New 14

The works oscillate between the real and the unreal, creating a cultural commentary which is both relatable and subversive.
New 14

Kenny Pittock, Woman on a train (2012)

It's always jarring walking from the buzzing, coffee-scented foyer of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art into the awaiting exhibition. When that exhibition begins with the pitch-black darkness of Andrew Hazewinkel's installation and continues through to Danae Valenza's twinkling constellation of coloured light bulbs lit up by notes played on a baby grand, this transition is even more evident. As I peruse the artworks chosen by guest curator, Kyla McFarlane, I'm reminded of the Uncanny Valley theory, based on Freud’s theory of the uncanny, which suggests that, the more lifelike a representation, the more eerie and unsettling it is. The works oscillate between the real and the unreal, creating a cultural commentary which is at the same time relatable and subversive.

A long hallway of Kenny Pittock’s train drawings, which use a quaint observational humour to present the daily occurrences of a normal, everyday Melbourne commute, continues through to the back of the gallery. The drawings are quirky, funny and non-judgmental while illuminating universal connections between all of us. Pittock’s life-size sculptures of a scattered desk and a seat on a train are in equal measures familiar and self-aware. They sit alongside reality in their wonky, rough finish. 

Daniel McKewen’s projection of Jerry Seinfeld’s lounge room is both eerie and mesmerising and a definite stand out of the exhibition. It is such a familiar image, endlessly repeated on prime time television, that we feel at home in this setting. All audio has been cut, except for the laugh track and an almost inaudible background hum of New York traffic. It is a cinematic experience in the darkened room, anticipating an action which never occurs, resulting in an anxiety not dissimilar to that of a horror film. Juxtaposed with the familiar television scene, this erasure is unsettling. It is a really interesting subversion of expectations rooted in cultural norms.

Danae Valenza’s live performance is a beautiful reflection of the ephemeral materialising into the visual, a rainbow constellation of sound and light. Taree Mackenzie’s real-time film of a rotating sculpture, when projected, creates an effect similar to a Len Lye animation. Charles Dennington's delicate sculptures are grounded by bamboo pillars which jut out of the walls interacting with the physical space of the gallery. Jalena Talecki and Andrew Hazewinkle act as bookends to the exhibition, encasing the works in their surreal reflections of historical and mythological narrative.

This year's annual collection of artists at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art's New 14, showcase works with a beautiful/wonky/unsettling portrayal of the world around us. All are transparently self-aware of the role of art as a reflection of thought, yet each installation is heavily grounded in the contemporary, resulting in a familiar yet subverted microcosm.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars

New 14
Curated by Kyla McFarlane 
Works by Kenny Pittock, Danae Valenza, Taree Mackenzie, Charles Dennington, Daniel McKewen, Andrew Hazewinkel, Jelena Telecki

ACCA, Sturt St, Southbank
15 March – 18 May

Laura Hanlon

Thursday 20 March, 2014

About the author

Laura Hanlon is a Melbourne-based artist who graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts. Working across a range of media including drawing, sculpture and film she has exhibited in Melbourne and Newcastle, as well as internationally in Portland, Oregon USA. She is currently volunteering as a Teacher's Aid and Gallery Assistant for Arts Project Australia.