Marisa Georgiou | Aishla Manning | Naomi O’Reilly
Essay by Claudia De Salvo
A street full of cars and an ominous heart beat emanating from the basement of an old Queenslander are the only indications of Scene One, taking place in one of Brisbane’s newest artist run spaces; The Laundry Artspace. From the moment you approach the space, the domestic realm becomes an autonomous being, stirring where it is often unseen and forgotten. Three female artists; Aishla Manning, Naomi O’Reilly and Marisa Georgiou; have produced work that provokes one to simultaneously feel as though they are both welcome and intruding.
Opening the show, Georgiou creates an enticing harmony between the darkened and cramped basement entry, and the projections depicting eerie fog laden fields. Before entering the florescent, windowless basement I am invited into a much vaster space that exists beyond the projection.
“Serenity Crawl explores feelings of presence and absence in the natural environment; how the sublime setting of early morning foggy forest simultaneously invites me to insert myself into it and also rejects me. The arduous crawling is an act that could be construed as animal movement, childlike exploration, or an exercise in groundedness. The movement is completely intuitive and only happened once, as I feared that a second time would not preserve the authenticity of expression. I advance, stop, sit and slowly stand and walk back as my determination to reach the trees fades.
The work was projected in an ambiguous domestic space alongside artificial and pre-existing natural elements. Installation elements included stones, both natural and glass kinds commonly used in gardening, which have been carefully arranged, and a hose feeding a small trickling stream through the space. Installation in front of and surrounding the projection blur the boundaries between the real and representational; the absence and presence of place. When viewing the work, I witnessed audience trying to work out whether the natural elements were pre-existing or contrived (“Was the river there before?”, “Did she put moss on the ground too?”, “I can see a hose around the back so she must have done it on purpose…”). This uncertainty questions whether the boundaries defining what is ‘authentic’ or ‘contrived’ are still relevant in contemporary experiences of the natural environment.” 1
Standing on the dirt of the untreated floor, watching a figure laboriously make its way further into the fog in Serenity Crawl, I feel as though I am witnessing expedition that exists deep within a person that does not know I am there. This feeling of peering in at intimate moments exists as a constant throughout Scene One, tethering each work to the next.
Whilst the initial works of the exhibition open up the space, the subsequent pieces by Manning and O’Reilly appear to draw in the very walls. Married seamlessly with the location of the space, these works are unashamedly intimate, soft, honest and raw. When viewing O’Reilley’s work, I could not ignore the nagging sensation that, by simply being present, I was witnessing private moments that only ever emerge in the stillness and quite of the home. In O’Reilly’s Sense, fleshy video works projected around the room engulfed me in the same pinkish glow of fingertips when a torch is shone through them.
“Sense is a dual screen projection piece accompanied by sound. The imagery observes a male subject in close proximity; drifting in and out of focus. The lens unashamedly scrutinizes his form and subsequently the viewer is invited to do the same. He performs in front of the camera, aware of the gazing audience. The shifting focal point becomes indicative of human eyes which struggle to maintain clarity in such nearness. Throughout this interaction of observation between subject, lens and audience, a audible heartbeat pulsates throughout the space.
These elements combine to create an intimate experience that teeters between comfort and unease. The work wraps the viewer in warm, soft tones: close overviews of flesh reflect personal and familiar intimate experiences. However, when the lens pans out, and the subject’s gaze meets your own, you become aware of your intrusion.”2
Manning’s work expands upon this as she layers the exhibition with poignant interventions of the domestic space. A rubber dishwashing glove is given an angelic halo as it hangs limp within a washing machine that doubles as a plinth upon which sits her video work Touch, 2015.
“In Touch, the rubber dishwashing glove is filled with ice and caressing a kettle that climaxes in a high pitch whistle as it boils, the heat causing the puffy fingers to go limp. The deprecating action of the glove gives an absurdity to the entire scene, creating a fluctuating tension between humour and unease.” 3
Another video work Kitchercise, 2015, installed in a darkened and cramped outdoor bathroom concisely sums up universal expectations of women’s bodies: it’s placement facing a mirror reflecting this. In world divided on whether or not women can have it all, it is almost unanimously accepted that we should at all times strive for desirability.
“Two kinetic, time-based sculptures – Suck, 2015 and Spin, 2015 – also inhabit the space. These works use familiar household machines that are animated in repetitive, useless tasks that question the absurdity of daily routine and the often unconsidered corporeal relationship of the body to these banal experiences.”4
The quasi-domestic setting and poignant installation of Scene One are essential components in the success of this show, and whilst they have all pursued separate avenues, each artist tenderly pulls apart common ideas regarding the body and personal and private spaces.
2 Naomi O’Reilly, 2015
3 4 Aishla Manning, 2015
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