I arrived in Vancouver in December 1999 after living my entire life in Tasmania,the island at the southern most tip of Australia. Setting foot on Canadian soil was not just our first international trip but the culmination of a dream for my husband and I. Fans of Cronenberg, Koh, and Seth and Chester Brown, we felt an affinity with a common sensibility and a familiarity in the landscape.
Tasmania is not the sunny paradise often associated with Australia. It has a climate similar to Vancouver’s. It’s central highlands are bleak and uninhabitable. These highlands are ringed by wilderness and rain forest, those circled by mines (tin, copper, zinc) and farmland. Clustered on it’s coastline is a tiny population of half a million with a 10% unemployment rate. All this points to depressed communities in a temperate paradise. Perhaps this is why I appreciate dichotomy. Perhaps this is also a fertile ground for the contemporary arts as Tasmania’s tightly knit arts community is rapidly providing more and more major players in the Australian scene. Using their isolation to their advantage, the creative faction observes art-fads without falling prey to them and finds quality and integrity tested and proven in the struggle for recognition across the water.
In this environment cross-disciplinary arts have been around for a long time. Most recognized Back Home for my work with video, I have sometimes been sold as a Video Artist, a title I feel reluctant to use as I am also still a painter, a sculptor, a curator, and a writer among other things. I am thrilled by the moving image and the quality of video but am frustrated by the visibility of the medium. How often I have seen work that exists in a contemporary art space seemingly only because it requires to be plugged in. Do I want to be exhibited simply because my work emits an electric light?
On Behind The Music last night on the telly, Sinead O’Connor explained that she initially shaved her head so she would not draw attention to herself through her feminine physicality. Much in the way that she wanted people to listen to the singer as opposed to the pretty singer, I strive for an audience to respond with look at that and not look at that video/digital image.
In March/April 2001 I will be in residency at the Western Front with the luxury of time and equipment to find new ways to likewise eradicate the packaging. In the past I have worked with sequential stills, zoetropes and flipbooks to try to remove video from itself. I strive to touch an audience with an idea or gesture that is unencumbered by the trappings of it’s technology. My last exhibition before leaving home was The Vanity Game a series of 200 small digital self portraits installed in a tiny gallery named Foyer (go if you’re ever in Hobart, Tasmania. They have great shows and the best coffee I’ve ever tasted). These small black and whites were taken with a Nintendo Gameboy Camera (forgotten techno toys are a bit of a passion of mine) and heralded a period of new minimalism for me. Having dropped the big ideas, I will cheerfully refer to my current body of work as noodling. Right now I work exclusively in black and white so I don’t have to think about colour. Right now I often focus a camera on myself just because I’m here and I don’t need to be paid. Right now I’m more concerned with new ways of doing things. Right now I’m happy to let the spirit of Saint Germaine Koh wash over me and let simple art gestures happen day by day. In this way, when the grand statement returns I’ll be ready for it.