Danger Will Robinson!
Friday 27 – Sunday 29 June
An AirSpace Projects Fly-In Fly-Out Exhibition
An unofficial satellite exhibition at AirSpace Projects to coincide with the final days of Conquest of Space: Science Fiction and Contemporary Art, an exhibition curated by Dr Andrew Frost, at Galleries UNSW, College of Fine Arts, 22 May – 5 July 2014.
Danger Will Robinson! will feature the work of:
Tony Albert, Pat Brassington, Lynda Draper, Brenda Factor, C.Moore Hardy, Helen Hyatt Johnston, Shalini Jardin, Deborah Kelly, Allison M. Low, Sarah Newall, Sarah Park, Somboun Phonesouk, Jane Polkinghorne, Margarita Sampson, Abdullah M I Syed, TextaQueen, Yiogos Zafiriou, Louise Zhang
For the uninitiated, ‘Danger Will Robinson! Danger!’ is a protective warning shouted by Robot in the American 1960s television series Lost In Space. The series tracks the Robinson family’s dangerous encounters with aliens, unfamiliar space phenomena and a hostile stowaway when they leave Earth in 1997 on a mission to establish a new colony. Lost in Space was produced during a period of civil rights movements, exponential population growth, the Cold War and the Space Race. The series embodies many threatening undertones as well as a swag of morals and conformist stereotypes.
‘Danger Will Robinson!’ will explore constructions of otherness in a science-fiction context. Was it that the Robinson family – white, nuclear, middle class and Christian – represented a desired future for America that was under threat both internally and externally? Or, was science fiction simply an escape from the monotony of the known and everyday, an opportunity to experience the thrill of fear in the safety of the fictionalised otherworld? This exhibition seeks to explore how the possibilities of otherness are represented and dealt with in the genre of science fiction as well as the artists relationship to otherness now.
Andrew Frost’s Opening Speech
Danger Will Robinson!
One of the most critically important science fiction short stories of the modern era was written by someone you’ve probably never heard of – the author’s name is Pamela Zoline and her story is The Heat Death of The Universe.
Published in the July-October 1967 issue of New Worlds magazine and described by the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as an iconic works of the New Wave, the story has been anthologised at least nine times in various influential short story collections and is now widely available as a PDF online.
Writing in Daughters of The Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the 20th Century, Mary E. Papke describes Zoline’s story:
“Heat Death” might not at first reading strike the reader as science fiction at all. It contains no bug-eyed monsters, interplanetary flights, post-apocalyptic worlds, or technological marvels. It focuses not on outer space as much as it does inner space—notably that of a woman—and the geography of the mundane—that of the home and the supermarket—rather than the fantastic or extraordinary. […] Zoline’s story explores relational spaces, those shared by mothers and children, husbands and wives, domestic economy and the public sphere. The story [extrapolates] from the everyday reality of a middle-class American wife and mother a nightmare vision of endless meaningless routine, demands, and expectations, focusing intently on issues of gender, the ethics of care, and the promise of the future. Within this domestic space, “aliens” appear in the guise of children, the mother-in-law, high and low cultural figures such as Shakespeare and Tony the Tiger, and even, in the most disturbing scenes for the female protagonist, the central character herself.”
Another fascinating aspect to the story was that it was produced by an artist. Zoline who was at the time a 26-year-old American expat living in London interested in radical art and agit-prop and had become a part of author-editor Michael Moorcock’s Notting Hill artist circle. Moorcock was the new editor of the previously staid and formulaic New Worlds magazine and he had quickly turned it into a radical publication with an editorial manifesto that sought to change the very nature of science fiction itself. Around the magazine Moorcock had rallied a group of distinguished writers and critics to help him win support from the British Arts Council to help finance publication. And along with many other artists, Zoline contributed illustrations for New Worlds and Heat Death was the first story she’d written since high school. It appeared in the same month that one of her paintings was exhibited at the Tate Gallery. Zoline was a highly active member of the Notting Hill group both as an artist and writer and she facilitated a number of the group’s more radical excursions outside the strict confines of the SF print genre, among them JG Ballard’s sole foray into becoming an exhibiting avant garde artist – it was Zoline who had curated Ballard’s Crashed Cars exhibition at the Camden New Arts Lab in 1970.
Today the New Wave itself isn’t so well known outside SF circles, but it forms one of the first significant breaks in the otherwise conservative history of the genre. In essence, the New Wave was the intrusion of avant garde and modernist experimentation in both writing styles and subjects of science fiction, but also a tactical alliance with like-minded radicals in visual arts, design, film, media and television.
