Dis/appearance: Waiting room #4 (Nullbild)

Charles Anderson with Paul Carter
Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

The latest instalment of Charles Anderson and Paul Carter's projected seven -part dis/appearance series extends the previous collaborative work of this artist-writer partnership. 'A work in parts' declares the show's subtitle- referring both to its staggered staging over two Melbourne art spaces, as well as to the whole work itself. And partial, too, are its manifold components. Thus materially, geographically and temporally fractured, the show's concern lies in the spacing and timing of the appearance of the 'art forms' themselves. Our encounter with these forms is suspended, in a continual state of deferral.

The first part of the show, at the Centre for contemporary Photography (CCP) in Fitzroy, initially appears architecturally modernist. In fact, it's bubbling with 'amodern' noise. In dimmed lights, Anderson's chaotically arranged sculptural 'forms'-polygonal shapes constructed from pale fibreboard-emerge from the darkness. Several of them, and one on the wall, act as light boxes. The colour transparencies they frame and illuminate-which are also projected on a wall-are difficult to recognise. Beautiful and formless, some show severed legs, and corners of ceilings, but most are blurred splashes of light, lines, and pastel colour. Many are cut dramatically in half, the chemical photographic process having generated cloudy folds of emulsive energy at the edges of ragged vertical breaks.

Carter's accompanying essay- less a catalogue than an essential and amplifying component of the show-tells us that these (non)images are what in German are called Nullbilder. the camera exposures made, contingently, at the beginning and end of a roll of photographic film before it reaches the place of conscious, intentional light-writing. They are, then, pure transcriptive analogia that have no place in the age of simulative digital code. And in one sense they can be read in terms of a contemporary fascination with 'bad' recordings- with indecisive moments ('snapshots'), blur, grain, and other 'imperfections' in the resulting sound or image. Here, however, they also serve a wider conceptual purpose, operating against what Carter calls 'the imperialism of forms'. Their particular anti-form 'madness' becomes, in his lucid erudition, an all embracing and profoundly philosophical thesis. Put crudely, this shifts us away from a residual Platonic idealism towards an affirmative baroque empiricism. Its implications are vast and political; we move from the clean light of pure reason, to a dirty, shadowy, and noisy other history of the senses.

Also credited to Carter is the show's evocative soundscape of idle chatter, tape-hiss 'silence ', and orchestral and choral fragments. Composed entirely of the sonic remains at the end of audio tapes, this recycled collection celebrates the noisy traces of what is silenced by the imposition of form, again emphasising empirical contingency over the violence of form (and, by extension, the transcendental ideal, the model, the image; in short, identity).

At the second, counter-part of the show at Anna Schwartz Gallery in the city, we meet up with the complementary parts of the half-forms we encountered at CCP. These are painted white, and when imagined together with those in Fitzroy (as illustrated in the essay) they form symmetrical shapes. Again arranged on the concrete floor, and attached by power cords to the wall, each part functions as a mini-lightbox, illuminating red and white opaque sheets. On the wall, too, are several large opaque glass sheets with solid blocks of red and white. Harsh fluorescent lighting and silence penetrate the long white room, and the effect is overwhelmingly hospital-like, sterile. It is a space of sensory absence. As in earlier waiting rooms with clinical associations, there is a barely silenced history of pain here- awaiting the migratory dust of history, and the history of such dust.