19 December 2006

Nextworlds (Part 3)

Switchback Gallery
30.04.2003 - 22.05.2006
Monash University Churchill
Victoria, Australia

Shaun Wilson, Nextworlds 3 detail (2006), mixed media, dimensions variable.

Shaun Wilson, Nextworlds 3 detail (2006), mixed media, dimensions variable.

Shaun Wilson, Nextworlds 3 detail (2006), mixed media, dimensions variable.

Installation price: $25,000 AUD (includes monitor and video camera)

Nextworlds (Part 2)

Shaun Wilson, The Wanderers, detail (2002) mixed media, dimensions variable.

16.11.2002 - 14.12.2002
Canberra Contemporary Art Space Cube
Gorman House, Canberra
ACT, Australia

Nextworlds (Part 1)

Shaun Wilson, The Displaced (2002), digital photograph from video still, 1200mm x 870mm

08.10.2002 - 18.10.2002
The George Paton Gallery
University of Melbourne
Victoria, Australia


Shaun Wilson, Mr Wigglie survey's his lawn, acrylic paint, plastic, paper, glue, metal, found object, copper.
Collection: Deakin University Art Collection.

Curated by Martina Copley
Platform II: 10.2003
Icon Museum of Art: 18.02.2004 - 27.03.2004
Melbourne, Australia

In this artwork, curator Martina Copley sent me an old medallion box with the intent of converting it into an art object. I chose to address its sculptural form as a type diorama where the flipped outwards case held a direct visual relationship with the main hinged container.

The image itself was based on my next-door neighbour's (
who was a leading Tasmanian politician at the time) garden gazing abilities when I lived in Sandy Bay, Hobart (Tasmania) . He would often spend time looking over his front yard with a sense of commandment, as if a Navy admiral which at times appeared quite comical. In response Mr Wigglie came to be in 1/76th scale.

The exhibition was staged in 2003 at Platform, Melbourne and then in 2004 at the Icon Museum of Art, Deakin University. Mr Wigglie now lives in the his new home at the Deakin University Art Collection.

Modern Topographies

24hrArt: NT Centre for Contemporary Art
09.07.04 - 07.08.04
Darwin, Australia

There has been much dialogue in recent times concerning the issue of boarder protection. Whether it is terms such as ‘queue jumper’, 'illegal immigrant’ or ‘boat people’, the plight of the refugee is by its very nature a sensitive and complex topic. Moreover, the philosophical issues that arrise from the detainment of refugees in Australia raise important questions about nationalism, place, identity and memory.

On the one hand, the refugee is fleeing their native environment – their native place – due to a number of reasons that may include war, religious or political persecution. In doing so, a new place is sought to inhabit. However, the unsolicited entry into Australia is often met with hostiliy and suspicion resulting in the forceful detainment of these individuals into a foreign and unfamiliar place.

On the other hand, memories of these native places are often mapped onto the localities that are experienced within the places of detainment. For example, if someone inhabited a village for most of their life, the memories of such a place would become part of their identity. Moveover, the design of architecture, family traditions and cultural practice, in particular, would be unique to their specific surroundings. However, when the same person leaves their native environment for the aforementioned reasons the manner in which that person interacts with their new surroundings is characterised by the comparisons made between what they perceive in the present with the memories of experiences located in the past. If the mapping of such perspectives involves the places of both the past and the present, what is to become of a person identity? Can the places of internment define a new identity or is it a corruption of an old one? Perhaps these memories of the past are traumatic and triggered by objects in the places of internment – razor wire might prompt a memory of war just as uniformed staff might prompt memories of military or terrorist action.

One might argue that memory and place have such impact on the identity of the refugee that internment places open up another kind of space – a modern topography. These are the philosophical spaces developed by those who experience and move through internment places that are characterised by the memories of another.

Responding to this idea I have developed a series of miniature landscapes that depict internment places from both interior and exterior views – those who look in and those who look out. By videographing these artworks a secondary artwork emerges that reflect other places, namely the extracts from topographical views documented through standard 8mm home movies. By doing so, the viewer witnesses a morphing of scenes that combine the idyllic with the traumatic. Here, we see the modern topography come to life through a kaleidoscope of memory and narrative that seeks to question and discover.

Video price: $5,000

Dorkbot: People Doing Strange Things with Elecricity Too

Shaun Wilson, Statica (2004), video still, DV, from the cover of 'Statica', Comfortstand Records (USA).

Centre on Contemporary Art Seattle, USA
CD launch: People Doing Strange Things with Electricity II
project website
Comfortstand Records profile of Shaun Wilson

The philosopher P.F. Strawson who described, in The Individuals, a universe called 'no space world', influences this artwork. He created the hypothetical world based on the idea it had no form except sound, whereby living creatures were audio signatures, coexisting through a series of bips, noises and distortions. I created the artwork using a series of manipulated recordings of static electricity from t-shirts in my clothes dryer and blended it with other noises to produce a universe not unlike Strawson's description. The main part of my sound universe comes from slowed down static noises that created a sense of spatiality, defining up and down, here and there, too and fro. The title of the artwork, Statica, is derived from the words 'static' and 'galactica' (as in galaxy).

The artwork was represented in the CD launch at COCA Seattle and has been released by Comfortstand Records (US) in Volume Two of People Doing Strange Things with Electricity.

Memory, Place and Identity

Curated by Alexandra Brouch
12.03.2005 - 16.04.2005
HERA Gallery
Rhode Island, USA

Luke Buffenmyer
Susan E. Evans
Adam Eckstrom
Penelope Manzella
Olivia McCullogh
Shaun Wilson

The works by the seven artists in this exhibition explore the complex relationships between memory, identity and place. Place holds memory and defines who we are. Memory is malleable, part invention, part interpretation. We each have memories that relate to or are invoked by a certain place. These stories are our own and help make us who we are. We also share memories of a common social history that connects us to community. The connection we feel to place, changes to that place, or its loss, affect us in profound ways.

Both photography and painting have been used to depict idealized, utopian, or exotic places -- fictionalized images that reflect or influence the collective imagination of the times. The artists in this exhibition examine these cultural notions of place by deconstructing and re-contextualizing traditional photographic and painterly modes of portraying the landscape, family, and community.
This program is sponsored in part by The Rhode Island State Council On The Arts, The Friends of Hera, and The Hera Educational Foundation. (from the exhibition website).

Video $5,000 AUD

Art Tech Media 06

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Shaun Wilson, the Bridge (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins

ARCO: 09.02.2006
Presidential Government of the Canary Islands, Tenerife: 13.03.2006 - 18.03.2006
Museum of Contemporary Art Fenosa Union, Coruna: 23.03.2006 - 30.03.2006
Museum Centre of Conetmporary Art (atrium), Vitoria: 03.04.2006 - 09.03.2006
Da2 Museum (Domus Atrum 2002), Salamanca: 25.04.2006 - 30.04.2006
Parraga Centre, Murcia: 08.05.2006 - 21.05.2006
Casa Asia, Barcelona:
08.05.2006 - 21.05.2006
Centre of Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB), Barcelona: 24.07.2006 - 27.07.2006
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Mallorca: 03.10.2006 - 07.10.2006
National Museum Centre of Art Reina Sofia, Madrid: 23.10.2006 - 28.10.2006
project website

The Spanish touring symposium and exhibitions were held at various musems and contemporary art centres throughout Spain in 2006 focusing on the philosophical and theoretical issues of digital media. My video work The Bridge was selected in the screening program and also as one of eight artists representing the entire project in a forthcoming book documenting the project.

