September 28, 2003

a hint of something other

S.Norrie still from video installation Undertow
The blurb from the ACCA does not say much. It says the work depicts a "world in a state of both beauty and terror, shuddering with natural and unnatural events which verge on the catastrophic" with the "range and scale of images [having] a vertiginous and unsettling effect that pulls at the viewer's unconscious."

That could mean anything. This description helps a bit. But not much.

Let us speak plainly. The image is of a dust storm over Melbourne. It is the topsoil from the Murray-Darling bas in being blown to the sea. It signifies a looming environmental catastrophe.

Something more complex than this is going on here, as can be seen by this image:

But what?

Some indication is given by another exhibition of Susan Norrie's works at the Museum of Contemporary in Sydney called Notes from the Underground
Yet, once again, little is offered by way of images or text even though this exhibition a historical overview of the artist. It is simply assumed by the MCA that you live in Sydney, or that Sydney is Australia.

Notes from the Underground refers back to Dostoevsky's text, which is definitely offside to the principles of instrumental reason, enlightened self-interest and the hegemony of the rational Enlightenment. Dostoevsky's text, is usually dismissed as irrationalist celebration of the chaos of dark forces. That dismissal means we don't have to think about what is seen as excessive.

Is the interplay of texts here suggesting a repressed presence in fantastic and often grotesque images in which consciousness begins to slide out of control? How does the latent sublime terror caused by the slippage from conscious to unconcious connect up to the social or domestic environment we inhabit in our daily lives.

I sense a critique of modernity with a different kind of history. The only confirmation of this 'sense' is this review of Undertow

We cannot assess what is going with Norrie's work here because there is not enough imagery online by these galleries. What we have seen indicates a transgression of the modernist concerns about making art, the conceptual concerns of painting; the relationship between work and the viewer; or the connections between the contemplative space of the art gallery and the history and conditions of art.

Here is my stab. There is an unconscious of vision. In our period a regime of vision lets some things seen and not others. Hence some texts are condemned or displaced by the regime of vision. What is also displaced by the art institution is the philosophical interpretation of these romantic images from the underground.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at September 28, 2003 03:49 PM | TrackBack
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