Beyond geography: ‘Vanishing Point’ at the ANU School of Art & Design

Vanishing Point , exhibition installation view, ANU School of Art & Design Gallery, Canberra, 16 May – 14 June 2019; photo: Ellen Dahl

Vanishing Point, exhibition installation view, ANU School of Art & Design Gallery, Canberra, 16 May – 14 June 2019; photo: Ellen Dahl

An island carries too much detail to comprehend and relies on the creation and implementation of borders. The group exhibition ‘Vanishing Point’ considered the island ‘as a concept where opposing ideas converge’. The participating artists (Consuelo Cavaniglia, Ellen Dahl, Yvette Hamilton, Taloi Havini and Salote Tawale) weren’t interested in just talking about specific places; the show was located in the non-literal vanishing point where specificity and boundaries collapsed. In this way the space became imperceptible; both micro and macro at once. These ideas played out in the exhibition (first presented at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and, from 16 May until 14 June, at the ANU School of Art & Design Gallery) through a variety of different approaches to the photographic.

Although ‘Vanishing Point’ rarely utilised traditional photography, the works within it all directly engaged with ideas of the photographic through light, and further its futile attempt to capture and inhabit things. Cavaniglia’s Filters (2018) was a prime example of this: comprising three criss-crossed acrylic sheets, transparent and coloured, hung from the roof. It first appeared as something closer to conceptual sculpture, but the photographic emerged through a process of limiting and allowing light in a fleeting endeavour to contain it.

Havini’s an imaginary line I (2018) is a blurry photograph of land, which was reproduced on a big block in the middle of the gallery, verging on monolithic if not for its softness. Photography often employs a subjective and forced viewpoint, but in an imaginary line I the audience was prevented from becoming a casual voyeur, and left struggling to perceive the land in front of them. Regardless of orientation, the island never came into focus, and this indistinct zone is where the show was conceptually situated.

‘Vanishing Point’ was about floating within, around, into, and outside a space, being in the liminal and surrounded by porous borders which maybe never existed in the first place. Much more time and focus could be devoted to these works; I found myself lost for a long period staring back at Tawale in the video component of the absorbing Constant interruption, always changing (2018). Searching for a face to guide me, I could find only Tawale coldly looking back, uncapturable and distant, but very much present.

Angus McGrath is currently Critic-in-Residence at ANCA, Canberra, in a special project partnership with Art Monthly Australasia.