Essay by Peter Kozak
Corrie Furner works with installation, still images and projection to explore the relationship between found and discarded industrial and domestic objects with human perception. By amplifying and reframing objects and phenomena that are generally overlooked – making them responsive to colour, light, movement and other conditions, she seeks to express ideas or emotions, to highlight tangible and intangible phenomena and to explore the different ways that found and discarded objects interact with our senses and thinking.
For her exhibition ‘Keep Calm’, Furner has created a new version of one of her earlier works, Fluoro, which was made in 2014 during her studies at the Queensland College of Art. Made using a single fluorescent light which she rescued from a demolition site in Brunswick Street, Furner has tinted this new version of the work with a soft pink hue to explore the subtle effects of colour on human psychology, as she states: “Pink is a colour of the emotions; [often] considered calming, reassuring, alleviating feelings of abandonment, self worth and neglect.”1 Through repetition of form and with regular spacing between the individual fixtures, Furner’s work is reminiscent of the reorientating effects of Dan Flavin’s artworks, in which he took fluorescent lights and placed them in corners and along floorboards to transform and respond to specific architectural settings.2 Unlike Flavin’s work, however, the fluorescent lights in Furner’s video are perpetually shifting. Cycling through a series of simple, gridded, geometric formations, Fluoro II employs a hypnotic rhythm which on one hand is undeniably beautiful, lending a sense of dignity to the discarded, pre-fabricated industrial objects, while on the other hand evokes the cold mechanics of a projective psychological test, where each image is designed to illicit a different cognitive response. The placement of the objects within the video also calls into play our individual perceptual responses, as Furner states: “When arranged in a particular composition and within a specific space an object is able to adopt a new meaning denoting to a memory, a place in time. By centralizing the focus to either a lone object or using multiples the viewer is unable to ignore its presence and therefore its importance.”3
A similar exploration of how we experience and psychologically respond to objects, illumination and colour can also be observed in Furner’s free-standing sculptural works. In these works light is treated as a material and as a concept, where through its stark physical presentation, much like the attraction of fire or the sun, its mystical and theatrical qualities produce a perceptual experience based upon affect and fetishistic attachment, as Elizabeth Baker argues: “Pure light and pure colour are strange, intractable materials, both seductive and confusing. They tend to overwhelm the observer, dominate or obliterate other art in the vicinity […] yet there is undoubtedly a powerful fascination.”4 Situated next to the mediated radiance of her video work, the materiality of Furner’s sculptures becomes more pronounced. In this condition, the sculptures render palpable what Tom Holert, Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood and Anton Vidokle describe as “the cross-sections of power and aesthetics in the material and immaterial discourses of shine” where the physical behaviour and perceptual qualities of light experienced in the offline world are now predominantly produced and obtained on-screen.5 “As a digitally calculated mimicry of (sun-)light”, Holert, Aranda, Wood and Vidokle argue, “this virtual availability of shine and gloss, of Glanz and éclat, is deceptive in its awesome ability to simultaneously neglect and conflate the material, the political and economic, infrastructure of the production of today’s fetish-artifacts.”6 In this way, Furner’s works could be seen as an exploration of the different phenomenological effects and material qualities of artificial light. Whether experienced through digital projection or as sculptural objects, fluorescent light is clearly a graphic device. Possessing the figurative density of line and the painterly possibilities of colour, as an artistic medium it appropriates from the results of industrial production to produce participatory phenomenological effects, and in doing so, asks us to reconsider our relationship with these types of materials and how we see the world.
- Corrie Furner, personal email correspondence with the author, 10 February 2017.
- Cliff Lauson, “Light Show: Cliff Lauson explains the Experience of the exhibition,” MCA Australia: Soundcloud, 16 April 2015, https://soundcloud.com/mca-australia/cliff-lausen-experiencing-the.
- Corrie Furner, “Light and Object as Phenomena,” Visual Platform (blog), 12 January 2014, http://visualplatform.blogspot.com.au/.
- Elizabeth Baker, “The Light Brigade,” Art News 66, no. 1 (March 1967): 52.
- Tom Holert, Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood and Anton Vidokle, “Politics of Shine,” e-flux journal, no. 61, January 2015, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/61/60985/editorial-politics-of-shine/.