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Based on a true story: Geoff Lowe 1972 – 92 and A Constructed World 1993 – 2012

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Jacqueline Riva currently teaches at Centre National de Danse Contemporaine, Angers, France; and Geoff Lowe teaches at École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, also in Angers.

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A CONSTRUCTED WORLD aconstructedworld.com acw-videography.blogspot.com

Based on a true story:

projects have been included in exhibitions in France, the UK, the Netherlands and Australia.

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Repetitions and re-occurences 117

Geoff Lowe 1972 – 92 and A Constructed World 1993 – 2012

SPEECH AND WHAT ARCHIVE speechbroughtback.com


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Geoff Lowe Still life (with bullock’s heart) into landscape, 1972 synthetic polymer paint on canvas on plywood 30 x 46 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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Geoff Lowe First 1 & 2, 1988 alkyd resin on canvas 2 parts, each 50 x 100 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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A Constructed World Errors deceits mistakes, 2006–08 photocopied booklet, published by CNEAI, Paris 3 issues, each 21 x 14.8 cm Collection of A Constructed World

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When we met our friend, the analyst, at an early evening party I told her, ‘I keep repeating the same mistake to the point of tears’. She said, ‘That’s OK, Lacan says you find yourself in errors, deceits and mistakes’. ‘What’s the difference between an error and a mistake?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know’, she said. JR

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A Constructed World Death globes, 2012 synthetic polymer paint and collage on paper 4 parts, each 14–19 cm diameter Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

John Nixon (editor) A Constructed World (cover image) Material, 1998 printed paper 29.7 x 21 cm Collection of A Constructed World

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A Constructed World Player guitar, 1999 electric guitar, amplifiers, sensor, chair, video camera dimensions variable Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Geoff Lowe Self-portrait, 1995 lacquer on wood 185 x 115 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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This is a proposal about speaking to live eels. From the bottom of the Sargasso and Coral seas, tiny elvers navigate across oceans to the estuaries, ponds, streams, lakes, mud and haystacks of the world. Aristotle thought eels arose spontaneously from the mud of river bottoms and Pliny believed that adult eels rubbed their skin against rocks and the pieces that came off grew into young eels. Until the twentieth century it was thought that eels were born and died locally. Now we have evidence each surviving catadromous eel returns to where it procreates and dies in those deepest parts of the ocean. Still nobody knows what this orgiastic event that creates and extinguishes life looks like. It’s tabled as fact in biology but it hasn’t been seen. So much of the eels’ story continues to evade human knowledge. To quote recent comments from scientific information gathering and field research: Despite the extensive research undertaken on the Anguilla genus, major components of eel biology remain unknown.1 The names of the major life stages [of eels] are indicated; spawning and eggs have never been observed in the wild and are therefore only tentatively included. 2

A Constructed World Altamont, 2009 photograph 106 x 216 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

In a previous conversation, you mentioned that Altamont was an event famous enough to be known to everyone in the group, and that this general knowledge allowed you to realize the staging without a history lesson. However, in your work you often propose the acceptance of ‘not knowing’ as a strategy for working together in a group. In this way you are able to introduce unfamiliar or complex ideas to untrained participants. How did ‘knowing’ and ‘not knowing’ interrelate during this event? JDP

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A Constructed World Explaining contemporary art to live eels, 2009 printed paper 2 sheets, each 29.7 x 21 cm Courtesy A Constructed World

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It would appear ‘we put ourselves in a position to realize that it is ourselves and not reality that is responsible for what we know’ 3. Yet, more likely, this project leans towards Bruno Latour where he invites us to avoid reducing ‘humans entirely to natural causes or natural causes entirely to appearances in human consciousness’ 4. The eels’ instinct navigates the conduits of the world. In art what is not-known or not-understood tends to be seen as the highest capital and it is usually delivered by the instinct (of artists). So similarly this discussion of what may be real beyond the conditions of its accessibility relates to human culture. The instincts of famous artists like Van Gogh or Joseph Beuys are followed by the audiences of art. The audiences use a similar aptitude to make identification with where artists go. Through the discussion of contemporary art directed towards the eels, we show that the work-ofthe-audience attracts an unfinished discussion rather than one that will be immediately consumed. A Constructed World (ACW) attempts to build and convoke a permanent space that is made possible and viable in this intersection.

Lachlan J McKinnon, ‘A review of eel biology: knowledge and gaps, report to EPA Victoria’, Audentes Investments Pty. Ltd., Point Lonsdale, Vic., 2006, p. 9. Willem Dekker, International Council for Exploration of the Sea, Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research, RIVO, Netherlands, 2008, <http://www.ices. dk/marineworld/eel.asp>. Simon Schaffer & Steven Shapin, Leviathan and the air pump, Princeton University Press, NJ, 1989, p. 344.

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Paraphrase by Grant Harman, Prince of networks: Bruno Latour and metaphysics, re-press, Melbourne, 2009, p. 78.


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A Constructed World Ball world II (speech), 2012 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 185 x 117 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

When Speech and What Archive was invited to make a Medicine Show at CaravansĂŠrail near Paris, Marie was inspired by the venue that is a movable circus tent on a large scale. Marie decided to move all over the paper room, which was on the floor, on a ball used by acrobats and monkeys. She had learned to do it adeptly when she was a young teenager. In the weeks leading up she practised a lot but couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t remaster the skill. We went ahead with the performance with her not being able to

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balance and move on the ball and being supported by others. ACW

A Constructed World The death of Fester, 2000 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 5:36 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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A Constructed World Second last second chance, 2009â&#x20AC;&#x201C;12 wood, tarpaulin, iPod, headphones, mixed media dimensions variable Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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A Constructed World Fester live, 1997 bubblejet print 60 x 82 cm Courtesy A Constructed World

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A Constructed World Ball world I (telephone), 2012 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 122 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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A Constructed World Uncle Fester sings the blues, 1997 posters 2 sheets, each 84.1 x 59.4 cm Courtesy A Constructed World

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Geoff’s 1997 Contemporary Art Archive installation— ‘a montage of images, references, times and places’ as I described it then —was like walking into one of his paintings, as if peeking behind the scenes and witnessing his thinking and working processes—a key objective of the CAA project. Hendrix, Mary and Fester were there in one form or another; the doublenecked electric guitar; speaker boxes, figurines and other assorted objects; and a blue tarpaulin with silvery swirls representing the hole in the ozone layer,

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a key motif from his painting at the time. The exhibition marked a key moment in Geoff’s shift away from painting and toward collaborative installation and performance with Jacqui. The poster published for the occasion featured him dressed as Fester singing the blues. SC


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Geoff Lowe Untitled, 1986 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 100 x 200 cm Private collection, Melbourne

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Geoff Lowe We picture facts to ourselves, 1977 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 160 x 198 cm Collection of Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, NSW

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Painted in the middle of a nervous breakdown in highly politicized and drugridden Fitzroy. Trying to hold on to reality (through Wittgenstein). GL

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Jon Campbell Ecstatic Torino, c. 2008 watercolour on paper 24 x 31 cm Collection of A Constructed World

The watercolour seems a bit moodier than the painting. I can’t remember which one came first. It’s not a study for the painting. Again, I’m looking for the feel rather than accuracy. And the other thing is that it’s classic A Constructed World, ‘stay in groups’, ‘no need to be great’. JC

