Artists: Craige Andrae—Backyarder—SouthWest Contemporary, February 29—April 11, 2020 • Clara Adolphs—In Between Days—Paul Yore—Crown of Thorns—Hugo Michell, February 6 – March 7, 2020 • Johnnie Dady + Louise Haselton + Rick Martin + Sonja Porcaro—Hold—SouthWest Contemporary, November 2—December 15, 2020 • Bronia Iwanczak + Leith Elder—Lost and Found—SouthWest Contemporary, September 7—October 29, 2019 • various artists—Focus Exhibition—Greenaway Gallery, May 28—June 28, 2020 • Georgia Button and others—recess presents—AceOpen, May 2020.
by Ken Bolton
FormGuides should be regular—shouldn’t they? Apologies for the lack of continuity—in a series only just taken up (in late 2019), having stuttered to an end in 2015 when I left the Experimental Art Foundation. I was travelling in late 2019—and 2020 has brought certain challenges. So, so much for regularity.
Craige Andrae’s Backyarder—contemporary art propositions (SouthWest Contemporary, February 29th—April 11th) was an installation parodying—’capturing’—aspects of ‘the sixties’: the 60s themselves, Minimalism principally—and the works regarded then as iconic (the aesthetic as a whole): specifically Judd, Andre, and Kosuth—plus Brancusi and Duchamp—all conjured or evoked, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (less instantly recognisable and coming from later—but related).
It seemed at first a delicious evocation of The Sixties—or sixties Minimalism, as it led into early Conceptualism. One saw instantly Carl Andre (and behind him others of that shared aesthetic: Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Richard Serra) then Donald Judd, Joseph Kosuth.
Central to the show was the Carl Andre parody. It was large and crisp, an outsize square pallet of besser-block, making a square in the centre of the gallery space. It caused one to utter “Andre”, the identifying name, almost involuntarily. It had Minimalism’s air of self-sufficiency and of being a demonstration—and the property of organising all the space around it, as if extending some kind of rationality, the massed and ordered blocks being a ruling exemplar.
This piece might have been the only one in the show one would deem full-size (150 x 200 x 38 cm). There was a great deal of pleasure in the cleanness and neatness and in the sense of number operating as a unity. It was something that era loved. We should remember Ed Ruscha talking about the special thrill (the ‘best moment’, he might have said) when the printer would deliver the few hundred or so copies of, say, 26 Gas Stations, or one of his other titles: he loved the look of the simply designed books in quantity, stacked, identical.
The besser blocks (Andrae’s title was ‘Ambivalent’) anchored the show around this kind of iconicity: obdurate, literal ‘primary objects’ as they were once called.
One saw Brancusi’s ‘Endless Tower’ and Judd’s own 1966 take on it: this last, in Andrae’s iteration, made of blue, tray-like boxes similarly running up the wall. An ideal order. The blue boxes (‘tubs’ is given as the hardware store description) have something equivalent to Judd’s polished aluminium in their appeal. (Judd’s pieces were always ‘Untitled’—Andrae’s is ‘Entitled’. Andrae’s version of the Brancusi tower is ‘Enduring Constant’).
But the star piece of the show—and maybe the only one that moved beyond simple mocking re-production or re-presentation—was ‘Castor’, a parodic tribute to Duchamp’s bicycle wheel. At which point this reviewer began to consider chronology. Duchamp’s piece was Dada, dating back to 1913. And there was Brancusi—the ‘Endless Column’ from 1918. But this somehow still seemed all very ‘sixties’. Duchamp had been a minor hiccup in 20th century modern art, a whimsical, forgotten artist until the 60s began to see his relevance or a version of it. His rediscovery could be considered as ‘ongoing’ for the next twenty or thirty years. His is, in that way, a sixties name. Developments in the 60s saw Brancusi’s signature pieces suddenly registered as prescient and predictive, combining a touching early modernist idealism with the facticity, the unarguable literalness and singularity and forthright simplicity of which Minimalism was enamoured.
Craige Andrae, like the minimalist crowd, is no special friend to painting: so it wasn’t the whole of the 60s that he targeted. No Warhol, no Stella. Gonzalez-Torres seemed to me out of place, a much later figure, and the ping-pong balls with which he was represented didn’t immediately call up his name.
An exhibition about an era or about an aesthetic, so what? It is a reasonable question. I was taken by the sureness of touch and the impish humour. But by now 2020—this bedrock of late 20th century art practice might be fading from the art world’s consciousness. For a long time, almost tediously and exasperatingly, it seemed it never would. But now, soon, finally?
