Masters, Victorian College of the Arts
By Bonnie Yue Qi
Sometimes I can’t tell if I am an art viewer or an art viewee. This is how I feel when I am looking at the masters students’ works displayed at VCA Artspace. Stepping into the exhibition rooms in Martyn Myer Arena, my eyes are immediately fixed on Bird/Bat: a Score of Swinging by Fiona Martin. It is a video installation showing the artist upside down, waving, wagging and bending up to touch her toes repeatedly. The screen is hung up high in the darkness, with the artist depicted hanging like a bat. Her movements are uncanny. Is she waving at me? Should I wave back? Am I intruding in her personal ritual? After a few moments, I have the answer: the movements take her to a mental zone where no one but her inner-self matters. There is a healing power to Martin’s movements. There she is, swinging freely without any remorse or worry. She becomes free through dancing herself out.
I also encounter the installation Reflect by Sally Vivian. Right against the middle of the wall, an ice block melts into a mirrored glass tank. The tank sits atop a large mirror and a steel support. Spotlit from above, a giant “X” is cast on the wall by reflections and shadows of the work. The installation has a mystery about it. It compels me to step forward and observe the waterdrops melting from the ice block and falling into the glass tank. Only then do I notice the other two glass tanks placed at the diagonal positions in the room, with videos of flowing water projected on them. The artist draws our attention to the fundamental reality of life. The most complicated macro-landscape of oceans and icebergs are reduced to that single drop of water melting from the ice.
Inside the Grant Street Theatre Space is the video work Talking Legs by Astrid Mulder. Bright red lips against the neon yellow on the background slowly open and close. They are bold and commanding, but become uncanny when one realizes they are mimicked by human legs. While the uncanniness of Fiona Martin’s work lies in unusual full-body movements, in Mulder’s case, the uncanniness is created by the unexpected appearance of the legs. The work allures a viewer with bold colour choices, a symmetrical composition and the ceaseless movement of the mouth. Yet these all fade to the backdrop after the sudden recognition of the legs. The shock reveals to us the focus of the artist’s attention: the enchanting directions and navigations of the contemporary advertisements. Adopting modern advertising design techniques such as contrasting colours and balanced compositions, this work catches the viewer’s attention just like advertisements attract their consumers. Who am I listening to? Who should I be following? Confronted by the quirky moving lips, a viewer can be tripped up by these questions, which move silently in their heart. The shock of being lost in navigation is needed at times. Mulder’s work gives me this feeling.
Bonnie Yue Qi is an emerging writer, curator and illustrator based in Naarm/Melbourne. She is currently completing her study in Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne. Her research takes interest in contemporary art in East Asia and the intersection between installation art and horticulture.