Artists: Damiano Bertoli, Lou Hubbard, Sanné Mestrom, Deborah Ostrow, Daniel Price, Matthew Shannon and Jackson Slattery. Curated by Kelly Fliedner
16 April 2010 - 8 May 2010
The Nothing explores the unknown and potentially unknowable realms of human understanding—the things that we can’t fully comprehend or for which words and formal representations simply don’t exist.
The exhibition’s title, The Nothing, is taken from The Neverending Story and refers to the indescribable ‘emptiness’ that pervades Fantasia (the mythical land in which the story takes place), chronicling the gap between islands of human knowledge and understanding. The Nothing addresses liminal spaces, transposing and transforming materials from the familiar to the foreign in order to explore themes of uncertainty and crisis.
Through conceptual photography, ephemeral installations, works on paper, and sculptural interventions, the artists participating in The Nothing bring forward concepts that propose open-ended and possibly unanswerable, yet enduring, questions about how we function within, and respond to, our world and our society. As a means of opening up psychological spaces of doubt and further inquiry, in their respective practices, the artists use a range of different approaches to explore the things that can’t readily be seen, or necessarily be understood, but that we know of and experience nonetheless—the forces that govern our being. The intention of the exhibiting artists is to take something familiar (an object, an image, a material, a word, or a social intervention) and manipulate it into something that challenges the viewer’s perceptual awareness, and understanding of what actually constitutes ‘real’ for the viewer.
While each artist’s practice is distinct, there is a strong material synergy amongst the work’s elegant post-minimalist aesthetic. Post-minimalism usually describes artists who use minimalism either as an aesthetic or conceptual reference point. They use everyday objects, simple materials to reflect upon ‘pure’ formal aesthetics—quite frequently rejecting them. In The Nothing, the simple beauty of post-minimalism is paired with absurdity and humour—mocking the minimalists’ fixed art object, its plasticity and its concreteness. The works orientate around the viewer, allowing for a moment when he or she becomes an active agent aware of perceiving and apprehending an artwork. As a result, the artworks become both performative and temporal, evoking elements of uncertainty and unpredictability in the perceptual consciousness. However, each artist participating in ‘The Nothing’ recognises boundaries of perception and explores themes of uncertainty and crisis that are mirrored within post-minimalism’s challenge to minimalism itself.
While there is an implicit pathos shared by most of the artists, many also embody elements of humour and irony. Even as they pose sincere and searching questions about meaning and belief, they seem to recognise a certain impossibility in seeking concise answers. While the works are earnest, they also peer at themselves obliquely and recognise an absurdity in the task of understanding the nothing, a project that may never be fully resolved in our living reality.