Portraits of a fictional artist

By Rhonda Dredge

Photographs no longer reflect the world; rather the world reflects them. They deliver a version of reality that at a surface level is consumed as “truth”.

“As such, photographs demand an act of faith,” Kiron Robinson said, curator of a group exhibition at Sara Scout Presents in Collins St.

Kiron was present at the gallery’s first artist talk since restrictions have been lifted.

It was a joyous affair with about 20 thinkers crowded into the salon and passages of the Collins St rooms to talk about photography. 

There were discussions about loss and what photography can’t do, such as find the image of the horizon or capture the “real”.

“Everyone has a phone camera, so much now that people feel like they have agency and a creative centre,” one commentator said.

A photographer teacher spoke about how the current generation used film, left it out to gather dust, scanned it then hashtagged it “film” to simulate authenticity. 

Another had a label for the practice. He called it “hauntology”, a term indicating a remix of something from the past. 

“People are looking at materiality and trying to experiment with it. They’re not representing the world but exploring what you can do with it,” Kiron said. 

“The image is always failing. It’s not going to present itself as real, but functions as a stand-in.”

“We are looking at photos all the time. We’re reflecting the images. When we’re making work, we’re making images of images. The idea of surface, reflection and desire dissolves if we try and hold it. It only delivers a surface.”

Gallery director Vikki McInnis said there was a terrible rhetoric in popular photography around making memories as if you’re not doing anything.

“It’s the bad social media I follow,” she said. “My generation is raising their families and making memories!”

The Saturday afternoon artist talk at Not for the Sake of Something More will be memorable for those who have craved a bit of art analysis in the flesh during the long period of dry we’ve all experienced.

One commentator was CBD resident and architect Jan Van Schaik who had organised a talk at Tolarno Gallery the night before, also part of the PHOTO 2021 festival.

“People have disappeared into a period of deep thinking and have ramped up their practices,” he said about the lockdown. “The difficulty has been in exhibiting work.”

The artist at the Tolarno talk was from Sydney and thought she wouldn’t be able to attend because of the border closure. 

Impediments, however, are bread and butter for feeding the ironic gestures artists engage in. 

Take the six collages by Emmanuel Rodrigues-Chares in the exhibition. The only photographs are cut ups used to create portraits of a fictional artist.

 Not for the Sake of Something More, Sarah Scout Presents, until March 27.

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