electronic devices. They seem to be a moniker of progress as projected from our imagination, these new and amazing screens – razor thin surfaces in high definition, multi-sensory touchpads and sweeping holograms – showing us what we can access through the internet and what we can do with this information. Tom mentions that sci-fi movies perpetuate the idea of a blue screen. Intrigued, I subsequently look this up and find an entire podcast discussing the idea that “future screens are blue”. A researcher “posits that, because blue is so rare in nature (if you discount the sky and the ocean, which are arguably not blue) there’s something fundamentally mystical, unnatural, and inhuman about it.” These wild imaginings then influence current design – our present. This all goes beyond the oft-dreaded, much maligned ‘blue screen of death’ on PCs (I have been a loyal Mac user since 2011).

Perhaps the lit-up motifs are fissures in the space-time continuum, beautiful but dangerous.

Tom also explains that the Wi-Fi motif in the pieces transform into an end symbol that is completely new. I note the whimsy and free-flowing nature of this result, appreciating how the mirrors are backlit to illuminate these works of epiphany. The internet has brought society together but has also torn it apart. Perhaps the lit-up motifs are fissures in the space-time continuum, beautiful but dangerous. What Tom presents his audience is an opportunity to interact with something around us, and to think about how symbols form meaning over time.

With the sad and abrupt news of Moana’s closing – the reason the exhibition only runs for a weekend – I look back wistfully and reimagine myself and the old schoolmate in the gallery space, dressed in white lab coats with clipboards in hand, ruminating over Tom’s idea of a “spiral echo chamber” or, perhaps less academically, drawing the curves of a Wi-Fi signal with blue ballpoint pen on a blank piece of paper.

It is ironic that the delay in getting these reflections to you, dear reader, across the otherwise instantaneous internet, is that I am belatedly studying to gain admission to the legal profession. Tom himself always knew he would not become a lawyer. Instead he seems to be advocating for greater expression and thought through the creative, and I, for one, will be interested in what he produces for his next show in Melbourne.

Top: Tom Blake, ‘downstream dreams’ (exhibition view), 2017. Photo: Jess Boyce.


Belinda Hermawan is a graduate of UWA Law School (2009). Her short fiction has appeared in ‘Westerly’, ‘Going Down Swinging’ and ‘Typishly’

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Calendar, November, Visual arts

Visual art: Tom Blake: downstream dreams

17-19 November @ Moana Project Space ◆
Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm ◆

‘downstream dreams’, a solo exhibition by Tom Blake, sees motifs repeated across multiple forms in contemplation of the ways in which we locate meaning within ever-flowing streams of imagery and data.

More info: www.moana-ari.com/
Email: info@moana-ari.com

Top: Tom Blake, towards allegory, 2016, cyanotype on Bergger COT 320, frame, shelf

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Reality cheque

Review: Taylor Reudavey’s “I Know How Hard It Can Get”
Moana Project Space, 9 September
Review by Belinda Hermawan

Taylor Reudavey’s multimedia exhibition “I Know How Hard It Can Get” delves into the finer details of what is essentially a divisive but nonetheless important conversation in Australian society: federal unemployment and welfare policy. In a country that has traditionally prided itself as being egalitarian, Reudavey’s inquiry probes the philosophies and assumptions to which both citizens and politicians subscribe, exposing the viewer to both sides of the proverbial coin.

The exhibition comprises of five pieces, the highlight being the half hour short film Bludger which explores unemployment by documenting those directly involved in the often dehumanising process. This is where Reudavey shines, balancing a number of compelling subjects, all presented as valid in their conflicting sympathies and opinions. Each viewer will see Bludger through their own filter, and what works is the accessibility of these journeys: you are more likely to automatically connect to the beliefs into which you’ve been socialised, but here you’ll also be put in a position to pay heed to an opposing view. For me, as a human resources professional with no working knowledge of the challenges of JobActive, for instance, I  found myself feeling more empathy for those struggling to make ends meet. The film helped me to see its subjects as my fellow citizens, too often marginalised as mere application numbers in a line for welfare.

Taylor Reudavey, I Know How Hard It Can Get (install shot), 2017, Photo by Paul Sutherland

The exhibition’s video inclusion of former federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s rhetoric is, therefore, particularly relevant background. In a speech to parliament in 2015, Hockey asserted we were a nation that could be divided into two – ‘lifters’ and ‘leaners’. This dichotomy echoed the United Kingdom’s George Osborne, who coined the terms ‘strivers’ and ‘skivers’, and the debate in the United States surrounding Mitt Romney’s identification of the 47% of Americans dependent on government welfare. Perhaps the audience will even self-identify into one of two groups, whether consciously or not.

Ultimately, however, the inclusion of additional supporting material is where Reudavey’s installation falls short. The foldout chairs set up in front of the Bludger screen only somewhat mimic a waiting room. The laminated signs of Reading Material, depicting the patronising rules one might encounter in a Centrelink office, are too clinical a reduction. These signs would have been more effective if presented in greater number or with some sort of treatment; it is as if the artist was afraid to satirise or otherwise make comment lest the neutrality of the installation end up compromised. The same goes for the basic inclusion of welfare paperwork in Like Clockwork, which had the potential to be a more dynamic statement on red tape. Similarly, the minimalist painted desk, clipboard, pen and slideshow of Lift came off as a hastily arranged addition, a structure that could have said more if it had been built up with either realism or surrealism.

“I Know How Hard It Can Get” should be commended for collecting uncomfortable truths and putting them forward for public dissection amongst both the haves and have-nots.

I Know How Hard It Can Get is showing at Moana Project Space until 30 September.

Belinda Hermawan is a former sessional academic in Political Science at the University of Western Australia and current Studios Manager of Paper Mountain.

