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BLAZE XI


BLAZE XI TOM BUCKLAND KON KUDO CAT MUELLER THE UBERIGINE

ALEX HOBBA ALYCIA MOFFAT JOSH OWEN

CURATED BY SALLY BRAND


BLAZE XI Canberra Contemporary Art Space’s annual emerging art exhibition, BLAZE, is one of the local art community’s most anticipated events. Held in the CCAS flagship space at Gorman Arts Centre, the exhibition showcases Canberra-based artists at the outset of their careers. This year’s edition, BLAZE XI, features the work of seven new contemporary artists working across video, painting, sculpture, installation and performance art practices. Like the previous ten instalments, BLAZE XI includes ambitious and challenging works – it is a celebration of the here and now, the up and coming. While no grand theme was intended for this survey, the collected works of Tom Buckland, Alex Hobba, Kon Kudo, Alycia Moffat, Cat Mueller, Josh Owen and The Uberigine, do offer an opportunity for reflection. Particularly, BLAZE XI asks two relatively simple questions with potentially complicated answers: how did we get here? where are we going to next? In her latest book, Staying with the Trouble, the self-proclaimed multispecies feminist theorist, Donna J. Haraway, makes the case for ‘tentacular’ thinking and practices. Inspired by spiders and other creeping critters, Haraway’s tentacular practices weave paths of consequence; make attachments and detachments, knots and openings. While this may assume an absolute connectedness, a world wide web, Haraway rather insists that ‘nothing is connecting to everything’, instead ‘everything is connected to something’. A pedantic shift perhaps, but what Haraway seeks to highlight in this statement is that an individual has personality, each community its own context,


JOSH OWEN 4 States (still), 2017, high definition video with stereo sound, 10’30’’ duration


and every moment a specificity in time. She proposes a radical presence or rather a ‘staying with the trouble’: In urgent times, many of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, of stopping something from happening that looms in the future... Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings1. Contemporary art, the practice of making in the here and now, is certainly a space where Haraway’s thesis has natural resonances. It’s a thread I want to tie through BLAZE XI as each of the works offer their own critique on this moment in time, where we have come from and where we might be going to next. The first work in BLAZE XI requires a sideways step into the blackened room of the CUBEspace. In the corner, streaming across two screens, is Josh Owen’s enthralling 4 States. Using high definition video, Owen leads us in and out of constructed environments, filtering, blurring, and meshing landscapes into shimmering abstract fields. The video loops but ostensibly begins in a man-made forest where rows of trees gradually transform into a pulsating electric weave. Canberrans may recognise the cork trees, however, knowing or not knowing the actual locations in Owen’s 4 States is beside the point. Owen is inviting you to lose yourself: first in the forest and then in a deserted car park, a library of books and, finally, a cemetery. Seamlessly we can slip into this liquid world with its alluring synthesized beat. Hand-held devices are increasingly able to augment reality by generating real-time animated filters over images and video feeds. In 4 States, Owen takes this idea and elevates it to the realm of the sublime. Instead of staring into the great abyss or the raging sea, as the classical painters of the past, he brings us to the edge of an electric dream.


JOSH OWEN 4 States (still), 2017, high definition video with stereo sound, 10’30’’ duration


JOSH OWEN 4 States (still), 2017, high definition video with stereo sound, 10’30’’ duration


KON KUDO Pixels (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable


CCAS’ MIDDLEspace offers three very different participatory artworks: Kon Kudo’s Pixels, Tom Buckland’s Constellation and The Uberigine’s The Awkward Space. In their wall-based installations, Kudo and Buckland use anachronistic materials and a purposefully makeshift aesthetic to play with our expectations. A professional performer and trained photographer, Kudo’s Pixels ruminates on the movement of images in the digital age. His piece is an assemblage of components that include brown paper packages, a ‘pixel’ dispenser, calculator, wad of blu-tack and an illuminated grid with each square individually numbered from 0000 to 1199. Written instructions invite you to take a hand-made pixel (a small wooden square printed with a partial image) and follow an equation using the calculator to determine the correct position of the pixel inside the gridded frame. A piece of blu-tak adheres the pixel and the process is repeated until all 1200 pixels have been dispensed and the final image revealed. To complete the image and see his final work, Kudo requires you and other visitors to work together. Many hands make light work but it’s still a far cry from the effortless swipe of a screen or tap of a keyboard. Kudo’s arduous activity feels out of step with this time. It is in this disjuncture, however, that Kudo conjures the otherwise invisible work (and workers) that happens behind our screens and in the cloud.


