Drugs, disasters and disorientation

Press Release – Blue Oyster Art Gallery

Disasters and drugs, confusion and disorientation are all explored in the latest exhibitions at Dunedin’s Blue Oyster Art Project Space. Media Release – 30 July 2010

Drugs, disasters and disorientation

Disasters and drugs, confusion and disorientation are all explored in the latest exhibitions at Dunedin’s Blue Oyster Art Project Space.

The exhibitions, featuring work by Joe Worley, Melissa Laing, Rodger Boyce and Marie-Claire Brehaut, open on 10 August. Linking the three works are ideas about visual representation, safety and insecurity.


The recreation of a P-Lab along with its mirroring through representational painting and the clandestine nature of the artist’s studio is the subject of Nature Morte , by Christchurch artists Roger Boyce and Marie-Claire Brehaut.

“We’ve taken the tradition of still life and the idea of memento mori, which is a reminder of mortality, and given it an update through the creation of a still life tableaux which is a P-Lab,” says Boyce.

“Obviously it’s not a real P-Lab, as we haven’t used actual chemicals, but it’s a slavish copy of a domestic P-Lab assembled on a dressing table. It’s accurate down to its acid bottles, drano container, syringes and a distillation stack. The lab itself, the painting, the painter’s supplies and their relationship, each to the other, and to the public space, become a series of representations that double or mirror each other and in doing so activate the space.

“The choice of a P-Lab, as subject, is not meant to shock. The lab and the painting are compelling as a visual spectacle and then there are other more topical layers of fascination. The subject matter does generate some charged friction, but on the other hand nothing human is alien to fictional depiction,” he says.

Aircraft flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders, colloquially known as black boxes, represent the fascination, aestheticisation and fear that exists around aviation disasters, according to Auckland-based artist Melissa Laing.

Laing’s work, exploring aspects of the aviation sector, engages with the (im)possibility of security both in aviation and everyday life. The title of this work, ‘a small metal pin, a piece of rubber, a section of metal pipe with securing nut, two red engine plugs and red ribbon, a reverse thruster hatch stopper bush, some down strapping, a signal horn, a piece of brake lining, a screwdriver, a broken omni-directional threshold light, multiple bird, bat and turtle carcasses, a plastic water bottle, a block of wood, a beer can and a piece of paper’ is a list of items found during runway inspections at Australian airports.

The Blue Oyster exhibition includes simulated crashed black boxes, drawings of wildlife strikes depicting dead birds and animals, and audio excerpts of the ambient noise that frequently obscures the conversations that take place in the cockpit. The works are informed by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s 2009 Aviation occurrence reports, published weekly.

“The industry goes to great length to avoid disasters. But I’m interested in the impossibility of creating absolute safety and the always-present tension of the disaster.

“An insatiable, often fetishised practice of accumulating information has grown around disasters, both actual and prevented, and this is investigated in the work. This includes industry, government, and the media as well as private individuals, like myself, who accumulate, discuss, and post information around aviation disasters,” says Laing.

Dazzle disorientates

A disorientating camouflage pattern used in World War I is being re-worked for the third of the three exhibitions, Bewildering Scheme , on show.

Unlike more recent camouflage patterns, which are designed to make objects disappear, the ‘Dazzle’ pattern was designed to make it difficult to decipher the direction and speed of objects like ships and planes.

Dunedin-based artist Joe Worley plans to paint the floors, walls and ceiling of one of the gallery spaces with the ‘Dazzle’ pattern and believes it will be disorientating and confusing for viewers, disrupting their sense of space.

“It’s debatable whether the ‘Dazzle’ pattern ever worked, but it did improve morale aboard ships and planes on which it was painted.

“Modern war technologies like radar installations and the stealth bomber
are still exploring ways of analysing and disrupting space. It leads on to other areas like the idea of cloaking and the potential to confuse an observer; radar, x-rays and infrared create new layers of a scanned environment that people seek to disrupt,” says Worley.


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