Magazine article Ceramics Art & Perception

Momento: Susannah Biondo-Gemmell and Jennifer Rogers

Magazine article Ceramics Art & Perception

Momento: Susannah Biondo-Gemmell and Jennifer Rogers

Article excerpt

THE INSTALLATION MOMENTO SITS IN THE BACK PORTION of the gallery, its presence already establishing the leitmotifs of the experience: an unobtrusive yet commanding force, drawing the viewer's attention, encouraging him or her to gravitate towards its quiet strength. The grey floors and white walls of the gallery reinforce its unassuming gravitas by mirroring the neutral colours and values of the work. The lighting within the created space causes the room to seemingly glow from within, further buttressing the boundaries of the space within and without.

The foundation of the work is a raised, whitewashed wooden platform, the boundaries of which are further demarcated through semi-transparent walls of fabric that hang from the ceiling, creating a room within the gallery space. An opening in the fabric of the back wall gives the viewer his or her first sense that there is a performative element that complements the object. This opening is flanked by two narrow, wooden whitewashed shelves, each with 10 levels of unfired white earthenware birds; appropriately simplified in their minimal design, with the seams of the mould overt, to emphasise the process--a detail that points directly to the performance. In front of the left shelf is a large glass jar that is filled with more of these moulded birds, but here they show signs of use and seem to pile up, discarded within the transparent walls of the container. Moving forward, there is a round wooden table on the left and a counter on the right, both whitewashed. The counter top gives the viewer a further sense of process, supporting the mould for the birds, an empty mason jar, another mason jar filled with talc and a spoon and a rolling pin. Adjacent to the counter is a whitewashed metal bucket. The front of the installation space is taken up by a cast concrete trough, acting as a sentinel, pointing again to the process. Behind the demarcated platform is a coat rack attached to the wall and a whitewashed watering can, signs of a human presence and actions that take place within the space.

Fabric separates the space of the installation and the performance from the rest of the gallery; the viewer is overtly aware of his or her acts of voyeurism as he or she struggles to see through the semitransparent fabric. But as the performance proceeds, the actions draw the viewer in, mitigating the distance and the demarcations of the fabric through the shared intimacy of the performer's actions.

The performance begins with a sense of quiet domestic contemplation as the performer, Lynnette Volden, enters the space, barefoot and dressed in a white blouse, skirt and apron. Carrying water in the watering can, she fills the trough and the bucket. She chooses five birds from the shelves; her contemplative choice gives way to a maternal cradling of the birds, carrying them across the space and delicately placing them into the trough. …

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