Form the perspective of the future looking back to the art practices of the 1960s, it’s interesting to note that today the entirety of Zoline’s practice – from painting and illustration to writing and curating – looks like the CV of any number of contemporary artists. But in the late 1960s the silos of creativity were still very much in place and the mainstream of SF was embodied by long running US magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction whose editor John W. Campbell was writing infamous editorials that, for example, called upon the US government to use its troops to fire upon anti-Vietnam war demonstrators. In the heightened political fever of the late 60s, in the era of Paris, Prague and Mexico City, in the era of student unrest and the expanding American wars of South East Asia, science fiction was suddenly torn into two factions – the old guard vs. the new radicals.
The New Wave was a genuinely multi-media avant garde, ironic and self aware, pretentiously sincere and, for about ten years from 1967, a challenge to the orthodoxy of mainstream SF. Like all radical movements it eventually descended into a mannerist phase before fading away completely in the noise of the post Star Wars era that began in 1977. But its effect could still be felt in he subsequent ructions that define the history of recent SF literature – cyberpunk was its spiritual heir in the 1980s and ‘90s and the more recent attempts to kick start a radical agenda in SF such as Mundane SF and or in the New Space Opera, each reflect New Wave’s world view.
Zoline’s story is considered an important work in that tradition of radicality in SF because its form and content anticipated the meta-fictions of post modernism – its narrative the feminist redefinition of SF’s potential subject matter – and if we think of Heat Death as a work of art, it’s a valorization of the value of the everyday while questioning the hetero-orthodoxy of consensus reality.
Science fiction is, in my view, a metagenre – a collection of ideas, themes, tropes and concepts that are easily recognised but devilishly hard to categorise. There’s no single idea or narrative structure that defines it, no setting or relationship that it can’t conceivably contain. SF, like most popular genres, is essentially democratic in the sense that its populism is accessible, and it evolves in response to its audience.
And this is science fiction’s paradox – while it contains within it a vast field of practice and a huge potential for a true multiplicity – it has all like all mass genres a tendency towards a conservatism that is absolute and rigid. My view is that real SF is created from the outside – from the edges – in the zone of the science fictional, that space that produces odd artefacts that might not first appear to be SF but, like Zoline’s story, suggest another future – a space for otherness to flower, to take centre stage and redefine that rule of orthodoxy into a more agreeable and egalitarian present.
© 2014 Andrew Frost
Tony Albert is a contemporary artist based in Sydney. In 2013 Albert held a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Internationally, he has exhibited his work at the Singapore Art Museum; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; the City Gallery Wellington; and the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art.
Tony Albert is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney
Pat Brassington is one of Australia’s leading artists, celebrated for a unique aesthetic that is at once charming and menacing. In 2013, Brassington won the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize with the image Shadow Boxer, from her series Quill (2013). She has been featured extensively in national and international exhibitions, including the 2012 Adelaide Biennial Parallel Collisions; Á Rebours, a major survey exhibition at the ACCA (2012), which toured to the ACP, Sydney (2013); a solo exhibition in Lönnstrom Art Museum, Finland, and the Helsinki Festival (2008); the Cambridge Road series at the IMA (2007); the 2004 Biennale of Sydney; and a major retrospective at the Ian Potter Gallery, Melbourne (2002). Her work is held in numerous private and public collections, including the NGA, AGNSW, QAG, TMAG, NGV, AGWA and Artbank.
Blurring the boundaries of reality and fantasy, desire and repulsion, Pat Brassington’s images explore a surreal, dreamlike logic that challenges our senses and undermines the authority of photography. Her aim, she explains, is to ‘pitch my images just off the verge of normality, into those dense patches where the commonplace goes awry.’
Pat Brassington is represented by Stills Gallery, Sydney.
Lynda Draper is a visual artist who is primarily an object maker and works in the ceramic medium. She has received numerous national and international awards and grants. Her works are in significant collections including the National Gallery of Australia; Smithsonian Institute Washington; Artbank Australia, SAM Shepparton Art Museum; Myer Foundation; International Museum of Ceramics, Faenza, Italy and the FLICAM Museum, China. In 2010 she completed a MFA by research at College of Fine Arts, UNSW with the assistance of a Planex scholarship.
Lynda’s practice explores otherworldly scenarios often representing a journey within the dualism of life and death, reality and fantasy, past and present.
Lynda Draper is represented by Gallerysmith, Melbourne
Brenda Factor is an artist and object maker. She left the world of museums to take up study at the Enmore College of Design and went on to complete an MFA at COFA, UNSW in 2009. Brenda is the Director of SquarePeg Studios and a Co-Director of AirSpace Projects.
