Ephemeral Coast | Julia Davis

http://www.juliadavis.com.au

Statement

The primary focus of my research investigates the perceptions of and relationships between places, spaces and human habitation. My questions revolve around how these perceptions underpin our sense of self as well as howlandscape is cultural space – a space formed by and informing culture.

Brief Bio

Julia Davis is a site-specific artist based out of Sydney, Australia. Over the past decade Davis’ work has been installed in salt lakes, deserts, coastal precincts, parklands, galleries and built environments. Her practice explores the perceptions and relationships between objects, places and spaces. More recently, Davis’ work has attended to the viewer’s experiential reading of space in terms of temporality and duration. She has exhibited in Australia, Germany, Italy and Spain, and is the recipient of numerous awards including the NAVA NSW artist grant (2011), the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award (2007), the Woollahra Sculpture Prize (2006) and the NGSW Director’s prize (2002). She currently teaches sculpture at TAFE and holds an MVA from Sydney College of Arts.

Consilience: as the world turns, 2013/14, Time-lapse HD video, stereo sound, 07:49 (loop).

Concept/performance: Julia Davis

Camera: Alex Cherney

Compositing: Matt Fezz

Sound: Paul Huntingford, Julia Davis Thanks to NASA for extracts of sound from Voyager 1 & 11’s  first recording of interstellar space and encounter with Saturn 1980.

My work explores the effect of time on understandings of the body in relation to landscape and how this underpins our sense of self and place. I often work in ‘active‘ landscapes such as deserts, volcanic areas, coastal precincts and salt lakes and am interested in the idea that landscape is cultural space – a space informed by and informing culture.

In geological time, the landscape moves, pulses and crashes in processes of coming into and out of existence. The often, violent imagery of turbulent volcanic ash clouds used in recent works translates here in this vast Southern Hemisphere sky which elicits contradictory feelings of foreboding and rapture. Tension between anticipated loss and subsequent renewal, as well as the duality of processes that create and destroy, corrode and protect are ongoing interests in Davis’s art practice. The ‘active’ places she refers to mirror the fragile human experience of movement, instability, rhythm, reflection and change. In my work, geological time and human perception merge into a single spatial experience and take us closer to a sense of the world as our place.

Through this work, I explore what Elizabeth Grosz calls in her book, The Nick of Time, the “brute world of materiality, a world regulated by the exigencies, the forces of space and time.” I question how our immersion in time and place affects both our sense of embodiment and our perception of ourselves. Her installations, videos and prints evoke desire, vulnerability and anxiety; a sense of being poised at the edge of a world that is fraught with man made and natural disaster.

You can also view Julia’s work produced during an IASKA’s residency in Western Australia, SPACED: art out of place, 2010

http://www.spaced.org.au/one/content/project/Mukinbudin%3A+Julia+Davis/16/

Ephemeral Coast is an international, 4-year curatorial research project led by Celina Jeffery (University of Ottawa, Canada).

Ephemeral Coast Curator’s Perspective: Celina Jeffery

One of the central intentions of Ephemeral Coast is to consider new ways of configuring culture and meaning into experiences of environmental change. As a university based curator, I’m interested in how alliances between the visual arts, academia and community can create such opportunities for us to consider this.

South West Wales, which boasts stunning beaches on the Swansea peninsula that sit side by side with a significant industrial past and a commercial present, is an obvious choice for me to locate one of the Ephemeral Coast exhibitions. It offers potential for so many facets of the project’s goals: the gallery hosting the exhibition is situated in a maritime quarter and has the capacity to connect through geographic proximity and community to the cultures of the coast. Moreover, South Wales, along with the West of Wales and most regions in the South of England, have experienced startling and aggressive weather patterns – mostly attributed to climate change, with record storm surges and flooding remapping the physical and I would argue, emotional contours of the coastline with serious ramifications of how we conceptualize living on the coast.

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I also grew up in one of the more industrial areas of South Wales and carry very vivid memories of the surprising and often sublime contrasts between this coastal region, the coal, steel and chemical works which dominated the coastal edge and the hills and valleys which envelop the habitats of the communities within. Major aspects of these industries and their associated cultures have now recessed, thwarted by lack of economic regeneration, while the long-term impact of such industries upon the environment have yet to be fully realized. The artists taking part in Ephemeral Coast, S. W. Wales were chosen for a number of reasons, but all have been concerned with the aesthetic problems and conditions that arise from coastal environmental changes occurring within their specific region.

The artists taking part in this exhibition currently employ ideas, themes and methods of exploration and mapping coastal culture and their related ecologies; and all are concerned with practices of site-specificity. Each of the artists produced new work based on the curatorial premise of the exhibition: Stefhan Caddick, (Abergavenny, Wales) will respond to the recent floods in the region with a diorama inspired by J.G. Ballard’s Drowned World, which alludes to nihilism, biblical floods as well as contemporary migrations; Fern Thomas’s (Swansea, Wales) From the Watchtower Radio Station will utilize sound recordings of her own performative practices of observing the sea as well as those of her community for ‘the […] space’ in Mission Gallery; while Julia Davis’ (NSW, Australia) video installation presents a comparative geography in which the artist positions herself ‘at the edge’ of an encounter – with nature’s wonder and imminent ecocide. Meanwhile, Gemma Copp, a Swansea based artist has produced a video for ‘the […] space’ in which she contemplates the breath of the sea and its figurative death.

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Leaving Tide, Gemma Copp, 2014

There are always and inevitably gaps in the conceptualization of such projects and their specific realization. The cultural imaginings of coastal environmental changes in local and comparatively global contexts is magnanimous; the task of identifying the ethical and aesthetic potential of curating climate change is a difficult one; and the concept of using the exhibition as a forum for exchange between multiple but related disciplines in academia while also trying to create legitimate engagement with the public sphere is challenging.  Yet, if viewed as an event that creates a series of propositions, Ephemeral Coast offers an interesting nexus of dialogue between art, ecology, and community.

Some of these questions fold back on identifying the aesthetic problem itself: the curatorial process offers for me, a unique opportunity to discover, analyze, re-imagine and re-frame the cultural and ethical discourses surrounding environmental change. It is therefore, the very ‘uniqueness’ of Caddick’s drowned world, of Davis’s numinous encounter with the coastal perimeter, of Thomas’s daily observations of the sea and Copp’s fusing of her breath with that of the tide, that present very particular and distinct takes on our relationship to the coast. Indeed, the ‘topic’ of climate change – a nebulous and indistinct phenomenon associated more with changing weather patterns than multifarious economic, political and cultural impacts on the environment, is not overtly or didactically apparent. It is not an exhibition ‘about’ climate change, so much as a series of individual, poetic and socially investigative aesthetic considerations which trace the coast as a liminal, transgressive and ‘ephemeral’ counter-narrative.

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Ephemeral Coast is a long-term research project with exhibitions currently planned for Mauritius (2015) and Alaska (2016) with further sites being investigated. A catalogue of Ephemeral Coast – S. W. Wales, will be available, with contributions by Ian Buchanan, Director of the Institute of Social Transformation, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia; Mary H. Gagen, Associate Professor of Geography and Climate Change, University of Swansea, Wales; and Celina Jeffery.