maintenance of social solidarity
et al. is the name of an elusive collective of artists from New Zealand who keep their individual identities to themselves. Their work explores complex aspects of human behaviour, including philosophy, religion, technology and politics. The collective has had many members over the years and has collaborated with musicians, scientists and others.
This installation, maintenance of social solidarity on display at the Art Gallery of NSW presents rooms with elements that are suggestive of military briefing or political re-education – rows of chairs and projections of Google earth where you can track locations of military intelligence facilities around the world that are known to have been used by the CIA in their policy of extraordinary rendition. In secret locations prisoners were interrogated off the record and beyond the recourse of international law.
This is one in a series of projects where et al. looks at mind control in its various manifestations; social, medical, industrial and cultural. The ambiguous and uncomfortable ambience of the space none the less helps us identify personally with the raw data they display on locations and covert practices. We are given a faint glimpse of the terror that may trigger our empathy with the victims.
Anonymity feeds into the holistic quality of the art work as we experience it. Is the collective’s secrecy suggestive that they could be prosecuted as social or cultural terrorists?
Between a rock and a hard place
Nicholas Mangan is one of Australia’s most interesting younger sculptors. His practice considers particular histories of place or of things and how they circulate in the world. Mangan transforms into high art the kitsch souvenirs mass-produced for the tourist consumer whose mundanely ‘exotic’ desires have always said more about the west than the cultures they encountered.
For his new project Mangan focuses on Nauru and its colonial and economic history. The Republic of Nauru is the world’s smallest Island nation but for more than a decade was wealthy from phosphate mining after it gained independence in 1968 from the trusteeship of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Nauru’s recent history included a brief period in which it operated as a tax haven and money laundering centre in the 1990s. From 2001 to 2008 Nauru accepted aid from Australia in exchange for housing an offshore immigration detention and processing centre. More recently Nauru has been promoting its blasted and mined landscape as a tourist attraction; though a lack of tourist facilities make this an enterprise unlikely to be successful.
Mangan explores the destruction of Nauru’s ecology for the sake of short term economic benefits and the state of the rest of the world now reeling under economic duress. Nauru’s troubled recent economic and social history is the starting point for this richly imaginative installation using found objects, both man-made and natural, photographs and video as source material to explore the artist’s idea that “the middle of nowhere is the centre of everything”.