13 August — 28 August 2011

Pursuing the Turquiose Universal was a gallery presentation that marked the close of The Institute of Beyond's Department of Psychedelic Studies, a six week residency during which artists Mark Essen, Hilary Koob-Sassen and Kate Owens researched and produced new bodies of work that explore the psychedelic in new and nuanced ways.

Click on the image to see installation shots of the exhibition.

Pursuing The Turquoise Universal

Taking George Berkeley’s theory of subjective idealism, (the ‘theory that the physical world exists only in the experiences minds have of it’ ) as a starting point Mark Essen developed a new film work with accompanying soundtrack heard through a concrete radio.

Filmed in the area around Wysing, Archangel George presents the traces of human disruption in a landscape that is now abandoned and deserted. Viewed with Berkeley’s question, ‘Is there anything visible but what we perceive by sight? ’ in mind, Essen’s landscapes might become alien or abstract. We could begin to question not only which marks have been left by human activity, or how Essen’s framing of the landscape affects our understanding of it, but perhaps even how much of it exists without our perception of it. 

Appearing as obsolete relics from this context, Essen’s concrete and ceramic sculptures accompany the film in which they feature. His solar powered radio, which appears heavy and inert, is in fact an active and receptive object with the ability to pick up information from a wide geographic area.

Hilary Koob-Sassen’s sculptural works, Frankie in Filletville, explore metaphoric models of human culture in time. Like the societal structures they describe, these nautical sculptures are bold yet fragile forms. The black marble he uses is carved down until it becomes a series fine, flowing slivers that are monumental but frail.

By offering physical representations of ideal structures, and possible economies and ecologies, Koob-Sassen condenses his complex concepts into tangible sculptural forms. Frankie (Frankenstein) is a figure of human endeavour, whose ground is Filletville, a model of biological scale. Frankie in Filletville models human culture within the larger biological narrative, punctuated by the origination of new scales of body.

Koob-Sassen presents these two pieces at a moment when one possible structure is being abandoned in favour of a new, potentially improved model. The figure Frankie is perhaps in transit between two vessels embodying different systems for living.

Kate Owens’ new series of prints and sculptures Alarms & Embarrassments have been made by exerting pressure on two materials which are fundamentally different but equally robust. The prints were produced by pressing heavily onto the surface of 17th century oak beams, while the sculptures are energy drinks reduced down to a solid state. The act of compressing causes the material to relinquish its conventional form, taking on a more concentrated yet elusive structure. *

Within the repetitive black and white stripes of a 17th century farmhouse interior, irregular markings and notches in the dark oak beams create interruptions and unexpected gaps. These glitches awaken a sense of materiality and human presence within the building.  Acting as reminders of past history and missing knowledge, these irregularities become triggers for the imagination; creating space and freedom within the restrictive and sometimes oppressive, context of a listed building. Two particular beams have sections cut out at picture hanging height, as if to make enough room to hang a painting. Isolated from their original context, the prints taken from these two beams appear as brackets framing an ever expanding and contracting gap.

The potential force contained within each 500ml can of energy drink has been re-routed into an alternative output. By boiling off the liquid the drink is reduced to a dry black solid. The matter expands in the final moments of cooking taking on characteristics of the vessel in which it’s cooked. The resulting sculpture holds the essence of the original material, presented in its heightened state.

Damien Roach, who launched the exhibition with an exploratory DJ set, also presented a new limited edition book, Jim Gets Belligerent - published by his own imprint fromadarkenedsunroof.  The source for the publication is a Google Video clip from 2004 of a young man - Jim - smoking the psychoactive plant Salvia Divinorium and filming himself. Jim discusses what is occurring throughout, in an attempt to accurately relay his experiences real-time.

The text was produced by providing a transcription company with the clip's audio track, which was then notated in detail, including every sound and word.  The result is an often poignant series of reflections that offer a platform from which to consider some fundamental ideas around the nature of reality, language, expectation, transcendence, leisure, boredom and hope.