Cell is a multimedia installation featuring a giant red balloon stuck inside the confined space of the Salamanca Arts Centre's Lightbox gallery. A thin metal tube pushes into the balloon, which in turn pushes against the windows of the gallery and appears to be on the verge of bursting. The work is a representation of the feeling of being under pressure. Housed in a glass box that is too small for it, the balloon is compressed into an unnatural shape and is completely unable to move. At night, it emits pulses of light that emulate the pace of a beating heart and can be seen from some distance outside the building, much like a beacon or other type of emergency signal.
Units is a continuous video projection depicting cars travelling downwards at variable speeds. The artwork was developed to be projected onto the windows of the Good Grief gallery, a former automotive warehouse turned artist-run initiative for experimental art practices. The work depicts a never-ending flow of cars that represents the passage of time and attempts to create a soothing experience out of heavy traffic. Set up to resemble a digital clock whose units are individual cars passing through the screens (24 models of cars were used to create the work), the projection is also intended to evoke an hourglass that never runs out. Similarly to advertising, which partly inspired it, the work's principal aim is to feel satisfying and induce mindlessness in the viewer. It is designed to be seen from the street — by drivers, riders, pedestrians — and only appears after dark. This project was assisted through Arts Tasmania.
Shoots is a series of seventy-seven black and white photographs of my hand, clenched. Initially an attempt to study the expressive potential of a simple fist, the work developed into a metaphor for the process of creating artistic work. The series draws analogies between the shape of a clenched hand and that of a sprouting plant to explore concepts of randomness and persistence inherent in both the struggle for artists to innovate and the struggle for plants to grow. The aesthetic and presentation of the work is a nod to the 19th century production of the first high-speed photographic sequences of human and animal movement which later gave rise to animated sequences and cinema. The series consists of a long row of prints spaced in a way that enables the viewer to experience it both as a cinematic sequence – as one walks past – and as a collection of individual portraits – as one stands still.
Landscaping is a triptych of multiple-exposure photographs of the Australian landscape produced during a Bundanon Trust artist residency in 2019. Each photograph is a blend of five exposures merged in-camera by an algorithm that removes the darker parts of the source images. While it resembles a landscape, the resulting picture is fictional and unlike the actual place I photographed. Once Aboriginal Country, European farmland, cottage retreat, artist residence and now museum, Bundanon is a layered site that has undergone several transformations over the years. It is a controlled and landscaped environment that reminded me of the experience of being a photographer — framing and composing to make everything fit into a pretty picture. In a bid to reset my impressions, and in reaction to my own experience of the site as a beautiful place, I chose to let the camera be guided by chance, pressing the shutter button at random and hoping to generate a less constructed, and perhaps more honest, depiction of the land.
Interface is an ultra-slow video time lapse sequence displayed on an iPad Pro. The work was my attempt to capture the fleeting kind of absent presence that manifests itself among people when so-called smart devices are in the room. While apparently motionless, the portrayed face changes almost imperceptibly over time so that it occasionally and randomly appears to be looking at the viewer for a brief moment. The work is a modern take on a Renaissance painting technique by which an artist would create slightly convex eyes in a portrait to create the illusion of the face watching the viewer. Today we spend much time peering into mobile screens, even when visiting museums, and often experience the world through those screens. Interface reflects the manner in which we now pay attention, and sometimes also mirrors the viewer.
Figures is a series of hyperrealistic photographic portraits depicting people pretending to be using their own smartphone. These days we all adopt, often without realising, postures that have become commonplace through the generalised use of mobile devices. The series reimagines those postures as classical poses and seeks to consider their significance in today’s world. Unlike classical portraits, however, the work represents its subjects as generic types which are purposely devoid of any embellishments. In parallel to the exposed yet secretive habit of using a mobile device, the portraits take away all context and highlight an accidental kind of pose that betrays a person’s attempt to hide from their immediate surroundings as they retreat into a concealed mode of communication. The depicted poses were not created by either artist or subject; they are the incidental result of a technology that shapes its users in ways they don’t usually notice and, to an extent, turns them into puppets.
Communication Skills is a video installation featuring looped video sequences of my right arm. The sequences are synchronised in a way that makes the arms appear to be communicating with one another via the kind of hand gestures we normally associate with the use of touchscreens. By emulating a form of visual dialogue between the two hands, the work portrays those gestures as an absurd type of sign language. However the communication is meaningless and could be interpreted as play, gaming, a discussion, an argument or even some kind of artistic performance. The work removes all visual context to blur boundaries between human and computer, and explore the potential for expressiveness through a set of gestures predetermined by touchscreen technology. As we train computers to be more like us, are they training us to be more like them?
New Evidence is based on a 1972 photography book titled 'Evidence' by American artists Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan. The book featured a collection of archival photographs — once produced by various government bodies as documentary material — repurposed by its authors as artistic photographs. These photographs, rendered meaningless without their original frame of reference, highlighted the role of context (or lack thereof) in our interpretation of images. I wanted to know what would happen if interpretation was handed over to a machine so I chose an image from the book, scanned it, then uploaded the file to Google Image Search, a type of query which prompts the search engine to find images that visually match the uploaded one. The 700 images returned by Google were printed and displayed alongside the original image and a match I chose. The work examines the relationships between objective and subjective interpretations of photographs by attempting to reverse the change achieved by the Evidence book. From a formal point of view, all 700 image results are relevant to the original image. However, their content varies so greatly that, among those results, one can link the original input photograph — whose meaning was erased — to a corresponding image invested with symbolism.
i think i feel
I Think I Feel was a temporary installation consisting of a homemade dummy dressed to look like the artist and sandwiched between the walls of a partially transparent one-cubic-metre metal box. The external sides of the box featured two parts of an anonymous internet post I had found on wefeelfine.org, a website that constantly searches the internet for expressions of human emotion. The work was my response to an unexpectedly funny statement I thought encapsulated the contradictions we must face in today’s world. When the work was exhibited in public locations it triggered an array of responses from passers-by, ranging from amusement to downright frustration when the dummy – who was often mistaken for a real person – wouldn’t move. The dummy was deliberately designed to trick people into believing it might be a real person: I wanted to explore what humanity is left when you are reduced to a unit and what happens when you’re not a good fit.
Pinhole Portraits is a collaborative series of images made by participants who were given a pre-loaded homemade pinhole camera then asked to capture something personal, such as an object, a place, a memory or anything else. The project focused on the ritual aspect of taking photographs and required the participants to follow step-by-step practical instructions to operate the camera (a simple contraption made of cardboard and set up to produce only one photograph before it had to be reloaded in the darkroom then lent out to the next participant). Purposely low-tech, the project aimed to foster imagination in the participants and enable them to focus on the experience of creating a photographic image without feeling worried about the result. In a bid to push the natural unpredictability of pinhole photography, the camera was designed to capture images at a very wide angle — much wider than most people would normally expect — and, as a result, produced images that often revealed more context than the participants had intended. I believe this makes them authentic self-portraits.
Night School is a series of photographs of the Tasmanian School of Art at night. While a student at the school I spent many nights working on school assignments and often found myself leaving the building once it had been deserted by everyone else. The contrast between bustling daytime art school life and the building’s uncanny silence at night was stark and made me feel as though I was constantly rediscovering an environment already so familiar to me. This series, produced slowly with a medium format film camera, is a tribute to my art school days and the many things I gained at the school, not least the habit of slowing down and a taste for exploring the ordinary.