Brad Buckley

Those unspoken tragedies (and that slashed eye)
Artspace, Sydney

Brad Buckley's recent exhibition at Artspace is another paragraph in his ongoing interrogation of certain cultural 'rules'. Primary amongst these is speculation on the feasibility of such concepts as 'truth', a questioning of notions of morality and an acknowledgment of transgressive politics as a necessary strategy for change. The eroticisation of the interior space, particularly as it is figured in a Bataillean discourse, becomes, in Buckley's practice, associated with a ideal of an aesthetic "anti-architecture" where the site is voided of meaning, but reimbued with speculation. Yet Buckley's work shouldn't be seen only as a visual interpretation of theories of transgression, for it holds a beauty and mystery which functions in sympathy with these theoretical parameters. Always addressing itself to some 'Other', it apparently struggles towards an fulfilment of some impossible desire, and is always, very consciously, thwarted in this.

There are traceable patterns in Buckley's art works strategies of formal composition which are always evident, even omnipotent, which secure the work within a fine art context- for his installations are always aesthetically correct in a controlled, well-honed way, and this piece is, to this viewer, reminiscent of the formalism of interior design. This sense is perhaps enhanced in this show by the fact of the works' construction in an 'authorised' space of art, unlike some of Buckley's other installations which have functioned in 'unauthorised 'spaces: a church in Poland , the Macquarie Lighthouse at Vaucluse. Given his interest in transgression it seems that these unauthorised sites must hold a more compelling mandate as sites tor his expression.

An evocative paint job in this latest piece endows the institutional exhibition space with a warm, nurturing, and compelling yellow glow. This glow dominates the gallery space-it is all atmosphere and ambience. The viewer is drawn around this sun-touched space by a series of formal cues, which, however, finally confess to being merely redherrings. There is in this atmosphere the possibility of a revelatory experience, but there is also the potential for what, given Buckley's concerns, is a pertinent frustration.

The most obvious of these cues is a circular text, written in blood red, on a constructed yellow wall in the middle of the gallery space, which draws the audience with its textual authority. One reads around the unbreaking circle which has no punctuation and no identifiable beginning or end . Expectation is disappointed, for the text, whichever way it is read, provides no real clues apart from some catch words which speak obliquely of abjection and its borders, and a reference to Buckley's ubiquitous 'Other'

There can be no beauty without blood at this site and our fear of the slaughterhouse is not new but simply a revelation about our continued lack of compassion for the Other some have known this story before but it now seems so utterly sad and compelling.

Essentially unsatisfying-it offers no new insight, no closure- it only suggests more questions, and in this effectively extends Buckley's project. And so one continues to move through the altered exhibition environment, enveloped in yellow ambience, moving from one corner: low-lit, and indeterminate; between yellow cubic columns and behind a constructed wall, following what appears to be a red line slicing the yellow wall , passing through a brightly lit, sharply delineated conjunction, and finally, with the red 'line' as a guide, being ejected from the exhibition space into the harsh cold light of a winter's day.

There is, however, a little architectural folly to be discovered here. For what at first appears to be a 'red line' is revealed, on closer inspection, to be a shelf jutting from the wall. The shelf is too narrow and flimsy a support to be used as a bench and as a display counter it is rendered obsolete by its environment-the gallery space owns nothing that could be placed on it. And the shelf tapers, disappears into the wall, ends there, or perhaps continues infinitely on the other side. The shelf, then, is an impossible shelf, and as such is the crucial component of this work-for it embodies the sense of anti-architecture and un-articulation, of unattainable desire and lack of closure-the issues which are the core of Brad Buckley's ongoing project.