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'Finders keepers' were the operative words for Facsimile. Curated by Stuart Koop for the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Facsimile included six artists who incorporate found objects into their work. The exhibition presented a 'mix-and-match' collection of everyday objects from the discarded notes one might find squashed between the seats of a bus, or an empty coke can thrown into an overflowing rubbish bin, to an ancient poem whispering from the faded memories of history. Each work was a 'facsimile ' of the original and blurred the distinction between the 'real ' object and the deliberate copy.
Christopher Langton offered the highlight of the exhibition with Souvenir 1999. Exuding the appeal of a vibrant jumping castle at a fair ground, Souvenir initially appeared as a sedate group of blow-up national icons sitting inside the gallery door. Cute and brightly coloured, three identical fluorescent yellow koalas were positioned around the feet of a towering eight foot grey kangaroo with eyes of Aryan blue. Each of these PVC vinyl structures was filled with a constant flow of air from a vacuum pump inserted discreetly into an opening beneath its rear haunches. The hum and vibration of each tiny engine inside the inflation device made the animals shake and shiver as if they were cold, exceedingly angry or 'alive' and about to multiply. Watching these larger than life native icons vibrate menacingly on the floor, drew one's attention to the red eyes and sharp pointy claws of the koalas and resulted in a sudden desire to swiftly move away because of the slight suspicion the plastic creatures would suddenly attack. Mirroring the cuddly Australian animals found in tourist stores around the country, Langton's blow-ups sought successfully to question our response to the over-inflated symbols of our national identity.
History and news media were the central foci in a group of works by Matthew Jones. In hand copied television guides from Melbourne, London and New York (taken from newspapers the night gay activist groups Act Up and Outrage were established), Jones created three painstakingly ornate examples of the cacophony of media distraction constantly present within the same context as significant historical events. In addition to these works completed in 1998, was a bound copy of the New York Daily News of the day of the Stonewall Riots, hand-tinted with ink and water-colour. Each page of the book appeared yellowed with age; a detailed spread of news long-since glanced over and forgotten like the endless lists of sitcoms and talk shows in a TV guide. To protect the fragile work, white gloves were worn to view each page of the newspaper- a jolting contrast to the way in which news media is so often quickly devoured over the breakfast table, folded up and discarded at the end of the day.
Callum Morton snatched More or Less 1999 from the glossy pages of popular magazines. Positioned into the corner walls of the gallery, two billboard-sized advertisements directly copied from their original design and constructed from vinyl lettering and paint, inundated the viewer with bright colours and intimate questions. 'Sexually addicted?' one of the adverts curiously inquired in candy coloured pink and green print. Left to ponder this thought one turned to the other side expecting an answer and was greeted with the words 'More or Less'. A contrast to the sexy advert opposite, Morton placed a conservative blue and white print announcing the Haim Steinback exhibition More or Less in New York-a reference to the common interface and diversity of content in advertising design.
The art of everyday life is the subject of Real Life Is Everywhere 1998 by James Lynch. Objects that one would expect to see lying strewn across the pavement after a dog had shredded open a bag of rubbish-old movie tickets, potato chip packets, matches and the scrunched up remains of a trip to Macdonald's- were spread around a television playing a continuous loop of film. On video, each object came alive as the artist's hand was seen manipulating the article in the way it may have been used before abandoned as waste. On closer inspection, one realized the 'rubbish ' was all hand made from paper and the designs and packaging coloured by hand. Like a 'colourby- numbers' project, Lynch's objects of mass culture had been redesigned as 'original' artworks, inevitably questioning the role of the artist as social observer and creator.
Andrew Morton's Drift 1999 transformed personal messages and notes into a stark arrangement of twenty-one laser copied A4 panels, organised in a perfect line across the gallery space. These anonymous windows into the thoughts and lives of lovers, brothers, cousins, job seekers and junkies became black and white objects to be peered at by strangers; an abstraction of what they once were-hopeless pleas and anxious fantasies broken and adrift in a sea of words and white paper.
Kale Beynon, the only female artist included in Facsimile, utilised memory and poetry as the 'found ' object. An artist of Celtic-Chinese background, Beynon's Old Poem 1997 was reconstructed from the page of a book with delicate and deliciously furry chenille stick pinned to the wall to resemble traditional calligraphic brushwork. Written in Chinese from a collection of poems from the Tang Dynasty, the work is indecipherable to the English-speaking viewer, however, the visual beauty of Beynon's delicate work magically drew one in with a spell of hidden intimacy. This enchantingly lyrical work did not overwhelm the viewer with the blaring colours of a bill board advert or possess the threatening size of an overblown Australian animal: Old Poem was an object of graceful silence, reverent beauty and intriguing mystery. Even though the language appeared puzzling, one seemed somehow to understand its meaning. It was a symbol of quiet knowing: a knowing that transcends language. A quiet whisper of history, of memory, of whom we really are. We just have to find it amongst all the scattered movie tickets, see it through the billboards and read it between the lines of old love letters. We know it's there somewhere. Can we find it?