Cover image of the review

Open Spatial Workshop: Converging in Time

25 Mar 2017
11 Feb - 8 Apr 2017

Somewhere between geology, geography, colonisation and resource extraction is where Open Spatial Workshop (OSW) attempt to situate their highly conceptual, sculpture-based exhibition entitled Converging In Time. A huge, fossilised Kauri tree log found within a coal seam in the La Trobe Valley lies on a large, rectangular papercrete platform that has been constructed adjacent to the slightly curving gallery wall of the North Gallery of Monash University Museum of Art. The knee-high edifice means visitors cannot pass by it, they must enter and exit the space through the same door. Any possibility of aesthetic satisfaction has been foreclosed by the troubling nature of the objects meticulously arranged in this space.

For their first major museum exhibition, the enormity of the frameworks harnessed by OSW initially threatens to engulf any coherent sense of the work. Only slowly does the topic of mineralogy and sand as a metaphor of time begin to appear as the structuring principle of the carefully selected and embellished objects exhibited as sculpture. The addition of the intellect to objects, as Roland Barthes remarked of this kind of structuralist activity, means certain functions can be made to appear. As he once wrote, 'Structural man takes the real, decomposes it, then recomposes it'. But what seems to correspond to the continuing enthusiasm of research institutions for embracing functional interdisciplinarity is that if art is best put to work, it must demonstrate something about science. In the context of contemporary art, this idea is apposite to the relational, performance-oriented, and objective presentness of the works in the show, ambiguously harnessed here to construct a sense of meaningful display. Namely, OSW's practice focuses on a network of object-sculptures. It suggests both the objects and their accompanying documentation are intended to didactically acculturate the viewer by proposing a temporal model that approaches the notion of 'deep time', a concept borrowed from science, lending a mathematically sublime edge to the presentation.

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