In Retrospect

15 August - 7 September 2001

In Retrospect is an exhibition that focuses on memories and the act of remembering. Three artists are showing in g39, each presenting a very different slant on the subject.

On the ground floor is an installation by Eisteddfod artist David Hastie, who has filled the space with floor-to-ceiling racks of tiny steel sheds. Titled Inherited, the work looks specifically at what is passed down through generations. He uses source materials from his family's farm on which he grew up to create objects that relay history in their timeworn surface. Aside from the physical inheritance of objects, the installation refers to a far more elusive inheritance of social structures and cultural traditions, our parents' histories, and personal memories from a distant past when we were subject to rather than in control of. Hastie is very aware of the effect that scale has on the viewer. The replica sheds are scaled down like toys put away, making the viewer oversize and clumsy while the shelves are overbearing and dwarf the spectator, putting us back in the position of a child, with recollections of a vast world, a world without edges or boundaries.

On the middle floor Maria Wilson presents a video piece. The work was produced while working with Fairbridge inner city youth project on a residency organised by g39. The group practiced storytelling and game playing in front of the camera to produce lively and engaging videos.

Wilson's videos are collaborations in the true sense; the group are not puppets for the video editor. She has worked with the clients to initiate and devise a way of working. The beauty of the work is in the responsibility given to them to make the project succeed and Wilson's ability to draw out narratives and stories. Working with video, Wilson uses games, play and narratives, which do not rely on scripts or rehearsals but do use the repetition of tasks. Objects and stories sometimes act as triggers to memory, truth and fictions occur and sometimes the two weave together. Depending on the individual, the result may be consciously performative or intensely personal as if camera and audience have disappeared altogether.

On the top floor we come across the work of Gail Howard’s sizable doll's house with all the associations of the ideal extended family. It is home sweet home, a model for society and a projection for an imagined future. The Doll's House is a reproduction world where beds are not slept in, food remains uneaten, babies sit quietly in the nursery and there is no trace of human activity.

But this is real life, not a fabricated memory of a perfect time that never happened. Looking through the front door we see bin bags waiting to go out, unwashed dishes on the cooker and a carpet that needs vacuuming. Appealing to our voyeuristic tendencies, the absence of dwellers leaves us to examine in intimate detail the residue of the house-owner. The viewer is caught up in the narrative of the work and quickly forgets the scale of the property. Howard’s work is in opposition to the rose-tinted nostalgia that we are all prone to, and suggests a real alternative past for children to aspire towards, or away from.

In Retrospect focuses on the space between now and memory. Using objects, stories and the residues of childhood the work taps into the notion of a collective past while staying close to the personal and inner life of the individual.