Octopus 13: on this day alone

Gertrude Contemporary, 26 July  28 September 2013
Curator: Glenn Barkley


  Tim Burns ,  Enclosures  from  Assembly Book , 1974. Book of printed postcards. Image courtesy Gertrude Contemporary © the artist. Private Collection, Sydney. Photo: Alex Davies.

Tim Burns, Enclosures from Assembly Book, 1974. Book of printed postcards. Image courtesy Gertrude Contemporary © the artist. Private Collection, Sydney. Photo: Alex Davies.

About the exhibition:

Octopus 13: on this day alone explores the ways that eight Australian and international artists, most of whom are not normally considered photographers, employ photography within their practice. The artists in Barkley’s selection use photography as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, highlighting how photography can be both research material as well as a final object.

This exhibition identifies the unique nature of the medium of photography, showing how despite its fleeting temporality, a photograph’s meaning and significance can persist and morph over time. For example, the meaning and significance of Madeleine Preston’s series Darlinghurst Eats Its Young - which comprises of a collection of snap shots taken in Sydney during the 1980s – is dramatically altered by the passage of time.

Likewise the original significance of a collection of photographs by Tim Burns is indelibly transformed through its exhibition treatment. The post-card like works that were produced in 1974 featured in an artists book that documented the ephemeral and conceptual ideas coming from The Tin Sheds in Sydney. Originally intended to be treated three dimensionally, removed and sent via the post as mobile sculptural ideas, these works have now been archived behind acrylic. With handling prohibited, their original intention and their dynamic form has been disavowed.

The only artist in the exhibition whose predominant medium was photography is Ansel Adams - the world-renowned American photographer and environmentalist. However, rather than exhibiting one of Adams’ photographs, Barkley has selected a sound recording that documents Ansel Adams typing a note or a letter in 1983. The sound recording points to the significant and often contestable role that both photography and sound recording play as documentary mediums. Whilst both mediums transcribe a moment or moments in time, they are also easily influenced by fiction or context, which can slant the objectivity of the moment.

The exhibition also features new works by Patrick Hartigan and Kushana Bush who explore the act of documenting, tracing the extraordinary journeys they take in search of their source material and how these journeys mould the work’s eventual significance. These works reveal photography’s role as source material and its ability to capture a fleeting connection to a moment of inspiration. on this day alone also features new or significant works by Agatha Gothe-Snape, Joanna Margaret Paul and Luke Willis Thompson.

In on this day alone each work reveals how image and image making is in constant dialogue with the object. Highlighting photography’s transformative shape-shifting tendency, the exhibition shows the medium’s ability to function as a photograph, whilst being conceptually able to transform into another media, beyond itself.