Monday, October 01, 2007

Impermanence - Life by Projector-Light at BEAP

Another quick catchup post from BEAP, before it recedes into the mists of time. The Impermanence show at the John Curtin Gallery is a beautifuly-installed collection of video and interactive works. The gallery is an impressive space and curator Chris Malcolm knows how to deal with media art: HD projections onto custom painted surfaces, well-contained hi-fi sound, careful design and layout, and tons of breathing space. Daniel Lee's Origin (below)was shown as still prints and high-def video loop, and looked quite amazing; though the work in itself didn't stun me. Originally created in 1999, it's almost retro on the new media scene's manic timescale, and to me it was showing its age. For 90s Photoshop organohybrids you can't go past Australian artists Patricia Piccinini, Murray McKeich or Linda Dement - all of whom deliver lush surfaces with a lot more bite than Lee's manipulations.

"Nice, but..." just about sums up my response to this show; Lynette Wallworth's Still:Waiting2 features amazing nature-doco style video, with thousands of small parrots coming to roost in some enormous red gums in the dawn light. But it only made me want to be actually watching the birds instead of sitting in a dark box in front of a HD projector screen. Bill Viola's slowmo screen Observance is very pretty, but I just can't watch the overacting. The most interesting thing in the place was, unfortunately, an outright failure.

When I visited, we were told that Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau's Eau de Jardin (above) was broken. This work reprises their 1992 classic Interactive Plant Growing, with sensors embedded in potplants driving artificial foliage on a panoramic projection. Ordinarily the artificial plants gradually recede back into their "pond," making space for new creations. But something was wrong and the water plants weren't dying, resulting in a kind of virtual algal bloom: the screen was locked up, choked with life. By contrast the real plants were not looking good at all. The ferns were shedding fronds onto the floor; I heard someone report that the soil in the pots was dry, while gallery staff explained the lengths they were going to in trying to keep the plants alive - wheeling in big UV lamps overnight, to compensate for the dim projector-light of their daytime life. The disjunction was stark; the polarity flipped on the happy techno/bio mix that characterises much of Sommerer and Mignonneau's work. It ocurred to me that a really useful project for all these bio-artists would be to engineer a form of plant life that could live happily under the light of a data projector.

1 comment:

Mitchell said...

Turns out that no bio-engineering is required for a plant to grow by projector light ... Eduardo Kac did it years ago [via wmmna].