Sculpture, Victorian College of the Arts

By Seraphina Nicholls

  • Tom Ward, Alexandra Gowing, Calia O’Rourke, Tessaray Delta Ackerman, Ponie Curtis

The sculpture department at the VCA was chronically online. Intentional or not, these graduates co-ordinated a set of sculptures and spatial works that had the aesthetic bent of the net. Dispersed between them were confessional passages, dark corners and entertaining videos of CGI animals. I left feeling like I had spent the hour scrolling through content from every dark and light edge of the World Wide Web.

Tom Ward, Funland, 2023, digital photography printed on vinyl, no dimensions provided. Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. Photo: Seraphina Nicholls.

Tom Ward’s Funland (2023) is an eight-photograph grid of out-of-place strangers that look like film stills taken from a camcorder. From a distance, it looks like the grid of a low-brow and ironically humoured meme account. Yet the grid is disrupted by an oversized pair of legs dressed in blue satin pants tucked into a pair of white boots with gold tips. Overlayed across the centre of the grid, the legs look to be walking with purpose towards the viewer. Much like Ward’s “out-of-place” subjects, the work had the quality of interstices and splits between the real and the web.

Next door, Alexandra Gowing’s video installation Dark energy manifesto (2023) further extended the borders of the screen. The dark room was illuminated by blue and red-light projections including found surveillance footage and a rotation of 3D graphics, which involved burning crosses on a black landscape and hooded cult members gathering around a car. Coupled with a whirring soundtrack that belted around the installation, it gave the distinct impression of being watched. On the gallery floor, a rambling manifesto –there were no full stops– mimicked an undercooked Instagram story or a niche Reddit thread typed out in a frenzy at three in the morning.

Alexandra Gowing, Dark Energy Manifesto, installation view, 2023, found footage, image, soundtrack and printer ink on paper, no dimensions provided. Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. Photo: courtesy of the University of Melbourne.

However, Calia O’Rourke’s bejewelled concrete and bubble-lettered wall text called diamantes in concrete, concrete covering diamantes (2023) shifted the algorithm to a lighter side of the internet. A pile of around thirty-five concrete grey slabs, each embossed with colourful stick-on diamantes, lay on the floor in front of a wall text written in lead pencil. The exacting linework is a near-perfect Arial font that details the identity crisis of a twenty-first century multi-hyphenate contemporary artist –Am I a writer? An artist? Or both? Its tone was diaristic, vulnerable, confessional. Beside Tessaray Delta Ackerman’s aluminium wall hanging, Mystery Epidemic (ROCK ON) (2023)–a replica of the IGET logo found on the soon-to-be outlawed disposable vape–the whole wall quickly began to resemble a cheugy Pinterest mood board.

Ponie Curtis’ Crush Fever (2023) rounded off the light corner of the web. A TV flashed a video of CGI silver ponies doing everyday pony things like sitting in a jacuzzi or driving a Cadillac down a highway while Lenny Kravitz’s song It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over plays in the background. Pure bliss. You watch the video as you sit on a seat in what seems like a recently refurbished dentist’s foyer. The water cooler is minted with a silver Louis Vuitton logo—welded by the artist—the floor is paved by unstained carpet squares, and there is a large bowl of pink lollies wrapped in clear cellophane. Like a hardworking algorithm, my attention was well-managed to maximise my screen time. The artificial air of the place –along with the spontaneous gas valve explosion on the worksite outside the exhibition–, certainly dulled the tram ride home. Thank God my Spotify Wrapped was released that day.

Ponie Curtis, Crush Fever, installation view, 2023, 3D rendered animation, water cooler system, pewter, lollies, carpet, 06:40, audio acknowledgements: It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over by Lenny Kravitz & Never Can Say Goodbye by Gloria Gaynor. Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. Photo: courtesy of the University of Melbourne.

The online influence apparent among VCA sculpture graduates was less a stereotypical display of Gen Zedder’s “chronically online” iPad brains, than proof of technology as extension—rather than a mere appendage—of the human experience. Perhaps as a spatial practice, sculpture is the most favourable medium to map the sprawling networks of internet communication and human connection. Marshall McLuhan said electric circuity is an extension of the central nervous system, but here it is vice versa.

Seraphina is undertaking a Bachelor of Arts (Art History/Politics) and Diploma of Languages (French) at the University of Melbourne. She likes to write about modern and contemporary art.

Memo Magazine, No. 1