Dispatch Review respectfully acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands upon which we live, work and enjoy. We pay deep respect to Elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Reviews:

  1. Paper Trails: Interviews [part 1] by Sam Beard.
  2. Power 100 by Dispatch Review.
  3. Foresight & Fiction by Ben Yaxley.
  4. Twin Peaks Was 30 by Matthew Taggart.
  5. Breaking News: It’s Rone! by Sam Beard.
  6. Look, looking at Anna Park by Amelia Birch.
  7. The Fan by Francis Russell.
  8. Follower, Leader by Maraya Takoniatis.
  9. Wanneroo Warholamania by Sam Beard.
  10. Death Metal Summer by Sam Beard.
  11. Players, Places: Reprised, Renewed, Reviewed by Aimee Dodds.
  12. Scholtz: Two Worlds Apart by  Corderoy, Fisher, Flaherty, Wilson, Fletcher,  Jorgensen, & Glover.
  13. Partial Sightings by Sam Beard.
  14. True! Crime. by Aimee Dodds.
  15. The Human Condition by Rex Butler.
  16. Light Event by Sam Beard.
  17. Rejoinder: Archival / Activism by Max Vickery.
  18. Access and Denial in The Purple Shall Govern by Jess van Heerden.
  19. 4Spells by Sam Beard.
  20. Abstract art, DMT capitalism and the ugliness of David Attwood’s paintings
    by Darren Jorgensen.
  21. Unearthing new epistemologies of extraction by Samuel Beilby.
  22. Seek Wisdom by Max Vickery.
  23. Something for Everyone by Sam Beard.
  24. Violent Sludge by Aimee Dodds.
  25. State of Abstraction by Francis Russell.
  26. Double Histories: Special Issue, with texts by Ian McLean, Terry Smith, and Darren Jorgensen & Sam Beard.
  27. Six Missing Shows by Sam Beard.
  28. What We Memorialise by Max Vickery.
  29. At the End of the Land by Amelia Birch.
  30. The beautiful is useful by Sam Beard.
  31. ām / ammā / mā maram by Zali Morgan.
  32. Making Ground, Breaking Ground by Maraya Takoniatis.
  33. Art as Asset by Sam Beard.
  34. Cactus Malpractice by Aimee Dodds.
  35. Sweet sweet pea by Sam Beard.
  36. COBRA by Francis Russell.
  37. PICA Barn by Sam Beard .
  38. Gallery Hotel Metro by Aimee Dodds.
  39. A Stroll Through the Sacred, Profane, and Bizarre by Samuel Beilby.
  40. Filling in the Gaps at Spacingout by Maraya Takoniatis.
  41. Disneyland Cosmoplitanism by Sam Beard.
  42. Discovering Revenue by Anonymous.
  43. Uncomfortable Borrowing by Jess van Heerden.
  44. It’s Not That Strange by Stirling Kain.
  45. Hatched Dispatched by Sam Beard & Aimee Dodds.
  46. Fuck the Class System by Jess van Heerden, Jacinta Posik, Darren Jorgensen, et al.
  47. Wild About Nothing by Sam Beard.
  48. Paranoiac, Peripatetic: Pet Projects by Aimee Dodds.
  49. An Odd Moment for Women’s Art by Maraya Takoniatis.
  50. Transmutations by Sam Beard.
  51. The Post-Vandal by Sam Beard.
  52. Art Thugs and Humbugs by Max Vickery.
  53. Disneyland, Paris, Ardross and the artworld by Darren Jorgensen.
  54. Bizarrely, A Biennale by Aimee Dodds.
  55. Venus in Tullamarine by Sam Beard.
  56. Weird Rituals by Sam Beard.
  57. Random Cube by Francis Russell.
  58. Yeah, Nah, Rockpool by Aimee Dodds.
  59. Towards a Blind Horizon by Kieron Broadhurst.
  60. Being Realistic by Sam Beard.



