Landscape Too 2014

A MOP Project hosted by AirSpace Projects, 4 - 19 April 2014
Curated by Carla Liesch and Hayley Megan French

Landscape Too: Pizza at Hanging Rock, Screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock, 23 April 2014

Landscape Too: Pizza at Hanging Rock, Screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock, 23 April 2014

Landscape Too (2014) was a curatorial exhibition and publication project that brought together artists and writers from Alice Springs, Sydney, Toowoomba and Townsville to consider the idea of landscape, as it pertains to an experience of being in Australia. Following on from the exhibition Out of Site held at Articulate Project Space in 2013, the artists involved in Landscape Too live and work in different parts of Australia, enriching this discussion through many different experiences. The exhibition brought together artists: Alice Buscombe, Catherine Parker, Chris Williams, ek.1. (Emma Hicks & Katie Williams), Hayley Megan French, Jonathan McBurnie, Kate Beckingham, Mark Shorter, Ron McBurnie and Stephen Spurrier; and was accompanied by a booklet of texts with contributions by Carla Liesch and Hayley Megan French, Alice Buscombe, Richard Kean, Jonathan McBurnie and Ron McBurnie, ek.1. (Emma Hicks & Katie Williams), Kate Beckingham, Saskia Beudel, Gemma Messih, Chris Williams, Ally Bisshop and Luke Strevens.

The idea of landscape is one that elicits doubt and wonder, particularly working in the unsettled intercultural ground of Australia. It prompts the question: what is it we are responding to when we consider landscape? The works in the show came from experiences of a landscape that we continue to shape and move in, and the desire to understand the place we inhabit both physically and imaginatively. The artists hence, articulated a negotiation with the necessity and impossibility of the idea of landscape. What ensued was a conversation between the works and the artists, an engagement with different embodied experiences and imaginings of what landscape means in Australia today.

 

See documentation of this exhibition on AirSpace Projects blog here.


Excerpt from AirSpace Projects blog April 4 2014:

It was another great night at AirSpace Projects for the opening of Landscape Too.  And to echo ek.1’s video work ‘Make it real (one more time)’ storm clouds and lightening provided a dramatic backdrop but fortunately spared us from the deluge that struck parts of the south coast and tablelands.  In the manner of a gothic harbinger fruit bats streamed across the sky to seek refuge in the city, forewarning only those who are inclined to superstition.

The work looks great, a mixture of traditional and new media responses to the enduring concern of landscape. In recent years, new questions have been raised in relation to landscape, framing it not as a shared or agreed upon reality but rather as a subjective experience where its representation reflects the attributes of the culture it emerges from.  Some of the questions have been addressed in the work and the accompanying booklet, encouraging viewers and readers to reflect upon their own experience of landscape and to consider how it is socially and culturally manipulated.

Viewing art on the internet doesn’t compare to viewing art in the flesh. Not only is there the variation of scale to consider, some of the works function as sounds and moving images while the more traditional media offer seductive surfaces not easily appreciated when mediated by the virtual world. Here are a few details of work to entice you over to Marrickville. And come enjoy the ambience of AirSpace Projects.

See the full post here.


Some distance, Hayley Megan French, 2014, installation photo, Landscape Too, AirSpace Projects, 4-19 April 2014.

Some distance, Hayley Megan French, 2014, installation photo, Landscape Too, AirSpace Projects, 4-19 April 2014.


Excerpt: Introduction, Landscape Too, Hayley Megan French & Carla Liesch, MOP Projects, 2014, for the exhibition Landscape Too, A MOP Project hosted by AirSpace Projects, curated by Hayley Megan French & Carla Liesch, 4 - 19 April 2014.

Introduction

Landscape Too brings together artists and writers from Alice Springs, Sydney, Toowoomba and Townsville to consider the idea of landscape, as it pertains to an experience of being in Australia. Location in land, location and dislocation in the landscape of Australia is a continuing source of contention, urgency and discovery for contemporary artists. The idea of landscape is hence one that calls forth both doubt and wonder, particularly working in the unsettled intercultural ground of Australia. It prompts the question; what is it we are responding to when we consider landscape?

