Love, Displaced

In the Age of Instagram, as never before, the notion of the screen as a mediator of gaze takes on a startlingly literal valence of meaning. That is, the force that the screen exerts over the way we look at the world, and each other, seems to have reached a kind of escape velocity at some point in between the turning of the millennium and now, and landed us in a world of weird disconnection.

 

The foundational claim of Lawrence Wilson’s current show, ‘Love, Displaced,’ is that the screen, and the general state of over-stimulus that it represents in our contemporary lives, is a type of technological and cultural force that separates us from one another, even as it claims to bring us new kinds of connectivity. The screen is at least in part to blame, writes curator Felicity Fenner, for our apparent inhabitation of ‘a world plagued by the smog of loneliness and the displacement of love.’ Orbiting around this claim – challenging it, at times, and plumbing it for reparative potential – are seven artists and artist collectives, all working in video. Yes – all working with screens.

There’s a tension, in many of these works, between the bodily and the digital, the indexical and the virtual, the historical and the fantastical. Richard Lewer’s Never Shall Be Forgotten – A Mother’s Story, for instance, projects hand-drawn images onto the video screen. Lewer turns his gaze decisively toward the past, here, as he reinscribes the psychic residue of historical state violence against Indigenous Western Australians. Another of Lewer’s works in the show, Worse Luck I Am Still Here, uses a similarly sincere, naïve visual vocabulary to tell a more personal, emotive, history. Jacobus Capone’s melancholy Volta takes up personal and familial histories for its theme, too. Here, though, is a very un-screen-like impulse to reassemble and repair, rather than to fracture.

Christian Thompson’s Refuge also uses the screen as a site for the historical and the heartfelt. This video shows the artist singing in his native Bidjara language on the theme of brotherly love. Elsewhere, Roee Rosen’s Dust Channel flicks through historical, mythological, and political registers as it interrogates sexual and romantic desire. These works turn the screen into a kind of crucible for everything we don’t think of as screen-like: the candidly affective, the historical, and the handmade.

Jeremy Deller and Cecelia Bengolea’s Bom Bom’s Dream turns this irony up another notch. Mixing performance and animation – ‘mixing memory and desire,’ almost a century after the line was written – the work dreams a hyper-reality made of history, myth, real bodies, and imagination. If Lewer, Rosen, Capone, and Thompson deal with history, Deller and Bengolea deal with history’s not-quite-opposite, creating a world of future-tensed remixing and fantasy.

Also in the business of remixing the past are Tracey Moffatt and Gary Hillberg, whose Other mashes up film footage from a staggering number of modern and contemporary blockbusters. The piece splices together scenes of attraction, love, and desire between parties of different backgrounds. Are we to turn to these scenes with political hierarchy and racial relations of power on our minds? Surely. And yet, in the context of this show, we might also be inclined to wonder about the place of a more sincere kind of human connection – call it ‘love,’ call it ‘desire,’ call it ‘whatever it is we’re not feeling on our phones’ – in these scenes.

AES+F’s Inverso Mundus also uses the screen to reimagine the familiar. The work turns the everyday on its head, destabilising our affective responses to the images we’re habituated to: character types like policemen and wrestlers, animals, and art-historical tropes. There are moments of tenderness, as well as confusion. Here, as in the show more broadly, a productive ambiguity seems to be much of the point.

EXHIBITION
Love, Displaced
9 February – 11 May, 2019
Lawrence Wilson Gallery, Perth

 

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