Artspace gallery “writhes” as engineering meets art

Published: 11 Dec 2020

Artspace Mackay’s latest offering, Systematic, may be the most intricate and animated exhibition to fill the FIELD Engineers Gallery.

The artworks on show are as much triumphs of engineering as they are works of art that comment on the systems we humans find ourselves a part of.

A perfect example is Writhe, an installation of clear tubes, precariously balanced vessels and mechanical parts – all designed to tip unpredictably as water pulses through the system.

Systematic curator Dr Eliza Burke said Writhe was an amazing, elaborate work that took a full week to install.

“The work is a complex system that all works together, yet the equilibrium is constantly changing as elements fill up and drop,” Dr Burke said.

“The audience will naturally look for a pattern, but it remains elusive, ever-changing – and that’s quite deliberate,” she said.

Dr Burke explained that Systematic explored the human side of different technologies and how they interact with organic qualities like air, water and light.

“It was really imperative that the audience can see the human hand in all these works – yes, some are machines, but they’re human constructions with all the unpredictability that brings,” she said.

That unpredictability is on show in Bill Hart’s Prototype for a Philosophical Prosthesis, a writing machine he hand-built from hardware and software components.

“Bill programmed the machine with an algorithm so that it randomly writes quotes about human thought and expression in very ‘human’ handwriting,” Dr Burke said.

“It explores the notion of where human thought stops and technology begins.”

Mayor Greg Williamson said Systematic was fascinating and enthralling.

“It’s reminiscent of visiting the Sciencentre in Brisbane – many of the artworks are amazing feats of engineering that explore how light, air and water influence, or create, a system,” Mayor Williamson said.

“Even the more static works are created with complex geometry, maths and various technologies – some old and analogue, some new and digital.

“The fact that three of the artists, Ian Burns, Tega Brain and Laura Woodward have engineering backgrounds is very apparent.

“This is an exhibition with a broad appeal – kids will be enthralled by the moving parts and adults will undoubtedly find the broader comments on society, humanity and technology quite fascinating.”

Systematic opens in Artspace Mackay today (December 11) and runs until Sunday, February 14, 2021.

Systematic is a Plimsoll Gallery exhibition toured by Contemporary Art Tasmania.

Would you like to know more?

Curator Dr Eliza Burke will present a free exhibition floor talk on Saturday, December 12, from 10.30am. Bookings are essential. Tickets are available here.

Image: Ian BURNS Circle  2016, fans, latex gloves, table, air, timing system. 165 x 157 x 157 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.