ANCA Gallery, 5 June – 1 July 2018
The closed-up gallery space is filled with ultraviolet light. All around is a material drawing, glowing: clustered, uneven lines webbing and creeping along the floor and up the walls, and hanging vine-like from the gallery’s steel girders. If you can get to the gallery late in the afternoon when the sun is low, the room is velvet-blue, with touches of Yves Klein sharpness. By day, the light is monochrome greys, with lavender highlights. It sucks out reality. Is it threatening? Or enchanting? SA Adair would love to know.
In the centre of the floor is a lump of human, caught in the net of this drawing. It has called us to watch. It chants the names of cities around the world and follows through with TS Elliot: This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. This is the opening performance at Locus.
Adair is a sculptor interested in immersive experiences that trace the physical, emotional and psychological remnants of personal engagement. Locus is an ephemeral, iterative work that explores the notion that change and development can arise out of times of neglect and disinterest, creating possibilities that may not happen otherwise.
The body rises, swathed in drawing, making guttural noises. It suddenly becomes very human, offering pieces of drawing to people: feel it. do you like it? how was your day? Did it collapse on you? It makes audience members introduce themselves to each other and starts tying them together. These entanglements trap and tangle us… did something go wrong for you today? You stayed home? A wonderful way to be safe.
The mesh of drawing is tangling with the room, tying people, shoelaces, pulling at the trails of drawing, moving within the drawing, which makes rough rustlings. There are other sounds too, odd meldings of musical and industrial, coming from an entity in the corner who teases a number of instruments, responding bodily: thumping, puffing, twisting, tapping, tweeting.
Locus first appeared in one of Canberra’s sort-of-rare disused city spaces during the 2017 You Are Here Festival, and Adair was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm of the general public, who plunged wholeheartedly into the tight space, taking selfies and group photos. This iteration at ANCA Gallery is a chance to reconfigure the work and augment it with performance.
Trained at COFA and the ANU School of Art + Design, SA Adair works predominantly with line, using found objects, drawing media, felt and gravel. Sometimes the lines form a discrete object (Inkening, 2015), or wall-mounted graphic components that act like symmetry fold-overs (Contagion, 2014). Recently she has started doing landscape installations, making clean-cut Japanese-style white gravel gardens with sharp red gravel lines that trace conceptual echoes emanating from trees in the area (Reverb, 2017).
Eternal music of our brains… how good would it be to start again? This question evokes a sharp yes from the audience, the most genuine response of the event.
With Locus, there’s more than a slight feeling of being inside something virtual, perhaps because of the intricacy of the linework, which feels computer-generated. It’s not: Adair works with the processes of chance, deconstruction, elimination and reconstruction, hand-cutting her abstracted drawings into felt to make these organic 3D marks that push and pull at their surroundings. They provoke wonder when standing close to them. Touch them: they are tough, fibrous. The slightly radioactive feel to the room adds to the sense that the marks are growing, intertwining and spreading across the vacant surfaces. They feel a bit out of control: on a macro scale, the room could be filling with encroaching plant matter. Flip your perspective and you could be inside a human body, staring at endometriosis, cancer, or moving through the waves of an ultrasound. Or perhaps it’s less earthly and more wonder-full: you could be immersed in cloud crystals or somewhere completely alien. There is no guidance, just immersion, sensation, reaction.
The instrument vibrates softly but clearly and the drawing makes the fibres vibrate, continuing to ask questions of us: what do we believe until we’ve been there… until we know how it feels… do we ever know until we’re there?
This performance has been filmed, and loops as video at the entrance to the gallery. A space like ANCA’s provides a clean-slate setting for this work, an alternative encounter to the small, grubby urban nook. The video is provided as a kind of introduction, but it’s best approached as just one interpretation of the myriad possibilities held within this experiential drawing. The performance was predominantly interested in entropy and its effect on empathy, an important idea to hold close. The video distances its immediacy (fresh is always best), but has its own energy: there are hot red lights coming from odd spots, the people watching are ghostly and clustered. It rolls like a warning. We could pass into the gallery with this sense of prescient doom, or we could enter and open up to the burgeoning beauty of unfettered creativity having the time and encouragement to respond to and transform decay. It’s always a choice.
After this showing, Adair hopes to find other, more challenging sites for the work: disused industrial spaces that will add further dimensionality and affect to the aim of creating an unexpected encounter. For this, she may need to look further afield than Canberra, where abandoned buildings rarely decay long enough to look interesting before being knocked down or repurposed.
Author: Caren Florance