Fine with a Chance of Cloud
Gail Priest experiences
the trouble with the weather: a southern response:
The centrepiece of the installation is a large Perspex box that we are told holds a selection of breaths from the Southern Hemisphere while, pinned around the walls, are handwritten transcripts from the blog Talking About the Weather (http://www.scanz.net.nz/weathertalk), where people are invited to contribute “text breaths.” One talks of visiting his/her father in a hospital, a place where there is no weather, trying to breath shallowly for fear of absorbing too much misery. Another reveals his unrequited love for a woman as he stands and watches her through a window, his breath quieter than the airconditioning. Others are statements: “to think about each breath makes me uneasy” and “to live is a question of breathing.” These, like the collected breaths, are intimacies shyly yet generously shared. The choice to write on lined paper rather than simply use printouts ensures that the human hand is felt in the work. The combination of elements in the installation creates an experience that is both whimsical and weighty.
There is a similarly light yet tender approach in the video piece by Elizabeth Day. From A to B —an allegory of process, is a home video-style document of the artist’s 80-year old parents who decided to move an old tank from the shed down the hill to alongside the house in order to collect rainwater for the garden. The elaborate process involves wheels, jacks, cranes, trolleys and tree propping—the kind of thing a retired handyman could bore you with for hours—yet the plan is rather elegant and resourceful, designed to overcome the shortcomings of strength in the older man. The fragility of the protagonists set against their determination to make a small environmental difference makes the work surprisingly poignant. A second piece by Day situated in the courtyard consists of a large segment of turf embossed with the tyre tracks of an SUV. Perhaps this work too is about determination as the grass stubbornly tries to assert its existence despite trampling and attempts at displacement in the tiled courtyard.
In the centre of the gallery is New Zealand artist Janine Randerson’s Anemocinegraph. Based around a 19th century device for the graphing of wind movement, Randerson’s instrument consists of ten suspended convex disks onto which animated interpretations of weather data are down-projected. It is hard not to think of Lynette Wallworth’s Hold: Vessel because of the similarity in materials, however Anemocinegraph is equally engaging in its use of scale and perspective. We enjoy a god-like vista over floating planets where terrains and textures slip over the surfaces, the spill of images on the floor creating sickle moons and intersecting cusps. The soundtrack by Jason Johnston, also using scientific data as its source, is intriguing, drawing you into the work with pulsing tones, combining well with the breaths from the Neumark/Miranda piece and generating a winsome soundscape for the exhibition as a whole.
Co-curated by Jacqueline Bosscher, Maria Miranda and Norie Neumark, The Trouble With the Weather: a southern response is expansive, featuring the work of 19 artists, however it felt light and spaciously arranged in the open plan mode of the UTS Gallery. Three net.art works were also included and if you like to check the weather daily, Jason Nelson’s elegantly designed Vholoce: Weather Visualiser is definitely worth bookmarking (http://www.secrettechnology.com/weather_rss/weather_rss.html).
The southern perspective was further manifest in the work of artists from New Zealand, Cook Island, Tuvalu, Samoa, Chile and Brazil.
Despite the undercurrent of urgency and desperation in the subject matter, many of the works took a whimsical approach, from Dani Martin’s suburban kitsch sculpture made from pool noodles to Joyce Hinterding’s beautiful ink splattered diagrams for cloud engineering and, of course, Neumark and Miranda’s own contribution. Consequently, and without stridency, the overarching issues operate as a kind of climate in which the works can dwell and evolve.
This review appeared in RealTme 80, August-September 2007 http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue80/8677