Diane McCarthy

Pipe dreams in a prone position
First Draft West, Sydney

Despite the attempts of most galleries to present a clean, modernist, minimalist space to 'set-off' the art they exhibit, there is no real possibility of a pristine art experience. This was most evident in Diane McCarthy's installation-in the little back room upstairs at First Draft West-which offered a self-consciously inhabited 'space inside'.

One experienced a sense of claustrophobia in this room: the objects on the walls seemed to bear down on the viewer and the difficult texture of the foam-covered floor closed in from be low. Additionally, as one was compelled to rotate in this small space in order to view the work, the environment was impossible to grasp in anything but a fragmented vision. But it is the language of fragments with which McCarthy's work deals, the things that inhabit the periphery of our directed vision in our waking hours, or the mise-en-scene of our dreams.

Initially, the acid-yellow foam on the floor had supplied a high-key optical illusion which resonated with the corrugated form of some of the objects. This brought to mind radiated heat, a mirage, like that which shimmers off a 'hot tin roof'. Now, when I visited the show, it bore the marks of passage of the many viewers who had been there before me, providing an interesting accidental addition to the installation-the presence of others had re-contextualised the work in a temporal form which bore out the potency of traces.

The five beautifully crafted tin objects arranged to surround the viewer, appeared to obey uncertain perspectival laws or to have been constructed within a dreamer's mobile logic. The title of the show, Pipe Dreams in a Prone Position, might relate to the objects in a number of ways. Were they prone facing down toward the viewer, or toward the wall? One got the impression that the centre of gravity in this room was also fragmented.

Some of the objects seemed to be very fragile and to be supported or held together with metal pins, like those used to mend human limbs. One resembled partially melted shears, wrenched apart. Several others conjoined what appeared to be fragments of a simple shelter-corrugated roofing, conduits and piping made for the transition of water or the collection of rain. Following the flow of invisible 'fluid' in the conduits and pipes one was able to see it spill, flood and divert, encountering a disruption of self-imposed linearity.

There was also a suggestion of weaponry in this installation-targets and spears-but these were benign, again asymmetrical and non-linear. All this dysfunctionality produced currents of diversion and instability. One was made aware of things usually taken for granted-like the floor one is standing upon, self, proportion, structure. These assemblages bear the marks of repeated and cyclical attention. Each surface is treated with an obsessive focus , painted and then scratched back to form intricacies and scars which divide the attention between this distressed plane and the overall form.

The sense of traces returns where fragments repeat themselves, aligning to new forms. They are autonomous but related, wavering on the borders of each other. The repetition of a dreaming presence is represented in the fragile wire outline of a bed which is appendaged to several more solid objects-not as a place of rest but as the active core of imagination. The physical body at rest is inextricably tied to the roaming, dreaming body. There is also a strong reference here to McCarthy's slight but highly charged wire 'beds' which appeared in the satiric group show, The Memory of Forgetting, held at the Performance Space in 1991 .

These indecisive fragments might well be the representations of dreamt things expelled from the interiority of a sleeping or delirious subject-the immaterial co-forming with the material.