Flash, Plush and Pulse: A Review of ‘alterior motive’

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.56.01 pmPhoto credit: Grant Hancock

The camera takes, the eye sees. There are ulterior motives to images and their mimetic interpretation of the world in every corner of our society. The invention of the camera in the early 19th Century became a ‘useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobile populations’ (Sontag 5), and this fact reiterates that the invention of picture taking was linked to collecting evidence from above, rather than a creative venture in expression. The aggressive aspect of observing, watching and seeing becomes a key focus in the last exhibition at the Fontanelle Art Gallery and Studio in Bowden. The works by Mia Van den Bos and Ashleigh D’Antonio came to a close this Sunday, and the intricate works they presented revolve around themes of looking, being looked at, the gaze, the surveillance state and other more voyeuristic subjects that are still so relevant even today.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.55.49 pmPhoto credit: Grant Hancock

The mixed media of photography, video, sound, sculpture and found objects are used by both Van den Bos and D’Antonio to critique power structures and subvert the way in which our generation finds itself within the public sphere of the internet. Upon entering the gallery, an eclectic mix of images and objects on the floor, walls and ceiling invite us in to examine, and in some ways, interact with the artworks. What struck me as the most interesting and relevant piece upon first viewing, was ‘Expctus’; a single-channel video of the artists’ own Snapchat story, rehashed to tell a narrative of being watched by government entities, and finding agency through symbols and images associated with the digital entity “Anonymous”. This media intensive artwork combined Snapchat “filters”, that is, masks which conform and morph your face into something, or someone that is not you, as way of exploring identity through the internet. The headphones accompanying this piece allow Van den Bos’ own voice to whisper a chronicle of self-surveillance, veiled against the threat of oppression within our private lives. Her own voice and body in the video is layered with laconic wit and sarcasm, as she performs to the internet, self-reflexively performing to us. Her video thus proves as a strong focal point within the gallery, it was amusing to witness older generations trying to unravel the multiple meanings behind this piece.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.57.35 pm   Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.58.00 pm

Photo credit: Grant Hancock

The floor hosted some other interesting pieces, like a video of an eye, superimposed on felt and padding, recalling again the surveillance motif of the show. Above this piece is an interesting exposition on the male gaze, as D’Antonio, through using photographic prints and mirrors, directs our gaze back at us. The mirrors are placed on the buttocks and breasts, with the girl presumed photographed looking straight at the audience in the middle panel. Stress balls are then found littered throughout the gallery, and this emphasis on an object used to normally alleviate, while in the context of art used to suspend or uphold another piece, is an interesting play on the separateness of how stress-relief is administered and categorised by institutions.

Mia Van den Bos’ video installation

Hovering ominously above these works are some impressive digital paintings by Van den Bos, printed onto plastic with raised bumps that give the works a textured quality. The portraits are of Google and Facebook CEO’s and their disembodied heads with manic smiles made the audience slightly uncomfortable as their intensity and appearance was rather confronting. Their elevation above the ground could be interpreted as symbolic of their status and influence, Mark Zuckerberg being the most recognisable and truly terrifying piece in the exhibition.

  Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.57.24 pmPhoto credit: Grant Hancock

To see others filmed on one of the largest pieces in the exhibition was a vivid experience. A floating pink orb of what appears to be flesh was hanging in a corner, and in the middle of it sat a camera. This camera observes the audience, and the information is fed to a laptop open with a live webcam. This piece, entitled ‘knowing me, knowing you (it’s the best I can do)by D’Antonio makes the viewer the oppressor, the aggressor, the all-knowing omniscient observer. Our place looking at the webcam, and in turn our eyes gaze at whomever happens to be within shot, is an interesting take on how we can know other people without them knowing, in case through subversive seeing and looking. Next to this piece, D’Antonio uses videos to perform and explore notions of the gaze, and we are invited to peer through a shower curtain in one piece and watch as colours and different hazes coagulate and form. While another mixed media piece entitled ‘I’m yr man’ has music accompanying a video of a naked woman, with the usage of a green screen to rub paint onto herself, and effectively disappear.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.57.49 pmPhoto credit: Grant Hancock

Both artists managed to leave me with an unfamiliar taste in my mouth. Our eyes wanted more and after viewing this I have begun to approach internet related contemporary art on a different level. The way in which we are watched is explored in fascinating detail in this exhibition, and how we interact with our conceptual surroundings within the floorshow managed to elicit absorbing questions that I still find myself thinking about daily. The intimacy, idealisation and aggression of looking becomes apparent through the vividly stimulating and reactionary work of Mia Van den Bos and Ashleigh D’Antonio.

Works Cited

Sontag, Susan. On Photography / Susan Sontag. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. 2008. Print.

– Dylan Rowen

Update: a link to Mia Van den Bos’ video installation was included at a later date.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s