Where to Now / Fishing - July 2014

Artist - Will Nolan (Where to Now) & Lara Torr (Fishing)

Author - Alysha Herrmann


Bodies pack exhibition circles/
clockwise smiles nod to walls pressed clean/
caught, set free and caught again// 

Bodies packed into white walls. With stiff knees. Meanings delivered or found. And in the abstract, drowned. Swept and caught. On hooks that question, seek, sink, swim. Bend in.

This is my first visit to Feltspace. I've been following this little ARI on facebook for a while and keep meaning to drop by and see the work. Of course it would transpire that my first visit is in some kind of official capacity. In this case as part of the Feltspace Writer's Program to respond to the July 2014 exhibitions. The Writer's Program aims to 'increase discourse and engagement' with Feltspace exhibitions, artists and writers by inviting writers to respond to the monthly exhibition.

I'm here. Bending in.

It's a chilly Adelaide night, I'm running late (Adelaide traffic has made this a pattern of mine recently gah). I power walk up the lane, towards the light spilling from the gallery's front window. It's fuller than I expect. I'm able to make a quick lap of the exhibition before Meg Wilson of Feltspace welcomes the milling crowd and invites the artists, Will and Lara, to share a little about the works.

Objects made still/
trapped in tomorrows never loved/
never breathed/
never seized/
where to now/

Will talks about his frustration with photography 'oversaturating' every digital space. Instagram. Flickr. Facebook. Everyone is a photographer now. What does that mean when you identify as a photographer? Having to discover your own work again. Running away from photography. Exploring installation and object. Realising everything you've made actually references photography.

So where to now?

Mostly black and white photography, Will's works pop from the white walls of the Feltspace front gallery. Surrounded by large stretches of empty wall space between works, the small exhibition feels stark and riveting. Each image standing alone and self contained yet open to a shared dialogue as a whole. The larger images have a sense of portrait. Of clean, composed lines and I think this is why the image I find most riveting is an image that's almost of nothing at all. The most significant detail its date stamp in the right hand corner. I don't know what it's telling me, but I return to this image over and over again during my visit.

It's an exhibition that asks rather than offers. What do you see? What do you conceal? What's left behind? Where does the detail lay? Where do your eyes come to rest? Where is the stillness? How do we make meaning from these spaces and objects in our lives? How do we escape? Where do we hide? Where to now?

on surface dreams/
covered streams/
hand stitched survival/
echoed on walls that weep/


In contrast to the space of Will's work, 'Fishing' by Lara Torr sits intimately in the second smaller gallery. Each individual work relies on its context within the whole to create meaning. Stripped of one another, they would feel lost or unfinished. Together they create coherence.

In introducing the work, Lara invites the audience to consider how fishing is a lot like making art. Driven by process and preparation. With no guarantee that you'll finish with what you started out seeking. Lara entered the work by spending time with her cousin learning how to fish. Through documenting that process and conversations with her cousin, Lara's work also asks rather than offers.

What lays beneath? What can your hands do? Where do you learn? When will you learn? What have you learned? What have you left behind? What will you discover? Do you have the patience? What are you fishing for?

'Fishing' is made up of collage work, projection with attached soundscape, drawings and textile (handmade ropes) all referencing and documenting the process Lara took to learn to fish. I find the projection of touristy water images strangely compelling. I watch other opening night guests watch the images changing and freezing. I watch them watching. Searching for meaning. For understanding. For hidden truth. Trying to understand the layers beneath Lara's offering. I watch them exit and enter beneath the black curtain separating the two exhibitions and I wonder - why these works, Will's and Lara's, and why now?

I am fascinated listening to both artists talk about their work. Listening to them attempt to unpack complicated thought processes and articulate the process of making to explore those thought processes. My ears and heart leap towards the crossovers and juxtapositions between the two works and the artists who've made them. My fingers itch with the questions they've asked in discovering these works. As artists their creative output is a lens for me to discover my own answers. I'm ready and reminded.

Reminded of the role art can and does play in starting conversations. The role it plays in asking us to catch ourselves, our thought patterns and habits. The role it plays in asking us to dive deeper, beneath the assumptions and bias. The role it has in making us better people, individually and collectively. I can't tell you what Will and Lara are trying to say with their work, only they can. But I can tell you there's a conversation to be had. With yourself. With someone else. With yourself again. Both works are conversations worth having.

Sound waves to drown you. Thought dreams to sound you. Sweet hands to catch you. Now this. This dreaming thing. Sweet, on lips left dry. The noise of opening night is defeaning. Too many bodies packed into a space that echoes. My head is pounding. Full of other people's voices and two artist's ideas. I know I'll have to come back again. To visit. To reflect. To ask questions. To seek answers. To see these works again. And other works by other artists. Thanks for having me Feltspace.

Worked ready and held/
in rooms, caught by coloured bodies/
in warm cloaks and broad strokes/
questions born hungry//


Alysha is a writer, theatre maker and cultural producer investigating vulnerability and connection. She blogs about living a creative life at http://alyshaherrmann.wordpress.com and tweets mini poems as at @lylyee