Running Interference

The term “running interference” refers to the act of creating a distraction or diversion. Interference, in physics, can be constructive or destructive, reinforcing or reducing the amplitude of combining waves. In this show, curated by Kent Wilson, the work of four artists is presented. The selection is diverse in approach, material and presentation, but each artist utilises layering and juxtaposition to generate meaning in their work.

Steven Rendall’s contribution is an abject rack of electronics. Aesthetically, the construction brings to mind some of the TV stacks of Nam Jun Paik, perhaps Bruce Nauman, or Michael Graeve’s works with large assemblages of vintage speakers and electronics. The collections of VCRs, CRT monitors and small speakers look like they have been chosen for function, while some of the items must be some decades old, there are no design classics here. Even so, the electronics fill the rack in an aesthetically satisfying way with the rectilinear forms tessellated to fill the available space. Rendall has used this technology to create loops of video and sound which play through multiple channels simultaneously. The video reveals the construction of the works through video recordings of the artist constructing the loops using seemingly simple techniques such as repeatedly playing clips in Quicktime. The overlaid sounds build gradually to a drone, passing through phases that sound both chaotic and surprisingly musical. While it seems that Rendall has deliberately created this structure by sequencing the work, the musicality emerges from the operation of the technology itself as the low quality sound processing equipment blurs and smudges the constituent pieces of sound into something new. This effect is found again in the video content as blurred images combine to produce unexpected and interesting colour effects.

James Little’s work is a print of a fern in 3d. That is, the drawing is flat but has red and green ghost images which, with the use of cardboard glasses one once of the sort once found in cereal boxes, resolve into a stereoscopic image. The surface of the print is covered by frosty, translucent resin. As if the work had been frozen. The resin seems to have a smooth surface so that it appears that it has been cast rather than poured onto the drawing, giving the work a crisp edge and drawing attention to its own status as an object rather than an image. But the image is there, of course, in its non-resolvable 3d form. If this were the picture on the cereal box in which the cardboard goggles came, it might be great. But there is no 3d prize for us here. Instead we have the interaction of the red and green ghost images. It might be considered a metaphor for the confusing and unreliable processes of perception that occur within the human brain. How unsure we should be of what we see. Anyone involved in producing images must be aware of how easy it is for the brain to edit and process the input from the eyes. The layering of information gives rise to new forms and new messages. The resin is both luscious and repelling, resembling both a clean icy frost and the residue of some toxic chemical leak (the latter is closer to the truth!). So this image, with the allusion to mental construction, can start to seem like it is saying something about our troubled relationship with the non-human world.

Sam Martin’s work is a woven piece using hessian and metallic seeming threads, presented on a white rectangle, in a frame. The piece has a minimal and post-minimal feel that seems to acknowledge the formal innovations of that period, but has a contemporary materiality. The piece features an alternating striped motif that forms a series of broken chevron. One can’t help looking for repeating patterns in this work as the constituent elements are regular – woven cloth, straight threads, stripes of consistent interval. Yet they are brought together in a way that stops just short of a regular, repeatable or predictable pattern and gives the work a sense of dynamism. This dynamism, again, is the output of the interaction between the layered components of the piece. Yet the framing device constrains that dynamism while creating a different set of tensions. Tensions between the physical quality and dimensionality of the material and the flatness implied by the framed rectangle, this presentation asks us to consider the work as an abstract composition. And it is a successful and pleasing abstract composition, though there is a certain quality of taxidermy to this approach, as though the weaving is a specimen skin pinned for examination.

Vittoria di Stefano presents a series of sculptures made from metal, wax and plastic. These pieces have some dialog with Martin’s in the language of post-minimalism. The soft and pliable components droop with their own weight, or glisten with their moistness. The real joy of di Stefano’s works is in the arrangement of small details. The eccentric placement of brackets holding a component to the wall, or the arrangement of a hook apparatus on the ceiling make the works interact with the space in which they are installed and bring the whole of the gallery space into focus. Other details are less functional, but no less pleasing. Metal protrusions from a rod might be the remnant of some previous industrial life for the components used in the sculptures’ constructions or might be flourishes made by the artist. The works operate through juxtaposing materials; contrasts of texture and form as hard rods pass through soft masses. The combination of materials and forms suggest strange devices, while the colour palette nods to modernist design.

The suggestions that some from di Stefano’s works are emergent properties. The other three works in this show do something similar. Wilson’s curation has allowed space for dialogue. Except for di Stefano’s small series of sculptures, each artist is represented by a single work. This approach invites a reading of the show as a single proposition. And what is that proposition? That the objects in this world relate to each other, like combining waves, they produce interference. Meanings emerge as a product of that interference. We might not be able to decode all these meanings, some of the conversations between objects might be private, after all! But there is some pleasure to be had in knowing that world is rich in interference.

Rubicon Ari, Melbourne
November 9-26, 2016

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