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Geoff Lowe And the wind cries Mary III, 1995 lacquer, gold leaf and silver leaf on wood 120 x 120.5 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

At this point in the lacquer studio at the Wooden House on Stilts in Hanoi, I began to think painting had more potential to anticipate something than document it. Getting it wrong was starting to have more appeal than mastering it. GL

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Geoff Lowe Narrative speaking to herself, 1979 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 58.5 x 45.9 cm Private collection, Melbourne

A Constructed World with Hy VĂśng Springvale Vietnam painting, 1996 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 30 x 310 cm Courtesy A Constructed World

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This is a portrait of me, one of very few I have agreed to, which, although I was quite young when it was painted, looks more like I do now than I did then. It reminds me of my mother and the jumper in the painting was dark blue and beautifully knitted by Geoffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mother. I had known Geoff since he was a schoolboy who made a very definite decision to be an artist. He had a strong painting practice and career by the time this work was painted. Geoff had become known for his idealized generic portraits but this

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is very particular. This painting was in the collection of my mother, Judith Tenenbaum, until she died. AS


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Geoff Lowe with Rosebud Contact boundaries, 1989–92 synthetic polymer paint and laser transfer print on canvas 185 x 117 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

Amateur and non-artists seemed to find it easier to paint when together in a group and if something they made was photographed or photocopied it appeared to make people less embarrassed or selfcritical about what they had made. The photo depicts this. A psychoanalyst once said to me, ‘So groups and technology lower the tension about expressing something’. GL

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By others

Etienne Bernard Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear #3, 2009 screenprint on paper 176 x 120 cm Collection of A Constructed World

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A Constructed World and Speech and What Archive Three-story paper room, 2010â&#x20AC;&#x201C;12 wood, paper, inkjet prints, mixed media 500 x 200 x 255 cm Courtesy A Constructed World, Speech and What Archive and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Geoff Lowe Internal glossary, 1972 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 182 x 243 cm Fine Art Collection, University of Tasmania, Hobart

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Empirical paintings

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A Constructed World and DIAO DIAO, 2012 newspaper, published by A Constructed World and École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Angers, France 38 x 29 cm, 12 pages Collection of A Constructed World

A Constructed World Treesex, 2012 costumes, mixed media dimensions variable Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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A Constructed World SWA skeletons, 2011 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 212 x 200 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Geoff Lowe Background I (Camberwell quarry), c. 1981 synthetic polymer paint on canvas on plywood 35.6 x 56 cm Private collection, Melbourne

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I met Geoff on a 96 St Kilda tram trundling down Fitzroy Street one evening in the mid-â&#x20AC;&#x2122;70s; the same age, we were still fired by an optimism generated from the â&#x20AC;&#x2122;60s and the walls we had run into had not stopped us. I discovered the quarry while working with a builder on a house that overlooked it and showed it to Geoff. It seemed to satisfy his want for huge amounts of detail and a natural stage for his dramas; we drew there together quite a bit in the first half of 1980 before I headed overseas to study. TM

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Geoff Lowe Inherited models (2), 1995 laser print on rice paper on synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 122 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

By others

Etienne Bernard Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear #1, 2009 screenprint on paper 176 x 120 cm Collection of A Constructed World

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A Constructed World Universal love/unconditional regard, 1996–2012 tarpaulin, wood, acrylic, found objects, mixed media 400 x 500 cm (variable) Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

I remember this work from an exhibition at Whanki Museum in Seoul. It was the perfect touring work—like a jack-in-thebox. Earlier paintings of Tower Hill, with figures ‘acting out’ in the landscape, have become a set-piece for live performance. You can see the remnants scattered across the blue tarpaulin modelled loosely on Tower Hill. It’s still best resolved through single-point perspective, but you come across it more like a campsite—or even crime scene—than a picture. I recall the live performance, the screaming guitar and

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my gorgeous wife dressed as Uncle Fester in a push-up bra caterwauling into the night. Created a few issues over dinner with our hosts … SK

Jacqueline Riva A photograph, 1990 photograph 87 x 98 cm Courtesy Jacqueline Riva

Like Las meninas—the artist and his retinue of assistants at court. Geoff’s high regard for politically incomparable figures is clear, in this case Irene Bolger, ‘queen’ of the nurses’ strike in 1986. Otherwise the enthusiastic amateur, the photographer, the writer, the framer, the photocopier and, of course, ourselves, all caught up in the triangulation of social relations which since Velasquez has generated the meaning and purpose of secular art. But here, there’s sexual tension too, Jacqui brushing Geoff’s right arm; the very

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beginning of their loving partnership as A Constructed World … SK


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A Constructed World Uncle Fester sings the blues, 1997 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 4:14 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

A weird and unexpected consignment arrives via the MCA goods lift. Clunky metal doors part like stage curtains revealing a mobile theatre, a wild mix of medievalism, howling blues, punk rock and retro TV. Bald, capped and black-eyed, Geoff makes a compelling Fester cast as rock star or evangelist, an anti-heroic caricature of manhood. He opens his gown to reveal his stigmata or beat his chest. The door-curtains close and the tableau vivant departs. My memories are hallucinatory like the grainy photos and video of the event. SC

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A Constructed World History no!, 2000 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 4:41 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

… the elevator door opened and a loud and clear cry of someone came from it. ‘History, NO!’ a woman shouted. And she shouted again, ‘Historia, NO!’ The cry continued ... visitors and artists came out of their studios, walked through the hall, and approached the area of the elevators where we were standing, now mute. During that time, about five seemingly attenuated minutes, the elevator’s door remained open and the cry was heard incessantly, sometimes shouted in English, sometimes heard in Spanish.

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But one couldn’t see the face or the body of the woman performing as a gigantic megaphone made out of corrugated cardboard completely dominated the elevator’s space. SHCC


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Geoff Lowe ‘Buckley’s chance’ from the series ‘Ten famous feelings for men’, 1984 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 91 cm Private collection, Sydney

‘Buckley’s chance’ was a term used a lot when I was a kid. Buckley’s and Nunn (the name of a department store). No chance. Buckley was an escaped convict who lived with Indigenous people for a long time, even forgot how to speak English. He wrote his memoir some time after returning to settler society. John Dunkley-Smith posed for this painted-from-life in situ. I found it very hard to make anything up, so I painted from life. GL

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Geoff Lowe Gateway, 1974 oil on plywood 91.5 x 122 cm Monash University Collection, gift of the artist 1982. Courtesy Monash University Museum of Art

In the mid-’70s I was living in a house with David Odell who was a PhD candidate in set theory. At the time he told his supervisors at the Mathematics Department at Monash University that he hated the abstract paintings they had on the walls there and that he knew a much better artist with better paintings, so they invited him to bring something in, which they hung. After two years David went to Cornell in the US and the department wrote to me to say they wanted me to take the painting back. I avoided them for a long time. When

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I became better known my gallerist advised me to gift it. Successive directors kept writing to me asking to send it back, they didn’t want it. Finally I was appointed to the board of Monash Museum and made an awkward negotiation to gift it, and still the next director wanted to return it. Then two years ago it surfaced in a group show as part of the collection. By then I was living in Europe and a young artist emailed me to say what an astonishing painting it was. GL


