During the Corona Virus Pandemic of 2020, I was thrilled to be part of the Rage against the Virus project facilitated by HOTA – The Home of the Arts . My project /online residency considered how, as we spend more time at home we become more aware of the creative potentials of our living spaces. Architectural features that we never considered suddenly become an ideal blank canvas.
Studio Bathroom extended my practice by developing work that utilises reflective surfaces within high rise apartments and how these can be transformed. I built installations within my bathroom, projecting my images based on other cultural settings and sites and then photograph these. The projections overspilt onto other surfaces and domestic objects as a way of acknowledging that there was still a bigger world out there.
This moves from my previous work involving Gold Coast architecture as part of my PhD (The Post -tourist Mirror – 2011) and links to Lefebvre’s (1991) discussions of “verticality”. His work enabled me to read the predominantly high-rise architecture of the Gold Coast as a metonym – the challenging of relationships between part and whole, and the expansion and reduction of relative scale of images and objects.
Thus there is an ongoing relationship between ephemeral projections and the objectivity of the “still” photograph.
I explored different subthemes in my practice, while also referencing the current context – family slide nights, the house museum, dreaming of overseas holidays, architecture of the high rise environment, staying in our suburb.
Bodies in Museums
As museums and galleries around the world are currently closed to the public – this subtheme seems a great entry point for the online residency.
In my first shoot – I projected images of people in galleries and museums – being seen to be seen in the art scene. This documentation of the performative aspects of art consumption is an aspect of my work that I often deal with in a visual manner. I strive to achieve a spatial and conceptual relationship between the artwork and the participant – often through a “constructed” perspective.
Obviously there is a sense of nostalgia and longing for face to face interactions with art and others who enjoy this experience. The original images were taken at the Venice Biennale and the MET and Whitney Galleries in New York.
The second day of the project saw me reconsider the first of two groups of images that I made in around 2005 – when I undertook a visual study of Gold Coast high-rise architecture. I was drawn to the vertical rhythms that defined the city’s profile as well as use of glass, metal and other reflective surfaces.
By projecting these images into my bathroom studio, I further exaggerated this sense of layered transparency and started to explore more abstract geometric patterns through the use of other items within the set such as a plinth that looks like a small set of stairs and strategically places sheets of glass. As is the case in all of this work, the very narrow depth of field means that there are subtle layers between the sharply focused areas within the images and those which as softer.
The second group of local images that I reinterpreted embodied a more street level gaze. Facades of beach houses, small hotels and views around pools are devoid of human presence. Much like it is outside at this time.
The objects I introduced into the studio space (shower recess) supported this more domestic tone and included small vases of foliage, vintage glass and ceramic trinkets. This series in particular works to explore relative scale of images and objects to evoke a fanciful narrative.
The more I work with the reflective potentials of the objects that I use within the “sets”, the more interested I have become in making images that are less figurative. Even though the original projected images tend to be of art works and scenes in museums, my focus in this group of photographs has been on the more formal relationships between space and colour within the compositions. As the images are made in a dark space, the lighting also adds a sense of ambiguity.
I have purposely used the geometric lines on the floor of the shower to define ground level. Minor adjustments to the height of the tripod and camera can lead to significant differences in how the colours of the glass objects cast their reflections and shadows.
Sculptural and Architectural Potentials
Sitting alongside the more abstracted works are those inspired by my interactions with 20th century sculpture. The energetic volumes, voids and shapes of Calder, Judd and Matta-Clarke are of particular interest as when these images are projected into a corner they take on another layer of spatiality. My experiments with sculptural and/or architectural images when combined with more domestically scaled objects have become part of my signature within this broader body of work.
From a design perspective – the strong colours in many of the images also set up some playful challenges in terms of what part of the final image is privileged as a main centre of interest. This is compounded by the narrow depth of field and therefore that some areas of the image will be tightly focused and some are not.
Stay within your Suburb
I decided to go for a walk around my suburb and make observations of what I would not normally notice.
After considering the abstracted shapes of more formal sculpture the day before, I then adapted this thinking to how I view the exercise equipment in local parks, given that these are currently closed and wrapped on brightly coloured bunting. These as well as images of my apartment building, my street and local park were projected onto more classic objects associated with still life … a vase of flowers and pieces of fruit.
I capitalised on the reflective potential of a larger piece of glass on the right-hand side of the composition, thus creating a sense of replicating the projected image and objects in the final shot.
On the final day of Project Bathroom, I returned to my original inspiration, where I project images taken in overseas museums and project these onto my own household objects. This genre was inspired by the old-fashioned family slide night, when my grandparents would project photos taken on the overseas holidays onto the white projector screen. I remember the overspill of the images that fell onto the furniture of th
e lounge room very interesting as they took on a strange layered texture of both image and object.
In my current practice, the curation of the objects becomes quite important – as I have learnt through experimentation – that carefully placed coloured glass objects also cast unusual shadows onto the back wall. This allows me to move from the original photograph and build a sculptural set of layers and possibilities within the new work.