IMG. 1. splitting open the surface on which it is inscribed (Shelley), La Trobe Gallery, 2020. IMG. 2-7 & VID. 1. splitting open the surface on which it is inscribed (Shelley), Gertrude Contemporary, 2018.
Helen Grogan’s background in dance informs her understanding of space as process of exchange. Rather than architectures of the body ... hers is a practice that considers architecture with the body. Grogan considers her materials as apparatus, instruments of direction and examination. Accordingly, SET AND DRIFT (3-4 constellations for Samstag Museum of Art) makes sculpture from museum equipment—shelving, storage and audiovisual apparatus— arranged to encourage and guide the viewer’s movement through the gallery. Timing is kept by monitors and photographic prints which fold the installation process back into the display, making public the conversations and procedures of transformation normally held behind the scenes. Scale and interest are used as stage marks—where a large monitor might play a carefully edited dance of construction, another smaller less-obviously placed screen will undermine it by repeating the footage at a second designated viewing point. Similarly, the mundanity of photographs and sketches hold the viewer’s curiosity just long enough that they lose interest and notice a new sightline. The point of the work is not the content but the context.
Designed by John Wardle in 2007, the Samstag Museum galleries were purpose-built for the display of contemporary art. The placement and organisation of items such as power boxes, rigging points and concealed storage tell of a building built for purpose. But galleries are never used the same way twice; exhibition space, like all space, is not neutral, however much it aspires to be. In foregrounding the secondary architectures of display, Grogan records another dialect of design, one that adapts over time in response to use. The bright yellow steel fixtures that the artist has overlaid these items with represent the negotiation between objects and artist. It is not intended as conceptual conceit; in this work architectures and systems are exposed, not hidden. Scuffs and marks of use are shown. The steel supports are a part of a gestural language that can be read across her practice—a method of mediation the she frequently employs—but are also an answer to the practical questions of construction. How to accommodate bodies, to consider safe movement and longevity, to predict use?
IMG. 1-2, 4-6. Photo credit: Sam Noonan. IMG. 3. Helen Grogan
SET AND DRIFT (unfolding as 2-4 constellations for/of Samstag Museum of Art), 2020 was developed onsite for ‘Adelaide//International 2020’, Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide. Em Green and Mark Friedlander perform, as themselves, in video presented in this installation. The artist wishes to thank Gill Brown, Erica Green, curtorial team & technical team for their contribtions during 2-months site visits. The artist wishes to thank museum architect and fellow ADELAIDE // INTERNATIONAL exhibior John Wardle for access to site and its materials, as well as the installation proceedure of his own work in an adjacent gallery. ADELAIDE // INTERNATIONAL, Samstag Museum of Art, 28 February — 12 June 2020 featured artists: Matthew Bird / David Claerbout / Zoë Croggon / Brad Darkson / Helen Grogan / John Wardle Architects & Natasha Johns-Messenger / Georgia Saxelby