09 July 2009 - 08 August 2009

, , , Helen Johnson, , Nicholas Mangan, , , Kate Smith, , , , 'New World Records' Curated by Helen Johnson and Nick Mangan


New World Records
Curated by Helen Johnson and Nick Mangan

The more humans there are on the earth, the more complex and extreme are the ways we devise to measure, qualify and quantify ourselves, and our relationship to the places we inhabit. Sometimes we measure in order to understand, sometimes in order to prove, sometimes in order to triumph.

The ‘record' is the grounding premise of this exhibition, and the differing ways in which each work engages with it present us with an idea of art as a means of apprehending change. The works in this exhibition range from the subjective to the disinterested, from the highly personal to the brutally universal.

We found that the simple motif of the circle manifested as a strong latent presence as the exhibition took form; beginning with Nick Mangan's filmically apocalyptic photograph of the sun taken on Friday 13th, a week after Black Saturday. It quietly resonates with Charlie Sofo's clean-edged, brown circle, formal and enigmatic-seeming, actually a residuum of the artist's finger-grease and grime. The repetitive gesture is interesting to me as a defining aspect of recording or cataloguing, because it also forms the root of certain forms of anxiety, and certain approaches to attaining a meditative state. The spectrum of which these two conditions form opposite ends encompasses the breadth of practices in operation in this exhibition.

Next to Sofo's work, Stuart Ringholt's Picture magazine bearing lists of ‘I had sex on these days' and ‘I masturbated using this magazine on these days' is a candid record of one man's spermatozoic output for a four month period in 2002, the circle also quietly present in the magazine's cover layout. It manifests again in the sequins of Dan Bell's demurely extravagant Rope, in Piero Golia's vinyl master, and in the bleary pins of Hany Armanious' resin replica of a trashed pinboard, a solidified patina of cursory interactions.

Laresa Kosloff's silent, grainy black-and-white film of an elevator soaring vertiginously between the floors of the Melbourne stock exchange gives the impression of a world succumbing absolutely to the paradigm of rise and fall, whilst her contemplative film of the window of a prestige car dealership forms a lightly humorous meditation on ‘how the other half live', the well-to-do browsers inside overlaid with reflections from the quotidian street scene outside.

Liza Rave's simple documentation of the now privatised, restricted and commercialised site of the Woodstock festival conflates the nostalgic, the cynical and the lost, the happy twittering of the birds over a low hum imbuing the idyllic-seeming landscape with a sense of wrongness. Within the field of this work's sight is Kate Smith's amusingly titled 23 fucked paintings of the farm, 2009 (27 great paintings of the farm, 2008), a stubby, phallic stack of abstracted landscapes that makes an irreverent but gravid contribution to the tradition of Australian plein air painting, and the role of the female artist in it.

Sriwhana Spong's mute, flickering film shivers through colour shifts, a residue of the artist's attempt to record an Indonesian artefact at the Met by hand-winding a role of super-8 film in order to circumvent the institution's no filming rule. Beside it, my own drawing Sometimes it's hard to see all the aspects of a given situation is an abstract rumination on complexity, though it in fact depicts a UV-lit cross-section of the inside of a meteorite, bringing attendant associations of impact, abstruseness and internalisation.

Piero Golia's record served in its original context as a tongue-in-cheek ‘rally the troops', appropriating a battle speech of Aragorn's from The Lord of the Rings to produce a work for a fundraising exhibition which was to help save MOCA from bankruptcy and closure. Golia's work forms one end of a trio with Michael Stevenson's graph of the price of oil against the price of gold, and Mangan's collage that utilises two images from a single copy of The Australian which in this instance are a prestige car beneath the banner ‘The Ultimate Australian' and an image of a refugee boat burning in the ocean off Christmas Island, which is placed to appear as a violent rupture in the car's bonnet.

This exhibition, then, can be read as a record of records, or a questioning of what constitutes a record, and in turn what service it can be put to.

Helen Johnson


Nick and Helen wish to thank the participating artists, Irene Sutton, Liz McDowell and Kati Rule, Laresa Kosloff, Anna Macdonald, ACCA. Thanks also to Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne, Anna Miles Gallery, Auckland, Galleria Fonti, Napoli. 


Artist's profile

View artist profile: Helen Johnson

View artist profile: Nicholas Mangan

View artist profile: Kate Smith


New World Records_Essay_Helen Johnson_2009 (PDF)

Artwork from exhibition by  ,  ,  , Helen Johnson,  , Nicholas Mangan,  ,  , Kate Smith,  ,  ,  ,

Detail of Anak Krakatoa, seismograph West Java, 2009