Future Tense

Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne 2014

List of Works


Future Tense: Feedback Loop | 2014 (Pigment inkjet prints)

The exhibition Future Tense draws together a group of artists who, in various ways, ask two questions. What might the inhabitants of the future see when they look back at our time? How do we envisage events yet to happen?

In one way or another, from politics to art to cosmology, it could be said that we are all trying to understand what it means to distil or construct a description of a complex yet complete Universe. But the danger in any of these activities is to imagine that we are divorced from contact with nature, of which we are a part. In the twenty first century artists who are inspired by scientific interpretations of nature are inevitably confronted with ecological concerns. Our knowledge of nature is increasingly understood through culture; the various customs and human intellectual activities in which our species, modern humans, participate. But as our population overwhelms Earth’s resources and we manipulate and modify nature for our own ends, the tensions between the human and non-human world pose new questions and require more enlightened answers.

The artists in Future Tense work with ideas and technologies associated with the emanation and manipulation of light. Light is the most obvious and fundamental medium which connects us to the universe. All living things have receptors which respond to the presence of light. It is our medium of contact with the world. Light which is essential to life, weightless, patterned, carrying information, powering and revealing a continually evolving Universe. The four exhibiting artists have previously participated in a series of exhibitions titled Sky Lab, curated by Spear. Their works focused on sky-situated knowledge and the relationship between the natural and constructed world as they are revealed through art, science and the mechanics of image capture. Future Tense extends this focus.

future-tense-invitation Nite-Art-Future-Tense-outside-view-h320

Future Tense: Nite Art Event at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery — Wednesday July 23 2014

Lesley Duxbury

The works engage with the 2 precepts of the exhibition – looking back at the present from the future and envisaging events yet to happen – in the context of human-induced climate change. Seeing Red utilises digital scans of old instructional transparencies of cloud formations, which over the years have lost their cool colours leaving only the red spectrum. What were previously images of alluring landscapes and cloudscapes now resemble our imaginings of life on Mars, the title indicating how little we have done to prevent this.

An Opening in a Cloudy Sky constructed from images of steam-clouds created in power station cooling towers, the landscape in which the power stations are located and an image of star constellations from an iPhone app, reflects the current perilous state of the environment. Towering clouds of greenhouse gases, visible or not, rise ever upwards over pristine landscapes towards the outer reaches of the earth.

Daniel Armstrong

Folly / UFO presents images of Flying Saucers / UFO’s as a metaphor (or literal representation) of a future event, that is the confirmation of alien life. When this happens it will be one of the most significant events in history - at some stage in the future.

Harry Nankin

These are enlargements of photographic film images created without a camera. On the left are live native Bogong moths Agrotis infusa recorded using flash at night atop Mount Buffalo. The other is a chemical trace of a young woman’s footfall as she dances across film laid on Mallee ground with feet bathed in photographic fixer. Juxtaposing a moment in the umwelt or life-world of creatures towards which we are habitually indifferent with footprints unique to an individual and our species alludes both to the emerging human tragedy of environmental crisis and the pathos of all life, everywhere. The work is part of Gathering Shadows, a project in which the triple metaphors of physical touch, cast shadows and invertebrate abjection enunciate ecological tragedy.

Felicity Spear

These digital photographs were captured by Spear in 2013, and almost all in the Svalbard archipelago situated on the edge of the North Pole in the European Arctic. These images have been selected and woven together in a fragmented narrative to pose questions about the transformations occurring at a material level due to global warming. Beneath Nature’s intensely seductive surfaces, these images expose a deep pathos embedded in the destructive power of nature, including ‘human nature.’

Overwhelming evidence from NASA scientists tells us that global warming is taking us to the point of no return. Sixty percent of Svalbard is glacier, and two thirds is national park, a largely untouched wilderness, and a fragile natural environment protecting diverse flora and fauna. Research shows that the glaciers in Svalbard are melting and receding. This is taking place because the climate has become generally warmer in the past 100 years, and higher air temperatures have brought a more rapid retreat in the last 10 years. Tipping points are feedback loops, where climate change feeds back on itself and causes rapidly accelerating, catastrophic consequences. As the ice melts it releases methane gas which causes more melting to occur. Each melt loses us another layer of reflective ice shield that we rely on to keep the planet cool. More methane and less ice means more warming still, and everything starts to spin out of control.

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