Catalogue -Exploded View
15.07.2021 - 14.08.2021
Catherine Evans, Exploded View
Interfering with the Evidence
On the shores of Lake Burley Griffin there are two memorials: one for the girl who lost her life as a result of the Canberra Hospital implosion, and on the facing shore, right next to the Museum, one for the hospital itself. 1
In Catherine Evans’ exhibition Exploded View, forces of time, memory and technology are present as vibrant material residues and traces. This body of work is centred on the artist’s personal memory of witnessing as a teenager the 1997 implosion of The Royal Canberra Hospital, the place of her birth. This moment, captured on two minutes and thirty one seconds of VHS home video footage, and now viewable on YouTube, is the starting point for Exploded View. The work examines how digital media acts to distort perceptions of time in relation to place and personal and collective memory. An intimate companion to this work is Evans’ fictiōnella Copper (2020), commissioned for the slow-publishing artwork, Lost Rocks (2017–21) 2. In this edition, Evans investigates the looping and linked events emanating from the Acton Peninsula in Canberra, the site of the National Museum of Australia and previously the Royal Canberra Hospital and over 20,000 years of Aboriginal history.
In Copper, this erudite ‘back story’ to Exploded View, Evans encounters and revisits the irreversible moments of implosion of the Royal Canberra Hospital, with the capacity to rewind, freeze, and revisit each millisecond while distanced both geographically and temporally. In Copper, Evans writes of her childhood recollection of both the violence and intimacy that the site of the explosion/implosion on the Acton peninsula holds for her.
But there was no implosion. The opposite happened; the hospital partially exploded and before we understood what was happening, great plumes of water rose up towards the sky as the shrapnel arched towards us. Great parts of the hospital flew at high speed towards the crowd in a silent theatre of gravity and mass and the unharnessed possibilities of matter. 3
In Exploded View, Evans gives material form to the reverberations set in motion long before the implosion, that are still felt in the present. This work resonates with what Professor Ross Gibson describes as ‘a strengthening movement of people who think and write historically, a movement where people are affirming that time might not be a perspectival line along which events recede eventually into amnesia.’ 4 Exploded View initially holds our attention through the artefacts of digital video—familiar visual anchors that include time notation, volume and play buttons and the framed screen of the viewing device. But something has gone awry here. The images are distorted, fluid, tampered with in some way. Puckered. Crimped. Pleated. Buckled.
Whilst video footage seems straightforward, with its conception of time as a linear, mathematically measured sequence that can be frozen, spliced and analysed down to individual pixels; in Exploded View, the artist intentionally interferes with this recorded ‘evidence’ from the past. We can imagine that a VHS artefact such as this may even have been tendered as evidence in the investigation of the implosion event that took several unexpected and irreversible turns. Rather than accepting the video recording as a singular account of this event, Evans invites us to consider other loops that it sets in motion. Reverberations that are not only seen or heard but are felt in a deeper register. Here, I am reminded again of Ross Gibson’s words, that ‘the present can be discerned to be a tangle of past events that are still unfolding.’ 5 By tampering with the video images, Evans subverts the pervasiveness of linear time in digital footage. In an email, she describes this interference:
By interfering with the timeline with these great fissures and ruptures, a glimpse of an alternative trajectory becomes visible, one where time might curl up or fold over on itself. Just as the layers of history at the site of the Acton Peninsula are also built on top of themselves. But all layers somehow simultaneously exist.
Catherine Evans is an artist whose work is invested with a material intimacy that repeatedly invites unexpected shifts in our perception. In Exploded View, she merges digital and analogue photographic techniques, proposing a more haptic way of recording information in the tangible threshold between. Distorting source VHS digital images with a flatbed scanner, Evans prints a series of digital negatives. These contact negatives are then pressed directly against the surface of photosensitive paper, before being exposed to light. This experimental process also bears traces of human and geological entanglements. Latent energy from past events is not only imaged in the prints but also imparted into the prints through the activation of silver, gelatin and light. Energy expended from past geological events, from mining and from the sun, are all materially present in this work. Coextensive with each other are time and materials, provoking us to reconsider the past, not as neat horizontal event-layers, but as active geological folds and glitches where ancient layers greet the present, cheek by jowl.
Margaret Woodward is an artist, writer and publisher who with Justy Phillips collaborates as A Published Event, making long-term relational artworks through shared acts of public telling. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University.