Video $15,000 AUD

Filmic Memorials series 4

Shaun Wilson, Onlook (2006), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Man with a Face (2006), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Girl Lost (2006), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Girl with a Face (2006), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Man with a Bicycle (2006), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Man with Flowers (2006), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Video $5,000 AUD each

Filmic Memorials series 3

Shaun Wilson, Drive (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Airbase 2 (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Picnic (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Tilt (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Berlin (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, 1975: version 1 (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5mins.

Shaun Wilson, Stationary (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5mins.

Shaun Wilson, Pool (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Video $15,000 AUD each

Reference 8mm film copyright Tony Barbone: all rights reserved.

Filmic Memorials series 2

Shaun Wilson, Church (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Through my Mother's eyes (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Kindergarden (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Pillar (2005), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 60 mins.

Video $15,000 AUD each

Filmic Memorials series 1

Shaun Wilson, The Memory Palace: original (2003), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 8 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Dwelling (2003), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Shaun Wilson, The Memory Palace: A (2003), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 3 mins.

Shaun Wilson, Place Diorama ii (2003), DV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 3 mins.

Video $5,000 AUD each

Uber memoria series 2

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Uber memoria II (2006), HDV as four channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Video $15,000 AUD

Night Memories

Shaun Wilson, still from Night Memory I (2006), DV as two channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Night Memory I (2006), DV as two channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Night Memory II (2006), DV as two channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Night Memory II (2006), DV as two channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Shaun Wilson, still from Night Memory II (2006), DV as two channel DVD, colour, sound, 25 mins.

Video $10,000 AUD

Searching for Memory in Home Movies: 1 of 3

Shaun Wilson
unpublished essay (part 1 of 3)

Despite the fact that cinema can bring with it an engagement of memory through the places and characters represented by and from its subject, another kind of cinema - home movies - is a unique filmic genre in the sense that, philosophically, vintage amatuer film can itself evoke an endless flood of private glimpses into the domestic lives of family and friends.

In its heyday, from the 1940s until the mid the 1980s, 8mm film became the medium of choice for many families to document their lives through the moving image. These kinds of films are now often located in hallway cupboards, wardrobes and darkened spaces; a distant filmic reminder of old technologies from a by-gone era. In the age of digital video practice, however, 8mm home movies are perhaps at their most powerful in terms of cultural and historic value. While this is a fundamental part of how film can gain philosophical worth over time, what emerges through deeper probing exists an emotive relationship between the viewer and the image through memory: a ‘reinvented’ memory located from and within film.

The primary difference between film as home movies and film as cinema is found in the intent of both mediums. Cinema, whether narrative or non-narrative based, focused on establishing a public viewing in which the subject was available for both entertainment and scrutiny, yet home movies were private films and most certainly kept out of the public gaze. They are, first and foremost, a method that preserved glimpses of family and friends in candid moments remaining, as if locked away and within their immediate environment.

Over time, these filmic glimpses often evoke connections between the past and the present that ultimately claims ground between identity and memory. Emma Crimmings in ‘Traces’, from Remembrance and the Moving Image, suggests a connection between film and memory; not in the pictorial sense but rather in the relationships that form between the audience and film and also the re-emergence of an experience from the past brought into the present.

'Through projections in living rooms and bedrooms all over the world,
these abundant quotidian moments are harvested, processed and
preserved only when they are stored away in the dark, enclosed
places – pantries, garages, wardrobes – for eventual retrieval and
remembering in a distant future.' (Crimmings, 37)
Crimming’s argument places home movies within two factors: first, committing and archiving captured moments on film and second, re-experiencing the past through the archive. Although it is clear that the first describes a methodological process, what is important to my artwork is how these records change over time to then evoke memories through experiencing a re-invention of the past through the archive.

The value of Crimming’s position reflects the personal nature, and power of, home movies when viewed with distance between what we see on film and how we can then experience such film. Western Australian film theorist Leon Marvell calls this ‘the experience of deep time’ (Marvell, 77) – the journeying back through memory arriving at a mnemonic zone, a mix between the present and the past where emotions locate themselves in transit with the moving image and of self.

These conceptual values are not unlike the French existentialist philosopher Gaston Bachelard who likens the emotions brought about through memory with revisiting, going back to, childhood as he states:
But reverie does not recount. Or at least there are reveries so deep reveries which help us descend so deeply within ourselves that they rid us of our history. They liberate us from our own name. These solitudes of today return us to the original solitudes. Those original solitudes, the childhood solitudes leave indelible marks on the soul (Bachelard 1971, 99).
In this passage, Bachelard strips away memory and returns to childhood as the base for reverie and, moreover, the coming to terms with memory from childhood. Given that the memories I have of witnessing my families home movies are derived from childhood I now witness such footage as an adult with a distinct sensation of longing — for both people represented in the film who are no longer here and also for the places of childhood depicted in the subject that have changed or become something else —, then it would seem logical to include a Bachelardian perspective on memory, in context to childhood, in the construction and display of the artwork. For me to engage memories with my family’s footage is a merger between the poetics of sentimentality and the melancholy of loss.

Without these qualities, of emotions regenerated from memory through ‘deep time’, the artwork might succumb to blandness whereby reprojecting source footage in a gallery environment could not consolidate any greater emotional linkage or connect with the recalled narratives I am trying to convey in the artwork. However, articulating memories through film draws close proximity to that which Bachelard raises, of revisiting a location inasmuch value as I do when I witness my family’s home movies. Evidently, it becomes clear that for me to engage with these memories through the artwork I then have to use childhood as the mnemonic base to go back to in order to come to terms with the film.

My first memories of witnessing my families vast collection of Standard 8 film was in the year 1975 when, as a three year old, I recall sitting on my grandparent’s sofa, captivated by the exotic locations screened before me – Germany, Guam, Holland, and Far North Queensland. These places and others were filmed predominately by my grandfather, Tony Barbone, during his part of his time in the United States Air Force between 1956 and 1964 and also after his retirement from the Air Force between 1965 and 1986. Where Tony travelled so too did his Bolex camera resulting in hundreds of hours of footage that, as I remember it to be, created much excitement and wonder still evident in me today. Yet the ways in which I experience these films in the present, through memory, is not as I did in 1975 but rather as a point of memorialisation, of coming to terms with the loss of much loved family members who appear in the subject. Yet these emotions I feel are grafted onto the original memories I recall of 1975, coexisting as both wonder and longing. Childhood becomes a harbour to shelter the duality of memories I share with these films and, in terms of the artwork, becomes a narrative-based access point to engage with the production of my art practice.

