‘Useless’ Catalogue Essay

1-18 November 2011

A discarded bottle, the plethora of photographs on the Internet, and forgotten flora. Oliver McKenzie, Ben Norris, and Chris Ross engage with the so-called ‘useless’ objects in contemporary life.  Often such detritus is the by-product of the circulation of images and objects.  It seems an object easily becomes redundant either due to the flippant determinations of a culture of speed or built-in obsolescence.

From this, objects turn from highly valued goods to junk, from the useful to the useless. The state of the castaway object is by no means determined or final. Aside from recycling in general, art particularly reconfigures our relationship to an object or experience. Something is revealed to us through a re-inscription of the object. The power of the Duchampian legacy is the ability to reactivate attention to what is invisible in its normalcy.  Each of these artists are indebt to the readymade action and yet naturally, each focus intensely on individual areas of interest.

Oliver McKenzie uses found objects and discarded detritus to create organic and spontaneous works, which respond to the surrounding environment. His assemblages characterize the condition of the discarded, and become monuments of disuse.  His practice is steeped in a solid awareness of space and the delicate junctures between assembled objects and his sculptural paintings.

Citing Australia’s colonial history, Ben Norris creates a series of ‘artisanal artefacts’, presenting still life arrangements of native and exotic flowers.  Norris utilizes flora as a metaphoric vehicle for the representation of hybrid complex identities, which are the recombination of different origins. These juxtapositions combine into a bouquet form which conceals such identity difference.

Chris Ross explores the imaging of his Internet doppelgangers, and simultaneously a process of production. These reveal complex images in which identities, images, and process congeal into uncanny portraits of the collective Chris Ross. These map-like documents record the outcomes of an experimental projection model. Ross’ process meditates on the readymade gesture through a process of transcription of his found material.

Naturally each artist uses some meaningful order when critiquing their respective mass available material, either through the ethics of their recycling practice, or the conditions of their process, or the manner of their display. Despite starting with the jumbled excesses of life the final outcomes are discrete works which transform the everyday.

Written and edited by Chris Ross