Tina Fiveash: The Sweet Forever. Deirdre Pearce: A line of best fit. ANU School of Art and Design Gallery. Until April 8, 2021.
These two exhibitions are each part of higher degree by research programs being undertaken by the artists.
Tina Fiveash engages in multiple forms of contemporary photomedia including still and moving-image photography, anaglyptic (3D) and lenticular photography.
In The Sweet Forever, Fiveash has explored how photography might inform a reimagining of death. Promotional material for this exhibition reveals that her personal investigation of death and dying through photography is paralleled with a text-based investigation of wider understandings of death in our society through the personal letters of a diverse range of people in her community.
What is death? What happens when we die? Fiveash invited 50 Australians to write a letter responding to those two questions. Digitised forms of their letters are on a website. The exhibition includes a large print, being a grid of portraits of contributors, with a QR code link to the website. Taken together, both Fiveash's creative visual practice and her work with people's letters, form a contribution to the field of death studies. Quotes from some letters included in the exhibition notes are very moving.
Fiveash told me that discoveries have emerged through scientific and technological innovation in resuscitation, blurring boundaries between life and death. Through creative practice she has explored how photography in the wake of digital transformation might inform a contemporary reimagining of death and dying. Her constructed images using words from songs and poetry on billboards against carefully chosen backgrounds are both beautiful and thought-provoking. One quotes a well-known gospel song There's a Land Beyond the River, the lyrics of which include the words "the sweet forever" - the title of the exhibition.
Dierdre Pearce works with drawing, photography, sculpture and installation. In A line of best fit there are three excellent mixed media works. Pearce is interested in how people interact with the various space types we inhabit, and how we map the boundaries between interior and exterior worlds. She enjoys exploring how technologies influence her experiences and sense of self, focusing on developing visual metaphors for the relationship between the physical self and its growing digital presence.
Her research starting point was the growth of global human-machine networks and the significance humans place on participation in them. This practice-led project investigates how negative space might be used as an analogy for non-machine interactions, which are data-silent yet influence global networks in which humans and machines operate.
Experiments took place through a series of site-responsive installations assembled from everyday materials. Different approaches to describing personal experience were tested, including unusual forms of data visualisation and development of digital and physical windows through which audiences could engage with the work.
One work here reimagines Pearce's study during the pandemic. It contains a wonderfully vibrant and diverse collection of found and acquired objects that visitors could wander among for a long time - irrigation pipe, cable ties, shopping dockets and photographic documentation.
Another work includes yarn, polyester, video documentation and found objects. The third is a video; both it and the yarns feature dots - we see them on screen as when locating a place via maps, and in very colourful woven forms of varying sizes determined by how long Pearce spent at particular locations.