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Geoff Lowe Sequence in measurement I, 1974 oil on plywood 91.5 x 122 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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A Constructed World with Change Is Good Stay in groups, 2007 embroidery on linen 47 x 65 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Speech and What Archive Medicine show, 2010 vinyl record, recorded at GRRR JAMMING SQUEAK, a public artwork by Paola Pivi, Sculpture international Rotterdam, 2010 31.5 x 31.5 cm Courtesy Speech and What Archive and Solang Production Paris Brussels

You don’t have to fear your instrument with A Constructed World because miracles are not expected from you. Or, better, miracles are welcome, but they’re not related to musical proficiency. In an exquisite set of contradictions, the arranging might be laborious, but the songs don’t need too much rehearsing; the room for improvisation is small so the performance doesn’t have to be surrounded by solid material; and finally things are fairly disciplined in order not to be too specific. It’s an uncharted musical

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adventure where the track list is the only reference point and your talent is measured by your degree of participation rather than the intrinsic quality of your performance. Unlearn what you have learned and make it work. Everything is just so how-you’re-notsupposed-to-do-it, it’s actually fun. MR

A Constructed World Monkeys on a boat, 2012 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 187 x 234 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

In a wooden boat, a series of characters with simian features rejoice, eat mussels and engage in erotic activities and music, while at the riverbank, the rest of faceless humanity seems abandoned. But why are these idle and diverted figures showing joyful and parodic new faces? FV

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Geoff Lowe with Stephen Bush The nature of love, 1988 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 188 x 305 cm Collection of Elaine Baker and John Cruthers, Sydney

A Constructed World History 3, 2000 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 6 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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The nature of love, set in the Whipstick Forest, is about just thatâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;aspects of love: sexual love, married love, love of friends, love of an art father, even love for a collaborator ... KH

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Geoff Lowe with Kathy Temin A constructed world I, 1991 synthetic polymer paint, pastel and laser print on canvas 152 x 122 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Geoff Lowe Interior 1, 1971 synthetic polymer paint on board 53 x 74 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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Geoff Lowe Date, 1986 alkyd resin on canvas 105 x 205 cm Collection of John Nixon, Melbourne

A Constructed World Le feu scrupuleux, 2008 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 6 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Talking Heads: 77 is the debut album by American new wave art rock band Talking Heads. Recorded during 1976 and ’77 at Sundragon Studios, New York, and released on 16 September 1977 on Sire Records. Eleven songs including ‘The book I read’. The record cover features bright green typography in Times bold italic on an orange monochrome background. JN

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By others

Geoff Lowe with Elizabeth Newman A constructed world, 1991 monotypes with laser transfer prints 2 sheets, each 50 x 66.5 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

Geoff Lowe Interior, 1979 synthetic polymer paint on board 2 panels: 152 x 213 cm RMIT University Art Collection, Melbourne

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Geoff Lowe Inherited models (1), 1995 laser transfer print on rice paper on synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 122 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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A Constructed World and Etienne Bernard Speech objects, 2011 printed book, edited by A Constructed World and Anna Hess, published by MusĂŠe de lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Objet, Blois, France 16.5 x 12 cm, 244 pages Collection of A Constructed World

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A Constructed World A Constructed World salons, 2012 digital print 144 x 100 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

A Constructed World started making video salons in 1998. We introduced mattresses mainly because our video programs were quite long and boring. We wanted the audience to sleep, to lie around in the installation, to go in and out of the video works. JR

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A Constructed World Artfan, 1993–2002 magazine, nos 1–9 published by A Constructed World, Melbourne; no. 10 published by the Serpentine Gallery, London 10 issues, each 29.7 x 21 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Artfan magazine was a ten-year publishing project including people who said they didn’t know about contemporary art writing about exhibitions. With no public funding forthcoming, it was made with the goodwill of hundreds of contributors. The publication series continues to be of interest in Europe, being shown in book fairs, museums and galleries. JR

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By others

Yann Sérandour After a portrait of Friedrich Schleiermacher by Geoff Lowe (A Constructed World) and after the wall painting ‘Language is not transparent’ by Mel Bochner, 2011 screenprint on paper, published by CNEAI, Paris 98 x 70 cm Collection of A Constructed World

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A Constructed World Explaining contemporary art to live eels, 2004 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 6:40 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Death above

Speech and What Archive Xmas card, 2010 photograph 15 x 21 cm Collection of Speech and What Archive

A Constructed World Player guitar II, 2000 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 7:40 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Elevator

A Constructed World with Jon Campbell, Ry Haskings, Lena Douglas, Elizabeth Newman, Mick Douglas and Scott Tinkler ‘The hole’ and ‘Young for you’, 2012 single-channel HD video, 16:9 ratio colour, sound 12:57 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Yodudeyodudehearthis:LizzyLenaJonandG eoff,Mick,ScottTinkler,Ry,playinginthemus eumelevator:Iknowthesongquitewell EN

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By others

Elizabeth Newman Immaterial space isn’t necessarily ethically superior 1 and 2, 2011 offset lithographs 2 sheets, each 61 x 44 cm Courtesy Elizabeth Newman

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Geoff Lowe Still life with face mask, 1971 synthetic polymer paint on board 28 x 38 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

Trans-iterations

A Constructed World World painting, 2007 glue-size on canvas 200 x 300 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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We used to go to a small cafĂŠ bistro in the Marais before we knew Paris at all. Mainly because you could always find a seat there. This world design is etched on a glass window inside. After a couple of years the window cracked; it still hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been repaired. ACW

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Geoff Lowe with Rosebud Next to, 1989â&#x20AC;&#x201C;1992 synthetic polymer paint and laser print on canvas 185 x 117 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

Each person in the group Rosebud painted a flat rectangle; the first with a white border left between each one, in the second the painted rectangles are butted up next to one another and in the third people wander into, violate and are hospitable to one anotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spaces. GL

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Geoff Lowe Meaning and excellence, 1983 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 2 panels: 128 x 231 cm Private collection, Melbourne

The eponymous title of an exhibition of Australian art in Edinburgh. Like a motto. Trying to generate opposites between rewards and being immersed or embedded in experience. GL

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Geoff Lowe with Doan Chi Trung, Le Hong Thai, Tru’ong Hu’u Tan, Bui Hu’u Hung How happy are those who believe without seeing, 1992 lacquer on wood 120 x 90 cm Private collection, Sydney

‘For it is one thing to adore a painting but it is quite another to learn from a painted narrative what to adore.’ I copied this in notebooks over the years from Michael Baxandall’s Painting and experience in fifteenth-century Italy. GL

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Geoff Lowe I see 4 (The hole in the ozone layer), 1989 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 100 x 200 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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Geoff Lowe There is a hole in the ozone layer, 1988 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 174 x 127 cm Collection of Roslyn and Tony Oxley, Sydney

Speech and What Archive Kill the speech, 2011 single-channel SD video, 16:9 ratio colour, sound 3:15 minutes Courtesy Speech and What Archive and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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The mother spider created the earth in gaseous state and then sent her twins, one using sound to grasp at the inside, the other to shape the outside. Elsewhere is here. Humanity makes the opposite of photosynthesis, they take oxygen and make light. Man’s words are God’s dividends. Neutrinos don’t know they have passed through the earth. Photons bombard our retina. The man is star dust, a fallen angel who remembers heaven. FR

