Below is the accompanying exhibition catalogue for Chris and Darren's show Divertissement, currently in Gallery 1 and 2 until Saturday 6 March.
Divertissement is a joint showing of new works by Christopher Headley and Darren McGinn. Headley’s work conveys a set of visual propositions that connect natural and unnatural environments to emotions such as melancholy. His works Lookout and Hide convey feelings of wistfulness and introspection through installations that include posed photographs on affected landscapes; a dry lake bed, a disused gold mine, the kitchen bench. McGinn explores issues of urban identity, its personal and communal importance and its potential loss as the urban sprawl extends and surrounds our regional villages. His installation Dormitory Suburb poses a contradiction as a place of hope and promise but also as a place of fear. The people who live in his Dormitory Suburb are ready to be challenged with the stigma associated with postcodes. “Part of my aim is to shake up people’s thinking of what it means to be living in particular suburbs. I don’t believe people think about their sense of place very often in a positive light”, McGinn says.
Infused with a sense of wonder about the world and the objects through which we make sense of it, both artists share in their work a sense of humour and an appreciation of the absurd. Aware of this common ground, Headley and McGinn have taken up the challenge here of expanding their individual pursuit of ideas through collaboration. This was clearly set out from the beginning as an open-ended exercise, simply, “to see what pops out”. It took some interesting twists and turns. By the time the artists were ready to take up their challenge, McGinn was satisfying his caravan addiction in his suburban backyard kingdom on the Bellarine Peninsular and Headley was travelling through Morocco, staying in altogether different caravan parks, the caravanserai that supported the flow of commerce, information, and nomadic people across the network of trade routes in North Africa. Thoughts and ideas were soon travelling back and forth across continents. Both artists took pleasure in the irony of standing on their common ground, and collaborating on a shared theme so closely, from such a great distance.
Alongside the artists’ individual installations, this process is consolidated in Divertissement with two works, Adobe-Van and Caravan, a new “caravanserai” where, both artists admit, they were unlikely to have arrived without collaboration.
Adobe-Van, an image drawn from a classic 1950s caravan, is evocative of the aspirations and dreams that climaxed in a lifestyle of both permanence and mobility. It recalls the joys of family holidays, safe and secure in touring suburban homes-away-from-suburban-homes. Adobe-Van offers humorous possibilities of visualising a caravan, with its adobe-clad walls, as a home or some kind of hi-tech shelter. Yet the adobe coating fixes this home. It demobilises it. It puts an end to a dream.
Caravan comprises a procession of figures. The word ‘caravan’ here refers more to a caravan trail than a mobile home, though the idea of caravan as mobile home still persists. The strange figures are regimented into unfamiliar family groups. The caravan as object of desire, and the relentless and seemingly futile motion of the collection of figures have a melancholic, fatalistic air. They bring to mind a restless global culture on the move, that’s both as archaic as the first journeys of peoples across continents and a sign of our accelerated times.
The works in Divertissement aim to alter, like chemical substances speeding up the processes of action and reaction, our habitual perceptions of the world around us. Today, a nomadic condition is as much the experience of the world’s most dispossessed as of its more privileged. These works are not about history. They are about transition, from one condition or environment to another.
Divertissement supplies the viewer with entertainment of a serious variety.
Christopher Headley and Darren McGinn