Evidence of this is also found in French Literature as the Poet Georges Rodenbach, in XIV from The Mirror of the Native Sky (1898) describes a process of going back to childhood in order to re-experience memory in much the same way as Bachelard prescribes a zone of memory through childhood, not as a journeying back and into the past but rather as a perception of returning as a child to then articulate memory.
Gentleness of the past which one remembers
Across the mists of time
And the mists of the memory
Gentleness of seeing oneself as a child again,
In the old house of stones too black
Gentleness of recovering one’s thinner face
As a pensive child, forehead against the window paine… (Rodenbach, 63).
I reference this passage in regards to what Bachelard and Crimmings establishes and in relation to contextualising the artwork insofar as describing my relationship with the source film — as an adult remembering through a child’s memories. Moreover, what Bachelard also brings to his position is the intimate nature of memory that, in turn, opens up the possibilities of recollections evidenced in the home movies; undeniably personal and intimate. This deeply private filmic territory locks in the secrets of family histories yet at the same time provides an opportunity for the viewer to engage with someone else’s stories so often intricately crafted within the image and of the subject. Fiona Trigg, in the essay ‘Bourgeois Dictionaries / Meanwhile Somewhere…1940 – 1943’ comments:
'An outsider can easily miss the hidden stories and secret resonances buried in the visual traces left by the people who capture their lives on film. Watching other people’s home movies can be like listening to someone describing their dreams: occasionally striking but more often than not banal.' (Trigg 2003, 71)
In the historical sense, home movies were often composed by amateur film makers intended to be viewed at home with friends and families, depicting celebrations, holidays, domestic life and characteristically imbedded with imperfections: incorrect lighting, camera shake, bad cropping and irregular compositions, non-sequential editing and poor quality film stock. Nevertheless, these blemishes only enhance ‘deep time’ experiences for the viewer as if a type of time-based printmaking – mnemonic monoprints etched into each frame almost lost in real time projection. Yet once slowed down these markings come alive: a hair, a scratch, a fingerprint; future relics of other memories generated at some point after the original event was committed to film.

Moreover, these marks are to Rodenbach's concept of revisiting memory as it is to the fragments of reverie that Marcell Proust describes, in Remembrance of Things Past, by his journey back through childhood memories of eating a Madeleine. I make these comparisons to raise the idea that, like the timely residue accumulated on film, childhood memories are peppered between narratives in both authors work, randomly appearing - overlaying existing stories - only to then disappear then re-emerge at a later point in time. Such animations are evident in the way I have chosen to slow down the home movie footage where each residue slowly emerges on top of an existing frame thereby changing the original image to something else. Rodenbach does the same thing by revisiting memories that, one might argue, in effect, changes the original memory to a hybrid, animated reverie just as Proust's memory of eating the Madelaine coexists with other intertwined memories, and so forth.

This raises the question of how can the image located in home movies change by the presence of scratches or hairs while still compounding a sense of belonging to or marking a significance of filmic identity? Are these residues simply connectors between memories embedded within the artwork? No, they are not. I use these marks in the art making process as both links to other memories, as did Proust and Rodenbach through text, and also as means of anchoring the charactability of a placed character, of moving through and within place, conjured through the experience of deep time. In fact, place - not the physical locations depicted on film as such but rather an understanding or coming to terms with how these locales impact on human experience - when viewed as a conceptual structure becomes important to the artwork. Places are the written spaces that my family, captured on film, has moved through both in their memories and in my own recollections of watching these films.

Places give us, the viewer, a comparison between past and present but also a connection that can give rise to other memories, and from this, forgotten experiences that lurk within each individual frame as well as our perceptions of the subject. If these kinds of places are understood from the perspective of German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who argued that the difference between animals and humans is that animals inhabit places while humans dwell in places, then this attachment to the locations with which we experience and move through are a key factor into why such filmic locales can be important to us and that of memory.

Australian philosopher Jeff Malpas, in the essay ‘Memory, Place, and Film’, raises this idea in context to Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire (1992) by stating that:
‘Memory always places us somewhere and every memory always involves us in some sort of bodily orientation. Memory is tied to the body and so also to place. This means that memory brings body and place with it, but body and place also bring memory. Memory – and so also the sense of a past – is part of the very fabric of place. Perhaps the best example of this in Wim Wenders’ work is in his homage to Berlin, Wings of Desire. In that movie, the city is perhaps the leading character in the film – indeed the original title was Himmel über Berlin (‘Heaven over Berlin’), while Wenders himself says that ‘the city called the film into being’. It is a film, one might say, about the spirit of a city as much as it is also about the spirit of human life in that city, and it is also a film that plays with the fabric of the city as constituted in memory, in memorialisation, in the past and in the future (for memory is never only about the past).' (Malpas)
From this perspective, Malpas distinguishes the connections between memory and place as separate from the past as "past" and in turn brings the past through place and what is recalled from such places into the present. Although Malpas is not advocating that the past is some how removed from memories evoked by film he does raise the idea of advancing the past into the present, that memory is around and within the places we inhabit. Like Wenders’ Berlin, in Wings of Desire, where the scars of the past are evident in the present, we are reminded of a city that co-exists with the echoes of its history - its interrelated past - imbedded within dwellings as perceived and experienced in the present.

In regards to home movies, they are much the same. An example can be found in witnessing a known dwelling committed to film and then making a comparison with that of the same place in the present viewed as a central character in such emotive narratives. As Malpas compares Wenders’ Berlin as a character in Wings of Desire, so too can the locations and dwellings featured in home movies become a placed character judged by its former depiction.

Characteristics of artwork I have produced in 2006 engage places depicted through my home movies as an embedded character so that much of the deconstructed film becomes part of my own identity — places cease to be locations and, in turn, phenomenologically, become part of the characters to which I engage with and through film. The danger here is to produce art that is 'about place', that is, involving artwork as a depiction of place or using place as a decorative metaphor in conjunction with something or someone else. These matters do not interest me, but what does intrigue me - in this sense - is how place can be connected within the subject so it then becomes a connection between memory, and not simply part of a memory, that navigates in and out of each frame to thus assemble film as a mnemonic beacon.


Emma Crimings, 'Traces', Remembrance and the Moving Image, exhibition catalogue, ACMI, Melbourne, 2003
Leon Marvell, 'Brendan Lee, Shaun Wilson, Alexandra Gillies', Photofile, ACP, No.76 Summer, 2006
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Beacon, Boston, 1994
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie, Beacon, Boston, 1971
Jeff Malpas, 'Memory, Place and Film', in Filmic Memorials i, Melbourne, 2005
Fiona Trigg, 'Meanwhile/Somewhere...1940-1943', in Remembrance and the Moving Image, ACMI, Melbourne, 2003
Geroge Rodenbach, 'The Mirror of the Native Sky', in Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie, Beacon, Boston, 1971.

The New New: video art in the 21st century

Shaun Wilson
presented at Vital Signs (conference)
Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne 07.09.2005
1 9211 6611 8

What is new about video art in the twenty-first century? This question underpins my enquiry into the new approaches and modes of practice that have changed both the ways in which recent video art has experienced a hybridisation of other influences– such as the music video clip, the computer game, and cinema — and to how this is positioned through Media Arts and elsewhere.

The logic that binds this enquiry is based on a foundation of themes that, when combined, gives rise to a consolidation of positions. If you asked a new media theorist, it may be in terms of shifting ideas and theoretical historicity or, if you asked a video artist, this may be in terms of pictorial and technological issues. From these perspectives, the key points of ideas, history, and images are central to not only understanding how video art has changed but also in terms of grasping how artists have articulated the world around them through popular culture, the socio-political, and self representational.

