JOHN DI STEFANO, GABRIELLA & SILVANA MANGANO, AND COEN YOUNG
Indeterminate States is a focused inquiry into the idea of fixed or static absolutes of knowledge. The project is designed to consider what it means to develop a rational understating of our experience and create an expression of that process that develops both complex meaning and powerful agency through communication with audiences.
Rather than pursuing concrete evidence or collecting supporting data, Indeterminate States conceives of knowledge as an imprecise or approximate description of the real world. In a sense, this project suggests that knowledge itself is a form of theory, a projection and consistent prediction of our understanding of the world and our experience of and within it. The project emphasizes the imaginative states required to develop conceptual frameworks that enable us to no only negotiate daily life, but also to understand and operate coherently in a universe that is almost completely unknown and unexplained by current systems of observation and interpretation.
Like other forms of description - say, writing, coding, depicting, or modelling - art is a flexible, inventive vehicle for such an inquiry. Using historically constructed conceptual and theoretical models of knowledge, direct and indirect observational strategies, tangible physical materials, and technical practices to generate forms and images that are driven by imagination, in concert with compelling or arresting psychological and visceral effects.
The artists included in this project, John di Stefano, Gabriella & Silvana Mangano, and Coen Young, use different forms and materials in their work, while producing somewhat similarly evocative and sometimes ethereal forms of imagery that conjure a sense of an unfixed, near intangible frame of reference. Yet this dream-like quality or the imprecise, diffused nature of the imagery is no more mysterious or no less concrete than more recognisable or more referential forms of representation and image making. In fact the oblique references to the real in this body of works may be an equally accurate description of a state of existence that is in flux and cannot be ever be entirely accurately measured, described, or represented. But rather the inferred, the implied, and the assumed construct our relationship to reality–a reality, a sense of knowing that is perpetually transitional and invisibly, unconsciously, constantly recalibrating our position.
Curator: Gary Sangster, and Associate Curators: Alia DiPaolo, Emma Fowler, and Bridget Miniatel
JOHN DI STEFANO, GABRIELLA & SILVANA MANGANO, AND COEN YOUNG
John Di Stefano
The photograph then becomes a bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination . . .1
John Di Stefano’s new works presented in Indeterminate States highlight the flexibility of perception through ambiguous blurring. He has attempted to make images that are difficult to recognise and about nothing specific. This lack of clarity is what makes the works so intriguing, encouraging audiences to impose their own reality on the image. As Richter explains ‘...you can see many more things in it [blurry images] than in a sharply focused image.’2 Their abstract qualities evoke infinite interpretations, as we inevitably try to make sense (perhaps figuratively) of the ghostly patterns and flickering tones. Not dissimilar to previous works such as Field (2013), WE’VE (2013), and Register (2014). Lux Motus (No. 1-5) & Lux Motus Continuus also seek to engage the relationship between the materiality of analogue video and photography and perceptions of light as an expression of time.
Lux Motus (No. 1-5) explores temporality, incorporating the contingency of time and duration, which resonates with the idea of an indeterminate state. Di Stefano is interested in the in-between, a liminal state or existence in flux. Unlike Field and Register, which can be viewed as static, these new works act as a form of documentary practice looking at the photogram as the ‘residue or the documentation of an event that happens in a
darkroom,’3 or as Barthes puts it a representation of “that has been.”
The analogue medium is not reproducible; there is a randomness, which flies in the face of photography and incorporates a performative element. Each photogram is handmade by the artist and the resulting images reflect the wavering nature of Di Stefano’s breathing and movement as he attempts to hold objects still between the light source and the paper. A slightly different modus operandi to photograms previously produced by Di Stefano, the arduous task tests the body’s limits and could comment on the performativity of photography as it documents a moment of suspension. This process produces mysterious visual spaces made of moirés and blurring; aesthetically reminiscent of Gerhard Richter’s trademark blurs and relating to notions of visual and bodily perception.4
While Lux Motus Continuus is a separate single channel video work, visually and conceptually it functions in dialogue with the Lux Motus photogram series. Almost a reversal or rethink of Di Stefano’s previous work WE’VE, Lux Motus Continuus’ black flickering screen suggests temporality and the infinite. The perpetual video has audience’s staring into the abyss of reverberating static produced on an analogue television. One cause of this static is cosmic noise (cosmic microwave background radiation)5; produced from stars such as the sun outside the earth’s atmosphere.