Backyarder functioned as both a group of works and as a single piece, an installation, its title pointing up the (restriction to) a use of only DYI hardware-store / gardening-centre materials. Tool-shed shelving boxes, orange-red witches’ hat cones, cement besser blocks, pallets, and finally, the metal stool and multi-directional coaster wheel-unit that stood in for Marcel’s bike wheel. Of all the pieces this last is best able to stand alone. Its referent remains known and, secondly, it did more work than simply reference its original. ‘Castor’ used a four-sided white metal stool—and sitting on this throne-like dais a noticeably small (and thereby ‘cute’) ‘wheel’— a furniture, coaster-style wheel, able to turn 360 degrees and of cleverly industrial modern design. This aspect cheekily modernizes Duchamp’s wheel, makes it more convenient and tamed or house-trained, docile. And sort of ‘handy’. We recognise the piece as familiar slightly before we make the identification with Duchamp. The reduced scale of Andrae’s wheel throws one off. So there is a surprise element, and the small wheel asserts itself as an improvement and a personalised triumph. One-upmanship. The metal stool-base makes the letter ‘A’ with each of its four sides, ‘A’ for ‘Andrae’. Neat?
The DYI aspect to Backyarder is folksy; daggy; democratic; and, miniaturised, it makes to diminish or deflate the originals—so I guess ‘sly’ is the final term we might add. The exhibition itself is slightly miniaturized: part of its neatness, its Japanese-lunch box effect.
Plainly I enjoyed Backyarder. Should I have? Why not, it was meant for people like me? Minimalism’s force, its slightly too adamantine confidence in the completeness of its (usually single) gesture—which was always slightly comic (surely so, after the 70s)—has waned. It may at last be a little distant as a target and (as it was never popular) no longer sharply in focus for the current art world.
Backyarder testifies to Andrae’s ability to mimic in a very savvy way—something he has always had and it demonstrates also that his taste and touch are undiminished. Backyarder, as a work, will be remembered—by some surely—and the Duchamp piece, ‘Castor’, should have a life of its own critically. ‘With baited breath, then?’ That is how we should wait? Probably, yeah. A good sized solo show should be next for Craige Andrae. This exhibition would suggest he is ready for it—if it doesn’t suggest an artist wondering where to start, what to do next.
At Hugo Michell, over February and early March, the artists Clara Adolphs and Paul Yore were showing. I went expecting to like, but also to be underwhelmed by Adolphs’ work, which I’d seen on screen and had read about. It is popular—and popular within a genre that has itself become popular, with artists as well as the general public: the snapshot, transferred to canvas, with exciting abridgements, editing and framing. Many are taken with it and Adolphs has been a leading name amongst a packed field. (This is sounding like a form guide.)
The images were instantly ‘relatable’, the potential for charm quite clear. The weaknesses I had expected were there: paintings that were stronger as design or graphic than as painting. Two paintings of figures in water were strong though—distinguished by having depth for the eye to register and determine—and for the pattern of the main image having something to fight against—to a pleasurable, indeterminate truce, so that the painting retained mystery. (‘Swimmer’, from 2020 and ‘Swinging Boy’, 2019.) The image of a guy in a green shirt, too, had some tension to it: the shirt’s bold shape both firm but ambiguous (as to how it read exactly), and nicely balanced, both within and against the rectangle of the painting. This was the picture whose name had been given to the exhibition—‘In Between Days’.
Adolphs works—in In Between Days—with dirty olive green, dark spinach green—against sullied, jaundiced yellows, browns and near-blacks and a blue that reads also as glare—light bouncing off water. Only a few small touches of genuinely bright colour It gives a sullen effect—anti romantic, and it is one of the works’ attractions.
Other of Adolphs’ pictures do work with subjects wearing (conventionally) prettier, brighter colours—and she would seem to handle them okay. It is worth noting that the paintings may look better on screen than they do in real life, where they lack the screen’s bright back-lit glow.
The artist reduces the tones and the tones are separated out into deliberately cruder, or more marked bands of light and dark, of fewer colours with one clearly predominating. The desired effects are those of swiftness—of sketch, of glimpse, and of a kind of clarity derived from these—and of simple, declarative formal balance, of dark and light, of subject and ground, of image and frame. All of this is achieved, but it is a little formulaic. The paint is thickly impasto and worked with both knife and brush into flat planes of colour that both describe and abstract: the abridgements that give the pictures a kind of brusque muscularity. This last has some fascination in and of itself—for its justice in some cases, for the shortness of its shrift in others: it is unsentimental about sentimental subjects. Adolphs’ visual shorthand can give the subjects a kind of (ennobling) privacy, acting almost like tact. At other times it seems a simple, wooden lack.