Landscape Too follows on from the exhibition Out of Site held at Articulate Project Space in 2013. The artists in Out of Site— Carla Liesch, Distanciation., ek.1, Emma Hicks, Emma Wise, Hayley Megan French and Richard Kean—were closely linked through collaboration, ARI committees and shared experiences of Australian landscape. The dialogue surrounding the conception and exhibition of the work became a significant aspect of the artists’ engagement with these ideas. It is out of this exhibition then that Landscape Too was conceived as a project with two outcomes, an exhibition and a collection of texts, offering an opportunity to record more of the ideas and conversations surrounding the project. The artists and writers in Landscape Too live and work in different parts of Australia, enriching this discussion through many different approaches and experiences. The submissions in this booklet serve to offer a contextual frame to the idea of landscape.

The idea of the frame has been an important element in our relationship with landscape. Without a sense of boundary, comprehensive space is often bewildering and threatening. However, once we place ourselves within a space, a landscape is framed by our own subjectivity. Rather than a gilded rectangle framing an image these texts seek to find cultural, emotional or embodied frames for our understanding of landscape.

The landscape and the frame both continue to exist here through a collection of essays, poems, conversations and speculative writing. The artists and writers in this project acknowledge the problems with landscape, heavily laden with historical definition and complex social and cultural relations. There is a tension in many of the works and texts, a questioning of our relationship to a particular experience of landscape and how this could be represented in an artwork or text.

The problem with landscape is thus that landscape represents to us, not only our relationship with place, but also the problematic nature of that relationship—a relationship that contains within it involvement and separation, agency and spectacle, self and other. It is in and through landscape, in its many forms, that our relationship with place is articulated and represented, and the problematic character of that relationship made evident. [1] 

The Australian landscape is also reflective of what Australian writer and researcher Ross Gibson refers to as the narrative construction of Australia2—and inherent in this, our relation to that narrative and our role in its continued construction. The very idea of Australia was recently on display in the National Library of Australia’s exhibition Mapping Our World; Terra Incognita to Australia

Our very existence was envisaged, and then refined over centuries to allow for new ideas and discoveries. [3]

We are reminded in the National Library’s exhibition that the idea of a great southern landmass—to balance those of the known world in the north—emerged from the human imagination long before the Europeans discovered Australia. The role of imagination in the narrative construction of Australia has always been integral and is reflected in the speculative blurring of the real and unreal that has characterised an Australian understanding of landscape.

The first text in this booklet, Sojourn in the Labyrinth by Richard Kean introduces imagery of mapping and time, “I step from the boat to the shore. The waves lap at my feet and there I see that the map is forever being redrawn, a line infinitely divisible.” Kean then reminds us that the act of mapping is an act of ownership over the land—a narrative that is written and rewritten over and over.

The potential to re-map and re-mythologise the land through the landscape tradition in Australian art is an idea taken up by Jonathan McBurnie in his conversation with Ron McBurnie. Discussing their different approaches to drawing the Australian landscape, this conversation highlights not only notions of colonial and post-colonial Australian art that trouble this field, but also questions how to continue working in light of this complex history. Jonathan McBurnie finishes with the provocative question—Is this simply a cultural cringe associated with self-imposed political correctness and willingness to avoid anything remotely colonial sounding? One method it seems artists and writers in this project use to address this discomfort—indeed Jonathan McBurnie uses in his work—is the blurring of the real and the unreal as a way of negotiating the necessity and impossibility of the idea of landscape.

This is evident in the text from ek.1 (Emma Hicks and Katie Williams) Make it real (one more time) which blurs the real with the unreal. The text begins with the real, drawing lines from their filming notes and outtakes, then weaving through quotes from scripts of Australian horror films—Picnic at Hanging Rock and Dead Calm. There is a slippage between a matrix of ideas as the words of their source material and an almost stream-of-consciousness record of their experience are intermingled, leaving it for the reader to make it real, again, through their imagination.

In the conversation with Kate Beckingham, Landscape as Elsewhere, the artist discusses her practice of manipulating images of landscape to place the viewer in a space where what is real, and what is not, is not easily defined. Moving away from the perceived limitation of the photographic frame—one which inherently separates the viewer from the image—Beckingham is becoming more interested in creating an overall experience for the viewer, drawn from her own embodied experience and memory. Working from her home in Sydney, Beckingham sees the natural landscape as being elsewhere from the space of the urban landscape. The natural landscape, then, already holds a sense of imagination and memory that a new constructed reality can be projected into.