Foresight & Fiction

Most local arts openings are beer-can affairs in industrial areas, underscored by sounds of roaring traffic, so going to an opening at Goolugatup Heathcote always feels a little jarring. As the sun turns red over Applecross bay, one can stroll the leafy grounds with a glass of rosé, thinking, ‘do we deserve this?’ Very rarely do I get to feel so profoundly upper-middle class, and on this night I am loving the natural wine, woodfired pizza and live classical music. I look to my colleagues with their shaved heads and patchwork clothes, realising that, yes! We’ve made it to the promised land. At such an exquisite garden party, going inside and looking at the art feels like a secondary priority, but regardless, I am making it the primary. Foresight & Fiction is the latest show from sound/visual artist Hannan Jones, who uses postage stamps, screen prints and sound collage to explore themes of cultural hybridity and liminality.
        My first walk through the gallery is rather quick. Escaping from the noise and bustle outside, I notice how cool and subdued the gallery’s interior feels in comparison. The works on show have the clinical aesthetic of conceptual art, yet employ the earthy greens and browns of the Australian bush. On the wall to my left are works that use the found materials of philately— gridded pages sparsely populated with stamps from Australia, Algeria, and most curiously, former micronation Hutt River Province. Washing over the room are sounds of waves, windstorms, trains and dockworkers, playing from a hi-fi cassette player on a figure-eight loop. The wall to my right is taken up by an enormous scanned envelope, torn open and addressed to the artist. The adjacent walls feature a series of photographic screen prints portraying a stretch of coastline and a bunch of trees.
        Identifying some photography, I decide to look at these works through Roland Barthes’ theories in Camera Lucida (1980). Investigating why certain photographs captivate him more than others, Barthes writes how many are “inert under my gaze. [...] Most provoke only a general, and so to speak, polite interest”. Barthes coins the term studium to refer to photos that elicit only a mild affect of scholarly interest, or disregard. But for photos that ‘prick’ us, that trigger a shiver of emotional affect, (subjective to the viewer and often inexplicable) he coins the term punctum. For Barthes, punctum either comes in the form of unintentional detail, or the evocation of time’s terrible march towards death. Looking at Jones’s images, I am unable to find a punctum. These photographs of unpeopled landscapes do not give me much to connect with, yet they are not what Barthes would describe as ‘unary’. Unary photographs, such as stock photos or those in tourist brochures, overprioritise ‘unity’ to the point of becoming banal, holding “no duality, no indirection, no disturbance”. Jones’s landscapes are at least interesting in the way they are reproduced and presented. With their repetition, washed out colours, crowded compositions, and layers of visual grain, I know there is probably something more at play than just a ‘lovely landscape’.
        But to find an artwork merely interesting and nothing else does not mean it has failed. In Our Aesthetic Categories (2015), Sianne Ngai extends on Barthes’s ideas of the stadium and its ‘polite interest’, emphasising that the interesting is both an affect, however minor; and a visual aesthetic in itself, tied most notably to conceptual art’s merging of art and theory, and frequent use of epistolary mediums such as index cards, charts, postcards and maps. While Barthes uses the term ‘interesting’ pejoratively, as a judgement that arises from a work’s failure to emotionally captivate (or, when uttered out loud, as a judgement that reflects on the speaker’s lack of insight), Ngai states that the utterance performs an important critical function.  For Ngai, the phrase ‘interesting’ is a “syntactic placeholder, enabling critics to defer more specific judgements indefinitely”. Unlike the instantaneous affects derived from beauty or ‘the sublime’, interesting artworks reveal themselves over time through the viewer’s immersion in wider discourse.  Ngai stresses the social nature of the ‘interesting’, in that it requires a “network of actors” to interest others through explanation, discussion and association. If “judging something interesting is the first step to making it so”, uninterested viewers must rely on an interested other who can persuade them with their charisma and interest. Failing that, there are always the artist statements, essays, or reviews one can read. Therefore, as Ngai writes, “interesting becomes a synonym not just for the ‘network-like’ but also for the ‘well-written’ and ‘good’”.
