Article categories: Issue 58
February 24th, 2010

I’ve rented a lot of houses that have only realised their full potential at night. It’s a time in which you can use lighting, or the absence of it, to determine the sort of relationship you want to have with your space, free from the restrictions of tenancy agreements or the incommensurability of bad carpet and dodgy paint jobs.

Amensal, Cicada, 2004

Many people I’ve met living on a low income and in depressing rental situations have none-the-less with indefatigable cheer designed atmospheres that are so hospitable, they become a hub of inspiring conversation and social interaction.

Of all the places that people create, we return time and time again to those locations that are most conducive to good conversations, or social interactions. As long our bodies are comfortable, it’s the ephemeral or transient qualities of a place and not the design of a building that continues to attract us: the smell of coffee, music, live performance, a view of nature, intimate lighting. The healthy symbiosis of ephemera, and architecture provides cities with the foundations for a thriving and sustainable public life.

Luminosity is a series of projection-based artworks, created by national and local artists for installation upon and within the architecture of Adelaide. The works within Luminosity have been commissioned by ANAT, the Adelaide City Council and Capital City committee, exploring the notion of “sustainable cities”. The artists involved in the program are Craig Walsh (QLD), Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar from Cicada (VIC), with local artists James Geurts, Jennifer Lyons-Reid, James Kuddell and public art posse Shoot exhibiting in conjunction with the SALA Festival’s (South Australian Living Artists) Moving Image program.

Intervention and surprise are the fuel and spark of public awareness. Several stories above a shoe-store on Rundle Street, Craig Walsh’s Temporary Lodgings has put a lot of bewildered or intrigued looks onto the faces of unsuspecting pedestrians, hearing the ‘phudd’ of a distant canon, or what sounds like skittles from a nearby bowling alley. Upon a huge slab of bare wall, adorned with the Target logo, a cleverly restrained animation blends seamlessly with the underlying structure, causing bricks and mortar to ripple in viscous concentric circles, as if a pebble had been dropped into a pan of melted, building-coloured chocolate.

Craig Walsh is of Australia’s most gifted and versatile public artists, and a veritable guru of the projected art form. Temporary Lodgings is a more abstract piece than Craig’s other projected works, which are often very figurative or tending towards simulating 3 dimensional environments, using scaled models of a location and projecting these altered spaces back within the same location at scale of 1:1.

The animated forms playing across the wall of this otherwise privatised space are compellingly simple, and gently subversive, with the rippling circles subtly parodying the Target symbol. But what is this space a target for? Just as the wall seems to be peppered with cannon fire from uncharted virtual dimensions, it is also releasing floating missiles from somewhere inside in a way that is disturbingly biological, not the way for a self-contained and inorganic building to be behaving. There’s plenty of conjecture to be had about any deeper messages beyond the primary experience of such a work, which is of course a good thing, and the point of creating it. Using projected images is a good way to keep re-configuring how we relate to a space. Walsh’s installation is a playful reminder that we should expect any structure, be it a building or a symbol, to only ever serve us temporarily. We need to make room for new ones.

At the launch of Cicada’s Amensal, there’s chatter and a the chinking of glasses coming from a cafe across the street, friendly, like a riverboat hired by a group of friends, docked for the evening.

The Lord Mayor, a camera crew and a handful of onlookers stand on the pavement over the other side of the road, looking intently upon the dark glass windows of an empty building, formerly the Red Sea restaurant.

Delicate colonies of organic light spread across the window in the form of lichen.
Walking past the street-level installation, passers-by are flushed with a supernatural green hue radiating from the artificial life forms. The work emits sounds that akin to the close-up recording of an insect munching on celery, or glass being crunched into the pavement.

Cicada, aka Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar, usually interact with their audience using live performance. As this site-specific commission is intended for display over a month long period, the animation was instead designed to interact with the space by responding to light and sound. A shadow cast by onlookers upon the work causes the lichen’s gentle structures to shudder and retract from the surface of the glass. A V8 engine ripping down the street might cause entire patches of lichen to recoil and die.