These issues characterise the nature of new video art: a visual language that is historically experimental, conceptually referential, instantaneous, and digitally umbilical. Yet video art is no longer an experimental medium nor is it the poor cousin of cinema; it has, over time, become an established part of the visual and media arts with its own tradition and genre-based ancestry. ‘The once new technology of video has now taken its place beside other, more computer-driven media.’

Moreover, video historians such as Michael Rush, who, in Video Art, believe that the medium is shifting from its understood position to something else, something new and historically untested. He states:
‘…video art is no longer what it was before the digital age…video technology is now in a hybrid stage, combining all manner of digital technologies in the creation of what is likely to be a new medium.’(Rush, 210)
Overtaken by new media, one might consider that the position of video art is now in a hybrid state shadowed by on-line, virtual and immersive technologies that are, in any case, experimental. Given this, throughout my essay I will refer to video art as: first, an analogue and digital time-based medium which is informed by global shifts, history, and the language of cinema; second, the result of a generational movement of artists who began to experiment with video technology in the mid 1960s so as to find a new representational value through abstract, performance, spatial and non-narrative driven images and thus developing through the poetic, the political, and the self-referential to become an established inter-disciplinary medium; third, an artform that compliments new media; and forth, an artform positioned as either a reflection of, or makes reference to, the wider cultural and socio-political spectrums, and to that of an introspective, often poetic expression relating to, yet not exclusively governed by, identity, memory, and self.

Locating these perspectives across the wider base of new media technologies is found in, and incorporated through, mainstream interactive devices: mobile phones, the internet, computer games, CD-ROMS and DVD-ROMs, interface displays and menus, virtual reality, immersive environments, and digital television. Yet, the artform itself is still primarily distanced from new media simply because it is, and most probably never will be, interactive. As soon as an interactive component is introduced to video, it ceases to be video art and becomes a type of interactive display, which obviously uses video art as part of its logic. Instead, video has become, as later discussed, a part of moving image heritage; ‘it is time for video to assume its place as simply a ‘filmic’ medium’ and with this, hybrid cinema.

This idea is common to Lev Manovich who argues that ‘new media is interactive, in contrast to old media where the order of presentation is fixed.’ (Manovich, 55) From this perspective, I associate video art as being a part of new media, but as an external and outside source available to, and used in conjunction with, interactivity; a stand alone medium. To assume that it is part of the interactive field simply because its current practice is digitally based is to deny not only the interactive nature of new media but also the relationship video art has with cinema and film. When considering these factors, the quest to find what is new about video art is further governed by the affect of current perceptions regarding time-based mediums: the public versus the institution, and as later discussed, production and technology.

Regarding this, screen-based communities, such as Generation X and beyond, are clearly becoming narrative centric given the type of media with which they are continually — daily — bombarded with: the fast paced nature of the music video clip, the Internet, the action game, and the 30-second trailer. In somewhat opposition to this is the institution which appears to be more focused in recent years on the continuation of non-narrative representations; often slower or more contemplative, thus created and resolved through academic enquiry partially attributed to the increase of, and greater experimentation made through, non-narrative artworks. Steve Thomas in his essay Cinema for Thinkers describes these as ‘thesis films’ — artworks and hybrid film practice developed through research and also through exegesis in Masters and production PhD degrees made popular in the last ten years at university Fine Arts and Media departments worldwide. These current bi-polar environments give us an idea as to the differences between twentieth century and twenty-first century video art in terms of both popular and institutional practice: poetic and contemplative / fast moving and narrative centric.

An of example of the later is found in Brendan Lee’s Extreme Filmic Challenges series (2005) where the artist locates his own recollections of Australian film: Mad Max (1979) and Romper Stomper (1992), and also of fan boy genres, which are then pieced together with a fusion of ‘the problems faced in cinematic narrative’ and aesthetic reconfiguration. The undercurrent in this particular series of work is the Australian car culture pastiche, located throughout much of the types of subjects that Lee makes reference, and to how the American influence on Australian car culture, and that of cinema, is prevalent in production today.

While Lee involves the past as his own experiences are mapped together with filmic references, the artist achieves this through his subjects — violence, anxiety and seduction — which are never still. There is always a sense of movement, carrying the viewer from one shot to the next, always progressing forward and jumping through motion. His quick moving editing technique is not unlike the fast pace nature of video games, such as Tomb Raider and Doom 3. In fact, the comparisons between the aesthetic logic that navigates these kinds of games and Lee’s video art are closely tied in together, as both items provide visual clues to spatial and narrational surroundings; it is up to the viewer to participate and move through these kinds of spaces to reach an understanding, an end game, to the story and that of the artwork as a whole.

Qualities such as these are emulated in specific moments of Lee’s revisualisations, and also directly from source films chosen to support his mnemonic narratives. These are, on the one hand, beautiful while on the other hand, sociologically disturbing, as found in Shooting from the Hip (2004) as the viewer is presented with a sequence of re-enacted shoot ‘em up footage paralleling not only genre cinema but also B-grade television such as Bonanza and The Soprano’s.

In this artwork, Lee’s gangster cum action hero fires multiple rounds of ammunition from dual pistols, combined with the filmic taboo of multiple cross dissolves and the resonating of cartoon-like yet somehow cathartic and rhythmic choreography. We witness debris ricocheting around Lee’s office film set while at the same time prompting the viewer into cinematic memories of their own — bar fights in the spaghetti western, the grand finale of a gangster film or even Deckard shooting Pris through glass frontages. Our own memories of cinema are brought to Lee’s artwork which communicate to us like a story teller on speed, narrating action packed schizophrenic sequences; double layered dialogues which establish an interrelationship between what Lee brings to the subject from his own memories only to be then reconfigure with our own, and to the broader implications of cultural histories attached to, and generated from, the types of films which he uses as departure points.

A fundamental aspect of his work is the nature of its enquiry — Lee questions his subject yet never provides an answer. ‘My artwork raises questions about narratives in film but doesn’t answer them directly”, says Lee, “that’s up to the audience.” Although this method contains the tell tale signs of new directions for video art it is through other influences, such as the music video clip, where other artists, such as Kati Rule and Tony Schwensen, employs similar visual devices to translate a deconstruction of narrative and that of a filmic historicity.

Nicholas Chambers, in his essay ‘Pictures Came and Broke Your Heart’, in Video Hits: Music Video and Art describes Rule and Schwensen as:
‘Mim[ing] their memory of videos from the 1980s and bring the spectacle of the hit video down home. Through memory and place they interrogate the space between the spectacular world of the video and their own lived experience.’(Chambers, 45)
I use this reference in relation to Lee’s work, for there is little difference between the conceptual framework of their art. Like Rule and Schwensen, he concentrates on revisualising memories, which can be at times a powerful dissection between recollection and identity both in regards to visual language and cinematic presence.

Moreover, until recently, the ways in which these artists use video and memory, and also narrative and identity, in their creative processes is not unlike the principles that visually establish music video clips as a kind of nexus between commercial film and video art.

Even though the music video clip remained for many years outside the Media Arts arena, experimental video practice was a major contributing factor to not only the birth of music video clips in general but also that of the iconic launch vehicle for the medium — MTV. In a contemporary sense, many artists who have grown up with MTV styled media have now returned to its base and brought their childhood and teenage memories with them.