        My entry into the interest-network of Foresight & Fiction was not through Azza Zein’s gallery essay (which I had drunk too much wine to read), but from the artist herself calling out my name. Recognising me from an event years prior, Jones was visibly bursting with elation for the show. In contrast to her art’s quiet coolness, Jones herself speaks with passionate giddiness, eyes and mouth smiling wide, frizzy hair zapping in every direction. Speaking a mile-a-minute she talked excitedly about the work, answering my questions and pointing to areas of interest I hadn’t noticed. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and I went back to the art with some ways of seeing. Some believe that relying on the artist or their texts to ‘get’ the art is cheating — that art should communicate itself or allow viewers to make their own meaning. But conceptual art, or any ‘interesting’ art, mostly relies on understandings built from shared communication. Ngai quotes Paul Mann that “in the post-war media-economy, the value of any artwork becomes ‘defined above all by its power to generate discourse around itself’”.
        I learn that the screen prints are not just boring photographs of landscapes, but have been collaged together from postcards of different countries. The idea of taking postcards — known for their unary imagery signifying agreed understandings of nationhood — and remixing them to create Frankenstein postcards that cannot be tied to any nation makes me shout Eureka! Of Welsh and Algerian descent, Jones grew up in Boorloo and has spent the last four years travelling back and forth from Glasgow. These hybrid landscapes likely speak to this disoriented sense of belonging and place. The solo screen print of the trees, for instance, contains both Australian jarrahs and Algerian palms in the same forest. I am no nature expert, but this seems implausible. Yet one only needs to walk outside the gallery to see towering Miami-style palm trees growing beside the native gums. I am reminded that in any globalised city, cultural collage is found wherever one looks.
        Opposite the tree print is a series of eight identical screen prints showing a coastline I previously said was boring. Like the other print, most people would not suspect the image of being doctored, yet its ocean is framed by Welsh cliffs, Australian scrubland, and a sparse Algerian desert dotted with palms. Any signs of visual disjointedness are flattened by the print-making process, so that the plants, trees and rocks now exist in the same biome, seams covered over with monochromatic Lichtenstein dots. Without clear signs to indicate a photograph’s fakeness (think poor photoshopping or AI art’s malformed hands), we automatically presume that a photograph is true. In the pre-digital-photography age, Barthes and Sontag believed that all photographs must, by the camera’s capturing of light, bear an indexical trace of the subject’s existence. So how do we understand this landscape as wholly fake when it is still made up of (presumably) real places? Where and when does this new land exist?
        Of all the works here, this coastal sequence most clearly demonstrates Jones’s stated interests in cultural hybridity and liminal space. Liminality, according to anthropologist Victor Turner, is categorised by a feeling of ambiguity caused by the “blurring and merging of distinctions [and] simultaneous presence of the familiar and unfamiliar”. Looking at the landscape, I recognise the Australian parts and believe I am in Kalbarri, but am then entirely disorientated by the proximity of Algerian palms. The feeling is somewhat uncanny;  a feeling associated with the contemporary ‘aesthetic’ of liminal space.  While liminality was originally used in the early twentieth century to describe transitory states and social rites of passage, ‘liminal space’ has become associated with pictures of hotel hallways, empty shopping centres and abandoned daycares. Popularised by tumblr and reddit users, liminal spaces are understood as “throughways from one space to the next [...] Their existence is not about themselves, but the things before and after them”.  Not to be too anthropocentric, but looking at Jones’s pictures, we could theoretically classify the stretch of vegetation between all beaches and their carparks as a liminal space. Why is it that our postcards are always of the beach and never the long sandy hallway that gets us there? Well, Jones has finally put nature’s liminal space on a postcard, and as I said, my first impression was “boring”.