Top: Taylor Reudavey, Bludger, 2017, still from HD video 33:08, Written, directed & edited by Taylor Reudavey, filmed by Graham Mathwin.

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News, Reviews, Visual arts

Transmission Interrupted – Alex Hobba: A Conversation

Review: “A Conversation”, Alex Hobba – 
Moana Project Space – 
Review by Phoebe Mulcahy – 

As much as we may be aware how biased and over-persuasive our news sources can be, it’s something that is, perhaps, harder to remember on a daily basis, as breaking stories and events stream across our televisions, computers and smartphones at an incredible rate. Whether covering local skirmishes or geopolitical disputes, the fast-paced imagery and predictable format of broadcast news particularly appeals to those “basic cognitive processes” that can form impressions in less than an instant. Showing at Moana Project Space this month, Alex Hobba’s “A Conversation” disrupts such established narratives of reportage, and offers an alternative way of relating to global news events.

Entering the gallery, there’s a feeling of having just walked in on something. As though prepared to host a meeting or summit of the most uncanny kind, the room is set up with two chairs that face each other across an odd pebble-encrusted slab on the floor, presumably to be taken as the meeting table in this negotiation. Positioned between them on the facing wall is a video screen which, like a news broadcast, promises to explain this strange state of affairs. The presence of participants in the negotiation is indicated by two large photo frames which sit on the chairs, each bearing the likenesses of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Yet these headshot scale photographs are back to front. Apparently, the talks have reached such a deadlock that the two leaders have turned their backs on each other.

And so we bring our attention to the background noise that inevitably accompanies events like these — the commentary, analysis and investigations of the media. Yet here, again, familiar formats have been turned on their heads in this surreal conference room. In place of polished television reporting, we have a casual interview, in which a friend of the artist speaks on the incident represented in the space: a 2009 gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. However, it soon becomes clear that this friend possesses neither very extensive knowledge on the topic, nor much interest in maintaining the conversation—or at least not on camera.

It’s challenging to watch, as the interviewee stumbles through his summary of the dispute, looking as though he’d rather be anywhere but in front of this unblinking video camera. As viewers accustomed to mainstream news reporting, our expectations for easily digestible explanation or guidance on the issue are hardly fulfilled. The transmission has been interrupted—and left with just one version of events in this way, we’re invited to wonder what does, in fact, set traditional reportage apart from a “Conversation” like this.

“A Conversation” runs until 26 August.

Top photo: Alex Hobba, ‘A Conversation’, 2016, installation view. Photo: Paul Sutherland. 

Alex Hobba, ‘A Conversation’, 2016, still from HD video, courtesy of the artist.

 

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Calendar, October, September, Visual arts

Visual arts: Taylor Reudavey: I Know How Hard It Can Get

September 8 – October 1 2017 @ Moana Project Space

“I Know How Hard It Can Get” is an exhibition by Taylor Reudavey featuring a multimedia installation that chronicles unemployment and welfare policy in contemporary Australia. A triad of conflicting voices strive to both question and uphold the ideological convictions that have shaped the current Jobactive program. “I Know How Hard It Can Get” examines the relationship between authority and authenticity, co-optation and appropriation, and sympathy and contempt.

Taylor Reudavey (b.1994) is a multimedia artist, writer and performer from Perth, Western Australia. She graduated from Curtin University with Honours in 2015 and has exhibited with The Hive Art Space, Free Range Gallery, the City of Perth’s Grand Lane Light Locker Art Space, and the Victoria Park Centre for the Arts. She is currently the Artist in Residence at Curtin University’s School of Design and Art and will be featured in Geraldton Regional Art Gallery’s upcoming WORLDLINE exhibition. “I Know How Hard It Can Get” is her third solo show.

Moana Project Space is an artist-run initiative in the heart of the Perth CBD showcasing innovative contemporary practice on a national scale since 2012.

Taylor Reudavey: I Know How Hard It Can Get opens 6pm Friday September 8 2017.

More info: http://moana-ari.com/
Email: info@moana-ari.com

Top: Taylor Reudavey, Bludger, 2017, Still from HD Video.

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August, Calendar, Visual arts

Visual arts: Alex Hobba: A Conversation

4 – 26 August @ Moana Project Space

A Conversation is a solo exhibition by Alex Hobba based around on the 2009 Russia– Ukraine gas dispute: a pricing dispute between Russia and Ukraine fuelled by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Such an event can be explained pragmatically however, Hobba opts to interview Victor, a friend who has a general idea of the crisis but no particular specialist insight to explore the way we create associations and our own narrative techniques of global news events.

Read more on the Moana Project Space website.

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Open Water
Calendar, July, Visual arts

Visual arts: Open Water: The Offering

 7 – 28 July @ Moana Project Space.
By Erin Coates & Anna Nazzari.

In “Open Water: The Offering” artists Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari incorporate underwater video, drawing and scrimshaw to portray their unique vision of an Australian Oceanic Gothic.

Taking a true event as a starting point, “Open Water: The Offering” is based on an incident that occurred in 1965 in the coastal town of Albany when a well-known whaler and gunner on The Cheynes III (a whale chaser) lost his leg after it became entangled in a rope attached to a harpoon fired at a whale. The film charts the imagined journey of a detached human leg, gifted to the Southern ocean and its inhabitants by an otherworldly cetacean. The exhibition builds upon Coates and Nazzari’s most recent foray into the Australian Oceanic Gothic, an internationally award-winning screen work: Cetaphobia, and draws from the existing knowledge of maritime histories, specifically those connected to Erin’s seafaring heritage and the whaling industry in Albany, Western Australia.

www.moana-ari.com

Open Water
Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari, Open Water: The Offering (still), 2017, HD video with stereo sound, 4:45, Sound design: Stuart James.
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