In the lead up to our Open Studio Night on Tuesday 18th October our resident artists caught up to find out a little more about each other and talk artistic practice and influences.
APC | Is there an experience or encounter that played a part in formulating your artistic practice?
MJT | My approach to photography derives from my interest in how the medium frames subjective experience in time and how the photograph becomes a physical confirmation of an irretrievable past. When I was ten, I moved from Melbourne, Australia to Bangkok, Thailand with my family and lived there into my early teens. This sudden migration into an unknown environment evoked feelings of loss, nostalgia and absence. I would often look at photographs from my past in Australia, overwhelmed by the melancholy that these memory objects would stir within me as I tried to make sense of the distance between my present reality and of the past time depicted in the images. Photographs conceived from that time depict Bangkok’s skyline – hazy, blurred and often at dusk, where the city’s smog would cause some of the most haunting sunsets. We later returned to Australia and I was pushed back into this state of yearning for a past time – one that was depicted in images (that I could hold in my hands) – but was unreachable in time and space; a time that was gone and could not be retrieved. These experiences shaped my relationship to photography as I sought to investigate the mediums role in articulating time and how it seeks to fix our needs for remembrance. I wanted to explore the paradoxes that underlie the relationship of photography to memory.
APC | Your practice seems to focus on spaces where the past meets the present. How does the future play a role in your practice?
MJT | I think Abbey Smith Rumsey’s words shall suffice here: ‘Imagination is memory in the future tense’
APC | There is a strong material element in your work: paper, print, installation, archiving or ‘letting go’ of content. What are your thoughts on the accumulation of digital material in today’s world?
MJT | The digital age has created an information abundance. Questions that have always governed my own practice are becoming increasingly culturally relevant – ‘how do we manage the endless quantity of images?’, ‘how does the archiving process create meaning from the disorder?’ and ‘what can we afford to lose?’ Again I’ll turn to the words of historian Abbey Smith Rumsey as she emphasises ‘data is not knowledge and data storage is not memory’. We can store thousands of images on our mobile devices but does this – and the instantaneous nature of digital information actually advance the process of remembering? I’m interested in the function of photography amidst the proliferation, rapid dissemination and circulation of images via new technology platforms. I use analogue photography – but not to romanticise or fetishize the use of film itself – my melancholy is only for the irretrievable moment in time that has been captured – and by attending to the material and physical attributes of film I can articulate this melancholy more deeply and present a type of photograph that is less stable and more inherent to memory. I combine my display of photography with the use of installation devices like timing, repetition and the interval, in order to generate readings concerned with the fragmentary nature of memory. I aim to raise the viewer’s awareness of being in the present, to slow them down, to evoke their own memory and to emphasize the experience of looking. Artist David Thomas stresses that ‘certain things require time to become apparent. To understand complexity one needs time and slowness’.. ‘If we stop we notice movement around us, we become aware of how thoughts are active, how our mind and feelings function’.
APC | What do you hope to create/ develop during your time at PICA?
MJT | I am working on an ongoing and expansive project called ‘All the Gardens I Could Find’ whereby I’m creating a comprehensive cataloguing system for all the imagery in my archive related to gardens. The project has multiple components and while at PICA I am focusing on creating a digital catalogue that will provide insight into the volume and complexity of my collection. The aim is that this catalogue will be presented alongside a physical installation of the work, providing another layer of experience to be reflected on by the viewer. I am working on building descriptive information on the garden imagery, with the assistance of librarians and cataloguers. This collaborative component is enabling me to play with the slippages between traditional classification systems and subjective, intuitive interpretations. In the studio, I am exploring new pictorial relationships and structures that come out of this process. By the end of the residency I am aiming to create an installation that draws upon my readings of the architectural features of the space to heighten narrative components of the work. The work that I create in the studio at PICA will contribute to a solo exhibition at Blindside in Melbourne, which opens on November 16th (link: http://www.blindside.org.au/portfolio-item/16-nov-3-dec-2016-all-the-gardens-i-could-find-melanie-jayne-taylor/)
APC | Which artists have influenced your interests or practice?
MJT | Wolfgang Tillmans, David Thomas, R. H. Quaytman, Sara VanDerBeek, George Shaw, Fiona Curran Nico Dockx, Luigi Ghirri, Francesca Woodman, Tacita Dean, Manfred Pernice, Gerhard Richter, Patrick Pound…
APC | If you could build your dream ‘library’ (archive, museum, repository etc), what form would it take?
MJT | I’m in a constant process of trying to build my dream archive. I think that every time I approach my material, I strive for this notion of a dream archive. It is one where all the individual records of every photograph I have ever taken are meticulously described and all the visual, narrative and memory connections between every single image is fully documented. This dream archive can only ever really exist in my imagination and instead I always find myself lingering in the chaos of the overwhelming quantity of material and I suppose that is where the work sits.
APC | If you could take up an artistic residency anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
MJT | I would love to have a residency at The British School of Rome. It’s located at the base of the Borghese Gardens and holds an extensive Photographic Archive comprising of over 100,000 prints and negatives. It would be a dream to be on residence here as a base to explore the many Italian Renaissance villas and gardens in and around Rome.