The King Pins revive such nostalgia with their crude yet intricately choreographed artworks that are one part critique and one part just downright fun. They ‘are a group of flour close-knit female collaborators who began working together in 2000’ who, in Welcome to the Jingle (2004), play out fast moving edits and music video clip-centric camera angles through satirical ‘mockumentary’ styled reconfigurations of popular music from the1980s and early 1990s. Their participation in the 2004 Sydney Biennial was described as:
‘Dressed as athletes, they traverse the urban geography of Sydney using Starbucks cafés as a recurrent reference point, a franchise The Kingpins see as a parody of the European style café. Welcome to the Jingle speaks of colonisation of the city, through franchised and homogenised chains of fast-food culture, masquerading as sophisticated networked meeting houses.’
Through the ‘fun’ aspect of their work, a deeper side lurks — sociological commentary drawn from the peppering of popular culture, multi-national iconography and relationships between the way we interact with fantasy; secretly negotiating rhythmic dance moves in front of a television through voyeuristic rituals that no one else can see.

Other critique suggest that:
‘The Kingpins draw the relationship between Drag and the Australian urban landscape. In the format of a music video, they formulate fictional, non - linear narratives within their local neighbourhoods of inner-city Sydney. Both This is my Remix Baby and Mens Club plays with the relationship of the body within spatial perimeters, the marking and ownership of territory and the visibility of gender within architecture. In placing these 'foreign' bodies within a local landscape, Australia is exposed as sufferer of the cultural cringe and it's society a pastiche of influences. Mimicking mono-American culture, pseudo European cosmopolitanism, whilst strongly emulating Asia, Australia is a reflection of cheap imitations. The Kingpins are themselves cheap imitators, simulating pop icons and pillaging media stereotypes, giving birth to their own reinventions.’ (Primavera)
While their work is undeniably theatrical, when considering narrative, there is less of an involvement of critiquing their source material and more in the way of how we interact with video clips. By using video as a medium to convey such stories – the shake of the head, the flick of the hair, the gyration of the hips — one might consider video art ion this instance as becoming less about the subject and more about the relationship with the viewer. This is undeniably so when viewing Welcome to the Jingle and others works because the viewer is witnessing a reconfigurational mish-mash of music video clips that may be remembered in some degree of clarity. When I view this work, for example, I am taken back to memories of dancing in my parents living room passionately executing air guitar solo performances to the music of Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses. The vulnerability in such memories is the notion of getting caught in a moment of private spectacle and this translates to the artwork

So how is this new? In sum, music clips are best appreciated with a sense of history and most certainly when we have something to compare it with, as found in the work of the King Pins. When music clips were first becoming popular in the early to mid 1980s they were new. Now, twenty years plus later, they carry a distinct separation between now and then, and, of course, for children who grew up with MTV, we are now adults looking back at our teen years through nostalgia. Therefore, the music video clip genre is now generational and a sense of history is visually malleable; a factor that was not as powerful even ten years ago as it is now.

This is undoubtedly one recent influence on video art that is mirrored by its roots in popular culture and that of television: throughout its forty-year history, video art has often parallelled media content found in mainstream popular culture, including film and television, which in turn has influenced both areas, as found in TVTV’s affect on interviewing techniques of live news reporting, and Nam June Paik’s affect on the aesthetic of motion graphics used in MTV and beyond.

Another example of recent video art is located in the work of Chris Cunningham, who takes the medium and blurs the boundaries between where music video clips stop and video art starts. The climatic All is Full of Love (1999), which Cunningham himself calls a 'kama sutra meets industrial robotics', marks a division in the production of video art. Although the work was produced as a music clip for Bjork with a song by the same title, it was embraced in the years after by institutions and artists alike, in combination with other artworks of a similar vein that employed both the same technologies and editing/cinematographic styles.

The artists web site describes All is Full of Love as revealing ‘a landscape in which the cold beauty of technology melds sexually and sensuously with the organic world.’ Here see two human-like robots choreographed with other machinery, in a sensuous and seemingly erotic embrace. Cunningham states:
‘As a teenager I had quite an obsession with industrial robotics and electronic music. I always thought it would be nice to mix that aesthetic of robotic fetishism with something completely conflicting. All Is Full of Love is so much about romance and sexuality that I thought it might be interesting to push those ideas together with a sort of cold technology, and see if we could make it work...’ (Cunningham)
These qualities — sensuality and emotion — are further developed in other works that travel through darker passages and into the realms of the grotesque. Rubber Johnnie (2002) is a psychological butchers shop of cinematic dance theatre: Frankenstein meets ET, Hitchcock meets a techno Blair Witch Project, which display fast paced editing, quick pans complimented with unrecognisable CGI and further enhancement.

In this work, a night vision video sequence of a disabled naked mutant human with a super-sized head blurts out the words ‘mama’ amongst convulsions of paranoia before dancing in a wheel chair to the Aphex Twins track titled AFX237V7. In complete contrast to his earlier All is Full of Love, this grotesque and utterly disturbing artwork takes Cunningham deeper into a self-created nexus that rests in between video art and music clips, only to return with a consolidated platform that makes distinction between commercial product and artwork. It is because of his narrativity juncture, as found in Rubber Jonnie that the artwork is, arguably, part of video art and, moreover, film. What is striking about this factor is the combination between the fast past, blink of an eye editing, and the slow paced, abstracted movement, which seems to combine an oddity with both computer game action and the institution’s non-narrative contemplativeness.

Like Flex, as ‘shown as part of Apocalypse: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art at the Royal Academy of Art in 2000’ (website, Cunningham) Cunningham takes video art in new directions, using industry standard software including compositing and CGI complimented with an array of high end video and film cameras. If it were not for the digital revolution, his work, and others, might not be reliant on visual effects to the level with which we see today.

Moreover, since the mid 1990s, digital technologies have become increasingly popular, and in recent years necessary, for the video artist thanks to a ‘revolution’ which redefined production, postproduction and distribution media. Partly responsible for spearheading this shift was Apple computers. When ‘iMovie’ was released in 1998, it became one of the first widely available digital softwares to simply and effectively bring about a basic, yet comprehensive editing suite into the homes of both artists and the amateur filmmaker. With this came rapid changes that affected video art given that now everyone can film and edit their artworks with relatively little expense and expertise. At this point, things changed and so did the type of artwork made by artists. Within 5 years, the VHS tape was out and the DVD was in. Suddenly, video makers found themselves capable of producing, at a price, Hollywood standard effects compiled on High Definition video that mimicked the look of film. Further enhancements by applications such as Premier and Final Cut Pro provided complicated edits and processing, thus more resolved postproduction without the need for in-camera or reel-to-reel editing.

As technology advanced, a generation who never knew life without the internet emerged, and from here, a different expectation of the quick flashing, narrative screen-based genres emerged that has ultimately impacted on art schools training video artists as well as the availability of digital video technologies.

Yet has this changed video art lost the qualities found in pre-millennial artworks? No. The lyrical narratives are still with us, found in the works of Lorna Simpson and Mary Lucier, the poetic is still located in the works of Viola and Grahame Weinbren just as the political is still with us thanks to artists such as Tracey Moffatt and Shirin Neshat.

