Design & Decoration S03 ep17 : Amy Barclay, Experimenta Hybrid Art, [Melbourne]
Interview with Amy Barclay
Administration & Communications Coordinator at Experimenta Media Arts Melbourne Area, Australia | Fine Art Sunday Lights presents a conversation with the curator of Experimenta Media Arts, Amy Barclay. Experimenta is a Melbourne based arts festival focussing on new or innovative forms. Barclay was previously a curator of International Art Exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria."
Experimenta Media Arts is Australia’s permanent organisation for the commissioning, exhibiting,
championing and touring of all things media art, new media.
New media tends to refer to something that might be video art, it could be a kinetic sculpture
animation or indeed an interactive work of art.
I’m a curator because I always want to work with art. I started out studying media art and
practising photography for several years but then also I wanted to keep up my writing skills so I
studied art history and then museum studies and reached a point where what I really wanted to do
was share everything that I could say about contemporary art with everyone else, that’s what I
really love doing.
Utopia is this ideal city or an ideal place, a paradise, somewhere where we all want to go but
actually I think Utopia differs for pretty much everyone.
Some of the sub-themes that are examined within the exhibition are truth and how it’s constructed
and there are works that are terribly dystopic there’s a few that are very optimistic, but many of
them express a kind of anxiety about how we are to live here today, how we are to look after
ourselves and the planet and so whilst some of the works do suggest that technology will in fact
lead us to Utopia, there are several works that actually use technology to question Utopia or
suggest that medical technology and biotechnology may not lead us to the path to perfection or
that we may not want what in fact it offers us.
Because … Florist by a French couple called S… and it’s plants that have an electric field and they
can tell when you’re near them and they can feel when you touch their leaves and they sing back to
you or scream at your or express themselves to you, sometimes humans have to admit that there
are things about the world that we don’t quite understand and that there are qualities of existence
or ways of being in the world that we might be less sensitive to and this work brings that sensitivity
forward and makes us more conscious of it.
Kit Weis’ work Xanadu is one of the experimenter’s commissions in this year’s exhibition. The
Xanadu work is like a Utopia in arcadia and it unites all these cities and locations from around the
world and sews it into this seemingly perfect environment but there are sections of it that are
animated, sections of it that are still, it’s incredibly seductive but we won’t ever be able to reach it.
Another commissioned work is by Van So… and Isabelle Nolte. You sit at a booth and place your
face just inside a small hole and you use a mouse to control what’s going on, on the computer
screen in front of you, but your facial features and expressions are fed live onto the character in
their stop motion animations so it’s like animating the animated.
You were in my dream sees the central character or the visitor as the central character join this cast
of feisty jungle characters through an adventure that’s sometimes enchanted and sometimes quite
fraught. It’s a nice allegory for how we live today I think because there’s quite a lot of risk
involved and although it unfolds like a choose your own adventure, you can’t really control what
happens in the end and some of the endings are quite bleak if extremely funny.
Hans Peter Feldman’s beautiful kinetic sculptural installation Shattenspeil uses his collection of
kitsch objects and figurines and they’re, each of them are placed on a turntable with lamps before
them so the artwork is in fact in the shadow play that continues constantly across the walls. It’s
beautiful, it’s like an ongoing ballet but it’s very democratic, no one has a leading role, everybody
has their few minutes of fame.
We have a terrific work from Russia in the exhibition by AES&F, the work’s called Last Right. It’s
a three channel projection in very high definition and it heralds the end of the world it’s like all
civilisations clashing at once you can’t tell victim from aggressor, everybody’s very beautiful they
all look like they’ve just stepped out of a fashion photography shoot.
We’ve also got a work that looks like a full body scanner. The work is called Touch Me and it’s by
a Dutch duo called Blended, David Kusmarker and Tim Olden. The work was actually meant to be
used perhaps in a shopping centre, the kind of place which is made of very hard materials and at
the end of every day all of the people who have used it and been there are erased, they’re cleaned,
they’re removed from the history and the memory of the building. This work is determined to hang
on to a recording of your being the world, a little bit like you know placing your hand in wet
concrete or something that might help you record your place in the universe, the fact that you’ve
We have a work with an analogue typewriter, it’s actually called Life Writer, it’s by Krista
Sameron and Laura Mingonon, a couple based in Linds in Austria. Life Writer helps you create
artificial life forms. You begin to type and when you push the cursor across whatever you type acts
like a kind of genetic code. Depending on what you type next, that creature might come back and
eat those letters and that might change its’ behaviour or if you type more and create more bugs
they might mate and create a third kind of life form so you’re creating all these different types of
artificial life form that then take off and have a life of their own.
I think Shulka Gupter’s work has quite an environmental theme in some ways. You step into the
room where shadow three is playing and a camera projects your shadow life size in front of you, a
string drops down and attaches to your head and slowly these pieces of detrisis, things that you
might have thrown out in the last 20 years, come back to haunt you, they slide down the string and
they attach to your body and you can’t shake them off you can only shove them on the person
beside you as you leave the room but otherwise they’re attached to you and they weigh you down,
they weigh down your history and your shadow and to some extent your conscience. I think they
suggest that we do have to take responsibility for how we treat the planet, although I don’t think
that she necessarily meant for it to be as literal as that.
William Kentridge’s anamorphic film projection and installation is called What Will Come? This
work was originally commissioned for a gallery in Italy and in typical Kentridge style he
immediately researched Italy’s history and decided to make this work about a time in 1935 and ’36
where Italy invaded what was called Abyssinia or today Ethiopia. The work illustrates the various
misanthropic events and wartime atrocities that were committed in Ethiopia and to its people but
of course it’s done in that beautiful Kentridge style where he’s done drawings in charcoal and then
erased them and drawn over the top of them and then he animates them and slowly it forms this
stop motion animation that tells the story, tells the narrative.
Angelica Mercedes’ piece Rapture identifies a moment where the people at this rock concert are in
a kind of spiritual ecstasy they are in a blissful place where they are so enraptured by what they see
and how they’re feeling as they watch these bands perform on stage they’re forgetting everything
else they just feel the magnitude and the brilliance of being there in that moment and how can that
not be a kind of Utopia? I think it is, I’ve experienced that before.
Art really is a form of social commentary, it’s every bit as valid as what we read in the
newspapers, it’s just done in a more creative and in conceptual framework and like any other piece
of social commentary it warrants a close reading and some time spent with it afterwards to think
about these ideas and question whether we agree with them or not. It’s a really dynamic
environment in which to learn about the world.
I need art in my life because I’d have no structure to understand the world I live in otherwise. Art
and artistic expression is something that I feel is fundamental I know what it is to get up and have
an idea that you can’t repress, that you have to express it and you’ve found this creative way of
doing it or you’ve got a particular media that you love to work in and you just go to it and when
it’s realised it feels so fantastic and I think sharing that with people is such a privilege.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Amy Barclay, Experimenta hybrid Art, Melbourne