Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Space Invaders

by Ben Walter
SAC Birthday party
31st March 2012
Salamanca Arts Centre Hobart

It is almost, it is not yet the serious time of year, when winter focuses our engagement with art and we require concentrated determination to leave the house. Today has been warm and long, there is time to dabble and lingering is on, we could (if we wanted) examine each brick and each beam; but not too closely, for in this climate it is all about strolling past these small installations. Aren't they spectacles we should expect to find when dallying?
On the shelves of this centre I have slowed and dwelt on three impressions, letting them weigh more heavily than the light carnival; one absent, one progressive and one encompassing. I experience the absent impression through the lack of markers with which to turn toilet cubicles into discourse. We are not given markers by an artist, so how can we speak?

But I have a pen, and doesn't that woman with the long, brown hair and bag have a pen? Doesn't the simplicity of the idea mean that merely mentioning it offhand enables art to exist? It was and it will be, and right now, it could be.

But I remain silent, infected by the absence of the artist.

The progressive impression is painted by images of work. Of physical labour, moving equipment (there are photographs of chairs and stairs); and the mental, the screens and schedules, the energy dug up from coffee and junk food, the empty, discarded packets. I listen to awkward, obliging, getting-to-know voices. They speak of tasks to be accomplished and eager research to be done; of settling into usefulness. I begin to inhabit the role of server. As the negotiation proceeds and the tasks are outlined, this is the role I can understand more clearly.

I feel subservient to the goal. I am conscious of the schedule, I have eaten the food. There is a list of things I have to do.

The encompassing impression begins as the light is switched off, sending me to sleep. As I pass through darkness I have climbed a ladder, and then it is all above me and around me, encompassing; I am watching from within, I am not just an observer. This is striking, unsettling and profoundly involving. Partial smoke, broken brick walls, the playing out hidden yet visible. The figure is always, ultimately, watching me, insisting on me and moving towards me, guiding, staring over its shoulder as it wanders with a lantern down what might become a path. This is not explicable, but is so strongly sensed and tense; I have been surrounded in a dream that belongs to me, that is directed entirely towards me.

I step down, then rise and look again. My awareness is less entangled by the uncanny; it is more clear, within my bewilderment, what I must do. I must follow, but I cannot. This is my role.

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