However, through the recent contributions of Brendan Lee, The King Pins, and Chris Cunningham, we see new pathways emerging for video art, representative of cultural factors, societal changes, and the advancements in cinema and technology.

By these examples and others it can be recognised that new video art practice is understood as being; first, a distinction between both the narrative driven, fast paced action of current new media-based mediums and contemplative non-narrative approaches; second, more advanced aesthetics and effects can now be attained thanks to the advancement of the digital revolution; third, the questioning of narrativity through cinema; and forth, the integration of history as theme through critiquing music video clips while at the same time articulating memory as a mode of understanding and coming to terms with this history, and that of personal identity.

Where this leaves video art is at a crossroads intersected by cinema and interactivity. More filmic than interactive, video art will continue its forty-year history with new ideas and evolving practices. The new new has begun.


Michael Rush, Video Art, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003
Michale Rush, New Media in Late 20th-Century Art, Thames and Hudson, London, 1999.
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2001.
Steve Thomas, ‘Cinema for Thinkers’, Broadsheet, Open City Inc, Sydney, August/September 2005, No.68, p.19.
Nicholas Chambers, ‘Pictures Came and Broke Your Heart’, in Video Hits: Art and Music Videos, Queensland Art Gallery, 2004.
Kathryn Weir, ‘Jump Cut: Music Video Aesthetics’, in Video Hits: Art and Music Videos, Queensland Art Gallery, 2004.
Christian Metz, ‘The Fictional Film and Its Spectator: A Metapsychological Study’, in Apparatus, ed. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Tanam Press, New York, 1980.
Primavera website, ,http://www.mca.com.au/modules/primavera03/> (accessed 29th July, 2005).
Chris Cunningham website
(accessed 29th July, 2005).

Remixing Memory: the Copied Image in Australian Photography

Shaun Wilson
No. 77, Autumn 2006, pp. 35-37

The imbeddedness of memory in the copied image is a theme well explored throughout Australian photography. Recent examples have yielded a reinvented context – the memory of an original image repositioned through a second-handed facsimile. The idea, of course, is to bring this copy to something else which, in turn, becomes a third image; an archive of collected images catalogued through a process to what media theorist Lev Manovich claims as ‘a cultural remix.’

Evidence of this is found in the Duraclear prints of Lyndell Brown and Charles Green. The Map of Atlantis (2005) reconstitutes several key images – ‘a NASA Space Shuttle mission, Johnny Depp as William Blake in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, Redfern Max the Elder with India Pirrie, Harmony Day, 2004, and Robert Smithson breaking plate glass for Map of Atlantis’ – through assemblage as painting reproduced as photography. What is striking about this artwork is not a developed pictorial aesthetic but rather the process of layered images as if some kind of mnemonic montage under strain.

The Map of Atlantis explores a central idea that address how images change when copied, and from this, how the ‘memory’ of the first image is ever present in its successive copies
Like the American scholar Robert Smithson, who wrote that memories trapped the future as if they were buried under the pressure of multiple sheets of glass' , Brown and Green approach image making as a means of coming to terms with how their artworks use the archived image as a mode of articulating memory, art and the archive. Yet it is the method of this process rather than identification of the archival, which seems to have the greatest presence, a wider state of play within the Map of Atlantic and other works. Here, ‘remixing’ becomes the process and memories turn into the ‘by-product’ of remixing.

Of greater concern is what happens to an image after remixing. Does it loose its value and become a watered-down hybrid or is nothing lost and everything gained? The Map of Atlantis provides some clues. If the premise behind this artwork is centred on the process of memory as a generational copy and how the image withstands such reinvention — both in terms of aesthetics and context — then the viewer only has to look at how the embedded image of Johnny Depp within the picture looses its original value – a film still anchored to the motion picture Dead Man (2001). Yet by placing this film still into a grouping of other images and the context changes: a memory of an image placed in context to foreign agents which renders the first image under pressure; it has ceased to be a film still and is now a cultural facsimile.

Furthermore, the image experiences another kind of stress: are we looking at a photograph of a painting or is it a photograph made from a painting? Either way, both artists’ deconstruct the process of photography, which then reconstructs itself through the memory of a painting - the photograph of a painting of a photograph.

The same process occurs in the recent work of Aaron Seeto. His mammoth undertaking of One Thousand Other Things congeals the artists ‘interest in the ways in which the memories and stories found within photographic images and archives alter and change with their retelling.’ By the methods used to create his artworks, Seeto comes to terms with his own ancestry from using photocopies, as opposed to painting used by Brown and Green, as a means of establishing images– from photograph to photocopy to photograph.

The artworks exist as hand manipulated silver photographic prints on prepared duck eggs described by the artist as part of a wider investigation into ‘the ways photographs and their meanings continually alter and transform through the degeneration (oxidation) of its silver chemistry, and how they provide us with both poetic possibility as well as political imperative.’

Here, the viewer witnesses the third image through multiple family portraits from Seeto’s family archive of relatives migrating from China to Australia in the early 1900s. This also plays with how we ‘collect’ the past and the interpretations with which we understand it.

Although the artist’s priority of process-over-product focuses attention on how the image was made, the double layered photographs found in One Thousand Other Things appear to be grounded in issues that focus on collecting the past through the photographic image and then, after remixing, coming to terms with a past – not the past but a version of history as we know it.

The methods used by Seeto to creating such a picture, itself steeped in historical references of a by-gone practice, says much of our preoccupation with the past, and of identity: mapping the past onto objects etched with the memory of the original portraits.

Seeto further establishes a context of history in the translation of his images not unlike the artwork of Alan Cruickshank. Works in his series Moco Polo or Museum of the Colonial Post Colonial (1997-2001) ‘are based on J.W Lindt’s photo album of Australian Aboriginals [Koori], created in the 1870s.’

In replacing the faces of Koori people with those found in ‘famous historical photographs – of a construction worker, or the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or of First World War Aviators’, as described by Phillip Jones (Curator, Museum of South Australia) as ‘cut and pasted identities and facts’ , Cruickshank establishes a moral dilemma in this resultant third image. Although it is blatantly obvious that there are two variants of each image, the viewer is confronted by a two-folded oddity: first, the absurd brutality of colonialism in nineteenth century photography versus the historical remix of post colonialism and; second, the memory of the original figures morphed into someone else, a third person.

In an untitled work from the Moco Polo series, father and son pose for the camera presiding over the apparent hunt of a kangaroo. In Lindt’s original image, complete with a Boomerang positioned in the sprawled paws of the kangaroo carcase, two Koori figures are placed in a constructed theatre-like set exemplifying this sinister genre which portrayed indigenous people as sideshow exhibits. The defeated figures stand morphed into position, which, through Cruickshank’s third image, reverses the conquered with superimposed faces of the conquerors. The viewer is left with no other choice than to revisit Lindt’s original photograph with questions of accountability, and most importantly, issues of white guilt.