The video poignantly highlights random infinitesimal noise from the cosmos, situating us in the world; ‘I don’t know [What are we picking up], but it is actually coming from something much larger, much bigger, much further away, that we don’t even comprehend.’6 Di Stefano has further abstracted the static captured by slowing the movement of pixels down, the ghosting effect extending the life of the pixel for a few more frames beyond what initially triggered it. Forcing the viewer to engage more intently on individual white dots. The flash of light is thus a moment captured in the same way Lux Motus (No. 1-5) is documenting a random moment in time.
Alia Di Paolo
1 R. Barthes, Camera Lucida, London: Vintage, 2000, p. 115.
2 G. Richter, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961 – 2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p.81.
3 J. Di Stefano, interview with the artist, 21 April 2016.
4 J. Di Stefano, ‘Field.’ 2015, viewed April 2016, http://www.johndistefano.net/#!field-2013/cyit
5 C. Wanjek, ‘Exploring the Universe,’ NASA. 2007, viewed April 2016, http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/starsgalaxies/cobe_background.html 6 Di Stefano, 2016, op.cit.
Gabriella and Silvana Mangano
In September 2007 Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano travelled to Spain for a month-long residency at the Can Serrat International Art Centre, Barcelona. While staying at Can Serrat the artists thought closely about scale, and the boundaries between interior and exterior. Sharing a room at one point, they reflected upon ceilings, how we might gaze at them before sleep, and read shapes and narratives in their shadows – as we would into the shifting forms of clouds.
Mechanical Cloud 2009 grew from these shared perceptions, inventions and conversations. This piece captures the oscillating light of a ceiling lamp, which expands and contracts in patterns of kaleidoscopic abstraction. Like a god’s eye, the ‘pupil’ shifts between light and dark in a perpetual motion. Nascent and engorged geometries, prisms, the shimmer of a star, the eye on the wing of a moth, all suggested by this flow of ‘mechanically’ refracted data. We ‘see’ via the unique language of our own perception: the black and white of a spreading drop of ink, a headlight on a dark road, first light after an anaesthetic, the spinning wheel of a bike. We are constantly reading between the eye, the mind and the imaginary.
Text excerpt by Geraldine Barlow from ‘Gabriella and Silvana Mangano’ Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2009.
Technique is Coen Young’s critical language, among other things. Defined by a precise and controlled reworking or remaking of form and image, with a subdued palette, sensuously viscous media, and a controlled, yet seamlessly fluid gesture. By exploring the potential of the gesture in creating an image, his work finds an organic way of interacting or communicating with the world around him. Young’s works succeed in inviting a dialogue with the viewer, producing a multi-layered enquiry of various interactions, both material and social.
Starting with paper, Young builds on this surface with coats of gesso, sanding away any evidence of his brush work, and then stabilizing it with a layer of enamel before finally applying silver nitrate, a vital process of the analogue photographic method, yet one that proves elusive when attempting to produce reliable photographic documentation of the artwork. When sealed, the reflective silver top layer produces a softened, imprecise blur, capturing and reflecting the viewer and their surroundings
within its frame of view. The work becomes part of the environment in which it is placed, never appearing as a static image, unlike our expectation of the photographic.
Young identifies his works as a series of paintings, not photographs. The making process he undertakes aims to remove all evidence of his personal mark, yet the materials used dictate the outcome of each work, due to material inconsistences during production. The result is that each painting’s surface fails to replicate exactly each time, creating a series of works essentially the same, but also very different.
This is also exemplified in the apparent performative aspect of these works - dormant until triggered by the viewer’s interaction with its reflective yet blurred surface - creating a temporal experience, like an illusive dream or memory, reminiscent of German painter Gerhard Richter’s soft-focus realist paintings.
The outcome is a suggestion or invocation of the real world, through the repurposed surface layers of silver nitrate and the unique and unpredictable conversation with each viewer, produced through the various engagements with the unique outcome of his paintings’ material production.
Gary Sangster 2016
Curator: Gary Sangster; Associate Curators: Alia DiPaolo and Bridget Minatel.