Digital technologies that facilitate representations have remediated both our understandings of and relationships with images, light and spatiality. The constant reproduction and publication of images as light emanating from digital displays has led to a condition in which the distinction between the original image, object or representation and subsequent duplications has become erased.
Make|Shift at the Mill presents new experimental works of South Australian artists that approach light and the projected image from a diverse range of perspectives and experiences. Presented as part of the Illuminate Festival, Make|Shift came to fruition through a month long workshop, involving masterclasses and collaborative practice.
Liam Somerville’s marine_digital_conservation_SA_2023.exe has been projected across the gallery windows and can be viewed from the exterior of the gallery. The work consists of a three-channel virtual environment in which reproductions of South Australian marine life are digitally conserved within a virtual space. marine_digital_conservation_SA_2023.exe is explicit in its simulation of biology, with rendered fish swimming unnaturally with wireframes and bounding boxes, giving immediate awareness to the works use of 3D modelling and game engine physics. The work questions the idea of digital conservation or the act of creating digital representations of nature that will be accessible following the collapse of natural environments due to anthropogenic climate change. By purposefully rendering the natural environment as a digital aquarium, Liam challenges the digital image, presenting the simulation as an inferior mediation and solution to future extinctions of flora and fauna.
Further into the gallery space, Ray Harris’ work Spirit Shelf similarly speaks to preservations of the natural world. Spirit Shelf uses the projected image to encase flora and fauna within domestic objects, eliciting connections to formaldehyde preservation, personal collections and disregarded everyday objects. Dispersed throughout Spirit Shelf amongst trapped flora and fauna are ghostly apparitions, signalling the absence that emerges from extinction. The work domesticates the digital image by presenting replications of the natural world that are presented as indifferently as their real-world counterparts have been treated. In doing so, Spirit Shelf articulates the materiality of the projected image and draws comparisons with the perceived undervaluing of the natural world through duplication, projection and domestic contextualisation.
In the corridor of the gallery space, Sarah Neville’s work T= I/Io Transmittance projects light through textured glass panels, creating further projections that refract across the gallery walls. The work reifies the thread of environmental concerns that echo throughout Make|Shift, presenting a digital simulation of light that may be used to experience the natural phenomena in a speculated future of post-ecological collapse.
Digital technologies that remediate the image through distribution and replication also remediate subjectivities of their users through reproduction of the body. This remediated body facilitates extensions of subjectivity that include images and text-based signifiers. These virtual extensions are controlled and embodied by their physical counterparts, creating relations in which subjectivity and identity are mediated by representational forms and vice versa. This is not to say that these virtual extensions exist separate from the real, but rather that they are encapsulated by the real and operate interdependently. This understanding of virtual representations that facilitate emergent subjectivity whilst intersecting within our material reality echoes throughout Make|Shift in multiple ways. While marine_digital_conservation_SA_2023.exe, Spirit Shelf and T= I/Io Transmittance create emergent ecosystems and bodies of nature that intersect with the real, other works in the exhibit specifically engage with human bodies and subjectivities.
Throughout the main gallery space, Inneke Taal’s sculptural and installation works are presented in three acts that question the relationship between the body, text and performance. A series of self-credits (as object; as site; as act) I presents a projection mapped blind, draped over chairs that displays a scrolling credits sequence, typically associated with cinema. The credits form a conversational stream of consciousness and present the collaborative process of cinema condensed into a singular subject. Whilst the format of scrolling credits usually references multiple collaborators, here this multiplicity is evoked as a condition of the mediated subject, presenting the self as multifarious and motile. The work sits close to the third installation in the series, A series of self-credits (as object; as site; as act) III, which displays a live camera feed that is delayed and replayed multiple times with decreasing opacity. Both works consider the self as mediated through the technological apparatus of the camera and projector lens and problematise understandings of the self as a singular entity. While the first piece presents multiplicities of the self as text, the third piece extends this concept by encouraging audience participation and performances of the self that unfold over time, and re-present digitized multiplications of the subject.
Tanya Voges piece With/In is projected onto a cylindrical spiral of perspex, coated in projection film that can be viewed from both inside and outside of the structure.
Upon entering the structure, a semi-translucent figure emerges and begins to move and perform, distorted by the cylindrical shape of the projection screen. The movement is slow paced and meditative and considers the spatial dimensions of the installation and the perspective of the viewer. With/In presents subjectivity as emergent through interaction and the body as constituted through social relation. When viewing the work from inside, diffused silhouettes, shadows of viewers and ambient lighting from outside the installation are also visible, creating a tangible sense of both interior and exterior whilst also dissolving the boundaries between viewer and performer. The perceived borders of inside/outside and self/other are simultaneously constructed and collapsed in With/In, creating a sense of both viewing and being viewed by the work.
The works presented as part of Make|Shift engage with the dynamics of bodies and digital representations whilst querying the mediations between them. By duplicating and distributing images of various bodies, the works encourage an understanding of technologically mediated representations of subjectivity as having their own agency and as existing within a symbiotic relationship to the represented subject.
Through projection onto physical objects and the architecture of the gallery space, Make|Shift collectively interrogates digital representations through the shifting lenses of ecology and subjectivity. From diverse artistic backgrounds and perspectives such as three-dimensional virtual environments, cinema, performance, speculative futures, contemporary dance and interactive media, the exhibition simultaneously criticizes and exploits the affordances of technological apparatus. In doing so, the exhibition poses questions to the viewer on the affective qualities of digital representation and technology whilst also providing critique on the impacts of said technologies on ourselves and the world around us.