KON KUDO Pixels (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable


KON KUDO Pixels (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable


TOM BUCKLAND Suburban Fantasy #2 (detail), 2017, cardboard, found objects, LED lighting, peephole viewer, mirrors, miniature people, cotton, foam, dimensions variable


Buckland’s Constellation also requires participation. On the face of it, his installation appears as a series of small lenses embedded into the wall of the gallery. Moving closer and peering in to each one, however, we discover whole other worlds: Mars populated by cowboys and spacemen, a fantastical suburban street with floating homes and dugout pits, a cold grey laboratory equipped with flashing dials and labcoated scientists, as well as a museum of skeletons, a turtle with a spinning globe upon its back and Kafkaesque bugs. Buckland’s constellation of parallel universes is mesmerizing. Peering into one after the other is a real thrill. A large part of the work’s magic comes from Buckland’s use of mirrors, simple motors and electronics; it’s a nostalgic return to a pre-computer generated image era. Focusing our attention on multiple little portals that might possibly expand forever, Buckland generates a sense of adventure in the beyond. Like armchair travellers, while our minds are free to wander, our bodies remain on this side of the wall, in this reality.


TOM BUCKLAND Seven and a Half Million Years (detail), 2016, cardboard, electronics, LEDs, found objects, peephole viewer, mirror, miniature scientist, dimensions variable


TOM BUCKLAND Constellation (detail), 2016 - 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable


Just off the central axis of CCAS’ MIDDLEspace is The Uberigine’s installation and performance piece The Awkward Space. A self-proclaimed ‘post modern indigenous absurdist’, The Uberigine will present a lecture on the opening evening of BLAZE XI alongside her installation that includes note books, pens and a vanity mirror enclosed in a circle of black ribbons. During her lecture, the polite and effervescent Uberigine will introduce her concept of ‘the awkward space’. Capitalising on contemporary art’s readiness for ‘anything goes’, The Uberigine will invite awkwardness, highlighting her own as well as asking for your contributions. The work is both genuinely generous and deliberately destabilising, a strategic position The Uberigine adopts not only in her art but also everyday as a Mandandanji, Bidjara and Mithaka woman unavoidably confronting the colonial structures of privilege and denial that permeate contemporary Australia. In fact, it is difficult to discern where the act ends and real life begins. Through The Awkward Space, The Uberigine calls attention to a particularly common, but often unnoticed privilege: where some Australians may be able to casually enter any space, system or structure, many Indigenous Australians are regularly questioned (openly or furtively) of their right to be present, to speak, to belong. Staying with the trouble, The Awkward Space is an elegant illustration of this privilege. Significantly, the work also generates a space where we might, if awkwardly, acknowledge and find ways to redress this and other systemic imbalances that deny equal rights.


The MAINspace at CCAS showcases the work of Cat Mueller, Alycia Moffat and Alex Hobba with three installations that have their own visual connections to Haraway’s thesis of entanglements, webs and unfinished configurations. In the final scene of her short video, fragments of a cinematic event in three colours, Alex Hobba includes footage of a woman watching a tightrope walker on TV. The next sequence appears to bring us closer into frame, the figure now falling slowly through a pale blue sky, tethered to a jellyfish-like rope. The footage is abruptly cut by the text caption: EACH VISIT IS A CONFRONTATION WITH THE FACT THAT THEIR MOTHER IS LOSING HER MEMORY Returning to the falling figure, arms now outstretched as if possibly swimming through the air, the film cuts again: THE MOTHER SEEKS ONLY THE COMFORT OF TELEVISED EXTREME SPORTS Using as her medium Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy (1993-1994), in the same manner a collage artist might cut and rearrange paper, Hobba edits small passages of the cinematic classic to present a fragmented critique. The final effect is emotive, wistful in its brief moments that are not always faithful to Kieślowski’s original narrative yet still follow the logic of the original film’s characters and events. By repurposing and reimagining, Hobba not only draws attention to the conceit of cinema but also a lingering attachment to cinematic events. Falling but tethered through unfinished configurations that could be real or imagined, remembered or forgotten, extreme or nothing at all, is both a confrontation and comfort.