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A Constructed World The darkness of your past, 2003, printed 2012 vinyl on wall 14 x 30 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Trans-iterations

A Constructed World The future, 1995 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 2:09 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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A Constructed World Scenes from the Whipstick Forest, 1998 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 37 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World

A Constructed World Sex and death, 2006 alkyd resin and oil on canvas 2 parts, 190 x 209 cm and 190 x 206 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Singing for A Constructed World was a terrific exercise in incongruity: Lou Reed, Uncle Fester, wounded Christ, me; New York set lyrics of ‘Street hassle’, the scrubby bush of the Whipstick; private, long-held singing aspirations, my voice. JS

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A Constructed World was making a film in the Whipstick Forest and wanted my partner Trudy to play a role because she’s a great actor and is really sexy. We were all traveling to stay there for the weekend so I figured I wanted to muscle in on the action. I chose to dress in a badly made tree costume because, um … the film was set in a forest. OK I’m a literalist. But I chose it also because the costume looked like A Constructed World’s form of inclusivity— an amateur costume worn by a non-actor who just wanted to be involved. CM


By others

A Constructed World No need to be great (Jimmie Durham font) and Stay in groups (Jimmie Durham font), 2010 posters 2 sheets, each 84.1 x 59.4 cm Courtesy A Constructed World

By others

Jon Campbell Ecstatic Torino (Geoff & Jacqui), 2005 enamel on board 61 x 95 cm Collection of Rob Furst and Linda Curtis, Melbourne

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I first came across this image of A Constructed World on the invite card to their show at Uplands Gallery. Then I saw the video that the still came from, so wild and free, got me excited! I made the painting to celebrate this moment and our connection. I wanted the painting to try and capture the spirit of A Constructed World. JC

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Speech and What Archive Paper room, 2010 wood, paper, inkjet prints, mixed media 210 x 255 x 200 cm Courtesy Speech and What Archive and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Doorways

Geoff Lowe Dance of the queen I painting, 1979 synthetic polymer paint and watercolour on paper 48.5 x 50 cm (sight) Private collection, Melbourne

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I saw this Indian fresco in a book and loved it. Someone lent me the book overnight and I hurriedly made two versions. This now serves as an entry to the next room of Indian artefacts: one-exhibition-talkingto-another. GL

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Geoff Lowe ‘Impersonation’ from the series ‘Ten famous feelings for men’, 1983 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 122 cm The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Purchased with assistance from the Visual Arts Board, Australia Council, 1985

‘In the catalogue essay for the 1988 London exhibition in which Impersonation featured, Joan Kerr wrote about the comparison between Lowe’s masked figure and Poynter’s sentry. She described Impersonation as a “bitterly comic portrait” of a white man dressed in “nigger minstrel” Aboriginal costume and posed as a Roman sentry. “Lowe’s caricatured Aborigine clearly implies that Poynter’s magnificent specimen of British Victorian manhood is no more like an ancient Roman than someone in blackface is a faithful portrait of an Australian Aborigine”,

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wrote Kerr. Conversely, Lowe’s primary message is that all colonial portraits of Aborigines are similarly distorted, inevitably racist and propagandist.’ I had never seen the Poynter painting. Loved Joan Kerr though and Bronwyn Watson wrote the first ever article that linked the work of Geoff Lowe to A Constructed World, no one else had until that time in The Australian on 4 September 2010. GL

Geoff Lowe with Rosebud Not touching, 1989–92 synthetic polymer paint and laser print on canvas 185 x 117 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

Rosebud stayed together for twelve years in a moving changing group, they were amazing how much they could talk about what they and one another were doing. At art school people tend to be paralysed by professional expectations. This is not an exquisite corpse, it’s about being open to and going to one another’s spaces. GL

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Geoff Lowe Lifeboat, 1982 synthetic polymer paint on canvas, pencil on paper 17 parts: painting 152 x 305 cm, 16 drawings, each 27 x 37 cm Collection of Bialik College, Melbourne

I think this was first seen in Slouching towards Bethlehem at Gertrude Street? Maybe. The mind and memory play tricks. Perhaps it was made this year when we are still debating the issue of so-called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;boat peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and feeling heavy in the heart because of the hardness of political minds and just despondent in general about the futile, point-scoring rhetoric of Australian wedge politics. Edward Said said the twenty-first century would be the era of the refugee. He was right. Climate conditions, terror, political, religious,

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ethnic and social persecutions will see millions displaced, dispersed and discarded. There needs to be a global position on the status of refugees, there is urgent need of a pact between all nations. Rehousing, providing asylum and protection of those in peril is our humane responsibility, it has nothing to do with borders. My father came to Australia on a boat. JE

A Constructed World Fresh history, 1999 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 15:16 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Not much had been going on in our backyard since the demise of the vegetable patch (and the one great harvest). So we were very pleased to host the hot tub. People responded really positively to it. A Constructed World really are the best at creating an environment in which to bring people together to talk and share experiences. I think we need more of it. Things have got a little too quiet ... CD

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Collections

A Constructed World Welcome fire, 2003 type C photograph, fibre-tipped pen on glass, wood frame 82 x 102 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Beds

Jacqueline Riva Untitled, 1998, printed 2012 type C photograph 75.5 x 110 cm Courtesy Jacqueline Riva and Solang Production Paris Brussels

8

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Hippie materialism

Geoff Lowe A constructed world II (Bay gio), 1992 oil, synthetic polymer paint, casein, watercolour and laser transfer prints on canvas 187 x 187 cm Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with the assistance of stART, MCA Young Patrons, 1995

Collections

Geoff Lowe with Rosebud Minimalist republic, 1995 ink on paper on canvas 173 x 92 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Made with Rosebud, each person tried to paint a flat even rectangle as evenly as possible. Though simple, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quite difficult technically, and everyone passively paints the square in a different way. Some start it in the middle, others do it in stripes, others go round the edges first, everyone is effortlessly different in how they paint. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kind of a waste of time trying to be unique. We were thinking about an Australian republic. GL

3


Trans-iterations

Geoff Lowe with Kathy Temin A constructed world II, 1991 synthetic polymer paint, pastel and laser print on canvas 185 x 117 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Repetitions and re-occurences

A Constructed World Repetitions and re-occurrences, 2012 lambda prints 10 prints, each 35 x 35 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Doorways

A Constructed World Leviathan and Laëtitia, 2011 single-channel SD video, 16:9 ratio colour, sound 9:39 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

We were meeting the day of the performance at an RER station for one final rehearsal. We all gathered on the platform, excited about the play, it was fun … but someone was late, missing. We started to worry about him. Trains passed by, but we were still waiting, hoping for that very person to arrive … everybody was getting agitated. The tension was palpable. I loved and hated this hectic moment just before ... ALS

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Hippie materialism

Geoff Lowe with Esther Lowe, Ruby Lowe and Lewis Miller Universal love/unconditional regard no. 3, 1996 synthetic polymer paint, oil and laser transfer prints on canvas 2 parts, 182 x 122 cm and 188 x 117 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

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Collections

A Constructed World Fresh history painting (Corporate geography), 2003 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 122 x 152 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

Collections

A Constructed World Player guitar I, 2000 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio, colour, sound 10:47 minutes Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

