Velocity 14 November – 14 December 2014

The Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery is presenting an exhibition investigating the phenomenon of speed, as interpreted through works by eight contemporary artists.

Strangely enough, the subject of speed – which is so much at the heart of our experience of modernity – has never been treated by a serious exhibition in Australia. Nonetheless it has been a conspicuous feature of western art since the time of JMW Turner (1775-1851), gaining momentum with the Impressionists, thence to the Cubists and Futurists in the twentieth century … Throughout all of this time, the portrayal of speed has reflected changes in technology whose effect has been to accelerate the pace of life, the transmission of information and the circulation of wealth. This continual speeding-up of people’s lives has never ceased to intrigue visual artists. Constant movement, upheaval, the transience of all things has raised fundamental questions about finite, static images and the detachment and stability of their beholder.

The artists in this exhibition are diverse in their media and approaches, yet they share a concern with the paradox of movement versus stillness, with the contemplation of subjects in extreme flux. What is the implication of this radical instability and ever-increasing velocity in regard to one’s ability to measure and make sense of the phenomena of contemporary life? What are the implications for the preservation of our cultural traditions? What are the effects on non-western, third world peoples? How extensive are its social, political and ecological ramifications?

These are questions that cannot be neglected, of course. In recent decades there have been several major thinkers who have addressed the deregulation of technology and analysed its propensity to speed us up. Foremost among them, the French urbanist Paul Virilio is a writer who has influenced or inspired the imagery of some of the participating artists. In a sense he provides a rallying point for the thematics of this show.

“We must politicize speed,” said Virilio, “whether it be metabolic speed (the speed of the living being, of reflexes) or technological speed. We must politicize both, because we are both: we are moved, and we move. To drive is also to be driven…People say: ‘You are too rich,’ but no one ever says: ‘You are too fast.’”

Curated by Terence Maloon, Director of the Drill Hall Gallery, Velocity brings together three painters (Robert Boynes, Jon Cattapan and Derek O’Connor), three video installation artists (Merilyn Fairskye and the British duo Semiconductor), and two photographers (Gilbert Bel-Bachir and Alexei Vassiliev). The remarkable convergences of their interests will ensure that the exhibition creates a whole which is at least as great as the sum of its parts.

The exhibition has been organised in conjunction with an international conference being held at the Australian National University, organised by The Australian Institute of Physics Congress.

 

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