ALEX HOBBA Fragments of a cinematic event in three colours (still), 2017, digital video, 4’39’’ duration


ALEX HOBBA Fragments of a cinematic event in three colours (still), 2017, digital video, 4’39’’ duration


For her contribution to BLAZE XI, Cat Mueller has created an epic temporary painting using the architectural corner as both a line of connection and interference. Entitled splice, Mueller’s painting is psychedelically comprised of loops, waves and mists of colour broken by straight edges and empty fields. Applied with an airbrush directly to the wall of the gallery, Mueller’s painting is a dizzying series of frames within frames. Urgent and unsettling, physical and sensual, Mueller’s splicing, interlacing, and grafting of colour, line and form has an effect reminiscent of American artist Linda Benglis’s Day-Glo pour paintings that oozed out of an otherwise male dominated formalism of the 1960s. Expansive and embracing, the unique temporality of Mueller’s painting also demands to be experienced in the here and now. It’s not too much longer before the work will be extinguished, hidden forever behind layer upon layer of gallery paint.


CAT MUELLER Sketch 1 for Splice (detail), 2017, acrylic on paper


CAT MUELLER Sketch 2 for Splice (detail), 2017, acrylic on paper


CAT MUELLER Sketch 3 for Splice (detail), 2017, acrylic on paper


ALYCIA MOFFAT Wall (detail), 2016, found clothing and staples, dimensions variable


ALYCIA MOFFAT Wall (detail), 2016, found clothing and staples, dimensions variable


Alycia Moffat’s Cube, located in the middle of the MAINspace, is assembled from metal and plastic wrapped in a net of repurposed clothing. Selected for their colour palette and structure, Moffat has largely removed the sections of clothing that would cover the body, leaving instead the connective seams and structures. Stitching these together, the clothes encase the cube in a colourful web. Moffat invites you to take of your shoes, a small gesture of undressing, and find a point of entry into the cube. Inside, the web surrounds, above, below and all sides. As a conceptual end point to BLAZE XI, Moffat’s Cube offers multiple different perspectives, from inside and outside positions. Here we may consider our ‘embeddedness’, a term art critic and theorist Thomas McEvilley argued for in his book, Art & Discontent: Theory at the Millennium (1991). Written 25 years ago, just prior to the proliferation of the internet across the world, McEvilley linked ancient Greek philosophy with the growing trend for globalization. For contemporary art, he stressed the importance of ‘embeddedness’ and that art should ‘reflect the conditions of the place where it takes form’2. Here, McEvilley argued that continual change is not the same as inevitable progress and that what is known, or can be known, comes through experience. In this space, it is the role of the artist and critic (and I would also add curator) to drive action in the real world in concrete places. In this way, there are echoes between Haraway and McEvilley when we ask, how did we get here? And where are we going to next? Sally Brand Canberra, 7 February 2017

1 Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham: Duke University Press, 2016, 1. 2 Thomas McEvilley, Art & Discontent: Theory at the Millennium, Kingston: McPherson & Company, 1991, 179.


BLAZE XI Curated by Sally Brand Catalogue by Alexander Boynes

CANBERRA CONTEMPORARY ART SPACE FRIDAY 17th FEBRUARY - SATURDAY 15th APRIL 2017 GORMAN ARTS CENTRE, 55 AINSLIE AVE. BRADDON CANBERRA A.C.T. TUESDAY - SATURDAY 11am - 5pm | www.ccas.com.au


BLAZE XI @ CCAS (2017)