When we enter a space, we knowingly or unknowingly enter into some kind of contract - with those who inhabit the space, with those who hold power over the space, with our surroundings. The conditions of each space vary greatly; we are expected to be - open-minded, respectful, engaged, to trust and be trustworthy. Often these contracts are not made visible to us, or at least in our impatience to participate, we tick the box, having not read the Terms and Conditions.
Entering Fontanelle, the gallery host to Alterior Motive, there is an ambiguous sense of watchfulness - a sense that my gaze is being returned, and perhaps, in the context of traditionally passive art ‘gazing’, this isn’t what I signed up for.
Mia van den Bos’ work at once materialises small facets of the Internet; distorts and nods to universal tech symbols (most notably the webcam/security camera), and manages to materialise human ambivalence and anxiety regarding the relationship between human, media and the corporations that inevitably survey and control this.
There is humour particularly in her performative appropriations of the Anonymous brand of activism, and unsettling portraits of tech CEOs which hang like propaganda posters - the invisible figureheads who silently dictate and arrange so many of our social pacts and customs. Spheres are utilised in a series of clinical assemblages rendered in the cold colours that mirror the addictive blues of our most used social media platforms.
As van den Bos plays with spheres as a ubiquitous reminder of surveillance, of a lack of respite in a globalised and connected existence, the discomfort of self-surveillance and mutual watching comes in Ashleigh D’Antonio’s experiments in returning the gaze.
Placing mirrors over parts of her body D’Antonio allows portrait to assume self-portrait - the voyeur becomes conscious of their voyeurism and they become the target of their own attention. An enclosed viewing space makes the intimate cinematic and this filmic component is more explicit in other video works. The contractual engagement with D’Antonio’s work is intentionally blurred, forcing the passive viewer to confront their role in the surveillance of others, of women, of themselves.
Both Mia van den Bos and Ashleigh D’Antonio’s work conspire in diverse ways to comment on the hidden agreements we make and the power they have in online spheres and gendered interactions respectively. In combining their practices, the site reflects complex intersections of power, oppression and media.
Alterior Motive assesses the agendas of gendered and corporate power and through these individual focuses, it is suggested that our definition and understanding of privacy has changed, that a new comfort and familiarity emerges in situations where our privacy is compromised. Here, there is no place to hide from the political context of our seemingly private interactions.