Shane Breynard, Stephen Birch, Nicola Loder
Australian Centre for Photography
5 June - 4 July 1998
  Shane Breynard

Shane Breynard, Anti-
, steel, glass,
polyethylene, power coating
(screen) and RA type
photographs, 1997

The seemingly self-explanatory title of this exhibition set up a series of juxtapositions that interrogated traditional antagonisms between representational and temporal modes of artistic production. At the Australian Center for Photography one would expect to see work of an essentially photographic intent. What this show served to do however, was to explode those expectations by presenting works that were neither entirely photographic nor strictly "media" based. Here, the image slipped, lost its authoritative grasp and assumed a role as an object of its own displaced representation. In this way, Object/Image functioned to challenge the viewer through a series of aesthetic and conceptual disparities that demonstrated the complex inter-relationship between the image and its object.

Nicola Loder's work consisted of a series of divided and sloping photographic panels that were, in a rarefied way, reminiscent of slippery slides. On these panels, Loder used fragmented photographic images to depict urban street life seen from above. The architecture of this work both illuminated the imagery and exposed the essentially precarious nature of photographic verisimilitude. The sculptural object literally suggested the image¹s slippage whilst simultaneously exposing the fine line separating representation from the palpable presentness of the proto-minimalist object itself.

Equally elegant and highly finished were Shane Breynard's series of large jointed steel and glass panels titled Anti-Aphrodisiac. Together they formed a screen of frames that beckoned the viewer to conjure the lost representation whilst paradoxically wondering at its absence. Despite the material significance of Breynard's work, its overall transparency suggested its own non-presence and, again, the divide separating the screen from the ghost of the Image. In this instance, implied illusion in the absence of the represented recalled Duchamp and more specifically his Grand Verre or Large Glass. Breynard's "large glass" denied the baroque metaphoricity of Duchamp¹s work, but at the same time acknowledged the chain of signifiers that comprises the blank screen itself. Here, the blankness of Breynard's structure could be said to represent what Heidegger termed the "metaphoricity of metaphor". It was through such mechanisms that Duchamp's elaborations evaporated whilst making themselves known without recourse to representational convention.

Duchamp's (not inevitable) spectre also figured behind the surface of Stephen Birch's Underwood, a cluster of papier mâché trees umbilically connected to a series of LCD monitors. The monitors presented a series of morphing images of urbane everyday-ness. Those things depicted included a black bird, a dumpster and a publicly abandoned and rotting mattress. Together they alluded to the entropic rot at the heart of predetermined symbolic representation. Each icon, whilst demanding our instant attention, dissolved and transfigured itself before our eyes in a constant whirlpool of recognition and loss. Each representation was at once synonymous and interchangeable whilst also being subject to a chaotic flux that threatened the hallucinatory breakdown of intelligibility. Birch's papier mâché trees likewise alluded to the permanence of the natural-history museum while at the same time suggesting the latent pathos of the theatre prop and its instantaneous redundancy. Through these means, Birch reminded us of the object status of the image and, vice versa, of the imaged object's ultimate failure to be "real". In this artist's work, recourse to illusionistic and representational conventions saw the partial erosion of both the object and the image, at the expense of a faith in the representation; its assured continuity and cultural deification.

Object/Image attested to the discursiveness of the image and to the transience of materials. Whereas stylistic consistency has generally been the measure of successful curatorial enterprises, in Object/Image the paradoxical and disparate were emphasised as sites where meaning arose and where it was intermittently annulled. It was the juncture ­ a hairline crack in the screen of representation ­ that opened representation to inspection and to critique and which disallowed its definitive closure. It was in this way that the image remained momentarily unfocused and at a distance whilst the depicted object was shown to contain within it the promise of its own dissolution, despite its seemingly unquestionable material presence. As an exhibition of contemporary multi-disciplinary work, the success of Object/Image was to be measured in terms of its failure to invoke a totalising gesture under whose authority knowledge halts and is seen merely as the object of its own (mis)representation.

Alex Gawronski

© The artist and
Courtesy of the artist and ACP.

Nichola Loder

Nicola Loder, Landscape
, type C prints
mounted on
aluminium, 1998

Stephen Birch

Stephen Birch, Under
, paper-mache,
video, 1998