Marie Biggins

Turning the circle within
Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, The Walter Reid Centre Rockhampton

An exhibition conceived for a regional gallery space but staged prior to that as an installation in a capital city raises the question, at least geographically, of where the boundary might lie for region and centre. The answer seems relative to the artist. The first venue for Marie Biggins' exhibition was the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane which gave space, for the first time in its history, to a regional artist. The second venue in Rockhampton provided a chance for the reciprocal-a show from the centre to occur in its full impact in the region. Perhaps the labelling of regional here has to be addressed in terms of alignment to certain issues.

The dome, the central structure of Biggins' installation, has provided an alternative architectural space since Buckminster Fuller's application of it in the '60s and '70s. It is this alternative that artists who could be considered outside a centre in terms of mainstream practice, can offer as an important contribution to that which feeds our perception and to an eventual acceptance of the state of things.

Turning the Circle Within addresses areas of visual and tactile perception. The piece plays on many different levels. Accepted codes are not eliminated: our familiarity with the symbols of procreation, male and female deities and the accepted and evolving religions of East and West provide us with clues for reading the elements in this work. The dome, the gallery space and the space between (the third space of dead trees inside the gallery but outside the dome) continually place the spectator in the situation of the observer. On entering the dome there is a slight feeling of intrusion as one regards the subtle interaction of the suspended forms as they relate to each other through a random swivelling. These swivelling pods or nests, the one fixed, upright (masculine) piece and their interactions cannot remain random under the gaze of the spectator, for every turn is open to a new reading. At times a silk-lined nest is aligned with another of similar texture and tone. At other turns there is an obvious link between the luscious red lined form and other larger but less dramatic pieces.

The installation suggests an awareness on the part of the artist of the overwhelming part theory has to play in the acceptability of practice. There is also a confidence which diminishes the role of verbal interpretation in favour of the rapport achievable in the confrontation of the spectator with the artwork. Among the parameters of a gallery space is the demanding of a meaningful response from the viewer. In Marie Biggins' work some of this demand comes from a desire to challenge the conformity or ritual of our society. The materials are chosen to take the viewer through a variety of predictable responses, perpetuating a dependence on familiar objects or relationships. The materials, for instance, chosen from the local habitat-paperbark, coconut fibre, satin, lace-are ambiguous to a certain extent on a broad reading but on a personal level extract particular responses from each individual. The responses were particularly to the cherished wedding dress lace which was manipulated to display the sexuality denied the symbolic white bride, the ripeness of ovulation and the accommodation of the male and the magic of procreation through different species, including human {part of the message is the acknowledgement of all species right to co-exist). These challenges become a passage to the recognition of the riches we might throw away. The fulfillment of nature's promise inside the sheltering dome is contrasted outside it with the treatment of a barren earth reduced literally to white salt on the bare black boards of the Waiter Reid gallery. Standing sparsely in salt are the white bamboo poles covered with typed bureaucratic jargon on A4 paper. More effectively like severed native trees they continue a play in front of the dome through their upright static and dead appearance which contrasts with the moving, transparent and membranous dome cover. Even the aluminium tubing dome support is soft to the eye, giving the structure strength; like an insect wing beneath vulnerable spans of fine synthetic material. The parachute material 's defiance of gravity is not lost as a concept in this context.

The opening night performance elaborated the concerns expressed in the work. The two performers had insight into and empathy with these concerns and were able to extend the concepts effectively to an audience. The bureaucratic memos pasted on dead trees were foregrounded by being read by a performer, who seemed to speed up the process of acknowledging coded messages. The childhood games, part of a concern for a lost wilderness, was another link the performers were able to convey to an audience which might have all but forgotten the meaning of a dying past.

The ideas of this work are complex and the message urgent. To have seen the exhibition in these venues is to recall clearly an identity. The idea of the organic, the transient conflates with that of the manufactured and the concern for that which is non-biodegradable. These interactions within the parameters of the gallery space extend the meaning of the work from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. A close reading leaves us with the feeling that time is running out.