..// self remembering - home // James Verdon / Gold Vaults-Old Treasury / Melbourne / May 1998 /
by Werner Hammerstingl ©1998


James Verdon appears to keep his past and his memories on a life-support system. It becomes the subject and the object of a hermeneutic which links his art practice and identity and informs the show, "self remembering - home".

This, the second of a series of three linked exhibitions (the third will be on later this year at CCP) continues to explore what are becomming signature themes for James Verdon : memory and surveillance.

The visitor who steps from the elevator into the vaulted corridor bathed in the red light emitted by one long red neon artery that stretches the lenght of the corridor, is transported into some "other" . A world of silence where spaces branching from this corridor house monitors and suspended transparencies that offer fugitive glimpses alluding to James' past and the tautologies (1) presented by his fragmented re/construction of referents.

This "other" reminds one of lonely quiet hours in hospitals between midnight and early morning, when patients often die "in their sleep". It also reminds one of the red lighting in submarines during "battlestations" when our filmic experiences flow back with details such as tense silence and explosive (often literally) action that follows. It's also (perhaps most strongly) reminiscent of the red in darkrooms. This reference seems to be reinforced by several other "photography" signifiers which appear on the monitors, such as the stainless steel film clip, the old Weston light meter and the equally dated self-timing device which used to be screwed into the shutter release of the camera. These and several other small objects (some obscured or not easily identifiable) together with a tin toy horse, a mirror, metal washers are held by a hand grasping and revealing in turns and in this process the object is transmogrified.

The texture of frequent vision cuts, pixilated transitions and dissolves take the content displayed on the vertically positioned monitors to hypertextual levels, especially as we, the audience are aware of our visual inclusion in this artistic "event horizon" that plays complex games with notions of linear time.

Small surveillance video cameras which send, via vision switchers, their signals to the monitors on which we are just glimpsing the "other". The second monitor, less prominantly placed frequently features the artist himself, visually emerging from the indistinct but never quite achieving a fully focused presence. Our gaze sees but is not seen (2) . The images in this installation often remind yet are rarely familiar.

The experience of repetition and the unexpected are encountered again and again as we move from vault to vault, each time returning to the long corridor illuminated by this life-giving and seductive, linear tube of red glow suspended above. This "blur" as a motif, so repeatetly present in this work, also suceeds in affecting the boundaries between audience and work. The 'locus' of the work is the intersection of entwined issues:time as linear experience, photography and post-photography, observation and being observed and finally, formal construction and it's re-formation (re-mapping).

The 'leitmotif' of Verdons response to these issues is in a kind of "intellectual sfumato". We are dis-enfranchised from a linear reading of the work as our experience begins near the middle of the work's architecture. This non-linearity is echoed again and again as we weave in and out of the seven rooms that contain usually two monitors (with one exception) and one suspended large transparent print featuring such referents as a drive-in screen beneath a sky of sun-drenched rippling water, typographic elements which over a distance of six rooms make up the statement "not-away".

The subject and object embodied by these suspended prints remind us of the "outside" and catch us in this contradiction of looking up (as children do a lot) and looking at the sky in this vaulted cellar. A cellar which is symbolic of containment and exclusion. It permits no external light apart from two airshafts on the extreme ends of the corridor which provide a small glimpse of a new "other" through their curved, narrow passage to the outside above.


1 Ludwig Wittgenstein Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Routhledge&Keagan Paul, London, 1961, page 35

4.462 Tautologies and contradictions are not pictures of reality. They do not represent any possible situations. For the former admit all possible situations, and the latter none. In a tautology the conditions of agreement with the world 'the representational relations cancel one an- other ', so that it does not stand in any representational relation to reality

4.463 the truth-conditions of a proposition determine the range that it leaves open to the facts. (A proposition, a picture, or a model is, in the negative sense, like a solid body that restricts the freedom of move- ment of others, and, in the positive sensed like a space bounded by solid substance in which there is room for a body ). A tautology leaves open to reality the whole 'the infinite whole' of logical space: a contradiction fills the whole of logical space leaving no point of it for reality. Thus neither of them can determine reality in any way.

4.464 A tautology's truth is certain, a proposition's possible' a contradiction's impossible. (Certain, possible, impossible: here we have the first indication of the scale that we need in the theory of probability .) The logical product of a tautology and a proposition says the same thing as the proposition. This product therefore; is identical with the proposition. For it is im- possible to alter what is essential to a symbol without altering its sense.

4.466 What corresponds to a determinate logical combination of signs is a terminate logical combination of their meanings. It is only to the uncombined signs that absolutely any combination corresponds. In other words, propositions that are true for every situation cannot be combinations of signs at all, since, if they were, only determinate combinations of objects could correspond to them. (and what is not a logical combination has no combination- of objects corresponding to it.) Tautology- and contradiction are the limiting cases ' indeed the disintegration' of the combination of signs.

2 This gaze typically sees but is not seen, continually mapping what Podoroga calls "a topological measurement of the external available to us-a more complex kind of measurement, whose analysis is not possible on the basis of the old inner/outer opposition". Geoff Waite Nietzsche's corps/e: Aesthetics, politics, prophecy, or the spectacular technoculture of everyday life. Duke University Press, 1996, page 157

©Werner Hammerstingl, Melbourne, 1998

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