Angelica Mesiti’s calling at the NGA

 Angelica Mesiti,  The calling , 2013–14, still; 3-channel HD video installation; colour, sound, 35:36 mins duration; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2017; image courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Angelica Mesiti, The calling, 2013–14, still; 3-channel HD video installation; colour, sound, 35:36 mins duration; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2017; image courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Angelica Mesiti’s work displays a fascination with the way in which we perceive the world around us. Across five video works currently on display at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra, the Australian artist uses cinematic means to probe human interaction in its many forms. Mesiti’s videos call attention to people in time and space, and how languages in all their forms can traverse distance and connect people. The exhibition forms part of the NGA’s renewed engagement with the moving image as an important form of contemporary artistic expression, and runs until April 2018.

In The calling (2013–14), which has been acquired by the NGA, we watch as Mesiti follows three different communities around the world where whistling is a primary mode of communication. While the premise is documentary in nature, the format, which includes a lack of distinctive narrative and a focus on visual details, crosses from documentary into art. The work is three-channel and this allows for both a back and forth between the three screens, as well as a richer audience experience. Viewers linger in the space, and the bodies of those who look on are fully encompassed by the scale of the screens.

In Rapture (silent anthem) (2009), the camera pans slowly across the enraptured faces of teenagers at a concert. The work brings to mind devotional imagery; except for here the chosen god is the rock band playing onstage. Mesiti slows the image down, and chooses not to accompany it with sound. In doing so she affords space for the viewers’ own contemplation.    

Mesiti’s choice of video as a medium allows for the recognition of both silent and sound-based forms of communication. The works are highly refined, crisp in their imagery and quality of sound. They are rich, and reveal more of themselves through time and rewatching.

Esther Carlin, Canberra