Making connections, part II

  • Categories: Blog
  • Date: 3rd June 2012
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Part II 
Here is my segue from Not the way home to a couple of exhibitions at The Rocks. Bear with me ….. it is more a reminder than a straightforward connection. 
Fowlers Gap the site of exhibition/ residency/project Not the way home, is a scientific research base of UNSW which has been shared with artists for many years. Here, artists engage with geologists, anthropologists, ornithologists, agriculturists, astronomists and engineers who are all there to engage with an extraordinary landscape. Fowlers Gap features prominently as a resource and venue for experimental research for NIEA at COFA UNSWDon’t be turned off by the acronyms – NIEA is the National Institute for Experimental Arts at COFA College of Fine ArtsNIEA is a research facility which promotes innovative theory and practice-based research through cross-disciplinary collaboration and close partnerships with …. Australian and international universities, industry and community groups. The environment and sustainability are key areas addressed by NIEA in various ways via creative experiment and thinking: urban development, renewable energy,sustainable materials, climate, arid zones, land and water, ecology.
NIEA is worth getting your head around because it is an extraordinary research facility, and indicative of the level of creative research coming out of COFA. As COFA heads towards its fully refurbished campus in Paddington (2013) with galleries, design and media studios, NIEA will become increasingly visible. 
The 2 NIEA research groups which are more closely associated with Fowlers Gap are Imaging the Land International Research Initiative (ILIRI) which facilitates, investigates and promotes contemporary dialogue relating to imaging the land;and Environmental Research Initiative for Art (ERIA), with Allan Giddy at the helm, which conceives and realises site-specific public art that accommodates ‘eco-logical’ practices in ways that regenerate physical environments. As an aside, Giddy is currently working on the exhibition, Desert Equinox – taking a group of local and international artists to Broken Hill and Fowlers Gap, to create solar powered, site specific installations to co-incide with the 2012 spring equinox. Locals are invited to assist the artists, with the installation of the works. Hopefully more on it later this year.

This is what is going on at COFA – I think it is really exciting. Check all of it out at

Now, hold that thought and move back east, some 1100kms, to The Rocks, in downtown Sydney. Down a side street, above a cafe that looks pretty good, you’ll come across 3 artists, all of whom are studying at various levels with NIEA at COFA. It is part of The Rocks Pop Up 2012: a series of exhibitions in temporary spaces, to co-incide with Vivid
As does Fowlers Gap afford opportunities for cross disciplinary activities, sharing of ideas and seeking creative solutions in a very concrete way to some very non-creative problems, so too does NIEA.

Exhibiting now are 3 artist students who offer works which are new, experimental and deliberately unresolved. Andrew Newman draws on scientific studies to create a series of diagrams and texts on chalkboards, which hope to map out the neurological pathways which lead to love. Josephine Skinner uses romantic quotes/ sayings/ poetry in digital format, together with a slowed, repetitive passionate kiss from the movie Love Story (Redford and Macgraw), to create quite an intense dialogue of the desparation of love. I didn’t get the video works by Rafaela Pandolfini – there is a series which I should look at in its entirety – but I did love the cornucopia head gear ….

Rafaela Pandolfini Cockatoo headdress 3 Loneliness 2009
still from digital video, image courtesy the artist

The works are youthful, experimental and challenging. There’s a lot of theory being blown around here and inevitably the works require a fair bit of explanation, which in itself is not always clear or obvious. Even more frustrating… However on a visual level, the works are intriguing: the use of people, sound, repetition, text, the distortion of things known and familiar. Go with the experimental nature of the work, and see where it takes you. 

More connections but of a different kind, I venture down the road to another Pop Up exhibition, Topographies I. Who should I bump into? Kath Fries (from my blog 14 March) & Thomas C Chung (the knitter from last week’s blog). Initiated by Gallery 8 as a pop up satellite space, it is in a shop which is still in fit-out mode, on George St adjacent to the MCA. The artists have taken over, with the blessing of the authorities; sort of like a fully-sanctioned art squat. Landlords on Oxford St take note – this is such a good use of disused space, even if only temporarily. 
Topographies I is another landscape exhibition, though in a less obvious way than that of No way home.  Each exhibiting artist talks to the site, in terms of its history, location and state of renovation or abandonment.  Chung is in his element with knitted hammer, spanner, nail drill: butch, charming and such obviously hopeless tools. Fries‘ work is more subtle and elusive: gauze wrapped around an open channel in the ceiling, filled with feathers. She alludes to the seagulls which swirl the Bridge at night, catching the lights, feasting on the bogong moths which are drawn to the lights. It is always a remarkable, eerie scene, on a hazy, misty evening in particular.  Check out her blog
Mark Booth’s small pipe sculptures look to an infinite plumbing system, recalling that of the MCA, which recycles water directly from the harbour for its essential air conditioning system.

Mark Booth ARROW.100 series 2011-2012 
U-PVC pipe and acrylic paint
image courtesy the artist and g8

Matt Busteed Anthropocene 3 & 4  2011
ripped street posters on board


image courtesy the artist and g8

Matt Busteed has torn posters from local scaffolds and reglued them in layers on board: detritus from a shifting urban landscape. This is the first in a series of Topographic exhibitions from g8 on George. Stay tuned.

Now, though, like the moths, I feel drawn to the lights and need to go back to The Rocks at night, and just revel in the Vivid light show. 
So much to see, so much to take in ….

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