7

5


Trans-iterations

A Constructed World Schifanoia, 2012 book, published by Publication Studio, Bordeaux, France 18.5 x 14.5 cm, 100 pages Collection of A Constructed World

By others

Julien Tiberi Riristi.mes unlimited (A Constructed World), 2011 photocopy of original ink and graphite on paper 42 x 33 cm Courtesy Semiose Galerie, Paris

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Collections

Speech and What Archive Speech and What Archive part one, Speech and What Archive part three, 2011â&#x20AC;&#x201C;12 newspapers, edited by Anna Hess, published by A Constructed World 2 issues: 38 x 29 cm, 16 pages and 21 x 15 cm, 12 pages Collection of Speech and What Archive

Trans-iterations

A Constructed World Transvestite, 1995â&#x20AC;&#x201C;2012 electric guitar, iPod 26 x 60 x 3.5 cm Courtesy A Constructed World

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By others

Heman Chong A Constructed World, 2009 screenprint on paper 118 x 83 cm Collection of A Constructed World

stay in groups/no need to be great/stay huddled together/in plato’s cave/stay wet and warm/in the equatorial rain/no need to be great/stay in school/old or new/stay in an ikea cabinet/no need to be great/stay constructed/worlds apart/stay economically viable/twenty years apart/no need to be great/politics aside/emotions slide/stay with me/on equal parts. HC

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Death above

A Constructed World Australian fable, 2012 fibre-tipped pen on glass in found frame 80.7 x 93.5 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

There is a spelling error in this work: a use of the gerundive form of the verb ‘separate’, instead of the conjugated present perfect form. The text reads ‘from time to time the waters parting’ instead of ‘from time to time the waters part’. This gives rise to an interesting contradiction: an active process, taking place in the present (‘waters parting’) is situated within the distant, timeless and legendary temporality evoked in the use of the word ‘fable’. This work and its spelling error highlight the active, creative and collective process through which a common

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understanding of the present is constructed through weaving together current affairs, historical record and collective memory. Not only is the arrival of asylum seekers on Australian shores being historically reproduced over and over, but the collective understanding of this phenomenon is also actively and continually being constructed, interpreted and moralized within the contradictory form of a contemporary everevolving fable. EL


Doorways

Geoff Lowe ‘Piety’ from the series ‘Ten famous feelings for men’, 1984–85 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 91 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe

Probably among the first paintings I saw of Geoff’s at Powell Street Gallery. My uni friends and I were impressed with Geoff’s ‘postmodernism’ at the time, the re-enactment and re-interpretation of history in his paintings, episodes that featured family, friends and colleagues dressing-up and acting out, a transparent reconstruction of events, rendering the world constructed thus. Years later Geoff would ask me to squeeze into a pair of size 8 Speedos with a picture of Uncle Fester stretched tight across the front, stand in

20

Death above

the middle of the Whipstick Forest, and talk to camera about salvation. Callum was a tree. SK

Geoff Lowe Fisher miller skull, 1984 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 24 x 30.5 cm Collection of Chris Dyson, Melbourne

A determined skull Eye socket shades A city of teeth US Patent D269448—status: expired. CDy

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Trans-iterations

Geoff Lowe A constructed world, 1992 lime wash on paper and canvas 182 x 122 cm Courtesy Geoff Lowe and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Beds

Jacqueline Riva Untitled (folding bed), 1996â&#x20AC;&#x201C;97 type C photograph on wood 190 x 125 cm Courtesy Jacqueline Riva and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Maurizio Cattelan offered us his apartment in Milan for a few weeks during the heat wave of June 1996. At night the beanbag was put aside and the bed came down. JR

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By others

Quentin Lannes Seven nation army, 2010 single-channel SD video, 4:3 ratio colour, sound 22 minutes Courtesy Quentin Lannes

By others

A Constructed World with Change Is Good No need to be great, 2007 laser transfer print on linen 47 x 65 cm Courtesy A Constructed World and Solang Production Paris Brussels

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Based on a true story: Geoff Lowe 1972 – 92 and A Constructed World 1993 – 2012 The Vizard Foundation Contemporary Art Project Geoff Lowe is the Vizard Foundation Contemporary Artist 2012 Curated by Bala Starr Published by the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, on the occasion of the exhibition Based on a true story: Geoff Lowe 1972 – 92 and A Constructed World 1993 – 2012, 15 November 2012 to 24 February 2013. Text © 2012, Sébastien Pluot and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne Images © 2012, the artists This catalogue is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. ISBN 978 0 7340 4806 Design by Åbäke with Dana Dijkgraaf, London Printed in London by Aldgate Press Limited The Ian Potter Museum of Art The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia potter-info@unimelb.edu.au www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au

Patron Lady Potter AC The Vizard Foundation

This project has also been supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

Based on a true story:

Geoff Lowe 1972 – 92 and A Constructed World 1993 – 2012


1 – 15 16 – 22 23 – 28 29 – 41 42 – 60 61 – 65 66 – 75 76 – 87 88 – 100 101 107 109 115

List of Authors ACW JC HC SHCC SC CD CDy JE KH SK EL GL TM CM EN JN JDP FR JR MR ALS AS JS FV

A Constructed World Jon Campbell Heman Chong Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy Sue Cramer Charlotte Day Chris Dyson Juliana Engberg Katherine Hattam Stuart Koop Esther Lowe Geoff Lowe Tony Mighell Callum Morton Elizabeth Newman John Nixon Joseph del Pesco Fabrice Reymond Jacqueline Riva Michele Robecchi Anne Laure Sacriste Anna Schwartz Julie Spencer Fabien Vallos

Collections Doorways Beds By others Trans-iterations Elevator Empirical paintings Death above Hippie materialism Repetitions and re-occurrences Foreword, Chris McAuliffe Otherwise, Sébastien Pluot et. al. Biography


Foreword Rummaging in the bins of a second-hand record shop some years ago, I came across a well-worn LP by a British beat group. On the cover, a very retro embossed tape label read, Geoff Lowe. Surely the Geoff Lowe, I thought. Not because I could be sure but because I sensed I was in Geoff Lowe’s space: a zone where art could be everywhere, everyday, everything. Geoff Lowe’s space—and the space of A Constructed World— appears incidental, fluid and unformed. It’s shaped by a suspicion of hierarchies; it values informality over institutions, and improvisation over rigid planning. Collaborative tactics make the artist one of the players rather than the director. Amateurism and improvisation— artworks that are deskilled, discontinuous, fragmented—suggest an approach to art that is both skeptical and idealistic. Above all, it’s a space shaped by affect, which is why it can seem so idiosyncratic. Affect, cultural theorist Lawrence Grossberg tells us, is a ‘feeling of life’. It is ‘what gives “color”, “tone” or “texture” to our experiences’. And experiences are Geoff Lowe’s palette: the enclosure of a studio, the unruly energy of an art school, the interpersonal dynamics of a collaboration, the unpredictability of an improvised performance, the jostling voices of a fanzine, a face in the street. This affective impulse connects a disparate range of practices. Working independently, or collaboratively with Jacqueline Riva as A Constructed World, Artfan and other projects generate what Grossberg calls ‘mattering maps’. These ‘tell us where and how we can become absorbed—not into the self but into the world— as potential locations for our self-identifications, and with what intensities. This “absorption” or investment constructs the places and events which are, or can become, significant to us. They are the places at which we can construct our own identity as something to be invested in, as something that matters.’ 1 When something matters, the formal spaces of the studio and the painting dissolve into one shaped by affect. Collages of memory, conversation, feeling, experience and opinion plot emotional investments in the world. How things make sense—what makes things matter—has also preoccupied art history. Erwin Panofsky’s classic text Meaning in the visual arts wrestled with the idea that a viewer’s ‘cultural equipment’ filtered and shaped a world in which everything could be experienced aesthetically. Beginning with the formal, allegorical spaces of Renaissance art, Geoff Lowe has similarly sought the deep social foundations of meaning. Panofsky dubbed this iconology a ‘synthetic intuition’ bridging historical circumstance and human mind. 2 For