The remaining paintings in In Between Days dealt with less and delivered up their all upon first viewing—images that had no staying power. John McDonald has likened them to Alex Katz but they have much less purchase on mood, topicality or irony than Katz does. And it has to be said, Katz is an internationally known but minor artist. This is not a genre ‘delivering the goods’, not even as much as Peter Doig does, or Luc Tuymans. Katz, too, worked the ironies and sarcasms of Pop Art in relation to its imagery (i.e., genre, snap shot, issues of wealth, life-style, celebrity even)—and so comparisons to billboard and comic and advertising were all invited and dealt with. Adolphs’ images relate more perhaps to literary preoccupations: the passing of time, youthful subjectivity, girlhood, youth—and to non High Art visual media: home movies, snapshots, perhaps to movies.
The fugitive quality of Adolphs’ originals (the source photo snaps) is caught and made more formally present in the painting—either more or less poignant, from case to case, but with some added distance or pathos accruing. The source’s artlessness is noted—with a kind of sympathy. Other works by Adolphs available on-line included shots of guys in suits, as at a well-fuelled family celebration—a fiftieth, a sixtieth, a wake, Xmas, or a racing weekend. They looked jaunty, and the jauntiness they felt now looked amusing too as the suits and shirts had dated, maybe even the ethos? Hugo Michell’s showing did not include these group scenes. Bittersweet nostalgia, Australian-ness, childhood innocence, ritual, and maybe the suburban were the themes, and perhaps the sudden unplanned gravity of the casual photo-image. The latter though did not surface often in this exhibition. The themes might, for some viewers, be unexceptionable, for others they will be suspect—too easily available and politically comforting.
In tandem with Clara Adolphs’ In Between Days was Paul Yore’s exhibition—Crown of Thorns—which I had not expected to like but did. Their colour was amazing: lively and clashing; and the humour was very engaging. Compositionally they had few tricks up their sleeves and the japes were all of a kind, nothing very complex going on and nothing formally. Likeable. Old-style toilet graffiti, keyed to the thrilling contrast of Merry Xmas red and Merry Xmas green: various scenes or vignettes, pasted—willy-nilly but fairly evenly—across the space (for the most part ‘crammed within it’) with not a lot more thought than the usual fridge-magnet or pin-board exercise: it’s finished when it’s filled up. Naughty but, politically, hardly in the same league as Juan Davila. They reminded, distantly, of the Annandale Imitation Realists but without the latter’s air of breaking new ground, of insurrection.
SouthWest Contemporary hosted a group show prior to the Andrae exhibition—curated by Linda Marie Walker and entitled Hold. It featured Louise Haselton, Johnnie Dady, Sonja Porcaro and Rick Martin. Johnnie Dady’s work shared something of Craige Andrae’s sensibility—at least, his drawings of what I took for a while to be a chair or stool, in simple, illustrative line, jokily elegant—and deliberately inert as far as expression or character—did seem to reference that same era’s vogue for affecting surprise at how little was needed, post-Duchamp, to qualify as art. Such work would expect to come across as cheeky or glib—depending on the viewer’s presumed objections. For some decades now these objections and requirements have been pretty much abandoned, so the frisson has become unavailable too. Dady’s achievement, here, was a kind of relaxed suite of views (‘Untitled drawings, I—VI’) teasingly examining the curious object from a number of points of view. It might have been a three-legged stool, table, or a dais. Outline only, the line (faint pencil) continuous and unbroken. Drawing as ideational: no modelling, no weight, no substantiality, just ‘idea’; no ‘expression’. Their cool made them slightly unassailable.
In the same vein were Dady’s sequence (‘Untitled’) of small rescued cardboard shapes—crumpled, folded and mounted, perhaps as found objects—proposed, I would think, on the basis of looking ‘just like’ abstract sculpture. A largish, free-standing piece by Dady was uncharacteristically tentative in its structure. Normally the artist has made a feature of solidly professional skills with wood. The ungainliness may have signalled an assault on ‘the abject’, or the siren influence of Eva Hesse. It might have been the realisation of the six drawings: though more jittery, and ungainly, by far, than the object the drawings indicated.