There is a similar sentiment in the excerpt from Saskia Beudel’s book A Country in Mind: Memoir with Landscape. Continuum of landscapes speaks of an experience of driving through the heterogenous desert landscape of Walungurru in the Northern Territory, and the impossibility of recording the complexities of this environment in an image. Instead, Beudel documents this space through the memories it recalls for her. The landscape that is constructed for the reader then, is unbound by space and time.

There is a desire in many of these texts to translate or recreate an immersive experience of landscape for the reader. Alice Buscombe’s short poems seem to recall a single moment of being in a landscape—a written snapshot noting sounds and the slippage of her footing. Buscombe’s poems, interspersed throughout the booklet, have a calming rhythm that draw us back into landscape through the natural rhythms of the landscape itself and then our movement within it.

Gemma Messih also draws from an experience in-landscape in her excerpt from The distance between us —a poetic response to the Icelandic landscape during, and after, returning from a residency in 2012. Messih speaks as both the subject and space; the subject is not separated from its environment, it is consumed by it. The distance between is at once vast, and non-existent. There is a sense of the sublime in this slippage between the subject and nature, and we are left grasping to contemplate such forces beyond ourselves.

The idea of being in-landscape is also considered by Chris Williams in his essay Analogue Landscape and Digital Ecologies. Williams speaks of the ‘inhabiting effect’ of ecology, rather than the possible ‘distancing effect’ of landscape. For Williams, it is in the indelible relation of organisms and their environment that we can frame a more meaningful participation in landscape. From this perspective, Williams questions how the qualities of a given landscape, physical and metaphysical, might be heard; and further, how might a landscape then sound? There follows a beautiful interplay between the song of an image and the image of a song—a cyclical relationship which is explored through the sound work created by Williams for the video Sometimes there’s two, included in the exhibition.

Similarly to Williams, Ally Bisshop works both in and out of Australia, spending her time moving between Sydney and Berlin. As Australian philosopher Jeff Malpas has suggested, the place and meaning of landscape is often brought into salience through journey and return. [4]  Hence we often find the movement back to Australia, or back home, significant to our perspective on landscape. Bisshop’s A Conversation in Four Acts considers different perceptions of light—a recurring obsession in the experience and representation of landscape in Australia—and our reciprocal relationship to the rhythms of the sun.

The artists and writers in this project have been asked to respond to experiences of a landscape that we all continue to shape and move in. What ensues is a conversation between the works, the artists, and the texts, an engagement with different embodied experiences and imaginings of what landscape means in Australia today. The final text by Luke Strevens, Welcome to Australia, now in HD, considers the place of Australia and our place in it, in relation to the common and often more romanticised image and politic of Australia’s mythological landscape. Strevens offers examples of contemporary Australian cinema such as Snowtown, The Boys and Romper Stomper as more accurate representations of a landscape that a majority of Australians experience on a day-to-day basis. Landscape Too then, is less about the construction of an image or what lies within a frame and the colonial subtext of this gesture, and more of an exposition of why it is vital to continue engaging with these ideas. As Ross Gibson observes, the place of Australia—encompassing a nation, a dream, and a time— is one that we can imagine ourselves in relation to. [5]  The texts and works in Landscape Too, hence come from a desire to understand the place we inhabit both physically and imaginatively. 

We all carry about with us both horizontal and vertical perspectives on the spaces that mean something to us. In a sense, we are all navigators. [6]

 

Endnotes

 [1] Jeff Malpas, “Place and the Problem of Landscape,” in The Place of Landscape, ed. Jeff Malpas (Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011).

[2] Ross Gibson, South of The West; Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992).

[3] Martin Woods Susannah Helman, “Terra Incognita to Australia,” in Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia (Canberra, ACT: National Library of Australia, 2013).

[4] Malpas, “Place and the Problem of Landscape.”

[5] Gibson, South of The West; Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia.

[6] Peter Sutton, “We are all navigators,” in Mapping Our World:Terra Incognita to Australia (Canberra, ACT: National Library of Australia, 2013).

Carla Liesch is a Sydney-based artist undertaking a Masters of Fine Arts at Sydney College of the Arts. Hayley Megan French is a Sydney-based artist and PhD candidate at Sydney College of the Arts. Carla and Hayley have been collaborating since 2011.

 

Download the full booklet here, or contact for a hardcopy