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Lowe, it’s propelled by psychoanalysis, language theory and models of interpersonal relations. But both seek to answer the riddle of the Sphinx; the goal is not simply the answer to a particular puzzle but our very desire for meaning. This exhibition is the second Vizard Foundation Contemporary Art Project, an initiative which allows senior artists to explore new directions in their art practice through commissioned artwork. We would like to thank the Vizard Foundation for their continuing and generous support. We also wish to acknowledge the support of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, which is likewise committed to supporting the professional development of Australian artists. 1 Lawrence Grossberg, ‘Is there a fan in the house?: the affective sensibility of fandom’, in Lisa A Lewis, The adoring audience: fan culture and popular media, Routledge, London, 1992, pp. 56–7. 2 Erwin Panofsky, Meaning in the visual arts [1955], Peregrine, Harmondsworth, 1970, pp. 40 & 66.

Chris McAuliffe Director The Ian Potter Museum of Art

Otherwise Artists, like researchers, build the stage upon which to exhibit the manifestation and the effects of their competence, rendered uncertain by the terms of the new idiom translating a new intellectual adventure. The effect of the idiom cannot be anticipated. It requires viewers to play the active role of actors, who elaborate their own translation in order to appropriate the ‘story’ and to make it their own story. An emancipated community is a community of storytellers and of translators.1 ‘Misunderstandings are the mediums at the heart of which one can communicate what is non-communicable.’ 2 This text is written in English because that was the easiest way for Geoff Lowe and Jacqueline Riva to read it. They are the first public for this text. Therefore they are the co-authors of what has become a written conversation. As the reader may already have noticed, English is not one of the author’s mother tongues. But even if, due to the dialogic nature of the writing, the artists’ idioms have a spectral presence in the ‘author’s’ speech, the term ‘the authors’ acknowledges the impossibility of tuning ourselves to any static meanings. The consequence is that ‘authors’ do not know precisely how much of what is said is correct, sounds weird, ludicrous or irrelevant … on purpose. This awkwardness in the use of language is consistent with one of the central statements of A Constructed World: ‘no need to be great’. Their work speaks

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self-consciously of several crippled languages (performance, dance, music, painting, film) that are not grammatically polite and above all do not require to be understood. This lack of expectation of understanding may be a consequence of A Constructed World’s lack of control over or ethical unskilled use of their mediums. And we have known since art was first colonized by the logic of the cultural industry to what extent controlling a medium is ethically dubious. When one is meeting the work of A Constructed World for the first time, one may not really get what is happening. This may even last for a while if one does not realize that understanding is not the ground on which art should be settled.3 The way A Constructed World highlights the absence of the assumption of understanding about a work of art raises aesthetic as well as political issues, as Theodor Adorno expressed on crucial occasions. This has been a recurring preoccupation since the early twentieth century, and previous attempts at endangering signification—attempts using an absence of meaning or the absurd— are common among historical avantgardes, notably in Dada (Schwitters’s work) or in Cage’s or Beckett’s work. According to Adorno: Renouncing the appearance of any kind of signifying aspect does not make a work of art lose its similarity to language. It expresses absurdity as precisely as traditional works express their positive meaning. Referring specifically to Cage and Beckett—two figures who gravitate in the magnetic field of A Constructed World—Adorno continues:


It is really one of art’s mysteries and a sign of the power of its logic that all radically logical exactness, even that which we call absurd, results in something that resembles meaning.4 If works using language disturb grammatical recognition, and if language tools end up losing what should be their main function— communicating a meaning—then we must conclude that the goal of a work of art, whether it uses language or not, cannot be limited to the transmission of a message meant to be understood.5 According to Derrida: ‘certain utterances can have a meaning even when deprived of an objective signification’.6 A loss of signification will always be able to convey a meaning, for example, that of an absence of meaning. Even if A Constructed World generates nonsense, chaos, confusion, scattered and blurred registers, it may happen that the feeling of being addressed takes precedence over the awkwardness. Their multi-referenced and unexpected use of language becomes familiar. It is a language that requires you to work (in the psychoanalytic sense of the word) in their work (in the aesthetic sense of the word).

is not a good term. In The coming community,7 he refers to the quodlibet, the ‘whatever’ inherited from the scholastics: ‘quodlibet ens est unum, verum, bonum seu perfectum—whatever entity is one, true, or perfect’. The adjective ‘whatever’ (the Latin quodlibet), does not mean ‘the whoever being’ but ‘the being who, whatever, matters’, a being who is neither universal nor particular; it is being ‘such as it is’.

Jacques Rancière, who considered that democracy is far from being achieved in self-proclaimed democratic countries, states that a real democracy implies the equal competence of all its citizens. This has the consequence that nonprofessional politicians have a temporary power through random elections. A Constructed World has in common with Rancière the consideration that democratic process is based upon the acknowledgment of conflict and involves a reconfiguration of the divisions between legitimacy and illegitimacy. Both criticize the actual notion of democracy in which ‘legitimate’ representatives of the majority are ruling for the minority. Real democracy would create a situation where all minorities have legitimate voices. This is when we have to consider the fact that A Being invited when you are not Constructed World, as a duo, is a supposed to be legitimately invited has micro-democracy, which means been A Constructed World’s manifesto that they are at least two minorities at least since they began Artfan. This generating conflicts. When they work journal project was initiated in 1993 in groups, the policy is one of dissent in Australia as a response to a lack of rather than consensus. According to critical art discourse and as a protest them, ‘If you do not have conflict and against the fine art conservatism in crisis, it means that people are not the local art world. In Artfan, ‘anybody’ saying what they think’. A conflict was invited to write about art, even may sometimes lead A Constructed professional art critics. But, as World to the limit of rejecting their Giorgio Agamben stated, ‘anybody’ own proposals. Their installation 110

Come vuoi (2004) implied that the audience creates the value of the artwork. A Constructed World sold paintings displayed on the floor for the price that the buyer determined. After offering a price, the buyer had to explain why they had chosen this price. But when some paintings were valued at only 2 euros, A Constructed World did not consider that fair. They explained why they disagreed and pointed out the contradictory logic of someone wanting to have something that they did not properly value. These participatory situations do not fit into the evangelist ideology of pretending to bring the lost soul into a redeeming perfect art world. The art world into which A Constructed World invites people is not quiet and ideally refurbished. The inclusive system they build is not immune to various symptoms they feel free to react to themselves. When they did a project inviting the public into a gallery space in a shopping mall to play guitar it was a contract: the public played in exchange for being filmed. Sometimes A Constructed World seeks a public with whom they want to raise conflicts. Banking executives were once invited for a workshop in 2009 which ended in the creation of a living sculpture representing the Hells Angels (played by the bankers) killing a teenager during the 1969 Altamont Rolling Stones concert. The Altamont concert recorded the end of idealism and the beginning of another era (neo-liberal and technological). The artwork was made at the beginning of the major economic crisis in 2009. It shows the opposite to the ideology of the self-regulation of the liberal economy: here, those who created the crisis were enacting it. 111

