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The views from here

In exhibition, video on 26 June 2009 at 12:05 am

An outstanding exhibition of video art opens today at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, fresh from its well-received season at the MCA San Diego.

The show, called Rising Tide, features film and video installations by 12 contemporary Australian artists, including Australia’s representative at the current Venice Biennale, Shaun Gladwell.

Shaun Gladwell, TangaraShaun Gladwell, Tangara (video still)

Gladwell’s work Tangara was shot on a Sydney commuter train. With Gladwell hanging from a handrail, the image is inverted and slowed down to create the effect of zero gravity which, it soon becomes apparent, is really an act of physical endurance. Like a lot of his work, Tangara combines an ordinary public space with an extraordinary action to create something approaching the sublime.

Patricia Piccinini, SandmanPatricia Piccinini, Sandman (video still)

Inspired by bio-tech and its impact on human evolution, Patricia Piccinini’s work often proposes future states for the human body. In Sandman, a young woman seems to be floundering in rough surf. Beneath the water, instead of drowning she floats calmly before we see the sets of gill-like slits in her neck – and it gets stranger. It’s beautiful and unsettling at the same time, a vision of our possible future in a world of rising sea levels and a reminder of our safe, protected past in the womb.

Kate Murphy, Prayers of a Mother 1

Kate Murphy, Prayers of a Mother 2Kate Murphy, Prayers of a Mother (installation views)

In Kate Murphy’s video installation, Prayers of a Mother, the faces of eight children (including Murphy herself) are shown as their mother talks about the prayers she says for them every day. Her face is not shown, just her hands holding a prayer book and rosary. It’s a portrait but not, like most portraiture, an image of a face. Instead, it’s a portrait of a woman’s deeply held belief and its meaning for her family.

There are plenty more videos and films on display, including The Kingpins’ very funny choreographed mischief in the city’s franchised coffee shops, and Jess MacNeil’s video of people moving on the Opera House steps with their bodies removed and their shadows remaining. There are also works by Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser, Susan Norrie, Tony Schwensen and David Noonan. Notch up another winner for the MCA.

Rising Tide was co-curated by Rachel Kent, senior curator MCA Sydney, and Stephanie Hanor, senior curator, MCA San Diego. It runs until 23 August 2009 and entry is free.

Image details, from top:

Shaun Gladwell, Tangara 2003. 14 mins, digital video. Videography: Gotaro Uematsu and David Griggs.

Patricia Piccinini, Sandman 2002. 3 mins, 16mm film transferred to DVD.

Kate Murphy, Prayers of a Mother 1999. 14 mins, Super VHS transferred to DVD, 5 channel digital video installation with single channel stereo.

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