The Fear of Physical Extinction and the Feeling of Disintegration Anxiety
Pigment print on Hahnemühle cotton rag, framed, museum glass
130cm x 130cm
Edition of 6 + 2 AP
Photography is the technology of mimesis;
the technology that liberates art from mimesis;
and the medium that liberates mimesis from art.
The Fear of Physical Extinction and the Feeling of Disintegration Anxiety arose out of the feeling of disconnection and estrangement I had upon returning to Australia—especially the Australian cultural economy—after undertaking a residency in Iceland. To help overcome this, I decided to channel my lack of energy and fatigue—especially my financial exhaustion, with the constant onus on artists to pay entry fees, insurance, printing, framing, and freight costs for exhibitions and art awards—into forced productivity. In doing so, I wanted to explore the relationship between the photographic image and concealed (creative) labour, which is implicitly present in any discourses dealing with social, political, and/or economic issues. I thought decoding the image would be the best way to explore the hidden labour behind art, especially digital art (which is, apparently, easy and something a kid could do). I wanted to draw parallels between art and the information/on-demand economy—the present climax of the decades-long socio-economic ideology of neoliberalism—where labour has been disassembled, reassembled, and rendered invisible. Low-paid and vulnerable gig-economy workers, like artists, must support themselves and bear all the risks associated with the job. To explore this, I took the traditional still life painting, which contain objects symbolic of the inevitability of death, such as flowers, and investigated its contemporary conditions of possibility. I might have failed to achieve this; however, failure is an experience, and without risk and experimentation art is stagnate. Besides, simply recreating a historic 17th century Dutch still life is safe and boring, nor does it explore issues of contemporary life, such as digitally mediated labour. Moreover, whereas flowers in a traditional still life painting spoke of beauty and signalled decay, I wanted to focus on transience and concurrent permanency—two complicated qualities of art. Thus, the work is a continuation of my exploration into the photographic medium and contemporary modes of production—the emphasis is not on the image itself; rather, it is an attempt to expose the image as a process that turns labour invisible.