Figure and Ground The history of representation has been obsessed by hierarchy and its mise en scène: the relation between figure and ground—the power being represented emblematically in the centre, and in front of the ground. Since the beginning, it seems that de-hierarchization was A Constructed World’s idiosyncrasy before becoming a deliberate political device. It was already evident in Internal glossary and Interior 1, Geoff Lowe’s studio paintings made in the early 1970s. The values of this classical genre—where power and skill are emblematically expressed— are turned upside down. The chaotic heteroclite objects are geometrically displayed all over the floor in order to maintain everything at the same ‘ground level’. The perspective is constructed in such a way that even if something is hanging on the wall, nothing appears vertical or privileged. This logic goes as far as to propose that the paintings themselves (the supposedly valorized works of art) are part of the landscape, that they belong to what they represent. The painting is not better or worse than what it represents. It is part of a whole environment. Later, the participatory paintings of the late 1980s such as Next to, Not touching and Contact boundaries resuscitated the Renaissance studio practice of a multiauthored collaboration but without the legitimating name of one author. The Rosebud group gathered by Geoff Lowe executed monochromes inside a single frame as a way to disrupt the traditional battlefield of egos. In the context of the retour à l’ordre of commercial painting of the 1980s, the project might be understood as an act of transposition of a modernist


oxymoron which would consist of imagining ten Jackson Pollocks simultaneously making a dripping on the same canvas. Such a disruptive reorganization can be interpreted as a logical step from Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning drawing (1953). The difference however being that no name is added above any other and no avant-garde idea of transition is proclaimed.

We are cut by strobe lights into single frames, to eight frames p/s or whatever the strobe frequency is, on and off’.8

A Constructed World is shifting here from the high/low theme to another that has to do with a more psychoanalytic construction involving exposed and repressed contents. Before forming A Constructed World with Geoff Lowe, Jacqueline Riva made a series of pictures of the beds in A Constructed World performances, which she had slept in other people’s which involve their groups of homes. Made vertical, this intimate participants (amateur artists, object became a public space. Later, non-artists, students, art critics, mattresses were used as furniture philosophers, musicians, dancers …), displayed for watching videos. has to do with the phenomena that Sexuality and dreams had entered a were the Exploding Plastic Inevitable space where transference became a multimedia events of the mid-1960s. Even if Warhol’s spectacles were based substitute for representation. on very different positions, they share with A Constructed World a common PSYCHOANALYSIS, TELEPATHY, THE TELEPHONE, EELS AND THE OTHER erasure of the difference between ground and figure that is central Knowledge is an inner process; in Warhol’s paintings. In a brilliant in itself and for itself it is text, David Joselit analyses how the incommunicable, in the same Exploding Plastic Inevitable brought way that one describes someone about the abolition of difference meditating as being lost in himself between artists and the audience: [...] Exposure only can give birth to a community [...]. In truth we might sometimes the filmmaker Barbara very well suppose the existence Rubin would plunge into the of an inner knowledge, preceding crowd with her own camera and or outreaching any exposure; but lights, making the audience itself it remains [...] incomprehensible a spectacle. These practices inasmuch as it remains inexposable.9 established a circuit of media feedback in which the line between ‘Two psychics pass each other in the performing oneself and becoming street and one says to the other, an image was perpetually crossed “You’re doing all right, how am I?”’ and recrossed. In a beautiful David Bowie. metaphorical summation of this experience, Jonas Mekas suggested in 1966 that strobe light could lead ‘I am on the side of your unconscious.’ a dancer to perceive him or herself This sentence must have been written transmogrified into film. He stated, in some of A Constructed World’s papers but they do not remember ‘You become a particle, a grain of having made the comment, nor if the movie. Maybe that’s what it is. 112


they even thought it. Not unlike Freud,10 telepathy is a paradoxical obsession throughout their work. Like Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant, when telepathy does not work (which is quite often), they use the telephone. Along with Avital Ronell, A Constructed World knows how much ‘the telephone tunes language to its most random frequency’. The telephone is a prosthetic materialization of a wish for telepathy. Both the telephone and telepathy have to do with the place of the other and the impossibility of making a direct link to the unconscious. To penetrate someone else’s mind certainly raises an ethical question, but A Constructed World is not dealing with Beuysian shamanist brainwashing or the like. Rather, they are alert to the consequences of the electronic environment and the reshuffled relations between proximity and distance that these entail. They are making connections between this electronic prosthesis and the influence it may have. At the same time, their work with the telephone reveals the fantasy of a pervasive/intrusive encounter with others and the reality of social isolation and muteness. Sigmund Freud made the analogy: [The doctor] must adjust himself to the patient as a telephone receiver is adjusted to the transmitting microphone. Just as the receiver converts back into sound waves the electric oscillations in the telephone line which were set up by sound waves, so the doctor’s unconscious is able, from the derivatives of the unconsciousness which are communicated to him, to reconstruct the unconscious, which has determined the patient’s free associations.11

A Constructed World’s Explaining contemporary art to live eels is an ongoing project that encompasses electronics, nature, psychoanalysis and the aesthetic experience. We shall call back Sigmund Freud. When the inventor of castration anxiety was a young physiologist he spent days cutting open eels’ abdomens in order to find their testicles. Trying to investigate the gender of a phallus (sic), he was baffled about destroying the gonads while trying to focus his scrupulous gaze upon them. ‘What is the other as difference?’ might be a question. Another would be: ‘What does language, as a medium, have to do with difference?’ A Constructed World invites the public to talk about contemporary art to live eels, eels they not only feed and raise but also educate. They assume their tutorial task quite seriously and sometimes shift it to the public with more questions than answers. That’s when we learn that we do not know how eels communicate and how they find their way to the Sargasso Sea when coming back to spawn from another ocean. Despite Freud’s experiments, we still do not know how they shift from male to female and vice versa. What we do know however is that the public does not only passively receive art from museum mediators, but is able to teach their own ideas about aesthetic experience to an absolute other. 1

Jacques Rancière, Le spectateur émancipé (The emancipated spectator), La Fabrique Éditions, Paris, 2008, pp. 28–9.

2

Theodor Adorno, Prismes: critique de la culture et société (Prisms: a critique of culture and society), Payot, Paris, 2003, p. 232.

3

In the glossary of Jacques Rancière terms: ‘Disagreement (la mésentente). Prior to linguistic or cultural misunderstanding, Rancière isolates a fundamental discord that results from conflicts over the distribution of the sensible. Whereas la méconnaissance (lack of comprehension) and

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le malentendu (misunderstanding) produce obstacles to litigation that are—at least in theory— surmountable. La mésentante is a conflict over what is meant by ‘to speak’ and ‘to understand’ as well as over the horizons of perception that distinguish the audible from the inaudible, the comprehensible from the incomprehensible, the visible from the invisible’. Jacques Rancière, The politics of aesthetics: the distribution of the sensible, trans. Gabriel Rockhill, Continuum, London, New York, 2006, p. 94. 4

Theodor W Adorno, Théorie esthétique (Aesthetic theory), Klincksieck, Paris, 1995, p. 217.