Amensalism is a term used in biological science to describe a symbiotic relationship between two or more organisms in which the health of one organism suffers as a result whilst the others remain unaffected. Lichen is an amensalism, offering a rich metaphor for the balance of elements that dictate the vitality of a city. Although different lichens may exist in extremely varied conditions, such as desert and Polar Regions, they are highly susceptible to sudden changes of environment, suffering greatly if exposed to sulphur dioxide, which is released during the burning of fossil fuel.

Theoretically, Cicada has created an artificial life form that could fail or ‘die’ if the noise pollution proves too severe. A gorgeous installation to watch, Amensal transforms the interior of an empty restaurant and provides a provocative spectacle for Rundle Street’s cafés. Its presence offers a real-time analogue for the cultural and ecological health of Adelaide.

As part of the Luminosity program, ANAT hosted a master-class run by Craig Walsh and Stephen Thomassen. Three works by local artists attending the master-class were commissioned to be exhibited around Adelaide in association with SALA’s Moving Image program. Each of these three works has touched upon an underlying theme of consumerism, from various perspectives.

Human pastures created by Jennifer Lyons Reid and Carl Kuddell is a visual joke referring to the ‘grazing mentality’ of the absent-minded supermarket shopper. The installation was screened within a street-level window Leigh Street, a developing cultural hub of café’s, restaurants just of Hindley Street and the home of Ausdance SA.
As a viewer, you are dropped into a shopping trolley, like a pet in a cage, screaming down fluorescent isles and returned to a herd of trolleys at the end of each shopping mission. Footage for the installation was edited together in a split screen fashion, with one side playing forward and the other in reverse. This format, coupled with the roller coaster pace of the trolley’s movements makes for a mesmerising, and sometimes nauseating ride, and perhaps that’s the intention.

Metrospective, created by artists working under the guise of SHOOT, is a visually striking and sardonic homage to advertising art. It makes intelligent use of the two dimensional plane by simulating the frame of a billboard ‘mounted’ to the side of a building. Approximately 20 metres wide and fifteen metres high, the billboard images themselves act like a palimpsest: layers of obscure, giant advertisements that slowly peel off only to reveal another image, another slogan. Each new layer communicates with the old as if the consumer is suddenly privileged to a series of secret messages or clues hidden beneath the surface of advertising glamour. As a ‘reward’ for continuing to consume these messages, viewers break through the flat landscape of posters and into a deep forest, of the like one could imagine belonging to Scandinavian folklore. Perhaps this is the mythical destination we are heading for when we seek out a little retail therapy.

Metrospective has collected a small swagger of urban mythology due to the unfortunate theft of a projector housing the installation, stolen from where it was thought to be securely mounted, on the external wall of a looming building. Aside from the time and money required to prepare and insurance claim and redesign secure housing for all of the equipment, the theft of this work has presented a major set-back for the artists and organisers involved, as the projector was customised for the installation, a suitable new site needed to be located to suit the needs of the work and meet the requirements of local council. Fortunately, Metrospective will be exhibited later in the year on the wall of the Target building near Rundle Street.

James’s Geurt’s Limbo is a work in progress also due to be screened on the Target wall in late September. Limbo depicts the existence of a bare and solitary tree, subject to a hit of signals. Throughout history, the tree has been utilised to represent the health of our relationship with nature and in genealogy, the strength of ancestral bloodlines. In Limbo, the tree as a symbol of nature is rapidly converted into information, something to be transmitted. With graphics that are hard-edged and abstract, like those in a C64 game, the dimensions of the projection obscure the struggling image of the tree, slowly corrupting it into a barcode-able commodity.

The important contributions that public art projects such as Luminosity grant cities like Adelaide is the infrastructure with which to continue producing temporary projected works of art. Such artworks provide rich satellite experiences annexing major arts festivals, film festivals and other international events in Adelaide.

Samara Mitchell

Samara Mitchell is a freelance writer, visual arts educator and public artist based in South Australia. She is currently co-writing and presenting an educational series for ABC Asia Pacific Television called Digital Daze, examining differing cultural relationships with technology.

Read More

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.