More interesting, and much more arresting, though with less of the affectless air of challenging preconceived notions of art, were a pair of large black-and-white photographic prints—‘Falling Rain, numbers 1 and 2’. Slightly blurred, as though from the era of early photography. These were by Rick Martin. They showed continental fine lifestyle (palace or villa architecture, turn of the century clothing) and had an air of mystery and nostalgia—and of pathos.
Martin showed a mercifully small sample (three) of a purportedly longer sequence—of photos that on a bad day Ed Ruscha might have taken. ’30 Romantic Views nos 1, 20, 23′. A fluoro motel sign, looking aged and dowdy, before a sunset sky—in Florida, in Texas? The USA, as it has often been regretted, pilloried, pitied—by a line of artists: Ruscha, Ed Kienholz, David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock and numerous painters of lonely diners since Edward Hopper. So no news there. The three views were identical, or close to. Martin was the odd one of the group, a photographer amongst sculptors.
Stars of the exhibition were probably Louise Haselton and Sonja Porcaro. Haselton’s pieces were all two-dimensional, wall-mounted, a little like pictures, then, but entirely physical, sculptural. Very sure in their achievement of a unity that would seem unlikely and yet was always unarguably present. Sonja Porcaro showed pieces working with her old props and materials but bent, probably, to less psychological themes. They seemed mostly to wish to alert and sensitise viewer capacities: they worked with small, incremental changes in material, small degrees of modulation in colour or texture, in alertness, in some instances, to literally small things. The largest piece—the only other free-standing sculptural piece along with Johnnie Dady’s—was a rosewood table surface, sumptuous and exquisitely bland, against which silver metallic elements stood out, deepening the wood’s soft lustre. The viewer feels the wood suddenly giving up more information: texture, sheen, grain, layered depth of colour.
A set of contrasts of shade between four small abutted columnar shapes was interesting for being so gentle: ‘Shelf’ featured a greenish grey sandwiched between a dark blue grey and a warm brown and seeming, almost, to create a softly plum-colour, a combination of the three colours actually present. A fourth smaller grey stood at the end: their four colours’ relative ‘weights’ were affected by the height and girth of each tubular shape. Both Morandi and Agnes Martin were alluded to in Porcaro’s work. Other pieces by Porcaro had wood featuring tiny pieces of metal and glitter netting. Inducing the viewer to do some peering might have been their point.
I am not sure the properties Sonja Porcaro’s work seeks to explore and propose are sufficient to base a lot of work around. Her Hold appearance, though, must be counted a success, bringing an interrupted career back into critical appraisal and building a public for more. It was featured centrally in Hold.
Porcaro showed most extensively in the late 90s or early in this century, but under domestic pressure—family and kids—and with successive generations of artists debuting in the intervening time, and with the ‘existential’ requirement to take up employment, momentum has been impossible to maintain. She has resumed exhibiting since 2019. Porcaro had been part of a very large cohort of interesting young women artists whose early years coincided with the gradual tightening up of the scene here. Adelaide has done them no favours.
I won’t discuss Louise Haselton’s work at length. I have written on it extensively in the past—and in the recent past as well. The works she showed in Hold were a little less exuberant, a little less ‘major’ than her usual. Which won’t have bothered Haselton at all. They were a knockout—so no changes there, but throttled back, so to speak, in comparison with her usual showings—perhaps they were works left out of recent exhibitions, perhaps Haselton simply preferred not to go in heavily in a small group show. Her three pieces (all were ‘Untitled’) had the qualities, I think, that I have described before. They were very good. They worked contrasts between their constituent parts and between the materials. Some were casual and immediate: the dramatic bolt of electrically blue material (described as plastic mesh), draped, set off against its balancing brown other half. (The brown was given as ‘saddlery material’.) Others were more evidently designed or constructed: the pair of grey parentheses, one above the other, each on its separate black ground: a pleasing opposition of the twin, curved, parenthetical shapes, each recognising the other but made separate by their individual black island bases, each of which was a rounded rectangular shape (bath mats, one gathered from the catalogue)—a kind of Marimekko visual logic or visual conundrum.
Hold might be thought to join Backyarder in its artists’ aesthetics: Dady practising a Pop and conceptualist delight in art’s post-Duchampian redefinition, Martin channelling Californian post-Pop irony of the sort Ruscha has made most of; and Haselton and Porcaro working with and extending Minimalism’s reintroduction of materiality as sufficient factor, and of facticity as game-winning move—minus the machismo wallop of Judd, Serra and others.