Science Fiction Saved My Life.
A luminary photographer from National Art School, SCA & COFA, Hardy became a commercial photographer for 20 years, playing with random acts of critical mess, unsettling curatorial moments with future publications and without a pension. Her photos are found online in the City of Sydney ArchivePix in her collection of queer documentary photographs (end of 20th Century). She lives with her partner of 23 years and their dog, Milou.
I feel lost in space, dancing with danger
Cha Cha Cha
Overwhelmed by empty banter
Cha Cha Cha
Swamped by debris
Science brings great leaps forward
Cha Cha Cha
We invest in war machines
Cha Cha Cha
As our neighbours sink in the ocean…
http://www.photosau.com.au/cos/scripts/home.asp ‘C.Moore Hardy Collection’
Helen Hyatt-Johnston attended the National Art School and Sydney College of the Arts. She also collaborates with Jane Polkinghorne as The Twilight Girls.
Boldly going nowhere.
Shalini Jardin is a Sydney based artist working in the field of drawing/painting and installation.
This work forms a series that explores environments and beings from parallel realities, multidimensional planes and densities.
Shalini Jardin is represented by Flinders Street Gallery, Sydney.
Deborah Kelly is a Sydney-based artist whose works have been shown in streets, skies, cinemas and galleries. Her work across media is concerned with lineages of representation, politics and history in public exchange.
I have been a science fiction fanatic since I was 12 or 13, but it has only recently dawned on me how much my works owe to the fantastic utopian, the apocalyptic, and the figure of the alien. Empress is one of my favourite works ever: I made a lenticular version, too, which is like a half-second long movie in which the gorilla strokes the woman’s hand. Just very gently.
Deborah Kelly is represented by Gallery Barry Keldoulis
Allison M. Low
Allison M. Low’s practice involves the analysis of psychological complexities and the articulation of intangible states of being.
Oddlings is an articulation of the intangible aspects of childhood. Dealing with emotional trauma, unconscious desire and loneliness, personal childhood memories and experiences are analysed and expressed in a corrupt idea of play and otherworldliness.
Sarah Newall is a Sydney based artist and lectures in the School of Media at SCA and CoFA. She is trained in traditional hand-drawn animation and crossed over into painting / installation when the conveyer belt production line of commercially driven animation got too much. Having completed a PhD in 2010 she is now co-directing Marrickville Garage and the Bammy Residency.
Newall’s practice is informed by ordinary everyday life, how this experience shapes our understanding and how it is organised into an aesthetic experience.
Sarah Park is an Sydney based artist born in 1984. She is currently undertaking her Master of Fine Arts by Research at COFA, UNSW. Sarah was the winner of the 2011 UNSW Jenny Birt Award for Painting and Drawing, and a finalist for several prizes including the Adelaide Perry Prize, Broken Hill Outback Art Prize, Fishers Ghost Art Award, the Lethbridge Small Scale Art Prize and the Waverley Art Prize.
My recent drawing series focuses on challenging the negative associations with scars by observing the unique formations that are manifested and dismissing socially constructed stigmas. The drawings are derived from sculptural constructions that have collaborated materials with chance. The materials became a participatory creative agent in the construction of my artwork to further emphasise the unpredictable formations of scars and keloids and thus reinterpret the negative perceptions and stigma.
Somboun Phonesouk completed a bachelor of visual arts in Painting at Sydney College of the Arts in (1995-1999) before embarking on the Advance Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design at the Design Centre, Enmore (2011-2013). In the last five years my passion is focused on contemporary jewellery and object design.
My work explores facets of the human condition through the use of organic forms and tactile materials. Say, See, Hear is a recent addition the Surface Emotionsseries. It assembles three characters from popular science-fiction movies to ask two fundamental questions: How do we communicate with each other? And, how can we be certain that the message we send out is the same as the message being received? Since people’s point of reference may be different, the greatest challenge can often be effective communication.
Clockwise from top left:
Made In China (Talk-A-Thon), black
Made in Japan (television), black
New Astronaut, Made in Japan, black
New Bright, Made in Hong Kong, black
Jane Polkinghorne’s art practice crosses and integrates various media including photography, sculpture/installation, performance and video. Her practice looks to integrate feminist, bodily, humorous, interpretations of our bodies and the world we exist in. A fixation on the ridiculousness, horror and pathos of the experience of the female body (first-hand and mediated) has been a touchstone across many works, with a pervasive humour and a use of disgust consistently evident. Jane is currently a candidate for a PhD at Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney University, and co-director of artist-run space Marrickville Garage.