1. Evans, C. (2020) Copper, A Published Event: Hobart, p87.
2. Copper, is published as one of 43 fictiōnellas for Lost Rocks (2017–21) by A Published Event. https://lostrocks.net/books/copper-iii
3. Evans, C. (2020) Copper, A Published Event: Hobart, p11.
4. Ross Gibson, Centenary Professor of Creative and Cultural Research at the University of Canberra and author of Basalt for Lost Rocks (2017–21), speaking in a presentation about basalt at Jack’s Reloaded: Material as Memory, curated by Georgia Nowak and Eugene Perepletchikov, Melbourne, March 2019. Evans’ installation Land Fall, was also exhibited in Jack’s Reloaded: Material as Memory.
Catherine Evans | About
Catherine Evans is an artist working across photography, sculpture and installation. Initially trained in science and then photography, her studio and research practice is focused on geologic time and where this intersects with our own human timescales: as found in our bodies, their materiality, and our lived-histories through colonialism and archaeology.
Denise Ferris - Opening Speech
To begin this evening’s opening, I acknowledge the Wiradjuri to the west, the Yuin to the South East and the Ngunnawal, Ngambri and Ngarigo peoples of this region.
I acknowledge their elders past present and future, as well as any other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.
It is a privilege to work and live on this country ⎯Dhawra to the Ngunnawal people.
Here we have three different artists and apparently three disparate practIces but as you move through the gallery space I suggest you will see their formal and conceptual connections.
These links acknowledge the curatorial insights by the PhotoAccess team, bringing together these three bodies of works, which offer a coherence at first perhaps not obvious.
Let’s first consider their alignments:
Process is revealed, and process is the work’s evidence and its meaning; pulling apart and on the other hand pushing much together; the use of colour is minimal (not loads of what I call “eye lolly”) and toned monochrome, thus as viewers we can concentrate on the essence of the work. A very obvious note here, making something that is implicit quite explicit. All these artists harness the power of photography, its indexical nature, where the referent / “reality” is apparently directly transmitted, that is seen when we immediately identify eyes in Ben’s work, when we recognise the documentary (though usurped) of Catherine’s images and the self-evident pull of Chris’ intention for his manifestly “attention seeking” (literally) installation.
In the work of Catherine Evans, the depiction of interference revealing the rupture in our memories; and drawing a connection between Ben Rak’s work, I see again the instability of representation. But while the way in which this instability, the flux, is visualised is different in a formal sense-one adding detail (Ben) the other obliterating detail (Catherine) they are aligned.
The layers in Ben Rak’s prints that reveal and conceal, build a personage to face life and build it materially through his practice of printmaking, working the image and the surface to construct.
• the dispersed fragments of Chris Bowes installation (it could be on one screen but is not) pull apart representation rather than, as Ben does, consolidates, building and layering the image we encounter. Nevertheless, as a viewer we are confronted with the entirety of an image disbanded; dissolved; destabilised.
We can enjoy three practitioners who are keen to show us ⎯ on our careful reflection ⎯ how they visualise “destabilise”, “disrupt”, “dislocate”, cleverly subverting representation when revelation from photography’s realism is expected and indeed assumed.
In Catherine Evans’ work, disruptions and interventions draw attention to and metaphorically replicate our own interventions into the “history” “reality” of events. Catherine concentrates her imagery on an event, her memory of the Royal Canberra Hospital implosion. (Weirdly it happened on 13th July the day I am writing this but many years ago.) This was an event that was an engineering necessity making the space for progress, a spectacle for some, and as it happened a human tragedy for others. One person, Katie Bender who was twelve, died and others were injured. Like many events that figure in public and thus in the public imagination, the facts of the event live on in many memories, a multitude and a multiplicity of memories. While Catherine mobilises digital interference and shows us its warp on memory, she also demonstrates to us the array of ‘positions’ of what we see and what we don’t see in the obliterated images.
Catherine visualises rupture….interference literally…the interference between what happens and what we think happens…both time interferes and our perspective interferes…and effects what is retained…she every eloquently encapsulates her underlying intention in this work that memory’s exploded 3 pieces fall between what happens and what we remember happens, what makes an impression on us and what are the buried considerations.
I truly cannot say it more elegantly or economically than Catherine. In her work she calls the stable narrative of personal and collective memory into question, and makes the answer to that question quite clear when she says, quote:
Memory, it is a choice.