Rick Martin’s large, enigmatic, mistily nostalgic diptych is the work that stands most outside this set of relationships. It might be as memorable as the humorously right and sure combinations that Haselton presented. (A matter of her works’ immediacy and eclat in declaring a firm, apprehensible gestalt made out of the disparate: the viewer inwardly applauds the work’s trumping of division, its amusing, lightly victorious unity.) In contrast was Martin’s pictures’ enchantment—an unknowable, probably Proustian, Jamesian or Go-Between-like loss or tragedy: two isolated moments, and the sense of narrative they create. (Some of this effect operated in Clara Adolphs’ snapshot pictures of a much more recent past.) Proust, Henry James—in their Merchant Ivory world these stories turn invariably on passions, secrets, betrayals, shame and fear, and warped or misshapen lives. The Edwardian clothing, the Italianate architectural details, the delicately faded, slightly ghostly image-quality nudge me towards this sort of response. Images like this do not relate to sixties and seventies art, but to the later eighties. The post-modern focus of the time was on sign-systems, on genre, discourse, convention. Identified with this affiliation Martin’s diptych was somehow the least contemporary work on show: the eighties being more ‘over’, right now, than the sixties. (In the 80s an attraction to any ‘story’ the image might seem to entertain would situate one as a victim of the conventions by which this romantic story was called up: the work would be ironic and cool—sarcastic even—in its isolation of the ideological episteme that was ‘instanced’. Tedious, but there you go—and those days have gone. Lesson learnt. Lesson forgotten.)
[I am aware that Louise Haselton and Sonja Porcaro could be claimed for the 90s era in Adelaide: the sudden attraction to curious materials was a feature then—seen as an actual, ‘new’ materiality (vinyls, viscid dolloping substances; chemically impure plastics to an aery thinness spread; latex, string, net, mesh etcetera). These materials were valued for associations that ran along various spectrums—of bodilyness, sexuality, perversity—and suggested metamorphosis, taboo, pulp narrative. True, though I have pursued the connection with long-running Minimalism.]
I cannot be alone in wondering at the longevity of the 60s and its continuing effects. I’ve wondered at it before. The sixties (that are) now operative, operative in the 80s and 90s—and operative still it seems, and probably subtly different for each era—can hardly resemble the original decade. I’ve wondered at its long persistence as a source of influence and reference. I’ve wondered, sometimes with exasperation, when it might end. Finally, with the arrival of an art scene that appears to have no aesthetic project but a focus only on issues (with which it doesn’t seem to deal with any finesse) I don’t find myself very happy. The sixties—some version of them—must have provided many of my own reference points, and much of my critical orientation. A cleft stick.
Bronia Iwanczak’s work in Lost and Found recalled her work in Adelaide in the late 80s and the 90s. It was often obscure but it was also direct. In Lost and Found the ‘trick’ the work effected was simple. Breton’s injunction, that art should be convulsive, applied: opposing terms were joined delivering a counter-intuitive otherness that was undeniable and funny, or preposterous, at the same time. Breton? The line usually cited is Lautreamont’s “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella.” Surrealism, then? Enough beating about the bush: a very large black-and-white photo of a ‘very large’, craggy and indomitable-looking rock was proposed as a ‘Portrait of the artist’s Mother’. (The title was ‘A rock takes a picture of my Mother’.) That a mother, presumably an aged or remembered mother, might be represented as this small-glacier sized object seemed an awful truth as well as absurd. And these two responses, two estimations, sat well together. The ‘Mother’ looked stern, judgemental, severe. But perhaps she was also a source of strength, encouragement. Admonishment, punishment … love? Was the mother loved—or wondered at? All of these questions could be asked ‘seriously’—or out of a sense of fun. On the dais nearby, facing the photograph, was a monochrome stone camera carved from soft material. Impossible and also ‘pretty accurate’. Had the formidable Mother’s face turned the camera to stone? Was the camera ‘stone-age’?
The rock itself is apparently one often photographed, a well-known tourist feature known as ‘Nietzsche’s rock’, somewhere near one of the greater Swiss lakes—Lake Silvaplana.
The piece had a corny profundity and menacing absurdity that reminded me of early Bergman movies but also of some English TV comedy. Iwanczak’s bread and butter—is she even earned any—had been the proposal of such wonderfully charged equivalences and correspondences as this, usually complicated by the time’s infatuation with French Theory. This work had wonderfully fierce eclat and a solemnity that was very amusing.
