|9 November - 27 November 2004
Conversations with Absent Others
||Conversations with absent others is an innovative continuation of Kershaw’s Geodetic Monuments series, shown at the Contemporary Project space, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002, and at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne 2003. This new photographic series delves further into the idea of the landscape as a site for correspondence between the living and the dead. |
Geodetic stations were created in Australia from the1960s through to the 1980’s to serve as control points for map making, essentially punctuating the landscape for industrial or agricultural use. In this series, Kershaw has elaborately constructed shrine-like assemblages around the concrete obelisks, playing with the concept of emotional association that the naming of these structures implies.
The inspiration for this recent body of work began with an unlikely muse; a New South Wales field-hand, Ronald Dodd. Dodd was a locally esteemed character, and, as a gesture of recognition, the district council of his home-town, Lismore, named a geodetic point after him. This practice is not uncommon – these unmomentous concrete markers are often named after dead surveyors, imbuing them with personal and social relevance. As such, these geodetic points gain emotive significance as unofficial memorials. Kershaw became fascinated with the concept of prosaic landmarks transcending their utilitarian function. He has initiated a body of work which seeks to display the economic terrain as a ‘psycho-geographical landscape’ capable of instigating an ephemeral dialogue between the viewer and ‘absent others’.
These photographs are majestic in their composition. Kershaw has deliberately selected geodetic points from pastoral locations for their mythological ambience. Rolling hills and manicured farmland seemed to possess more of a human presence. Employing the dramatic morning and evening skies as the backdrop to his uncanny compositions, Kershaw festoons these unassuming concrete monoliths and platforms with offerings and signals. One structure stands ominously with red wax dripping down its sides, suggestive of an alter or sacrificial table. In another, a pyramid of glasses containing milk akin to a Balinese temple seems to be summoning the goodwill of the spirits on top of a hill. These images are not lacking in humour, as a sea of faces cut from watermelons smile ridiculously as effigies of the living. Conversations with absent others presents alternative readings to an essentially static Euro-centric vision. These constructions attempt to instil the landscape with an atmosphere of empathy and memory, transforming their geodetic purpose into congregations reaching for the heavens.