Intimate portraits of four black robots from my (small) collection of battery operated toy robots I found in op shops, flea markets and garage sales over the past twenty years.
In various states of operation and (dis)repair, these imagined science fiction toy-machines-of-war are too fragile to play with, their archaic futurism sending me into a state of future nostalgia.
Margarita Sampson completed her BA (Visual Arts) then MArt at COFA, UNSW in 1993. She was a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 2013; was awarded first prize in Sculpture and Objects, Waterhouse Prize in 2013, and won the Andrea Stretton Prize, Sculpture by the Sea, in 2011.
My work looks at growth: excessive, colonising, unsavoury, exciting, voluptuous, alien, cancerous, suggestive, extraneous. Growth where it shouldn’t be. Where’s the line between too much and enough, ‘me’ & ‘it’?
Abdullah M I Syed
The Currency of Star-Trek-War, 2014. Folded US$1 bills, various dimensions. Photo credit:Abdullah M I Syed.
Top Left: Klingon Bird of Prey, Federation Voyager’s Delta Flyer
Bottom Left: Unknown Federation Galaxy Class Ship, Star Trek Enterprise E, Federation Intrepid Class, Star Wars Tie Fighter
My first encounter with Imperialism was as a ‘Trekker’. I grew up in Pakistan, and I watched Star Trek religiously … and still do. The ship designs, the Holodeck, phasers, and the ‘beam me up’ transporters were all logical and possible. Although I was not familiar with Lost in Space, I had a tin model of The Robot and a colouring book. Star Wars, however, was not something I knew of until I arrived in the United States when I was in my teens. Suddenly, my Trekker self as Spok, Captain Picard, Data, Q and Seven of Nine was being attacked by Darth Vaders, R2D2’s, Yodas and Hans Solos.
The Vulcan phrase Live long and prosper was usurped by May the force be with you. I was ‘forced’ to watch all the Star Wars episodes. Despite my liking for the space craft designs, specifically the Tie Fighter and the Death Star, I did not connect with the plot, characters and lightsabers. I went so far as to declare Star Wars as nothing but a glorified version of the American political and capitalist system. The ‘prosperity’ of American culture lies somewhere between the force and freedom.
Until this day, the verbal battle between Star Trek and Star Wars continues. Sadly though, I hardly encounter any ‘Trekkers’ or ‘Jedi’ these days in Australia. The work in this exhibition is nostalgic and playfully folds emergent issues stemming from imperialism and militarisation – the highest art of capitalism.
Mad or What, 2014, Texta on paper. Photo credit: TextaQueen. (This work, made specifically for Danger Will Robinson! is currently in transit from the USA and in all probability will not make it time. Perhaps it will appear later in the year at TextaQueen’s next exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf)
‘Texta’ is Australian for felt-tip marker and TextaQueen is Australia’s felt-tip super-hero.
TextaQueen’s portraits use the humble and unforgiving felt-tip pen aka ‘texta’ on paper to explore complex politics of sexuality, gender and identity in tangent with ideas of self-image and inter-personal relationships. Born out of a collaborative exchange of ideas between artist and subject, TextaQueen’s work articulates delicate interplays between vulnerability and empowerment, intimacy and exhibitionism, and subjective and collective expressions of feminist, queer, racial and cultural identities. Texta has exhibited widely and wildly at white walled galleries with acronyms such as MCA, PICA, AGNSW, GSCAS, ACMI and GOMA, and internationally in Amsterdam, Belgium and across North America.
TextaQueen is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney.
Yiorgos Zafiriou’s performance works explore the fluidity of identity, and the relationship his body has to material objects. He is currently researching how to perform without performing through exploring the subtle characteristics of existence.
The work explores ideas of alienation through the harmonising of one’s experience of their interiority with the outside element of metal.
Louise Zhang is a Sydney-based artist who recently completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours (First Class) at COFA, UNSW and where she is currently completing a Masters of Fine Arts by Research. Zhang recently concluded her solo exhibition Plomp at Artereal Gallery.
Louise Zhang’s work starts with the most basic unit of construction: the amorphous, inchoate ‘blob’. Through working with artificial materials, Zhang takes the blob – defined by its infinite mutability, and pure, constructive potential – to produce abstractions of the everyday. In adopting a hyper-saturated palette of the cute and pretty, its purely jovial potential is often counterpointed by a perceivably monstrous physical formation. It is the intersection between these seemingly polar realms that can be located in the everyday that drives Zhang’s practice.