Brendan Lee also plays with memories in Anthology, which continues the deconstruction of the first image by reinventing his memories of Australian New Wave films, namely the Mad Max trilogy, as the third image. Based on an investigation into Australian cultural identities, Lee brings to the viewer an archetypal Australian outlaw pointing his double barrel pistol directly at the camera. On first read, one might be mistaken for assuming a connection to the Tarentino-esq filmic genre: Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. However, on closer inspection, the artist’s reinvention of the Australian filmic badlands reveals an interception between the Mad Max trilogy and the artist’s memories of these films.

While it is clear that Lee is not re-appropriating a first image directly through a second and third generation, he is, rather, reinventing a memory of the Mad Max genre through a theatrical-base. Anthology prompts our own recollections of the film and of the Australian outlaw thematic that we bring to the image, from the embedded narrative to the restaged context. The third image becomes our own imagined pictorialisation remixed from what we see in Lee’s artwork and from our filmic memories that give rise from the subject.

The clever part about Anthology is closely linked to the artist’s awareness of cultural identity through the language of cinema and its relationship with the third image. By presenting an iconic gun-slinging character the viewer is immediately forced to access their mental database of related images committed to memory, which are, in turn, interconnected with cultural identities.

So, can it be that this merger of memory and identity through the remixed image is central to not only Lee’s work but also to a wider collective of artists including those already discussed? Maybe, but if there is such a merger between these factors, of authorship and originality/ first image and third image, memory and the imbeddedness of memory, it must be delivered in context beyond the Postmodern and reconfigured back to the survival of the image itself. In the age of remix, when original images are themselves under threat from a co-authored and pre-existing ancestry, artists are exploiting these issues in Australian photography through visual enquiry that creates not only a surface tension between the surviving image but of the on-going relationship between memory and art.

[1] See Lev Manovich,
The Language of New Media, (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2001).
[2] ibid., artist notes for
The Map of Atlantic (2005).
[3] ibid. See (Robert Smithson “The Shape of the Future and Memory” (1966), in Robert Smithson,
[4] Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, ed. Jack Flam (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of CaliforniaPress, 1996), 332.
[5] Aaron Seeto, artist notes (2005)
[6] ibid.
Museum of the Colonial Post Colonial: Alan Cruickshank, exhibition catalogue with essay by Lee Weng Choy,(Singapore: The Substation, 2003), 5.
[8] Ibid., 7
[9] Ibid.

Australian Gothic: video art now

Tammy Honey, still form Threesome (2006), HDV as single channel DVD, colour, sound, 5 mins.

Curated by Shaun Wilson
Project Space/Spare Room, Melbourne: 05.02.2007 - 28.08.2007
The Directors Lounge, Berlin: 08.02.2007 - 18.02.2007

Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth: 12.07.2007 - 03.08.2007

Brie Trenerry, Brendan Lee, Marsha Berry, Tammy Honey, Larissa Hjorth, Alex Avtzoglou, Robert Hecimovic, Shaun Wilson

A selection of emerging and established Australian video artists presenting work that explores the idea of a 'gothic mode'. Further touring dates will be announced soon. This exhibition is presented by the Digital Cinema Research Group at RMIT University.
Hearts of Darkness in the Australian Gothic

In his essay ‘Australian Gothic’, Gerry Turcotte frames the idea that ‘long before the fact of Australia was ever confirmed by explorers and cartographers it had already been imagined as a grotesque space, a landed peopled by monsters. …it was for all intents and purposes, Gothic par excellence, the dungeon of the world. (Turcotte, 10) As he further establishes that a ‘Gothic mode’ existed in Australian literature from the comparative observations of a European settlement at odds with a strange and hostile environment, the continuation of this ‘mode’ is not unlike the current thread running through Australian video art as evidenced in the exhibition Australian Gothic.

Underpinning this mode is not entirely an easy matter. The historic term ‘gothic’ is, in itself, a direct translation meaning ‘bad German style’ coined by Renaissance scholars as an insult commonly used to describe medieval architecture and the decorative arts from the eleventh century onwards. And lets not forget the contemporary evolution of goth subculture from the late twentieth century loosely based on modern adaptations of Neoromanticism: these all play out a significant roll in contemporary art but to inform a gothic mode through video art requires a different understanding that has more to do with Goya than it does with Anne Rice or The Sisters of Mercy.

In Two Birds with One Stone (2006), Brendan Lee gives us a taste for this role by dissecting aspects ofAustralian 'badlands' cinema where he reinvents a prison meeting room. 'Filmed in a menacing blue hue, two prison inmates by the name of Scumnuts and Pigkiller, speak in aggressive tones, their actions embellished by a vibrating projection screen which 'assaults' the viewer. Created in the Australian prison genre, Lee takes his inspiration from movies such as Stir, Ghost ofthe Civil Dead and Chopper. He considers the language of film, why we are no longer shocked by violence and how easily we can be seduced by imagery.' (Bullock, 2006).

Originally exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2006, Two Birds with One Stone positions itself to what Roger Ebert asks: ‘is everybody in Australia a few degrees from true north? (Ebert, 2001) The unsettling nature of Lee’s video work draws close proximity to Australian national cinema yet the oddity found within the subject is that these recreations invite the viewer to articulate these themes through an uneasy and at times, abusive framework. The dark, noir-like scenes seduce the viewer with its Caravaggio-like thespian compositions until the violent dialogue between Scum nuts and Pig Killer takes hold of a darker level where the viewer is ultimately confronted and challenged with Lee’s attention to disturbance.

As with his earlier works that employ similar conceptual tactics, such as the video installation Role Model (2005), Two Birds with One Stone establishes visual strategies not unlike the seductive and stoic barbaric-ness of Goya’s Coloso (1810-12). Both works, which share similar lighting and tonal values, convey a quintessential gothic mode in that the implicit nature of violence looms within the suggestion of barbaric overtones – it is the alluring to what has just happened or what might occur that holds a central power over the viewer.

The same sort of dark imagery lurks in Alex Avtzoglou’s One Two Red Blue (2006). The surreal and grotesque nature of Avtzoglou’s video work draws personal influence from experimental silent film such as Georges Melies Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) and circus-themed cinema/theatre. This often psychologically disturbing ménage of noir-like images taps into a stream of picto-historic references stretching from Surrealist film to Stan Brakhage that follow the exploits of two female circus performers. Interlaced within this narrative is a performative sequence by which one such character seductively strokes and fondles a large dead octopus to then massage the creature into her face and through her long draped hair.

This particular work is surprisingly sumptuous in colour and light that brings about the same kind of barbaric seduction that Lee generates in Two Birds with One Stone. The viewer cannot help but consider Avtzoglou’s clever positioning of aesthetics as a pleasing and somewhat comforting assurance that such delicate images provoke a disturbing undercurrent hiding beneath the artist’s bag of cephalopodan tricks.

Just as author Hans Belting argues that video art ‘attracts the attention of the public with the help of a kind of mirror’ (Belting, 87), One Two Red Blue acts as a mirror of the grotesque to temporarily lull its audience into a false sense of visual harmony as the jump cuts steer away from the octopus sequence and back into the childlike actions of our two circus performers; hiding in boxes and twirling Hula Hoops. Yet we are left pondering to the fact are we watching a surreal dream or is this experience through the waking hours? The dreamlike mirror of the gothic mode certainly has as much to do in Avtzoglou’s work as it does with Robert Hughes’s own account of being hospitalised after his near-death car accident by which he laments that in his dreams ‘time [was] wholly lost in their maze’. (Hughes, 9) And this is exactly what One Two Red Blue subscribes, to become lost in a series of moments where time no longer exists; only the surreal notion of a strange and repulsive desire lurks beneath a gentrified image dislocated through the logic of uncertainty.

