Beyond the Opening

-- Demystifying Contemporary Art --

OSW | Converging in time

What am I looking at here? Where is the rhythm, the pattern? I want a narrative, something I can make sense of. But what overthrows these questions almost immediately is recognition of excellence - brilliance and playfulness of the execution; the boldness and confidence of this work. OSW play with the weight of seriousness, and the light of playfulness, minuteness together with the hugeness, immediacy together with the long and slow. As I move through, it becomes very clear, very quickly, this exhibition is absolutely world-class. And the narrative comes. I get it – well, I think I do.

This exhibition is an extremely enjoyable experience. I found it thought promoting and completely refreshing in my view of earth science, political messaging and aesthetic investigation. The rigour and collaboration OSW have applied is clear.

Highly recommended.

I navigate over student greens, between tall narrow buildings, under over passes and though open space towards a shadow in the building fold: the entrance of MUMA. The electronic door opens, I move into the dim broad space. Warmly greeted by a women at reception we discuss the books on display before she hands me an Exhibition Sheet and directs me to a door with white light spilling out. I walk through.

South Gallery 1

The space feels large: high ceiling, broad, white, light, open - with few artworks sparsely arranged. From the ceiling there are three glass spheres placed at distance from each other suspended by long poles. The spheres are imperfect and the hole from which each was blown is positioned to the side, carefully and neatly sealed with a lead cap. Within the sphere is a natural crystal, saleeite, its shards a delicate lime green colour, blending to an earthy brown base. Amidst the suspended crystals, their splendid chards protruding upwards and shimmering colour, is a massive, bitchumen-grey plasticine extrusion. It flops heavily from the wall onto the floor and is about the size of a thin mattress. The fine vertical pattern on its surface is possibly the mark of the machine it passed through, perhaps the marks of a conveyor. Small dark coloured steel moulds of crystals, metals, and precious stone pepper its surface.

Hallway to South Gallery 2

I round the corner, and move into an empty white corridor framing a view to the forecourt outside. I spot a nondescript angular rock on the floor in the far corner, about 1.5 foot in diameter. I walk towards it, peering. It looks good. It has been cracked open and this is but a portion of the original. Exposed is a core of light coloured rock that, judging by the dark perimeter, seems to have been enveloped by a darker coloured rock to the measure of about 2cm; what on earth is this? I dismiss it as an art ‘red herring’ and near walk straight into another pole suspended from the ceiling; this has no glass sphere or crystal – but it has a trilobite fossil! Mounted upside down! Delightful! There is no cover, no protection for this exquisite museum specimen. I love the trust, the context - and that it is upside down on a mount, on a pole mounted to the ceiling! My physical position has changed and I gaze back at the rock on the floor. Puzzling my way through the Exhibition Sheet, I discover the rock is manmade, OSW constructed it using a range of recycled materials, and embedded a Bluetooth device in it so I can connect and watch a video! I kept moving before my phone would connect.

South Gallery 2

The next gallery is large, white with a low ceiling. On the far wall is a projection detailing sand grains shifting about; yellow, cream, golden spherical forms moving sometimes only slightly, to the effect of the wind. Between this wall and where I stand is a myriad of objects sparsely positioned. Closest to me stretching towards the far wall is a large angular sculpture. A linear work, it is supported by two finely balanced and carefully selected naturally formed rocks – or are they a meteorite and a basalt log? I’m not sure. There are few elements, physically and practically to this work, yet it extends gently and naturally from the ceiling, from the floor, from the rock and into the gallery space – a glass sphere is attached to the only endpoint which doesn’t turn into the ceiling, floor or rock. Just below the sphere, on the floor are placed two natural rocks on a honed rock tile – perhaps these are the meteorite and the basalt log.

A few metres away to the right, suspended from the ceiling, there are two flat clear circular pieces of plastic with a fine metal band around their circumference. The plastic is firm, very thin but hard and it bends languidly around each of the small dark coloured crystals, metals and precious stones peppered between the two fine layers. Further towards the moving sand projection is a rock placed on the floor next to a tall clear wide cylinder, and to the left is a graphite coloured sphere about a meter in diameter, perhaps made by hand, perhaps papier-mâché.

North Gallery

I walk out. I have to make a choice which direction, to the left down a corridor with low ceiling, wood cladding and spot lighting? I choose to head on, into the white, into a long wide low room. I stand gazing, trying to work out what I’m looking at. The long wide shape of the room is mirrored in shape and dimension by a long wide grey matter placed on an angle to the rooms walls. Its corners intersect the walls. It is huge, it dominates the room and it is supported by an exposed wooden framework. This matter is solid and grey, grey. It is a papercrete platform, solid, heavy and square. There are slight perforations, holes in the matter, and moulds of meteorite impressions. The platform stretches across the near entirety of the room - and a massive dark object is placed on top of it. It is a fossilised Kauri log. I cannot walk the perimeter of the room for the size of the work, it is imposing. My mind flicks to how this was created? How did they get this in here? There is clear cross discipline collaboration demonstrated here, but the sheer size and scale of this work boggles my mind – the door ways are simply too small! I look up without clear answers. There is a film projected onto the expanse of the far wall urging the viewer to appreciate the nuances of a cliff face. The camera moves slowly, deliberately over the bucks, swerves and folds of a rock cliff face.

My attention is drawn back to inspect the log and slab. I look around. There is a small mark, a shadow, an imperfection in the white wall. I move over to it. On closer inspection there is a long rectangular inlay of plaster set neatly into the wall. As it has been drying someone has jammed an implement into the fresh plaster and drawn it along leaving a wonderful drag mark, the displaced plaster partially curled, partially shoved, to the side. The implement removed.

Video Room

Circling back I spot a small dark room to the back. I enter. There is a video work of things falling, meteors. It is filmed in the rooms of a heritage building, looking from the inside out. Glass stained windows, curtains moving in the breeze, trees viewed from inside moving in a breeze.


I come out, pass through the room with the plasticine slab and petrified stump, into the warm wood clad corridor dotted with a few large pillars. At the end of this corridor is the exit. The trusses and beams of the raw pine wall are exposed. There is a suspended sphere housing another exquisite lime-green saleeite crystal, and a few large format photographs mounted on an exposed wall. The photographs kind of blend in. It feels like the back end of the geology lab room. Aerial shots of Ranger Uranium mine, excavator teeth marks eating into the side of a mountain being mined, and a view from the air of what may have been the Brunswick clay pit mine in 1921 detailing a massive hole in the ground that is separated from housing estates by a foot of flat earth and a mere suburban fence.

I walk out. Invigorated. Into the foyer, dim and dark. I do a few laps, checking out the books, brochures. Digesting. There are a few others here now. I walk out into the open space and navigate my way under overpasses, through commons, across the green and back to where I came from.

OSW | Open Spatial Workshop [Scott Mitchell, Bianca Hester and Terri Bird]

Converging in Time

March 2017 to April 2017

MUMA | Monash University of Modern Art

Photo: Andrew Curtis

Photo: Andrew Curtis

Photo: Andrew Curtis

Photo: Andrew Curtis

Photo: Andrew Curtis

Photo: Andrew Curtis