Leith Elder installed a disciplined and clearly legible, but mute, serial work—a marking off of time or change or some permutation. It was unclear what the work meant though it had a degree of sober dignity. But meaning what? It was a line of wooden posts (‘Fence (Ps 90:10)’ was the title) at exactly regular intervals, close together and leaned against the gallery wall. They had been painted with wood stain, each given a coat more than the previous one, such that they presented a line of progressively (though not dramatically or too obviously) deepening colour. I was reminded of days counted off in simple strokes on a prison wall. (Something I think I’ve only ever seen in films.)
Greenaway Gallery Focus Exhibition—grouped together in a format the gallery will run throughout the Covid lockdown—showed a large number of artists. The exhibition is worth seeing. I was most taken with work by Henry Jock-Walker and Paul Hoban. There was also a selection of three pieces by Truc Truong that indicated a promising younger artist—intelligent and willing to trust her own thinking.
Jock-Walker showed a group of related works, the largest of which (200 x 150 cms, ‘Learning to be a beginner, Triggs Two’) was truly winning: an abstract work in bright, flat totally even colours, these bounded by dark lines, all in a curiously velvety-looking material. It recalled Leonard French, I thought, 1950s abstraction—but sunnier by far, with no hint of otherworldly yearning. A little like a patchwork quilt, but with very large elements? A little like Adami? The work, it transpires, is made from cut up fragments of discarded wet suits: rich oranges, reds, tans, greys and blues, crimson, some green.
Paul Hoban one is always curious to see. These were good, as is usual with this artist: one work, ‘Mean Treats’, seemed to play with an oriental, floating feel. Muted greys, greens, pinks and purple, with black (and some red) confined to lines, mostly making florette shapes or arabesques. No, ‘florettes’ is wrong. Relationships between the rectangular areas of background colour, and the ‘play’ of the curlicue tendril-shapes that sported, or drifted about, between and across them, were able to hold the eye and mind indefinitely. The smaller elements were both ‘actors’ within the space, or spaces, of the painting and bridges that dragged the eye across the chasms or boundaries that could be imagined. Some, corralled within bounded areas, acted decoratively and served to give those spaces weight.
I may have been one of the last people to wake up to the success of Georgia Button’s ‘Space of In-Betweeness’—a digital video made available on the AceOpen site (along with works by a number of artists) and shown under the rubric recess presents. The video consists of a sequence of ‘scenes’—visual effects that everyone will have experienced and sometimes dwelt on, but in most cases learned to ignore. The video is very effective in reproducing a fairly intimate experience and producing a languid though acute kind of wonder—and, probably, producing something of these experiences’ usual somatic effects.
Technically I would guess the essence is simply a matter of slowly changing focus, but timing, taste, judgement in selection of scene are all part of it. The effect is a little like looking at a window, at first through almost closed eyes, through eyelashes and narrowed lids, and then of one’s own eye ‘pulling focus’ such that objects gradually come into view and aspects of the scene-so-far begin to disappear, replaced by others. As I remember them, these were scenes perceived through grasses, pot-plants, leaves of trees, lace curtain. One object was a screen, seen, then seen through, to the larger more distant scene behind it.
I was reminded of contentedly purring cats slowly closing their eyes as they purred. Apparently it is a sign of trust that the animal is willing to regard one as non-threatening. The correct response—I think the natural response, particularly if you are another cat—is to close your eyes in return, a kind of long, slow blink. Whatever Button’s film was about, it might work in that same somatic way upon viewers.
The work has great beauty (it deals in great beauty) but is also slightly saddening—it renders one passive—giving views of a natural world we are maybe losing, that will be taken from us? My subjective response, of course—but Button’s piece is affecting because it makes for any number of these subjective responses, and they won’t have come from the front part of the brain.
All the above (weird, I know) is a take on the work as a purely visual piece. ‘In Betweeness’ has a very well made soundtrack, of likeable rural or semi rural voices, in conversation, lots of birdsong and occasional engine noises—cars, farm equipment possibly. This roots the images in the ‘every day’. As film it would indicate, by convention, sounds overheard—sounds ignored, sounds ongoing—while the subject figure focuses on or looks ‘sightlessly’ at these images: so, confusion, distraction, a liminal, or detached state. (The low camera angle would read as a short person or someone lying down.) I could easily prefer the images without the sound, interesting as the sound was. The audio adds a layer of explanation that brings the imagery back within the bounds of narrative and the normal, a little deflatingly.
On the other hand, the sound is great. It is full of warmth and character, its quality (fades in and out, cuts from younger males to an older female voice) is all believable audio verité. You can’t have it all, I guess. Or you can, you watch or listen as you like, modernism or Hollywood. The sound component is attributed to Kate Meakin.