Sunday, September 25, 2011

REVIEW: The Matter of Air - curated by Jacqueline Doughty

Air is the common name given to the combination of gases in the earth’s atmosphere, which includes, but is not limited to: oxygen. Air, as it turns out, is only 20.95% oxygen. Whilst the chemical formulae for water is H2O, two hydrogen atoms to one oxygen atom, it still comprises roughly 50% of water, as an oxygen atom is approximately twice as large as a hydrogen atom.

If we use some basic math, with liberal lashings of whimsy to supplement our lack of scientific knowledge, we can deduce, with plenty of estimative buffering, that we ourselves are a good portion ephemeral, wispy, gaseous beings: our bodies are 60-70% water, and as mentioned water is roughly half oxygen, on an atomic level at least, we could say that the physical construct of our bodies is roughly made up of 30-45% oxygen, making us, technically speaking, almost half gas, rather than completely solid. There is more oxygen within our very being than the air that we breathe. Disengage whimsy-to-math cognitive-coupling. Resume writing.

Air is also our invisible life support system, the womb-sac that encases our spaceship of a planet as we make our gajillionth revolution around our little star. If it were to slowly disappear from our atmosphere so would we, our lungs would drag us from this life so that our bodies could feed the plants. Similarly, if oxygen in our atmosphere were to increase, we would all be so calm and docile, Hindu cows, we would barely be able to function, and most likely meet our end through inactivity with big dopey grins like the poor saps illustrated on the emergency procedure manuals found on commercial airliners.

As curator, Jacqueline Doughty has assembled the artists for ‘The Matter of Air’ so that their work transforms the gallery into a showroom of presentations on the abilities and nuances of air, displaying both documented feats (Michaela Gleave, ‘7 Hour Balloon Work’, 2010; João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva collection of 5 16mm studies, 2006-2010) as well as work which allows air, as a material, to perform on its own with props provided by the artist (Zilvinas Kempinas, ‘Double O’, 2008; Dane Mitchell, ‘Various Solid States’, 2010-11; Michaela Gleave, ‘Cloud House’, 2011) and that which observes air as a still, contemplative and mediative force which simply sits and exists, ever present (Sannè Mestrom, ‘Compression Chamber’, 2011).

The exhibition engages us: as a viewer, passively observing still objects, or documentation; and as a participant that actively negotiates with air as a live phenomena, which when utilised by Michaela Gleave’s ‘Cloud House’ and Zilvinas Kempinas, ‘Double O’ specifically, place the audience on par with air as a substance at the most opposing outcomes of its potential states of existence: as a manic, violent energy, and as a soft, delicate, lethargic entity.

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