I recall Chris’ work The Cowboy, which manipulated footage that was captured from several Times Square webcams, recording a lone cowboy, naked but for his white boots, white belt (?) and big hat, playing his white guitar to a deserted urban scene. amid the height of the New York COVID-19 pandemic. This lone figure strolls through the urban space performing and with no audience but we watchers - it is eery, especially when you think about previous Times Square and the new reality of this empty place. I mention this work to draw attention to Chris’ ongoing concerns about surveillance, and where previously he got us to think about our pervasive fears of isolation, now the sense of “breaking-up” (literally) leaks into the work you will see in the gallery.
The work Monitor I think of as “watching me, watching you”. Mesmerising in its capture of the viewer but also unsettling in its fragmented delivery of a very up close and personal reality. I really enjoyed the documentation photographs too where you see the subject and their pieced together self in the one image, allowing you to really take time to look (and without being seen looking!...). For different to the many surveillance cameras that have watched and recorded all of us today ⎯ inevitable I assure you⎯ this work allows you to acknowledge and rather uncomfortably wallow in that scrutiny.
Ben Rak’s work Don’t Be Fooled By The Face I Wear again foregrounds the instability of representation but the way in which this instability, the flux, is visualised is hand wrought through process. In his malleable prints Ben works up an array of perceptions and postures of what we can readily see and maybe don’t see. Leaning on what is a “real” and what is imaginary, using photography and the hand mark in concert and in opposition. Ben lends also the weight of meaning to his ideas with the titles of his work, Pulling the Wool; Masks; Facets; he offers us variable options and suggest there are choices about identity even if obscured. I also like the title Unhinged very much…though it refers to the movement of a screen when printing I understand but it works well as a title to suggest psychological undercurrents. (and we’ve all felt like that!)
The photographic eyes that look out at us anchor the work’s representational claim but are overwhelmed by the instability of the other marks, which are foregrounded and dominate and at the very least challenging the photographic (THE REAL) that often steals our gaze, that offers us the “certainty” we often seek in figuration. This impasse between the so called abstract and the photographic has a history in printmaking and to this viewer and I think others, remains a source of fascination. There but not there.
My congratulations to these three artists⎯I really enjoyed experiencing your work in installation and commend other viewers to take time experiencing the entire exhibition.
Emeritus Professor Denise Ferris
Former Head of School, School of Art & Design
College of Arts and Social Sciences
Public Program | Artist-In-Conversation:
The corruptibility of time and how we (un)do memory.
Thursday, 5th August, 2021, 6:30-7.30pm
Catherine Evans in conversation with Michael Pickering will trace the linked events emanating from the Acton Peninsula in Canberra: a site at which the National Museum of Australia, the Royal Canberra Hospital and over 20,000 years of Aboriginal history converge.
Covering topics such as YouTube, ghost stories, and the supernatural, Evans and Pickering attempt to unpick the multiple timelines that connect us to a continually shifting present.
Michael Pickering is the Senior Repatriation Advisor at the National Museum of Australia. He has worked as an archaeologist, anthropologist, and historian. He moved to the National Museum of Australia in 2001 as the Director of the Repatriation Program, later taking on the role of Head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program. He then became a Senior Research Fellow and subsequently Head of the Museum’s Research Centre before taking up his current position.
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List of Works
8. Catherine Evans, Exploded View 1:21 / 2:31 (i), 2021, silver gelatin contact print on fibre based paper, mounted on aluminium, 50 x 39 cm, 1/5, $1500
9. Catherine Evans, Exploded View 1:21 / 2:31 (ii), 2021, silver gelatin contact print on fibre based paper, mounted on aluminium, 50 x 39 cm, 1/5, $1500
10. Catherine Evans, Exploded View, 1:22 / 2:31, 2021, silver gelatin contact print on fibre based paper, mounted on aluminium, 50 x 39 cm, 1/5, $1500
11. Catherine Evans, Exploded View, 1:37 / 2:31, 2021, silver gelatin contact print on fibre based paper, mounted on aluminium, 50 x 39 cm, 1/5, $1500
12. Catherine Evans, 2020, Copper, A Published Event: Hobart. Published as one of 43 fictiōnellas for Lost Rocks (2017–21)
Available in the shop, $20