Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

The Nothing through the eyes of Pre-Post Apocalyptism

by Carl Scrase

27 Oct 2010

The Nothing

Damiano Bertoli, Lou Hubbard, Sanne Maelstrom, Deborah Ostrow, Daniel Price, Matthew Shannon & Jackson Slattery

A West Space Project Curated by Kelly Fliedner 16 April - 8 May 2010

The date is the 21st of June, the year is 2010. It's the foggiest/smoggiest day I have every seen and I have just received a message from my friend warning me not to leave the house because there is a crazed gunman running around Richmond. I try not to watch the news anymore; I also shy away from the printed forms; the Sun, Australian and Age. I just can't handle all the sadness; oil spills and wars spreading and suffocating. So when something happens like this I am again reminded that even in our isolated corner of the world things are affected, actions have consequences, thoughts create actions and perceptions create thought. I have been thinking about writing an article on what I have coined Pre-Post Apocalyptism for some time: a commentary on how artists are coping with the march towards the 2012 Mayan end of time and how this could be bringing societies fear of death out in the open. One exhibition in particular has got my synapses going: Westspace's The Nothing, curated by Kelly Fliedner. Today seems like a good time to start writing as the police and television helicopters hover over head trying to find their target.

I know its cliche to mention 2012 in a serious piece of writing; I get a little embarrassed to admit I have done some serious thinking about the subject. While I don't believe that on the 21st of November the world will be washed away with a tidal wave or blown away by a meteorite overnight, I do think the date will be significant. Even if the date is not momentous at all, the fact that it has been prophesized draws a significant line in the sands of time. My brain can't help but read most art and thought now either by its exploration or denial of this subject. It is through this lens I look atThe Nothing.

A wry humour mixed with serious pondering pervades this exhibition. In fact I think it is the way we, as a perceptive, thoughtful, and well read bunch of wonderers (artists), deal with the fact that the world is in a real bad way; a 'we may as well laugh at the roses while there is still time' kinda thing. I think this is especially evidenced by Lou Hubbard's work; E.T. She has strategically placed a pair of scissors in a floor lamp; they cast an alien shadow onto the wall that is bought to life by two drawing pins as irises. The alien is a weird thing in our society, just like 2012 it is a soft point; it blurs the lines between belief and disbelief, real and unreal, objects and entities.

In fact, it is the inherent recognition in the duality of life that makes this exhibition very timely. It is an exploration of what happens when humans transcend all pairs of opposites, life into deaf, nothing into everything, impossible into possible. It is an age old tale of Grace, Tao and Atman, translated to a generation in need, as we; a society, bob, suspended by a loose thread, too and through with the other, our potential weighed down, but slowly being released by a potent mix of beads of sweat, serendipity and synchronicity.

I may be experiencing a case 'apophenia' (a word I learnt from the catalogue essay) but the connections I find in this exhibition seem too good to be true. Sanne Maelstrom's two weather balloons sit beautifully next to Daniel Price's two impeccably drawn faces, both works mapping decay as a signifier of time. Both exchanging glances between themselves, the other, and the viewer. Connections; imagined, created, given or stumbled upon?

While there are no obvious eco statements in this exhibition; no anti-globalisation slogans or instructions for home made bombs, Deborah Ostrow and Jackson Slattery are both critical of our 'Man made reality' (Jacksons title for his re created bumper bar), they seem to both be questioning what we value as a society, asking: is it sane that we are time poor because we work so much to buy mass produced things that will ultimately be our downfall?

Matthew Shannons re-creation of the mythical first video work by Nam June Paik is, apart from being an analysis of how technology has set us on a path, an interesting exploration of the significance of time and circumstance (His piece is called: Without tomorrow). Matthews work sits very nicely In relation to Damiano Bertoli's video (Continuos moment: And,And,And); they both speak of a journey from here to there and how time creates meaning; but Bertoli's is noticeably void of humans, he has actively erased the human form the hit TV series Miami Vice, almost like a killer virus. We are left a beautiful aesthetic peace; uncomplicated by bustling bodies, words and actions, all that is left is nice colours and stillness.

Pre-Post Apocalyptism; The hastened exploration of what it may be to be nothing, circumstances potentially cutting us off before we have had the expected life span to grow, and stumble, and grow. If this exhibition is anything to go by, this pressure cooker of fate is forging some amazing art. Let's just hope there will be generations ahead to enjoy and reflect back on this important period.