From Stella Rosa McDonald…
People Like Us shows artists working with unique technologies such as data visualization, digital animation and virtual mapping alongside those working with the more traditional mediums of video, sound and music. Curator Felicity Fenner’s title seems divisive — a caveat invoked by the comfortable majority perhaps, or a slur against a lesser other — but, in this context, it refers to the nature of our shared humanity rather than the distances between us. Thematically the exhibition broadly charts our social selves—the need we have to communicate, the complex and contradictory ways we do it and the emotional, biological and spiritual cost of interconnectedness.
As in any examination of life, death is a central theme. Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro’s first-ever video work The Drag… (After the peak), 2015 documents a mechanic dismantling and rebuilding a racecar. Following J.G Ballard’s notion of the car as an extension of our own bodies and the car crash as the most dramatic experience we will have in our lives aside from death, Healy & Sean Cordeiro’s video explores movement and transportation through the prism of mortality and the mechanization of our own construction and decay. The car itself sits like a cenotaph in the galleries. In the requiem Symphony No 11: Hillsborough Memorial by British composer and video artist Michael Nyman, a woman sings the names of the 96 sports fans that died in the Hillsborough football stadium collapse over music Nyman composed on the afternoon the tragedy took place. As a tune you can carry in your head—a site-less memorial—it is a lasting and affective remembrance of the dead. Originally commissioned for the 2014 Liverpool Biennale, this is the Australian premiere of Nyman’s elegiac work.
The notion of the inner self is taken literally in two works that take viewers on an excursion through the usually hidden systems of the body. John McGhee’s medical visualisation Inside – Topologies of Stroke, 2015 is a virtual tour of a stroke-affected brain. Built from real data the immersive work is a miracle of art and science. By wearing an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset we participate in mapping the diseased body; it is as if by seeing it, we are able to heal it, giving a spiritual dimension to the term ‘knowing oneself’. In Yuri Ancarani’s quasi documentary Da Vinci, 2012, the human body appears like an alien terrain shot in night vision. The short film demonstrates the da Vinci Surgical System, a sophisticated robotic super surgeon designed to limit invasive procedures. We begin inside the body—which looks like a system of underwater caves—and end in an empty theatre with the surgeon playing dominoes with the da Vinci’s robotic arms. Ancarani’s work often portrays extreme human conditions and Da Vinci shows how alien we are, even to ourselves.
This is an exhibition that charts the scale of humanity: the physical, spiritual and emotional variety of our species, to demonstrate that there is no-one like you. Though we share time, bodies and emotions—there are, in fact, no people like us.
Until November 7
UNSW Galleries, Paddington
Pic: Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, The Drag… (After the peak), 2015. Rover P6; 2-channel video, Colour, sound, 28 minutes. Courtesy the artists and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney