Snapshot of emerging art: Induce Myth photomedia exhibition at Gauge Gallery

Miniature city of staples.
Man walks down stairs in the dark, looking over his shoulder.
Horizontal coloured lines.
John Lennon’s face.

What do these images have in common?

They create questions, narratives, thoughts.
They blur boundaries of reality and representation.
They were all recently on display at Induce Myth, a photomedia exhibition at Gauge Gallery in Glebe, Sydney.

Eager to see my friend’s art for the first time, I attended Induce Myth on opening night (6th May 2014). Amelia Tracey, Honours student at Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), created the exhibition with fellow artists Dylan Esguerra and John Fox.

I walked around the exhibition space, examining works while sipping from a glass of white wine (as is de rigueur at exhibition openings).
Esguerra’s staple cityscapes made me think of the fragility of the urban environment, post-9/11. An office tower is no longer a promise of security, and a city skyline can fracture in an instant.
Light and shadow are at play in Fox’s photographs, each framing a different person walking down stairs at night. What will happen next? The unknown is a threat to predictable daily ritual; the ordinary may rupture at any moment.

Tracey’s work is more abstract. Except for nods to 1960s music (Lennon’s face in There Lived a Man Who Sailed to Sea, and the title itself referencing the Beatles’ song ‘Yellow Submarine’), coloured lines and shapes could mean anything. This is the point. The central message of Induce Myth is “Using these images, let your own story emerge”. The works of all three artists encourage visitors to create their own narratives.

Here is Tracey’s narrative, in response to her work.

My work is not photography, and yet it thrives on the photographic. It does not involve painting, and yet it is aesthetically painterly. It sits in a kind of ‘in-between’ space or medium. Further, my work is always born in the digital, raising themes concerning social networking.


Amelia Tracey's works on display at Induce Myth. Foreground: There Lived a Man Who Sailed To Sea. Background: 27.

Artist Amelia Tracey’s works on display at Induce Myth. In foreground: There Lived a Man Who Sailed To Sea. In background: 27.

Her work There Lived a Man Who Sailed To Sea consists of two images: Lennon’s face in bright blue, orange and yellow hues, and an arrangement of coloured rectangles. In the exhibition the images were placed on a pedestal, facing opposite directions. Lennon’s face, according to Tracey, is a “digital painting” using colours extracted from the cover of the album Yellow Submarine. The rectangles appear to be randomly assigned, but are actually a “visual musical score” of the song ‘Yellow Submarine’. The score was created in Adobe Photoshop with mathematical accuracy, using the scale 1 crochet : 1000 pixels.

Tracey also uses digital colour extraction in 27, but for a different purpose. A series of five images were displayed side-by-side on the gallery wall, each representing a member of the tragic ‘27 club’ (a group of celebrity musicians who all died at age 27). Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse are depicted as rows of horizontal lines, with each musician assigned a unique colour scheme.

Tracey explains her method. 

They were created by sourcing the 27 most Googled images of each musician, and colour sampling the central pixel from each photo. The sample would then determine the colour of each stripe, and the finished work acts as a kind of non-figurative, non-traditional portrait.

27 was created using a strict formula, which Tracey applied at one moment in Internet history. Re-applying the formula at a later date would yield a different set of 27 ‘most Googled’ images, which means the colours extracted would result in a completely new work.

I interpret Tracey’s art as a re-configuration of portraiture in the social media landscape, where identity is always changing, participation is vital, and the personal – including the private lives of celebrities – can be accessed with the click of a button.

But that’s only my interpretation. What’s yours?


My Top 5 Exhibition Pet Peeves (Part Two)

You learnt in Part One that pestering visitors, intrusive staff members, and high prices are three of my exhibition pet peeves.
But these are trifling matters.
What really makes my blood boil in an exhibition?

My Top 5 Exhibition Pet Peeves

5. Other people

4. Overzealous staff

3. Elitism and price warfare

2. Label fail

The label is incorrect. The label has a spelling mistake. The label is too wordy, overly opinionated, patronising, or just really boring to read.

There are many things that can go wrong when creating an exhibition label. The label producer may not be aware of these problems, or may only become aware after the label has been printed and fixed to a wall. Any publisher, writer, illustrator, or student printing a lengthy assignment knows all too well the gut-wrenching feeling when one tiny error necessitates an entire reprint.

Should a factual error or spelling mistake be left as is, even though it may reflect badly on the exhibiting institution? Or should the label be reprinted? Another option is to add an amendment or note explaining the mishap. This could either be seen as honest and forthright, or unprofessional and a bit convoluted. (For more on this and other label dilemmas, I recommend Eugene Dillenburg’s illustrated discussion on ‘interesting labels’.)

No-one likes to be lectured at through an exhibition label, or told what to think and feel in response to a work. Visitors prefer to reach their own conclusions, especially in an art exhibition where works should be open to individual interpretation. This is why many art galleries adopt a minimalist approach to labels, providing only a basic citation.

Inability to sustain the visitor’s interest = label fail. I’m willing to take the time to read a well-written, informative label in a history exhibition. But if the label starts banging on about the minutiae of a World War I battle, interspersed with dates, descriptions of terrain and military jargon, I will bypass the label completely.

An effective label is relevant, concise, and provides an insightful background or footnote to the work.

A very effective label has a narrative quality. Because nobody will walk away from a good story.

(An invaluable resource for anyone who writes exhibition labels is Gallery Text at the V&A: A Ten Point Guide.)


Drum roll

My number one exhibition pet peeve of all time is …

1. The shop

Ah, the obligatory exhibition shop. Strategically placed at the end of the exhibition, or in close proximity to the exit door, the retail outlet banks on visitor exhaustion through the promise of instant gratification. After all the elusive ideas and abstract stimuli, finally: a tangible souvenir, compensating for a helpless void in which nothing concrete has been attained and there is no physical proof that the experience actually happened.

Non-vital objects accumulated from exhibition shops.

Non-vital objects that I’ve purchased from exhibition shops.

Exhibition consumables may or may not be directly linked to the exhibition.
For example, in a temporary outlet at the end of an Impressionist painting exhibition, you see a Monet postcard. All well and good.
But then the shop throws you a curve-ball. Also on sale: a DIY Andy Warhol pop art kit, a set of juggling balls, a harmonica on a key-chain, and a tube of eucalyptus-scented moisturiser.
Nobody needs these things. But you buy them to fill the void, convincing yourself that it’d be awesome to learn screen print portraiture, join the circus, become a travelling musician, and smell like a koala’s lunch.

But there is no real harm in taking home an exhibition memento (it is really only a pet peeve for my wallet). The objects may look like mere shelf-fodder, but memory and association imbue them with personal meaning. Exhibitions I’ve been to still linger, long after their closing date.

What are your exhibition pet peeves?