        But I need to discuss one more interesting thing about these pictures (and then I’ll get to the really interesting part – the stamps). Over the eight screen prints, we see colours grow darker and details more visible. Read like a comic, it brings to mind the way a photo print fades into existence in the darkroom’s chemical bath. What first appears to be visual noise turns out to be a second image of seagulls on a jetty, taken either as a double exposure or overlayed digitally.
        This intentional evocation of the ‘glitches’ of outmoded camera technologies follows in line with Susan Sontag’s theory that “the cult of the future alternates with the wish to return to a more artisanal, purer past – when images still had a handmade quality, an aura”. Note that Sontag was writing this almost twenty years before the invention of the World Wide Web; yet everywhere you look, Jones attempts to summon these ghosts of an idealised past. But Jones’s letters, stamps, photo-prints and cassettes only disappeared from popular use about twenty years ago, decades after Sontag’s writing. Is Jones’s melancholic nostalgia the same kind as Sontag’s? Sontag yearns for the one-off artisanal object, yet the objects in this Foresight & Fiction have always been easy to duplicate or mass produce. What makes them novel to us today however, is their physicality: unlike digital files, they come bearing fingerprints, and can be easily lost or damaged. As Mark Fisher writes, “what we have lost, it can often seem, is the very possibility of loss”.
        Fisher writes of the tendency of 21st century musicians to coat their digital tracks in fake hiss and crackle — a technique originally deemed interesting in the 2000s when done by Boards of Canada, Burial and The Caretaker, that has now become a cliché associated with the elevator-music of lo-fi hip-hop. For Fisher, writing in 2014, crackle “makes out-of-joint time audible. It both invokes the past and marks our distance from it, destroying the illusion that we are co-present with what we are hearing by reminding us we are listening to a recording”. The crackle in Jones’s artworks, whether audible (in the cassette player’s hiss and disintegrating loop) or visual (in the photographic visual noise, torn envelopes and missing stamps) draws our attention to the artwork’s medium itself, rather than its content. We are likely to turn to our partner and say “ha, I remember stamps. My dad had a cassette player.” But the nostalgia on offer here isn’t the fun cosy Stranger Things kind, but something sobering. To write the worst sentence I’ll write for a while: yes we are mourning this loss of lossy-ness, but how can we be sure our lossless memories, stored on fragile data servers in a falling country, will not be lost?  I previously said this show had no punctum because there was nothing in the pictures I could point to and quote Barthes saying “that is dead and that is going to die” but I now retract this statement.
        Although I would love to talk more about the stamps and cassette recordings, I have already chewed up my wordcount talking, however briefly, about studium, punctum, interesting, liminal space, and crackle. To come back to Ngai, ‘interesting’ art, so often dismissed as boring, does more than provoke mere studium or polite interest: it creates networks of association, forces the merging of art and theory and provokes social discourse. If I have failed to interest you in Hannan Jones’s Foresight & Fiction, perhaps you will like to hear a more vibes-based review from two separate toddlers who wandered in from the playground next door:

16.05.24, 11.15am

GALLERY ATTENDANT: So, what did you think?

CHILD 1: Scary!

16.05.24, 12:38pm

GALLERY ATTENDANT: So, what did you think?

CHILD 2: Great!

ELDERLY WOMAN: What's in there?

CHILD 2: Lots!
                                       Lots and lots and lots!!!!!


Hannan Jones, Foresight & Fiction, 20 April – 2 June 2024, Goolugatup Heathcote.



References: 

Hannan Jones and Azza Zein, Foresight & Fiction– gallery pamphlet,  2024. Perth: Goolugatup Heathcote.

Mark Fisher, Ghosts of my Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, 2014. UK: Zer0 Books.

Peter Heft,“Betwixt and Between: Zones as Liminal and Deterritorialized Spaces”. PULSE Journal of Science and Culture 8, 2021. https://pulse-journal.org/_files/ugd/b096b2_d32b5e138ccd477db53363a52e0838f7.pdf

RolandBarthes, Camera Lucida. , 1980. English edition. London: Vintage Classics.

Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting,  20122nd ed. USA: Harvard University Press.

Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977 UK: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.



Image credits: 
Artist: Hannah Jones, @hannannannanananannnn
Photo: Dan McCabe, @artdoc_au