5

Adorno also wrote: ‘The unintelligible character strenuously held against hermetic works of art is in fact a way of confessing to the enigmatic aspect of all art’. (Adorno, p. 176.)

6

Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc., Editions Galilée, Paris, 1990, p. 33. In this passage Derrida talks about one of the three consequences of the absence of the signified according to Edmund Husserl’s analysis. This argument, which Derrida takes on as his own relates to the principle of dissemination and to the questioning of the notion of communication as resulting in a ‘hermeneutical deciphering, a deciphering of a meaning or a truth’.

7

Giorgio Agamben, The coming community, trans. Michael Hardt, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1993.

8

David Joselit, Yippie pop: Abbie Hoffman, Andy Warhol, and sixties media politics, in Grey Room, no. 8, 2002.

9

Friedrich Schlegel, Conferences, p. 57, quoted in Walter Benjamin, Le concept de critique esthétique dans le romantisme allemand (The concept of criticism in German romanticism), Flammarion, Paris, 1986, p. 82–3.

10 Secretly believing in telepathy, Freud knew it would ruin the reputation of psychoanalysis. It was also in contradiction to the central position of language in his theory. With telepathy, there is no medium, therefore no language. Freud told his biographer Ernest Jones that, like his Jewishness and his attraction to cigars, telepathy belonged to his private life and therefore had nothing to do with psychoanalysis! 11 Sigmund Freud, quoted by Friedrich A Kittler, in Discourse networks, 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer with Chris Cullens, Stanford University Press, CA, 1990, p. 283.

SÉBASTIEN PLUOT ET. AL. Paris

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BIOGRAPHY

Lowe). He held solo exhibitions at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, in 1993 and 1994.

GEOFF LOWE

From the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, Lowe participated in a number of notable group exhibitions in Australia and abroad including New generation Victorians, Mornington Peninsula Art Centre, Victoria, 1976; Apocalypse + utopia, University Art Gallery, University of Melbourne, 1984; Meaning & excellence, ANZART in Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art, 1984; The politics of picturing, Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1984; Australian perspecta, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1985 and 1995; How Lowe held his first solo exhibition in much beauty can I stand?, Australian 1975 at the age of twenty-three, at Centre for Contemporary Art, Powell Street Gallery, Melbourne. Melbourne, 1986; The golden shibboleth, It included paintings and drawings 200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne, made between 1971, while he 1987; Irony, humour and dissent: recent was still a student, and 1974. He Australian drawings, Manly Art Gallery continued to exhibit his work and Museum, NSW, 1989; Beyond the regularly throughout the 1970s and borders, 1st Gwangju Biennale, Korea, 1980s, quickly establishing his career 1995; A constructed world, Whanki as a ‘new generation’ Australian Museum, Seoul, 1997; and the 24th artist. Solo exhibitions were held Saõ Paulo Biennial, Brazil, 1998. at Powell Street, Anna Simons Gallery (Canberra), Crossley Gallery From the mid-1980s until the early (Melbourne) and Robin Gibson 1990s, Geoff Lowe facilitated Gallery (Sydney). workshops with artists and art-world peers, students and amateurs. He Geoff Lowe showed at Roslyn formed groups including Sunnyside Up Oxley9 for the first time in October (Melbourne, 1983–87) and Rosebud 1983 with The idea of good and bad (Melbourne, 1982–94); Hy Vong, with government, which marked a high Australian Vietnamese people from point in his career to that date as well the suburb of Springvale (Melbourne, as the beginning of his collaborations 1994); and DAMP, with young artists with other artists. Lowe showed who studied at the Victorian College annually at Roslyn Oxley9 between of the Arts (Melbourne, 1995–2000). 1988 and 1990, and in 1992 (with Geoff Lowe’s artistic collaborations the Rosebud group), 1994 (Vietnam from 1980 to 1992 were the subject paintings), and 1997 (A constructed of a survey exhibition at the Australian world, in collaboration with John Centre for Contemporary Art, Wolseley, Esther Lowe and Ruby Melbourne, in 1992. Geoff Lowe was born in Melbourne in 1952. From 1969 to 1972, he studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where he was awarded a Fellowship Diploma of Fine Art. Early in his career Lowe received a number of prizes and grants including Australia Council Visual Arts Board grants in 1974 and 1979. He travelled abroad to Europe in 1975, to Italy and the United States in 1980–81, and lived in Italy for six months in 1985.

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A CONSTRUCTED WORLD A Constructed World is the collaboration of Jacqueline Riva and Geoff Lowe. Riva and Lowe have been working together since 1993 in a multimodel practice, producing paintings, video works, events and performances. Their publications include Artfan magazine (1993–2002), Speech Web Magazine 2005–09, and errors deceits mistakes, 2006 and ongoing. They have presented performances and solo exhibitions in museums and art centres including Artists Space, New York (2000); CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux (2008); CNEAI, Chatou, France (2008); Villa Arson, Nice (2010); Centre d’Art Contemporain de l’Onde, VélizyVillacoublay, France (2011); Domaine Départemental de la Garenne Lemot, Nantes, France (2011); La Ferme du Buisson, Noisiel, France (2011); Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm (2011); Sculpture International, Rotterdam (2011); the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France (2012); and two survey exhibitions, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1997), and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2007). A Constructed World has contributed to group exhibitions at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2001); Kosova Art Gallery, Pristina (2005); Foundation Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2008); NUS Museum, National University of Singapore (2009); Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide (2010); Villa Arson, Nice (2010); and Musée de l’Objet, Blois, France (2011). A Constructed World has also participated in a number of biennales including the 24th Saõ 116

Paulo Biennial, Brazil (1998); Tirana, Albania (2003); the 11th International Architecture Biennale, Venice (2008); and Belleville, Paris (2010). A Constructed World has curated a number of exhibitions including two projects with Etienne Bernard: From Walden to Vegas, at the Foundation for Graphic and Plastic Arts, Nogent-sur-Marne, France, in 2009, and Speech objects, a four-part exhibition at the Musée de l’Objet, Blois, in 2011. From 2004 to 2006 they ran a gallery-in-apartment project called More fools in town with Charlotte Laubard in Turin. Other exhibitions include World speak dumb, Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, Melbourne (1997), and World speak less dumb, Uplands Gallery, Melbourne (2003). A Constructed World has participated in conferences and symposia around the world and facilitated workshops for institutions including the Serpentine Gallery, London; Goldsmiths, University of London; and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. They have been awarded artists’ residencies at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2002); Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2005–06); Couvent des Récollets, Paris (2007–08); and Villa Arson, Nice (2010). In 2009 they initiated the collaborative project Speech and What Archive, bringing together a group of professional and emerging artists, curators, art historians and philosophers based in France, Sweden and Australia. Its members include Marie Gautier, Yann Sérandour, Anna Hess, Sébastien Pluot, Fabien Vallos, Clémence de Montgolfier, Etienne Bernard, Liv Barrett, Matthew Rana, James Deutsher and Guillaume Pavageau. Speech and What Archives’


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