A review of Liminal Transitions, ANU School of Art Gallery, Canberra, Jan 28-Feb 6
by Mitchell Whitelaw
published in RealTime issue #91 June-July 2009 pg.30
As its title suggests, Chris Fortescue’s LiminalTransitions dwells in a poised threshold space: between randomness and order, information and noise, foreground and background, intention and accident. In the Naturalism series Fortescue scans scraps of newsprint and packaging, then passes the source material through a set of geometric rotations and reflections. Structure inevitably emerges from these abject, crumpled things; what started as meaningless form acquires a sense of organic integrity. The results are visually seductive and suggest an ambivalence about form, structure, even beauty.
Fortescue channels Duchamp in several works here; his Rectified Searches are low-fi digital images sourced from web searches for “Road”, “Fog”, and “Chris.” Duchamp’s “rectified” works are found objects subjected to a slight intervention or manipulation – L.H.O.O.Q, a cheap print of the Mona Lisa with a pencilled-on moustache, is the best-known example. Fortescue digitally rectifies his modern readymades – extrusions from the networked collective consciousness – decimating the face of each Chris into a pixel grid, slicing and transposing discs from the Roads. These minimal interventions throw the found images off balance, leaving the viewer suspended in their sense of hybrid, decentered agency.
Fortescue’s reSettings is his most successful manifestation of this networked or distributed authorship. Here he works with, and between, Michael Heiser’s land art work Double Negative, and Polish artist Edward Krasinsky, whose installations and exhibitions were often bisected by a horizontal line marked in bright blue tape. In reSettings Fortescue has wrapped rocks from the site of Double Negative in metres and metres of Krasinsky-blue tape. The resulting objects are intense sculptural forms in themselves: taut, shiny little capsules of…what? In the accompanying essay the artist teases out the network of resonances, coincidences and nodal events that unfold from the work; it becomes an expansive meditation on the mingled, tangled causalities of being in the world, against the simple-minded fiction of intention.
airConResonator literally hovers over the ANU School of Art exhibition space: it appropriates the air conditioning ducts that span the ceiling, miking them up and feeding their background noise through a filter, then piping it back into the room. Visually the work is barely there: two white walls—in fact giant resonators—each with a single, shiny speaker cone embedded. Even sonically the amplified air con is a diaphonous pillow of sensation, apparent only on close listening. The work tunes us in to the edges of aural perception, pushing the background forward just enough so that, suddenly, we hear it everywhere. Like the crumpled newsprint in the Naturalism prints, air con noise is waste, chaos; but acoustically, noise contains everything, all frequencies, all possibilities, all structure. And the ducts are physical resonators that double as readymade metaphor; a networked distribution system but also, as in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, a secret, hidden world, where everything is connected.