Cal­lum Morton
Smoke­screen

8th October – 7th November 2009
Anna Schwartz Gallery

Recent­ly some­one con­tact­ed Maroon­dah City Coun­cil in Mel­bourne enquir­ing about how one might book a room in my work Hotel (2008) on East­link free­way (1). As much as I was pleased to hear this sto­ry it did seem strange that such obvi­ous fak­ery of free­way archi­tec­ture could be tak­en for the real thing. Strange also is that secu­ri­ty guards and occa­sion­al vis­i­tors have searched rather anx­ious­ly for the lost child belong­ing to the voice inton­ing Help me .…. please help me’ inside the work Gas and Fuel (2002) at the Nation­al Gallery of Vic­to­ria, and that some peo­ple thought they had arrived at Le Pine Funer­al Homes rather than Tar­raWar­ra Muse­um of Art in Vic­to­ria upon observ­ing the Le Pine sign on the entry road that was my work In the Pines (2008).

Yet these sorts of encoun­ters hap­pen reg­u­lar­ly enough in recent con­tem­po­rary art to no longer be surprising.

A cura­tor I know had a few hours to spare in Lon­don before his flight back to New Zealand and decid­ed to make a dash to see Frieze Art Fair. When he got there he found him­self wait­ing in one of Roman Ondák’s bogus queues (Good Feel­ings in Good Times, 2003) believ­ing I guess that it was an entrance queue. After an inter­minable wait he decid­ed to give up on Frieze and went back to the air­port to catch his flight home. It took him till the reviews had arrived before he realised he’d been duped. He thinks Roman owes him at the very least a taxi fare, though it is nice that he can regard him­self as a liv­ing sculp­ture. It has hap­pened to me too. I once walked straight past Charles Ray’s blown up life-size toy Firetruck (1993) sit­ting out­side MOCA in LA because I was so keen to see his ret­ro­spec­tive inside. When I got out and realised what had hap­pened I was dis­turbed that I could miss such a large and sig­nif­i­cant work (one that I was already aware of in repro­duc­tion) but equal­ly by what it said about my per­cep­tion of LA – clear­ly a Firetruck parked out­side a muse­um should nor­mal­ly alert one’s atten­tion to some sort of trouble.

When artist Danius Kesmi­nas put a large For Sale’ sign (Best Kept Secret, 1994) out­side 200 Gertrude Street gallery in Mel­bourne in 1994, com­plete with real estate logo and Mon­dri­an inspired graph­ics, I fell for it and start­ed spread­ing the news. Con­text real­ly is everything.

If it is plau­si­ble that a work might belong in a cer­tain place then the defi­cien­cies of the sim­u­la­tion are not regard­ed with such scruti­ny, rather they are tak­en in at a glance. Indeed Hotel’s slight­ly dimin­ished scale and impos­si­bly thin appear­ance is intend­ed to under­score the illu­sion, as was the clear­ly plas­tic sur­face of Ray’s Firetruck and the lan­guage used on Kesmi­nas’ bill­board: posi­tion, posi­tion and…three gal­leries’. These works rely on a dis­tract­ed state of mind to achieve their effect and the post-indus­tri­al city, with its sundry con­duits of infor­ma­tion deliv­ery, man­u­fac­tures the per­fect nul­li­fied audi­ence. Indeed there is so much infor­ma­tion to process that ADHD and ear­ly demen­tia become, with each gen­er­a­tion, akin to an adapt­ed gene, like some inher­it­ed med­icat­ed state or stu­por. What these works (and many oth­ers like them) achieve by being believed for the small­est of moments is indeed not a cel­e­bra­tion of this con­tem­po­rary state but rather a cri­tique of it, an attempt to shake us out of its grip.

The sub­se­quent dis­ori­en­ta­tion that ensues, no mat­ter how brief, is ulti­mate­ly a poet­ic one, a rup­ture or a pause that can at the very least remind us to look up from the screen.

Cal­lum Mor­ton, 2009

Images

Cal­lum Morton

Smoke­screen, 2009

Cal­lum Morton

Smoke­screen, 2009

Cal­lum Morton

Smoke­screen, 2009