Nov 2, 2016

Sean Redmond Co-Curator of Morbis Artis: Disease of the Arts

Image: Drew Berry, The mitotic spindle inside a living cell, magnified x 80,000. Image from the music video for “Hollow” by Drew Berry, for Björk’s Biophilia project.
https://www.rmit.edu.au/events/all-events/exhibitions/2016/november/morbis-artis-diseases-of-the-arts
Showing at RMIT Gallery, City Campus
17 Nov 2016-18 Feb 2017
Public Program:
– Fri 18 Nov 1-2pm artist talk: Drew Berry.
– Tue 22 Nov 1-2pm artist talk: Chris Henschke and Harry Nankin.
– Thu 24 Nov 5.30-6.30pm panel discussion: Alison Bennett, Drew Berry, Andrea Rassell, Sean Redmond, Josh Redmond and Lienors Torre.
– Tue 29 Nov 1-2pm artist talk: Lienors Torre and Anne Wilson.
– Thu 1 Dec 5.30-6.30pm panel discussion: Cameron Bishop, Chris Henschke, Harry Nankin, Jodi Sita, Darrin Verhagen and Anne Wilson.
– Tue 6 Dec 1-2pm artist talk: Alison Bennett and Jodi Sita.
– Thu 8 Dec 5.30-6.30pm panel discussion: Alison Bennett, Drew Berry, Sean Redmond, Josh Redmond and Lienors Torre.
– Tue 13 Dec 12.30-1.30pm artist talk: Chris Henschke and Harry Nankin.

Morbis Artis is an interactive bio-art exhibition that uses actual and metaphoric communicative diseases to explore the fractured relationship between human and non-human life.

The exhibition is composed of 11 artistic works, with each piece using a different media or art form to explore the catastrophic chaos of the world it draws upon. Each artist imagines disease differently, and yet within the terror of their imaginings there is simultaneously great beauty, and much hope. Disease, then is rendered sublime in this exhibition: both awfully malign and deliciously exquisite.

The art work is also set within current debates and concerns about what constitutes life, what counts as a sentient being, and who gets to determine what lives are saved, punished, exploited and destroyed?

What is life?
What is disease?
These are the diseases of the arts

“Just as disease leaks its way into all matter and anti-matter, so does our understanding of the biological in the age of species and habitus destruction,” said co-curator Sean Redmond.

“Disease as metaphor and viral and toxic threat is employed to both condition our responses to non-human life, illness, and to regulate the way we inhabit both professional life and everyday encounters.

“Of course, what counts as the human condition in the age of augmentation is also pertinent. There is a frightening collision, then, between the possibilities and limitations of human and non-human life.”

The Works

In Andrea Rassell’s intimate work the membranes of the microscope are turned on the pathogen but here the relations between seeing and knowing, clean and unclean is reversed, so that the human becomes the seen and not the investigative seer.

In Drew Berry’s work, infectious cells are set free onto walls so that the very connective tissue of the exhibition room teems with the droplets of life and death. Herpes, influenza, HIV, polio and smallpox bacteria take flight, are magnified, so that those entering the space are hit by scale and size, and take part in this chorea of the senses.

In Alison Bennett’s touch-based screen work, the viewer is presented with a high-resolution scan of bruised skin. Invited to touch the soft and damaged tissue before them, their eyes become organs of touch, and their fingers work as sensory digits that feel as they move over what becomes a damaged but delicate bio-art surface.

In Ann Scott Wilson’s balloon installation and video projection, we explore the poetics of gravity and the chrononormativity of time to account and prepare us for the not-living that eventually befalls us all.  The stillness of the balloon and the movement of the ballet dancer speak to the material divide between the body that lives, that dies, and that then, perhaps, floats away.

In Chris Henschke’s work we explore anti-matter as we bare witness to how radiation is released by organic matter. Using an actual particle accelerator, the work shows how the humble banana emits antimatter on a regular basis. In an age where we fear the way antimatter impacts upon the nature of everyday life and the workings of the cosmos, we see how the organic itself brings potential dissolution to the human world.

In (((20hz))) sound-image installation we explore the way audio-visual fields can wildly affect the well-being of the hearing-viewer. With two catastrophic audio-vision soundtracks that register as sickly encounters, one can choose to hear without commentary, or to hear about how and why the soundscape induces nausea. Pulsating light beams and reflections accompany these sound pieces like a cosmos is dying and exploding before us.

In Jodi Sita’s photographic series it is the disease of vision that their work is concerned with.  Images of the eye, the retina, and the fovea are transformed into intergalactic landscapes so that ‘looking in’ is transformed into an open geography of affective and expansive valleys and seas – like new vistas of possibility and potentiality open out before us. These lunar and oceanic eyes are composited from both healthy and diseased eyes, however, so that the strangeness of vision is mapped onto or into macular degeneration. These are eyes already failing, or dying, like the dark stars we are also apart of

Lienor Torre’s multi-media and glass work on degenerative vision explores how our view of the world is metered and tainted by digital technologies. Consisting of a large glass eyeball, Ipad and augmented application, and a glass cabinet full of glass jars filled with water in varying degrees of opacity and with engraved eye images on them, eyes quickly become raindrops, as the liquidity of vision is brought to watery life. There are tears and scars that reflect across the eyes of this exquisite art-piece.

In Harry Nankin’s nine, multi-panel palimpsests displayed on light boxes, lake becomes semi-arid land as the impact of the contemporary ecological crisis finds its root and branch in starlight and shadowgram as live invertebrates mourn the age of the anthropocene.  The work ‘photo-poetically’ memorializes this erasure, resurrecting the dry lakebed into a focal plane upon which primal starlight is used to imprint photographic films on moonless nights. The environmental disease at the heart of this work is human-made: as we lay waste to our planet, the stars are slowly going out.

In Joshua and Sean Redmond’s three-screen video installation, ants become a different type of political disease. Combining found and actuality footage, the work uses the metaphors of ant invasion to re-envision the current refugee crisis and the way stateless people are made to be matter-out-of place. The central image of the piece, a flimsy toy dinghy floating on the salty water, recalls Australia’s turn back the boat policy, and the haunting truth that it is children who are made to suffer most. This is a disease of political undertaking.

Cameron Bishop and Simon Reis’s mechanical installation seeks to rid the art world of all diseased art. This playful machine aesthetic re-mediates art ‘masterpieces’ as they are pressed and turned through the machine, coming out cleaned of all impressionable colour, line and shape. What is left but green? The blank surface we are left with is the ultimate neo-liberal art piece – instantly copyable and immediately forgettable.