Tammy Honey’s Threesome (2006) constructs a different type of desire through a similar kind of ‘mirror’. Based on her long-term investigation into the merger between the quest for fame through pop music and the visual nature of MP3 advertising, Honey brings to life three versions of herself in the one frame singing along to a headphones track with a nail biting, tone-deaf performance. It is hard to decide whether Threesome is a music video clip or a video clip about music. Either way it provokes a deeper level of examination into the reasons why some obsess with the desire for fame through pop music as evidenced in reality-television programs such as Australian Idol, and Pop Star. Moreover, like the CD Karaoke: So You Wanna be a Pop Star Vol. 1-3 (2003), Honey brings to our attention through these pop desires that an uneasy tension is created by these noted dissatisfactions of the every day life by dreams and delusions of chart-climbing fame and fortune.

Further, Honey carefully involves the idea of ridicule. Perhaps one of the most entertaining parts of reality TV pop music programs is the inability for talent-challenged contestants to recognised they cannot sing when in fact they believe without question their ‘talent’ has promise. Indeed, with quotes such as American Idol’s Simon Cowell ‘If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning’ it is hard not to see why Threesome places this performance brutality on screen. The viewer cannot help but to assume the preconditioned role of a judge in grading the performance we see projected in front of us. Yet this conceptual role forced onto the viewer, perhaps without himself or herself knowing that they are no longer a spectator or an observer but rather, now, a judge, demonstrates how a darker role of condemnation can be effectively used and, consequently, integrated through video art. One might argue that from this, other video work that uses parody and ridicule can also be closely liked to Threesome, in particularly Chris Cunningham’s ‘commentary on sex, cars and cellulite in hip-hop clips for Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker.’ (Weir, 39)

Brie Trenerry’s Sleep Paralysis (2006) also holds a dark embrace by subjecting the viewer to the artists collection of live flies especially bread (approximately 600 of them) for the work. We see a lifeless hand - perhaps dead, unconscious or maybe just asleep – posed in a delicate Renaissance-like stillness, originally exhibited in She Creeps at Spacement Gallery, Melbourne and Monash University’s Switchback Gallery, Churchill, in 2006.

Ashley Crawford describes this work as ‘deeply creepy, but its also infused with a kind of timeless elegance. Trenerry’s mastery of line is the key binding this gothic blue that combines images of nature run amok and hints of dark deeds’. (Crawford, 2006). And these dark deeds underpin the fascination of ‘what is about to happen next?’ Once the viewer gets past the notion of taboos – the ‘diseased’ fly crawling on the human skin without interruption – we might be forgiven in our quest to ask why this hand is not moving? Is she okay? Who did this? Is she dead?

Deeply emersed in an overtly romantic and tragic setting, Trenerry plays with her images by letting the central characters – those nasty flies –do all the work. Perhaps Sleep Paralysis has more to do with Honey’s Threesome in that the reaction each artists places onto the viewer can draw parallels, that of slow discomfort and mild irritation. Trenerry’s work is not only ‘deeply creepy’ but also deeply disturbing that further suggests a gothic mode in play – the seduction of aesthetics and the hidden oddities of horror.

Not surprising are the suggestions of cinema in Trenerry’s images that give rise to narrative structures closely linked to Film Noir. In a scene from Joseph Losely’s The Prowler (1951), Webb Garwood (Van Heflin), a policeman, bends down to the lifeless body of William Gilvray (Emerson Tracey) who lies motionless in frame. Arguably the most iconic scene of the film, Gilvray’s hand is extended outwards, perfectly still. Returning to Trenerry’s work, Gilvray’s pose closely interrelates with the fly travelled hand as the corpse or the sleeper holds darkened implications for the viewer in both scenes that Trenerry has carefully managed to compose.

Paying close attention to cinema of a different kind, Shaun Wilson’s Ubber Memoria series explores the imbeddedness of memory and its subsequent impact on places from vintage 8mm home movies. The series itself was filmed twice on separate visits to Southern Germany and London in October/November 2006 where the specific sites had been originally filmed by Wilson’s grandfather on 8mm film during the same months in 1956. This collection of noir-like images make up a total of 150 works belonging to a wider series (a selection of which are showing at Project Space exhibition) that Wilson himself describes as ‘video paintings’. The oddity of this series is what Briony Lee Davis describes as ‘a deep sense of foreboding’ (Lee Davis, 84) The various scenes in Ubber Memoria [IV] are slowed to 5% film speed which cause a random, clunky movement between frames that can be unsettling at times when offset by the conversion of 24 frames per second into 25 not to mention the griding and harmonious audio tracks blended together. Parts of the video are layered with old footage blended into the new as backgrounds contain a distant past filed with imperfects and lost memories.

The technique that Wilson calls ‘stacking’ is a painstakingly crafted with close attention to the imperfections of home movies and how they in turn, when grafted onto new film create what Leon Marven calls ‘deep time’. (Marvell, 77) At first glance these works appear ‘pretty’ but as the duration of the video progresses one cannot help but feel discomforted by the schizophrenic film speed coupled with the intrusive stares of the characters looking straight at the viewer. We no longer become the un-noticed observer to find that we are, in fact, being observed. If Derrida was correct in describing the act of deconstruction as an indefinable decision which cannot be judged, Wilson plays with his audience by cementing two filmic examples of the past together that evidently watches the viewer through indefinability played out through a subtle and unforgiving gothic mode.

So from these mentioned works and others, finding the presence of this gothic mode in video art involves the seduction of imagery hinted with deeper and dangerous levels. While these examples are all but merely a small slice of a larger surface area, a common thread that unites these works are the attention to a darker side of image making masked through seduction. From Honey’s pop desires to Lee’s Scum nut’s and Pig Killer, the oddities of these kinds of works bring the ability to create mirrors of internal reflection that remix a darkened conceptual space into an uneasy and difficult territory.


Hans Belting, Art History after Modernism, Chicago University Press, 2003.
Ashley Crawford, ‘John Abbate & Brie Trenerry’, Spacement online archive, Spacement Gallery, Melbourne 2006.
Natahsa Bullock, from the Brendan Lee artist website, , last accessed 10 December 2006.
Briony Lee Davis, ‘Boogy Jive and Bop’, Artlink, Vol.24, No.2, 2004.
Roger Ebert, ‘Chopper’, Robertebert.com.
Robert Hughes, Goya, Vintage, 2004.
Douglas Kellner, Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Post Modern, Routledge, 2003.
Leon Marvell, ‘Brendan Lee, Shaun Wilson, Alexandra Gillies’, Photofile, Australian Centre of Photography, No. 76 Summer 2006.
Roger Scruton, Modern Culture, Continuum, London, 2005.
Gerry Turcotte, ‘Australian Gothic’, in Mulvey Roberts (ed) The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1998, pp 10-19.
Kathryn Weir, ‘Jump Cut: Music Video Aesthetics’, in Video Hits: Art & Music Video, Queensland Art Gallery, 2004.